I hope you are having a great day today! I was inspired to write this article by another Manalith that was printed in TherosBeyond Death.
This card! We'll look at Altar of the Pantheon later. Like others in its class, it's a three-mana colorless artifact that taps for one colorless mana. Anything else isn't a Manalith. Mana Prism may tap for colorless and tap for turning one colorless into another color, but it's not enough. Similarly, Sol Grail can tap for one chosen color of mana, but that's it. These are not Manaliths.
The first ones go back a long time! This series is typically named after Manalith, as it has no other abilities, but others were printed long before it. With Altar of the Pantheon coming out now, this is a perfect time to rank them all, as they are valuable tools for many Commander and other decks out there!
Ready to rank these? Think we'll start with the Manalith proper?
Nope! There's something worse....
14. Phyrexian Lens
The only thing worse than a Manalith with no other abilities is one that makes you pay life to do so! This was the first three-mana, tap-for-one-of-any-color that would follow. It inspired an entire slate of subsequent follow-ups probably due to its sucky-ness. Here you go. Bask in the majesty. And the fueling newness therein.
Here you go! Before it was reprinted last year, Manalith had risen in price. It the modern era of constant reprints for Commander and other places, it can be hard to invest in these sorts of cards, but Manalith had risen as well and was four times its release price until the mass reprinting happened. At the end of today's article, I'll look at some prices too for you.
12. Spectral Searchlight
In almost every case, this is just a Manalith. Back when mana burn was a thing, if you didn't use it for mana, you could tap it to mana-burn someone for a damage, and you could give mana for folks for helping you to cast powerful spells, and it was one of the best in this version for multiplayer formats like Commander and others. But the rules have ebbed and this is no longer a win-con mana rock. It's better than Manalith because you can give that mana to an ally or friend, or just to someone who's mana hosed in the early game. It's good to add into any group-hug style deck as well!
11. Vessel of Endless Rest
Now we are moving into Manaliths that have an okay enters-the-battlefield ability. This thing will reload a single card on arrival to the battlefield. That gives you a few options. I like to reload a powerful card back to my deck for later. At some point in time, I'll shuffle and have a chance at getting it again. Since the card it targets can be anything, it's also useful if I need to save a key card in my graveyard from exiling removal, like a just-played artifact that can take them all out. I also really enjoy removing a foe's option with this too, so I can remove their combo piece or flashback all-star or something like Anger that needs to be there for reasons. Are you ready to rest your vessel?
10. Altar of the Pantheon
The good thing about Altar of the Pantheon is that it works great in certain devotion builds or with the right set of stuff. But outside of that? It's just a Manalith that might, occasionally, net a life accidentally. In the right build? Get ready for the face-punchery!
9. Mana Geode
This fun Manalith will get you a scry of 1 on arriving to the battlefield, but unlike Temple of Enlightenment or similar Temples, this doesn't arrive tapped. You can begin to use its mana-ability straight away! It's also solid in an artifact-recursive shell as you can bring it back for more deck sculpting goodness. I consider it to the best of the "enters-the-battlefield" triggers among fellow Manaliths.
8. Spinning Wheel
This recent Manalith from Throne of Eldraine, has proven itself a worthy addition to the Manalith canon as it can tap down another dork if you have the mana and the need. I've saved myself from dying by tapping down a key dork and then winning a turn or two later. Even if it's an ability that you expect to never use it's better to have it as a "Break in case of Emergency" release valve. You can tap down a key blocker to win with or a key attacker that was about to game-smash or Commander kill you. No longer!
7. Commander's Sphere
Does Commander's Sphere count as a Manalith? If you are playing Commander, then mostly. It will slot into many decks in the same place. It'll tap for the colors of your deck, as well as sacrifice for a card. It's a good and useful card. But outside of Commander it's junk. And even inside of it, it doesn't always help. In one of my enchantment-matters Commander builds I added in Annex, a four-mana aura that steals a land. My Commander was Simic. Now if I stole a Hall of Heliod's Generosity, which is an amazing land for an enchantment deck, then my Commander's Sphere wouldn't give me the mana needed to use it. Manalith would. Phyrexian Lens would! In that sense...nope, it's not really a card in this genre. However, I think it slides into the most commonly played casual format as a mana fixing rock for your colors, and thus it's usually acting like one.
6. Darksteel Ingot
Ready for the final card that falls outside of my top 5? Hello Darksteel Ingot! Any mana rock or dork is unreliable if it dies. They are much more fragile than a land and will often die accidentally. Someone casts Damnation to sweep the table of some threats. Not to kill your Birds of Paradise, but they die nonetheless. Someone else uses the overload of Vandalblast to destroy all artifacts. They don't care about your Mana Geode, but it just got caught up. Someone needs a 4/4 dork so they cast and drop Indrik Stomphowler, and you are the only one with an enchantments or artifact out, so they kill your Manalith as a second thought, not because they needed to. But a Darksteel Ingot? It's pretty safe. As long as you aren't seeing exiling removal or something similar, you'll be fine. I've played Darksteel Ingot for years and years in most builds, and I've never had someone take it out intentionally. If you want your Manalith to stick, you want this card.
5. Coalition Relic
Top Five Time! This little Manalith can pull off an old counter for one extra mana, so the result of this is that you can choose how to use it. One mana a turn? Or 2 mana every other turn? I've used it to get two missing colors of mana for a key spell or effect that a normal Manalith would be unable to do. It scales up with cards that care about counters generally (Doubling Season) or charge counters specifically (Coretapper). It can also be used to get another mana for a big X spell or to secure that 7th mana you need for a key spell. It reminds me of a Jeweled Amulet, that you would spend 1 mana of a color to put a charge counter on it, and then you could tap it for that color of mana later.
4. Cultivator's Caravan
Do you know what's better than a mana rock? One that can win you the game! I have won games with it. I have dropped a dork and then tapped it to crew this for game on multiple occasions. It's a beefy 5/5 game winner while also smoothing that mana. The only issue I've had with it? Having a big enough crew. Sometimes I'll be missing one or more power. But it's still better than the other Manaliths here. This thing is super cheap as it was overprinted. There was a time before Manalith was reprinted last year that it was actually more expensive. Which makes no sense.
3. Fountain of Ichor
Unlike the Cultivator's Caravan above, this one can always 3/3 up! Having a mana rock monster is great going back to Guardian Idol or Mishra's Factory for lands-into-dorks. You can slip them past removal, they'll remain after Day of Judgment effects, and more! Now unlike the one above, this takes four total mana (itself and three more) to use, but that's still more reliable than the alternative. Later in the game when you are all topdecking, this will still punch if you draw a land. It will still win games.
So what beats it?
2. Dragon's Hoard
Say hello to the only mana rock good enough to get played in a Mono-color deck. This is a free card up front with its gold counter, and you'll have the ability to make more as Dragons arrive. Even in a Dragonless deck, this I almost always going to be better than Commander's Sphere, as you don't have to sacrifice it for a card and you can make all colors of mana. You don't need to spend any money to get that card, just skip making mana for a turn. For example, if you cast it on turn three, you are unlikely to use it for a 1-drop, so you can draw your card then, and then untap and have your five mana with another card drawn.
Even if you don't have a theme deck, a single Dragon here and there will help out a lot. If just your Commander is a Dragon and nothing else? This is amazing! Hoard up!
1. Chromatic Lantern
I think you knew this was going to be here! This is the ultimate mana-fixer. I don't think this will ever be replaced on the throne, and I'm not sure I'd want to see WOTC try. Manalith? Check! All of your lands can tap for anything? Check again! It's the perfect mana rock!
Note that we've had four new Manaliths in the last five sets (Modern Horizons, Throne of Eldraine, War of the Spark, Theros: Beyond Death.) If we continue at this rate, you should expect 3-4 more by the end of 2020.
Buying new things is always better than buying older ones for things like these.
For example, these are prices here at CSI.com
Manalith - Just reprinted in Core Set 2019, 4 for 50 cents.
Altar of the Pantheon - 4 for 50 cents.
Fountain of Ichor - Just printed in Modern Horizons, 4 for 50 cents.
Darksteel Ingot - Reprinted lots, $0.49/each.
Spectral Searchlight - 0.25 each
Vessel of Endless Rest - 4 for 50 cents.
Mana Geode - 0.25 each
Coalition Relic - 6
Phyrexian Lens - 0.49
Spinning Wheel - 0.25 each
Commander's Sphere - $1.99 each
Cultivator's Caravan - 0.25 each
Dragon's Hoard - $1.49 each
And there we go! Anything in here you forgot about or you disagree with? Just let me know!
Mana that Lith!!!