Hello to everyone here at GDC! My name is Jon Pflug, and I’ll be joining the team here as a writer. Some of you might be familiar with my work over at East Coast Commander, which unfortunately had to close its doors recently. I’d like to thank Christian and Scott for running such an awesome site, and giving me the opportunity to write about EDH for the wonderful community that ECC fostered. Without the support and platform ECC gave me, I might have never taken the time to start writing in this capacity – so I’m forever grateful. Also, shout outs to James Davey (who’s joining up here as well), Chris Tremble, and all the people who submitted articles to the site. It was a pleasure to be a part of such a great community.

The blow of ECC shutting down was mollified by my move over here. I’m excited to be here at GDC, which I like to think of as the site that sparked my interest in EDH. Cass and Mr. P’s delve into the social aspects of the format and looking at things from a different angle than most other sites really resonated with me and helped to shape my approach to playing. It is surreal to be given an opportunity to contribute to a site that I’ve long admired, and I relish the chance.

As far as content is concerned, I’m excited to work on some collaborative projects with Dave. We’ve been playing in the same group for a while now, and it will be a lot of fun to give a closer look at what’s going on in our metagame. My own pieces focus on off-color functionality, highlighting obscure cards, and analyzing the merits of planeswalkers in EDH as the ‘Planeswalker Tsar’. Expect some more pieces in that vein, plus whatever else inspires me in the EDH-verse.

I could delve deeper into the introductory “getting to know you” questions that usually populate these articles, but I’ll save you the trope and leave you with this piece on mana sinks. Enjoy, and look for more to come in the near future!
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Unless you’re building some combo-riffic decks (or decks just designed to win ASAP), you’re going to build up a lot of mana over the course of an EDH game. Unlike a 2-player game, your standard-fare EDH game has four players, and the general intent to have upwards of 15-to-20 turns. That’s a lot of time to build up resources, and by those later turns you’re going to potentially have a lot of mana just sitting around unused.

Today we’re going to explore the many ways to harness all of that mana through a devices known as ‘mana sinks’.

A mana sink is any card that allows you to pay mana to activate its ability multiple times. You are able to pay as many times as you want, so the cards generally help you to use any mana that you were unable to utilize during your turn. Sinks come in all kinds of card types and give you benefits by way of maximizing your mana. They can generally be activated at instant speed, so you can wait for the right moment to use them – such as to disrupt another player’s action or right before your turn – so that your unused mana doesn’t go to waste.

Firebreathing has been around since the beginning of Magic. Shivan Dragon sported it adroitly, and is one of the most iconic creatures the game has produced. In EDH, however, you rarely see anyone taking full advantage of the ability. Sure, there are some breathers sprinkled in your standard games (Inferno Titan and Steel Hellkite spring to mind), but this ability is generally an afterthought. I’m here to dispel that notion.

I have two separate decks that take full advantage of firebreathing: a Vaevictis Asmadi firebreathing aggro deck and a tribal Shade control deck helmed by Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath. While Nicol Bolas is usually touted as the be-all, end-all of the original elder dragons, Vaevictis is an under the radar stone-cold killer. Jund-breathing is the ultimate mana sink, allowing you to easily push his power into 2-hit Commander damage range, and with a few other minor add-ons (an extra attack step or double strike) easily becomes a 1-hit kill.

In addition to the powerful punch that Vaevictis packs, I have a bunch of other ‘breathers in there that can quickly take an opponent down. Char-Rumbler has the deadly combination of firebreathing and double strike and doesn’t take much mana to make into a formidable attack force. Mana-Charged Dragon and Two-Headed Dragon are both difficult to block and can easily ramp up their power. I especially enjoy situations where I can send multiple creatures with this ability at one player and basically give them a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” decision, because I’ll just wait to see how they block before pouring the mana into a creature. For creatures that don’t naturally have the ability, you can try out Ghitu Firebreathing, Dragon Breath, or Crown of Flames to add it to a creature.

Beyond attacking, there are other realms where mana sinks come in handy. There are many instances of sinks that allow you to rifle through your deck per activation. I’m a big fan of Compulsion to accomplish this; for decks that want cards in the graveyard, it is an incredible engine that gets cards from your hand to the bin at a rapid pace. I’ve run it with great success in Bruna, Light of Alabaster and Sedris, the Traitor King. If you’re not in blue, you can get similar effects out of cards like Tormented Existence, Necromancer’s Stockpile, Unfulfilled Desires, and (if you can afford it) Survival of the Fittest.

If discarding isn’t in your best interests, you’d be able to draw without that feature with a host of other mana sinks. Armistice is a little pricey to activate, but is innocuous enough that it usually won’t be outright targeted by your opponents. It has the added bonus of fostering some good will with your opponents through life donation while providing white with some sorely-needed card draw. Greed and Erebos, God of the Dead allow you to exchange life for cards, which pretty much every player is more than willing to do (I know Necropotence does it better, but we’re talking about using the extra mana!). Treasure Trove won’t be knocking your socks off with how broken it is, but it will rarely draw the ire of your opponents and allows you to fairly gain extra cards.

Token production is another area where mana sinks are incredibly helpful. Popping tokens into play as chump blockers or right before your turn will allow you to keep your options open while slowly building an army. Mobilization does this incredibly well, with the added bonus of granting vigilance to your soldier creatures. Dragon Roost allows you to flood the sky with dragons, and Ant Queen can easily swarm with insects for minimal mana investment. Necrogenesis and Night Soil provide the double whammy of token production and graveyard hate.

Destructive and Counter capabilities can also be paid into. Ethersworn Adjudicator requires a ton of mana investment, but it is a repeatable source of destruction for creatures and enchantments. Pestilence and Pyrohemia work as tailored wrath-lite effects that slowly drain each player’s life total and act as a great deterrent from attackers. Tornado is a wacky cumulative upkeep card, but don’t let its strangeness cloud you; It can take down any permanent as long as you’re paying for its ability, giving you great flexibility in your destructive capabilities. Tranquil Grove[/card is the mother of all enchantment hate; it puts the fear into any player even thinking about playing an enchantment.

There’s lots of great miscellaneous sinks too. Each Guildmage from either Ravnica block has its uses, and many find their way into EDH decks as a result. [card]Predator Flagship[/carrd] and [card]Zephyr Charge can Jump any of your creatures; Whetstone allows you to fill up graveyards at your discretion.

I put this article out to Team GDC to ask for some opinions, and I got to see some other angles as well; From Kaka:

“Me and mana sinks are kinda a non-thing. Generally I am busy burning that stuff off into value and spells. It is rare that I have more than I can use.

When I do, I’m either playing a strategy into it. Helix Pinnacle or into a Sphinx’s Revelation or Stroke of Genius to refuel myself….. My personal favourite wind up is a nice juicy Epic Experiment.”

And Imshan:

“I just wanted to chime in for level-up creatures. Kargan Dragonlord might be a nice segue from the firebreathing conversation…

…Some of my fave level-ups are Lord of Shatterskull Pass, Student of Warfare, Transcendant Master, and the proto-levelup king, Figure of Destiny…red and white decks especially struggle for card draw, and this is a good way for those decks to use resources that would otherwise be idle.

I could probably wax poetic for a number of paragraphs, but I’m turning it over at this point to the GDC community to hear some of their favorites.

Jon
@Pflugtalk