Mana Dorks are creatures that can be tapped down in order to generate mana. Magic has had Mana Dorks since the beginning, with the cards Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise getting printed in Alpha. Mana Dorks appear primarily in Green, as it is the Color that is best at generating mana. Green has by far the best selection of Mana dorks, in fact, this list is made up exclusively of Green cards. There have been a few Mana Dorks in other colors, but they are typically conditional (like Karfell Harbinger) or come with downsides (like Vesper Ghoul).
For the purposes of this list, in order to be a good Mana Dork, a card must meet a few key criteria…
- Be unconditional. The ten cards we are recommending should be universally useful, and able to slot into any deck. While Priest of Titania is a great Mana Dork, you need to be in an Elf tribal deck for it to work. Similarly, Sanctum Weaver is an amazing Mana Dork in Enchantment-based decks but loses its appeal in decks not focused on amassing a huge number of Enchantments. The same goes for Metalworker, which would otherwise rank right near the top of this list.
- Be self-sufficient. A good Mana Dork should produce the mana by itself. There are several Mana Dorks that can only provide value by tapping other cards down as well. Cards like Jaspera Sentinel and Citanul Stalwart. These cards fall far below the power level necessary to go into a Commander deck. Before you start to riot, this is also why Deathrite Shaman does not see an appearance, even though there is a real argument to its appearance on this list.
- Be cheap. Mana Dorks are most useful in the early game, providing you with resources to get ahead of the rest of the table. While in the right decks, cards like Deathbloom Ritualist and Accomplished Alchemist have the potential to generate significantly more mana than Llanowar Elves you really want your four and five mana cards to be threats in their own right, rather than just a means of generating resources.
Whether you’re building a Raggadragga, Goreguts Boss deck or you just want help generating mana for your high-cost spells these 10 cards are good choices.
10. Llanowar Elves
Biophagus is a pretty new Mana Dork from the Tyranid Preconstructed Commander deck. For one extra mana compared to Llanowar Elves, Biophagus gets a series of extra bonuses that, arguably, make it a better card. First of all, the Biophagus can generate mana of any color, rather than just Green. Secondly, the Biophagus gives any creatures cast with its mana ability a +1/+1 counter. Finally, Biophagus has two additional toughness. If you’re in a +1/+1 Counter deck or just run a lot of Creatures, Biophagus is a useful card to have around.
8. Gyre Sage
7. Incubation Druid
6. Birds of Paradise
Another Mana Dork from all the way back in Alpha. While Birds of Paradise comes with one less power than Llanowar Elves it more than makes up for this by being able to generate mana of any color and by having Flying. Flying seems an odd choice of an ability to put on a Mana Dork, but it may just save your life when an opponent attempts to swing in with an airborne threat.
Birds of Paradise’s relatively low place on this list is because its strengths are, arguably, more relevant in Constructed formats other than Commander. Birds of Paradise’s low cost is one of its greatest assets. This is immensely useful in Modern games where every turn counts. Commander games tend to last longer than Modern games do, however, meaning that slightly more expensive Mana Dorks which can generate a lot of mana, tend to be more useful than Cheaper Mana Dorks which can only generate one. All the same, Birds of Paradise is an absolutely amazing card and should be an auto-include in any four or five color decks.
5. Ignoble/Noble Hierarch
Although they were released many years apart, Ignoble Hierarch and Noble Hierarch are exceedingly similar cards. Noble Hierarch can be topped down to give you one mana in any of the 3 Bant colors, whilst Ignoble Hierarch gives you a mana in any of the 3 Jund colors, collectively covering the entire color pie. What pushes these Hierarchs up above Birds of Paradise despite the fact that neither can generate all five colors or Fly is the fact they both have Exalted. Exalted is an ability that provides a +1/+1 buff whenever a creature you control attacks alone. While this is most useful in Voltron decks, which are designed around the concept of repeatedly attacking with one very strong creature, attacking alone is something that happens frequently and incidentally enough that Exalted can prove very useful.
4. Selvala, Heart of the Wilds
Selvala also has a secondary ability that allows any player to draw a card when they play a Creature with more power than any other Creature in play. Since in order to have Selvala in your deck you need to be playing Green, the color of big creatures, you should hopefully be able to benefit from this bonus more than each of your opponents.
3. Devoted Druid
Devoted Druid probably has the highest potential to generate mana of any of the cards on this list, but it does need to be built around slightly in order to achieve this.
2. Bloom Tender
1. Circle of Dreams Druid
Now Circle of Dreams Druid isn’t quite as good as the cradle. As a creature, it’s easier to remove than the Cradle, it doesn’t have Haste, meaning it can’t be used the turn it enters play, and it costs three Green mana, which is pretty pricy for a Mana Dork. All the same, Circle of Dreams Druid has the potential to generate such a huge amount of mana that these downsides are, largely, irrelevant.
#0 Delighted Halfling
Featured in the upcoming Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set, Delighted Halfling may be the best Mana Dork Commander ever sees and ever will see. Of course, Delighted Halfling is much more effective in a deck with a significant number of Legendary Creatures, but because most Commanders are inherently Legendary Creatures, being able to both ramp, mana fix, and make it uncounterable for just one mana is such an insane upside.
Of course, if you do not have Legendary cards to cast with your Halfling, you can still float a colorless mana. This version of the Halfling does make it worse than a majority of the list, but, once again, the upside should be relevant enough that it doesn’t matter. If you want to read more about Delighted Halfling, we talked about it in more detail.