It’s no secret that Mana Rocks are a big part of not just Commander, but all of Magic: the Gathering. Incredibly efficient Mana Rocks like Mana Crypt have been banned in some of Magic’s strongest formats. This card, alongside Sol Ring, also represents some of the strongest possible super staples in formats that they are legal in. In fact, these are just some of the best artifacts of all time.
The reason why these are so powerful is that this allows players to bypass one of the biggest restrictions in Magic’s rules at little to no cost: the ability to play only one land, or gain one mana, per turn. Sure, other cards also bypass this rule more directly, like Exploration and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, but Mana Rocks like Sol Ring and Mana Crypt bump this efficiency up to an 11. You get access to two extra mana every turn for an investment smaller than the bonus they create, and the cards are not restricted by the Land clause. You can even use the mana immediately, creating some truly incredible starts.
That said, mana needs to be invested somewhere, and, generally, the more mana you spend on a card, the bigger impact it promises to have on a game. In order to make take advantage of all your resources, you need a payoff to use it on. One common problem that can occur with Ramp decks is just this: all of your cards simply get ahead on mana, but you fail to draw one of your massive payoffs.
That’s why this new Mana Rock from the upcoming Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set may be a lot stronger than many expect. Let’s take a look at the Phial of Galadriel!
Power Creep Laid Bare
An interesting place to start this conversation is the Chromatic Lantern discussion. Even a few years ago, Chromatic Lantern was considered one of the better Mana Rocks in the Commander format. Some players still consider Chromatic Lantern a strong resource, while other players lamented the card for being terrible in current times.
One easy way to illustrate this is by following the card’s secondary market value. Despite seeing little to no competitive play throughout its history, Chromatic Lantern spiked to a high of $15 following the release of M19. Nowadays, the card is worth about $4 but can be found for cheaper, thanks to a myriad of reprints.
Are 3-Mana Rocks Still Good?
While player opinion varied, I would argue that both sides were right for different reasons. Chromatic Lantern represents a different purpose to different types of players. Chromatic Lantern is fantastic for players who do not want to play Commander at its highest level or are on a budget. The card isn’t too expensive, gets ahead on mana, and can solve mana problems that budget five-color land decks are likely to have.
For players who are trying to win at Commander’s most competitive tables, Chromatic Lantern is a terrible option. Fixing mana generally isn’t an issue when players have access to all of the best lands in Commander, and a Mana Rock with a mana value of three tapping for one mana is literally a rate seen for Draft Chaff.
The point of bringing this up is that, for many MTG players, Mana Rocks that tap for one mana need to cost less than three mana to grab a slot in their Commander decks. Arcane Signet is regarded by many to be a better option than Chromatic Lantern solely because the card costs one mana less. Other Mana Rocks with mana values of two, like the other Signets, for example, are very popular in Commander. Mana Rocks with a mana value of three appear to need additional benefits now. With that in mind, here is a promising Mana Rock that may help redefine what a three-mana Mana Rock needs to do in the current age of MTG.
Phial of Galadriel
The Phial of Galadriel is a three mana Legendary Mana Rock that does a lot more than just tap for one mana of any color. Should you start running out of resources, or start getting beaten down by your opponent while you set up your resources, Phial of Galdriel starts to shine.
The card draw effect is what’s really exciting with a card like this. Phial’s ability to tap for mana ends up helping you meet the requirement for the card advantage to start taking off: an empty hand. As soon as you’re out of cards, Phial of Galadriel will offer to you a replacement effect: should you draw one card, go ahead and draw two instead.
While the Sealed application of this will likely be to draw extra cards at the start of your turn, the Phial can go a bit further than that. If your deck has a lot of draw effects, you can gain additional advantage for any of those as long as, upon resolution of those effects, your hand is empty.
This can generate a surprising amount of card advantage, especially if you can play out the cards you draw. Turning an Opt into something that scrys one and draws two is a massive qualitative difference from its original function.
The Life Gain is Surprisingly Relevant
Sure, in a game of Commander, Phial of Galadriel’s lifegain effect is not going to do much. Chances are if you’re at five life, you’re going to die before the Phial can save you. That doesn’t mean there won’t situations where it comes in clutch, but Phial’s lifegain effect may be incredibly relevant in games of Limited.
As has been made exceptionally clear for anyone following MTG’s Lord of the Rings content, there will be a lot of life gain in Tales of Middle-earth’s Limited format. This is thanks to Food Tokens being a central mechanic for Hobbit creatures in Selesnya. When sacrificed, Food tokens gain you three life. If your life is under five, which happens a lot more in a game of Limited than a game of Commander thanks to starting life totals, The Phial will allow your Food to gain six life, which is huge.
Phial of Galadriel In Competitive MTG
While the Phial offers a potential power-up for any deck running two or three mana Mana Rocks, this card probably isn’t good enough to fit into competitive formats that it’s legal in. There is a genuine potential that the draw replacement effect allows the Phial to find an unexpected home, but three mana, for Legacy and Modern, is a rather hefty investment. Due to the efficiency of removal, these cards generally need to have an instantaneous payoff to make the mana investment worth it. Unfortunately, Phial does fail spectacularly in this regard.
The card is fantastic at fitting the Mana Rock role, and can even help you find cards to spend your mana on, but it needs time, and other cards, to help do this. It also doesn’t have a relevant impact on the board, which is a big deal in two-player formats. Maybe this will end up in a Wishboard (but The One Ring might just be strictly better), but don’t expect this Vial to do anything in competitive formats.
New Era 3-Mana Rocks
I think its pretty easy to state that the Phial of Galadriel is better than Chromatic Lantern in Magic’s current state. While the Phial doesn’t answer all of your mana fixing woes, it tapping for one mana of any color should go a long way to fixing a majority of issues that would be caused by mana fixing.
The Phial helping to find ways to spend your mana is what really pushes this card over the top. This represents a massive benefit that can give this card serious consideration over a cheaper Mana Rock in your Commander decks. This card needs to go aways to compare to staples like Mana Crypt and Sol Ring, but Phial of Galadriel just may become one of the best mana rocks in Commander – at least for the ones that cost more than one mana, and Grim Monolith.
If this all sounds like a good deal to you, Phial of Galadriel, at the time of writing, is only selling for $1.20. Considering Chromatic Lantern still costs $3 at the least, I think this could be worth it.