What Are Mana Abilities?

Welcome, one and all! I hope you’re having a wonderful day, because we’ve got a fun lesson lined up for you today about mana abilities! Let’s get into it.

Ravnica Allegiance has brought us plenty of new cards that make mana for you; Nikya of the Old Ways, Priest of the Forgotten Gods, Domri, and Incubation Druid, to name a few. It has also brought us Repudiate, a Simic hybrid spell that counters activated or triggered abilities. If you’re anything like me (that is to say, a monster) you probably want to find a way to prevent your opponent having mana ever, and Repudiate looks handy for that- but it’s got some odd reminder text. “Mana abilities can’t be targeted”- well, why not? First, let’s discuss what makes something a ‘mana ability’.

There are three conditions that an ability needs to fulfill in order to be a mana ability. First, it could add mana to a mana pool as it resolves; it doesn’t have to be capable of generating mana right now, it just needs to reasonably be able to. An example of that is Gaea’s Cradle– that’s a mana ability whether you have 0 creatures or 30. Second, it can’t target anything. That means Deathrite Shaman is out, as well as Priest of the Forgotten Gods– even though you could choose no targets, the fact you choose them at all means it can’t be a mana ability. The third requirement depends on if the ability is Activated or Triggered. An Activated mana ability must meet the previous two criteria AND cannot be a Loyalty ability, which means that Domri is right out. A triggered mana ability must meet the first two criteria, and also be triggered by activating an activated mana ability, or from mana being added. That means Nikya is in- she triggers from tapping a land for mana.

So what does this mean for Nikya and Incubation Druid? Well, they have mana abilities, so those abilities can’t be responded to. When they’re triggered or activated, they don’t even go onto the stack; they immediately resolve with nobody being able to respond in any way. It also means that you can use them during the actual process of casting a spell, unlike the not-quite-mana-abilities up above- for those, you’d need to float the mana before you start casting. Unfortunately Priest of the Forgotten Gods and Domri don’t have this luxury. They aren’t mana abilities, and so they can be responded to with Repudiate and the like- and if they get countered, the cost you already paid has still been spent. You don’t get it refunded. That means Domri still gets a loyalty counter (yay!), and Priest still eats two of your creatures for no value (boo!)

So that’s all for today. Hope release week has treated you well, and see you back here on Monday for more tips!

Today’s Rules Tip was written by Alistair Crook

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