Mtg mana drain

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Mana Drain

The Most Iconic Counterspell in Magic

Mana Drain was the most relevant non-restricted card in the early days of Magic: The Gathering. For only two blue mana, the Instant provided two of the best effects any card can have. Mana Drain both disrupts the opponent´s plan and provides a significant mana boost on the caster's next main phase.

Interrupting the Opponent

First and foremost, Mana Drain counters an opposing spell, which prevents the opponent from progressing in their game plan. This first part of the card's text is identical to the complete text of Counterspell, which is already an iconic card on its own right. Counterspell was in Alpha (August 1993), the first Magic set ever printed, and remained on the print sheet of the always changing base set for eight years. Countering an opposing spell of any type for only two blue mana was deemed too powerful for a Standard-legal card after some years, though. Therefore, the card was no longer included in the base sets after 7th Edition (April 2001).

Mana Drain, on the other hand, was never included in a base set. It was originally printed as an Uncommon in Legends (June 1994), the third Magic expansion ever made. This meant that this card was never part of the early Standard format, as the format's very first incarnation (called Type 2 at that time) only included cards from Revised (April 1994), The Dark (August 1994), and Fallen Empires (November 1994), which were base sets and the 4th and 5th expansion, respectively. It was, however, the defining card of the Vintage and Legacy formats – until it was banned in Legacy in 2004. Since then, Vintage decks have become more proactive over time and cheap winning options like Young Pyromancer have reduced the allure of draining spells even further. Nowadays, Mana Drain is dropped by most control decks other than Landstill.

Generating a Mana Boost

Land drops usually limit the amount of mana one has access to on any given turn, which makes cards that get you around those limits very powerful in the early game – even if it is just single-use mana. Black Lotus and Dark Ritual were very overpowered cards in this design space, but even just gaining a single red mana from Simian Spirit Guide often makes all the difference in Eternal formats to this day.

Mana Drain grants much more than one mana most of the time, which is completely absurd given that the card already prevents an opposing card from resolving. Using the drained mana to play a relevant threat while keeping up two blue mana for the next Mana Drain is a player's dream and the opponent's worst nightmare.

Mana Drain Is Back

In spite of having been printed as an Uncommon in Legends, Mana Drain has become a very expensive card over the years due to its scarcity. Obviously, a card of such power level could never be reprinted into a Standard-legal set and the Legends print run was tiny compared to the always growing size of the player base.

To make the card a little bit more accessible, a Judge Rewards Promo (June 1999) version was created. Still, the card's price kept rising. 23 years after its original Legends printing, Mana Drain finally received its first actual set reprint in Iconic Masters (November 2017).

The resulting price reduction has created a great opportunity for you to pick up a copy for your Commander decks because especially in Commander, you will often be able to drain huge amounts of mana and channel them into your own epic spells.


Mana burn is an obsolete game concept in which a player would experience loss of life for having excess unspent mana when a phase ended.


For instance, if a player tapped a Swamp to cast Dark Ritual, adding {B}{B}{B} to their mana pool, then cast Erg Raiders (which costs {1}{B}), and then let the phase in which Erg Raiders was cast end but didn't spend the remaining {B}, that player would lose 1 life from mana burn.


From the Comprehensive Rules (May 1, 2009—Alara Reborn)

  • 300.General (Obsolete)
    • 300.3. When a phase ends (but not a step), any unused mana left in a player's mana pool is lost. That player loses 1 life for each one mana lost this way. This is called mana burn. Mana burn is loss of life, not damage, so it can't be prevented or altered by effects that affect damage. This game action doesn't use the stack. (See rule 406, "Mana Abilities.")


The rules update to Magic 2010 has removed this part from the game.[1] Players do not suffer loss of life for unused mana anymore. R&D considered the rule too complex and unnecessary.[2]

Design and behind-the-scenes[]

Mana burn was almost removed in the Sixth Edition rules update, but Mark Rosewater fought to keep it in. Ten years later, he fought to have it removed. His reasons to remove it were that it would free up design space, do away with a rule that's confusing for new players and that it's a rule that wasn't pulling its weight.[1]

He tried it out in design by having all designers play without mana burn for a month. It hadn't come up in playtests at all during the whole month.[3] The rule requires an unusual set of circumstances: either one has donated mana to an opponent at an inopportune time, or the player has significant amounts of mana producers that generate mana in unusual chunks or phases.

While mana burn has been a popular effect to attempt to recreate through a static ability, it took until Commander Legends where Yurlok of Scorch Thrash returned mana burn to the world of 2020.

In-world meaning[]

In storylines, mana burn happens when a wizard holds mana and doesn't use it to cast the spell. Such a wizard can seriously suffer from it, be killed, or even be burned to ash if the amount of mana was too big. Some victims of mana burn can also be turned into the Fallen.


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Mana Drain {U}{U}

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