Essential Magic Articles

Any Given Friday: The Power of Hybrid Mana

by Michael Keen


Magic the Gathering is a game defined by formats.  The format in which you play directly affects the cards you’re allowed to use as well as the rules that dictate play, and as such, is the most important factor to consider when sitting down to build any pre-constructed deck.  The styles and types of decks that you see dominating the Standard tournaments at your local card shop will usually vary drastically from the things that you’ll see at a casual table of 2 headed giant.  Personally, I prefer the casual setting.  There’s nothing better than looking at set spoilers of the new cards from the latest block and finding broken interactions with classic gems from bygone Magic eras. Scratch that.  The only thing better is smashing your friends mercilessly with said combos.

That being said, there are certain mechanics that seem to transcend format barriers and find their way heavily into both competitive and casual play.  Hybrid mana seems to be one of these mechanics.  For proof you need only to look at the list of competitive standard decks over the last couple of years and see how many times Demigod of Revenge rears his ugly head.  Figure of Destiny, also known as “the little Kithkin that could” has also heavily made the rounds.  And I love it!  

I’ve been playing the game now for the better part of a decade and hybrid mana has come to be one of my favorite mechanics in all of Magic. Given the fact that Alara Reborn may be the last time we see these quirky little mana symbols for quite some time, I thought that now would be a good time to take a look at what makes hybrid cards so powerful, and how the both the casual and tournament player alike can benefit from the overlapping layers of synergy that they bring to the table.


Hybrid offers several benefits that most “normal” cards can’t boast.  First and foremost is an overall increase in power level.  Because hybrid cards usually require more colored mana than their traditional multicolored counterparts, you can’t use any cheap sources of colorless mana to power them out.  Wizards compensated for this by making the cards themselves considerably stronger than they would have been otherwise.  Yet, if your deck only produces the two colors of mana in question, you’ve easily avoided this drawback right off the bat.

In fact, hybrid mana costs often make spell casting easier for a two color deck because you no longer have to worry about being locked out of one of your colors.  Blightning is a very powerful early-game threat.  But if your opponent destroys the lone Swamp (1) that you held in your opening hand and you don’t draw another source of black mana for five turns, your opening hand bombshell has just become a game-long dud.  Most decks that run hybrid cards nearly exclusively don’t suffer from this vulnerability.

Another thing to consider is the ability to take hybrid “mono color”.  By making a deck with lots of hybrid cards, you can effectively splash off-color effects into what would otherwise be a mono colored deck.  This allows you to include mechanics that are very mana intensive on a single color and still get the benefits of another color that would be unavailable otherwise.  For example, shroud is a mechanic that is very blue oriented.  Yet, by playing a “mono-red” deck full of red/blue hybrid cards, you can effectively splash shroud into the mix via Clout of the Dominus and still feel comfortable enough to run cards like Firebreathing that are very red-mana intensive.


Now, I’m sometimes accused by those in my play circle of making primarily “good stuff” decks that simply lump a bunch of powerful cards together.  While this may be partially true (I do believe in using stronger cards when available), most of my decks still revolve around an overlapping theme.  Hybrid cards lend themselves particularly well to this style of deck building because they tend to be very synergistic and “play nice” together, in addition to being very powerful stand-alone cards.  This makes it very easy to build a deck that is almost entirely hybrid cards simply by looking at the different cycles of hybrids released during the Ravnica/Shadowmoor blocks (guildmages, lieges, mimics, etc.) and cherry picking the strongest cards.  Throw in a few cards from your color(s) of choice that go well with the overall theme of the deck and you’ve probably got a pretty good card list on your hands.

In that spirit, a few months ago I whipped up a makeshift spreadsheet of the mana costs, power/toughness, keyword abilities, etc. for the various hybrid cycles and ranked the different color combinations in each cycle on their overall power level and efficiency.  Then I went through the individual card lists and picked out key cards that were potential bombs in any environment and factored those in as well.  Using these statistics, I picked out some of the most solid hybrid color sets and built them into casual decks for use with my local play group.

Last edited 4/19/2010 12:40:11 PM Page 1 of 2  Prev  Next  Go to page:

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