In the nine months or so since joining the Hipsters team, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some outstanding writers and staff, and luckier still to bring more of them onto our team. I’ve been party to some exciting developments in Magic, and some really cool new cards to brew with. Today, that journey crests a new peak with the reveal of my first official free preview card here at Hipsters of the Coast.

I’ve been hyped about this one since I saw it, and today I’m pleased (and more than a little relieved) to finally share that hype with you. The preview seasons for Commander 2020 join the festivities with the previews for Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths this year, and this preview is part of Ikoria Commander weekend.

Free Preview: Manascape Refractor

Let’s just get this out of the way: I’m thrilled at how fitting this card is for Legion’s Landing. My column here at Hipsters seeks to expand horizons for EDH players, with a focus on budget, flavor and fun gameplay, while unearthing hidden gems and underplayed cards along the way. My preview card evokes both the pioneering and the budget angles of my column. To be able to roll that up into an impactful, mechanically fresh and highly playable Commander card is honestly as close to perfection as we could get—barring a Boros legend, of course.

I’d also, before we get too deep on mechanics, like to shout-out the art on the card. Though there are limits to what you can achieve when painting a rocky artifact, Yeong-Hao Han has managed to capture the iconic feel of past artifacts of importance with his masterful backdrop—the sky evokes cards like Cloudstone Curio, and the upward and powerful trajectory of the clouds themselves convey the energy of exploration and the joy of stumbling upon such a treasure. What a find!

Without further ado, let’s dig into the card. Manascape Refractor is a three-mana rock. It is part of the Commander 2020 set, and it reads as follows:

Manascape Refractor enters the battlefield tapped.

Manascape Refractor has all activated abilities of all lands on the battlefield.

You may spend mana as though it were mana of any color to pay the activation costs of Manascape Refractor’s abilities.

That’s some seriously cool and exciting tech on a card that can be played in any deck! The history of being able to clone, copy, or otherwise interact with abilities on lands is surprisingly sparse. We of course have Thespian’s Stage, first seen in Gatecrash, a land which can become a copy of other lands in play while retaining the ability to change once more. Often played alongside it is Vesuva, seen earlier still in Time Spiral, a land that can enter the battlefield as a copy of a land in play.

Mirage Mirror from Hour of Devastation can temporarily become a copy of a land in play. Beyond those, your options are a little more complex; they usually require some jumping through hoops, such as turning lands into creatures, which are much easier to interact with. Manascape Refractor, then, is a welcome addition to this suite of cards.

The immediate synergy is clear—having an extra copy of Cabal Coffers, Deserted Temple, or Gaea’s Cradle in play is very powerful. Decks already running these types of utility lands will be overjoyed to be able to run an “extra” copy. It’s also a great way to get an extra use out of a land with a sacrifice ability—sacrificing the Refractor to fire off Ghost Quarter or Wasteland without wasting your “one shot” to destroy a dangerous land later. The option to get an extra use from one-use land is a luxury, and one I’m sure many players will be excited to take advantage of.

Going deeper still, imagine being able to turn Blast Zone into Engineered Explosives. There’s a reason Blast Zone comes in with a counter: having the ability on a land to destroy all tokens would be a little too good. There are actually a bunch of really great ways to take advantage of Manascape Refractor. If you’d like to really dig down to find some cool tech, then stay tuned—tomorrow you’ll be able to read another article with my favorite interactions. For now, though, let’s think a little more about the impact of this shiny rock.

One big thing that jumps out at me is the fact that Manascape Refractor costs three mana. We’ve known for a while now that this is perhaps the most flexible slot for your mana rocks; at one and two, there are clear best in strategy cards, and likewise, going above three, you should only really be looking at Thran Dynamo and Gilded Lotus. This gives the Refractor a real chance to be played, and for a certain subset of players, that’s a great thing.

The subset I’m talking about, of course, is the Budget player. Budget players have the difficult task of managing their decks to not only include efficient and budget conscious card choices, but also making sure they hit enough of the competitive axes of deckbuilding to still come out with a deck that’s able to tussle. Essentially, a budget player’s main focus on mana rocks is getting enough of the efficient and curve-dependent pieces to be able to consistently ramp out in a game—they will prefer Sol Ring, Cultivate, and any signets like Boros Signet or Arcane Signet.

Other ramp pieces tend to be what’s good and cheap, or what helps them compete with stronger decks. (There’s a reason clone decks are so good at being flexible to play at different power levels.) Manascape Refractor, then, is the perfect ramp piece for a budget conscious strategy. If you’re tired of facing down opponents with stronger and more expensive manabases, the Refractor can help catch you up. Now you can have Gaea’s Cradle in play too.

The beauty of the Refractor is that it doesn’t punish you for not having the right colors of mana to use activated abilities, either—so leaving mana open for removal, and not having to use it, can now let you funnel that mana into activating Refractor to copy an opponent’s Castle Vantress to scry 2. Mana efficiency helps decks of all colors and price tags. With the prevalence of decks like Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and other five-color menaces in the current EDH metagame? Manascape Refractor is an ideal card to not only play alongside them, but also against them. Get yourself some free value!

But what if there are no good utility lands in play?

Manascape Reflections

Well, don’t fret. You’re good—it’ll be able to tap to produce mana that any land in play can produce. To understand exactly how this works, you’ll need to be aware of the finer details around the rules of Mana Abilities. A Mana ability is an activated ability, with certain additional rules around it.

In essence, you are able to tap Manascape Refractor to add one Green mana if there is a Basic Forest in play. A Basic Forest has the activated ability, “Tap: Add G.” Tapping is the cost, and adding Green is the effect. So, if you or an opponent has Command Tower in play? Happy days: your Manascape Refractor is an Arcane Signet with upside.

The important takeaway here is that whilst mana abilities don’t use the stack, and can’t be responded to, other activated abilities do, and can. So activating Manascape Refractor using the ability of Deserted Temple, which untaps a land, will use the stack. Using Manascape Refractor to activate the ability on Cabal Coffers, meanwhile, is a mana ability, and therefore won’t use the stack. This will probably be cause for the most rulings questions surrounding this card, so keep it in mind.

The other point of clarity is around when Manascape Refractor is a “live” card. Before you get too excited, you’ll need to remember that the Refractor’s static ability is only relevant when it’s a permanent. Sadly, this means you won’t be able to cycle it if there’s a Lonely Sandbar in play, and neither will you be able to return it to the battlefield from your graveyard with Drownyard Temple in play.

Also key to note is that if you use the Refractor to copy the ability of say, Shambling Vent, the “it’s still a land” part of the ability text will not apply. Manascape Refractor was never a land, and so it’ll become an Artifact Creature.

The final thing to note is that the Refractor says, “You may spend mana as though it were mana of any color to pay the activation costs of Manascape Refractor’s abilities.” The important thing here is that it references mana of any color, not many of any type. So, if you want to use the ability on Mirrorpool, which requires a colorless <> pip, you’ll still need to provide that mana—it’s a type of mana, and not a color of mana. It’s not that difficult to pull off, though; remember that many older cards which provide a “number” of mana, like {1} or {2}, have seen errata to correctly convey that they actually produce <> or <><>. For more on this, check this article.

Overall, Manascape Refractor is a fantastic card, and one I can see myself running in multiple decks, particularly those of a more budget angle. What’s more, I think it’s actually a really sweet card to run in Colorless decks like Kozilek, the Great Distortion. For more on that, check back tomorrow for my rundown of the best lands to run with it.

I hope you enjoyed this preview article, and I’d love hear what you think on Twitter. Let me know if you’re hyped for this card, and what cool interactions you’ve found!

Based in the UK, Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up.

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