As I write this question, Orcish Bowmasters (and to a lesser extent Wrenn and Six) is strongly suppressing mana dorks. These two cards trade extremely favorably against the likes of Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch, and the 2-toughness mana dorks are significantly more popular as a result. (Unfortunately there really is only Delighted Halfling and Gilded Goose with two toughness, and both of them have serious drawbacks relative to the Birds/Hierarch.)

Given that, why do people still run mana dorks instead of Utopia Sprawl? The latter seems like the much more reliable way to ramp, since it's significantly harder to kill.

Examples of recent decks using mana dorks instead of Utopia Sprawl by seasoned deckbuilder SaffronOlive: Deck 1, Deck 2

  • 2
    1) Which format are we talking about here? 2) Those decks you've linked are Against the Odds decks, they're not supposed to be competitive. Aug 10 at 5:14
  • @PhilipKendall 1) currently, Modern & Legacy. 2) My understanding is that Against the Odds decks are supposed to be as competitive as possible while using the highlighted card. The Nazgul deck for example includes Collected Company, which is very much a "I want to win" card.
    – Allure
    Aug 10 at 5:33
  • 1
    Against the Odds decks generally try not just to use the card but to make it a critical part of the strategy. The Nazgul deck includes Collected Company, which is good in many decks, but its purpose in that deck is to hit Nazgul and cards that advance the strategy of using Nazgul to win the game.
    – murgatroid99
    Aug 10 at 8:09
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    Honestly, I misread your question initially and I thought you were linking to the Against the Odds decks that use Utopia Sprawl instead of mana dorks, and asking why that choice was made. And those decks generally play it in a package with Arbor Elf, which allows them to ramp even faster at the cost of more fragility, which is generally only necessary when they need to highlight a particularly expensive card.
    – murgatroid99
    Aug 10 at 8:18
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    The first deck you post as an example uses mana creatures over enchantments because it has Collected Company as a key card.
    – Zags
    Aug 10 at 18:36

3 Answers 3


There's a lot of reasons why mana creatures are preferred over auras, some are very specific, others are more general:

Search - An early game play in some decks is to Green Sun's Zenith for 0 or 1, fetching either Dryad Arbor (a 0 cost green land creature) or a one cost mana dork. Very little searches for auras and enchantments compared to the ability to find creatures or lands, and what does is more expensive and doesn't put the card into play.

Cost - Most played mana dorks cost one mana, Scryfall has a tag which finds 24 one MV mana dorks. There are exactly 2 one mana mana auras in magic Wild Growth and Utopia Sprawl most have a higher cost to start, making them slower and...

Restrictive use - The two one cost mana auras are pretty restrictive. One only makes green mana, the other only goes on forests and makes one color chosen when you play it. Of the 24 one cost mana dorks from the scryfall search, more than half of them can make more than one color of mana, and most of those make any color. A few even added more than one mana, or untapped lands which can have other benefits.

Extra damage - There are many times when you can swing with your mana dork on turn two against empty boards if you didn't need the mana, potentially speeding up the game clock, this is particularly true when...

Lords and finishers - A lot of mana dorks are elves, and in elf tribal what starts out as a 1/1 mana dork turns into a 5/5 or bigger actual threatening body. Noble Hierarch and Ignoble Hierarch have Exalted, making a single other attacker bigger even after you used them for mana. They all also make one more attacker when using a finisher like Triumph of the Hordes or Craterhoof Behemoth.

Fragile - But the biggest reason is people simply avoid auras. They are considered the weakest type of card because they don't stay around like equipment when whatever they are on gets removed. While land destruction isn't as common as it once was, there still are plenty of cards that hate on land, mostly other lands like the most recent Demolition Field or Boseiju, Who Endures. But even when talking about being destroyed...

Expendable - These mana dorks usually are expendable and will either be ignored or bait out an opponent's removal early enough on. It's better for the player that is playing the mana dork to have the Orcish Bowmasters on the field sooner where it can be removed and won't be a surprise response to card draw effects. Even though "Bolt the Bird" has been a magic adage for a while, people still played Birds of Paradise, and partly because it made their opponent use that Lightning Bolt sooner rather than keep it for later.

Some things may change, depending on where the value ends up being, but right now there are still many things that make creature based mana acceleration better than aura based mana acceleration. If they did have non-aura enchantment based acceleration, it might end up in a similar place to artifact based mana, but we don't really have that now.

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    You don't even have to destroy the land to destroy the aura, bouncing it is sufficient (which isn't typically all that appealing of an option, but setting the player back by 2 mana, and taking a source of mana out of the game, is far better than what you normally get for bouncing a land).
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 11 at 11:35
  • @NotThatGuy true, I did say removed not destroyed, but if they bounce the land it's less of the two-for-one since the land is easy to replay, it's also really hard to bounce a land that isn't your own, almost all bounce spells specify a nonland type, or say a nonland permanent.
    – Andrew
    Aug 11 at 13:34
  • I will note there are exceptions. Enchantress decks are the most notable deck that will play aura based mana acceleration because they want the enchantment casts and etbs to trigger other effects, and as always limited formats will take whatever they can get.
    – Andrew
    Aug 11 at 15:31

Mana dorks and mana auras have their own strengths and weaknesses that have to be evaluated in the context of the deck as a whole. The main weakness of the creatures is that they are vulnerable to creature removal, the most prevalent kind of removal in most formats, and their low toughness makes them more vulnerable than most creatures. On the other hand, one strength of those creatures is that they can be used a chump blockers, sacrifice fodder, or even to attack for the last couple of points of damage, in a pinch. Some also have other abilities that are relevant in some decks. Noble Hierarch's Exalted ability, for example, can be fairly valuable in some situations.

Mana auras, on the other hand, have the same weakness that all auras have: they open you up to a 2-for-1 if the permanent they are attached to is removed. In the Modern meta, a significant amount of non-basic land hate is played, so a deck builder who wants to play mana auras has to choose between making their deck even more vulnerable to those cards, or play more basic lands than usual, which restricts the deck's ability to play multicolored spells. In addition, Utopia Sprawl is significantly less flexible than the mana dorks that cost the same: it only produces one color of mana, which is chosen in advance, and the mana it produces can only be used in the same step as the mana produced by the land, and it can only be played if you have an actual Forest, not just any green source (which interacts badly MDFCs and many dual land cycles). On the other hand, those auras combo strongly with land untappers like Arbor Elf.

Overall, the reason that people use mana dorks over auras is probably some combination of an actual evaluation that the card is more effective, and inertia from a pre-Bowmasters meta.

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    One benefit of mana dorks is that they are semi-live hits for Coco, while an enchantment would not be.
    – JonTheMon
    Aug 10 at 13:18

Land Auras in legacy are a bad idea because of one format defining card called wasteland.

In many ways legacy is the wasteland, brainstorm, and force of will format.

Mana dorks stand a better chance of surviving and even if they are killed it should be in a tempo nuetral manner.

If a land enchanted with an aura gets waste-landed then that is pretty hard to come back from.

  • Yes, but can't you fetch a Forest?
    – Allure
    Aug 11 at 10:18
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    It's worth noting that legacy doesn't really run dork based acceleration either. Most of the Tier one decks aren't in green (some sneak and show lists technically are because they include targets like Atraxa)
    – Andrew
    Aug 11 at 15:37
  • @Allure you don't do that in the format, when you fetch a 'forest' it's generally one of the non-basics like the original duals, a shock land, or dryad arbor, top tier legacy decks often have no basic lands at all, and if they do it's generally one ofs.
    – Andrew
    Aug 11 at 15:40
  • @Andrew that doesn't sound like the Legacy I know. mtgtop8.com/format?f=LE&meta=237&a= In 2022, Maverick had 0.9% of the metagame share (9th most popular aggro deck) and an example list 1) has 2 Forests and 2) runs mana dorks. I am also under the impression that basic lands are in most decks precisely because of Wasteland, with only some tempo decks running no basics.
    – Allure
    Aug 11 at 15:55
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    @Andrew Yes, but they still run some number of basic lands, so they can fetch for them to avoid Wasteland (and also not auto-lose against Blood Moon).
    – Allure
    Aug 11 at 23:13

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