Magic the Gathering incorporates the concept of mana, or magical energy derived found the natural essence of a plane of existence. Mana manifests into five distinct frequencies within a spectrum, which are White, Black, Blue, Red, and Green. Certain types of effects, spells, creatures, and spellcasters often possess an affinity to some or all of these colors of mana. Each type of mana possesses their own unique characteristics that resemble traits, beliefs, and particular energy sources. For D&D, the colors of mana have associations with all of the schools of magic, with several overlapping between some of the colors.
Additionally, I’ll be breaking down some of the D&D mechanics and trying to combine the flavor and aesthetic of mana into your spellcasting as Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica (you can preorder now on Amazon) marches onward to release in November.
Five Colors of Mana & the Eight Schools of Magic
White mana symbolizes life, protection, healing, divination, purity, order, sovereignty, oaths, and duty. Most celestials such as angels are associated with this particular mana color. Typical types of spells from the card game include destructive effects that destroy or dispel magic or magical items, auras of magic that can buff or debuff an foe, and healing is one of the iconic traits of white mana-based spells.
Schools of Magic that may use White Mana:
- Evocation (many light based, radiant damage-based, or healing effects
- Enchantment (buffs or debuffs such as bless and bane for example)
- Divination (oracles are common character tropes in Magic the Gathering with white having the most)
- Abjuration (spells that offer protection or resistances are common in white mana spells)
A good reference point for White mana spells come from the Cleric and Paladin spell lists for inspiration as a benchmark for determining spells that are a “best fit” for your Ravnica D&D campaigns.
Black is the mana that symbolizes absolute power at all costs, there is a negative connotation with this color mana that often relates the death and undeath. Ultimately, the common traits for black mana include corruption, sacrifice, blood, greed, disease, and mental illness. Many black mana-based spells will sometimes deal necrotic damage, deal with undead and necromancy, there are effects that deal with mental subjugation or oppression, spells that involve illusions are sometimes seen, spells that use darkness or create it, and effects that cause the frightened condition are also prevalent.
Schools of Magic that may use Black Mana:
- Necromancy (plenty of spells that deal with fear, necrotic energy damage, and undead)
- Evocation (many spells that deal with darkness are in the evocation school)
- Enchantment (often effects that charm or dominate creatures or persons are likely choices)
- Transmutation (many Black spells involve changing or manipulating the form of the caster or victims)
Some good references will come from the flavorful Warlock class but you can also find some great ideas from the Death domain Cleric spell list, and many Wizards from the School of Enchantment, Illusion, Necromancy, and even Transmutation find their playstyle and spell selections complimentary for Black mana users. Oath of Conquest Paladins offer some insightful portrayals and spell choice examples for black mana spells. Shadow Magic Sorcerers, Fiend Patron Warlocks, and Hexblade Warlocks also provide a similar portrayal of black magic.
Blue mana symbolizes intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, illusions, mental creations, flight, and elemental air and water. Many blue spells often deal with acquiring more knowledge (which for the card game results in drawing more cards from the deck or Library), dispelling magic with counterspells, spells regarding flight or teleportation, spells that affect the weather or deal with cold damage are likely contenders.
Schools of Magic that may use Blue Mana:
- Illusion (Blue deals with the mind both on oneself and others)
- Divination (Knowledge is power for a blue mage)
- Transmutation (Blue has a history using polymorph-like effects)
- Abjuration (spells such as Counterspell and Dispel Magic are iconic in the blue mage’s arsenal)
- Enchantment (some spells that dominate or charm creatures are also within blue’s repertoire)
Knowledge Domain Clerics are great examples of a religious guardian and provide some useful spell choices, but the Wizard class is the sole iconic spell list of choice for Blue mana-wielding mages. Diviner and Abjurer Wizards are typical choices but so are Illusionist and Enchanters along with a few Transmuters.
Red symbolizes freedom, artifice, chaos, anarchy, destruction, agility, along with elemental fire and lightning. A vast majority of red spells deal damage, but some also deal with a mania and chaotic acquisition, along with speed and agility boosting effects. Red rewards destruction and be can spiteful as well.
Schools of Magic that may use Red Mana:
- Evocation (fire and lightning based damage spells are common, but spells that feature earth or terrain are also likely candidates)
- Conjuration (red is not just the mana of destruction but creation and artifice)
- Transmutation (spells such as Haste are a common theme for red)
- Enchantment (red has a tendency for betrayal and therefore effects that charm or dominate a creature are a frequent strategy)
Wild Magic Sorcerers make excellent candidates for red mana users, spellcasters that specialize in fire and lightning spells are also prevalent. Mountain and Desert Druids are often inclined to attune with elemental earth and become shamans. Fire Domain Clerics, Evoker Wizards, and Transmuter Wizards will often wield red mana as well depending on their specialties and focus. Artificers, Forge Domain Clerics, and some Conjurer Wizards also utilize this mana color.
Green symbolizes natural life, nature, vegetation, primal energies, growth, community, spiritualism, and animals. Most green mana spells focus on summoning allies (especially woodland allies), strengthening or boosting a creature or ally, connecting with nature itself, and the aspect of community through interdependence.
Schools of Magic that may use Green Mana:
- Conjuration (summoning spells are common with green mana users)
- Evocation (some variants of healing and growth)
- Transmutation (spells such as Enlarge/Reduce or Enhance Ability are common)
- Divination (some spells that utilize nature’s energy such as Commune with Nature are common, along with shamanistic practices)
- Necromancy (some spells that utilize connecting with spirits or Speak with Dead are common practices but aspects on undeath are generally frowned upon)
Druids and Rangers are ideal users of green mana, Nature Domain Clerics, Fey Pact Warlocks, and College of Glamour Bards are often envoys or spiritual guides for various primordial entities. Oath of the Ancient Paladins are often stewards and champions that safeguard important sites.
Color of Mana in D&D
Mana is a natural resource from the very lands of the realm, and many entities (both casters and non-casters) have an inherent relationship with these different colors of mana. We typically refer to this inherent affinity as the Prime (or Primary) Color. Almost every creature born into a plane will have this Prime Color affiliation. What makes mana interesting in the settings of Magic the Gathering is that you can gain affinity to other colors, though some are easier than others, which are referred to as allied and rival colors. An example of a rival color combination would be white and black, they represent two completely different ideas and philosophies while blue and white brings a harmonious ideal of sacred knowledge and order. In the stories and novels, Planeswalkers (individuals who have the unique casting ability to travel between different planes of existence) will enter a new plane and quickly attune themselves to their Prime Color, there are instances where other colors of mana may be more accessible and they may also attune to them. Often these Planeswalkers remain close to their Prime Colors as their core identity of beliefs, ideals, and even use of mana. It should be noted that sometimes the influence of a plane will cause Planeswalkers to wield and identify with more than one mana color but it’s extremely rare.
One way to determine Prime Colors is through backgrounds and other times also through class choice. We will be referring to the first class choice in the case of multiclassing. This is not a perfect method of determining a Prime Color, but it’s a guildeline to help you create your identity in the color wheel.
Classes: Clerics, Fighters, Monks (except Shadow & Long Death), Paladins, Wizards (Divination), Divine Sorcerer, Celestial Warlock
Backgrounds: Acolyte, Folk Hero, Noble, Sage, Soldier
Classes: Barbarians, Clerics (Death/Grave/Trickery), Druid (Swamp), Fighter, Paladin (Conquest/Vengeance), Monk (Long Death/Shadow), Shadow Magic Sorcerer, Warlocks, Wizards
Backgrounds: Acolyte, Criminal, Haunted One, Hermit, Noble, Sage, Sailor (Pirate), Soldier, Urchin
Classes: Bards, Clerics (Knowledge/Arcane), Rogues, Wizards
Backgrounds: Acolyte, Charlatan, Guild Artisan/Merchant, Hermit, Noble, Sailor, Sage
Classes: Barbarians, Bards, Clerics (Fire/Light/Forge/Nature), Druid (Mountain/Desert), Fighters, Rangers, Dragon Sorcerer, Fiend Warlock, Wizard (Evocation/Transmutation)
Backgrounds: Charlatan, Criminal, Folk Hero, Gladiator, Guild Artisan/Merchant, Hermit, Outlander, Sage, Urchin
Classes: Barbarian, Bards (Glamour/Valor), Clerics (Nature/Tempest/Life), Druids, Monks (Elements/Tranquility), Paladin (Oath of Ancients), Rangers, Fey Warlock
Backgrounds: Acolyte, Folk Hero, Hermit, Outlander, Sage
When it comes to attuning to mana, similar to how druids often have to commune with the natural energies, such spellcasters wishing to harness it must entreat the same approach. How one attunes to mana can attributed to the color you wish to attune, for example, white mana users may often pray while red mana users perhaps utilize a natural conduit of fire to draw their connection to mana.
Spellcasting Variant: Spell Point and Mana
For casters using a source of mana and for the purposes of this article to grant the ability to attune to mana, I feel the Spell Point spellcasting variant best represents the method of homebrew I wish to employ.
The Spell Point variant of spellcasting can be found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide page 288. If you’re familiar with playing a sorcerer, you may already be accustomed to having a point value to spell level slots. Instead of gaining new slots whenever you level up or having them to cast your spells, you have a pool of spell points that you use to cast the spell. In the case of casting spells at a higher level, whatever final level you wish the spell to be cast becomes the final spell point cost. For example, casting a 5th-level fireball will cost 7 spell points instead of the original 5 spell points as a 3rd-level spell. The variant does have stop-gaps to prevent high level casters from casting multiple high-level spells by only letting them convert the spell points to any 6th-level or higher spell slot once before requiring a long rest.
I will admit that I am not a fan of the “convert spell points to spell slots to cast your spells,” it’s cumbersome method and language to simply cast a spell. The refined text should read: “You expend a number of spell points to cast a spell equal to the spell’s level, casting spells that provide a ‘at higher levels‘ entry require you to expend spell points equal to the final spell level on the Spell Point Cost table.”
My opinion on only granting one spell slot for spell levels 6th through 9th is an understandable balance reason. I would protest this decision since many full casters have at least two 6th and 7th-level spell slots at 20th-level so I feel for these type of characters and feel that it should be representative of that. There’s not clear-cut solution at this time but I would surmise that one way would to use an ability check or some kind to limit the amount of spells past 6th level and keep the limit on 8th and 9th-level spells.
Attune to Mana Color
You attune to the magical energies, or mana, of a given land. This energy fuels and empowers your spellcasting. Whenever you take a short or long rest, you enter into a meditative state and commune with the surrounding land. If you have a Prime Color affinity, you may choose to attune to that particular color of mana. You may choose to end your attunement after you finish your next short or long rest. If you leave the plane, you lose the attunement to the mana from that plane and must perform the meditation again. You can only attune up to a number of color mana equal to your proficiency bonus (up to a maximum of five colors of mana).
While attuned, you can expend spell slots or spell points (based on spell level) to cast spells from the Mana Spell Table and you are treated as having these spells prepared. Additionally, you add double your proficiency bonus to any Intelligence (Arcana) or Wisdom (Survival) check to sense a source of mana. Additionally, if you are within 100 feet of a leyline, your Mana Spells spell point cost are reduced by half.
While This Mana Spell table is no different than a Cleric’s Domain spells list, and like most likes, they only range from 1st to 5th-level spell slots. Why not go all the say 7th or 8th with the variety of spell choices from the Player’s Handbook and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything? Well, I feel that the 5th-level design fits better and while certainly many spells in the higher tiers would fit into the themes of certain mana colors, that can something you may wish to explore but honestly I feel it’s just too good, especially some of those spells. In the case of attuning to more than one color, well, the logical answer would be that the caster gains access to more spells from the tables you craft. You could alternatively craft tables for two-color combinations (specially for each Guild in Ravnica) that fits their aesthetic, though that might be a greater undertaking but if there is enough feedback to desire such an idea, please leave a comment down below.
For example, a Black Mana Spell Table may look like this:
|1st||witch bolt, cause fear|
|2nd||blindness/deafness, ray of enfeeblement|
|3rd||stinking cloud, vampiric touch|
|4th||blight, phantasmal killer|
|5th||raise dead, contagion|
You can certainly tailor these lists to best represent the different planes. For example, Theros involves enchantment like effects while Ravnica will deal with more decay and shadowy stealth. I encourage players and DMs to experiment with each other to craft some of their unique spins on magic in the settings of Magic the Gathering. It’ll be worth the work, I promise.
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