What's the maximum viable converted mana cost?

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I'm new to magic so I'm looking for some deck building parameters. I wonder at what point are cards generally just to expensive to cast. I found this article interesting, though it's from 2009 so maybe things have changed. Of course it depends on the deck you're running, some quick decks might not have anything over 3 converted cost, some combo decks may manage to play very expensive cards. In my very limited experience as a casual player, 5 mana cost seems viable, 6 risky, 7 barely playable and anything over that not viable. What might be a good rule of thumb for a starting player?
Well, it depends on the speed of the format too. However, I think that generally:
Aggro can manage to play a few 4 drops, if they have enough of an impact, but will often neglect to do so.
Fish decks are probably even more reluctant to play 4+ more, as it requires a lot of mana to hold open if you want to protect it with countermagic.
Midrange usually have a lot of solid stuff around the 3-4 range that they can accelerate into early, but will also play a few backbreaking 5-7 cost cards.
Control can afford a few really expensive cards, upwards of 8, used to quickly end a game that your opponent can't push through anymore.
Combo does whatever it wants to.
I suppose Ramp also tops out with a few things in the 6-8 range, a bit more than Control as they want to land a lot of them to force your opponent to answer it, as opposed to landing a big threat and making your opponent unable to answer it.

However, I haven't played in a long while, so take it with a grain of salt.
With the assumption of a speed equal to that of current standard formats. Casual decks are rarely going to be better than that, although obviously depends on playgroup.

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There is no such thing as an impossible mana cost. The highest mana cost of an actual card is sixteen (Draco). That guy's cost though is variable, as is many high costing creatures (like Autochthon Wurm). The highest without a variable cost (that's not a parody card, like Big Furry Monster) is fifteen (Emrakul, the Aeons Torn); then twelve Iname as One). However, these costs aren't a solid state of their playability.

The game is very diverse and there are many elements which will accelerate the amount of mana you have by a lot. Back in the day, Mana Flare was the top card. It doubles the amount of mana each land produces. Then came Vernal Bloom, which was one sided and worked only for green. Green would later get Heartbeat of Spring and Rites of Flourishing. Each effect stacks, so the production ability doubles for each one you have out. If you had one of each out, each Forest would produce four . So with only four Forest, you'd be able to generate sixteen mana. And there are a lot cards with this effect, they make casting really high cost creatures very easy. There are some colorless examples of this as well. Extraplanar Lens and Gauntlet of Power (a variant of the olde Gauntlet of Might). There is Doubling Cube as well. All of these run along those same lines, supercharging your ability to cast high converted mana cost creatures.

This though, is the second place method. Generally, strategies focus on single instance, short burst mana acceleration. Things like High Tide, Seething Song, and the very popular Dark Ritual. These are the most essential tools for casting high converted mana cost spells. Not all strategies revolve around casting them either. Sometimes the entire basis of a high converted mana costs spell revolves around sneaking it out onto the battlefield. Sneak Attack is a legendary tool for this. Also, things like Tinker, Show and Tell, and Natural Order are famous among really cheap players. They're very cheapskate ways of sneaking things out onto the battlefield. Another purpose can be to use the high cost for some other reason. There is a cycle of spells named "Shoals" and they can be cast for free through channeling another spell of the same color. Blazing Shoal is the most popular and you'll often see cards like Progenitus and Reaper King in decks with the only purpose to use it in combination with the Shoal spell. Other spells that play on converted mana cost are Erratic Explosion, Ancient Ooze, etc. The mana curve on decks with these tactics can get chaotic.

Now, I don't really play anymore, but I've got reasonable skill and experience. Mana curve in a nutshell plays on the game-clock. As the saying goes, the first impression is the most important. Well, the same is true for this game. The first few turns can be the more important. Keeping your curve down helps the flow of the cards so that you can gain some advantage early on in the game; either by setting up a defense, (Angelic Wall, Wall of Earth, Wall of Ice, Wall of Air); or getting the jump on your opponent (Raging Goblin, Ball Lightning); or taking full battlefield advantage (Kird Ape, Juzam Djinn, Serra Avenger).

Another thing about mana curve is, the lower your curve, the better you'll be able to utilize your available mana. A majority of spells in the lower tiers means you'll be able to cast more spells per turn, or over the course of a turn. Expensive spells can tap you out, and you'll be unable to respond with a counter-active spell if you need to. For example, if you cast Air Elemental on turn five, rather than Wall of Frost, you'll be totally tapped out. On your opponent's next turn, if they hit your creature with some hex spell (Terror, Vindicate, Reprisal), you won't be able to cast your counter-magic (Intervene, Avoid Fate, Rebuff the Wicked) and save it. Just another reason why keeping the curve down is helpful, because it can enable you to do more with less resources.

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Also depends on the format. EDH can have Eldrazi hardcast with minimal ramp.
139359831 wrote:
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White-blue decks cast Iona, Shield of Emeria fairly during Standard, so I would say the maximum is nine.
Mana cost doesn't matter if the abilities on the card are justified. Some cards would be broken even if they cost 123516516 mana.
What might be a good rule of thumb for a starting player?



This really depends on if you are playing casual or competitive. In casual, I've been able to hard cast Jin-Gitaxias, Core Auger by protecting myself with guard gomazoas and removal. To be fair, that was actually meant to be a reanimater deck (that also had a zombie tribal theme, my decks really go all over the place) and hardcating him hapenned purely by accident. But it's still proof that it's possible.

The issue is that standard has a different speed than modern, modern has a different speed than legacy or vintage, Commander is just in a league of its own nd casual ultimately depends on your opponents.

My advise is to not have a "rule of thumb" and find what works best for you without restricting yourself.   
Mana cost doesn't matter if the abilities on the card are justified. Some cards would be broken even if they cost 123516516 mana.



yeah, mostly because vengeful rebirth exists.
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56778328 wrote:
Why did you post it here? "Hey, all you guys who play this game! I'm not gonna play it!" "Umm... Ok, dude."
Mana cost doesn't matter if the abilities on the card are justified. Some cards would be broken even if they cost 123516516 mana.



yeah, mostly because vengeful rebirth exists.

Or even just because of the card itself. Emrakul sees a lot of play, for example, but does anyone even think twice about the mana cost? You're either cheating it into play or accellerating so ridiculously fast that it doesn't matter.
I was kind of trying to joke with it, but yeah. show and tell  exists.
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56778328 wrote:
Why did you post it here? "Hey, all you guys who play this game! I'm not gonna play it!" "Umm... Ok, dude."
4 is the important mana cost to focus on. That's the point where your cards generally need to start deciding matches on their own. Your 1 - 3 slot develops the game, but most 4 drops are like Day of Judgment or Garruk Wildspeaker or Huntmaster of the Fells and start taking over games all by themselves. Every deck (and this is a broad statement) reflects on how capable it is to utilize that 4 slot. The quicker you want the game to end, the less important that slot becomes. The longer you want it to last, the most significant your 4 drops need to be. As your deck adjusts its mana needs, the more reliable higher mana costs become.

What I'm trying to illustrate here is that every card that costs more than 4 (again, broad generalization) becomes more allowable in your deck as your focus on the 4 increases. This changes from deck to deck, but is a fine idea to work with, usually when considering midrange and control decks.
Rule of thumb, your deck core is at 2-3-4. You should win with those cards alone, anything higher is a bonus, is cheated into play and/or is ramped into play.

Play as few 5-6+ as you can unless they are required. A deck with an ammount ofmeekstone and 4Xtrinket mage can play 4 X sun titan. Since the rest of the deck is probably about slowing down the opponent with board wipes, exiles and counterspells.

And like it was said already, you can cheat those big monsters into play
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tropical island  arbor elf
taiga  overgrowth
savannah mana reflection

3 turns of good strong accelleration sets you up with a possible 16 mana going into turn 4. You can even build a deck around such an approach. (sometimes referred to as elf ball)

Without going green it is much harder to be really obnoxious but,
voltaic key into grim monolith can be awfully obnoxious in many colors.
add a 3rd turn accelleration of coalition relic and 4th turn unwinding clock and perhaps even an ice cauldron or two and you can be almost as bad as green.

In green you can also defend fairly well with things like uncounterable creatures or weenie persist/undying creatures. White, Black, and red all have mass removal.

In casual at least, pretty much any mana cost can be paid if it is worth the effort to develop. The limiting factor is that many times two small effects combine to create a win condition, combo is what keeps ramp inline.
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To answer the question more generally:

Based on personal experience, I've found that 6 is the highest number I can expect to consistently reach in a 24 land control-leaning deck with no ramp. 5 is my preferred top end though. At 22 or fewer lands and no ramp i tend to top at 5.

If you aren't ramping or cheating, I recommend not running anything with a CMC higher than 6. 
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I would go max 5cc and 24-28 lands to support such a high cost.

I usually play with the following mana: (Which can be split into two colors at any time)

24 lands
12 1cc
12 2cc
8 3cc
4 4cc

22 lands
12 1cc
12 2cc
14 3cc

Split the mana evenly unless one color is splash, then I use to play with 14 lands of the maincolor.
Generally, maximum mana cost is usually a trivial matter- As for importance of mana cost in constructed play- 2 is usually the most key, followed by 4.

2 Drops are where many mana curves begin and 2 is reserved for spells too powerful to be cast for 1 mana, but small enough to work on 2 lands. 2 is the home of many ramp spells, removal spells, cantrips and sources of fractal card advantage.

4 Drops on the otherhand- are cards that start a threshold of being difficult to simply cast out-of-hand. The average hand (consisting of 2 or 3 land) usually requires drawing 1 or 2 mana sources to cast 4 drops, which makes a density of 4-drops a good reason to increase your land count or use spells that act as substitute land or mana sources.

A density of 5+ drops, in my experience (not just the odd inclusion of a 5 drop) requires some serious consideration towards the number of draw and ramp sources the particular deck which operates them contains.
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I'd say 20.

Obviously Broken Card

Random type

Domain--~ costs less if you control a plains, less if you control an island, less if you control a forest, less if you control a mountain, and less if you control a forest.

Whatever other abilities.

Prismatic Omen, t3 win!

This seems awkward, but Draco saw play in Invasion.

And yes, the reason I say this is because every card is different, and every deck is different. Hill Giant was bad in Alpha, but Serra Angel was good. One costs one mana more than the other. Get what I'm getting at?
139359831 wrote:
Clever deduction Watson! Maybe you can explain why Supergirl is trying to kill me.
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Well, yes, a card with cmc 20 would instantly be playable, but that would be for entirely different reasons.

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Well, yes, a card with cmc 20 would instantly be playable, but that would be for entirely different reasons.



See? This is my point. We can't just say "What's playable?" A three-color card with ccdddee would normally be unplayable, but Cruel Ultimatum. Green sucks in limited, but ROE limited was basically everyone drafting black/green and then seeing what to do with the other 10 or so cards in each pack.
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Clever deduction Watson! Maybe you can explain why Supergirl is trying to kill me.
---- Autocard is your friend. Lightning Bolt = Lightning Bolt
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