How much mana SHOULD a card cost to play?

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I was wondering if anyone knew of or had a breakdown of how much mana a given card should cost. Like a 1/1 flyer generally costs 2 mana. that leads me to think that the flying ability costs about 1 mana. But what about other abilities like trample, or lifelink etc. What is the standard cost for a given ability and how much should a given power/toughness cost? I want to eliminate bad inefficent cards from my decks.
you can't work out an exact metric because context matters. deathtouch, as the most obvious example, is practically useless on large creatures that kill whatever they fight anyway, whereas it's incredible valuable on 1/1s. there's no single metric you can lie each card against and see if they measure up. you just look at what works.

 

120.6. Some effects replace card draws.

 

why are you here when NGA exists and is just better

I want to eliminate bad inefficent cards from my decks.



What Razorborne said is correct. Instead of trying to figure out some exact number, just remove the cards that don't work very well in your deck or don't feel like they do enough for their cost. You really can't make a one-size-fits-all for decks. For example, Knight of the Reliquary is usually a great card, but it's not very good in a deck with Deathrite Shaman.
There's no exact formula, because there's a huge plethora of factors to take into account when determining how much a newly designed card should cost. Just to name some:

*Color - abilities and effects (using the terms very loosely here) in a typical color are generally cheaper in their 'main' colors; for example, white, the color of white weenies, gets the non-drawback 2 power creatures at 1 mana, as opposed to every other color requiring 2+ or a drawback (Elite Vanguard vs Goblin Guide)
*Power/toughness - it's not too common to have a creature that's above curve and isn't vanilla. And typically if it's above curve, it'll often be green, or be conditional. For example, Leatherback Baloth is above curve; Hero of Bladehold is above curve but requires you to attack for this to be the case
*Abilities - typically, more abilities = higher cost
*'Base' mana cost - if we can consider the base mana cost to be somewhat dictated by power/toughness for creatures, or general effect for noncreatures, sometimes additional effects or abilities can get tacked on without an increase. Easy examples - stuff like Baneslayer Angel, Thragtusk and the titans.
*Power creep - with more and more powerful cards being printed, sometimes a card can be discounted compared to previous cards just so it can keep up.
*Conditional - again, if a power boost on a card is at least somewhat conditional, the ability/effect will often be cheaper, or even free. Like Qasali Pridemage and exalted.

There are plenty more, but already you can see that it'd be very difficult to come up with an exact formula. Learning which cards are bad enough to cut from your decks comes with experience, which will help you learn how to evaluate cards. But at least in terms of creatures, often if it's below curve and doesn't have some sort of redeeming ability it'll be worth cutting.
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For example, Knight of the Reliquary is usually a great card, but it's not very good in a deck with Deathrite Shaman.


Even that example isn't one-size-fits-all. While often you'll at least want the ability to beat with your KotR, at the very least these 2 can combo up to generate a mana each per turn (while still getting surplus lands in your graveyard if you're running fetches). And if you don't need the mana, then your KotR is going to start getting fat anyway.
I'm all about super-control in MTG. If you're able to stop my shenanigans, then there aren't enough shenanigans. Lv 1 Judge Current Decklists Sweeping Beauty (Casual) A Vision of Clones (Casual) Coming soon... more decks! :-O
Even that example isn't one-size-fits-all. While often you'll at least want the ability to beat with your KotR, at the very least these 2 can combo up to generate a mana each per turn (while still getting surplus lands in your graveyard if you're running fetches). And if you don't need the mana, then your KotR is going to start getting fat anyway.



Exactly. Little things like that make it absolutely impossible to determine whether a card is worth it or not.

Unless it's Wood Elemental. There's always a better option than Wood Elemental.
Every card should cost 4.

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Like other people have said - context is everything. In particular, one has to consider the metagame context.

For example, in Limited Rise of the Eldrazi, players were expected to have large amounts of mana, thus certain game-changing abilities could be even more expensive than usual.

In another example, certain cards in Standard (such as Delver of Secrets) was once considered powerful enough for its minute mana cost that it created its own archetype....that fell out of popularity as many of its supporting cards fell and new archetypes grew up to play against it when the Scars of Mirrodin block rotated out of standard.

Even in largely unchanging formats such as Modern - if Eggs is currently being heavily played and topping pro-tour boards all over the place, then certain other decks - and by extension, cards - will end up more valuable to work with because they intrinsically have advantages over that particular method of play.

Cards like Pillar of Flame wouldn't be as useful if zombies (or other graveyard-relevant low toughness creatures) weren't ever used, either. Flicker effects such as on Restoration Angel wouldn't be utilized so much without having other cards like Thragtusk to exploit it with.
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Hard to say how much flying or lifelink costs, because, for example, both Basilica Screecher and Daggerdrome Imp cost
As people said above, it's dependant on context, which could include anything from colour to format to deck and everything in between. 

Cheers
I was wondering if anyone knew of or had a breakdown of how much mana a given card should cost. Like a 1/1 flyer generally costs 2 mana.



?  This premise is wrong.  In the current block we have a 1/1 Flyer with a beneficial ability that not only costs only one mana, but it's a hybrid mana.  Blue and White have gotten 1/1 flyers for 1 throughout magic history, and once upon a time Green did too, though more recently it has preferred to fake it.

Right now I'd say a 1/1 flyer costs less than one mana in White or Blue (for 1 mana you get flying and a bonus ability), more than one mana in Red or Black or artifact (for one mana you get a creature that has some drawback relative to a vanilla 1/1 flyer - either you need to pay something to make it fly, or to untap it, or it can't block...) - and in Green it just can't fly, it can only do Green's usual nonflying-but-can-do-combat-tricks-like-a-flyer shennannigans.
I wouldn't be too strict with "there is no general rule". Basically, there is a concept behind it, but R&D enjoys to twist this concept if they believe that a certain color needs support.

The new Judge's Familiar f.e. is more or less a reprint of the old Cursecatcher. Since 'taxing' is nowadays also a white ability, it's a reprint with hybrid mana (see Mana Tithe). In order to make it a playable card that can't rely on a turn2 Lord of Atlantis, R&D ignored on the general concept and added an additional evasion ability on this card.

If you take green as a base color, you usually have the following concept:

= 2|1, 1|2 or (1|1 with an ability)
= 3/1, 2/2, etc.
= P/T 2|3 or P/T 3|2
= P/T 3|3
= 3|3 - due to the cmc3 bonus of
= P/T 3/3 with an ability
= 4|4
= P/T 4|3
= 4|4 or more
... and so on.

Most common abilities count as either 0 (vigilance, reach) or 1 (flying, first strike)

In general, you can expect that R&D adjusts this a bit and a certain rarity also grants additional free mana just to make rare or mythic creatures even more valuable.
Here's a breakdown of what some newer ability kits cost:

: Vigilance, reach. This attacks each turn if able. Whenever a player casts a noncreature spell, this deals 6 damage to him or her.
: Return target creature you control to its owner's hand. Draw a card.
: Whenever this is dealt damage, it deals that much damage to target creature or player.
: Whenever this attacks, Lightning Helix.
: Whenever an opponent casts a spell from a graveyard, this deals 3 damage to him or her.
: Target opponent loses 2 life, put a 4/3 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield tapped.
: Having the name Primal Visitation.
-: Having the name Gravecrawler.

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Years back, a friend and I put some time into analysing simple spells and creatures in an attempt to make the random Magic card generator also generate halfway-sane costs. Even back then, we always knew this effort would be (1) inaccurate because card costs vary based on the environment and the specific set's Limited needs; (2) impossible to extend to complex effects like those on most interesting cards. But nonetheless, we thought it'd be fun.

You can see our working on this gigantic page, and some random sample output at this link. The values are a little bit out-of-date relative to power creep from the past few years (and also changes like black getting commons with P less than T and the upcosting of Stone Rain), but still moderately interesting. Some sample extracts:

Costing of burn spells to a single target: 
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 dealing N damage to a "target creature or player" costs N-and-under for an Instant, and N-1-and-under for a Sorcery, with a few cards being over and a few cards being under:
N damage for N-1 as instant / N-2 as sorc: Shock, Magma Jet (since scry is 1), Searing Wind
N damage for N-and-under as instant / N-1-and-under as sorc: Lava DartFireboltScorching LavaYamabushi's FlameBarbed Lightning (after correction for false modality), CarbonizeSingeBeacon of Destruction
N damage for N as instant / N-1 as sorc: ZapLightning BlastPyromatics
More expensive: Pinpoint Avalanche, Ember Shot, Spark Spray, Lava Axe
(assuming a more expensive Flashback cost only adds 0.5 to the mana cost rather than the 1 we have below)
If the N is an X, that adds 1 mana (Blaze / Volcanic Geyser). It seems that restricting to either only target creature or target player gives a discount of 1 (Flames of the Blood Hand, Heat Ray).
 
Life gain and loss costs:
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lifechangeeffect:



 
Costs for french vanilla abilities on various colours and sizes of creature:
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frenchability_white_small ::= flying | first space strike | vigilance  | protectionability | double space strike
frenchability_white_large::= flying | first space strike | vigilance  | protectionability | double space strike

frenchability_blue_small ::= flying | unblockability
frenchability_blue_large::= flying | unblockability

frenchability_black_small ::= fear | selfregenerateability | flying | deathtouch
frenchability_black_large::= fear | selfregenerateability | flying | deathtouch

frenchability_red_small ::= haste | first space strike | double space strike
frenchability_red_large::= haste | first space strike | double space strike

frenchability_green_small ::= reach | trample | deathtouch | selfregenerateability
frenchability_green_large::= reach | trample | deathtouch | selfregenerateability

frenchability_artifact_small ::= flying | first space strike | unblockability
frenchability_artifact_large::= flying | first space strike | unblockability
 
Playing with Alexfish's card maker.
Creature - Elf Warrior (1/3, green)
4GG: put a 3/3 green Beast creature token onto the battlefield
Sacrifice a land: put a 3/3 green Elf creature token onto the battlefield
G, sacrifice a Elf for each land on the battlefield: target artifact creature gets +5/+5 until end of turn
4: all green creatures gain ''If a blue creature would deal damage to a creature, you may pay X, where X is the amount of white mana in your mana pool. If you don't, instead distribute up to two +1/+1 counters on that creature'' until end of turn

Converted mana cost: 1

Creature - Snake (1/3, green)
At the beginning of your precombat main phase, target opponent may pay G. If that player does, untap all Snakes

Converted mana cost: 7


Creature - Gorgon Wizard (2/1, black)
Whenever one or more creatures regenerates, put a doom counter on target creature
B, Pay 4 life: put a doom counter on target artifact
T: each land with a doom counter on it gains protection from Wizards until end of turn
T: each creature with a doom counter on it gains protection from tapped legendary Zombies until end of turn
Sacrifice ~this~: put a 2/4 black Zombie creature token with fear onto the battlefield
1BBBBB: put a 1/1 colourless Spirit creature token onto the battlefield
6BBBBB: put a 1/1 colourless Spirit creature token onto the battlefield
1WUBRG, Sacrifice ~this~, sacrifice a Spirit for each nonlegendary library you control: target opponent puts two 1/1 white Cleric creature tokens onto the battlefield
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Converted mana cost: 3


This was after seeing a three mana sorcery that made 3 4/4 tokens and a six mana instant that made a 1/1. There was also a four-mana aura that gave Hellbent-gains pro-white. This thing is hilarious.
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Heh. Yes, perhaps I should clarify that the main Generator does not even attempt to sync up the mana costs to its effects; the CMC there is literally a random number from 1 to, hmm, 7 if I remember rightly. That was only added so that Clash could do something in the all-Generated format (that some insane people like to play).

The costs provided by the Mana Cost Module ought to be more accurate.
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