This article will criticize Sol Ring, but it is more about looking at the two major perspectives EDH players have on the card.
What is Sol Ring?
Sol Ring is one of the most powerful mana accelerators ever printed in the game of Magic. It is often discussed alongside the likes of Mana Crypt and sometimes Mana Vault, both of which also provide a lot of mana at a very low cost.
Why Are Mana Accelerators Powerful?
In Magic you need mana to cast spells and activate abilities. Having more mana quickly means that you can possibly cast bigger threats/gain more advantage before your opponents can accomplish whatever they are trying to accomplish in a game.
This takes two main forms in EDH: ramp and rituals. Ramp effects traditionally give us access to more net mana on following turns. Take this example – on turn two we tap two forests casting Farseek getting a Stomping Ground into play tapped. On turn three we play a forest from our hand and we now have access to four mana. Boundless Realms is another example, albeit higher costed and much more flashy. We don’t normally get real benefits from ramp until we untap on our following turn.
Rituals give us mana once they resolve and generally are short term value propositions that don’t give you mana on following turns. Dark Ritual is probably the most famous ritual, with Inner Fire and Seething Song as other examples of ritual effects.
Sol Ring embodies both of these forms of mana acceleration. It gives us two colorless mana to use in future turns and it gives us two mana to use the turn we cast it. It isn’t uncommon to see players in EDH make follow up plays after Sol Ring with the likes of 2-mana artifact rocks like Talisman of Dominance or Thought Vessel.
The Varying Perspectives On Commander
Personally I think most of the conflict over Sol Ring stems from the huge divide in the Commander/EDH community.
There are two main demographics in Commander – the casual and the competitive players. The hyper competitive crowd is playing to win and will tune their decks relentlessly in search of faster or more resilient victories. The casual crowd is mostly trying to build a story and play at a much slower rate where all players can develop their own gameplans. Either side is having fun when they play commander; they just have different interpretations of fun.
Having a card as mana efficient and effective as Sol ring plays dramatically different in these two different cultures. In the more casual realm of Commander players probably won’t be devastated by an early Sol Ring (It’s still great though).
However, decks in the hyper competitive realm are so fine tuned that an early game Sol Ring can dramatically swing the win percentage in favor of the deck that has Sol Ring in play. Because the decks are fine tuned they are able to capitalize efficiently with whatever mana is available to them – if you give them a hyper efficient mana rock they are almost always going to run the card. Many competitive decks also use the many tutors available in Commander to tutor up Sol Ring quite regularly.
Compounding the complicated Sol Ring issue is a Rules Committee that struggles to give lots of EDH players the Banlist they want. Obviously the RC wants the best format possible for EDH but that is difficult to achieve when you have two major conflicting perspectives with the Casual V.S. Competitive crowds.
Lets look at some of the arguments for and against Sol Ring:
Ban Sol Ring:
- It is both a Ritual and a Ramp Effect. Because of this most of the disadvantages from Rituals/Ramp spells are diminished and there is incredibly small drawback to including it in your deck.
- There are only a few way to punish an early Sol Ring and they are not good punishing plays. If you have Mental Misstep, Vandalblast or a select few number of turn 1 denial cards you can deal with the Sol Ring but it still leaves you a card down versus the rest of the table.
- Deck Diversity: In formats like Legacy and Modern a card would be banned if it was played in over 95% (very likely more) of decks. Players feel obligated to run Sol Ring and it discourages making players think about deck construction choices.
- It over emphases chance. There is always going to be chance in card games but the player who draws Sol Ring can accomplish too much at any early/middle part of the game before the other players can deal with them. This emphasized chance is different from cards such as Deadeye Navigator, another card that is frequently discussed when talking about what cards should be banned. With Deadeye you need other cards that combo with it and/or the mana to activate its ability. It takes time to set up this value engine and it gives your opponents time to develop whatever strategy they are trying to accomplish before it happens. Sol Ring is different. It is much faster to cast and works well with a vast majority of other spells in the game.
- Banning hyper efficient mana rocks like Sol Ring would give players a higher chance of being able to interact and develop their strategies before the game ends. Because Sol Ring accelerates a player so greatly it often leads to games ending before the other players can bring their strategy to the mid-game.
Don’t Ban Sol Ring:
- The card is Iconic to the format. Sol ring has been legal since the format’s conception. Players have been used to playing the card and it is a hallmark of the format.
- It would be unfriendly to players who already have tons of Sol Rings in their collection if the RC banned the card.
- Chance is a good thing. This is a trading card game and chance exists at almost every facet of the game from mulligans to opening booster packs.
- We want to play with powerful cards. If you don’t like powerful cards you should implement house rules to fit your playstyle.
- We want to limit the number of banned cards on the ban list to cause as little confusion as possible.
- We don’t perceive Sol Ring to negatively effect gamestates.
I’m personally for banning Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, and possibly Mana Vault. I think that for any magic format hyper efficient mana rocks do not contribute to positive gaming experiences and make the format too all-or-nothing where players are more rewarded for busted mana sources. There are awkward problems like how they have printed Sol Ring in every Commander product but I think banning the card would improve the overall experience of commander. Games ending very quickly on a constant basis is annoying to me.
What do you think of Sol Ring? Do you have unique feelings about the card? Is there a possible alternative?