Last updated on November 2, 2022

Voltaic Brawler - Illustration by Raymond Swanland

Voltaic Brawler | Illustration by Raymond Swanland

The Kaladesh block was really polarizing. Some players loved it and some hated it, and the difference came down to the mechanics and the Standard format (which was shaky, to say the least). Two new mechanics debuted in this block: energy, and vehicles. Both had development problems, but only vehicles got on track and became evergreen.

Energy and energy-related cards have rules that cover them and their own set of counters. What are the best cards, and which of them mostly see play in Explorer/Pioneer and Commander?

Let’s find out!

What Are Energy Cards in MTG?

Electrostatic Pummeler - Illustration by Slawomir Maniak

Electrostatic Pummeler | Illustration by Slawomir Maniak

Energy cards were created in the Kaladesh block, and they involve giving you energy counters, spending those counters, or both. There are 47 energy-related cards in Kaladesh, and 23 in Aether Revolt. They’re more concentrated in blue and green, but energy is a mechanic that’s spread across all colors.

Most energy decks are blue- or green-based, and most good energy decks across all formats are Temur (). Since energy is counter-based it synergizes well with proliferate, so you may want to play energy cards in proliferate EDH decks (*coughAtraxacough*)

How Do You Use Energy?

Some cards give you energy counters. You, the player, then have an energy reserve. Other cards allow you to spend that energy for a given purpose.

Aether Chaser

For example, Aether Chaser enters the battlefield and you get two energy counters. Whenever you attack you can pay two energy, and you It lets you do this once per attack, and most energy cards work that way.

Architect of the Untamed

Architect of the Untamed lets you use the ability as many times as you want, but each time costs eight energy counters.

Most of your cards generate energy, like Aether Hub, Servant of the Conduit, and Rogue Refiner.

Then you want some cards as an energy payoff, like Longtusk Cub, Aetherworks Marvel, and Electrostatic Pummeler. You won’t have room for cards that don’t contribute to the energy plan, but you may want cards that interact with counters.

Best White Energy Cards

#2. Aethergeode Miner

Aethergeode Miner

A 3/1 for two is already good in aggro decks, and Aethergeode Miner can protect itself if it’s attacking. It’s a dwarf for decks that want it like Depala, Pilot Exemplar, and it’s a good vehicle crewer.

#1. Aetherstorm Roc

Aetherstorm Roc

Aetherstorm Roc is an interesting card for a go-wide strategy because it gets an energy counter each time a creature ETBs. It becomes a beater with enough counters.

White isn’t the best color for energy so you have to rely on your creatures to get the energy. The Roc can be interesting in blink decks because you always have creatures entering and leaving the battlefield.

Best Blue Energy Cards

#4. Aethersquall Ancient

Aethersquall Ancient

A big flier that can act as a Cyclonic Rift in an energy deck is nice. Aethersquall Ancient supplies you with three precious energy counters each turn if left unchecked.

#3. Confiscation Coup

Confiscation Coup

Confiscation Coup is a nice energy-related Control Magic variant. It’s a guaranteed “steal your creature with mana value four or less.” It gets better with more energy, as most energy-related cards do.

#2. Aethertide Whale

Aethertide Whale

Aethertide Whale can net you lots of energy and ETBs in the long run. You get six when it enters, and you can pay four to get it back. The other plan is to attack with a 6/4 if the skies are clear, which can be a good finisher.

#1. Glimmer of Genius

Glimmer of Genius

Glimmer of Genius was widely played in its Standard format by midrange control and energy decks alike. It’s a good draw spell, and it generates more energy to be used by creatures and Aetherworks Marvel.

Best Black Energy Cards

#3. Live Fast

Live Fast

There’s nothing wrong with a little card advantage, but only energy decks are interested in Live Fast because black has much better options for drawing cards. That said, energy decks want to play this card.

#2. Demon of Dark Schemes

Demon of Dark Schemes

Demon of Dark Schemes is a big flying creature that can kill small dorks with the use of energy. It’s a nice midrange threat for any energy deck.

#1. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner

Sometimes I see Glint-Sleeve Siphoner being played just because it’s a threat that generates card advantage like Dark Confidant in Explorer. It’s a good threat out of the sideboard when decks have taken out spot removal.

Best Red Energy Cards

#2. Lightning Runner

Lightning Runner

Lightning Runner needs a little support to be good. It’s something like a 4/4 haste creature for four mana at best by itself. There are some commanders that are interested in the extra combat steps trigger, like Rionya, Fire Dancer and Isshin, Two Heavens as One.

#1. Harnessed Lightning

Harnessed Lightning

Harnessed Lightning is a removal spell of choice when playing energy decks. You either generate some energy and get rid of a problem Lightning Strike-style or kill a bigger threat late in the game.

Best Green Energy Cards

#8. Peema Aether-Seer

Peema Aether-Seer

Peema Aether-Seer looks like a Limited only card on the surface. Peema sometimes generate upwards of six or seven mana if you want to generate energy in a green energy Commander deck. That’s a lot of energy for a single card.

#7. Aetherwind Basker

Aetherwind Basker

This giant lizard is a 7/7 trample creature that adds to your energy pool and can use the energy generated from your other energy cards. It’s a 9/9 trampler when attacking, and it can be bigger than that.

This is a nice combo if cast just before Peema Aether-Seer.

#6. Greenbelt Rampager

Greenbelt Rampager

Greenbelt Rampager is an oversized threat with a disadvantage. You use this downside to your advantage in energy decks.

This adds lots of energy and ETB triggers if you have synergy with creatures entering, and the revolt mechanic. I’m thinking of something along the lines of commanders like Chulane, Teller of Tales or Karametra, God of Harvests.

#5. Architect of the Untamed

Architect of the Untamed

One thing that energy decks need is to convert all the energy obtained during the game, and Architect of the Untamed does that by turning excess energy into 8/8s.

#4. Attune With Aether

Attune With Aether

Can you believe this was banned in Standard? This is the power of the energy mechanic, showing how dominant this deck could be.

Attune with Aether is Lay of the Land with energy, but it was doing so much in those decks to grant the ban. It’s a key card in green-based energy decks.

#3. Servant of the Conduit

Servant of the Conduit

Servant of the Conduit is a mana dork that generates energy and accelerates your game plan. It’s bound to find its place in green-based energy decks.

#2. Bristling Hydra

Bristling Hydra

A 4/3 for four mana that can protect itself once while growing is a good Standard style threat. Bristling Hydra has synergies with +1/+1 counters and proliferate.

#1. Longtusk Cub

Longtusk Cub

Longtusk Cub can go the distance, and it was very problematic in its Standard. It can deal lots of damage and be safe from blockers and damage-based removal spells with good support on turn 2.

Best Multicolored Energy Cards

#3. Whirler Virtuoso

Whirler Virtuoso

Whirler Virtuoso is essentially a 2/3 that makes a 1/1 flier. It’s also an artifact, which Izzet () decks are usually fond of. It can produce more tokens the more energy you have, and it gives you three energy itself.

#2. Voltaic Brawler

Voltaic Brawler

Gruul () aggro decks can play this card even without the energy component. Voltaic Brawler can be a beater with its own resources, and it gets better with energy.

#1. Rogue Refiner

Rogue Refiner

Rogue Refiner is everything you want from a card in the energy deck. You get a card, a 3/2, and two energy for just three mana. It’s powerful enough to be banned in Standard because it gave the deck so much consistency, and all energy decks played it.

Best Colorless Energy Cards

#6. Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot

Woodweaver's Puzzleknot

Woodweaver's Puzzleknot is one of the cheapest and best energy generators. For two mana you get three energy, even more if you blink or sacrifice it. There aren’t that many cards that generate this amount of energy for only two.

#5. Gonti’s Aether Heart

Gonti's Aether Heart

The best-case scenario with Gonti's Aether Heart is a 6-mana Time Walk (without the use of blue mana). Green can have their extra turn effects, too.

#4. Electrostatic Pummeler

Electrostatic Pummeler

Electrostatic Pummeler is an intersection of the Voltron and energy strategies. Slap an aura or equipment on it and go to town. It needs to be an energy-heavy deck because you clearly want more than one activation.

#3. Aether Hub

Aether Hub

You easily generate five colors of mana with Aether Hub in an energy-supported deck. It’s a land that doesn’t have a downside and is an easy inclusion in any energy-focused deck.

You can play this by itself, but it only has one activation. It’s a good land in decks like Atraxa, Praetors' Voice that need fixing and can proliferate the energy counter.

#2. Aethersphere Harvester

Aethersphere Harvester

The Kaladesh block created energy and vehicles at the same time, and both had their problematic debut. From what we know of vehicle balancing nowadays, crew 1 is very easy to obtain, and a 3/5 flying lifelink vehicle like Aethersphere Harvester doesn’t need that much support to be good.

#1. Aetherworks Marvel

Aetherworks Marvel

Aetherworks Marvel is one of the main reasons to build an energy-focused deck. You basically “spin the marvel” once six energy is gathered, and this can be done as early as turn 5. Be sure to mix some big Eldrazi or green beefy creature into your cards.

This is defined its Standard format when it was used to put Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger ahead of time, effectively ending the game on the spot. It’s possible that it’ll whiff more than normal in a 100-card EDH deck.

How Many Times Can You Activate Energy Abilities?

You can activate energy abilities as many times as you want if you have enough energy counters to use the ability. If a card requires you to tap to use the ability, like Aetherworks Marvel, then you first have to untap it to use the ability again.

Can You Proliferate Energy Counters?

Yes, you can! Proliferate says that you can choose any number of permanents or players with counters and give them an more counters of the same type.

Are Energy Counters Permanent?

Yes, in the sense that once you get an energy counter it stays with you until you use it. Energy counters aren’t attached to the effect or creature that gave them to you.

Wrap Up

Whirler Virtuoso - Illustration by Lake Hurwitz

Whirler Virtuoso | Illustration by Lake Hurwitz

Energy is very nice for Limited. Although I like the energy mechanic and all the resource management that it brings to the table, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed: it’s a very insulated and parasitic mechanic in the sense that you either play all the energy cards, or none of them.

Aside from a few designs that can leave the energy shell, energy is an interesting comparison to infect. There are a few cards like Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon that don’t need the infect support to be good. MTG may return to Kaladesh someday, and energy will be there waiting to be re-explored (and rebalanced?).

Are you excited to have energy back in a Standard set? What energy cards do you play in EDH or Pioneer? Let me know in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe, and sleep well!

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