Last updated on February 18, 2024

Tapping at the Window - Illustration by Nils Hamm

Tapping at the Window | Illustration by Nils Hamm

It never feels good to run out of something that you need, and that’s no different in Magic. Mana is crucial to your game. It’s one of the most important things to consider when you’re brewing. Do your lands support the rest of the deck? How’s your curve? Should you add any mana dorks or mana rocks? Do you have too many lands? Too few?

Starting a game and then running out of available mana sucks. This is called tapping out, and it’s (usually) never a good feeling.

Let’s talk about that.

let's talk about that dan radcliffe

Good Mythical Morning

What Does it Mean to be Tapped Out in MTG?

Sleep - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Sleep | Illustration by Chris Rahn

Being “tapped out” in Magic means you don’t have any sources available to tap for mana. Lands, mana dorks, mana rocks, nothing. Every mana source on your side of the field is already tapped and used up.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between being tapped out and just not having any mana sources under your control. You’re not considered tapped out at the start of the game before you play your first land. The same goes for later in the game if your opponent somehow completely wipes your side of the field.

Why Is it Bad to be Tapped Out?

It takes mana to cast spells in Magic (for the most part). You can’t do a whole heck of a lot if you don’t have any mana.

You know this, but more importantly your opponent knows this. They know that you don’t have any counterspells, sweepers, or any instants to play (free spells notwithstanding) on their turn if you’re tapped out. Not that you can afford to play, at least. So not only does being tapped out mean that you can’t interact with your opponent on their turn, but you also can’t bluff being able to disrupt their game on their turn. Your opponent is free to play their turn however they see fit without worrying about what you might do.

That’s not good. You want your opponent to be afraid. You want them to hesitate, to second-guess their game plan so that they make a mistake and stumble, leaving you an opening to run off with the game.

What Cards Can You Play Even When Tapped Out?

So I said that it takes mana to cast spells, but that’s only most of the time. There are some spells that you can play even when you’re tapped out because they just don’t cost you anything. There are a few different categories of “free” spells in Magic. Let’s talk about them.

Sort of Free: Alternate-Cost Cards

Force of Negation

Some cards allow you to cast them for an alternate cost that doesn’t involve any mana. Force of Negation costs , or you can exile a blue card from your hand if you’re casting it on your opponent’s turn.

As Foretold

Some of these alternate costs are a little more costly than others and there are also some pretty unique ones. As Foretold actually allows you to cast other cards for free depending on their mana value and how long the enchantment has been on the field. The longer it sticks, the bigger spells you can cast when you’re tapped out (or just in general).

A Loophole: Phyrexian Mana

Next up are cards that require phyrexian mana. This is a unique kind of mana that can be paid either by the color of the mana or two life. Something like Gut Shot can be cast for two life if you’re tapped out.

A lot of phyrexian mana cards need generic mana on top of the phyrexian mana so they still can’t be cast when you’re tapped out. But there are a handful of cards that only ask for phyrexian mana:

Actually Free: 0-Mana Value Cards

There are quite a few cards in the game that cost you absolutely nothing to cast. They have a mana value of zero, which means you can throw them down even when you’re tapped out. You’ll find this mostly on artifacts but there are a handful of creatures and spells to go along with all those mana rocks and equipment.

If you were curious, here are all of the 0-mana cards in Magic:

Plus, there are cards that only cost or , such as Endless One and Walking Ballista. Usually, you wouldn't want to cast them when X = 0, but there are some fringe scenarios where that might be useful.

What Is “Tap Out” Control?

“Tap Out” Control is one of several types of control builds in Magic. You’re basically going to tap out a lot when you’re playing this deck. That’s sort of the goal. You want to make the most of your mana and use it as much and as often as possible. Nothing ever goes to waste.

You don’t really run counterspells in this kind of build, hence why you can just go ahead and tap out on your turn. Your bread-and-butter is powerful sorcery-speed spells that other decks typically can’t afford to play. You’re either looking to control the game until you can get your big threats online, or just get to a point where you straight up can’t lose.

Esper Tap Out Control Decklist


Cards that Benefit from Being Tapped Out

Fen Stalker

Fen Stalker

Looking to really instill fear in your opponents? Fen Stalker strikes fear into their hearts as long as you’re tapped out. While it’s not the beefiest creature out there as a 3/2 for , it’s not bad. Not bad at all.

Keldon Berserker

Keldon Berserker

Keldon Berserker might be a little underpowered at for a 2/3, but it beefs up into a threatening 5/3 when it attacks. As long as you’re tapped out. It’s definitely not the best since that little three toughness makes it pretty easy to remove. Still, could be a decent 1-for-1 trade of a more threatening creature.

Well of Discovery

Well of Discovery

If you’re looking to tap out but still generate some card advantage, Well of Discovery will be your best friend. All you have to do is use up all your mana and then you’ll have a fresh new card to tap out with on your next turn.

Well of Life

Well of Life

Just like Well of Discovery, this artifact wants you to be tapped out at the end of your turn. But with Well of Life you’re gaining a couple life instead of a card.

How Do You Play Tap Out Control?

If you want to go in-depth on this topic, there is no one better in the world to discuss it than Corey Burkhart – Pro Tour mainstay and instructor for Spikes Academy. He has an incredible course here.

Wrap Up

Mistbind Clique - Illustration by Ben Thompson

Mistbind Clique – Illustration by Ben Thompson

I hope this was educational for you. Do you have any fun stories about being tapped out? Maybe you got yourself into quite the pickle when you didn’t have enough mana sources available to carry out your plans, or you used tapping out to your advantage. Have you ever played a Tap Out Control build? How did that turn out for you? Let me know in the comments down below.

That sure was a lot. Are you tapped out yet? I’m about ready to call it a day. Stay safe, stay healthy, and make sure to wash your hands!

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