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How Does Astral Cornucopia Work – A Magic the Gathering Card Review

Astral Cornucopia is a fascinating little mana ramp card from Magic: the Gathering’s Born of the Gods expansion set. It has a triple X cost, which already seems a bit janky. So how does this card work? It enters the battlefield with X charge counters on it. This means that if you want one counter, you’re paying 3 mana, 1 for each X.  It can tap to then add one mana of a chosen color to your mana pool for each charge counter on it.

Yes, this means that you pay 0 for X, which allows you to play it for free. That means it will just be a useless artifact just sitting there, right? Actually, there are other ways to place a charge counter on it throughout the history of Magic. Then, thanks to the Proliferate mechanic from New Phyrexia and War of the Spark, you can double those counters! Let’s learn about how to use and abuse Astral Cornucopia to generate you lots of mana!

Astral Cornucopia in EDH / Commander

In Commander (aka EDH), there are several cards that interact well with this card. For example, there is an artifact called Coretapper that can tap itself to add a charge counter to target artifact. There’s a similar one called Power Conduit. Also, Energy Chamber does the same thing at the beginning of every upkeep. There’s also Surge Node, but it is limited in how many times you can add counters, since the Node only starts with six. You also have to pay mana to move that counter. Since there are so many options to put charge counters on the Cornucopia so easily, it’s actually a pretty nifty mana rock. You can play it for free on turn one, then have charge counters build up on it over time. Out of nowhere, it can offer you lots of colored mana. 

On its own, though, without the proper charge counter support, Cornucopia is pretty underwhelming. When X is set to 1, Astral Cornucopia is basically a Manalith, giving you one of any color mana for a tap. It’s not as good as Darksteel Ingot, because that’s indestructible. So, what’s good about this? It obviously gets a lot better when you invest more upfront into it. In Commander, having extra mana to sink into things on what would otherwise be do-nothing turns isn’t only nice to have, but actually a good part of EDH deck-building. The possibility of being able to sink 6, 9, or even 12 mana into this artifact is certainly there. You could then have it tap for two, three, or even four per turn quite easily. 

Then, there are cards that can double the number of counters on something. These include Vorel of the Hull-Clade, Doubling Season, and Primal Vigor. Vorel, in particular, is a Commander that makes very good use of this card.  There are also cards that have the Proliferate mechanic to add more of a given counter on a permanent. These include Contagion Engine and Tezzeret’s Gambit. War of the Spark added a few more like Urza’s Bastion.

Astral Cornucopia in Modern, Limited, and Standard

There was speculation early after its release that Astral Cornucopia could find a home in a Tron deck in Modern. There are better cards in that sort of deck to invest mana into, however. This was never a high pick in Limited when Born of the Gods was in print, either. It also cost too many resources upfront to be usable in Standard or other Constructed formats.

Because it’s almost exclusively used in Commander, Astral Cornucopia was reprinted in a Commander 2016 pre-constructed deck, Breed Lethality, a Proliferate themed build. This has kept the price of the non-foil card down. However, foils of this card are still sought after even in 2022 and continue to make a solid additions to EDH decks which can facilitate its hefty initial investment.

There are enough silly things you can do with charge counters, such as with Lux Cannon, that this definitely has a home in a number of decks. Commanders such as Vorel, Rosheen Meanderer (who can tap to put at least 1 counter onto this with her ability), and Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Artifact shenanigans) are happy to have this mana rock artifact in their 99. Other proliferate happy Commanders such as the ever-popular Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice and Roalesk, Apex Hybrid also regularly feature Astral Cornucopia.

There’s also a fantastic Astral Cornucopia combo with Emry, Lurker of the Loch, Jeskai Ascendancy, and any creature that can tap, sacrifice an artifact, and deal damage. First, you play the Cornucopia. Then, you sacrifice it to either Barrage Ogre, Embraal Gear-Smasher, Orcish Mechanics, or Orcish Vandal, dealing 2 damage to either any target or each opponent. After this, Emry allows you to tap her to play any artifact from your graveyard until end of turn. Then, when you cast Astral Cornucopia for free and enters the battlefield, it triggers Jeskai Ascendancy, which then untaps all creatures you control. You then tap Emry again, target the Cornucopia, and rinse and repeat until everyone at the table is dead.

So, despite this being a card that’s supposed to fix your mana, instead it becomes free fodder for you to combo kill every one. Of course, Emry did not yet exist when Astral Cornucopia was first released. There are plenty of fair ways to use this essentially free artifact, of course, but knowing just how easily it can be abused is a lot of fun to think about. Sadly, the Jeskai Ascendancy enchantment isn’t playable in most of the best decks using Astral Cornucopia. Thankfully, Secret Lair: Street Fighter brought with it Guile, Sonic Soldier, a Red/White/Blue Legendary Creature, creating a Jeskai colored deck in which the combo is very playable. 

How would you play Astral Cornucopia?

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Updated 10/2/2022

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Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy. Personal Website: https://www.thephoenixdesertsong.com

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