DMs Guild Review – Tap Untap Burn 5 Color Mana Variant Rules

Replace spell slots with mana points, and other variant rules inspired by Magic: The Gathering.

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A review copy of “Tap Untap Burn 5 Color Mana Spell Point Variant Rules Core Mechanics” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Fil KearneyHiten DaveJustin JohnstonKen Carcas

Magic: The Gathering is more heavily entwined with Dungeons & Dragons than ever before, thanks to officially published sourcebooks like Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica and Mythic Odyssey of Theros. Tap Untap Burn goes even further by expanding on the Spell Points variant rule in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, transforming spell slots and schools into the colored mana from M:TG.

For a supplement that proposes new variant rules, Tap Untap Burn is absolutely massive, featuring over 50 pages and 11 chapters, including dozens of pieces of fantastic original artwork by the lead designer. The artwork injects some much needed life into pages and pages of new rules systems.

The new mana system starts with the Spell Point variant rules listed on page 288 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, which replaces spell slots with spell points, with spell levels translating into a certain amount of points (1st level spells are 2 points, 3rd level are 5 points). Spellcasters gain a certain number of points each day depending on their level.

Spell Points allow casters to be much more flexible than having to worry about expending certain spell slots. It’s a step in the right direction to what I would prefer, but it also steps on the toes of the Sorcerer, whose primary class feature shuffles spell slots around using Sorcery Points.

This supplement simplifies Spell Points into a simple 1:1 ratio of spell slot level into spell point (1st level spells are 1 point, 2nd level spells 2 points, etc). From there each successive chapter adds additional variant rules inspired by Magic: The Gathering, starting with replacing the eight schools of magic with the five mana colors of White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green.

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Each D&D spell is assigned a mana color. I played Magic back in the 90s (still have all my cards!) but it’s been well over a decade since I even looked at a card. I thought I was still familiar with the themes of each color (White = protection, restoration, defense; Blue = control, mental fortitude, enchantment), but the spell assignments here left me scratching my head.

Charm Person, Command, and Compelled Duel are listed as Black spells, for example, while Counterspell – which was literally a Blue card from back in the day, is listed as White. Haste is Red? Zone of Truth is Black? The only category that didn’t irritate me is Green, which makes sense given that we have entire spellcasters dedicated to nature magic with the Druid and Ranger.

Using the color mana rules in chapter three, every spell point earned at each level is assigned one of the five colors. In the CCG, you typically need at least one of that color’s magic to cast the spell, but here you need to have that amount of unused mana in your pool. For example, to cast a 3rd level Fireball spell, a spellcaster needs to have three usable Red mana, but weirdly doesn’t have to expend any of it to cast the Red-colored spell.

It’s an odd change and I’m not sure the reason for it. The exception is 6th level or higher spells, which need all of that color’s mana to cast (6 Red mana to cast Fireball at 6th level).

Chapter four includes class specific abilities that affect mana colors, like a Cleric’s Domain determining which mana color you can cast your Domain spells with, or Eldrtich Knights and Arcane Tricksters choosing a single color than a spell school.

Wizards get the most love, since their subclasses were based on the spell schools. They’re replaced by subclasses based on the mana colors, but disappointingly are almost exact copies of the old subclasses with some minor changes. The one exception is the Green Wizard, who gains Wild Shape and better conjured animals.

Other rule variants further enhance spellcasting, including the ability to untap mana to regain spent spell slots (limited by level and class features), and maintaining multiple concentration spells, at the cost of more difficult concentration CON saves. The only way these rules feel remotely balanced is if you’re running a party of only full spellcasters.

My favorite sections actually have little to do with the new mana rules system: the new magic items and NPC statblocks. I wish these sections were bigger, but they still provide great art and fun new ideas. I especially love that each NPC (like drow hermit, mindbender bard, etc) is given two to three paragraphs dictating their tactics in battle.

My knowledge of Magic: The Gathering grows smaller each year, and while I’d love to radically alter the rest-based spell slot magic system of D&D, I don’t think using mana colors, dropping spell schools, and granting more power and flexibility to spellcasters is the right fit for me.

Pros:

  • New spellcasting rules are presented as variants within variants.
  • New magic items and NPC statblocks that utilize the new mana system.
  • Dozens of incredible, original artwork.
  • Custom player spell sheet for managing mana.

Cons:

  • Ill-fitting adaptation of D&D spells into M:TG’s colors.
  • New rules and flexibility render many sorcerer features redundant, and makes spellcasters much more powerful.

The Verdict: Tap Untap Burn features an intimidatingly large amount of variant rules and overpowered tuning for spellcasting that will mostly appeal to hardcore Magic: The Gathering fans.

A review copy of “Tap Untap Burn 5 Color Mana Spell Point Variant Rules Core Mechanics” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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