A Brief History of Colorless Mana

~ Specifically regarding its addition to the mana pool. ~

In the beginning, there were no symbols for colorless mana. The numbers in circles that appeared in the mana costs of spells were generic mana, i.e. costs that could be paid with mana of any color. (This is still the case.) 

In rules text, even colored mana symbols only appeared in the costs of abilities and on lands. Other effects that added mana to your mana pool spelled it out by amount and color or lack of color. (This was fixed for colored mana being added to your mana pool in Legends.)

The first cards to ever use a generic mana symbol for mana added to your mana pool were Sunastian Falconer and Mana Drain in Legends, but Mana Drain was using the variable symbol {X}, so it’s more of an outlier.

Apprentice Wizard in The Dark followed in Sunastian’s footsteps, by tapping to add {3} to your mana pool.

Ice Age marked the first appearance of generic mana symbols on lands, but only on the pain land cycle.

However, this innovation was reversed only a few months later in Homelands, but returned again for Alliances before being dropped again starting with Mirage.

This was the way of things for a long while, with colorless mana that was added to your mana pool always being spelled out in text. This all changed starting with Onslaught.

Onslaught brought us back to using the generic mana symbols to represent colorless mana being added to the mana pool. And this has been the way of things ever since.

And then the Eldrazi came…

With today’s revelation of the first spoilers for Oath of the Gatewatch, we got our first look at what will be the new symbol for colorless mana. It will finally clear up the fuzziness between generic mana costs and colorless mana, and can additionally be used as a requirement for costs on spells and abilities like with the new Kozilek:

Nothing has changed about colorless mana. It’s not a new color. It works the same way that it always has, this is just a new era in its representation on cards. Older cards that add colorless mana will have their Oracle text changed to add that amount of ♢ to your mana pool.