KTK/FRF: Memorizing the instant-speed tricks

Memorizing all the instant-speed tricks in a set is not easy, especially for a multicolor set. Adding a second set to the mix makes it more complex, especially when you’re trying to figure out what to play around during a tournament. Let’s see if we can make the list a little more manageable.

We know from prior analysis that cards at any given rarity from Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged appear in roughly similar numbers in both sealed and draft because the new set has fewer cards, so let’s combine the list of tricks from both sets. Next, let’s ignore cards/modes that don’t usually affect creatures (other than by triggering prowess):

  • card draw: Dig Through Time, Enhanced Awareness, Weave Fate, Abzan Charm (2nd mode), Sultai Charm (3rd mode), part of the effect of Force Away
  • counterspells: Cancel, Disdainful Stroke, Mindswipe, Neutralizing Blast, Rakshasa’s Disdain, Stubborn Denial, Trap Essence, Temur Charm (2nd mode)
  • discard: Mardu Charm (3rd mode)
  • enchantment/artifact removal (even though it can be relevant to combat in this format): Erase, Naturalize, Shatter, Sultai Charm (2nd mode), Return to the Earth (1st/2nd modes), part of the effect of Abzan Advantage
  • lifegain: Feed the Clan, part of the effect of Honor’s Reward
  • damage to opponents: Jeskai Charm (2nd mode), part of the effect of Cunning Strike and Crackling Doom
  • regrowth effects: Sudden Reclamation

And finally, let’s get rid of the cards that are so weak that you will rarely play them: Empty the Pits (primarily due to BBBB in the casting cost), Friendly Fire, Rally the Ancestors, Swift Kick, Take Up Arms, and Will of the Naga. Unfortunately, that still leaves 60 cards to remember.

This spreadsheet contains those 60 cards divided into 2 tables: combat tricks and removal spells. Removal spells that can only be used during combat are listed in the first table, while removal spells that have a separate effect that affects combat are listed in both tables (e.g., Supplant Form bounces a creature and also leaves a creature behind). Both tables are organized by color and converted mana cost, with multicolor cards listed in a separate column next to the first color listed in their mana cost (e.g., a spell costing URW will be listed in the column next to blue). Delve cards are now listed at the cheapest mana cost they could be cast for (this is different from the original tables). Uncommons, rares, and mythics are written in successively lighter fonts so the focus is on the tricks that we’re most likely to run into. Yellow highlight is used for spells that can leave a creature in play, and orange highlight is used for spells that affect more than one of your creatures.

This is still a lot of data, but hopefully these tables make it easier to remember key tricks you need to play around. Some quick observations from looking at these tables:

  • Most instant-speed removal spells in the format do 2 damage. The main exceptions are Collateral Damage (3 dmg), Bring Low (3-5 dmg), Throttle (-4/-4), Mardu Charm (4 dmg), Burn Away (6 dmg), and Harsh Sustenance (#C dmg).
  • Much of white’s instant-speed removal cares about a creature’s power or toughness: Abzan Charm, Smite the Monstrous, and Valorous Stance (there’s also Suspension Field, which is an enchantment). These are worth keeping in mind when playing pump spells against an opponent who has white mana open.
  • There are a number of combat tricks in the environment that affect multiple creatures, including 2 at common (Trumpet Blast and War Flare).
  • Half the pump spells in the format boost power by 2: Trumpet Blast, War Flare, Ruthless Instincts, Dragon Grip, Dragonscale Boon, Honor’s Reward, and sometimes Abzan Charm (there’s also Rush of Battle, which is a sorcery). 5 others boost power by 1: Defiant Strike (+1/+0), Feat of Resistance (+1/+1), Abzan Advantage (+1/+1), Jeskai Charm (+1/+1), and sometimes Abzan Charm. The only ones that affect the creature’s power by a different number are Awaken the Bear (+3/+3) and Become Immense (+6/+6).
  • There are 4 spells that give the creature trample: Awaken the Bear, Temur Battle Rage, Ride Down (uncommon), and Ruthless Instincts (uncommon).
  • There are only 2 instant-speed bolster spells, and the common one only gives 1 +1/+1 counter, so you don’t have to go too far out of your way to avoid blocking the creature with the lowest toughness.
  • Black doesn’t have any relevant combat tricks, and doesn’t even contribute to any other than Abzan and Mardu Charm.
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