KTK/FRF: Mnemonics for tricks

I’d posted a spreadsheet of the combined instant-speed removal/tricks in Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged a few weeks ago. However, I found it less useful than I’d expected. Even though it gets rid of the chaff and several categories of effects that are less relevant to limited, there are still 72 effects left (although some spells appear in the list more than once if they have multiple effects). Not only is that a lot to memorize, it’s nearly impossible to recall all the possibilities in the middle of a game, especially if you’re playing under time constraints.

However, while I was studying the list in preparation for GP San Jose, I noticed there were several patterns that, taken together, cover almost all the different effects. The cards will sometimes appear in more than one place in this list if they have more than 1 effect or the effect falls into more than 1 category; if the same mode of a modal spell appears more than once, each instance will be in italics. I will list rarities in parentheses after the number of spells in the category to get a sense of how common each of these effects is, with C meaning common, U meaning uncommon, R meaning rare, and M meaning mythic, so CCU means that there are 2 commons and 1 uncommon that provide this type of effect. These are listed in order of increasing rarity, and are not in the same order as the spell summaries that follows. All descriptions are very approximate. Let’s break down the tricks by categories:

  • 12 pump (7 commons, 5 uncommons): Assuming X is the converted mana cost of the spell,
    • 3 (CUU), all green, give +X/+X to 1 creature: +2/+2 & trample (1G), +3/+3 & trample (2G), +6/+6 (5G – delve)
    • 3 (CCU) give X/2 (rounded up) +1/+1 counters to 1 creature: 1 counter & protection (1W), 2 counters distributed across 1-2 creatures (WBG), 2 counters & untap (3G)
    • 2 (CU), all white, give X-1 +1/+1 counters to the creature with the lowest toughness: bolster 1 & opponent sacs an enchantment (1W), bolster 2 & gain 4 life (2W)
    • 3 (CCU), all with red in their casting cost, give all your creatures +M/+N, where M+N = X-1: +1/+1 & lifelink (URW), +2/+0 to attacking (2R), +2/+1 & untap (2RW)
    • 1 (C) gives +1/+0 & draw a card (W )
  • 9 flash creatures (mostly uncommons, with only one common):
    • 4 have a combined power (and usually also a combined toughness) 1 less than the converted mana cost (CUUM): 2 1/1 Warriors with first strike until EOT (RWB), manifest 2 (3UG), 4/4 (4R), 6/7 with prowess (5UU)
    • 5 remaining (UUURM): 0/4 wall that may bounce your creature (1W), exile your own creature and manifest the top card (1U), 3 1/1 Warriors (4W), 6/6 (2GUR), bounce creature and copy it (4UU)
  • 5 untap effects (CCCUR), most of which have G or RW in their casting cost: untap & draw a card (1U), untap & reach + deathtouch (1G), 2 +1/+1 counters & untap (3G), untap all & +2/+1 (2RW), untap & flying + double strike (3URW)
  • 3 fog (UUU): Fog, only opponents’ creatures if ferocious (1G), redirect all damage from you and your permanents to a creature (5W), -4/-0 to opponents’ creatures & draw a card (4U)
  • 2 falter (UR): creatures with power <= 3 can't block, untap & flying + double strike

A number of other effects require a particular color:

  • White:
    • 3 save a creature for 1W (CUU): +1/+1 counter & protection, indestructible, 0/4 wall that may bounce your creature
    • 2 kill attackers/blockers for 2W (CC): destroy attacker, 5 damage to attacker/blocker
    • 3 power/toughness-based removal (CUU): power >= 3 (WBG), power >= 4 (3W), toughness >= 4 (1W)
  • Blue:
    • 6 bounce/Repel (CCUUUR): bounce creature (1U), Repel attacker/blocker (2U), Repel creature (URW), bounce your nonland and opponent’s nonland (4U – delve), bounce 1-2 creatures (4UU), bounce creature and copy it (4UU)
    • 3 freeze (CCR): freeze & draw a card (2U), freeze 1-2 (4UU – delve), tap X, or freeze X if ferocious (XU)
  • Black: 7 removal (CCCUUUR): 2 damage & gain 2 life (2B), kill creature with 4 toughness (4 damage for RWB, -4/-4 for 4B), kill creature (kill permanent for 2WB, 4B – delve, colored for 4B, monocolored for BGU)
  • Red: 7 removal (CCCUUUU): 2 damage (R, also tap another creature for 1UR, also draw a card for 3UR), 3 damage (R + sacrifice creature), 3-5 damage (3R), 4 damage (RWB), 6 damage (4R)
  • Green:
    • 2 fight (CU): toughness-based fight (1BG), +1/+1 & fight (GUR)
    • 3 flyer removal (CUU): untap & reach + deathtouch (1G), kill flyer (3G), X damage to all flyers (XG)

That leaves only 10 tricks that aren’t covered above (or with an effect that isn’t the focus of one of the categories above):

  • 2 white (CU): tap creature & draw a card (1W), damage to creature equal to damage that would be dealt to you and your permanents (5W)
  • 1 blue (U): exile creature & manifest card (1U)
  • 3 red (CUU): double strike, and trample if ferocious (1R), +2/+0 and first strike, at instant speed if ferocious (2R), add R to your mana pool for each attacker you control & attackers get Firebreathing (2R)
  • 4 multicolor (CURR): damage equal to # of creatures you control & gain that much life (1WB), destroy blocker & trample (RW), redirect damage from source to its controller (RW), 2 damage to each opponent and they sacrifice a creature with the highest power among creatures they control (RWB)
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