MM2: Memorizing the instant-speed tricks

With Modern Masters 2015 release events this weekend and GP Las Vegas coming up, it’s worthwhile trying to memorize the list of instant-speed tricks in the format so you don’t get blindsided by a trick you didn’t anticipate.

I normally break tricks down into 5 categories:

  • Instant-speed creatures: Flash creatures, token generators, and spells that let you play reatures at instant speed.
  • Creature removal: This includes bounce, tapping, and other temporary removal.
  • Pump/protection: Pump spells primarily affect combat by giving a creature +M/+N, while protection spells are primarily used to save a creature from removal by giving it hexproof or protection from a color. However, +M/+N can save creatures from removal, and protection from a color can help creatures survive combat, so I’ve combined them.
  • Sideboard cards: This includes color hosers, artifact and enchantment removal, and conditional removal (e.g., Plummet, which only kills flyers). You don’t usually need to play around them in game 1.
  • Other: Everything else, including counterspells, card draw, and life gain. You may want to play around counterspells on occasion, and you may sometimes want to play around lifegain if you’re planning an alpha strike, but you don’t usually need to play around the rest.

This table shows the count of tricks in each category by color. Note that this count combines all rarities, since the primary purpose of this table is to help you remember the tricks in the set so you can quickly enumerate the relevant ones. If a card belongs to multiple categories, it will be counted in the leftmost column, e.g., Combust is listed under sideboard cards, even though it is also a removal spell.

TOTAL Sideboard Cards Instant-Speed Creatures Creature Removal/ Bounce Pump/ Protection Other Spells in “Other” Category
Colorless 5 1 2 2
White 6 1 1 1 3
Blue 12 2 1 3 1 5 = 3 counterspells (Mana Leak, Remand, Stoic Rebuttal) + 2 card draw (Telling Time, Proliferate)
Black 4 3 1 = Death Denied
Red 8 2 4 2
Green 5 2 1 1 1 = Sylvan Bounty
Multicolor 5 1 3 1
TOTAL 45 8 4 16 10 7

Let’s examine this table and see what we can learn. We’ll ignore the Sideboard and Other categories for the purposes of this discussion, since those are often not relevant.

  • There are 30 tricks in the set, about half of which are removal and a third of which are pump/protection.
  • Every color has access to the 4 colorless tricks, 2 of which are removal (Dismember and Gut Shot) and 2 of which are pump/protection (Mutagenic Growth and Apostle’s Blessing).
  • White, blue, and multicolor have 5 tricks each. All 3 have an instant-speed creature (Raise the Alarm, Vendillion Clique, and Mystic Snake). White has 1 removal spell and 3 pump/protection spells, while blue and multicolor have 3 removal spells and 1 pump/protection spell each. (Blue’s removal spells are all bounce spells.)
  • Black has 3 tricks, all of which are removal. Red has 6, 4 of which are removal and 2 of which are pump.
  • Green has only 2 tricks, 1 of which produces instant-speed creatures and the other of which is a pump spell.
  • There are 4 instant-speed creatures, none of which are particularly large (multiple 1/1s at common, a 2/2 at rare, and a 3/1 flyer at mythic).
  • The 16 instant-speed removal spells are mostly commons and uncommons, and vary widely in the size of the creatures they can handle.
    • 1 toughness: Gut Shot, Instill Infection
    • 2 toughness: Burst Lightning, Grim Affliction, Electrolyze (uncommon)
    • 3 toughness: Nameless Inversion, Lightning Bolt (uncommon), Agony Warp (uncommon)
    • 5 toughness: Fiery Fall, Dismember (uncommon)
    • Any toughness: Vapor Snag, Repeal, Dispatch (uncommon), Wrecking Ball (uncommon), Cyrptic Command (rare), Comet Storm (mythic)
  • Most pump/protection spells are commons, with only Mutagenic Growth and Sigil Blessing at uncommon.
    • Of the pump spells, there are 2 each that grant +2/+2, +2/+0 to multiple creatures (Fortify can also be used to give +0/+2), +3/+3 (Sigil Blessing also gives +1/+1 to all your other creatures), and +4/+4 (Wings of Velis Vel only gives +4/+4 to graft creatures, but that’s also the deck that will tend to play this card the most).
    • There are 3 pump spells that affect multiple creatures: 1 gives +2/+0 (and changeling) to 2 creatures, 1 gives +2/+0 or +0/+2 to all your creatures, and 1 gives +1/+1 to all your creatures and an additional +2/+2 to 1 of them.
    • There are 3 protection spells: 1 gives hexproof (and is also a pump spell if kicked), 1 gives protection from a color, and 1 exiles a creature until end of turn and gives it a +1/+1 counter when it returns (it can also target your opponent’s creatures and so can be used to remova an aura).
  • The 8 Sideboard tricks include 3 color hosers, 3 artifact/enchantment removal spells, 1 that kills flyers, 1 that hurts graveyard strategies.
  • The 7 Other tricks include 3 counterspells (this does not include Flashfreeze, Cryptic Command, and Mystic Snake, which are counted in other categories), 3 card draw/recoup spells, and 1 lifegain spell.
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