BFZ: Memorizing the instant-speed tricks

I usually memorize the tricks in draft formats I play, so I can quickly determine what plays are available to my opponent given the mana they have open. I typically 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 quickly enumerate the relevant tricks in a given game situation. If a card belongs to multiple categories, it will be counted in the leftmost column, e.g., Plummet is listed under Sideboard Cards, even though it is also a removal spell. One exception is that spells with awaken are listed twice, once in the column they belong in when cast for their usual mana cost, and again after a “+” sign in the Instant-Speed Creatures column.

TOTAL Sideboard Cards Instant-Speed Creatures Creature Removal/ Bounce Pump/ Protection Other Spells in “Other” Category
Colorless 2 2
White 8+1 0+1 4 4
Blue 7+1 1+1 1 5 = 4 counterspells (Dispel, Horribly Awry, Spell Shrivel, Scatter to the Winds) + 1 card draw (Anticipate)
Black 4 1 2 1 = Altar’s Reap
Red 5 1 3 1
Green 5 1 1 2 1 = Natural Connection
Multicolor 2 1 1
TOTAL 33+2 3 2+2 13 8 7

Let’s examine this table and see what we can learn. We’ll ignore the Sideboard and Other categories for most purposes, since they are encountered less frequently.

  • There are 25 relevant tricks in the set: 13 removal, 8 pump/protection spells, and 4 instant-speed creatures (2 of which are instants with awaken). Of these, a counterspell with awaken and a multicolor removal spell are the only rares, while the rest are commons and uncommons.
  • White and red each have a relevant 1-mana trick. White has 2 relevant 2-mana tricks, while red and green each have 1. All of these are commons. Blue’s only board-affecting instants cost 4+ mana.
  • Looking at tricks by color:
    • There are 2 colorless tricks, both of which are removal.
    • White has 4 removal spells and 4 pump/protection spells, one of which has awaken.
    • Blue has only 3 tricks that affect the board, 2 of which create a creature.
    • Black has 2 relevant tricks, both of which are removal spells.
    • Red has 3 removal spells and a pump spell.
    • Green has a removal spell and 2 pump spells.
    • There is 1 multicolor instant-speed creature and 1 multicolor removal spell.
  • There are only 4 instant-speed creatures in the set (not including Grave Birthing, which will usually be a sideboard card). 3 are uncommons and 1 is a rare, so there are only expected to be about 3 instant-speed creatures in an 8-person draft, so you usually don’t have to play around them.
  • There are no instant-speed removal spells that do a fixed amount of damage to a creature outside combat. The set has 3 unconditional removal spells (at 3, 6, and 7 mana), and 3 more that depend on the creature’s power (<= the power of a revealed colorless creature, = 4). Of the 13 removal spells in the set:
    • The 2 colorless removal spells include a 3-mana uncommon that also requires you to reveal a colorless creature whose power is greater than or equal to the power of the creature you want to exile, and a 7-mana unconditional removal spell.
    • White has 4 removal spells: 2 deal 4-5 damage to attackers/blockers, 1 destroys creatures with power >= 4, and 1 is a removal aura with flash.
    • Blue has no spells in the Creature Removal/Bounce column. (While Adverse Conditions does freeze up to 2 creatures, it also produces a 1/1 and so is included in the Instant-Speed Creatures column instead.) Notably, there is no instant-speed bounce in the set.
    • Black can exile a creature with power <= 3 for 3 mana or kill a creature and a land for 6 mana.
    • Red can deal damage equal to the number of creatures you control for 1 mana, damage equal to the number of lands you control for 5 mana, or borrow a creature for 5 mana. It has been a while since we’ve had an instant-speed spell that lets you borrow a creature, so it may take people a little while to learn to play around this.
    • Green has an instant-speed fight spell for 3 mana. (There’s also a flyer removal spell included the Sideboard column.)
    • There is a rare multicolor removal spell that resembles Jilt with kicker, but it can bounce a spell instead of a creature and can do 2 damage to a planeswalker instead of a creature.
  • The pump/protection spells can be divided into 5 groups:
    • White and green each have a 1-2 mana common that gives +2/+2 and also has an additional effect. The green one can also trigger landfall abilities. (In addition, there’s an instant-speed Rampant Growth, which can also trigger landfall abilities.)
    • Red has a 2-mana common that gives +3/+0 and first strike.
    • Green has a 4-mana uncommon that puts 1-4 +1/+1 counters on a creature (depending on the number of colors used to cast the spell).
    • White has 2 commons that give multiple creatures +M/+N, where M + N = 3. One of those is 2 mana and gives 2 creatures +1/+2, while the other is 4 mana and gives all your creatures +2/+1.
    • White and blue each have a spell that reduces/prevents damage from opponents’ creatures. (The white spell can also be cast with awaken to turn a land into a 2/2.)
  • The 3 Sideboard tricks include a spell that removes a card from a graveyard, a land destruction spell (that can also kill awakened creatures), and a flyer removal spell.
  • The 7 Other tricks include 4 counterspells, 2 card draw spells, and an instant speed Rampant Growth.

One Response to BFZ: Memorizing the instant-speed tricks

  1. Pingback: MTGYou #71 – What’s Who’s the Beatdown? |

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