OGW: List of instant-speed tricks

My usual list of the instant-speed tricks in Oath of the Gatewatch, categorized by converted mana cost, color, and rarity, is available at http://www.mtggoldfish.com/articles/oath-of-the-gatewatch-instant-speed-tricks.

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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.

BFZ: List of instant-speed tricks

This is a list of all the instant-speed tricks in Battle for Zendikar. The first table has the spell names while the second one has abbreviated spell descriptions in case you don’t remember what the spell does. Note that the latter table may not accurately represent all uses of the spell and often leaves out certain details. Also, I sometimes make mistakes while filling out these tables; please let me know if you spot any issues.

Both tables categorize the tricks by converted mana cost, color, and rarity. Unless specified otherwise, each colored spell has one colored mana in its mana cost with the rest being generic mana, so a 3-mana white spell with no explicit cost listed has a mana cost of 2W. I also specify mana costs if the spell has X in its mana cost, is multicolored, or costs more than the column it is specified in. Spells in bold can leave a creature in play, e.g., flash creatures, spells that create token creatures, or spells that allow you to cast creatures at instant speed.

Here’s how to interpret the second table:

  • Abbreviations used: ~ (this card), A (artifact), attkr (attacker), blkr (blocker), borrow (untap & gain control until end of turn; the permanent gains haste), bounce (return to owner’s hand), bury (destroy & it cannot be regenerated), C (creature), CMC (converted mana cost), counter when used as a verb (counter a spell), dmg (damage), draw X (draw X cards), E (enchantment), ETB (enters the battlefield), flyer (creature with flying), freeze X (tap X and it doesn’t untap next turn), gain X (gain X life), GY (graveyard), I (instant), L (land), loot X (draw X cards, then discard X cards), lose X (lose X life), mill (put cards from a library into a graveyard), opp (opponent), opp’s X (X controlled by opponent), P (player or power, depending on context), prot (protection), PW (planeswalker), raise (return card from your graveyard to your hand), reanimate (return card from the graveyard to the battlefield), redirect X dmg from A to B (next X dmg that would be dealt to A is dealt to B instead), regen (regenerate), S (sorcery), sac (sacrifice), T (toughness), your X (X you control).
  • Spells that confer an effect (+X/+Y, -X/-Y, hexproof, first strike, prot from a color, etc.) last until end of turn unless specified otherwise.
  • Spells can target any legal permanent or player unless otherwise specified, e.g., X dmg without any qualifiers means that the spell does X damage to any creature or player.
  • Spell descriptions sometimes mention other spells as a way to describe their effects, e.g., Natural Connection is described as “Rampant Growth” since it has the same effect as that card but at instant speed.

ORI: 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 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., Aerial Volley 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
White 7 1 2 2 2
Blue 13 3 3 1 6 = 5 counterspells (Negate, Clash of Wills, Psychic Rebuttal, Calculated Dismissal, Bone to Ash) + 1 card draw (Artificer’s Epiphany)
Black 4 2 2
Red 6 1 4 1
Green 5 1 3 1 = Reclaim
Multicolor 2 2
TOTAL 37 3 7 11 9 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 27 relevant tricks in the set: 40% are removal, 33% are pump/protection spells, and 17% are instant-speed creatures.
  • Of these, blue has no tricks that cost 1 mana. White, black, and green have 1 each, while red has 2. White’s tricks all cost 2 or less, except for its instant-speed creatures. All the black instant-speed removal spells cost 5 mana.
  • All the instant-speed creatures in the set require white and/or blue mana.
    • White has 2 instant-speed creatures, blue has 3, and W/U and U/G have 1 each.
    • The monocolored creatures are all rares other than Nivix Barrier, and are either 2/2’s or X/4’s.
    • The multicolored creatures are both uncommons and are X/3’s.
    • Excluding the largely unplayable Nivix Barrier, an 8-person draft will have an average of only 3.4 instant-speed creatures, so we don’t need to worry about them too much. There are also 2 instant-speed spells that can untap creatures in this format, but Enshrouding Mist only untaps a renowned creature and Bounding Krasis is a multicolor uncommon.
    • All 7 of these creatures also have additional effects when they enter the battlefield; Hixus Prison Warden and Harbinger of the Tides double as creature removal, Gideon’s Phalanx, Mizzium Meddler, Nivix Barrier, and Thunderclap Wyvern double as pump/protection, and Bounding Krasis taps/untaps a creature.
  • Other than the 4 flash creatures and a sideboard card (Hallowed Moonlight), the rest of the tricks are commons and uncommons.
  • Most colors have 4 removal + pump/protection spells, except red which has 5, and green which has 3. White and black both have 2 in each category. Blue and red have 1 pump/protection spell each (Hydrolash and Titan’s Strength), with the rest being removal. Predictably, green has 3 pump/protection (Aerial Volley is in the Sideboard category since it is unlikely to be playable maindeck).
  • There are 12 instant-speed removal spells. The red ones can kill creatures from 2-5 toughness, other than Ravaging Blaze which can kill larger creatures if you have enough mana. The rest are capable of handling creatures of any size.
    • 2-3 toughness: Fiery Impulse
    • 4 toughness: Chandra’s Fury
    • 5 toughness: Fiery Conclusion (uncommon)
    • X toughness: Ravaging Blaze (uncommon)
    • Any toughness: Celestial Flare, Swift Reckoning (uncommon), Disperse, Send to Sleep, Turn to Frog (uncommon), Unholy Hunger, Cruel Revival (uncommon). The 2 instant-speed creatures that double as creature removal (Hixus Prison Warden and Harbinger of the Tides) can also handle creatures of any size.
  • All pump/protection spells other than Hydrolash are commons. In addition, many of the instant-speed creatures, have a pump/protection effect when they enter the battlefield.
    • The pump spells are fairly well spread across the spectrum: Touch of Moonglove gives +1/+0 (and deathtouch), Enshrouding Mist gives +1/+1, Mighty Leap gives +2/+2, Titan’s Strength gives +3/+1, Titanic Growth gives +4/+4, and Might of the Masses gives +N/+N where N is the number of creatures you control. Among the instant-speed creatures, Thunderclap Wyvern (uncommon) gives all other flyers on its side +1/+1. That is also the only instant-speed pump spell that affects multiple creatures.
    • Hydrolash (uncommon) and Vine Snare are Fog effects. Among the instant-speed creatures, Nivix Barrier gives a single creature -4/-0.
    • The only protection-only spell is Dark Dabbling, which regenerates a creatures (or regenerates all your creatures if you have spell mastery). Enshrouding Mist also doubles as a protection spell since it prevents all damage to the targeted creature. Among the instant-speed creatures, Gideon’s Phalanx (rare) can make your creatures indestructible, while Mizzium Meddler (rare) can change a spell/ability’s target to itself.
  • The 3 Sideboard tricks include artifact removal, flyer removal, and a spell that hurts reanimation/token strategies.
  • The 7 Other tricks include 5 counterspells, a card draw spell, and Reclaim.

ORI: List of instant-speed tricks

This is a list of all the instant-speed tricks in Magic Origins. The first table has the spell names while the second one has abbreviated spell descriptions in case you don’t remember what the spell does. Note that the latter table may not accurately represent all uses of the spell and often leaves out certain details. Also, I sometimes make mistakes while filling out these tables; please let me know if you spot any issues.

Both tables categorize the tricks by converted mana cost, color, and rarity. Unless specified otherwise, each colored spell has one colored mana in its mana cost with the rest being generic mana, so a 3-mana white spell with no explicit cost listed has a mana cost of 2W. I also specify mana costs if the spell has X in its mana cost, is multicolored, or costs more than the column it is specified in. Spells in bold can leave a creature in play, e.g., flash creatures, spells that create token creatures, or spells that allow you to cast creatures at instant speed.

Here’s how to interpret the second table:

  • Abbreviations used: ~ (this card), A (artifact), attkr (attacker), blkr (blocker), bounce (return to owner’s hand), bury (destroy & it cannot be regenerated), C (creature), CMC (converted mana cost), counter when used as a verb (counter a spell), dmg (damage), draw X (draw X cards), E (enchantment), ETB (enters the battlefield), flyer (creature with flying), freeze X (tap X and it doesn’t untap next turn), gain X (gain X life), GY (graveyard), I (instant), L (land), loot X (draw X cards, then discard X cards), lose X (lose X life), mill (put cards from a library into a graveyard), opp (opponent), opp’s X (X controlled by opponent), P (player or power, depending on context), prot (protection), PW (planeswalker), raise (return card from your graveyard to your hand), reanimate (return card from the graveyard to the battlefield), redirect X dmg from A to B (next X dmg that would be dealt to A is dealt to B instead), regen (regenerate), S (sorcery), sac (sacrifice), T (toughness), your X (X you control).
  • Spells that confer an effect (+X/+Y, -X/-Y, hexproof, first strike, prot from a color, etc.) last until end of turn unless specified otherwise.
  • Spells can target any legal permanent or player unless otherwise specified, e.g., X dmg without any qualifiers means that the spell does X damage to any creature or player.
  • Spell descriptions sometimes mention other spells as a way to describe their effects, e.g., Vine Snare is described as “Fog all C’s with P <= 4".

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.

MM2: List of instant-speed tricks

This is a list of all the instant-speed tricks in Modern Masters 2015. The first table has the spell names while the second one has abbreviated spell descriptions in case you don’t remember what the spell does. Note that the latter table may not accurately represent all uses of the spell and often leaves out certain details. Also, I sometimes make mistakes while filling out these tables; please let me know if you spot any issues.

Both tables categorize the tricks by converted mana cost, color, and rarity. Unless specified otherwise, each colored spell has one colored mana in its mana cost with the rest being generic mana, so a 3-mana white spell with no explicit cost listed has a mana cost of 2W. I also specify mana costs if the spell has X in its mana cost, is multicolored, or costs more than the column it is specified in. Spells in bold can leave a creature in play, e.g., flash creatures, spells that create token creatures, or spells that allow you to cast creatures at instant speed.

Here’s how to interpret the second table:

  • Abbreviations used: A (artifact), attkr (attacker), blkr (blocker), bounce (return to owner’s hand), bury (destroy & it cannot be regenerated), C (creature), CMC (converted mana cost), counter when used as a verb (counter a spell), dmg (damage), draw X (draw X cards), E (enchantment), ETB (enters the battlefield), flyer (creature with flying), freeze X (tap X and it doesn’t untap next turn), gain X (gain X life), GY (graveyard), I (instant), L (land), loot X (draw X cards, then discard X cards), lose X (lose X life), mill (put cards from a library into a graveyard), opp (opponent), opp’s X (X controlled by opponent), P (player or power, depending on context), prot (protection), PW (planeswalker), raise (return card from your graveyard to your hand), reanimate (return card from the graveyard to the battlefield), redirect X dmg from A to B (next X dmg that would be dealt to A is dealt to B instead), regen (regenerate), S (sorcery), sac (sacrifice), T (toughness), your X (X you control).
  • Spells that confer an effect (+X/+Y, -X/-Y, hexproof, first strike, prot from a color, etc.) last until end of turn unless specified otherwise.
  • Spells can target any legal permanent or player unless otherwise specified, e.g., X dmg without any qualifiers means that the spell does X damage to any creature or player.
  • Spell descriptions sometimes mention other spells as a way to describe their effects, e.g., Revealing Wind is described as “Fog; look at face-down attkrs/blkrs”.