MTG Utility Fundamentals

As a companion to my MTG Deck Building Fundamentals, I wanted to write about the different utilities available to my fellow Planeswalkers to help them improve their decks.

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    • Mana production/acceleration. 
      • Mana rocks, ie: artifacts that produce mana such as Sol Ring, Thran Dynamo, the Signets, Chromatic Lantern, etc. 
      • One-off spells that add instant mana, like the black and red rituals (Dark Ritual, Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Rituals
      • Mana dorks, mostly found in green that add mana, like Birds of Paradise, or any of the elves like Elvish Archdruid, etc…  These mana dorks are found in other colors too.
      • Replacement effects.  Eg: rather than pay mana cost, you can do something else.  Example, “Rooftop Storm” allows a mage to cast zombie creatures for 0.
    • Recursion, ie: the ability to re-use cards after their supposedly single use or after they die/are destroyed.
      1. Graveyard recursion: there are tons of ways to use and abuse the graveyard, as anybody who has played with me can attest to.  One of my favourites is Sun Titan, who pulls a 3CMC or less permanent from the graveyard to the battlefield when it hits the battlefield and every time it attacks.  Trading Post lets me sacrifice a creature to return an artifact from the graveyard to my hand.
      • Flashback.  Spells with flashback are cast again from the graveyard.  There are even ways to give flashback to non-flashback spells; like with Snapcaster Mage.
      • Make single-use spells repeatable with things like Isochron Scepter and Elite Arcanist
      • Planeswalkers are a great way to play repeatable abilities.  
    • Draw/Discard:
      • Draw engines like Howling Mine and Font of Mythos keeps everyone happy (until they draw their whole library!)
      • Drawing cards for yourself is an important way to gain advantage.  It allows you to find answers quicker. Staff of Nin, Carnage Altar and Jayemdae Tome are colorless ways to do just that, but traditionally blue is the color of draw.
      • Discard: Less popular but still a way to gain card advantage over your opponents, particularly when they are holding on to a spell that they are saving as a game-ending bomb.  Black is the strongest discard color with dozens of creatures and spell that enable it.
    • Tutors: Tutoring means searching your library for spells.  There are several ways in several colors to tutor, but black is traditionally the tutor color:
      • Some tutors are directly to your hand, some go to the top of your library, and others put directly into play!
      • Direct tutors like Planar Portal, Ring of 3 Wishes, Demonic Tutor, Diabolic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Rune-Scarred Demon, Liliana Vess. 
      • Conditional Tutors are usually cheaper to cast but are more specific, like Enlightened Tutor that gets an artifact or enchantment, Fierce Empath searches a creature card with CMC > 6, Mwonvuli Beast Tracker fetches you a creature with either Reach, Trample, Deathtouch or Hexproof, etc.. Tinker lets you search for an artifact and put it into play, at the low, low cost of sacrificing an artifact.
    • Combat Evasion and Tricks
      • Evasion means a way to make your creatures harder/impossible to block.  Make them flying, fear, shadow, unblockable, protection.
      • Tricks like Fog (prevent all combat damage) or once a player chooses not to block your chump guy, then you pump him up and go for the kill.
    • Sacrifice outlets: depending on the deck, but sometimes having the ability to sacrifice your stuff is a big advantage.  Let’s say someone goes to exile an awesome creature you have.  Nope, you’ll sac it instead, put it in your graveyard where its easier to return than from exile.
    • Tokens and Counters: there are many spells that enable the token and counters strategy, primarily a green mage’s strength.    Doubling Season, Parallel Lives and Corpsejack Menace are all essential.
    • Tribal support.  There are many spells that enhance your tribes.  Some are generic and can be applied to any tribe, while others are tribe-specific:
      • Generic examples: Coat of Arms, Door of Destinies, Adaptive Automaton, Cavern of Souls
      • Specific examples: Call to the Grave (Zombies), Anowon, the Ruin Sage (Vampires), Elvish Promenade, Goblin Grenade, Seraph Sanctuary.

 

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