The lack of trick/pumps people play in their decks sort of disappoints me. I understand the fear of getting two for one’d by a removal spell but I don’t think that’s a reason to avoid some spells that have potential to be game changers. One thing I’ve learned over the course of playing Magic is to not always be afraid of playing something just because of X card. They’re things to consider yes, but taking into considering the meta right now, pumps have the ability to steal games. Even as a sideboard option pumps could possibly be a great addition to decks.
I believe they can be quite strong right now as the Standard format is still in a fairly flimsy state. It feels as if we have the top tier decks in a war of card attrition, utilizing discard spells such as Rakdos’s Return now to combat card advantage spells like Sphinx’s Revelation, Domri Rade, and Underworld Connections. When these decks are focused on each other, it allows certain strategies to sneak through unnoticed…until they kill you of course.
This is one of the reasons R/W burn has been able to sneak in to be a powerful deck right now. It’s an aggressive strategy that doesn’t care about gaining cards or making you lose cards. It just seeks to sling spells at you until you’re dead. Sure it has creatures in it to block at times, but overall it’s a fairly un-interactive deck.
Tricks open up your deck to attack in many more ways than it normally would. Not only do they make your creatures stronger when they need to, they generally come with a wide range of effects that opponents tend to overlook.
I talk highly about tricks but that doesn’t mean you should go about making Heroic decks or anything as those decks are quite weak in Standard. Having the downside of opening yourself up for getting 2 for 1’d frequently is not something you should be doing. However, adding a few tricks as singleton copies or a 2 of could give your deck an edge in a wide range of matchups. It’s possible even in the sideboard it could be something to consider for things such as Aggro decks where it could help race or make the deck a bit more resilient to other decks.
So what tricks are even worth it in Standard? Since there are so many that could fit in a wide range of decks, I’ll just recommend the ones I think are viable.
GREENBurst of Strength – For only one mana, being able to grow your creature and set up a block your opponent wasn’t expecting is a great deal. Many of the strongest creatures such as Polukranos, World Eater, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and Stormbreath Dragon are all quite close together in power and the one P/T from Burst of Strength could win fights you’d normally lose or just trade. Mending Touch – A great counter to many of the removal spells out there as well as giving you the edge in creature mirror matches being able to win fights over just trading creatures. Keeping your board presence in tip top shape is important and that’s what Mending Touch does for a lowly one mana. Wasteland Viper – Turning your weenie into a removal spell is sometimes something you have to do. Deathtouch is something that can be very detrimental to any creature matchup and I would be fine with trading my 1/1 or 2/2 for a 5/5 to clear the way. It’s also great if you’re playing red and have access to cards such as Ash Zealot where the first strike allows you to kill even the biggest of creatures before your creature dies.
REDCoordinated Assault – I feel this card could be a great sideboard card in Aggro mirrors. When at times there is trading going on, tricks can easily determine who wins and who loses. Being able to give 2 creatures First Strike and a bump in power can end up 2 for 1-ing your opponent quite easily. Titan’s Strength – 3 Extra power and a Scry for only one mana is great in aggressive decks where you’re digging for the next threat or a burn spell to finish your opponent off. In the R/W burn deck I actually like replacing 1 or 2 of the shocks with Titan’s Strengths since having the evasion from Chandra’s Phoenix means many opportunities to get 5 damage in with fixing your next draw. Rubblebelt Maaka – Similar to Titan’s Strength the extra 3 damage for one mana is nice. However, being able to make your weenies a bit more resilient to burn and other creatures is a nice thing to have. Worst case scenario it also allows you to just play it out as a threat if you absolutely need to.
WHITESwift Justice – Lifelink and First Strike in one package is a big thing for only one mana. Bonus points for making your creature stronger but with the popularity of R/W burn having some sort of way to gain life can potentially ruin their burn math. Fortify – This is an odd choices yes, but it’s more of a meta call. Might be a good sideboard choice to combat a sideboarded in Drown in Sorrow. It helps in closing games out as well if they only have one blocker but you’re a damage or two short on the rest of your unblocked creatures.
BLUEBlustersquall – A really great tempo card in my opinion. Especially for cards such as Stormbreath Dragon or other hasters where you can use it beginning of combat to prevent them from attacking. Other times it can be used to get damage through for your own guys. The Overload could become relevant but having it at one mana for single targets allows you to do much more with the rest of your mana. Retraction Helix – This card has gotten some attention after being featured in a GP in Japan, utilizing other fun spells such as Hidden Strings and Springleaf Drum to do some pretty nutty things. I like it because it’s a cheap Cyclonic Rift but works well with card such as Pain Seer being able to trigger Inspired and remove one of their threats temporarily.
BLACKBoon of Erebos – This is probably my favourite trick that’s not being utilized right now. It works as a pump and a Mending Touch put together. When players rely on their removal killing off a creature to stop damage, Boon gets more damage in and keeps the threat around.
One thing you’ll notice about the majority of these tricks is their mana cost. Being at one mana, they allow you to do a variety of things while being quite efficient with mana which is the most important point. I wouldn’t recommend most of the other tricks but I feel the ones I listed allow you to open up options in your deck. Like I said, I think tricks are underplayed right now, but I don’t feel they are good in great numbers. If you do end up tinkering around with your deck, I’d only add in at most 3-4 tricks to start off.
Let me know what your guys’s thoughts are on trick spells and if you use them, how do they work out for you?
– Michael Y.