I love cool plays that use cards in an unusual way. In this article, I’ll go over 15 cards to highlight interesting interactions or rulings that could occur in Standard. Some of them will be familiar to Standard veterans, but I expect that even the most experienced Standard players can learn at least one peculiar corner case from this article.
1. Abzan Ascendancy Can Make 2/2 Fliers
Abzan Ascendancy, which sees some play in the sideboards of 4-Color Rally decks, can generate a steady swarm of 1/1 fliers. But sometimes you’d rather have a bunch of 2/2s. To accomplish that, you can cast Abzan Ascendancy, put the enters-the-battlefield trigger on the stack, and respond by sacrificing Elvish Visionary and other fodder creatures to Nantuko Husk. You’ll get several 1/1 fliers, and when the ETB trigger resolves, they’ll turn into 2/2s!
2. Anafenza and Eldrazi Scion Tokens
Anafenza is one of the best cards against the 4-color Rally deck, but it only stops creature cards from generating death triggers. A token is not actually a card, so an Eldrazi Scion from Catacomb Sifter will hit the graveyard for a brief moment. This means that Zulaport Cutthroat and the like will trigger.
So if you’re playing Abzan with an Anafenza on the battlefield and a Murderous Cut in hand (to destroy Sidisi’s Faithful in response to its ETB trigger) you’re not completely safe yet. You might still lose to Rally the Ancestors if your opponent has multiple Catacomb Sifters and you’re at a low life total.
3. Living Through a Lethal Draconic Roar
Draconic Roar only has one target. So if you cast a Dragon-empowered Draconic Roar and your opponent responds by killing or bouncing their own creature, then the whole spell will be countered and your opponent will not take any damage. A similar thing holds true for Surge of Righteousness. This differs from Searing Blaze, which has two targets—a crucial distinction that Modern Burn players will have to keep in mind.
4. Properly Dealing With Silkwrap
If Silkwrap has already exiled your Hangarback Walker, then a Dromoka’s Command will give you nothing more than a 0/0 creature (likely a dead one, unless you have a Gideon emblem). But if Silkwrap’s ETB trigger is on the stack targeting your Hangarback Walker, then you can keep it around with proper timing. If you respond with Dromoka’s Command while that trigger is still on the stack, then Silkwrap will leave the battlefield before its triggered ability resolves, and your Hangarback Walker won’t be exiled at all.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Dromoka’s Command always needs two modes in order to be cast. So you cannot cast it if there are no creatures in play and no spells on the stack. One thing you could do, however, is to respond to your own Abzan Charm: prevent the damage of Abzan Charm and force your opponent to sacrifice Silkwrap. The damage prevention won’t do anything of course, but you’ll get your creature back right away which is certainly useful, as long as it’s not Hangarback Walker.
5. Foul-Tongue Invocation Yourself
Although Crackling Doom says “opponent,” Foul-Tongue Invocation merely says “player.” One situation where this can be relevant is when your Esper Dragons opponent threatens to steal your Hangarback Walker with Dragonlord Silumgar. If you have Murderous Cut in hand, you should probably destroy Dragonlord Silumgar with the ETB trigger on the stack, before it’s too late. If you wait instead, then they can Foul-Tongue Invocation in response and cash in your stolen Hangarback Walker for a swarm of Thopter tokens.
6. Killing Off Your Own Hangarback Walker
Sometimes, the best Hangarback Walker is a dead Hangarback Walker. A Murderous Cut or Valorous Stance on your own Hangarback Walker can sometimes win the game. Conversely, a Hangarback Walker for X=0 can act as a Lotus Petal for Murderous Cut, and a Valorous Stance to make an opposing Hangarback Walker indestructible could break up your opponent’s plans.
I also love the play of deliberately not leveling Hangarback Walker or refusing to put all of your mana into casting it, just to ensure it will die more easily. And if your Hangarback Walker is already too big, then you can consider using Abzan Charm or Dromoka’s Command to put a counter on an opposing creature so that it beats your blocking Hangarback Walker in combat.
7. The Many Sides of Jace
Jace’s card selection is always nice, but sometimes you want to loot without actually flipping Jace. This could happen, for instance, if you stole Jace with Exert Influence or Dragonlord Silumgar (as Jace returns transformed under his owner’s control) or if you need some food for your Nantuko Husk. To get around that, you can activate Jace and respond to the loot ability by burning it with Wild Slash or sacrificing it. This way, he’ll die in time, but you still get to dig one card deeper in your deck.
In case Jace has become a planeswalker, then one interaction I find interesting is that you can use its +1 ability to direct Crackling Doom to an opposing Jace. For example, if your opponent has an Elvish Visionary and a 0/2 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy in play, then you can turn Elvish Visionary into a -1/1 creature and force your opponent to sacrifice their Jace to Crackling Doom. This works because the game rules consider -1 power to be less than 0 power.
8. Turn Your Fetchland Into a Wasteland
Suppose you’re on the play and start with Shambling Vent, Sunken Hollow, and Flooded Strand as your first 3 lands. Your opponent, with 2 lands in play, on their third turn, casts Knight of the White Orchid. You could let it resolve, but if you have too many lands in your hand, then you could consider fetching with Flooded Strand and finding nothing. This equals the land counts, denying your opponent a free land. As a result, you have essentially turned your Flooded Strand into a Wasteland.
9. Outpost Siege Plus Dash
This may seem like an obvious interaction, but I never knew about it until Magic Online recently surprised me with an Outpost Siege trigger at the end of my turn, right after a dashed Zurgo Bellstriker returned to my hand. For some reason, I always thought Outpost Siege said “whenever a creature you control dies” and I never discovered its actual text was different because the Dragons ability is so rarely chosen and even if it is, my understanding always led to the correct triggers anyway. Well, until then. What we can learn from this is that it can pay off to reread every card in your deck before a major tournament. Even if you think you know what the cards do, you may be mistaken.
10. Fizzling Soulfire Grand Master’s Ability
The ability of Soulfire Grand Master can do all kinds of crazy things. One nice interaction is locking out an opponent with a recurring Kolaghan’s Command. If an opponent is empty-handed and you force them to discard in their draw step all the time, they can never cast any spell other than an instant for the remainder of the game. This can easily spell game over against Eldrazi Ramp.
A more unusual interaction could be relevant if you’re playing against Soulfire Grand Master: you can fizzle the buyback by countering the spell. To clarify, suppose that you, an Abzan player, have Anafenza, the Foremost in play and Abzan Charm in hand. Your opponent has Soulfire Grand Master with 10 mana and just drew Fiery Impulse (with spell mastery). They tap 4 lands to activate Soulfire’s ability and point Fiery Impulse at your Anafenza. The correct play in this situation is likely to exile your own Anafenza in response. If you do that, then Fiery Impulse won’t resolve, your opponent won’t gain any life, and the card will go to their graveyard.
Admittedly, with most removal spells you would just kill off Soulfire Grand Master on your own turn, but Abzan Charm is more restrictive. As a side note that has nothing to do with Soulfire Grand Master anymore: It can sometimes be a good idea to deliberately keep creatures like Skyrider Elf, Snapping Gnarlid, Lightning Berserker, or Heir of the Wilds at 2 power to deny your opponent an opportunity to play Abzan Charm as a removal spell.
11. The Second Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Suppose that you have Tasigur in play, a second one in your hand, and a bunch of useless cards in your graveyard alongside one really good card. In this situation, you could delve the chaff away with a second Tasigur, but once it resolves, your first Tasigur goes to the graveyard, and your opponent will just grant you that first Tasigur from your graveyard rather than the card you really want (from Tasigur’s effect).
The right timing is to cast the second Tasigur, exile the useless cards from your graveyard leaving only the good card, and activate the first Tasigur with the second one still on the stack. At that time, there’s no Tasigur in the graveyard, and if you flip the right 2 cards, you can get a great Tasigur activation out of the deal!
12. Minus’ing Ugin on an Empty Board
Strange as it may sound, it can sometimes be correct to minus Ugin even if there is nothing the ability would exile. I have two scenarios: in both cases you’re playing Eldrazi Ramp against Esper Dragons.
For the first scenario, suppose that you have an Ugin on 9 loyalty in play and a back-up copy in hand. At this point, if you plus Ugin to damage your opponent, then you might lose to Dragonlord Silumgar—your opponent could immediately ultimate your stolen planeswalker and claw back in the game. To play around that, you could activate Ugin for -3 or -4. Even if it doesn’t exile anything, you won’t immediately lose to Dragonlord Silumgar, and you can continue Ghostfiring your opponent on future turns if they don’t have the Dragon.
For the second scenario, suppose that your Ugin is at 2 loyalty, your opponent has just cast Dragonlord Ojutai, and you have Haven of the Spirit Dragon in play. Then, activating Ugin for -2 so that you can recur and reset it is likely the best line of play.
13. The Damage Prevention of Wild Slash
It’s easy to forget about the ferocious clause on Wild Slash, but it can sometimes come up. For instance, to ensure that a Dromoka’s Command can’t prevent damage from your Atarka’s Command. Or to annul Winds of Qal Sisma. (Note that Wild Slash doesn’t act as a “counterspell” that you need to play in response to Winds of Qal Sisma because the effects won’t become relevant until the combat damage step anyway. So playing the Fog effect in response to a Titan’s Strength or a second copy in response to a ferocious Wild Slash would be foolish.)
But my favorite obscure interaction is Wild Slash versus Gideon. If an opposing Gideon attacks and you block it with, say, a 6/6 and cast Wild Slash before combat damage, then the 6 damage won’t be prevented and (since Gideon is still a planeswalker) that damage will cause 6 loyalty counters to be removed. Gideon may be indestructible, but a planeswalker with no loyalty counters will still head to the graveyard.
14. The Deliberately Non-Raided Wingmate Roc
Can it ever be correct to play Wingmate Roc before combat? Sure! One reason could be that you want to activate Sorin, Solemn Visitor precombat to grant as much lifelink as possible. Another could be that you’re winning the game with multiple Hangarback Walkers, but you’re at 4 life against a black deck and you want to play around double Self-Inflicted Wound. Hey, I promised you corner case situations, didn’t I?
15. Yasova Dragonclaw Destroying Nantuko Husk For Free
I don’t mind having 1 Yasova Dragonclaw in the sideboard of RG Aggro decks, in part because I love stealing Nantuko Husk from 4-Color Rally players. The trick is that you don’t have to decide whether or not you pay the mana until the ability resolves. So once your opponent allows you to pay 3 mana, it’s too late to sacrifice their Nantuko Husk. Therefore, to deny you a free Husk attack, opponents will often sacrifice the Husk to itself before Yasova’s ability resolves. But this means that you don’t have to pay 3 mana—you have killed the Husk for “free” and you can spend that unused mana on a spell post-combat!
That’s the end of my list, but I’m sure there are plenty of other strange Standard interactions that could be useful to know about. Share your favorites in the comment section below!