Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has brought us a lot of something Magic didn’t have too much of printed on the cards themselves – randomness. Obviously, every game of Magic has a significant random element, as is the case with virtually every card game ever made, but there aren’t a lot of random cards with random effects themselves.
Recently, we’ve seen more effects that put revealed cards on the bottom of a library in a random order, but that’s to save clicks on MTGA more than anything else. Now, however, a whole new group of cards explicitly instruct you to roll dice in order to resolve their effects, leaning into the chaos that random effects can bring.
In years past, throughout Magic’s history, there have been a number of cards that do dabble in randomness. Not a lot of them have ended up being very good, but there are a handful that stand above the rest as being particularly ridiculous, powerful or iconic. Let’s have a look at them!
This is – rather obviously – a Commander card, and even then it’s not a common one. Chaos decks are… divisive, to say the least, and if people aren’t into the energy they bring to the table, then it’s hard to have a great time with them. If everyone’s up for a little chaos, however, Scrambleverse has got to be right up there with the best way to generate truly ridiculous board states in an instant (or in a sorcery, I suppose).
You can spend the entire game crafting the perfect board state only to end up with a useless mana base and a ragtag collection of creatures that have absolutely nothing in the way of synergy. It’s very rarely the goal of a person casting Scrambleverse to actually win the game – rather, they just want to sow disorder and incite mayhem, and on those scores it’s difficult to beat Scrambleverse for creating pure, unbridled chaos.
Believe it or not, this card was once a key piece of an old Modern deck, way back before Faithless Looting was banned. The deck, Hollow One, was in the business of discarding cards quickly and often in order to cheat out its namesake card, and would sometimes spew out busted starts like this one from Ken Yukuhiro at PT Rivals of Ixalan back in 2018. I’m still recovering from calling that match.
On the face of it, these cards are terrible. Burning Inquiry doesn’t even replace itself, and they can turn a decent opener into a total disaster if, for instance, you discard all your lands. But they fueled a deck that really ran the Modern streets just three short years ago, and Goblin Lore in particular was outrageously expensive as a result, spiking to over $30 at its apex (for an uncommon!).
Hollow One isn’t a deck any more, of course, and these discard enablers have returned to the obscurity from whence they came – but for awhile, there, rolling dice to determine game-changing random effects was a big part of competitive Magic.
For anyone who has been grinding the Best-of-One ladder on MTGA recently, you’ll know what it’s like to be paired against Tibalt’s Trickery decks. They’re still going strong! They play a bunch of zero-drops (Ornithopter, Stonecoil Serpent), four Trickery, and then a bunch of ridiculous, expensive cards like Ulamog, Omniscience and Emergent Ultimatum.
My dad always used to say a quick game is a good game, and with this card you have nothing but. They either flip a huge card off the Trickery and essentially win the game on the spot (it’s very difficult to beat a turn-two Ulamog, who knew), or… well, I actually don’t know, to be honest. People tell me that sometimes the Tibalt’s Trickery decks whiff, but whenever I play against them they always have the stone-cold nuts and crush me. So I don’t know who to believe.
Ignite Memories produced an absolutely classic moment of Magic coverage, back in 2007 – and for that reason alone, it’s second on this list. During the World Championship semifinals of that year, Patrick Chapin was playing against Gabriel Nassif in a Dragonstorm mirror. Chapin got Nassif down to nine life before casting Ignite Memories with a Storm count of four, resulting in Nassif needing to dodge five Ignite Memories with a one-drop, a two-drop and a five-drop in hand.
To survive, he couldn’t reveal the five-drop even once, and had to hit the one-drop at least twice. The odds of him losing on the spot, as Frank Karsten famously calculated, were just under 90 percent – and the whole thing was captured on camera, producing an iconic chapter of Magic history that you can watch right here. What a moment.
Hymn to Tourach may not be legal in most competitive formats, but that hasn’t stopped it becoming one of the most famous and powerful cards with a random effect ever printed. A two-mana Mind Rot is already pretty good, but not giving your opponent any choice over what they discard? Hymn to Tourach can be absolutely backbreaking.
This card is iconic enough to have spawned a couple of references to it, printed in Modern Horizons 2. Tourach’s Canticle (“canticle” more or less just being a fancy word for “hymn,” although some sources indicate that canticles are chanted while hymns are sung) also discards a card at random, but Tourach himself, as represented on Tourach, Dread Cantor, will essentially cast Hymn to Tourach when kicked!
Interestingly, Tourach’s Chant never made it. Turns out a bad card that only punishes opponents for playing Forests while also taxing your mana isn’t that great. Maybe that was Tourach’s difficult second album – he should have put more random effects in it, I feel.
Love it or hate it, random effects are back in a big way on Magic cards. None of the new Forgotten Realms cards are too obnoxious with their randomness, in fairness, but the fact remains that we’re now actually rolling dice at the table, in addition to shuffling our decks!