Throughout Magic’s history, there have been quite a few cycles of charms. When they were first printed, you’d often find that one or two of them were pretty good, but the others not so much—that was the case with [card funeral charm]Funeral[/card] and [card emerald charm]Emerald Charm[/card], and then, later on, with Dromar’s Charm. Even Piracy Charm saw some play as a means to kill Dark Confidant in blue decks. The Shards broke the trend, introducing us to a cycle of Charms that was playable in its entirety—[card grixis charm]Grixis[/card] and Naya Charm were played in Standard (even if I did not always agree with the choice), and [card bant charm]Bant[/card], [card jund charm]Jund[/card], and Esper Charm are playable to this day in much stronger formats. The Ravnica cycle seems to follow the Shards Charms in terms of how powerful they are, and the breadth of their impact. So, let’s start:
Izzet Charm, like most cards of its kind, has its strength not in power but in flexibility. None of the modes are particularly powerful, and none are particularly playable on their own, but together they combine to create what is probably the best Charm that has ever been printed. This card sort of reminds me of Sakura Tribe Elder—very unassuming, but incredibly powerful in a very simple way, and I expect to play it a lot in every format.
So, why do I think Izzet Charm is so good?
Two of its modes, the [card magma spray]damage[/card] and the [card spell pierce]counterspell[/card], are incredibly valuable. As simple as those effects are, both of them correlate strongly to winning the game. Anyone who has ever played an aggro deck can tell you the difference between a game in which they have a one-drop, and one in which their one-drop is killed. If you kill Delver of Secrets, every Vapor Snag and Mana Leak they have gets substantially worse. If you kill the Steppe Lynx, every Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, and Tribal Flames loses value. If we don’t kill those, we die! The counterspell is no different—being able to stop that sweeper, that Seething Song, that Cryptic Command, that [card gideon jura]Gideon[/card], also correlates very strongly to winning the game.
If those effects are so good, then why don’t we play more of them? Because they are situational. Every time you play a counterspell, you run the risk of it being dead, because the things you have to deal with are already in play. Every time you play cheap removal, you run the risk of it being dead because either your opponent has no creatures, or the ones he does can’t be killed by your removal. We’ve all been there. We have to play Gut Shot in our deck to be able to kill Delver of Secrets, but then you draw it on turn five and it doesn’t do anything. Or you draw it against a deck like Ramp, and it doesn’t do anything. Yet, we play it anyway, because we have to. We accept the risk of having a wasted card, because we need the effect. Izzet Charm gives us access to those two game-changing effects at a very minimal cost, to the point where it would already be a good card if those were the only two modes.
The third mode is a bit trickier, because the effect is actually not good. Unless you have ways to use your graveyard, draw two and discard two is often worse than just drawing a card. Still, the mode fits Izzet Charm perfectly, because Izzet Charm is an early game spell. In the first turns, you will find something to kill or something to counter.
If you are cycling this card early on, it’s because you desperately need something—lands, or a specific spell. If that is the case, then you’ll probably not mind throwing away a card for an extra chance at it, because, if you don’t hit, you’re probably losing. If you get to the late game, where this card is no longer good, you might have excess lands or other cheap spells you don’t want anymore, and if you have even one card to spare (e.g. an eighth land) then this becomes draw two discard one, a much better card in the late game. It could also see play in any sort of Reanimator strategy, where the draw two discard two is the primary mode, but you can also snipe a hate bear (such as the new red one that deals you damage when you play a spell from the graveyard), or counter a problematic spell.
My verdict is that this will be heavily played, and it will impact every deck that relies on expensive spells. In this format, people are very excited about Epic Experiment, Rakdos’ Return, overload spells and Sphinx’s Revelation, but I am way more excited about using my removal spell to counter their 7-drop. More importantly, this will heavily impact how everyone plays the games—from now on, whenever someone has UR up, you have to watch out.
In my opinion the second best of the five, this has one clear mission in life—to kill Wolfir Silverheart. People were playing Smite the Monstrous back in Barcelona, and the GW spell is an obvious upgrade that will potentially prevent the Wolf from dominating Standard if it comes to that. It’s a shame that it doesn’t hit Falkenrath Aristocrat, but, hey, maybe they sacrifice a Human and you get that too.
This card is mostly made for an aggressive deck, and its strength lies in two effects that are, like Izzet Charm’s, potentially gamebreaking. Many games would be won by aggro decks if they could pump their guys past a removal spell, trample over a token, or kill that six-drop, but those effects can rarely be played because of how narrow they are. A control deck has the luxury of being able to afford dead cards, but when an aggro deck draws a pump spell with an empty board, it loses the game.
This card makes sure you at least get to do something on an empty board, though don’t let people fool you. I’ve read multiple times that, “Ashcoat Bear is already a fine card.” It’s not. It’s completely and utterly unplayable, but when you need to deal those 2 points of damage, or when you need a creature to equip, it sure is much better than a removal or a pump spell. Besides, who has never played Snapcaster Mage to block a Diregraf Ghoul or to kill a [card liliana of the veil]Liliana[/card]?
I think this card will also be heavily played, and it impacts how people build decks. It’ll be interesting to see the dynamics between Mizzium Mortars and this spell—people want bigger guys, as not to lose to Mortars, but then they will lose to Selesnya Charm. I think the fact that Mortars exists will make Selesnya Charm better, as I believe people will try to play around the red spell more (though that might change in the future), and very few creatures survive both. This is harder to play around than Izzet Charm, and will change a lot of combat math. Now, out of nowhere, you might find yourself facing an extra attacker or a +2/+2 and trample that will end up killing your planeswalkers or even you.
Azorius Charm is a bit underpowered compared to the other two (but still decent). The main modes here are drawing a card and putting a creature on top, but the lifegain mode is not to be overlooked. It’s the kind of effect that you don’t really want to play in your deck, but when it’s good, it’s
I think Azorius Charm will see play mostly in control decks. Aggro decks don’t want to spend time drawing a card and they don’t really care about removing a blocker once it has already blocked (unless the attacker is Geist of Saint Traft). In control, this might have a place, but the versatility here comes at a real cost—you could be playing Think Twice. It’s cute that the card gets around Falkenrath Aristocrat, Gravecrawler, Loleth Troll, and Geralf’s Messenger, but those will all just come into play again next turn, and in two of the cases it doesn’t even stop an extra turn’s worth of attacking.
The fact that it costs two and only hits creatures in combat means it’s not even good against accelerators, like Oust would be, for example. I don’t think this will see a whole lot of play, but it’s not a bad card and I could see playing four in decks that have nothing to do early on, so that you buy time for your big hitters while at the same time not compromising your deck against decks that have no early creatures (so it’s basically a much worse Izzet Charm). Once they come into play, you can use the lifelink ability to make up for the time you spent doing nothing.
Rakdos Charm is different than the others in the sense that it’s one spell, not multiple. This card is basically solely the last mode, with conditional upsides—if that effect is good, you will play it. If it’s not, you won’t. This means Rakdos Charm is not main-deckable in a control deck, because the damage effect will never be good, and the other two are too narrow to justify it.
I can see two uses for this: one, in an aggro deck. If you can expect this to deal 4-5 damage regularly, then it’s a fine card. Destroying an artifact and, more importantly, removing a graveyard, though very narrow, are super powerful when you do get to use them, so it might be worth having a card that you’d not normally play because those two modes are added on. Plus, you randomly get to nuke for 8 the guy who decided flashbacking the second Lingering Souls was a good idea.
Overall, though, I don’t think this will see much play unless the remove graveyard mode becomes significantly more important than it currently is. They need to have A LOT of creatures for this to be better than, say, Searing Spear, which is not conditional, easier to cast and also hits creatures (and is also not a good card).
The second use is as a sideboard card, and I think it has more chance there. Some decks will definitely want graveyard removal, and some decks will want artifact removal. In this case, instead of playing two Tormod’s Crypt and two Smelt, you can play three Rakdos Charm and still save a slot. It also avoids the problem of being completely dead in case they don’t draw the card you’re aiming to kill. I’ve seen people bring in Smelt against [card birthing pod]Pod[/card], for example, and have it do nothing for the entire game, whereas this can hit them for 3 in a pinch (though of course Birthing Pod will no longer be your target).
Golgari Charm was just recently spoiled, so I might have missed some applications, but at first glance it just doesn’t seem very good to me (which I do not necessarily dislike, since Golgari has already gotten its share of good cards in this set). The destroy enchantment mode is, much like the destroy artifact from Rakdos Charm, a bonus. It might come in handy to destroy some Oblivion Rings and Detention Spheres but, in this format, you’ll never play it just for that. That leaves us with two modes.
The one I believe most people will be drawn to is the, “regenerate all your creatures,” because people usually like this kind of effect. “Take that uncounterable Wrath,” etc. The truth, though, is that this kind of effect is generally worse than it seems. I remember when people played Ghostway to try to avoid Wrath, for example, and it was just not optimal. If the card did just that, some people would like it, but it’d not be a good card. It doesn’t do just that, though, it’s a Charm—but the other abilities aren’t very relevant either and don’t solve the problem that playing a card like Ghostway in an aggro deck does (i.e. you draw it when it’s not very relevant). Yes, yes, you can randomly regenerate one guy in combat, but that’s not often going to be relevant.
The third mode is very unexciting. Other than killing a bunch of Lingering Souls tokens, it doesn’t do much. Lingering Souls is a very good card, but it seems like every single card in this set is a hate card for Lingering Souls, so it might not see much play. The “splash” from this card is minimal, as in it kills very few things randomly that you were not intending to kill when you put the card in your deck, so you can’t just jam a couple Golgari Charms and expect it to be useful.
When you play this card, you need to be target something specific, which is not the case for the Izzet, Selesnya, or Azorius Charms. It’s also worth noting that it’s every creature, not just theirs, so this not only kills your [card arbor elf]Arbor[/card]/Gravecrawlers, but also weakens your attack. If you need to use this to clear away blockers, then you’ll attack for less damage even if your guys all survive.
My thoughts are that this will not be good unless there is a very popular deck against which two or three of the modes are good—that would probably be a deck with a bunch of token makers and Wraths. Or a deck against which one of the modes is extremely good (I can’t imagine what that would be). As this is likely not the case, the card will probably not see a lot of play.
Well, that’s about what I have for the Charms. I thought about giving decklists, but honestly at this point I’d just be fabricating a decklist to put it in the article, and those cards are so generic that you don’t need a specific deck for them. Izzet Charm, for example, you can try in any sort of UR deck, there’s no need to build around it. So, that’s where I leave you today… see you soon,
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