A New Era of Type 4: The Creator’s Top Picks From Time Spiral

Split second’s not the only thing to get excited about in this set: Morph and Buyback, two of Type 4’s most sought-after mechanics, have returned. With over thirty cards for consideration, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Time Spiral may be the best Type 4 set ever.

It’s time to go back to the future, Magic-style…. And the future of Type 4 is pretty sweet. I’ve been playing Type 4 since 1998 and never before have I ever seen a set with so much potential. Not just potential — Time Spiral has the cards that will revolutionize the way people play with infinite mana.

I have two words for you: Split Second.

Type 4 has always been about counter magic and activated abilities. It’s rare when anyone plays a significant spell and no one at the table has some kind of response… But not any more! Now that we have split second cards, nothing is safe, and you will have to change your strategies a bit or suffer the consequences.

Case in point: I would say that it was a fairly popular strategy in Type 4 to wait for key moments to use powerful activated abilities. If you have a Mindslaver in play, it’s threatening. Nobody wants to mess with the guy that has Mindslaver unless they don’t feel like playing their next turn. Now when you play a Mindslaver you’ll have to think, “Should I use this immediately, or risk getting it targeted by a split second spell?”

And split second’s not the only thing to get excited about in this set: Morph and Buyback, two of Type 4’s most sought-after mechanics, have returned. With over thirty cards for consideration, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Time Spiral may be the best Type 4 set ever.

I’m sure if you’re reading this you probably already know that Time Spiral is going to be awesome in Type 4, so here are my top picks and some information to help you decide if each card is right for your particular Type 4 stack. Also, I’ve thrown in some juicy strategy tips, so you’ll be sure to beat on your friends. Enjoy!

29. Fortune Thief
Morph is back, but sadly the good new Morph cards are few and far between. This one is okay, but it seems pretty narrow. Ask yourself this question: “How often will I have this card in play when I’m about to take lethal damage? And even if I do, what are the odds that my opponent won’t be able to easily kill this creature?” Still, having more morphs disguises what your other morph cards are, and this guy’s ability is pretty unique.

28. Lim-Dul the Necromancer
Lim-Dul suffers from a few problems: First, he can’t revive your own creatures, and second, he can’t regenerate himself. Still, this guy gets to really have a party if you control something like Masticore.

27. Magus of the Jar
The Magus set is kind of slow for Type 4. They have summoning sickness, and that means they will probably get destroyed before you can use them. The blue one here is the best of the bunch, since it will often cause your opponents to waste a lot of their better cards. Still, it’s probably not good enough to justify having to wait a turn to use it.

26. Angel’s Grace
This could save you at some point, but I don’t know how useful it really is. I’m concerned that this card will often sit in your hand and you’ll end up getting killed on a turn where you’ve already played a spell.

25. Smallpox
This will help you kill creatures that have a lot of defensive abilities — it’s like a powered-up Innocent Blood. Untargetability, protection from colors, indestructibility, regeneration – these won’t save you from the ‘Pox. The discard, life loss, and land sacrifice is just gravy.

24. Cancel
Counter Magic is good, and if your stack needs a few more to balance out the sheer volume of additional cards from Time Spiral, then Cancel might be a good fit. Now at first glace this card seems to be functionally identical to good old vanilla Counterspell, but the fact that it has a different casting cost could be relevant sometimes, like if gets countered with Induce Paranoia.

23. Urza’s Factory
A creature-making machine. It’s a land, so it’s uncounterable. I worry that this card is a little bit boring, but it’s certainly useful — and definitely good if you need something to sacrifice.

22. Demonic Collusion
The buyback on this card is a little steep, but the ability to Tutor for any card is not to be taken lightly. Even if you only use it once, it’s still pretty powerful, and if you’ve managed to draw a lot of cards, all the better.

21. Sengir Nosferatu
A 4/4 flyer that’s hard to kill. Nice. The gold standard for creatures like this is Mist Dragon, which is much harder to kill — in fact, before split second cards were introduced, the only way to really kill a Mist Dragon was to lock it up with an Azorius Guildmage or to Mindslaver the player that controlled it. The problem with Nosferatu is that he never dodges mass removal effects. This guy is still better than a lot of creatures that are typically played in Type 4, and will probably make the cut in a lot of stacks.

20. Stonewood Invocation
This will save one of your creatures from removal or can be used to tack an extra five damage onto an attack. This is pretty decent for a spell that no one can respond to.

19. Academy Ruins
There are lots of killer artifacts in Type 4; the problem is that they often get countered or destroyed. This land will make sure that your Tower of Fortunes eventually resolves, or you could maybe use Mindslaver every turn. Not too shabby.

18. Evangelize
This card is decent and has buyback, which makes it a lot better. Due to the nature of the one spell per turn limit, a player will often be sitting with just one good creature in play that he will have to give you. This card will either get out of control, or will get countered. Either way, it will have served itself well.

17. Scion of Ur-Dragon
Dragons are some of the most flavorful creatures in Type 4. They’re big, they fly, and they have a wide variety of different abilities. This card obviously is better with a Nicol Bolas in your deck, but don’t overlook the other possibilities. It can put Eternal Dragon in the yard, where you can recur it during your upkeep. It can become Niv-Mizzet right before you draw a bunch of cards. It can turn into Draco in time to be sacrificed to Bosh. It can even fill your graveyard with Dragons to set up a killer Twilight’s Call.

16. Molder and Return to Dust
These are both really powerful removal spells. If your Type 4 stack has too many removal spells right now, you should consider cutting some weaker ones to make room for these. Return to Dust removes cards from the game, so it takes care of indestructibles (like Darksteel Colossus) or regenerators (like Masticore) with no problem. The fact that it could potentially get two cards makes it that much better. Molder not only gains you life, but it can’t be easily Misdirected because the permanent being destroyed must have converted mana cost equal to X. Molder is a must-include if you play with Gleemax.

15. Snapback
Snapback is only worth mentioning if you play with the popular house rule, “When you pay Alternate Casting Costs, it does not count as your one spell per turn.” As a free play it could get you out of a lot of bad situations; otherwise, it would be pretty sub-par.

14. Voidmage Husher
Like Bind with buyback on legs. Being a creature means that there are lots of tricks you can use to put this into play even when it seems that you can’t cast a spell, like Root Elemental or Quicksilver Amulet. Otherwise, a reusable Bind seems pretty strong in a format that’s defined by activated abilities.

13. Bogardan Hellkite
This is an instant five-damage burn spell that also happens to be a 5/5 flying dragon, sick. Combined with some graveyard recursion like Corpse Dance or Chainer, Dementia Master, this could easily do a lot of damage.

12. Draining Whelk
Mystic Snake was great, and this is better. Heaven help us if you counter Gleemax.

11. Mystical Teachings
Instants are the bulk any Type 4 deck, and this lets you Tutor for two of them at instant speed. Needless to say, this is really, really good. If you have Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir in play, this can Tutor for any creature in your deck as well. Also, if you play with alternate casting cost rules, this can be used to get Force of Will in a pinch.

10. Vesuvan Shapeshifter
Fortune Thief is kind of weak, but this is amazing. Being able to copy any creature on the board is a stronger ability than 90% of the original morphs. This even has a little something extra. If you copy a morph creature that has a triggered effect (like Willbender or Skinthinner), you will get the morph trigger. So basically, you can use this to copy a Willbender every time you get your turn.

9. Phthisis
We have a house rule that says, “If you play a card that was suspended, it does not count as your one spell per turn.” Under that rule, there is actually a good reason to suspend something. Even if you don’t use that house rule, this card is incredibly powerful. I’d say that on average this does at least ten damage, and often does twelve damage. If you’re real sneaky you could trick your opponent into pumping a creature like Crowd Favorites, just so you could hit him for maximum damage.

8. Reiterate
Fork good. Buyback Fork?… Gooder.

7. Krosan Grip/Wipe Away/Sudden Death
The split second removal cards are the ones that will probably have the most noticeable effects on your games. Cards like Planar Portal become a bit less strong when they could get removed before they have a chance to do damage. Creatures that were extremely difficult to kill (like Mist Dragon and Arcanis the Omnipotent) go down to Sudden Death. The only thing that sucks about Sudden Death is that players are permitted to turn up morph creatures in response to split second cards, which is a bit sad because Sudden Death would have been a savage morph killer.

Gameplay Tip: Type 4 can get pretty chaotic, and people often throw cards their cards into play with little regard as to who has priority. Split second cards make priority very important, so I have been asking my players to say something to make sure they have priority before playing a split second card. By saying something like “I have a response,” players can make sure they have the go-ahead to play their split second card without causing unnecessary arguments.

6. Kaervek the Merciless
This card probably won’t last very long on the board. Its effect is so strong that after playing this, you can expect that the next several cards will be played only to kill Kaervek. If you play this guy late game when life totals are low, you could lock your opponents out of the game completely. I have yet to see anyone win through this strategy, but it’s only a matter of time before someone does it.

5. Stuffy Doll
This card is quite similar to another favorite: Glarecaster. It’s a bit fairer because it doesn’t prevent damage to its controller… But Glarecaster isn’t indestructible, either. Combos well with Masticore.

4. Spell Burst
This might be unfair in a lot of Type 4 stacks. Forbid was really strong, but this is even more absurd. The player that uses this card is likely to become pretty unpopular, and hopefully the other players will rally to make sure he doesn’t get to buy this back too many times. This card is an easily a first pick in draft.

3. Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Absurdly gamebreaking. Most cards that are this powerful are controlled by the fact that you have to cast them on your turn, such as Gleemax or Tower of Fortunes. This guy is easily more dangerous than Gleemax and can be played as an instant. Expect the other players in the game to team up to kill Teferi, because if they don’t they probably don’t have a chance.

Teferi is not for weaker Type 4 stacks. If you wish to include Teferi, it is recommended that you also include the following cards that help destroy it: Jiwari, the Earth Aflame (best), Obliterate, and Sudden Death. Teferi is probably the most objectively powerful card in the set, but it won’t be found in every deck, unlike the next two cards…

2. Trickbind
The big problem with Bind or Stifle is that many activated abilities can be used infinitely. This card is the answer to many of our Type 4 prayers. Not only is it uncounterable, it guarantees that the countered ability won’t be used again. This card shuts up obnoxious Azorius Guildmages, Glarecasters, and Mist Dragons, just to name a few.

1. Word of Seizing
My pick for the best card in the set, Word of Seizing is by far the most versatile. The key phrase on this card is “target permanent” — meaning that unlike a typical Ray of Command, you can use this to steal artifacts, lands, enchantments, whatever you want. Steal a Mindslaver to take a turn, steal a Tower of Fortunes to draw four, steal Holistic Wisdom to recur cards from your yard, steal Door to Nothingness

Some of the cards in Time Spiral are so good that they seem like they were made specifically with Type 4 in mind. I’ve played a lot of Type 4, but this is the first time in years that I’ve ever really had to rethink some of my fundamental strategies.

Welcome to a new era of Type 4! It’s a great day to be a casual player.