I have a reasonably broad catalogue of music in my brain, and words and phrases suggest songs to me.
When they pop into my head, they pop out of my mouth. Fortunately, I try to not be too disruptive to our games, but tunes will get stuck in there and not let go. I’m sure that a mental health professional could tell me a great deal about what that means.
The folks I play Commander with generally know it’s coming, especially with some of the songs I repeat. I’m sure that I occasionally give away what’s in my hand by humming a melody.
I’ve put together a list of the top 25 of my card-song combinations in the repertoire. Each one has a link to a version of the track (in the least copyright-infringing way possible—please support your artists and don’t pirate music). I promise to not Rickroll you. Which is exactly what a Rickroller would say.
We start the list with the only exact match of song title to card name. Bruce Cockburn’s intensely ironic song can be a little shocking, considering that he’s an avowed human rights activist—but then again, that’s the irony. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone play the card, but I might just have to start for no reason other than the matching song.
Here you can pick which one you think fits best. I’m reasonably sure that you have to sing the line before you activate the ability or cast the spell. Alternately, you can be trollish and first ask the question “What are all these creatures?” before playing the spell. Check out the video for some serious 70’s fashion. To this day, I’m still grooving on Steve Walsh’s tuxedo shirt with slacks-bloused-into-boots look.
When someone sneaks in a big, fat monster, you’ll have a heart attack. You might even get away with the “hey hey hey hey” part when you’re battling. Remember that since you sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step, if you’re past the point where the end-step triggers of the opponent to your right have gone on the stack, you will have the creature(s) available through your whole turn. Weirdly, Queen has an album called Sheer Heart Attack and this song isn’t on it (it’s on News of the World).
One of my (few) favorite Bob Seger songs, it comes from the era before he went corporate and started sucking (like a rock). Night Soil has long been one of my favorite cards in the format, having earned a place in my first Phelddagrif deck way back when. Right now, it’s doing some heavy lifting in our Commander 2015 League, so I frequently get to bust out “working on the night soil…”
I know you think this where you are most likely to get Rickrolled, but I swear I’d never do that to you. Not like I need a reason to include some Barry White on the list, but this is a criminally underplayed card. It’s a “leaves the battlefield” trigger, so blinking it is quite effective—and it helps you deal, at least temporarily, with indestructible things. The best time to blink this is when the Avacyn, Angel of Hope player casts or activates a battlefield wipe. While you’re putting Avacyn on top of their library, you have to sing “never never gonna make you up…”
Looking across the selections, you know that I have a musical bent which tilts toward prog, metal, and classical. I like big, meaty music. It also seems that those are musical styles which go best with Magic, and especially Commander, which is a big, meaty format. Harvester of Souls is just a solid card, one of those unspectacular workhorses that always seems to get you there.
Alice Cooper’s disco-laden song about a dead woman comes from his 1975 masterpiece Welcome to My Nightmare. When invoking it with everyone’s favorite islandwalker, you have to go along with the rhythm of the song, so it becomes “cold selkie, cold-cold selkie.” And then you draw cards. You can probably improvise some words about how much you like drawing cards.
Iron Maiden rules so much that this one song easily fits into two cards. You know what happens to all those children? They get burned to a crisp. And then resurrected to fight glorious battles.
To be fair, there are lots of cards that could go along with this awesome song from one of my favorite ’80s bands. It could certainly be Patriarch’s Bidding, or, if you want to be ironic, Angel of Glory’s Rise. For me, it’s Gempalm Polluter and “all you zombies do your damage” (yes, I know it’s loss of life, but that doesn’t fit the meter). If you’ve never heard of The Hooters, check out their other great cuts like “Johnny B,” “And We Danced,” and their powerful duet with Patty Smyth, “Where Do the Children Go?” (the link is from their legendary 1987 Thanksgiving concert—the audio and video are a little grainy, but it’s still a great cut).
Perhaps it’s the Rock Band influence, but this song is constantly in my head. Whenever I’m blowing up two artifacts and/or enchantments, I’ve got my Relic Crush. Unfortunately, there aren’t any cards in Magic with orange in them.
Sure, the song isn’t really in my musical roundhouse, but it brings a pleasantness to blowing up someone’s stuff. Or maybe a wistfulness on my part because they’re playing something that really needs to get nuked. The song is pretty flexible, because you can work it in with any “Angel of X” card. Favorites include Angel of Finality, Angel of Glory’s Rise (which fits the song best), Angel of Jubilation, Angel of Salvation, and Angel of Serenity.
I suspect that many of you have never heard of this song, since it’s even older than I am (being released circa 1956). Mercurial is indeed a great Pretender, although one of the reasons that I have yet to put it into my Commander 2015 League Ezuri, Claw of Progress deck is that it only copies your own creatures, and I’d rather have the flexibility to copy other players’ beaters, since mine aren’t all that great (for now).
The song is pretty terrible, but it was in heavy rotation on the radio in 1977 and it has a hook that sticks with you. I always hear Karador in that high-pitched response part, which, likely to the delight of my friends, I don’t try to hit. This is one of those rhythm and meter choices that goes with both cards, although I find myself doing the repetition part more often with Animar.
Three Dog Night was one of my first favorite bands, on the backs of songs like “Black and White” and “Joy to the World” (which was the first pop song I ever learned to play on the piano). Playing Cultivate is always a reason for celebration, so the song fits pretty nicely thematically as well as rhythmically. You could try to wedge Kodama’s Reach in there, but you know you’re always just thinking about Cultivate anyway. It would be rather easy to slot Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” here as well, since two lands bring you good times and laughter, too. Plus, Kool & The Gang. Other three-syllable card names that you’re happy to play can work here, too. Duplicant will also dance to the music.
A catchy tune and an innovative video from a foundational prog rock musician, “Sledgehammer” might drift more into pop than prog, but that’s not always a sin. From the Commander 2014 set, the card itself does stuff that I like. It provides a sacrifice outlet (although I honestly prefer my sacrifices to not cost mana) and it replaces itself when someone blows it up. Sometimes, I also invoke the tune for Realm Seekers and Mulldrifter.
If you follow me at all, you know that Dream Theater is my favorite band. The song is an indictment of radicalism in religious form, and it simply rocks. It has to be on a list of the ten best metal songs ever. When I play Wrath of God, I usually say “God is angry” and then start humming the “justifying violence” part of the song.
I simply cannot play Sol Ring without starting “Comin’ to ya…” and then punctuating “I’m a Sol Ring!” Sometimes I’ll even throw in the “play it, Steve!” and do the horn part as well. Sometimes I even sing it when I tap the card for mana. Those of you who need an additional reason to understand why the card won’t be banned is that doing so would dishonor the memory of John Belushi. If you check out the video, you can see Paul Shaffer, David Letterman’s long-time musical director, in the background. Shaffer was in the Saturday Night Live band from 1975 to 1980 and is frequently thought of as leader of the band—but that was none other than Lord of the Rings composer Howard Shore. The song also works for Scroll Rack.
Many cards with four-syllable names fit here. All versions of Liliana work and have the right stresses. Plus, all versions of Liliana are excellent card choices. Liliana, Heretical Healer has proven to be great in the format. Opposition is also a favorite. The link above is to a live performance of Yes and (greatest ever rock) keyboard player Rick Wakeman noodling around, hitting Handel’s piece just shy of the three-minute mark. Anyone who loves prog rock will love this whole video. Perhaps what most inspired this selection is one of the foundational parts of my youth, School House Rock.
Definitely not my kind of music, but you simply cannot deny the song’s hook. There are a number of other cards that start with the word, such as Tainted Pact, Tainted Sigil, and Tainted Remedy, but nothing hits quite like Tainted Strike, which—just like love—can kill you if you’re not careful.
My absolute favorite card in Magic goes along one of my favorite Metallica cuts (“For Whom the Bell Tolls” probably earns the top honor). You could certainly also use it along with Creeping Mold or Silumgar, the Drifting Death. Sometimes I try to shoehorn Scavenging Ooze into the lyric, but it always comes off as forced.
Oh, the 1980s, with your mostly terrible music, your dancing in every video, and your completely terrible clothes. You know what I can do without? Other peoples’ creatures. At instant speed.
This is one of the few that you don’t sing when it’s cast; you wait until you’re battling with all those Angels. I suppose it could go for Decree of Justice, but who ever does anything but cycle that? The song is stunning, one of the best-constructed pieces of music I’ve ever run across. The video is half performance, half concept video. The performance part shows off the abject virtuosity of the band. I suppose the song works equally well for Luminarch Ascension and Sigil of the Empty Throne, so long as you’re doing glorious battle with them.
Kresh always busts onto the scene, ready to be savior of the universe. And you absolutely must follow it up with the “Ah-aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!” part. Of course, these days he has to look out for Thief of Blood, who will wreck his day. I guess that makes Thief of Blood into Ming the Merciless. Of course, this tune always goes along with Jace and any other one-syllable legendary creature or planeswalker.
Frequently called by its lyric, “teenage wasteland,” I’ve listed the proper track title. This song and its arpeggiated opening come to mind every time I play a variant on Wasteland, such as Tectonic Edge, which becomes “just a cheaper Wasteland.”
Both words and sentiment match here to make this the best of all the song-and-card pairs. All your creatures wish they were homeward bound, and with Homeward Path, they can be.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one this happens to. You have your own list of songs that suggest cards and cards that suggest songs. We didn’t even delve into card mechanics, keywords, and flavor text (like Iron Maiden has a song called “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” which is quoted on Will-O’-The-Wisp). Now that I’ve put this idea into your head, you’ll be stuck with it just like I am.
This week’s Deck Without Comment is Heliod, God of Enchantments.
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Catapult Master
- 1 Order of the Sacred Torch
- 1 Academy Rector
- 1 Crusading Knight
- 1 Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant
- 1 Crovax, Ascendant Hero
- 1 Mesa Enchantress
- 1 Cloudgoat Ranger
- 1 Mirror Entity
- 1 Knight of the White Orchid
- 1 Knight-Captain of Eos
- 1 Captain of the Watch
- 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 1 Suture Priest
- 1 Heliod's Emissary
- 1 Evangel of Heliod
- 1 Silent Sentinel
- 1 Replenish
- 28 Plains
- 1 Glorious Anthem
- 1 Crusade
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Karma
- 1 Aura of Silence
- 1 Seal of Cleansing
- 1 Mobilization
- 1 Decree of Justice
- 1 Skull of Orm
- 1 Sword of Light and Shadow
- 1 Sword of Fire and Ice
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Honorable Passage
- 1 Mirror Strike
- 1 Samite Ministration
- 1 Karmic Justice
- 1 Condemn
- 1 Gauntlet of Power
- 1 Akroma's Memorial
- 1 Greater Auramancy
- 1 Mass Calcify
- 1 Honor of the Pure
- 1 Safe Passage
- 1 Day of Judgment
- 1 Luminarch Ascension
- 1 Marshal's Anthem
- 1 Sword of Body and Mind
- 1 True Conviction
- 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
- 1 White Sun's Zenith
- 1 Caged Sun
- 1 Intangible Virtue
- 1 Cathars' Crusade
- 1 Spear of Heliod
- 1 Dawn to Dusk
- 1 Dictate of Heliod
- 1 Starfield of Nyx
- 1 Stasis Snare
- 1 Grasp of Fate
- 1 Sigarda's Aid
Check out our awesome Deck List Database for the last versions of all my decks:
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