What Would You Do With A Lifetime Supply Of Time Walks?

Ari Lax, who has made Top 8 of three GPs, has been looking for a home for Temporal Mastery in Constructed. Find out which formats and which decks he thinks this Avacyn Restored card will work best in and why.

Time is a marvelous plaything.

Step 1: The Anatomy of a Turn

When you take an extra turn, you get an extra turn; what does this actually mean?

Untap Step: You get to untap your permanents, but the dividends of these things will be discussed further when you are paid off on them (main and combat phases).

Upkeep Step: Various triggers can occur that you can double up on. This also applies on various other phases.

Draw Step: Without added triggers, you aren’t getting ahead here. Your Time Walk costs you no cards, but zero mana cycling is not going to win you the game. This is even truer in the case of Temporal Mastery, where you are trying to gain an advantage to make up for having the chance of drawing it when you can’t miracle it.

Main Phase: If your Time Walk costs less than the amount of mana you can generate in a turn, your extra mana can go towards advancing your board state. If you have a bunch of lands in play, a Temporal Mastery can act as a pseudo Cabal Ritual, only instead of building towards a big spell you can only cast another small one.

You can also play a land on your main phase. With this and your draw step, the worst-case scenario for taking an extra turn is a free Explore. Of course, is a conditional free Explore actually worth it?

There are a host of activated abilities you can use if you get an extra untap step. I bring this up here because the most obvious application is planeswalkers. The extra activation is usually worth at least a full extra card in this case. Given the instant speed of the miracle trigger, you can also use a Temporal Mastery on an opponent’s turn to resolve a planeswalker for all of your mana on your first turn then have your second turn to set up protection for it after two activations.

Combat Phase: Time Walks can be directly converted to damage. This is the phase people have been raving about the most with trying to shove this card into Delver variants. A conditional cantripping Lava Spike is what you actually get out of this. A second attack is good, but is it actually worth the set up?

Summary: If you want to Time Walk, you are going to be trying to gain an advantage in four main ways:

  1. Activated and triggered abilities that generate cards or other advantages.
  2. Getting in extra damage in combat: increasing your clock.
  3. Casting a bunch of midrange spells to advance a board.
  4. Land drops leading into large spells.

Step 2: The Specifics of Miracle

If you came here to read about Legacy, please skip ahead to section three. If you’re interested in how this card actually functions when you aren’t just stacking your draws every turn, read on.

Temporal Mastery costs seven. Some examples of playable seven-drops in the past few years include Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Avenger of Zendikar. If you are actually casting a card for seven, it’s going to need to do more than Time Walk to be playable on its own. In fact, you probably aren’t going to be casting this card most of the time if you can’t miracle it.

So, if you draw a Temporal Mastery at any point you can Miracle it, you are going to. The worst-case scenario of zero mana Explore is better than effectively skipping your draw step. This means that if it is going to end up stuck in your hand, you are going to draw it in your first eight or nine cards.

Based on this idea, the expected number of blank Temporal Mastery you draw per game is about one-half. If you run four Temporal Mastery, the exchange is half a card per opening seven. Additionally, each card you draw over the course of a game that can’t be miracled is now worth about 7% less than it would be in a normal deck. This isn’t much if you’re gassing back up once or twice, but if you’re trying to load up on Divinations things aren’t going to work out quite as well as expected.

(The math on this last statement: To get the +3 cards you would from one Tidings style effect off Divinations, you will have to actually draw three more non-miracle cards. Six cards actually drawn minus three Divinations to get up three cards as opposed to four minus one Tidings means that you have had 6*56/60 – 3 =  2.6 cards gained instead of 4*56/60 — 1 = 2.73 cards gained.

The intuitive version: if you’re drawing cards in massive chunks, a blank or two is less relevant than if you’re nickel and diming your way there.)

The big takeaway from this is the simple fact that if you’re playing Temporal Mastery, it’s going to be best if your deck needs as few of its cards to win as possible. This isn’t a card for people trying to milk value; it’s a card for people trying to win big. Of course, if your deck is fine with casting a seven mana Time Walk, you can mitigate this.

Step 3: Putting It Together

This isn’t the extent of where Temporal Mastery can be used, but merely some shells that show theoretical promise.


Option One: Bring the Beats

If I’m going to try to convert Time Walks to damage, I want more than a three per conversion. I could just play Incinerate if I’m going to attack with only a Delver and not have to jump through the hoops presented by Temporal Mastery. The Spirit Delver shell with Time Walks reminds me of using Cryptic Command to Deluge people out of Faeries to win a race.

One thing to note is that you want a force almost entirely made of evasive bodies to make the Time Walk matter. If they get to block and trade, your guy isn’t going to attack twice. Geist of Saint Traft loses value due to this fact, but something like Spectral Flight might help on this end.

Also, while Sword of War and Peace is around Invisible Stalker doesn’t need the help, but if it’s hooked up with a less powerful equivalent the extra attack is probably more relevant for racing. I can easily see a version like this being a powerful contender in Barcelona.

You may want some additional cheap spells so that you can take further advantage of the mana generated from a Time Walk. There aren’t that many great ones currently, but Avacyn Restored may offer up some more. Maxing out on Vapor Snags is probably the first step here.

If you shift away from the full on Spirits shell, I might start looking back at Adam Prosak Merfolk Looters. The ability to instant speed draw is obviously huge with miracle, but miracle cards give you obvious dead things to discard. Once the format rotates, I expect Civilized Scholar to start picking up some slack.

Option Two: Explores and Seven-Drops

A list along these lines featuring Jace, the Mind Sculptor made Top 8 of the Midwest Master’s Tournament a few years back when the Titans were first printed.

The exact cards may have changed, but the concept remains the same. Ramp up to some overpowering threat and then use Time Walks to pull back from any board disadvantage. Primeval Titan is most likely lethal on the second swing (assuming you have no land drops past six and just get lands off the two triggers, that is nineteen total after the Wolf Run pump), while Frost Titan and Tamiyo help chain Time Walks into more pseudo Time Walks due to locking down many permanents.

This list is probably a little rough around the edges and might need some more interaction, but the idea will remain the same. This deck uses Mastery well early for the Explore and later to close out a game without actually needing to stabilize.

Random Asides

I’m not impressed by the U/R Miracle Delver shells people have been brewing. Sure, you have Desolate Lighthouse, which is currently my frontrunner for best spoiled card, but you aren’t gaining anything from a Time Walk. You are only generating an Incinerate or Brimstone Volley worth of damage from a Time Walk, and the exchange of conditionality is not worth the gain of a couple mana.

The other consideration is how poorly this card plays with Snapcaster Mage. Snapcaster is usually a way you try to gain value, while this card often just costs you both value and deck slots for things to Snapcaster. There will be some decks that will get away with using both, but be mindful of this in deckbuilding.


I’m not sure if this card really has a home in this format. The potential for setup is low due to the bannings of Jace, Preordain, and Ponder. The usual game is also decided much earlier, giving you fewer chances to blind flip a Temporal Mastery and increasing the relative issues associated with having four blanks in your deck. I haven’t put a ton of thought into this issue, but I’m not immediately impressed.


Disregard almost everything I’ve said so far beyond section one. There is basically no variance to this card in Legacy. You draw it; it ends up ready to flip via Brainstorm. You want a Time Walk at will; you can Personal Tutor for it.

So where does this powerful effect belong?

I’ve seen a ton of people talking about using this effect in various combo decks. I’ve seen Show and Tell, Reanimator, Doomsday, and even Ad Nauseam mentioned. While the last one doesn’t work for obvious reasons (seriously, lose seven, draw a blank?), this is not a card built for current combo decks.

Combo as an archetype is designed to kill quickly and avoid usual angles of interaction. Typically, this last part means the combat phase. So if you want to stack this effect into a combo deck, you probably aren’t getting value out of the combat phase.

You also probably aren’t going to find a combo deck that isn’t ideally killing before the Explore effect would be relevant (see aside below). That basically leaves you at attempting to trigger or activate abilities that would give you an advantage over multiple turns. That kind of long-term grinding advantage is not combo’s style.

(Aside: This may replace Explore in High Tide decks that were splashing that card. Even then, it’s a maybe.)

Keep in mind that most combo decks are also not built to "go off" over multiple turns. The best combo mechanic of all time is Storm, and that doesn’t work very well with Time Walks. In general, any combo that takes place over multiple turns allows for more interaction and is more fragile. As a result, few existing combo decks in any format have this attribute.

So we have to create a new shell. Take a deck trying to do something fair and insert a Time Walk engine that lets it get out of hand.

My first impulse was to Personal Tutor for the card. Sure, you lose a card, but if your deck is built right you should be able to gain back the lost value. It is also very easy to Tutor up a Temporal Mastery, Snapcaster Mage the Tutor to run it back, and then Brainstorm one I randomly drew to the top of my deck for a third. The fourth copy was more variable, but hopefully after taking four turns in a row I should have secured a win.

In order to make this work, the deck needed a few main components.

First, it needed threats to abuse over multiple turns. Jace, the Mind Sculptor was the obvious one due to how the Brainstorm ability interacted with Temporal Mastery, but beyond that it was up in the air.

What really pulled the deck together was the realization that miracling Mastery plus Snapcastering a Personal Tutor or Brainstorm to set up the next one cost five mana. This pulled the deck towards green as a way to support this via Noble Hierarch, and Knight of the Reliquary fell into place.

It lets you gain incremental advantage with fetches, adds mana to hit the critical numbers, and can just clock them over the turns you’re taking. It also has the cute side effect of giving you another answer to people trying to shut off your chain with Gaddock Teeg by letting you fetch Karakas and send it home even through a Mother of Runes. Most importantly, it lets you fight fair.

This combo isn’t always going to fire. Sometimes they will counter your spell or randomly have Thought Scour or Stifle and get you. When it doesn’t, you can’t afford to be all in. At best, this deck starts "going off" on turn 3 and most likely won’t have critical mass to do so until turn 4.

You don’t have the raw power to be real combo. You want to lie in middle ground with just enough interaction prevent people from going completely wild, just enough power to bash through people who show up with their own engines, and just enough play to deal with those who show up trying to stop all-in combo.

The latest list I have is below.

Aven Mimeomancer was an idea suggested to me by a local player (Jacob Marek, as per deserved name drop standards). It’s an evasive threat (+1) that makes your mana dudes and Coral Merfolk into threats (+2), adds up to a very fast clock over multiple extra turns (+3), and works well with Knight of the Reliquary assuming I actually remember how layers work (+4). It was Vendilion Clique, but I wanted something that hit harder and this seemed to fit the need.

Lingering Souls was another option, but I’m not sure how the mana would work. If you decide on a 3/1 flier, keep in mind that card exists and will ruin your deck.

And yes, I do like Garruk that much. On his own, I think he will put you further ahead than Elspeth over several extra turns and will be easier to cast. He can also flip and keep the chain going by finding  Mages.

Armageddon is your plan B to Tutor for with a Knight in play. Natural Order was another legitimate option, and the ten damage from Progenitus incidentally doubles up to twenty with an extra turn. Progenitus has always been hindered by racing, and it might just be where it’s at if you’re already Personal Tutoring.

Throwback of the Week

The spiritual ancestor of this Bant deck, for those who enjoy nostalgia and Acemans.

Two Last Options for Legacy

One Temporal Mastery alongside Personal Tutors in Sneak and Show. Tutor gives you more Show and Tells, and the Time Walk makes Showed Progenitus better. Seriously, that’s the extent of where I see the card in current combo decks.

DoomsdayShelldock IsleEmrakul, the Aeons Torn alongside the option of just having guys in play and DoomsdayTemporal Mastery. See the Bant deck, but a little less reasonable. Personal Tutor does double duty by finding Doomsdays or Time Walks, and you can Mastery + Doomsday to set up directly into Shelldock Isle with no intermediate turn.

I threw together a shell bridging the old Doomsday Emrakul deck with Stifle Nought on the basis that Stifle was a good protection spell to stop Wasteland on Shelldock Isle, but I’m not sure how any of it would even be remotely feasible.

Good luck with that one. Four Temporal Mastery might be too many, but that’s hardly a starting point of problems the deck may or may not have.

If there’s one thing to take away here, it’s that you don’t just jam Temporal Mastery into every deck and expect to win. Know what it does and build accordingly. This probably applies to most cards, but when the reward and penalty for playing Mastery are both so high it seems people will forget this time and time again.