Kibler just published an article on The Sideboard that codified what most of us all already knew about the Wishes – that in giving you access to sideboard cards in game one, you can build a silver-bullet style deck that sacrifices tempo in order to fetch cards that are particularly valuable in a certain matchup or situation. There’s also the use of placing a single copy of certain power cards in the sideboard and having four Wishes in the main deck that can fetch them, effectively giving you seven copies of a particular card (for instance, move your fourth Fact or Fiction to the sideboard and running four Cunning Wishes).
Recently, I’ve been playtesting a monored deck that uses Millikins to fuel Grim Lavamancers and Barbarian Rings, along with a generous helping of flashback spells and Recoups. The Burning Wishes have been used more for getting back cards that have been flashed back than dipping into the sideboard… So it occurred to me that there’s another facet of using the Wishes that hasn’t really been looked at thoroughly, and that’s as a way to reuse key spells in your main deck more often.
I think Kibler got it right when he mentioned that there are only three”playable” Wishes – Living, Cunning, and Burning. Death Wish may prove playable in the right environment, but mainly as a cog in a combo wheel, or if the metagame gets so well defined that a black-based deck can use it to fetch silver-bullet bombs of differing types. Golden Wish is just too expensive, but it probably needed to be since there are tons of good enchantments available that completely shut down strategies, and two colors that are unable to handle enchantments. Let’s further explore the playable Wishes.
Arguably the”best” wish at instant speed, it’s also more mana-intensive and it shows up at a time when blue’s bevy of quality instant speed cards may be dwindling. Indeed, the number of good”silver bullet” instants is fairly small, starting with Hibernation and quickly running out of steam after that. The idea of moving fourth copies of power instants to the board and running four Wishes to fetch them is probably more appealing…. But the current power”blue” deck gives me an idea for a possible better use of Cunning Wish, and that’s as instant-speed graveyard recursion. With a Psychatog on the board, you can have access to any number of instants that you’ve already used, waiting in the ‘yard to be removed from the game by Dr. Teeth at a moment’s notice. The most degenerate use I can see is a way to reuse Fact or Fiction; remove it from the game with Tog and go fetch it with Cunning Wish. Run four Fact or Fictions and get more use out of them with Cunning Wish! A more”silver bullet” approach is to use it to get back an Aether Burst, Counterspell, or Syncopate from the graveyard all at instant speed. Sure, it’s a bit mana intensive, but by the time your graveyard gets that full you should have a good amount of mana and/or a Nightscape Familiar in play to help you along.
Speaking of Syncopate, if one of your key instants is removed from the game with that spell, Cunning Wish means it doesn’t have to stay gone. Look at other ways of removing graveyard cards from the game as a way to fetch them back with Wishes – Cremate comes to mind. In the right metagame (i.e. Incarnation-infested), a few of those main deck may be worth running, and you can always Cremate your own used Fact or Fiction, draw a card, and then Cunning Wish for the card you Cremated. Holy zone-jumping, Batman!
The red wish has been getting some well-deserved attention lately. Its low mana cost and the quantity of quality sorceries available contribute to its appeal. Just dipping into flashback spells that you can get back for another one or two uses, we can see the possibilities: Firebolt, Recoup, Cabal Therapy, Chainer’s Edict, Roar of the Wurm, Call of the Herd, Battle Screech, Grizzly Fate, Deep Analysis, Reckless Charge. Then there’s sorceries that remove themselves from the game when you play them, like Nostalgic Dreams and Restock – or heck even Yawgmoth’s Will if you wanna dip into Type 1. Powerful flashback sorceries combined with killer silver-bullet sideboard sorceries makes me think Burning Wish will gain in popularity as people work with it more and more.
The only wish that can fetch two types of cards, the main benefit I’ve seen it give a deck lately is fetching a useful Incarnation from the sideboard when the time is right. It’s also cheap enough to act as an”Impulse for land” if you’re stalled out at two mana and have one in your sideboard.
As far as being able to reuse cards that hit and are removed from your graveyard, there are not as many options here. Dawn of the Dead is one thought, and dipping back in time we’ve got Corpse Dance and Shallow Grave. Ichorid removes black creatures in your graveyard from the game for potential Living Wish recursion. In Limited, there’s tons of ways to remove creature cards in the graveyard from the game, so Living Wish can let you get back a useful one. In fact, you can use the relatively common mechanic of removing graveyard cards to use any of the wishes to fetch back cards.
Protect Your Goods
Lastly, Wishes are nice insurance against those uncooperative players who wish to rain on your parade and remove certain key cards from the game. Morningtide, Haunting Echoes, Coffin Purge, and Mesmeric Fiend are likely to show up in greater numbers now that the full block is in force and graveyards are hopping. In older formats, cards like Extract, Rootwater Thief, and Jester’s Cap can make life hard on a deck with few win conditions. The Wishes can go and retrieve them from an area that used to be unreachable, allowing you to continue with your fiendish plans.
I don’t think Wishes work in every deck… But I think they have a lot more possibilities than simply silver-bullet enablers, both in Constructed and Limited. Odyssey block has really opened up access to zones of play that we haven’t really fully explored before. What more can a gamer wish for?