The Judgment Wishes are restricted in 5color (at least the good ones are), but the tradeoff is that 5color lets you wish for any card you can reach easily from your seat – provided that getting the card would not make your deck illegal. That means that you can keep a small pile of Wish targets around and play a lot of interesting cards. I want to talk about what I have in my pile.
Before I begin, I want to list a few criteria that I use to decide if a card makes the cut. Obviously, it cannot be something that I already have four of in my deck, but it also cannot be something that I could not expect to cast. Something like Nicol Bolas is a tempting target – especially with Anger or Lightning Greaves, but the odds of having enough mana to cast Living Wish and Nicol in my mana denial deck is pretty low. In other 5color decks, however, I might consider it. A 7/7 flying, trampling Mind Twist is not necessarily a bad Wish target.
I am going to look at Instants, which are fetched by Cunning Wish, in this article. Cunning Wish is an automatic inclusion in 5color decks, and these options are one reason. I should also admit, upfront, that I will probably miss some cards – it is hard to remember everything I have wished for. (Note, I was going to cover all the Wishes in one article, but after I soared past two thousand words and hadn’t got close to finishing Cunning Wish, I decided to split the Wishes into different articles.)
My first set of wish targets is counter magic. If you do not already maindeck four copies, cards like Mana Drain, Evasive Action and even Counterspell are worth including. So are pitch counters, like Force of Will and Misdirection. Cantrip cards are always worthwhile, so Dismiss, Disrupt, Exclude and even Burnout find places. Situational counters are also fine as Wish targets, so include Annul, Gainsay (counters Blue spells), Artifact Blast (counters artifacts for R), Red Elemental Blast, Blue Elemental Blast, Avoid Fate (counter stuff targeting your stuff for G) and Envelop (counter target sorcery.) Quash is worth a slot, since Quashing an opponent’s Contracts from Below is very powerful. Forbid has buyback. Arcane Denial is a possibility, if you really want a hard counter that costs just one Blue, but giving your opponent cards is bad unless you are winning immediately. Cards like Mana Leak, Memory Lapse or Prohibit are generally better. On the other hand, if you have all the mana in the world and want an ideal counter, you could use Spelljack.
They are not exactly counters, but you probably want at least one instant that stop you from being the target of spells or abilities for the rest of the turn, like Gilded Light. These will counter spells like Duress, Mind Twist and Diabolic Edict, which target players. Orim’s Chant and Abeyance also belong, if you don’t have a full set maindeck. Finally, Shunt is also not really a counter, but can be a useful ability – as can the older, Blue versions of this effect (Rebound is the cheapest, but narrow.) On the flip side, Fork is occasionally fun. I once Forked a Stroke of Genius for 300, and since my copy resolved first, I won.
The next category of wish targets kill enchantments and artifacts. Aura Mutation and Artifact Mutation do that, and give you some 1/1s beaters. Allay and Shattering Pulse have buyback. Aura Blast, Tel-Jilad Justice and Dismantling Blow give you extra cards. Orim’s Thunder kills a small but annoying creature. Oxidize (or Crumble) kills artifacts and prevents regeneration. Disenchant and Naturalize are basics using only one colorless mana, but Erase and Emerald Charm are better. Divine Transformation is artifact kill and lifegain for just 1W. Abolish is free if your can pitch a plains. Tranquil Domain destroys all global enchantments. Tempest of Light destroys all enchantments. Peace and Quiet and Rack and Ruin kill two targets each. Scour not only kills an enchantment, but lets you remove all copies from the player’s hand, library and graveyard. Remove Enchantments (Legends) bounces all your enchantments and destroys all others enchanting your creatures and enchanting attacking creatures. It is very situational but can be very effective, which is exactly what you want in a Wish target.
Card drawing is always a good option in a Wish target, since sometimes you don’t really need a specific effect – just more cards. Depending on your available mana, Stroke of Genius, Opportunity, Inspiration, Impulse, Fact or Fiction or Skeletal Scrying could all be good options. Sometimes Tutors, like Mystical or Enlightened, are very useful, but most people run them maindeck. I like having a Gush in the “sideboard”, since it isn’t amazing in my deck but there are times it works wonders. Fire / Ice is also a great card, and would be in the stack of wish targets if I wasn’t already running four maindeck in every 5color deck I make. Read the Runes or Flash of Insight are great if you have lots of mana and need just one, specific card – as is Demonic Consultation if you are short of mana. However, the best sideboard card drawing instant is probably Plagiarize – if cast in response to an opponent’s Contract. “You discard your hand and ante – I’ll draw the seven cards.”
Sideboarding removal is always a good option. Diabolic Edict kills untargetables, provided they have no other creatures. Betrayal of Flesh mixes a kill with graveyard recursion. Reprisal kills creatures, even pro-Black creatures, with a toughness greater than 4. Terror and Purge, between them, kill most everything, as do Rend Flesh and Rend Spirit. Smother is also fine, and Snuff Out is usually mana free. Lightning Bolt and Incinerate deal damage, and the latter prevents regeneration. Urza’s Rage cannot be countered. Fault Line is an Earthquake – and an Instant. Broken Visage both kills a creature and provides a blocker – which is about the most you can expect from a Homelands card. Agonizing Demise can kill a creature and, with luck, a player as well. Annihilate is a cantrip.
Removal that kill indestructible creatures is also good. Wing Shards kills at least one attacking creature (generally two counting the Cunning Wish, and often more.) Exile is one of the best options for dealing with an attacking Darksteel Colossus – others include Backlash, Swords to Plowshares (should all be maindeck), Altar’s Light and Grab the Reins. Vengeful Dreams can handle multiple attacking Colossi, should you be the recipient of that misfortune. If you prefer a more amusing method of dealing with Darksteel Colossus, try Humble, then block with practically any creature.
When it comes to more global removal, Tsabo’s Decree is often quite useful, as are the various “all creatures get -x/-y” instants. Even Simoon can find a place in some circumstances (e.g. right after an opponent blows a Myr Incubator for 30-odd 1/1s.) Dwarven Catapult (xR, deal x damage, divided and rounded down, among opponent’s creatures) also gets a mention, but only because I wanted to include something from Fallen Empires and even I can’t make Spore Cloud sound good.
Combat tricks are, occasionally, important. Fog and Fog effects, like Moment’s Peace, are useful once a year or so. Cards like Alarum (untap target creature, it gets +1/+3) can be funny, but not in serious play. If you are playing a beatdown deck, something to prevent creatures from blocking, like Falter or Bloodscent, is pretty solid. If you want a single creature to get through, however, Shadow Rift (gives a creature a shadow and is a cantrip) is a great effect – just pay some attention to the game at that point. I was playing my white weenie deck against a Tog player, and he was playing on autopilot. He declared his attack and, prior to blockers being declared, Gushed, pumped the Psychatog to lethal levels, then cast Cunning Wish for Shadow Rift and cast it on the Tog. Since my only creatures were a pair of Soltari Monks, that might not have been his best possible play.
Other combat tricks that might be useful, once in a blue moon, include Giant Growth effects and protection. I think I have a Predator’s Strike in the pile, left over from a Mirrodin block draft, and a Gallantry (cantrips are tech.) Another draft leftover in the sideboard is Otherworldly Journey, which is useful as a combat trick, removal for tokens and as a bookmark when I’m reading between rounds. In general, though, I prefer removal or something like Backlash to screw up combat math, when necessary. However, I do have a Shelter around to give a critical creature protection from a removal spell, since it is a Cantrip. I have also been planning on grabbing a Ramosian Rally, as global pump, but so far I have not gotten around to opening the Masques box and pulling one out – which should indicate just how important I find that effect.. However, I think I do have an Army of Allah in the pile – it is a mini-Overrun, albeit without the trample.
Some instants let you deal with fliers. Cards like Emerald Charm, Vertigo and Canopy Claws bring a flier down to the ground. Cards like Jump are useless, but Daring Leap gives first strike, and Updraft is at least a cantrip. Crossbow Ambush lets all your creatures block fliers. Howling Gale does a little bit of damage to all fliers. Whiteout and Wind Shear are probably the most effective anti-flier instants.
Some instants provide you with blockers. Angelic Favor puts a 4/4 flier into play. Raise the Alarm gives you a pair of generic 1/1s. Waylay provides you with two 2/2s. Decree of Justice can provide more, but remember that it is technically a sorcery – you cannot fetch it with Cunning Wish. Elephant Ambush, however, is an instant, as is Beast Attack.
Another option for obtaining blockers, or attackers, is to Wish for a Ray of Command or Threaten. Grab the Reins doubles as removal, but you cannot steal and block, then sacrifice the creature after combat with Reins. To do that, you need Spinal Embrace. My favorite “steal your stuff” Cunning Wish target, though, is Dominate, provided I have either lots of mana or can target an animated land or token creature. Of course, if I want everything you have, and I don’t have much to loan out, Reins of Power is a great choice.
I have a couple instants for dealing with graveyard recursion decks. Ebony Charm, Coffin Purge and Honor the Fallen all have some uses. (Honor the Fallen is especially good against anyone with a lot of creatures – usually including Genesis and Anger – in their graveyards.) Misinformation can also be quite good, either messing up a reanimation attempt, or simply making sure that they will draw bad cards for the next three turns.
Speaking of Charms, all of the Mirage/Visions ones and most of the Invasion ones are pretty good. The Onslaught ones are marginal. Funeral Charm is an old favorite, being removal, evasion and discard – and being especially good on an Isochron Scepter. Only Emerald, Ebony and Funeral could potentially be maindeck worthy, but many of the others have some usage, in very particular circumstances. The advantage of the 5color Wish rules is that you can have them around just in case the circumstances do arise.
Another form of instant that is worth having in the pile is bounce spells. Boomerang is the classic, and bounces everything. However, it is double Blue, so having some single blue cards to work with helps. Hoodwink bounces everything but creatures for 1U. Unsummon bounces creatures. Echoing Truth gets all copies of non-land cards. Undo nails two creatures, but requires two Blue mana. If you need more global removal, Hibernation gets all Green creatures, Hurkyl’s Recall gets all of a player’s artifacts and Evacuation gets all creatures, period. Repulse is a cantrip Unsummon, and Recoil throws in a discard element. Jilt bounces one creature and kills another.
Damage prevention is something I don’t bother with, but if I had to include something, Simulacrum creates a sort of retroactive Pariah, and it is always fun to have an opponent deal almost lethal damage, then have that damage suddenly move to an Academy Rector instead. Reflect Damage is always nice when someone Firestorms, or in answer to a Price of Progress. Honorable Passage was a standard sideboard card way back when Counterslivers battled Sligh, and it is still a good response to a Red card – slightly better than the more versatile Samite Ministration. Scars of the Veteran is a damage prevention card that has an alternative casting cost.
The last class of instants that I have in my sideboard pile are those that counter activated or triggered abilities. When an opponent has something like Pernicious Deed or Nev’s Disk that will just wreck my board, it is nice to have something to stop that plan. The options are Bind, Stifle, Squelch, Interdict and Rust. All are pretty similar, but having Bind, Stifle and Squelch all available is nice – I can use either color of mana, and cast the cantrip version if I have the mana free.
To finish out the instants, I have a bunch of random cards that are useful in some cases. Karmic Justice is a nice way to respond to a Wrath or Balance that wipes out your crew.
Teferi’s Response is still a fine answer to an active Dustbowl, or even a Strip Mine or Wasteland in some cases. Fling can be a good finisher, as can Berserk (if you own one.) Flaring Pain is another card that can be important, in the right circumstances – e.g. when you are attacking with lethal damage and your opponent has an active Kor Haven. Argivian Find is the answer when your critical enchantment or artifact is in the graveyard.
I also have some instant speed reanimation card in the sideboard: not Necromancy (the Visions enchantment can be played as an instant, but not fetched with Cunning Wish), but Miraculous Recovery, which not only animates at instant speed but adds a +1/+1 counter. Another instant reanimation option is Corpse Dance, which is typically seen in Psychatog decks nowadays, but it can be useful when any number of creatures are at the top of your graveyard. A third is Reincarnation, a Legends instant, returns a creature to play if the target one dies – it is pretty nice with sacrificial creatures, like Sakura-Tribe Elders.
Urborg Justice is a sort of instant speed Grave Pact. That was be pretty nice when your opponent blows a bunch of removal killing your creatures to clear a path.
Mask of the Mimic requires you to sacrifice one of your creatures, in order to put into play a copy of another creature already in play. This is a clunky mess, but it can occasionally be useful. For example, fetching an Duplicant to kill another Duplicant is fine, or fetching a matching Darksteel Colossus to ensure a stalemate, or it can act as removal for a power Legend, like Arcanis. Mask of the Mimic works best if you can sacrifice a creature already targeted by an opponent’s removal – or, better yet, a Control Magic effect.
For those of you that like Wish targets for really unlikely situations, try some of the cards that combine certain functions, like Prophetic Bolt (Lightning Bolt and Impulse), Sulfuric Blast (Bolt and Counterspell) and so forth. Others in this category include Extract which can, in rare cases, actually work. (For example, Extracting the Recoup or Krosan Reclamation may be lethal, if used in response to someone activating Hermit Druid’s ability.) Also in the rarely useful but not impossible category is Aura Graft, which steals enchant (something), Boil, Brain Freeze, the Pulses and even Marsh Gas.
And so on. There are over two thousand instants (counting reprints.) I probably missed a bunch, but I’m done for now. Tell me what (important/useful/non-trash) cards I missed in the forums.