Magic Basics: Cool Combat Tricks To Beat The Opponent

Magic Basics: Cool Combat Tricks To Beat The Opponent

Imagine this: the Battlefield is stalled with loads of Creatures on both sides. You could charge in and trade off with the opponent. But what if the opponent has a bigger army, or you have less life to spare – it’s just too dangerous to swing in.

Apart from drawing a game-changing Sorcery or a omega-powered Creature to trample over the opponent, one of the best ways to get ahead is to employ Combat Tricks to create favourable results during Combat.

Phases and Timing – When to Use Combat Tricks

In our introduction to the Combat Phase, we mentioned there are three main steps – declaring attackers, declaring blockers, and damage resolution. But Combat is actually more intricate and detailed than that.

To dive a little deeper, there are certain pauses at the beginning and ending of each of these steps. These pauses are moments were you can play Instants or activate abilities (that can be played at Instant speed), and they are your tools for Combat Tricks.

Common pauses in MTG combat phase where you can deploy combat tricks to come out ahead in combat.

Depending on the type of trick you wish to use, there are specific moments that will yield the best results. For example, pump spells like Infuriate are usually played just before the Damage Resolution step (includes First Strike and Regular Damage sub-steps). We’ll go into more details for each type of Combat Trick below.


Pump or Shrink Spells

These are straightforward Instant spells that target either your Creature or the opponent’s. Pump means to boost the Power and Toughness while Shrink is the exact opposite.

Pump spell tricks are best played just before the First Strike or Regular Damage resolution step because the idea is to have your Creature survive, when it may have appeared to be an even trade. For example, if you attack with a 2/2 Creature and the opponent blocks with his own 2/2, he may have been happy to kill your Creature.

But a quick pump spell like Infuriate targeting your Creature quickly turns the tables around. Not only does the opponent lose his Creature, you get to keep yours too. Here’s a video that perfectly explain pump and shrink spells and how it can help you come up on top:

Bounce Spells

Bounce spells refer to indirect removal, often used as a delaying tactic. For example, Unsummon returns a target Creature to the owner’s hand. The owner can still cast it again, but it would require spending of more Mana that he/she would have otherwise used for another purpose.

In Combat, bounce spells can also be used as a combat trick. For example, if your opponent has Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and a 1/1 Red Creature on the board attacking you, the 1/1 would in effect deal 3 damage, and Torbran would deal 4 damage. However, if you cast Unsummon to bounce Torbran, then you will only take 1 point of damage instead of 7!

You saved 6 points of damage, and the opponent effectively will waste 4 more Mana and a turn to recast Torbran. The downside is that you will still need to find a more permanent answer to his attackers.

Tapping a Creature Before Combat Phase

Another combat trick you can apply is tapping your opponent’s Creatures before they even have a chance to attack. The basic rule of combat is that tapped Creatures cannot attack, hence by using a spell or ability to tap a Creature before the Combat Phase will effectively prevent any future attacks (if you’re able to use the same spell and ability over and over again).

For example, Law-Rune Enforcer has an activated ability that can recur every turn as long as you have the Mana and the enforcer stays untapped. You’ll then be able to nullify a single Creature by stopping it from attacking.

Likewise, spells such as Gracial Grasp also taps a Creature and stops it from untapping for one turn. This gives you more breathing space, as that Creature can no longer attack for two turns. But since Gracial Grasp is a one-time use, in this scenario it is less ideal than using Law-Rune Enforcer.

End Step: Beating Your Opponents’ Combat Tricks

Now that you’ve learned a little about how to apply Combat tricks, the next question is how should you respond (if possible) to an opponent’s very own Combat tricks?

One general rule in combat: If the opponent has Mana available to use in Combat, always assume that he/she has a Combat trick ready to use.

The rule is based on how you would apply Combat tricks yourself. Most spells and abilities require some kind of Mana cost, hence to utilise your Combat trick you would need to leave untapped Mana available. The same would apply to your opponent.

Thus before launching an attack, always look to see how much Mana the opponent has available, and run through in your mind some possible cards he/she might play.

After playing from Tempest to Urza's Saga block, Ted took a 20 year break from the game before returning to the classic Plane of Dominaria in 2018. His favourite formats are Commander, Draft, and, grudgingly, Standard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top