Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Does Cascade Work in Magic?
From trample to vigilance to lifelink, Magic creatures bear a number of traits to help overwhelm opponents. One of the rarest yet strongest abilities is the formidable cascade keyword, seen on only a few dozen units. When you cast a creature with cascade, you exile cards from the top of your deck until you find a nonland spell that costs less than the card you played, and you can cast it for free! The cards you exiled are then randomly placed onto the bottom of your deck.
So, whenever you cascade, you obtain a free (albeit randomized) search and casting of a lower-priced card, making it a useful boon. To offset this, many cascade spells are pretty weak on their own, but they become hearty tools when combined with their bonus. So, which rebounding cards reign supreme?
These are the 20 best cascade spells in Magic: The Gathering!
20. Ardent Plea
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 3
If you focus more on singular strong creatures than swarming with the masses, Ardent Plea offers a nice benefit to solo warriors. For three mana, this enchantment gives the exalted passive, meaning any time a unit you control attacks alone, it receives an additional power and toughness (+1/+1) until the end of the turn.
A minor benefit, but with Plea's cascade ability, remember you'll also be fielding a free 0, 1, or 2 cost spell from your deck. Not bad for just three mana.
19. Enlisted Wurm
Enlisted Wurm offers a basic—but strong—beatstick. It doesn't bear any special traits, but its 5/5 stats overpower most foes in battle. Of course, you'll also be cascading spells until you find something that costs five or less mana. Many planeswalkers fall in this range, making Wurm a useful way to get them onto the field.
After partnering with its free ally, use green supports like "Nylea, God of the Hunt" to give Wurm trample and ensure its mighty power smashes through blockers.
18. Deny Reality
The perfect card for players who recently suffered a bad breakup, Deny Reality leaves your opponent black and blue by bouncing one of their permanents back to their hand, then igniting cascade. While this only removes a single unit, note that it works on all types of foes, whether creature, artifact, enchantment, or even planeswalker, and it bypasses the indestructible defense.
If your deck list contains more three and four-cost spells than one or two, you're more likely to get a bigger benefit from a CMC 5 cascade, making Deny a solid option for structures stocked with mid-range soldiers.
17. Etherium-Horn Sorcerer
Similar to Wurm, Etherium-Horn Sorcerer is a six-cost creature, although this time he only bears 3/6 battle stats. However, Sorcerer enjoys more synergies thanks to his status as both an artifact and a creature as well as his minotaur and wizard subtypes.
In addition, as an instant effect, you can pay three mana (one needing to be red and one blue) to return Sorcerer back to your hand. This not only saves him from removals but allows you to reactivate his cascade entrance effect, once again searching and playing a card with a mana cost of five or less.
16. Maelstrom Nexus
Fudging a bit since Nexus itself doesn't bear cascade; however, it does give the trait to the first spell you cast each turn, letting you repeatedly cycle through and cast from your deck.
Unfortunately, Nexus won't activate the ability when you play it (since it wasn't active at the time you cast it), and it demands one mana of each color. That said, note you can activate its bonus not just on your turn, but also your opponent's by harnessing quick-play instant or flash cards, attaining even more cascades.
15. Shardless Agent
2/2 on a three-cost creature isn't great but could be worse, and Shardless Agent enjoys synergies due to her artifact, human, and rogue types. Of course, she also bears our ever-useful gush trait.
Cascade is a bit more reliable on weaker cards; when you cascade a CMC 8 unit, you don't know if you'll receive a free card that costs seven mana or one that costs two. With lower-priced units like Agent, you can only trigger weaker cards, meaning you're not relying so heavily on luck because you'll search something small regardless. In short, Agent gives you a nice blocker while also snatching a low-level utility unit from your deck.
14. Garbage Elemental (D)
As part of the semi-official unstable expansion, be careful you don't accidentally place Garbage Elemental in a format it can't participate in. Also exercise caution when deck-building online, as it bears several different forms with varying abilities.
However, this version offers two tempting effects. 3/3 isn't great for a five-cost unit, but at least only one mana needs to be red, making it easy to fit into multicolored themes. Even better, not only does it bear cascade, but Elemental also rolls a six-sided die when entering the field. You'll inflict damage to a targeted opponent equal to the result of the roll, averaging 3-4 damage. So, for five mana, Elemental grants a 3/3 warrior plus a free Lightning Bolt to your opponent and a cascade!
13. Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder
Yidris doesn't actually bear cascade himself, but for just four mana (stemming from red, green, blue, and black), you've got a 5/4 legendary trampler, piercing damage through blockers. This combos great with Yidris's unique ability: when he deals combat damage to your opponent, for the rest of the turn, any spells you cast from your hand trigger cascade.
With this, landing combat damage should be easy, and you're then primed for as many cascade-boosted spells as you can afford. Additionally, unlike most keywords, extra instances of cascade aren't redundant, as each will trigger independently! Thus, even your already-overflowing units will further reverberate as they hit your field.
12. Bloodbraid Elf
Bloodbraid Elf is weaker than Yidris, lacks trample, and only bears 3/2 stats. However, she only needs two mana colors to play, utilizes haste to swing immediately, and actually bears the cascade ability herself. Four resources give you hasty, cascade-triggering combatant, and the elf and berserker subtypes offer several synergies with other cards.
11. Flamekin Herald
A 3/2 with both elemental and wizard synergy offers some interesting tribal supports. More than that, while Herald doesn't cascade herself, she gives the ability to your commander(s). To make best use of her, employ her in partner EDH decks so that two of your spells gain access to it. Just remember commander tax won't change the CMC you can cascade into.
10. Annoyed Altisaur
Altisaur is a simple fattie with no evasion, but a 6/5 cascade is nothing to sneeze at. He's also got dinosaur synergy, and his keywords empower both offense and defense, with trample piercing damage and reach letting him block flyers.
9. Volcanic Torrent
In addition to its cascade, Torrent hits all opposing creatures and planeswalkers for X damage, where X is the number of spells you've cast that turn. Counting its own cascaded spell, this should be at least two, and it skyrockets in the right circumstances. Plus, this works well in multiplayer, hitting all opposing fields while leaving your own untouched.
8. Sweet-Gum Recluse
0/3 looks weak, but flash, cascade, and reach help compensate. Plus, Recluse is really more of a 3/6 since she places three +1/+1s on any number creatures that entered the field that turn. Use her during combat to surprise foes with a sturdy blocker.
7. Meteoric Mace
Mace requires a big investment of six mana to play, then four to equip. However, you get the initial cascade, and once it's finally attached to a unit, they gain +4/+0 and trample, making anything a big threat, especially devastating on something with first strike or deathtouch.
6. Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty
Imoti is pitifully weak at 3/1 and lacks useful subtypes, but she cascades and gives your other spells of cost six or more cascade. Since she's five, this won't matter with her initial trigger, but it pressures opponents to quickly find a removal before your big guns start comboing off each other.
5. Maelstrom Wanderer
At a hefty eight mana, Maelstrom demands several resources, but remember, you're still better off legitimately playing him because cascade only triggers with casting. Thus, to afford Wanderer, use green's mana ramp abilities or free-casting cards that offer cheap summons.
Not only does Wanderer wield fierce 7/5 stats, but he also gives all your monsters (including himself) the haste ability. Even better, he cascades not once but twice, bestowing two free spells with CMC seven or less from your deck! That's an incredible bonus, and as a legendary creature, you can have him serve as commander in EDH format. As a general, Wanderer allows the hues of blue and green that I favor in EDH, and he's available for a surprisingly cheap cost. Unlike many competitive leaders who can run you dozens of dollars, you can buy your own Maelstrom for well under $10!
4. Aurora Phoenix
A flying 5/3 cascader is already justified, but you also get to return Phoenix from graveyard to hand when you cascade, making her great loot/discard fodder.
3. Sakashima's Protege
Protege looks weak at 3/1, but flashes in at instant speed and enters as a copy of a permanent (not just creature) that entered that turn. This lets you copy your opponent's best freshly-cast spell, or whatever you just cascaded into (be sure not to replicate your own legendary).
2. The First Sliver
A contender for best sliver of all time, First Sliver needs one of every color, but wields fierce 7/7 stats, cascades, and gives your other slivers cascade. Now, he doesn't give cascade until he hits the field, meaning his initial trigger won't cascade even if it's a sliver, but that's a small nitpick on an amazing card.
1. Apex Devastator
Hydra synergy and 10/10 stats are nice, even without trample or reach. But the real treat here is four cascades! Yep, play Devastator, and you've suddenly got four other cards (potentially nine-drops at that) also hitting the field. If opponent can't scrape together a board wipe, they're toast.
How to Support Cascade in Magic
Remember, cascade spells need to be cast (and not "played") to activate their effects. However, you don't actually need to spend mana as long as the entrance qualifies as a casting. To aid in this endeavor, use cards like "Jhoira of the Ghitu", "Aetherworks Marvel", or "Possibility Storm" to trigger castings without paying their daunting prices.
Cascade remains a rare yet powerful trait that I hope to see on more units, but for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of burst-activating spells, vote for your favorite card, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill