Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Escape Works in Magic
Introduced in the Theros Beyond Death expansion, cards with escape let you cast them from the graveyard, often by spending a different amount of mana and exiling other cards from your graveyard. They're found across all colors, but favor black and red.
Escaping usually requires more mana than the initial casting, but often gives a creature extra +1/+1 counters, making them an even bigger threat than before. Most but not all escape cards are creatures—which reign supreme? These are the ten best escape spells in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Chainweb Aracnir
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 1 (5 with escape)
Aracnir makes great sideboard material, because you really want him against opposing flying decks: when he enters the field, he deals damage equal to his power to an enemy creature with flying. That's only one damage at base, but it's a great way to pick off weak enemies, and unlike popular alternative "Kraul Harpooner", they won't get to hit back.
Aracnir is also a 1/2 with reach, pretty decent stats for a one-cost unit, and you can recast him from your graveyard by spending five mana and exiling four other cards from it. Sure, that's a much bigger fee, but Aracnir escapes with three +1/+1 counters, meaning he enters as a 4/5 who hits an enemy flyer for four.
9. Phoenix of Ash
CMC: 3 (4 with escape)
Three mana is a bit pricey for a 2/2 in red aggro decks, but Phoenix helps justify it with both flying and haste. Additionally, he can escape with an extra +1/+1 counter by exiling four other cards from your graveyard, and he can gain +2/+0 for the turn by spending three mana, both excellent finishers on weakened opponents.
8. Underworld Rage-Hound
CMC: 2 (4 with escape)
Rage-Hound is a 3/1 who is forced to attack whenever able, a risky trait that means he sometimes charges to his own demise. Still, he escapes with a +1/+1 counter, bolstering his stats and making him harder to safely block.
But it's really Rage-Hound's subtypes that make him playable; elemental decks have been led by "Risen Reef" for years, and companion "Kaheera, the Orphanguard" further boosts their clan. More than that, hounds have been redubbed as dogs and gained much support in Core Set 2021.
Great in a variety of formats and tribal themes, Rage-Hound is also one of today's cheapest cards, costing well under a single dollar!
7. Ox of Agonas
CMC: 5 (2 with escape)
Ox only has 4/2 stats, but when he enters the field, you discard your hand, then draw three cards—a great hand-replenisher for aggro decks that quickly burn through their spells.
Plus, Ox has a surprisingly cheap escape cost. Well, you need to exile eight other cards, but it only requires two mana, grants a bonus +1/+1 counter, and reactivates the entrance effect. Plus, any cards you discard will help pay for future escapes, and since Ox isn't legendary, you can control multiple copies of him.
6. Sentinel's Eyes
CMC: 1 (1 with escape)
This aura gives its bearer +1/+1 and vigilance, modest but appreciated bonuses, especially since it's so darn cheap; both its base and escape costs only need one mana.
Additionally, since Theros Beyond Death heavily favored enchantments, Eyes works great for triggered enchantment-based constellation effects on cards like "Setessan Champion".
5. Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis
CMC: 4 (6 with escape)
Elspeth's only failing is her inability to gain loyalty through her abilities; that said, she starts out with five, offers three diverse effects, and is currently the only graveyard-castable planeswalker. Her -1 gives up to two creatures +2/+1 for the turn, -2 creates two 1/1 human tokens, and -3 simply gives you five life.
To help keep Elspeth's loyalty topped off, use blink effects to have her re-enter the field, putting her back up to five. Some blinks can only target creatures, but cards like companion "Yorion, Sky Nomad" flicker any of your non-lands.
4. Woe Strider
CMC: 3 (5 with escape)
Woe Strider has decent 3/2 stats and creates a 0/1 goat token on entry, giving two blockers for the price of one. He can also instantly sacrifice a creature to scry one, which not only lets you block-scry with the goat, but gives you an alternative to "Witch's Oven" for killing any creatures you temporairily steal (usually with "Claim the Firstborn").
Escaping requires five mana and four exiled cards, but Woe gains two +1/+1 counters, and he'll again create a goat token on entry.
3. Polukranos, Unchained
CMC: 4 (6 with escape)
Polukranos enters with a whopping six +1/+1 counters, but if escaped, he instead has twelve! That's a lot of power (sadly he lacks trample), and it's great alongside the mutate mechanic from the following Ikoria set. Zombie and hydra subtypes also offer some interesting tribal options.
If damage would be dealt to Polukranos, the damage is prevented and that many +1/+1 counters are removed. This might not seem great, but it works well against enemy deathtouchers, and by spending three mana, Polukranos can instantly fight another creature, taking out whatever threats you need him too.
2. Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
CMC: 2 (4 with escape)
Unless Kroxa escaped, you have to sacrifice him on entry. However, whether escaped or not, he forces your opponent to discard a card, and if they pick a land or don't have any in hand, they lose three life.
So for two mana, you have a fair discard spell, but when Kroxa escapes for four (note he needs very specific colors), he reactivates the effect, and you now have a deadly 6/6 who triggers again when he attacks!
1. Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
CMC: 3 (4 with escape)
Easily one of the strongest cards in the whole block, Uro costs one more mana at base than Kroxa but works similarly, sacrificed on entry unless he escaped. However, he offers three effects, drawing a card, letting you play an extra land, and giving you three life.
This simply builds up almost every type of resource—advantage, mana, and life—in one potent package, and where Kroxa is less useful in the late stages of the game (opponents might not have anything left to discard), extra draws and life are always useful. Like Kroxa, Uro;s effect triggers both when he arrives and when he attacks, so the longer your opponent takes to find a removal, the more you'll build your board state to the point where it might not even matter.
Exiling Graveyards in Magic
Escape cards can be a big pain since they'll keep coming back as long as your opponent's graveyard has fodder—to counter them, try exiling the graveyard. Recommended standard-legal (as of this writing) cards to do so include "Leyline of the Void", "Scrabbling Arms", and "Soul-Guide Lantern". Or, hit fielded escape creatures with exiling removals, like "Despark" or "Extinction Event".
Self-milling tactics will help ensure you have plenty of fuel for your own escape spells, but for now, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill