Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What are Gotcha cards in Magic?
Introduced in Magic's semi-official Unhinged set, you can tell today's cards aren't tournament-legal by their gray borders. But their "gotcha" trait lets you add them from your graveyard to your hand by saying "gotcha" when an opponent meets a certain condition, often saying a specific word.
Against careless players, this lets you reuse spells for continuous effect, and the spells come in all colors—which reign supreme? These are the ten best gotcha cards in Magic: The Gathering!
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 2
Cardpecker's stats are both weak and weird (1½ power and 1 toughness), but he has flying, making him a decent blocker. More than that, you can recover him from your graveyard by saying "gotcha" when an opponent touches the table with their hand—an easily-forgotten mistake someone's bound to screw up on.
9. Laughing Hyena
Compared to Birdpecker, Hyena lacks flying but has superior 2/2 stats. His unique gotcha traits lets you salvage him from your graveyard when an opponent laughs. In casual games (which encompass most Unhinged matches), having fun is as big a goal as winning, making Hyena easy to recover when playing with the right group.
8. Spell Counter
Like the similarly-named "Counterspell", Spell Counter simply counters a spell, negating any type of play. You can recover it by saying gotcha when an opponent either says "spell" or "counter". With +1/+1, poison, charge, and loyalty counters running amok, "counter" is the likely trigger, punishing forgetful rivals.
7. Number Crunch
Number Crunch returns any permanent to hand at instant speed. While the card isn't destroyed and can be recast later, Crunch is still a versatile removal that can even target lands, slowing opposing mana ramp. Plus, Crunch has an easy retrieval, recovered when you declare gotcha after an opponent says any number.
6. Touch and Go
Touch and Go only resolves at sorcery speed, but it destroys a land, another powerful way to shut down opposing mana. You can recover Touch and Go whenever an opponent touches their face with their hand.
This can be a bit trickier to catch opponents doing, but it's easier when someone is wearing glasses, talking on their phone, or simply overthinking their move.
5. Kill! Destroy!
The accurately-named Kill! Destroy! simply destroys any non-black creature at instant speed, a slightly costlier version of the classic "Doom Blade". However, gotcha can fetch it from your graveyard after an opponent says either "kill" or "destroy", the latter of which is commonly heard with many removals.
4. Save Life
Save Life offers an adaptable and cheap instant-speed spell, either giving a player 2½ life or preventing the next 2½ that would be dealt to a creature that turn. Both are useful, especially for saving a creature once attackers and blockers are declared.
Gotcha can retrieve the card after an opponent slips either a "save" or "life". Plus, since Life's effect is beneficial, you can negotiate with opponents to purposefully get it back to hand (perhaps agreeing to give them its benefit on occasion).
3. Name Dropping
Name Dropping's gotcha won't actually return itself from your graveyard to your hand. Instead, when an opponent says a word found in any card name in your graveyard, you can "gotcha" that spell back to hand.
Opponents struggle to dodge this since they must now avoid not just two words, but dozens. Use cards with commonly-said words (like "the" in "The Abyss") for easy replays.
2. Stop That
This one impresses even without its gotcha, offering an instant-speed single discard for one mana. Gotcha can recover Stop That when an opponent audibly flicks the cards in their hand. Admittedly, that's possibly the hardest gotcha for opponents to mess up on, but think of it as a bonus for an already-tempting card.
An easy pick in my own casual black decks, Stop That is also surprisingly cheap, costing well under a single dollar!
1. Deal Damage
Contrary to what its text states, Deal Damage can hit any target (creature, player, or planeswalker) for four damage. That's a fair price for a versatile instant-speed removal, and Damage's gotcha lets you retrieve it after an opponent recklessly says either "deal" or "damage".
The latter keyword is more likely, but either will reclaim your card and set you for another easy removal.
Using Gotcha Cards in Magic
While they won't be allowed in most official events, gotcha cards can still wreak havoc in casual play. Not only will you recycle them when an opponent accidentally triggers their return, but you can sometimes use diplomacy to return them to hand (perhaps getting one opponent to return a card if you cast it against another).
Gotcha spells remain a fun and surprisingly effective group that I hope to see expand in future expansions, but for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next set, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill