Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Incarnation Cards in Magic
Spread across all colors, only a few creatures carry the incarnation subtype in Magic. But what they lack in quantity, they make up for with quality, offering several effects that boost your entire team, many of which activate from the graveyard.
Incarnations require several mana to play and sometimes require certain land types for their effects, but they're more than worth the effort—which reign supreme? These are the ten best incarnation cards in Magic: The Gathering!
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
A 2/2 is pretty poor for four mana, even with first strike. But that's okay; like many incarnations, you want Valor dead anyway to get him in your graveyard. While he's there, as long as you control at least one plains land, all creatures you control gain first strike!
That's an excellent army-wide boost that stacks especially well with deathtouch in black/white decks. Black spells also excel at self-milling, helping mill or discard Valor into your graveyard without ever needing to cast him.
Wonder is Valor's blue equivalent, providing a 2/2 with flying who gives your entire army flying while in the graveyard if you control an island. Creatures with flying can only be blocked by other creatures with flying or those with reach, often letting your army bypass blockers for easy direct damage.
Here's an incarnation you don't want in your graveyard; keep Purity fielded. While he needs several mana, he provides a sturdy 6/6 with flying. Better yet, Purity prevents all non-combat damage you would take, turning that damage into lifegain! This even includes self-inflicted injuries, blending well with self-damaging cards like "Brushland" and "City of Brass".
Genesis's stats are a passable 4/4 for five, but again, you want him in your graveyard. While there, Genesis lets you pay three mana at your upkeep to return any creature from your graveyard to your hand.
That's one of green's best ways to recover lost units, and it works great with self-sacrificing creatures like "Sakura-Tribe Elder" and "Elvish Scrapper". You can also pick Genesis himself, although odds are you'll want to maintain him in your graveyard.
Guile offers a bulky 6/6, a rare but appreciated beatstick for the blue faction. He requires three or more creatures to block him, meaning he's not easily guarded, and whenever you counter a spell, Guile exiles it and lets you cast it for free!
If you do cast the spell, you have to do so immediately, but it's nice that you have a choice, meaning you're not forced into undesirable plays. As icing on the cake, Guile also has the elemental subtype, blending well with blue/green elemental tribes (use "Risen Reef" and "Omnath, Locus of the Roil").
Glory's a weak 3/3 with flying, but yet again, you want her in your graveyard. While there, you can spend three mana to grant your creatures protection from any color for the rest of the turn.
The effect works at instant speed, offering a handy response to removals, and you can also use aggressively since protection renders you unblockable by creatures of the chosen color.
Compared to many incarnations, a 3/3 trampler for four is a fair deal, but you really want Brawn in your graveyard—as long as he's there and you control a forest, all your creatures gain trample!
This lets everyone pierce excess damage through blockers; use green spells like "Fauna Shaman" or "Golgari Grave-Troll" to help move Brawn into place. An easy choice for my own green commander decks, Brawn is also surprisingly cheap, costing well under a single dollar!
You know the drill—a 2/2 with haste is poor for four mana, but you want Anger in your graveyard anyway, where he provides all your creatures haste as long as you control a mountain. Haste is an invaluable trait that lets creatures attack or tap the same turn they arrive, and it's pretty easy to get Anger discarded with red spells like "Cavalier of Flame" and "Cathartic Reunion".
Dread offers a fierce 6/6 with fear, meaning he can only be blocked by black or artifact creatures. Better yet, whenever a creature deals damage to you, Dread destroys it, offering a phenomenal defense that really makes opponents think twice before swinging.
Dread also has the elemental subtype, a nice bonus even if black doesn't really support the tribe, and he'll shuffle himself into your deck if sent to your graveyard (from anywhere).
Vigor starts off strong as a 6/6 trampler with elemental synergy, perfect for the green faction. And his amazing ability prevents all damage your other creatures would take, instead placing that many +1/+1 counters on them!
Remember this only shields against damage (not destruction), and it doesn't affect Vigor himself, but it's still an outstanding defense that not only protects allies, but strengthens them when harmed. And since Vigor isn't legendary, you can cast two copies of him to have both shield each other.
Using Incarnations in Magic
Since many incarnations rely on the graveyard, use self-discarding or milling effects to quickly set them. And while some require you to control certain land types, note the lands don't have to be basic, so unique lands like "Cinder Glade" will satisfy them.
Watch out for graveyard-exilers that can disrupt your combo, but for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of incarnations, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill