Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Does Overload Work in Magic?
As of this writing, only a few dozen Magic cards carry overload, and only among the red and blue factions. Overload spells are sorceries and instants that you can cast at one of two prices. Using the base form is cheaper but only targets a single permanent; employing the overload cost replaces the word "target" with "each," letting you impact numerous cards.
Members of this set often boost your own creatures or interfere with enemy troops; which units deserve your attention? These are the ten best overload spells in Magic: The Gathering!
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 2 (5 with overload)
Blustersquall isn't amazing, but it's a respectable and adaptable defense. For a single mana and at instant speed, you tap a creature you don't control. Or, with overload, you'll tap each opposing creature.
Activate this before your opponent's combat phase (but after they've already cast creatures) to dull their entire army. Not only does this stall them for a turn, but it also gives you an easy opening to swing with your own monsters in the following round.
9. Mizzium Skin
CMC: 1 (2 with overload)
Mizzium is cheap with or without overload, needing just one or two mana. At base price, it grants a creature +0/+1 for the turn as well as hexproof, both fortifying them in battle and preventing them from being targeted. Of course, with overload, you can apply the bonus to your entire team.
The problem with this overload is that anything threatening multiple creatures is probably a field wipe (like "Wrath of God")—which almost never target. Still, even at base price, you can trade a two or three-cost removal for a single-cost defense, gaining a bit more toughness in the process.
CMC: 3 (4 with overload)
Counterflux specifically demands two blue mana and one red, making it difficult to fit outside of Izzet themes. It counters any spell you don't control, and it itself can't be countered by spells or abilities. Overloading Counterflux only requires one extra mana and negates all opposing spells, useful when unsuspecting opponents chain plays back-to-back.
CMC: 3 (7 with overload)
Dragonshift requires three mana and morphs a creature you control into a 4/4 flying dragon for the turn, losing its original abilities. But you'll usually want to wait for its overload, which requires seven mana but changes your entire army into fearsome 4/4 beatsticks.
Use this alongside red's goblin tokens to drastically pump your minions, and thanks to Dragonshift's instant speed, you can catch blockers off-guard, triumphing in battles your opponent expected to win.
CMC: 2 (5 with overload)
Teleportal's a great way to break stalemates with an aggressive push. Two mana makes your creature unblockable for the turn and grants +1/+0, while five mana buffs your entire army. You're now free to swing without worrying about stronger blockers (or ones with deathtouch), and that added damage might just score you the win.
CMC: 1 (5 with overload)
Vandalblast only functions at sorcery speed, but it destroys an opposing artifact, skillfully removing common commander threats like "Sol Ring" and "Mana Crypt." Thankfully, it scales well into the late-game with overload, which quintuples the mana price, but blasts all opposing artifacts while leaving your own unscathed.
This makes Vandalblast a formidable artifact removal in decks that incorporate artifacts themselves, letting you punish foes without scorching your own cards.
4. Mizzix's Mastery
CMC: 4 (8 with overload)
Even without overload, Mastery requires a moderate fee of four mana, and it only functions as a sorcery. However, it exiles an instant or sorcery from your graveyard, then lets you cast a copy for free. You also exile Mastery itself.
You can reuse costly spells like "Time Warp" for less mana, and if you overload, you get to reactivate all instants and sorceries in your graveyard. Plus, thanks to the "may" wording, you can avoid effects that would eliminate your own troops. A powerful blast, but you might want alternative units if you're running Izzet cards like "Enigma Drake" and "Cackling Drake," which depend on keeping your one-offs in the graveyard.
3. Weapon Surge
CMC: 1 (2 with overload)
Weapon Surge lets you win clashes even against stronger foes, as your recipient gets +1/+0 for the turn and first strike. Handy for any creature, this works especially well when combined with black's deathtouch-carriers. Plus, two mana for Surge's overload is a steal, especially after opponents have already declared multiple blockers.
2. Mizzium Mortars
CMC: 2 (6 with overload)
Unlike many removals, Mizzium only activates at sorcery speed, so you'll have to cast it on your main phase. However, it deals four damage to an opposing creature, matching the classic "Lava Coil" in terms of power.
Of course, you can overload Mizzium for six mana, nuking opposing creatures without harming your own. This makes Mizzium a versatile removal that often joins my own red decks, and it's surprisingly cheap for a competitive rare, costing well under a single dollar!
1. Cyclonic Rift
CMC: 2 (7 with overload)
Easily one of the best cards in commander format, Cyclonic Rift provides a solid single-use removal at base cost or an excellent field-wipe with overload. At base, you bounce any non-land permanent back to its owner's hand, forcing foes to recast anything from creatures to planeswalkers.
Better yet, you can overload the spell for seven mana, bouncing each non-land you don't control. This ignores your own permanents, works great in multiplayer, and bypasses hexproof and indestructible (since it doesn't target or destroy). Plus, you can activate it at instant speed, likely bouncing an extra card your foe just cast. Not many decks can recover from an overloaded Cyclonic Rift, which renders them sitting ducks for your onslaught.
Other Variable Spells in Magic
While you won't find overload outside the Izzet colors, you'll see spells with variable X costs or optional kicker abilities throughout all factions, letting any deck adjust its casting costs. If you're sticking with red and blue, you should also consider surge cards, which have reduced prices if you've cast other spells that turn. Or, for red and black themes, try spectacle, which provides discounts if you've damaged a foe that round.
These spells adapt to your current situation and mana output, ensuring you're never without something to play. But for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion varied-cost spells, vote for your favorite card, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill