Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Do Sagas Work in Magic?
Sagas are a rare subtype of enchantments in Magic, with only a few dozen existing. They activate an initial ability when played, then provide additional effects as they gain lore counters after your next draw steps, sacrificing themselves after having utilized all three (occasionally four) traits.
Thus, sagas are handy as they provide an instant bonus as well as future benefits, almost like a condensed version of planeswalkers. But with a handful of historic permanents to choose from, which ballads reign supreme?
These are the ten best saga enchantments in Magic: The Gathering!
10. History of Benalia
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 3
Benalia's pretty cheap, needing just three mana, and unlike some sagas, it's not as reliant on its final ability, with its first triggers more than warranting its price. The initial two effects both create a white 2/2 knight token with vigilance, letting them swing without tapping.
Thus, you attain two 2/2 beatsticks with vigilance for just two mana, and when Benalia's last effect resolves, your knight permanents gain +2/+1 for the turn, empowering your tokens. Amazing in knight decks, still good elsewhere.
9. The Akroan War
Like most sagas, The Akroan War is pretty color-accepting, making it easy to fit in multi-color decks. Its first effect gains control of a creature for as long as War remains on the field, punishing foes who lack enchantment removals.
The second trigger taunts enemy units, forcing them to attack in combat if able. Unless they have vigilance, this will tap them, perfectly preparing for the final effect, which has tapped creatures deal damage to themselves equal to their power. This includes your own creatures, but since lore counters are added at the start of your main phase, your troops should have just untapped and thus dodge the blast.
8. The Mending of Dominaria
Dominaria costs a fair chunk of five mana, but justifies the price with three powerful effects. The first two both mill the top two cards of your deck into your graveyard, then let you add a creature from your graveyard to your hand, simultaneously refilling your hand and stocking your discard pile.
This preps for Dominaria's ultimate, returning all lands from your graveyard to the battlefield—without tapping them—shuffling the rest of your graveyard into your library. Thanks to Dominaria's prior milling, you should have plenty of terrain to recover, and it's one of few graveyard-land plays that has them enter ready to use.
7. The Mirari Conjecture
Conjecture requires five mana, needing only a dab of blue. First, you simply return an instant from your graveyard to your hand. Then, you do the same with a sorcery. Finally, for the rest of the turn, when you cast an instant or sorcery, you copy the spell and may choose new targets.
Not only have you recovered two one-off spells, you essentially get to cast them twice thanks to the duplication; use this to double the effects of the feared extra turn cards or other blue tricks.
6. Elspeth's Nightmare
For fairly-low cost, Nightmare heckles foes with a variety of nuisances. First, it destroys an opposing creature with two or less power, a weaker but still useful removal, especially against puny support units.
Next, it reveals an opponent's hand and lets you discard a non-creature, non-land of your choice. Finally, you simply exile an opposing graveyard. Admittedly, these effects sometimes fizzle (opponents won't always have an applicable creature for the first trigger or non-creature for the second), but when they work, they work, dramatically stalling your victim.
5. Kiora Bests the Sea God
The most mana-demanding saga yet, Kiora requires a whopping seven resources. But if you pull it off, the first trigger creates a monstrous 8/8 kraken token with hexproof. That's a fearsome unit, especially for blue, and hexproof prevents opponents from targeting it, making it difficult to remove.
Kiora's second trigger taps all non-lands an opponent controls and prevents them from untapping during their next upkeep, making them easy prey for direct attacks (meaning they're probably taking at least eight damage from your token). If that doesn't win you the game, the final effect gains control of an opposing permanent and untaps it, indefinitely stealing whatever unit you like.
4. Song of Freyalise
Song offers two nice benefits at low cost while building for a superb finale. Its first blessing grants your creatures the temporary ability to tap for a mana of any color, letting any unit serve as a ramp tool (remember to use block-taps to simultaneously block and cast instants or activated abilities).
Handy, but Song's real treat comes with its ultimate, which places a +1/+1 counter on every creature you control, also giving them vigilance, trample, and indestructible for the turn. Thus, you can swing that turn without tapping or fear of retaliation, as your units are immune to damage and bulldoze through blockers. Even if that awesome assault doesn't win the match, the +1/+1 counters last indefinitely, continuously supporting your army. Try Song in multicolor decks (slivers work well) to let your creatures tap for missing mana types; luckily, it costs less than one dollar!
3. The Eldest Reborn
Eldest Reborn needs several mana, but not much black, and its debuffs affect all enemies. The first trait forces opponents to sacrifice a creature or planeswalker, a handy removal that bypasses defenses like indestructible or protection, and the second has them discard a card.
Then, Reborn's third triggers revives a creature or planeswalker in any graveyard under your control! Thanks to the first effects, you should have plenty of sacrificed/discarded foes to choose from, kicking foes while they're down by wielding their own cards against them.
2. The First Iroan Games
The First Iroan Games is one of few sagas with not three but four effects. First, you create a 1/1 human token, puny but still nice to have. Then, you place three +1/+1 counters on a creature you control, whether the token you just made or someone else. Then, if you control a creature of at least four power, you draw two cards. Last, you simply create a gold token, an artifact that you can sacrifice for a mana of any color.
A bit risky since many of the effects require you to maintain your field (+1/+1 counters need a creature to boost, and the draws require a suitably strong unit), but if all goes as planned, you're effectively getting a 4/4, two draws, and a mana of any type for three!
1. Elspeth Conquers Death
Elspeth starts out strong by exiling an opposing permanent of cost three or more, a powerful removal that can affect multiple card types and prevents graveyard recovery. The second lore counter makes opposing non-creature spells cost two more until your next turn, a significant hindrance to creature-light themes. Finally, you return a creature or planeswalker from your graveyard to the battlefield, placing either a +1/+1 or loyalty counter on it.
Unlike most sagas, Elspeth's effects don't particularly support each other, but I'm not complaining when they're this powerful, offering removal, revival, and enemy delay in one potent package.
Historic Cards in Magic
Remember, sagas qualify for generic enchantment supports. Protecting them isn't absolutely crucial since they'll eventually sacrifice themselves, but strive to shield them until they access their ultimate trigger. Along with artifacts and legendaries, they're also one of the card types that count as "historic", supported by spells like "D'Avenant Trapper" and "Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain".
Be sure to proliferate their lore counters to hasten their effects, but for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next set of epic sagas, vote for your favorite card, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill