Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Does Surge Work in Magic?
Currently exclusive to the red and blue factions, the surge ability lets you play cards at reduced prices, but you need to have cast another spell previously during the round. Thus, surges work well in decks with plenty of low-cost cards, letting you reliably hit your opponent with multiple spells in a single move.
In twin-headed giant games, your reduced prices apply whenever you or a teammate casts a spell, letting you cooperate with your partner to quickly access your hexes. Surge remains a rare trait, but which corresponding units most deserve your attention? These are the ten best surge cards in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Boulder Salvo
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 5 (2 with surge)
With an enormous surge discount, red's Boulder Salvo plummets from five to two, making surge essential to its use. Either way, Salvo simply deals four damage to a target creature, more than enough to wipe out most early and mid-game units.
A fierce effect, though I wish Salvo operated at instant speed rather than just sorcery; as is, it's limited to your main phases.
9. Jwar Isle Avenger
CMC: 5 (3 with surge)
Avenger receives a nice discount of two with surge, and he's a pretty straightforward unit, arriving as a 3/3 creature (three power and three toughness) with flying, letting him soar over ground blockers.
That's a fair trade for three mana, especially considering blue's general lack of beefy creatures, but I wish Avenger had wizard or merfolk to counterbalance his uncommon sphinx subtype, which would warrant the effort needed to access his surge.
8. Overwhelming Denial
CMC: 4 (2 with surge)
One of blue's several powerful counterspells, Overwhelming Denial cuts its price in half with surge, making it as cheap as classics like "Mana Drain" and "Mana Leak." Denial's a simple but powerful negation, countering a target spell—and it can't be countered itself, ensuring your opponents won't disable it with their own instant tricks.
7. Tyrant of Valakut
CMC: 7 (5 with surge)
As a 5/4 dragon with flying, Valakut's formidable in battle, but even with his surge cost, he still requires five mana. Still, you definitely want the discount, not just since it's two mana cheaper, but also because Valakut inflicts three damage to a target creature or player when he enters through surge, making him a nice creature/removal duo.
It's as simple at that; use weak spells to access surge, then have Valakut enter and activate a free "Lightning Bolt."
6. Fall of the Titans
Fall of the Titans initially demands one red mana and two X values of your choice; surge reduces the price to one red and one X. X can be as low or high as you like, and the more the better, since Titans deals X damage to up to two targets, letting you slam opposing creatures or players with as much hurt as you can afford.
Thankfully, unlike Boulder Salvo, Titans functions at instant speed, letting you annihilate multiple foes as soon as they arrive with its quick-play removal.
5. Reckless Bushwhacker
CMC: 3 (2 with surge)
Bushwhacker's surge only discounts his cost by one, but it's essential to his use, as when he enters (as a mediocre 2/1) with surge, your other creatures gain +1/+0 and haste for the turn, letting them immediately attack or tap with boosted power.
Beyond that, Bushwhacker bears not two but three useful subtypes, comboing well with the abundant goblin, warrior, and ally clans.
4. Containment Membrane
CMC: 3 (1 with surge)
As an aura enchantment, Membrane adheres to a single creature, preventing that troop from untapping during your opponent's untap step. It only costs a single blue mana with surge, making it an inexpensive way to indefinitely exhaust an opposing unit.
Until your opponent finds an enchantment removal or alternate untap method, they're essentially stuck with a useless combatant, helpfully stalling their biggest threat and buying you time to counterattack.
3. Goblin Freerunner
CMC: 4 (2 with surge)
Like Bushwhacker, Freerunner adeptly combos with the abundant goblin, warrior, and ally subtypes, and his surge price halves his cost. Thus, you'll attain an impressive 3/2 for just two mana, and whether surge was or wasn't utilized, Freerunner enjoys menace, making him unblockable unless your opponent guards with two or more creatures.
Powerful, inexpensive, useful subtypes, and menace—what more could you want?
2. Grip of the Roil
CMC: 3 (2 with surge)
Grip of the Roil functions similarly to Membrane, but its surge price costs two mana and it's a temporary effect, only preventing a creature from untapping during one upcoming untap step. So, why use it?
Well, unlike Membrane, Roil works at instant speed, letting you hinder a foe at any time, and it actually taps its victim upon usage, obstructing even refreshed units. Plus, Roil lets you draw a card, masterly stalling foes while replenishing your hand, and its status as an instant fills graveyards for the conditions of cards with "delirium," "threshold," or "spell mastery" effects.
1. Crush of Tentacles
CMC: 6 (5 with surge)
Admittedly, Crush of Tentacles can be tricky to afford, as even with surge, you still need five mana. Also, it only operates at sorcery speed. However, Tentacles bounces all nonland permanents back to their owner's hands, an excellent field wipe that doesn't target (bypassing hexproof, shroud, and protection from blue) and doesn't destroy (bypassing indestructible), so there's little foes can do to guard against it.
Additionally, if you paid the surge cost, you then create an enormous 8/8 blue octopus token, adeptly restocking your field with a behemoth who can soon strike at your opponent's weakened field. I use Tentacles in a variety of EDH decks, especially ones that focus on one-off spells (and thus have fewer permanents returned to hand); thankfully, it's surprisingly affordable, often costing less than two dollars!
How to Support Surge Cards in Magic
Remember, anything low-cost helps you meet surges without severely draining your resources, and instants are useful for attaining them on either turn, so pack in staples like "Lightning Bolt" and "Counterspell." Twin-headed giant games utilize your partner's plays to your advantage, as they'll also activate your surge discounts.
Still, the red/green Manamorphose remains the king of surge supports, as it replaces the two mana used to cast it with any two of your choice, handily drawing a card in the process. With it, your hand and overall mana amount don't change—but you've now cast a spell, reducing the price of your surges.
Surge remains an infrequent trait that I hope to see on future releases, but for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of surge spells, vote for your favorite card, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill