Last updated on May 12, 2022
Shigeki, Jukai Visionary | Illustration by Anna Podedworna
Flexibility is king, or so it’s been said since the Charms were released. Sometimes cards have two (or even four) modes and none of them are good enough alone, but the card is better for being flexible.
How many times have you had a 6-drop stuck in your hand and lost when all you wanted was a bounce spell to stay alive? Today is all about flexibility, because I’m going to take a look at the channel mechanic.
Do two “weaker” cards put together form a stronger card? Let’s see some rules on the mechanic and the best cards for your decks!
Boseiju, Who Endures | Illustration by Chris Ostrowski
Channel is an activated ability that only works when it’s in your hand. It’s an alternate mode to get a benefit from your card instead of casting it for its mana cost. The effect resolves after paying the mana cost of the channel ability and discarding the card.
Channel can be cast anytime you could cast an instant spell, and it adds flexibility to a card. Greater Tanuki can be cast as a 6/5 trample for or channeled for . In this case you fetch a land from your deck.
The first set that featured channel was Saviors of Kamigawa, and the second was the Champions of Kamigawa block in 2005. It originally appeared on only 12 cards. It was common back then to have a mechanic appear on a few cards, especially in third sets from a block.
Modern Horizons 2 brought the mechanic back for a few designs, and the mechanic finally came back in Neon Dynasty with most of the current channel cards. Channel is not evergreen, so it won’t be returning to a Constructed set too soon, but the channel effect is mimicked in very similar mechanics. In fact there’s a subset of mechanics that can be read as “this can be cast with another cost and produces a different effect,” like split cards, evoke, etc.
Is Channel an Instant Speed Ability?
Kami of Bamboo Groves | Illustration by Nicholas Gregory
Channel is an ability that can be activated at instant speed. But it’s usually sorcery speed if you cast the card as you would normally do.
You can discard a card and pay the cost in order to resolve the effect as an activated ability, but it isn’t considered a spell on the stack and it’s also not a triggered ability. It’s also important to note that some cards refer to activated abilities so channel will be affected.
Since the ability on channel isn’t a spell, it can’t be countered by normal counterspells like Counterspell or Cancel. But the effect still goes on the stack and can be responded to. And certain spells, like Stifle and Disallow, can counter channel since it’s an activated ability.
Any permanent that cares about a card being discarded, like Drake Haven or Containment Construct, will trigger the channel ability since a prerequisite is to pay the required mana and discard the card.
You can’t just activate the channel ability and discard a card if the ability requires a target. For example, the channel ability on Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire can only be activated if there’s a target, in this case the “attacking or blocking creature.” It also has to be a legal target, so it’s not a legal target if the creature has hexproof or shroud.
- Arashi, the Sky Asunder
- Bamboo Grove Archer
- Born to Drive
- Boseiju, Who Endures
- Careful Cultivation
- Colossal Skyturtle
- Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire
- Favor of Jukai
- Ghost-Lit Drifter
- Ghost-Lit Nourisher
- Ghost-Lit Raider
- Ghost-Lit Redeemer
- Ghost-Lit Stalker
- Ghost-Lit Warder
- Greater Tanuki
- Ironhoof Boar
- Jiwari, the Earth Aflame
- Jukai Preserver
- Kami of Bamboo Groves
- Mirrorshell Crab
- Mnemonic Sphere
- Moonsnare Prototype
- Otawara, Soaring City
- Reinforced Ronin
- Roaring Earth
- Saiba Trespassers
- Shigeki, Jukai Visionary
- Shinen of Fear’s Chill
- Shinen of Flight’s Wings
- Shinen of Fury’s Fire
- Shinen of Life’s Roar
- Shinen of Stars’ Light
- Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance
- Sunblade Samurai
- Takenuma, Abandoned Mire
- Touch the Spirit Realm
- Twinshot Sniper
Mirrorshell Crab has made some waves in Pauper. 5/7 for seven with ward 3 is very good for a common, but it really shines in control decks thanks to its quasi-Mana Leak channel ability. It’s also a soft counterspell that’s hard to counter since it’s an activated ability, which is relevant in a counterspell war.
Reinforced Ronin is seeing play in Standard red aggressive and sacrifice decks. An artifact creature that’s already a 2/2 haste is a good base, but it also returns to the hand every turn, which is bad. It’s usually attacking uncontested two to three times and then is sacrificed to Oni-Cult Anvil or cycled with the channel ability.
Shigeki, Jukai Visionary means business. Shigeki currently sees play in decks in Standard, all because of its channel ability. You can discard it and recover X cards for . They can’t be legendary so you can’t return Shigeki itself or planeswalkers like Lolth, Spider Queen or Sorin the Mirthless.
All five cards in this land cycle are playable, at least as a one-of. Takenuma, Abandoned Mire, the black card for the cycle, is recursion, which grindy midrange and control decks are usually in the market for.
I ranked the this the “worst” of the lands because it doesn’t do anything by itself. It requires you to be a graveyard deck or already have a target in the graveyard. Yes, it mills three to help, but it’s possible to be a blank and not hit anything.
The blue land in the channel lands cycle is a bounce effect, which is good to have if you’re flooded and can use the extra mana. The wording on Otawara, Soaring City works on manlands because this effect usually specifies nonland permanents.
The white land in the channel lands cycle is four damage to a creature provided that it’s in combat. Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire is reasonably costed, while most white common removal spells cost this or more.
The red land in the channel lands cycle feels at home in a mono-red or tokens deck. Producing two creatures with haste is very similar to doing two damage, which is an effect these decks are looking for. Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance can even be used on defense as flash creatures.
The green land in the channel lands cycle is the most hyped one. Boseiju, Who Endures brought the Magic world down when it was spoiled, and players were talking about it non-stop.
Boseiju trades a card from your opponent that’s usually hard to remove like nonbasics, enchantments, or artifacts for a basic land for the low cost of just . It even has synergies with cards that recur lands like Wrenn and Six and Life from the Loam. Having the option to include this narrow removal effect on a land that has almost no downside is important in all formats, especially eternal formats.
Brilliant Restoration | Illustration by Wylie Beckert
Barkchannel Pathway x2
Boseiju, Who Endures
Branchloft Pathway x4
Cave of the Frost Dragon
Deserted Beach x3
Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire
Hengegate Pathway x4
Otawara, Soaring City
Overgrown Farmland x3
The deck I want to showcase today is a Standard build. Its key card is Brilliant Restoration, which returns all artifacts and enchantments from the graveyard to the battlefield. The thing is, cards that you want to discard via channel are enchantment creatures or artifacts.
The game plan is to control the board while searching for Brilliant Restoration and discarding your channel cards, sweeping the board, and looting through the deck. The result is this Bant () control channel deck. This list uses a lot of draft chaff, so all you MTG Arena users will save on some rare wildcards.
There are also some cool interactions between Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset and artifacts, Esika’s Chariot and Wrenn and Seven, and Tamiyo exiling Esika’s Chariot to make a token that’s a copy of Chariot.
Mirrorshell Crab | Illustration by Cristi Balanescu
Channel is an awesome Limited mechanic, and it can be interesting for Standard too. Every iteration of channel was more focused on the Limited environment than Constructed, and that’s reflected on the power level of the cards. I don’t know if we’re going to see channel reprinted again as it is, but a similar and flexible mechanic is going to follow it for sure.
What’s your favorite play involving channel cards? Do you agree with my ranking of the best channel cards? Let me know in the comments below or join the discussion in the Draftsim Discord.
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