Legion Loyalist | Illustration by Eric Deschamps
Engaging in combat is one of the most critical parts of Magic. Usually, the bigger creature is the most valuable one, and it often wins fights if the field is fair. Because of this, evasion abilities like flying or menace have been introduced to spice things up and keep games from stalling forever.
Other options to bypass blockers are to kill them or to use combat tricks to win fights, but what if I told you that there's another way? Yes, you can hit your opponent's life total without engaging in combat or worrying about what their blockers look like. How?
Falter effects. What are they, and how can you use them to your advantage? Hopefully my tips will halt your hesitation!
Concussive Bolt | Illustration by Johann Bodin
These effects were originally introduced as global ones with cards like Falter, which makes your opponents’ creatures unable to block. At first, this kind of effect was only restricted to creatures without flying, but it later started affecting all creatures or specific subsets.
I’m only looking at cards that affect the whole board and don't target creatures today, so cards like Mythos of Vadrok are excluded.
Falter effects aren’t well spread among colors outside of red. If you’re looking for this kind of effect in black, Dread Charge is the only one I could find that meets the Falter criteria I set out. There are other effects like Baleful Beholder’s second ability that can act as a decent mimic, but it's not the same according to the definition.
I love that Concussive Bolt exists, but as a Magic card, I think it's too much to consider playable. Its sin is that it's too pricey for what it does. A 3-mana card would have been better.
This is a fun card to play in Commander. Some would fool around and give 5 to a card just to see how the game develops from there to annoy the caster’s opponents. That’s assuming Art Appreciation sees play: even at its total value, it's not that appealing to run.
I like Awe for the Guilds more than other similar effects because it can be backbreaking against some dedicated decks.
Barrage of Boulders is perfect as a pseudo board wipe and a potential global falter effect. If you need one mode, it's good enough to run in some decks.
At some point, I thought about using Blow Your House Down as a sideboard card against wall decks in Pauper. The deck lost popularity, but it was a decent choice if the problem had persisted.
It feels like Bothersome Quasit doesn't belong on this list. The key here is that its first ability is static, so it affects all of your opponents’ goaded creatures.
Coronation of Chaos is a fine card to spread chaos on the battlefield. Your opponent can’t retaliate against you if you attack them for a bunch.Ember gale
This effect is going to appear lots here. Dealing one damage and causing a falter effect is very common in red.
If you don't have Threshold, this basically gives menace to your other creatures. If you do, it's a one-time Bedlam.
I like cards that give different options. Destructive Tampering is a perfect sideboard against artifact decks or if you’re looking to open breaches in your opponent's defenses.
This is the closest thing to Bedlam, but it's hard to tell if it's good or not because your opponent can choose their best creature. Of course, only one creature isn’t enough to block a whole army.
Flash of Defiance is an excellent sideboard against decks that primarily run blue or green creatures. On top of being cheap, it also has a cheap flashback casting cost.
I like MTG cards that have the same name as Pokémon moves. Geeking out aside, this is a funny card to play because it's straight hate against blue decks. It also affects non-blue ones by punishing your opponents if they block.
Raging River is hard to understand, but I think I’ve got it? When you attack an opponent, they get to split their non-fliers into two piles, Left and Right. It’s up to you to choose which pile can block each attacking creature.
There’s so much strategy at play: how many attackers should you declare? How does your opponent divide their blockers? Which pile do you assign to each attacker you have? The card doesn’t specify that the piles have to be even or anything, either….
This does what it's intended. Creatures can’t block while Bedlam is on the battlefield.
Hero of Oxid Ridge saw some narrow play when it was Standard legal, but it didn't have enough impact to stay around. Over the years, it's been a critical part of Vintage Cubes on MTGO for red decks.
Falter has the effect’s name, and it's the blueprint for similar cards. This one is cheap; the only drawback is that fliers can still block. Magmatic Chasm is just a shameless copy of Falter, and so is Seismic Stomp.
It's weird for a cheap creature to have a falter effect on it, but Legion Loyalist is the perfect choice against token-themed decks.
This is like the anti-Falter. Flying creatures can't block with this one.
Song of Serenity is the perfect sideboard card against enchantress decks because it prevents enchanted creatures from blocking and attacking.
Temur Charm doesn’t see play very commonly, but it has multiple modes. The falter sure is one of them.
Counter-themed commander decks are common, and Kulrath Knight is the perfect card to hate on them.
Void Winnower is somewhat expensive to play, but it limits a lot of what your opponents can do.
It may be somewhat intuitive, but the better payoffs for this kind of effect are creatures that significantly impact your opponents when they deal combat damage. This is true for effects that trigger when your opponent is dealt combat damage.
The first creature that comes to mind for falter payoffs is Master of Cruelties. It can reduce anyone's life points to one if it hits.
Another payoff for falter effects is Vraska, Golgari Queen’s ultimate. Any creature able to attack becomes a deadly finisher. As commander, you can even aim to finish all your opponents with the right card combination.
If you want to mill your opponents, Raven Guild Master is one of the best ways.
These are the cycle of swords that were originally printed in the first Mirrodin sets. Each of them gives protection from two colors and has combat damage effects attached. The most powerful are Sword of Body and Mind and Sword of Feast and Famine.
Card advantage is key to winning games, and falter effects and Coastal Piracy are like bread and butter.
Last but not least, infect is a mechanic that benefits greatly from hitting your opponents. They’re basically starting with half of their life in some formats.
Coastal Piracy | Illustration by Matthew D. Wilson
As you may have seen, falter effects are designed so that your opponents can't interact with them, so creatures that have combat damage effects on them rise in value.
The key to making the most out of these effects is the surprise factor. The more creatures you have, the better your chances are of winning.
What do you think? Did you like the list? Was there any card that I missed? Please let me know in the comments or over on the Draftsim Discord.
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