Last updated on September 18, 2023
Dorothea, Vengeful Victim | Illustration by Marta Nael
Innistrad’s spooky gothic horror vibes not only make the setting visually appealing, they open up interesting design space. How do you make game mechanics that not only feel flavorful within the world but also work in the game itself?
Magic R&D always sets out to make new set mechanics that are interesting to play and (usually) playable in the competitive sphere. More importantly, the mechanics need to feel like they belong in the world of Innistrad. Disturb is one of the newest mechanics in the latest Innistrad sets, and it’s one of the most flavorful.
Let’s talk about the design behind disturb, shall we?
How Does Disturb Work?
Chaplain of Alms | Illustration by Anastasia Ovchinnikova
Creatures with disturb can be cast from the graveyard for their disturb cost instead of their mana cost to enter the battlefield transformed. The catch is that whenever a disturbed card is put into a graveyard from anywhere, it’s exiled instead.
Which Sets Have Disturb?
A Disturbing History
Disturb made its first appearance in September 2021’s Midnight Hunt. The creatures originally transformed into spirit versions of the original cards, often with upgraded abilities. Several disturb cards in Crimson Vow, Midnight Hunt‘s successor, transformed into auras, effectively haunting the creatures on the battlefield by attaching to them.
Disturb vs. Embalm/Eternalize vs. Flashback
It’s no secret that disturb shares a lot of similarities with some other mechanics. Amonkhet‘s embalm and eternalize are more focused on effects that enter or leave the battlefield, unlike disturb. I think flashback is a little more similar to disturb with its exile clause.
But disturb offers a slight difference to all three of these mechanics: embalm and eternalize exile the card and make a token of the creature while flashback and disturb exile the card regardless of how it resolves.
Can You Disturb as an Instant?
Because the mechanic is tied to creatures, you’re restricted to sorcery speed when using disturb. But you can still cast these abilities at instant speed with enough flash enablers. Standard really only offers Arlinn, the Pack's Hope as a way to cast creatures at instant speed, but it isn’t in the same colors as disturb so you’ll need to look into older formats to abuse this interaction.
What Is the Mana Value When You Pay a Disturb Cost?
According to 712.4b of the Comprehensive Rules:
Normally, a transforming double-faced spell has its front face up while on the stack and has only the characteristics of its front face. However, if an effect allows a player to cast a transforming double-faced card “transformed,” the resulting spell will have its back face up and have only the characteristics of its back face. Its mana value is calculated using the mana cost of its front face. A copy of a transforming double-faced spell with its back face up has mana value 0.WotC
Just like any other transforming cards, the mana value is whatever the card’s front face is. This only applies to transforming cards, not modal double-faced cards like Extus, Oriq Overlord / Awaken the Blood Avatar.
Can You Counter a Disturb Spell?
Just like flashback spells, you’re still casting disturb cards for an alternate cost. This means that your opponent is free to counter it. The card goes into exile rather than your graveyard if it does get countered.
What Happens if You Bounce a Disturbed Permanent?
Transformed cards from disturb only exile themselves if they return to the graveyard. That means that they don’t get exiled if they’re blinked or bounced. They go back to their owner’s hand instead. That opens up a lot more options for repeated effects against other keywords’ one-time abilities.
What if You Copy a Disturb Spell?
Just like any other copy effect, this is totally doable if you find a way to do it. The creature or aura still enters the battlefield just as it would before, but its mana value is considered to be 0.
Disturb Card List and Gallery
Innistrad: Midnight Hunt
- Baithook Angler / Hook-Haunt Drifter
- Beloved Beggar / Generous Soul
- Chaplain of Alms / Chapel Shieldgeist
- Covert Cutpurse / Covetous Geist
- Covetous Castaway / Ghostly Castigator
- Dennick, Pious Apprentice / Dennick, Pious Apparition
- Devoted Grafkeeper / Departed Soulkeeper
- Galedrifter / Waildrifter
- Lunarch Veteran / Luminous Phantom
- Malevolent Hermit / Benevolent Geist
- Mourning Patrol / Morning Apparition
- Overwhelmed Archivist / Archive Haunt
Innistrad: Crimson Vow
- Binding Geist / Spectral Binding
- Brine Comber / Brinebound Gift
- Distracting Geist / Clever Distraction
- Dorothea, Vengeful Victim / Dorothea's Retribution
- Drogskol Infantry / Drogskol Armaments
- Faithbound Judge / Sinner's Judgment
- Gutter Skulker / Gutter Shortcut
- Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr / Katilda's Rising Dawn
- Kindly Ancestor / Ancestor's Embrace
- Lantern Bearer / Lanterns' Lift
- Mirrorhall Mimic / Ghastly Mimicry
- Mischievous Catgeist / Catlike Curiosity
- Twinblade Geist / Twinblade Invocation
Azorius Delver/Disturb Deck
Brine Comber | Illustration by Olena Richards
I played against a deck similar to this on the ladder and I thought it was super interesting. This deck leverages its cheap mana value threats paired with tempo spells to keep the board clear while you fly overhead. Delver of Secrets is one of the best 1-drops in Magic’s history, and being able to pair that with Dorothea's Retribution is a very powerful move.
Let’s Give it a Rest
Mourning Patrol | Illustration by Greg Opalinski
Disturb is a neat mechanic. Giving creatures a flashback-like keyword isn’t anything new, but disturb offers a fresh take on it with double-faced cards over tokens. Will we see more of it? I honestly don’t know.
Wizards has tried so many graveyard mechanics similar to this, and each one has seen minimal play in the long run. Whether it’s because R&D is afraid of making a creature card that’s too powerful or if it’s likely to break the format if they push it too far, I’m not sure. I’d like to see it more but Wizards really needs to beef up the creatures that come along with it.
How do you feel about disturb? Is there something I missed? What’s your favorite creature flashback knockoff? Let me know in the comments, or yell at me over on our Discord.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch some spooky movies. Stay safe, and wash your hands!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: