Last updated on September 18, 2023
Alrund's Epiphany | Illustration by Kieran Yanner
The concept of fate and destiny is one that finds its way into a lot of classic mythologies. My favorite exploration of those themes is in Norse culture. The idea that an event is destined to happen and the struggle to avoid or accept it plays into the narratives of a lot of my favorite heroes, which is why I was delighted to see these concepts implemented in Kaldheim with the foretell mechanic.
Foretell is an extremely elegant design that offers a lot of flexibility. The design space of hidden info is one that I enjoy seeing explored, where your format knowledge is rewarded by being able to predict what cards your opponent might have readied against you.
If you can’t tell, I love the foretell mechanic. It’s one of the main reasons why Kaldheim holds a special place among recent sets for me. But enough about me, let’s get into the meat of the mechanic!
Starnheim Unleashed | Illustration by Johannes Voss
A card that has foretell lets you pay two mana to exile it from your hand and then cast it later, usually at a reduced cost. It’s a weird mechanic in that it’s a special action, which means that your opponent doesn’t get priority to respond to it, even if there are timing restrictions on when you can use it.
Foretell is a mechanic that premiered in Kaldheim in the spring of 2021, where it was featured as the main set mechanic. It was in the design files for a while, where it assumed the playtest name “layaway” which makes sense since it’s a mechanic where you can pay a chunk of the cost upfront first.
Foretell has not yet been reprinted yet since it’s a recent mechanic that’s still in Standard. But it has been received well enough to see again in the future. The complexity of the mechanic means that it’ll probably be a while before we see it again, but there’s still plenty of design space for new cards with it.
What’s The Point of Foretell? Why Do It?
Shepherd of the Cosmos | Illustration by Johannes Voss
Foretell is often a cost-reducing mechanic, one that sometimes grants extra benefits to the caster for having foretold it. What makes foretell so flexible is the fact that at you can pay two mana to foretell a card any point during your turn. This lets you use mana extremely efficiently.
You can dump your mana into a foretell spell if you need to play a 1-mana removal spell on turn 3 but have nothing else going on. The mechanic itself doesn’t seem too swingy, but being able to smooth over mana means that you get to maximize the efficiency of your other spells.
You can use foretell at any point on your turn when you have priority. Functionally, you can foretell a card whenever you can cast an instant.
This lets you conceal info and wait until your end step if you need to keep mana up until the last possible moment. Cosmos Charger also lets you foretell cards on your opponents’ turns!
The biggest drawback to foretelling a card is that it doesn’t let you cast it the same turn you foretell it. Otherwise it would pretty much just be a cost-reducing mechanic.
Yes, you can use foretell abilities at instant speed as long as it’s your turn. While you’ll probably use it during one of your main phases most of the time, you can foretell cards on your upkeep, mid-combat, or on your end step as long as you have priority.
This is a very unusual ability in that it’s a special action, the same as unmorphing a creature or paying the cost to put a companion into your hand. Given that it doesn’t use the stack, your opponent doesn’t get priority as a result of you activating a foretell ability. This means that they can’t respond to you foretelling a card.
While your opponent can’t interact with you when you use foretell, it can interact with it the stack the same as if it were cast from your hand when you cast the card that was foretold. Foretell cards have no special qualities once they’re cast from exile.
Cards like Cosmos Charger and Ranar the Ever-Watchful let you reduce the costs to foretell a card. Any means you have to reduce the costs of spells you cast also applies to spells you cast after they’ve been foretold.
Baral, Chief of Compliance reduces the costs of instants and sorceries after they’ve been foretold, but it doesn’t reduce the foretell cost itself. This is true for Baral and just about any other card that reduces the cost of spells you cast.
You can definitely put a land into exile if it has a foretell ability, but you won’t be allowed to play it from that zone given that foretell specifies that you can “cast” the card. So far the only card that lets you do that is Ethereal Valkyrie, which would just let you put a land from your hand face down in exile.
As part of taking any special action with a concealed card you have to reveal it to your opponents after the game in over to prove that it has foretell. You don’t get to next-level your opponent by foretelling a bunch of lands.
This is a rule that’s existed since morph was first implemented, but the penalties for failing to do so have gotten a lot less harsh over the years in competitive settings. It was originally a game loss, but it’s just a warning today.
There are 41 cards in paper Magic with foretell, plus the Arena-exclusive Lupine Harbingers that brings it up to 42. And of course there are also a couple cards that give other cards foretell, like Dream Devourer.
Is Foretell Good?
Doomskar | Illustration by Piotr Dura
Cost-reducing mechanics are invariably powerful throughout Magic. Foretell is unique because it lets you reduce the cost of a card while also isolating it from interaction; putting it into exile prevents it from getting discarded.
And beyond just being powerful, I think foretell is an extremely clean design that makes for very interesting gameplay. Splitting the costs of cards like Sarulf's Packmate and Augury Raven make for a Limited environment where mana curves tend to be polarized, rewarding extreme slow value decks and also hyperaggressive strategies.
Foretell is not only good to play with, it’s interesting to play against and makes cards better without making them too good.
- Alrund's Epiphany
- Augury Raven
- Battle Mammoth
- Behold the Multiverse
- Cosmic Intervention
- Cosmos Charger
- Crush the Weak
- Delayed Blast Fireball
- Demon Bolt
- Depart the Realm
- Doomskar Oracle
- Doomskar Titan
- Dual Strike
- Dwarven Reinforcements
- Glorious Protector
- Gods' Hall Guardian
- Green Slime
- Haunting Voyage
- Iron Verdict
- Jarl of the Forsaken
- Kaya's Onslaught
- Lupine Harbingers
- Mammoth Growth
- Mystic Reflection
- Poison the Cup
- Return Upon the Tide
- Rise of the Dread Marn
- Sage of the Beyond
- Sarulf's Packmate
- Saw it Coming
- Scorn Effigy
- Shepherd of the Cosmos
- Skull Raid
- Spectral Deluge
- Starnheim Unleashed
- Stoic Farmer
- Struggle for Skemfar
- Tales of the Ancestors
- Tergrid's Shadow
- Vengeful Reaper
- Warhorn Blast
There were a lot of cards printed with foretell since it’s the set mechanic for Kaldheim, and a fair number of them were pushed for Constructed play. Here are the top ten cards that have gone beyond Limited!
#10. Tales of the Ancestors
Tales of the Ancestors’s effect is only situationally good, but it’s particularly exciting when you can use it with other foretell cards. Setting a bunch of your cards to cast later and then refilling your hand is a neat proposition against slower decks.
#9. Mystic Reflection
Mystic Reflection is the dream of all the brewers who want to play janky combos. This card is very cheap to cast, which means that it’s a perfect enabler for whatever silliness comes next. I remember seeing a number of players do degenerate things with this when combined with Tend the Pests.
#8. Sage of the Beyond
Sage of the Beyond is a lot slower than the next card at enabling foretell shenanigans, but there’s still a lot of room to do silly busted things with this effect. But being gated behind seven mana isn’t where you want your enable to be. You want a payoff at that cost.
#7. Cosmos Charger
A fairly cost-efficient flier, Cosmos Charger is the closest that foretell has to a lord. There aren’t too many payoffs for foretelling on your opponents’ turns but being able to conserve your mana to represent instant-speed interaction is always good.
#6. Behold the Multiverse
At face value Behold the Multiverse is pretty much Glimmer of Genius without foretell. Glimmer itself was eminently playable and you can split the cost up over multiple turns. Excellent in control mirrors when you want to hold up mana for your counterspell, this card was a premium common in Kaldheim Limited and is still played in Standard to this day.
#5. Saw it Coming
A Cancel that you can put on layaway, Saw it Coming is about as playable as any of these counterspell variants that always saw Standard play. Sinister Sabotage, Dissolve, Stoic Rebuttal, Dissipate, Forbid… the list goes on and on.
This card joins those as very playable in Standard, but not very much beyond that.
#4. Battle Mammoth
Battle Mammoth is a tremendously efficient beater that largely fell through the cracks of Standard because foretelling to get it into play on turn 4 was prohibitive given how important the first three turns are to developing mana and curving out underneath slower decks.
It still largely replaces itself in the face of removal, which is more that can be said for most things at this size and cost.
Immensely impressive, Doomskar card lets you cast a board wipe on turn 3 in a lot of newer formats that might need that. Wipes tend to cost five mana these days. Day of Judgment and Supreme Verdict were the last true board wipes that cost four mana since they give a lot of power to control decks against aggressive strategies.
Doomskar impresses even in those contexts.
#2. Starnheim Unleashed
Reminiscent of Entreat the Angels, Starnheim Unleashed makes angels at a worse rate when making multiples, but the worst case mode of making a 4-mana 4/4 flier is still pretty good. This card is pretty bananas but it failed to make its mark on Standard as much as similar cards did.
But Starnheim is still almost the best card with foretell to end games.
#1. Alrund’s Epiphany
Alrund's Epiphany completely ravaged Standard and was banned as a result. Time Warp effects have always been particularly powerful, and handing over two small evasive creatures also let Epiphany just end the game after casting them in multiples.
Of all the cards with foretell this is probably the least enjoyable integration of the mechanic onto a particular card. You keep your opponent guessing as to what you have and then usually kill them in one fell swoop if they can’t interact with you.
Decklist: Foretell in Standard
Ranar the Ever-Watchful | Illustration by Kieran Yanner
If you really love the foretell mechanic enough to want to build a deck against it, here’s something that goes all-in. This list features other cards from Kaldheim, which just so happens to be Standard-legal!
Behold the Multiverse | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve
Kaldheim was by far my favorite of all the sets I’ve drafted over the last couple years, and foretell is without a doubt what really elevated the set from good to all-time great. It’s so good because you have so many different lines available to you in terms of sequencing and making decisions. This gives you a lot of agency in your games, and being able to make more decisions leads to much more interesting gameplay. Guessing what card your opponent foretold is a really fun subgame, and the more you play formats the more you find yourself able to predict what’s up.
Foretell is a clean design that makes for an excellent centerpiece to an all-time excellent set. The lone blemish that the mechanic has is the existence of Alrund's Epiphany, and while that card maybe shouldn’t have foretell printed on it, it’s intrinsically powerful enough that the mechanic isn’t entirely to blame. I hope that in a couple years it returns to Standard with a new set so I can play with it again.
What are your thoughts on foretell? Do you love the mechanic and can’t wait for it to return, or think that no time is long enough to wait to see it again? Let me know in the comments below or on the official Draftsim Twitter.
Until next time, may your opponent never see it coming!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: