Last updated on November 28, 2023
Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth | Illustration by Jarel Threat
Created in Shadows Over Innistrad, investigate gave us the Clue token, the first in a long line of resource-based artifact tokens. And that set was somewhat of a mystery since the protagonists were investigating weird changes on Innistrad.
Today I'm investigating the mechanic to bring you the best cards with investigate, as well as answering some questions you may have. We’ll also see where the mechanic sees the most play and which cards Commander decks are interested in playing investigate cards.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
What Are Investigate Cards?
Tireless Tracker | Illustration by Eric Deschamps
What Are Clues in MTG?
Clues are artifact tokens with the following text: “, Sacrifice this artifact: Draw a card.” Flavor-wise, a clue means information, and information in MTG is usually tied to drawing cards.
The most interesting aspect of a Clue token is that it synergizes with lots of strategies: tokens, drawing cards, artifacts, sacrifice effects, etc.
#27. Confront the Unknown
A 1-mana combat trick that’ll give you a card has some playability, and the more Clues you have, the better it gets. The synergies have to be in place, though, but Confront the Unknown is a bad combat trick.
#26. Foul Play
#25. Confirm Suspicions
This is playable in the right EDH deck with Clue synergies. I remember it being played as a 1-of in Standard at the time.
#24. Magnifying Glass
A 3-mana mana rock that lets you investigate every turn by paying four mana is a good deal.
#23. Ongoing Investigation
#22. Bygone Bishop
Bygone Bishop basically draws you cards for playing small creatures, which is similar to a lot of white creatures like Mentor of the Meek. This card slots well into aggro strategies and white fliers/spirits strategies.
#21. Declaration in Stone
Declaration in Stone got lots of hype when it was released as a good removal/tempo play. But sorcery speed isn’t very desirable. A good thing is that it removes creature tokens cleanly, like if your opponents have loads of 1/1 Insects or Soldiers.
#20. Angelic Sleuth
#19. Elmar, Ulvenwald Informant
Although investigate isn’t Elmar, Ulvenwald Informant’s focus, Elmar is more of a storm commander. It even lets you untap a creature, which can provide mana for your next spells. Either way you’ll get a reward for casting two spells a turn, either by storming or by investigating.
#18. Ethereal Investigator
Investigating for each opponent is nice because it scales, being a good option for EDH. Besides, Ethereal Investigator fits in decks that draw lots of cards and in spirit tribal.
#17. Havengul Laboratory / Havengul Mystery
Double-faced cards that transform back and forth are weird, but here’s what happens: Havengul Laboratory investigates for four mana, which is on par with Magnifying Glass. If you sacrifice three or more Clues then you get Havengul Mystery, which reanimates a creature. It changes back to the Laboratory when you lose the reanimated creature.
Either way, getting some cards and reanimating something down the line is an interesting effect on a land. And there are cards like Tamiyo's Journal and Lonis, Cryptozoologist to crack multiple Clues a turn.
#16. Secrets of the Key
#15. Wave Sifter
A fixed Mulldrifter, Wavesifter has seen play in Modern decks thanks to the Clues it makes and cards like Glimpse of Tomorrow. This is one of the cases where making a token is better than straight card draw. Pauper decks also like this as an artifact maker for metalcraft/affinity purposes.
#14. Tamiyo's Journal
#13. Search the Premises
Search the Premises is interesting in the more defensive configuration of white decks and prison decks, especially in EDH. There are also lots of white cards that care about the number of artifacts and enchantments you have, so these numbers are being pumped even if you’re not drawing more cards.
#12. Sophina, Spearsage Deserter
Sophina, Spearsage Deserter will investigate a lot in Boros () attack-oriented decks. Just keep in mind that tokens won’t do the trick. Boros also has synergies with metalcraft/affinity, so that also helps.
#11. Wernog, Rider's Chaplain
A 1/2 for two that investigates once is already fine, but then in a multiplayer game you can make a tempting offer to everyone using Wernog, Rider's Chaplain. It's worth noting that those who don’t investigate lose a life, which is abusable in some scenarios.
#11. The Seventh Doctor
The Seventh Doctor is all about investigating and having artifacts in play. Odds are, you'll get a clue token half the time you attack with this card. That seems kind of bad, but when you realize that you can also cast some insane cards for free on the other hand, this card gets a whole lot better!
#10. Tivit, Seller of Secrets
A voting commander! For those who want interactive gameplay, you’ll get some Treasure or Clue tokens when someone vote because of Tivit, Seller of Secret’s trigger. That allied to a 6/6 flying ward body is reasonable.
You’re also incentivized to put other voting cards since you’ll get an additional vote.
#9. Thorough Investigation
White lacking card draw is basically a meme at this point, but Thorough Investigation is actually a good way to keep your hand full. It takes just one attack in a turn to investigate and usually draw an extra card a turn.
#8. Dennick, Pious Apprentice / Dennick, Pious Apparition
Dennick, Pious Apprentice is a two-faced card. The front side is a 2/3 with lifelink for , which is a good speed bump. The back side is a 3/2 with flying that makes your creatures investigate when they go to the graveyard.
This fits with a lot of stuff, including discard and mill. This flexibility makes Dennick playable in main decks and sideboards alike.
#7. Ulvenwald Mysteries
Ulvenwald Mysteries slots well into Selesnya () or green aristocrat strategies because you’ll investigate a lot. It’s like you get an extra card whenever a creature dies.
#6. Disorder in the Court
A mass blink and investigate, Disorder in the Court is interesting. You blink your ETB creatures, kill enemy tokens, reset creatures with counters or auras, all while triggering exile-matters effects and investigating.
#5. Hard Evidence
#4. Thraben Inspector
Keep in mind that Thraben Inspector can be blinked.
#3. Fateful Absence
The irony is that your opponent is the one to investigate, which is a considerable downside.
#2. Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth
As far as Dimir () commanders go, Eloise is a very popular one.
#1. Tireless Tracker
Tireless Tracker impacted a lot of formats, from Standard to Modern to EDH. Investigating each time a land enters the battlefield is huge, and playing that against an opponent that relies on removal is a big bonus.
Best Investigate Payoffs
Some cards will give you that extra benefit for creating those Clue tokens.
Erdwal Illuminator lets you investigate twice instead of once.
There are also, of course, mechanics that care about artifacts (like metalcraft, affinity, and improvise), like Clues since they’re artifact tokens.
Are Clue Tokens Good? Is Investigate?
We can evaluate a Clue token as a 2-mana draw a card. I think it’s like a mana sink ability. Creatures that have an ability like “X mana, draw a card” are usually good. Or cards that have the option to pay two mana more to draw a card, like a kicker.
It’s also worth noting that this can be used to bridge lots of themes since a Clue token made by the investigate mechanic is an artifact that’s sacrificed, like artifacts matter, sacrifice matter, and tokens matter. Since players like Clue tokens and investigate makes them, then yes, investigate is very good. It was a good mechanic in Shadows over Innistrad, and also in Modern Horizons 2.
Are Food and Clue Tokens Artifacts?
Do Clue Tokens Go to the Graveyard?
Yes and no. When Clue tokens are sacrificed, they're put into the graveyard, which means abilities like Disciple of the Vault and Marionette Master trigger. But there's another rule that says that a token only exists on the battlefield: “if it were to change zones, it ceases to exist.” So, it’s put into the graveyard, and then removed from the game due to state-based actions.
Can You Pithing Needle a Clue Token?
In the special rules regarding Pithing Needle, it’s stated that it only works with a card that has a name. You can't name a token unless that token has the same name as a card. So, no, you can’t use cards like Pithing Needle to prevent your opponents from cracking Clues and drawing cards.
How Do You Stop or Counter Clues?
There are a few ways to stop or counter Clues.
Yasharn, Implacable Earth shuts down abilities that require you to sacrifice a permanent.
Cards like Narset, Parter of the Veils slow your opponents since it restricts them to drawing one card per turn.
Magnifying Glass | Illustration by Dan Scott
Investigate can be considered as drawing a card, except it’s a more balanced way of doing this. It adds some synergies that can be explored, like for token and sacrifice decks. It’s safe to say that these artifact tokens are here to stay judging by the influx of Clue-, Treasure-, and Food-producing cards.
Thanks so much for reading. I hope to see you all next time!
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