Last updated on June 21, 2022
Buyback has a special place in my heart. When I first started cubing with some friends one of the cards I took was Capsize. It only took one round for me to understand the power of having unlimited access to a powerful effect.
In Magic you’ll find yourself mana-flooded a fair amount, and buyback gives you a way to sink that extra mana into spells that can bury your opponent. There are also other means of paying buyback besides just extra mana, so let’s delve into this mechanic and all it has to offer!
How Does Buyback Work?
Reiterate | Illustration by Dan Scott
Buyback is an optional alternate cost that you can pay when you cast a buyback spell to bring it back to your hand when it resolves instead of letting it go to the graveyard.
Buyback doesn’t care if you pay mana for the cost, only that you chose to pay it. For example, if you managed to make the buyback cost of Capsize zero, you could elect to pay the cost and the spell would return to your hand upon resolving even though you didn’t pay any resources.
The History of Buyback in MTG
Buyback debuted in Tempest in 1997. It later returned in Stronghold, Exodus, on Time Spiral’s timeshifted cards, Future Sight, Tempest Remastered, and Modern Horizons.
There are 40 cards in Magic with buyback. While it showed up for the entire Tempest block it hasn’t seen many printings of the original cards since 1997. It isn’t an effect we see often, though it does sometimes show up in Masters-style sets.
Is Buyback an Activated Ability?
Buyback isn’t an activated ability, it’s an optional additional cost you can pay as you’re casting a buyback spell.
How Does Buyback Affect a Spell’s Mana Cost?
Buyback doesn’t count toward a spell’s mana value or converted mana cost.
Can You Reduce Buyback Costs?
There are some ways to reduce buyback costs. Memory Crystal for example reduces all buyback costs by .
Does Baral Work with Buyback?
Yes, Baral, Chief of Compliance works with buyback.
Baral reduces the mana cost of spells. Buyback is an additional cost, and all costs are tallied up before applying cost reductions when casting a spell. Any cost reducers that affect mana also affect buyback costs that require mana.
What Happens if a Buyback Spell is Countered?
A countered buyback spell goes to the graveyard as normal, even if its cost was paid. Buyback only works if the spell resolves.
What if you Copy a Buyback Spell?
If you copy a paid buyback spell, the copy goes back to your hand where it immediately ceases to exist. Copies of spells can change zones but they’re removed from the game when checking state-based actions. Like tokens still going to the graveyard when they die, but there’s no point where you can interact with them before they disappear.
Does Buyback Work with Flashback?
Gallery and List of Buyback Cards
- Blast from the Past
- Brush with Death
- Change of Heart
- Constant Mists
- Corpse Dance
- Demonic Collusion
- Disturbed Burial
- Elvish Fury
- Evincar’s Justice
- Fanning the Flames
- Flowstone Flood
- Haze of Rage
- Imps’ Taunt
- Innocuous Insect
- Lab Rats
- Mind Games
- Mind Peel
- Mystic Speculation
- Pegasus Stampede
- Reaping the Rewards
- Recruit the Worthy
- Searing Touch
- Seething Anger
- Shattering Pulse
- Spell Burst
- Sprout Swarm
- Verdant Touch
- Walk the Aeons
- Whim of Volrath
- Whispers of the Muse
- Worthy Cause
Best Buyback cards
Capsize is one of the best cards at locking out opponents that can’t kill you. If your opponent can’t break through your defenses, you can start limiting their resources. It can be impossible to break out once you get a player under the Capsize lock.
Constant Mists can repeatedly lock opponents out from dealing combat damage. This is especially effective paired with cards like Crucible of Worlds to make sure you never run out of lands to sacrifice.
Walk the Aeons
Like Capsize, Forbid can lock an opponent out of casting spells. You can lock your opponent out of the game while allowing weak spells through to build up more resources for later copies, especially if you can draw multiple cards per turn.
Whispers of the Muse
Whispers of the Muse is one of the most powerful card draw spells of its era. Appearing in World Championship decklists and being able to draw cards for cheap early and later buy them back, Whispers was once a nearly unbeatable card draw engine.
Corpse Dance is a Cube staple that lets you return the top creature of your graveyard to the battlefield with haste. Paired with cards like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Griselbrand, this instant can shape the course of the game in a blink.
Decklist: 1998 World Championship Draw, Go
Whispers of the Muse | Illustration by Quinton Hoover
Walk the Aeons | Illustration by Jeremy Jarvis
Buyback is a solid mechanic that rewards getting deep enough into the game. Having the flexibility to use spells early if you need and lock out your opponents later can win games by itself.
I think the modality on buyback cards are fun, but they don’t cause overly interesting gameplay. While I don’t think any buyback cards are broken by today’s standards we probably won’t see any new additions to the mechanic in new sets. This mechanic sits at a solid place in Magic’s history and fills plenty of roles in Commander and Cube.
What do you think of buyback? Would you like to see it printed in a set? Let me know what your favorite card with buyback is down below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
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