Last updated on October 23, 2023
Boros Charm | Illustration by Zoltan Boros
One of the oldest designs in Magic to explicitly foreground this idea of a player choosing their own adventure with a card is Charms. With the return of Charms in Streets of New Capenna, this is a good time to rediscover the charm of Charms!
Izzet Charm (Izzet vs. Golgari) | Illustration by Zoltan Boros
Charms are modal instant spells that allow you to choose one of the three listed modes when you cast them (unlike commands, which allow you to choose more than one). First created for Mirage as single pipped spells in each color, the Charm cycles expanded over the years to incorporate guilds, shards, and other multicolor identities.
Charms offer flexibility, but that flexibility comes at a cost that’s almost always mana. These effects usually cost more than they would on a standalone card, or the mana symbols make it harder to cast, or the effect is more limited than on a standalone card.
There’s also the question of the combination of effects. For the best Charms you want all those options in a deck. For the worst, some of the options are so useless for a particular deck that those modes are usually ignored.
Which Charms are the best, and are any of these going to be the lucky charm for your deck?
#3. Hope Charm + Ivory Charm
Dawn Charm is bottom tier as far as white fogs go. There aren’t that many fogs in white so this may be worth packing for that alone. You can always use a Dawn Charm moment to laboriously explain the regeneration mechanic if that’s not enough. I hear the kids dig that.
You might want Piety Charm‘s first mode against a Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice that just tutored up a Timely Ward, but that’s too narrow. The second mode is a blank, so the question is if giving your team vigilance is worth it.
The answer is yes, especially for one mana. There are only a handful of instants that do this, and most cost three or four. This seems especially good for white aggro Commander decks.
Vision Charm hardly shows up in EDH mill decks, which is odd because Merfolk Secretkeeper is in quite a few. Who cares about the creature in a mill deck after you throw down the adventure spell? This Charm is nice if you're running Swampwalk or Islandwalk creatures, or just throwing down Dandân as a meme-y flex.
Phasing out an artifact seems rarely useful. But if you’re rocking Izzet () affinity this allows you to toss in that Furnace Dragon you bought for sideboards in 2004. Or save something from a Vandalblast.
Why isn’t the only instant spell that grants islandwalk in more EDH decks given infect, ninjutsu, and Scroll Thief effects? I don’t know about Piracy Charm‘s mono-blue discard option, but the removal option isn't useless, and removal is hard to come by in mono blue. Piracy Charm needs a fresh look.
Trickery Charm‘s second option is loopy unless you’re playing a Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist deck, in which case it's gold. This is solid for the instant speed Spire Owl ETB alone, not to mention the flying.
You also can use this as a Jump, but the flying can be cast on an opponent’s creature and alter the course of a significant combat between your neighbors once attackers are declared.
In a world where players have discovered the joys of Slip Out the Back, it’s ridiculous that Sapphire Charm doesn’t see more EDH play. This can’t save your creature from removal but it can blunt a huge swing.
Giving a creature flying is nice offensively or defensively. And casting this on an opponent’s end step is a fine way to cantrip. Making an opponent draw a card can be useful politically or if you’re playing something like Consecrated Sphinx. This is the cheapest you get that ability compared to, say, Oona's Grace.
A brutally good card if you’re mono blue or Azorius () with enough dual lands, Archmage's Charm shows up more in the Historic meta than in Modern where you can just pack Subtlety into your Yorion elementals pile.
#4. Midnight Charm + Misery Charm
I imagine that the graveyard hate was thought to be the worst of the three options when Ebony Charm was printed, but now it might be the most useful of the options?
Cute. Other cards let you choose similar effects more than once, like the broken Umezawa's Jitte or Life of Toshiro Umezawa, which was the nuts in Neon Dynasty Draft. But once like Umezawa's Charm offers probably isn’t enough.
The only instant spell that grants swampwalk should be in more EDH decks with infect, ninjitsu and Scroll Thief effects floating around. Weak removal and a discard option are a nice bonus for a 1-mana spell. Funeral Charm is looking to be resurrected.
Which is too bad, because it’s one of only eight Magic cards with “fever” in the name. It’s been a while since you could ask for more cowbell…
The Zada, Hedron Grinder deck wants Fury Charm for a goblin overrun, and the Jhoira of the Ghitu player absolutely needs this. But aside from those, a strictly better Shatter is not where the game is at anymore.
Of the 13 instants or sorceries that can make a creature unblockable for a turn, Hearth Charm is the only mono red one. This oddly doesn’t show up in many red Voltron builds like Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh or Feather, the Redeemed. Is it too old a card?
Also, you can buff your team! Also also, you can kill an artifact creature. Let’s goooooo!
For the Commander player who has yet to be convinced it’s okay to draw ramp spells on turn 15, I present for your consideration: Evolution Charm. This isn’t the ramp you want, but the Raise Dead effect makes you feel secure when sleeving it up and imagining desperate, dramatic topdecks.
Trample or a token for your off meta insect tribal deck? We can do that, but the regeneration option is even worse than usual. Vitality Charm is useful in tribal or changeling tribal decks as long as WotC keeps printing Maskwood Nexus effects.
There are lots of other 1-mana spells that grant trample or regenerate a creature, but no other spell that gives you the choice. Is that choice more valuable than the card draw of another trample enabler in Charge Through? No. Is it better than a kicker for lifelink with that trample in Vigorous Charge? Yes.
The enchantment destruction (“global” means non-auras) and classic green flier hate are both more useful than you’d think in a Commander game. Emerald Charm gets slotted into the 99 for its untap ability, useful in decks ranging from Alaundo the Seer to Codie, Vociferous Codex.
Meh. There’s a reason Darigaaz's Charm has only been reprinted once in 20 years. Most of this is overcosted by two mana, too big a tax to pay for options.
This Charm does not, in fact, charm.
Treva's Charm is too expensive for the low-impact options on the card. I can easily imagine this just rotting in my hand.
Crosis's Charm is for Bolas fanfolk only, I think. Every mode on this is decent and only overcosted by one, but tempo or removal that you can’t use on black creatures and don’t want to use on creatures with strong ETBs feels a little over the hill.
Someday there will be some kind of auras deck in Commander that breaks this. Today is not that day
If you’re playing Sultai () you want to get cards in your graveyard, and the baseline of Sultai Charm is that it does that. The sneaky wording of the second ability hides the fact that this is effectively the only Charm with four modes, not three.
It still sounds a lot to ask to pay three for any of these abilities.
The anti-Mind Flayer ability is a fun bonus to a card that's most often used in Gruul () aggro decks that usually alpha strike with the first ability. Aggro decks only have so much room for noncreatures, so I’m not sure that Gruul Charm makes the cut in 2022.
Trample and an instant token are nice enough, and that makes the removal easier to handle. Selesnya Charm can really handle a big Eldrazi for you, but you’d rather have the removal of other charms in response to an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite.
The Divination fail case seems a bit typical these days, and it works. The mana seems hard to cast for a bite spell or for an enchantment destroyer, so those you might only use those if you’re desperate.
I can’t see Brokers Charm having legs outside of Commander, where options are king.
Azorius Charm‘s third mode shines, but each one is a good sideboard resource against aggro matchups. The trouble is that this does a lot of nothing in a control mirror and that limits its utility.
This is a sad topdeck against a combo or a superfriends deck in Commander, but it’s a great response to a Voltron emergency.
I don’t think Jund Charm is that good, but I still kind of want to play it. Maybe that’s the theme for all these Charms? You can do a small creature board wipe or Tormod's Crypt a graveyard or drop two counters with this.
It’s not efficient enough for 60-card formats, but you could play it in a Commander deck with Jund () colors. Crush the Weak effects are useful but Limited, so being able to do something else with the card makes it more appealing. That’s especially true if my Jund deck is filled with chonky dragons instead of tokens.
Being able to do that at instant speed is a reasonably rare thing aside from creature effects like Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, so having this and Stampede in your Naya () tokens EDH deck is probably a good idea.
There are very few spells that make three tokens for three mana, so perhaps Rith's Charm is worth it for that alone? Then you can pop a Cabal Coffers as needed. This is the best of the Planeshift Charms, which isn’t saying an awful lot.
Simic Charm is in a lot more Simic () EDH decks than you might expect. Most of those are led by Commander-centric decks that like three modes that can all protect your Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait, Combine Chrysalis, or Simic Ascendancy.
Simic Charm may not be as relevant as it once was. Heck, it may be one of the only cards in your Simic deck that doesn’t draw you a card of some kind!
Put another way, it can be a supersized instant-speed Strategic Planning, but you might prefer it as the fail case to the Divination variants that often show up on 3-color Charms. I think I’m talking myself into this for my Kess, Dissident Mage deck.
When you really need another copy of Soul Shatter in your Jund control deck, Riveteers Charm is your huckleberry. The impulse draw you can play on an opponent’s end step is nice, and graveyard hate is a plus.
This value-centric combination makes Riveteers Charm more Jundy than Jund Charm. If that sounds good to you, go for it. If you hear Jund and think “awkward and clunky midrange pile,” then this is not your card.
Bant Charm was overpowering in Commander before they adjusted the “tuck rule” so that you can put your commander into the command zone instead of in the deck in response to Bant Charm and other similar effects.
That mode is still good removal for something in the indestructible Eldrazi range. The other two modes are fine, but overcosted enough that you might mostly focus on the 3-mana removal.
Take Jeskai Charm and the three guild charms in these colors. Slap in a Galvanic Iteration or two and you’ve got a janky burn deck you could play in Modern. Is it good? No way. Do I want to try it out? Absolutely!
From a Commander perspective, what's not to love about Jeskai Charm in Jeskai () colors? You’ve got two key abilities from Azorius Charm and Boros Charm. That awesome lifelink team pump can save you against a big attack or give you a win if you’re making a lot of tokens.
The mana should be doable if you’re choosing to play Jeskai colors in the first place.
Exile-based removal is ever more important especially in EDH. The counters are a bit expensive but often fit an Abzan structure, though this can also serve as an inefficient combat trick if you need it to.
If Charms are supposed to be flexible, this is the standard bearer.
You know there’s a Jund player at your LGS who still sleeves Golgari Charm up like 10 years haven’t passed. But this is the perfect card for Golgari Commander, whether it acts as a combo piece for a deck like Grismold, the Dreadsower or just as utility.
Killing all of an opponent’s tokens is nice. Regenerating all of yours is even better.
Naya Charm‘s last ability wins the game if you have enough creatures. Why are you playing Naya colors in Commander if you’re not playing a lot of creatures? That’s good, but this also has some removal.
The trippy part about this card is the Mine Excavation riff. It’s one the few cards in Magic that lets you return something from an opponent’s graveyard to their hand. You can return your own thing, but you can also yoink Parhelion II or Serra's Emissary or whatever back into the reanimator mage’s hand.
Even better, the political possibilities of this are endless and largely unexplored. What could you give an opponent from their graveyard on their upkeep that could turn the tide of the game?
Still used in Modern Esper () control and Stoneblade decks, the rate and options on Esper Charm are top notch.
The modes here are potentially very powerful. Obscura Charm can return a wide range of permanents from your graveyard, act as a weakened Hero's Downfall, or be counterspell in a pinch. These are all effects that you want.
This is just a bit too slow to show up in the Esper midrange Standard deck this summer, but this seems perfect for Commander.
Rakdos Charm‘s third ability can end a token player’s day, full stop. That’s enough for two mana.
I have lost to this Charm more than my fair share. Add graveyard hate and an artifact hit when you need one and this has utility outside of the tokens scenario.
I want all of those options in blue and red, and so do 20k other EDH players.
Boros Charm is in almost 90k EDH decks and is a key piece for burn stalwarts in Modern. Every mode of it pops. You feel sad for the modes you’re missing when you cast this card. It makes playing Boros () aggro or burn a lot easier at a strategic level.
The Temur Battle Rage mode feels like a lurking Embercleave in a prowess deck. Alternatively, you can just keep everything alive when the Supreme Verdict drops. Or you can simply dome someone for four, which adds up quickly in a deck with other burn spells.
Few charms are powerful enough to keep pace in 60-card formats, so their advantages come out more in Commander.
The best thing about these cards is that they can slot into your deck to serve multiple purposes. If you have the mana base, especially for the 2- and 3-color Charms, paying a bit more for removal that you could also run as a counterspell in a pinch seems like a good deal.
You can pack a few of these in your deck’s colors if you’re the kind of player who dreads losing a topdeck war in Commander. If nothing else you should have a better time overall because the fear of drawing the wrong thing in a tight spot is diminished.
Including a few hidden gems from the 90s, these are all pretty cheap cards except for Archmage's Charm. It’s pretty accessible to experiment and see if Charms are right for you.
I know! This is a thing!
Pick your favorite 5-color commander, pack in a bunch of Charms and a few potential wincons, and enjoy your wealth of many, many options. I can't vouch for the quality of these decks but you'll have some meme-y fun while losing.
If you’re tired of your OP Cromat or Ramos, Dragon Engine deck, swap out 50 great cards for a $40 pile of Charms to power it all down. Maybe swap out your polarizing commander for something truly awful like Atogatog if you want to avoid being the bad guy with the evil general.
Charms provide a nice set of options in these decks for Commander because it’s harder to get the right mix of effects from a Niv ETB in a Singleton 100-card format. Charms are a nice budget way to explore the Niv space. The card itself isn’t that expensive, but a lot of the cards you want in a Niv deck are.
There are lots of ways to skew the deck, from creature swarm to control, so a stack of Charms can allow you to figure out the rhythms of the deck before you invest more expensive and more specialized cards. Once you have the hang of it, power it up!
Emerald Charm (Visions) | Illustration by Greg Spalenka
I fell in love with Charms back in the Mirage block, where the profusion of choices just seemed like a different way to play Magic. I’ve found myself drawn to cards that offer a lot of choices as the years have gone on. Nowadays I still try to pack a few Charms in every EDH decks for old time’s sake (and for luck).
Do you have any favorite Charm spells? Are there any you’re looking forward to trying out? Let me know down below or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
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