Last updated on April 21, 2024

Woodland Guidance - Illustration by Richard Sardinha

Woodland Guidance | Illustration by Richard Sardinha

Clash is a mechanic often remembered as a failure, if it’s remembered at all more than a dozen years after the last clash cards were printed. But Mark Rosewater’s elegy for the mechanic is more nuanced: “I consider it a noble but failed attempt.”

Is there a seed of this nobility that we can utilize, especially in Commander, with some of the cards printed since then? No spoilers, but yes! And fair warning, the good clash cards are almost all green.

Let’s get clashing!

How Does Clash Work?

Hoarder's Greed | Illustration by Pete Venters

Hoarder's Greed | Illustration by Pete Venters

Clash is a keyword action on 28 cards from Lorwyn and Morningtide that creates a minigame. The Oracle rules text on these cards reads: “(Each clashing player reveals the top card of their library, then puts that card on the top or bottom. A player wins if their card had a higher mana value.)”

The choice of where to put the revealed card is ordered by APNAP (Active player, non-active player) order, as described in the Comprehensive Rules. The player whose turn it is decides first, not the active player (if that person played an instant like Spring Cleaning on another player’s turn).

All clash cards then have text that is triggered if the controller of the spell wins the clash.

(ed.: To me, this just sounds like Magic doing War.)

The History of Clash in MTG

Clash started on 20 cards in Lorwyn in 2007 and added 8 more in Morningtide in 2008. And we haven’t seen it since….

What Happens if You Tie in a Clash?

In a tie, both players “lose” because all clash cards have a follow-up trigger that starts with, “If you win”. Theoretically, there could be language triggering off ties or losses, but that doesn’t exist (yet?).

Can You Clash with an Empty Library?

Yes! But why?? If a player involved in a clash minigame has an empty library, they can’t win. Any card revealed, including a land or an Ornithopter with 0 mana value, beats no card at all. If you choose to clash with an empty library, the best you can do is tie if you select an opponent who also has an empty library.

Does Clash Target an Opponent?

Clash doesn’t target an opponent. The language on clash cards is typically, “clash with an opponent.” That might sound like targeting in everyday language, but Magic rules are something else!

Gallery and List of Clash Cards

Best Clash Cards

As a mechanic, clash is pretty underpowered, even for Limited. But there are a few niche cards that can be useful synergy pieces, especially if you’re doing enough top-deck manipulation to be able to rig the minigame with any regularity. Think about scry or cards like Scroll Rack or Brainstorm.

Honorable mention to top-tier nightmare fuel art pieces in Pulling Teeth!

Gilt-Leaf Ambush

Gilt-Leaf Ambush and its instant Elf tokens are fine, even if this is a bit expensive for a dirt-cheap elves deck. There’s also some nonsense that can be done with a “tribal” card type.


It’s not Inkshield, but this is one of my favorite white Fogs. Winning the clash is great, but a Fog is a Fog, and they’re underrated.

Woodland Guidance

Do you remember how Wilderness Reclamation was an overpowered Standard deck for a while? Woodland Guidance is like that, but much worse. Still, if I can win the clash, I get a lot of burst mana in a typical green deck and a Regrowth for “free.” Gotta run actual Forests, though, so, ya know, only basics warriors need to sign up.

Spring Cleaning

Okay, so you have to win the clash. But if you do Spring Cleaning wipes all enchantments but yours. In the words of Mr. Scott in the Star Trek movie with the whales, “So, is that worth something to ye, laddie?”

Scattering Stroke

Would you pay 4 for Mana Drain? At 1 less mana than Spell Swindle, Scattering Stroke is Mana Drain’s effect if you can win the clash. In a world of scry and surveil, I think this could work. Leaving up 4 mana is no joke, but if that’s a thing your deck does, think about this card.

There is a cycle of clash cards that can maybe come back to your hand, and they’re mostly unplayable except this one.

Galadriel of Lothlórien

There are loads better ramp spells that drop the land onto the battlefield than this one. But if you’re doing the Galadriel of Lothlórien deck with not only scry payoffs but landfall payoffs, Recross the Paths can reliably get back to your hand. If you haven’t played a Galadriel deck yet, it empties your hand quickly, so this is a useful piece to avoid stalls.

Wrap Up

Pulling Teeth - Illustration by Jim Pavelec

Pulling Teeth | Illustration by Jim Pavelec

The last time I played my Galadriel deck, I knew what the top card of my deck was like 80% of the time. And with Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth and its scry support, it isn’t the only commander that can do that

A few of these clash effects can be kind of busted if you can win the clash, including the cycle of spells that bounce back to your hand if you win. Note that just because I know the top of my deck doesn’t mean I know the top of your deck, so it’s never a guarantee. But if I am playing some big green spells and I see one on the top, there’s definitely an Izzet player at the table I can pick on to clash with!

None of these cards are particularly strong, but I think clash is kind of fun, and I love winning with cards that cost me a quarter, if I can manage it! I’d love to see it again when we get back to Lorwyn, and I’d love it even more if they made cards that paid you off for losing a clash, as well. Untested design waters, let’s go! What could possibly go wrong?

Have any of you used clash cards for fun and profit in your janky EDH builds? Let us know in the comments or over on Discord!

Thanks for reading! I wonder if there’s an alternate universe where The Clash recorded “Lorwyn Calling”.

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