Last updated on September 29, 2023
Progenitor Mimic | Illustration by Daarken
Magic is a game with almost 30 years on its back, and numerous abilities and effects have been introduced since its release. One of them is card copying, which is peculiar as it behaves very differently between permanents and spells.
Today I’m going to review a bunch of cards that copy other cards and uncover which ones are the best. Intrigued? Let’s find out what those are!
What Is a Copy in MTG?
Rite of Replication | Illustration by Matt Cavotta
In simple terms, you get an extra “copy” of a card or an ability depending on what the copy card suggests. There are four common ways copying something works. In most cases, the copy has the same qualities as the original.
Copying a Spell
The way the copy cards are worded is usually something like “copy target instant or sorcery” to avoid confusion. This is very common on storm cards. As I’ve already mentioned, copies have the same qualities as the printed card unless told otherwise, like with Fork.
Once a spell is copied, it goes to the stack until it gets resolved.
Copying a Permanent
Copying a permanent is much more straightforward since you don’t add anything else to the stack outside the copy spell. It usually resolves when the original spell does.
Copying an Ability
Copying a Card
With the MTG Arena mechanic “conjure,” you get an exact copy of a card from a player’s library. The term is “duplicate,” but it’s also safe to refer to it as an actual copy of a card.
How Does Copying a Spell Work?
This depends on what’s written on the card. For example, some copy spells may become a copy of the actual card, some will create a token of a permanent or a copy of a spell, and as we’ve seen, some copy effects add abilities that the original card didn’t have.
There are also some situations that you may need to take into account. For example, if you copy a double-faced card with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, the copy will only get the attributes of the face of the card you copied. If there’s a scenario where this copied card should flip, it won’t be able to since the reverse side doesn’t exist.
When looking at cards like Mirage Mirror, you have to assume you can copy cards that are already on the battlefield and not on the stack. On the other hand, cards like Double Major are worded as “copy target spell,” and in that case it means cards that are already on the stack, not on the battlefield or anywhere else.
Best White Copying Cards
#5. Empyrial Storm
Empyrial Storm is a part of a cycle released in Commander 2018. The white one is particularly significant for commanders like Isamaru, Hound of Konda that are cheap and can be cast multiple times throughout a game.
#4. Wedding Ring
Wedding Ring isn’t your regular “copy” effect since you give a copy of this card to your opponents. But it rewards you both and your opponent won’t be unhappy to get it.
#2. Sevinne’s Reclamation
The value from Sevinne's Reclamation comes when it’s cast from the graveyard since you get an extra copy of it.
#1. Show of Confidence
Show of Confidence has recently been used as a part of a combo along with Goldspan Dragon to generate insane amounts of mana. Unfortunately white doesn’t have great storm cards, so this is the closest thing we have.
Best Blue Copying Cards
#5. Copy Artifact
#4. Mythos of Illuna
I really like Mythos of Illuna because it copies a permanent instead of a creature, and getting the best cards on your opponents is just evil.
#3. Phantasmal Image
#2. Phyrexian Metamorph
The cool part about Phyrexian Metamorph is that it gives you the flexibility of the casting cost and the type of permanent you want to copy. And there are a lot of good artifacts in Commander worth copying.
#1. Rite of Replication
Best Black Copying Cards
#5. Dreadfeast Demon
#4. Nightmare Shepherd
The trick to Nightmare Shepherd is to sacrifice your creatures to get them back as 1/1s. This may not sound great at first, but you can end up with a massive army in seconds if you pair it with ETB effects. Especially the ones that create tokens.
#3. Pack Rat
These little rats were win conditions on their own in their prime. You just need one and open mana to start wreaking havoc on your opponents. Of course, Commander has better tools to deal with it, but you’d never want to leave Pack Rat unchecked.
#2. Plumb the Forbidden
I like Plumb the Forbidden paired with cheap sacrifice fodder and small tokens, because one life is almost nothing compared to the number of cards you can end up drawing from it. The best-case scenario is to sacrifice Pest tokens so you don’t lose any life.
#1. Malicious Affliction
Finally, Malicious Affliction gives us a solid removal spell can destroy two creatures for just two mana.
Best Red Copying Cards
#5. Double Vision
Double Vision has been a staple of red copy cards since its introduction. If left unchecked you can end up copying mighty spells that will likely win you the game in a matter of seconds. It’s disgusting to pair it with “take a turn” ones
#4. Feldon of the Third Path
#3. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
#2. Splinter Twin
#1. Zada, Hedron Grinder
Along with blue, red has some of the best copy effects. This is shown pretty well on cards like Zada, Hedron Grinder (a great commander, by the way). You can quickly draw your whole deck if you pair this with a small army of tokens and Ancestral Anger.
Best Green Copying Cards
Spawnwrithe can be very annoying to deal with for your opponents if their decks are slow or you manage to grow it. It won’t steal games for you, but it’s surprisingly good in most cases.
#4. Scute Swarm
Bugs are annoying because they reproduce fast, and Scute Swarm is no exception. The more lands you play, the bigger your army will be.
#3. Second Harvest
Second Harvest is excellent in a token deck. Notice that it doesn’t specify creature tokens, just tokens in general.
#2. Dual Nature
Dual Nature can be a bit expensive and punish you if you don’t play tons of creatures. But it can be a finisher or an enabler for huge turns in the right deck.
#1. Esika’s Chariot
Copying Cat tokens is excellent and the most intuitive thing you could be doing with Esika's Chariot. But you can copy any other token, meaning you can start copying some really big tokens if you manage to get them in play.
Best Multicolored Copying Cards
#5. Fractured Identity
#4. Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
Casualty cards have been warmly welcomed by the community with Streets of New Capenna, and the best one is without a doubt Ob Nixilis, the Adversary. This planeswalker can be very punishing and hard to deal with for controlling decks.
#3. Rhys, the Redeemed
Another all-star commander. On top of using Rhys the Redeemed as a commander, you can also build your deck around it and double your army in a single turn, every turn.
#2. Riku of Two Reflections
Riku of Two Reflections has to be my favorite copy commander. It can create copies of anything for just two mana. Its stats make it a bit fragile, but you can get sick turns that can lead you to win games in a blink of an eye if you manage to protect it.
#1. Progenitor Mimic
Last but not least we have the best of the clone effects, in my opinion. Progenitor Mimic not only becomes a copy of the best creature on the battlefield, it can also start making more copies of it throughout the game.
Best Colorless Copying Cards
#5. Isochron Scepter
#4. Sculpting Steel
#3. Thespian’s Stage
Thespian's Stage is one of the few cards that can copy other lands, and the trick with this one is that it doesn’t trigger any ETB effects. This means it can be used to cheat combos, usually involving Dark Depths.
#1. Rings of Brighthearth
But the reason why the Rings are ranked as the best is thanks to their potential to go infinite with other cards.
Best Copy Payoffs
Some cards directly benefit from every copy you get. But it’s essential to know that the most relevant keyword that gets the most of copied spells is magecraft because it counts spells and copies, which makes them if you manage to get multiple spell copies.
With that in mind, here are the top five payoffs for copying things.
#5. Witherbloom Apprentice
#4. Silverquill Apprentice
If you’re looking for an aggressive way to use your copy spells, Silverquill Apprentice is perfect for turning a small creature into a huge threat.
#3. Sedgemoor Witch
#2. Professor Onyx
Professor Onyx is great at draining your opponents with its static ability. Liliana becomes a terrifying card to play against and a win condition on its own if you add up all its other abilities on top of that.
#1. Storm-Kiln Artist
If you plan to copy multiple spells, you’ll need mana. Luckily, Storm-Kiln Artist will provide you with ridiculous amounts of Treasures the more copies and spells you cast. I see it in a storm deck that abuses it along with Ground Rift and other storm cards to keep the momentum going.
Do Spell Copies Resolve First?
Yes, the copies themselves go on the stack above the spell that copied them. For example, in the case of Grapeshot, the original spell goes into the stack, then the “stormed” copies come after. At that point none of the copies will go into the stack until storm’s triggered ability resolves, which means you can counter the ability with other spells like Stifle.
Does Copy Count as Cast? Like for Rhystic Study?
The short answer is no. Copies go to the stack differently since another spell or ability put them there, and “cast” usually refers to spells being played from zones like the hand, exile, or the graveyard.
Do Copied Spells Trigger Prowess?
No, prowess triggers whenever you cast a noncreature spell, and copies aren’t cast. This is one of the main reasons why other abilities like magecraft exist, because they benefit from copies as well as cast spells.
Can You Counter a Copy of a Spell?
Yes, you can counter a copy of a spell. But it’s better to counter the original depending on the scenario. For example, if your opponent casts an instant and holds priority to copy it with cards like Lutri, the Spellchaser, you can counter the spell that’s being copied, and the copy effect won’t go off.
Do Copied Spells Have a CMC?
Yes, copied cards retain their target’s mana value/CMC unless stated otherwise.
Where Are Copied Spells Cast from?
Copied spells will jump onto the stack, so they’re not cast from the hand, library, nor graveyard. In fact, they’re not cast at all.
Do Copies Have Summoning Sickness?
What Happens if you Copy a Creature Spell?
If the creature is a “spell,” meaning it’s on the stack, yours will go on the stack above the original and will resolve first. If it’s copying a permanent already on the battlefield, it just enters as a copy of it like a Clone.
Is a Copy a Token?
Unless the copy spell specifies that you’re creating a token, then a copy isn’t a token.
Cards like Clone enter as an actual card with identical abilities to the copied one. Likewise, cards like Double Major specify that a “token” is being created, and the copy of the permanent will enter the battlefield as a token.
Do Copied Spells Count for Storm?
The short answer is no, because none of these copies on the stack were cast. Storm specifies the “cast” keyword to check and create more copies of a spell.
Can a Copy Spell Copy Itself?
No, a copy spell can’t target (and therefore copy) itself.
Can a Copied Counterspell Target Itself?
No, a copied counterspell can’t target itself.
Splinter Twin | Illustration by Goran Josic
As you may have seen already, “copy” is an excellent effect that’s been controversial and the subject of discussion with other abilities like storm. Hopefully you now know a little more about the rulings around it and have a better idea of how to better exploit the potential of copy spells.
What do you think? Were there any card I missed? Which is your favorite copy spell? Please let me know in the comments or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
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