Last updated on February 1, 2023
Voracious Typhon | Illustration by Yongjae Choi
Even though we never got a proper story for Theros: Beyond Death, it’s safe to assume that the set was about Elspeth escaping from Theros’ underworld. And we got a new mechanic to go with this theme: escape.
Escape is featured on a lot of the cards that are still played from that set, making appearances in popular aristocrat and Phoenix decks. It also seems like we haven’t seen the last of escape cards, since two newer cards with the mechanic were printed in Streets of New Capenna Commander and Commander Legends: Battle For Baldur’s Gate.
While the pool of cards featuring escape is much smaller than that of similar mechanics like flashback, there are still some pretty powerful cards here you should consider for your next deck. Let’s dive right in!
What Are Escape Cards in Magic?
Sleep of the Dead | Illustration by Käri Christensen
Escape lets you recast cards from your graveyard for a specific mana cost on top of exiling the specified number of cards from your graveyard. Sometimes escape costs are cheaper than the original mana value, other times it’s the same or higher. Likewise, the number of extra cards an escape card requires you to exile changes from card to card.
Similar to the retrace mechanic, cards with escape can be cast as long as they remain in the graveyard and you can afford the cost. This gives you more options of what to cast besides just what you’re drawing and also helps cards that are important to your strategy to stick around.
These cards thrive best in decks that load up their graveyards since you’ll need cards to exile so that you can cast them. Decks with looting effects, sacrifice themes, or any self-mill like dredge can make especially good use of these cards.
Best White Escape Cards
#2. Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis
This version of Elspeth is similar to the War of the Spark planeswalkers like Jiang Yanggu. They’re designed to just stick around for a little bit. While Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis has multiple activated abilities, the only way to get full use out of this card is to drain it of loyalty and let it die.
While the individual effects on Sun’s Nemesis are good, I think there are just too many other useful planeswalkers at the same or similar mana value for this card to stand out. This problem gets worse when you’re forced to cast it for its escape cost, because 6-mana planeswalkers are usually much more powerful.
#1. Sentinel’s Eyes
Sentinel's Eyes is a very good card for enchantment decks that seek to buff a single creature. The current Azorius auras deck makes good use of this card paired with Kor Spiritdancer, since this card now gives +3/+3, vigilance, and draws you a card for one mana.
Escape adds an even bigger benefit to Sentinel's Eyes. You can cast it from the graveyard if the creature it’s attached to dies. Giving your creature vigilance also helps you keep up a pretty big blocker, and your opponents will struggle to get around you while you continue to damage them if it’s buffed with something like All That Glitters.
Best Blue Escape Cards
#4. Glimpse of Freedom
Two mana to draw a card is already underwhelming as far as blue card draw goes. Asking you to pay three mana and exile five cards from your graveyard makes Glimpse of Freedom even worse value.
While it may be situationally good if you really just need to draw another card, this card only has a place in Limited formats.
#3. Sleep of the Dead
Sleep of the Dead is pretty cheap and while packing good value at one mana. Letting you tap down a blocker or stopping your opponent from attacking or using a tap ability can make a big difference in some games.
Having the ability to repeat the effect when needed can be really helpful. It can also keep a specific threat locked down for a while if you’re filling your graveyard enough.
#2. Sweet Oblivion
Sweet Oblivion isn’t the best option you have as a mill card to use against your opponents. Maddening Cacophony can mill twice as many cards for the same cost, and it has the option to do more. Where this card gets interesting is if you’re looking to mill yourself.
Whether you’re playing a dredge deck, looking to activate cards like Grolnok, the Omnivore, or trying to win with a Laboratory Maniac-type effect, there are a lot of reasons to mill yourself. This spell is more easily repeatable if you’re targeting yourself since it mills the same number of cards needed to pay for its escape cost.
#1. Skyway Robber
Cards you exile to pay escape costs are cards you usually aren’t getting back. Skyway Robber flips the script by giving you a chance to recast them for free.
Since it has flying you have a decent chance to get at least one activation of this ability. And you can always escape again if it’s removed, which just increases the card pool you have to pick from.
Best Black Escape Cards
#8. Underworld Charger
A 3/3 for three mana that can’t block is actually worse than a vanilla creature. The escape mechanic doesn’t do too much for Underworld Charger since you’ll get a 5/5 for five that can’t block.
Cards like Return Upon the Tide can get any creature from your graveyard back to the battlefield and has other benefits for the same amount of mana as this card’s escape cost. While I recognize that escape gives cards better staying power, it isn’t worth it when the card that’s staying isn’t very useful.
#7. Tizerus Charger
Tizerus Charger is slightly better since it can block and gains flying when it escapes, but for the most part it has the same problems as Underworld Charger. You’re depriving yourself of a lot of potential resources from your graveyard since you need to exile five cards to cast this for its escape cost.
I’d be surprised to see this card get any Constructed play, but I could see it being an okay option for Limited.
#6. Mogis’s Favor
You’re unlikely to see Mogis's Favor in a deck outside of a Limited environment. It has some versatility, allowing you to buff one of your creatures or to finish off an opponent’s creature.
That being said, it isn’t powerful enough to see Constructed play. There’s better removal in the form of Bloodchief's Thirst, and better means of buffing creatures.
#5. Pharika’s Spawn
Pharika's Spawn is a pretty unremarkable creature card when it enters the battlefield for the first time. Though casting it with escape gives you some useful removal which can also trigger sacrifice effects like that of Tergrid, God of Fright.
While there are better removal options for six mana, this one does come with a creature attached, and the fact that it’s repeatable makes it that much better. I can imagine Pharika's Spawn being used to great effect in slower formats like Commander since you only need to exile three cards.
#4. Fruit of Tizerus
There are certain cards, like Savage Gorger, that have abilities that trigger from your opponent’s loss of life. Having Fruit of Tizerus can be a good way to make sure that you’re taking advantage of those triggers, especially because it’s sticking around in the graveyard.
You can also use it for abilities like Greven, Predator Captain’s since you can target yourself.
#3. Cling to Dust
Exiling a card from a graveyard at instant speed can be a great way to shut down some potential threats or combos. You can exile your opponent’s Cauldron Familiar as it attempts to re-enter the battlefield, or respond to a Mizzix's Mastery by exiling the card it’s targeting. You can also repeat Cling to Dust when needed thanks to its escape ability, giving you multiple chances to stop big moves.
This doesn’t water down a deck too badly since it has the ability to draw you a card for only one mana, but you might still want to consider this as more of a sideboard card since it’s only useful against certain decks.
#2. From the Catacombs
With two or more graveyards to choose from, From the Catacombs can easily grab you a creature worth more than the five mana you’ll pay for it. And you can do so multiple times throughout a game thanks to escape, giving you lots of options of what to take.
While it might be a bummer to have to exile your own creature after it leaves the battlefield, this also makes the card better when you target an opponent’s creature. Now you don’t have to worry about that opponent simply bouncing it back to their hand! Because if they do they’ll be exiling their own card instead.
#1. Woe Strider
Even without escape, Woe Strider offers some pretty powerful abilities for any aristocrat deck. Cards that allow you to sacrifice creatures for no extra cost can be a great tool, and this card also creates some tokens for you to sacrifice right away if need be. Not only is this a free sacrifice outlet, it also allows you to scry each time you use its ability, allowing you more control over your draws.
In decks built to sacrifice creatures and use the graveyard as a resource, Woe Strider’s escape cost will be easy to afford.
Best Red Escape Cards
#6. Satyr’s Cunning
I remember having some success with Satyr's Cunning during Theros: Beyond Death Drafts, but it isn’t all that useful outside of Limited. This card would be a bit more helpful in providing you some defense if the Satyr tokens it created could block, but it still isn’t really worth it when mono red has great 1-mana creatures like Fervent Champion.
The escape ability doesn’t add too much to this card since three mana for a 1/1 that can’t block isn’t a good use of your resources. And the Satyr can’t even attack until the following turn since this can only be cast at sorcery speed.
#5. Underworld Rage-Hound
Underworld Rage-Hound is a decent threat for its low initial mana cost. It probably won’t stick around too long thanks to its low toughness, but it can do some damage or take out a blocker before it goes.
You can cast it back with its escape cost, but at four mana it becomes less worth it than it was at two. Even with the extra +1/+1 counter.
#4. Escape Velocity
Maybe you know you’re about to turn your Dark Depths into Marit Lage and you want to do 20 damage before the token gets removed, or maybe you want to instantly cash in on a triggered ability like Ancient Copper Dragon that requires you to attack. There are a lot of times being able to give a creature haste for only one or two mana can be very useful.
Escape Velocity also has one of the smallest requirements for exiling other cards to use its escape ability, making it easier to cast over and over.
#3. Phoenix of Ash
A 2/2 flying creature with haste is a pretty good value for three mana. And with a relatively cheap escape cost, Phoenix of Ash can stick around and continue to chip away at your opponents’ life. Its activated ability is also a good way to make it a bigger threat. Especially if you have mana to spare.
While outclassed by the more popular Arclight Phoenix, Phoenix of Ash is still a pretty decent card for an aggro deck. It’s also one of the better examples of an escape card.
#2. Underworld Breach
Underworld Breach allows you to make your already-powerful cards that much better by granting them escape for a turn. This card is reminiscent of powerhouse cards like Yawgmoth's Will, and while needing to exile cards makes Underworld Breach more prohibitive, it can still be a good tool for storm decks looking to recast some cheap spells.
#1. Ox of Agonas
There’s a lot of great value in Ox of Agonas, which is why it found a home in Phoenix decks across multiple formats. This card is an easy choice to discard for looting or connive effects with a low mana cost for its escape ability. Getting your graveyard to eight cards isn’t too difficult in the right decks, and Ox of Agonas even adds cards to your graveyard when it enters the battlefield.
Choosing when to cast this card can also give you some card advantage since you increase your hand size if you have less than three cards when it enters. With decent power and toughness, you can pose a decent threat with Ox of Agonas. And even if it dies it has a lot to offer from the graveyard.
Best Green Escape Cards
#3. Loathsome Chimera
While Loathsome Chimera has pretty decent power and toughness for three mana, casting it for its escape cost makes it a lot less worth the price. Vanilla creatures usually aren’t very useful so you should skip this one unless you have a specific way to benefit from escape cards.
#2. Voracious Typhon
Voracious Typhon is basically the same case as Loathsome Chimera. It’s a slightly better creature on first casting, but equally as bad for its escape cost. There are a lot of powerful green creatures for the same mana value that have much more to offer.
#1. Chainweb Aracnir
Good power and toughness combined with reach and its ability make Chainweb Aracnir a solid card. Mono-green decks in need of answers to fliers benefit a lot from a card like this, so this isn’t a bad one to have in a sideboard. This is also a good Limited pick for the same reasons.
Best Multicolor Escape Cards
#3. Polukranos, Unchained
Polukranos, Unchained enters with a lot of power for a 4-mana creature. While damage dealt to it reduces the number of counters it has, it can still be a cheap initial threat. Its unique way to take damage also makes it a good way to get rid of deathtouch creatures, which you can do directly with its activated ability.
Polukranos also retains a lot of value when cast for its escape cost since it enters twice as strong as it did before. Pairing this card with something like Hardened Scales can make it a massive threat.
#2. Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
Although sacrificed when cast from your hand, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger still provides a decent effect the first time you cast it. It also triggers any death or sacrifice triggers you might have on the board like Blood Artist or Mayhem Devil since it’s sacrified. Kroxa is more than worth the mana once it does hit the field, and five cards to exile isn’t a tall order.
Pairing this card with Strict Proctor or Hushbringer also allows you to cast it from your hand and not worry about sacrificing it, giving you a massive creature with a good effect early in the game.
#1. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is basically the inverse of Kroxa. Where Kroxa takes away resources with each activation of its ability, Uro gives you resources. What I think gives Uro the edge is how much value you get each time its ability activates.
Having access to more cards and more mana than your opponent is the best way to win a game, and having some extra life can be useful too. There’s a reason this card was banned in so many formats and is an easy pick for those where it’s not.
Best Escape Payoffs and Synergies
Creatures with escape can be useful for a few styles of decks. Aristocrat decks can make good use out of escape creatures since they can continuously sacrifice them and bring them back. They go especially well with Syr Konrad, the Grim since they allow it to deal damage while dying and leaving the graveyard.
Creatures with escape are also great for decks that look to benefit from creatures entering the battlefield. Escape creatures can allow you to deal damage each time they escape if you’re running a card like Terror of the Peaks. Cards like Beast Whisperer or The Great Henge can help you profit off your escaping creatures by giving you card advantage.
Instants and sorceries with escape can be great for storm decks. You can cast your Sleep of the Dead a few times to help build up your storm count since they don’t exile after casting like a card with flashback would. Other mechanics like magecraft and prowess can similarly benefit from these cards.
Can Escape Be Used at Instant Speed?
It depends on the card. If the card has an escape cost and is an instant, then you can cast it at instant speed for that cost. But any other card type must be cast during your main phase as if you were casting it from your hand.
Do Escaped Creatures Have Summoning Sickness?
Any time a creature enters the battlefield without haste it has summoning sickness. This is also true for escaped creatures.
Is Escaped an Activated Ability?
Escape is an alternate casting method, not an activated ability. An activated ability is something like Reassembling Skeleton’s ability to return it to its hand.
Does Escape Count as Casting a Spell?
Yes, escaping a card is casting a spell. Any effects that trigger when you cast a spell, or effects like storm that care about how many spells you cast in a turn, recognize escaped cards as casting a spell.
Do Cost Reduction Abilities Reduce Escape Costs?
Alternate casting costs like escape still have cost reductions applied to them, because using escape on a card is still considered casting it. But the restrictions of that cost reduction still apply. For example, if your cost reduction ability only targets a specific type of card, the escape card you’re casting needs to match those requirements.
Can You Respond to Escape?
Since escape is an alternate casting cost, using it doesn’t go on the stack itself. Instead, the card you’re casting with escape goes on the stack. You can still respond to the card being cast using an escape cost, but there’s no specific escape activation you can respond to.
This means, if you have an ability to exile a card in the graveyard like the one found on Cling to Dust, you have to do so before your opponent starts casting the card for its escape cost.
What If You Counter an Escape Spell?
Since casting a card for its escape cost acts puts the card onto the stack, your opponent has the opportunity to counter the spell if they want. Just like when any spell is countered, the escape spell will be sent to the graveyard.
This is actually a major advantage that escape spells have over other spells. Even when they’re countered they just go right back to your graveyard, ready to be cast again.
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath | Illustration by Vincent Proce
While there are some duds among the escape cards, the mechanic has shown a lot of promise. I’m excited to see what interesting ways Wizards finds to incorporate new escape cards into future sets.
What do you think of the escape mechanic? What kinds of cards would you like to see with escape in the future? Do you personally play with any of these cards? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
Thank you for reading, and just like an escape card, I’ll be back with more. Hope to see you then!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: