Last updated on January 10, 2024

Crypt Ghast - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Crypt Ghast | Illustration by Chris Rahn

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Extortion slowly drains you of your ability to survive while bolstering the extorter. The extort mechanic similarly drains opponents while making it harder to challenge your position in the game.

Today let’s take a deep dive into this grindy mechanic from one of my favorite blocks of all time!

How Does Extort Work?

Syndicate Enforcer - Illustration by Steven Belledin

Syndicate Enforcer | Illustration by Steven Belledin

Extort is an ability that triggers when you cast a spell with a permanent with extort on the battlefield. You can choose to pay a hybrid white/black mana as extort resolves. If you do, each opponent loses one life and you gain as much life as was lost.

This means that you gain more life per extort in games of EDH than you would in a 1v1 game.

The History of Exploit in MTG

Extort debuted in Gatecrash as the primary mechanic for the Orzhov Syndicate. The mechanic returned in Dragon’s Maze, once again for Orzhov. There are only 13 cards in Magic’s history with extort between the two sets. There are four rare cards with extort, three uncommon, and six common.

Can You Extort Multiple Times?

You can not extort multiple times per instance. If you have two permanents with extort and you cast a spell, you can pay two more hybrid white/black mana to resolve two separate instances of extort. But each instance of extort only triggers once, and you can only pay one mana per.

How Does Extort Stack? What About Multiple Instances?

You get a unique trigger for the spell you cast with each individual instance of extort. These unique triggers allow you to pay a mana and drain your opponents. If you have three extort permanents and cast any spell, you can pay between zero and three hybrid white/black mana to drain up to three times.

Pontiff of Blight

But there is a card can give other creatures extort: Pontiff of Blight. If you control Pontiff and other creatures with extort, the instances of extort can stack. Each instance of extort triggers independently, so you can pay two hybrid black/white mana for two drains for each spell cast. The instances of extort can continue to stack for as many cards you have that imbue extort.

Do You Have to Pay for Each Extort?

You have the option to pay the extra mana or not when the extort trigger resolves. If you choose not to pay, the ability resolves and no life totals change.

Does Extort Target?

Extort does not target. The ability specifically says “each opponent,” so no players are targeted and it can get around cards that give players hexproof or shroud, like Leyline of Sanctity.

Is Extort Damage?

Extort is loss of life, so it doesn’t actually deal damage. Effects that prevent damage don’t work against extort. But cards that prevent a player’s life total from changing do prevent the life loss and gain from extort.

Does Extort Count as Color Identity?

Extort doesn’t affect a card’s color identity. You can play extort cards in any deck that can play the base card’s color identity, even if the hybrid mana’s second color isn’t in your commander’s color identity.

Can You Pay Extort with K’rrik?

K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth

Yes, you can! K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth allows you to pay two life for each black mana symbol in a cost. The black mana in the hybrid white/black mana cost for extort counts, and you can opt to pay two life instead of the black portion of the hybrid mana for extort.

Is Extort Good?

Extort was a good ability in Limited, never really saw play in Standard outside of a few incidental cards like Blind Obedience or Crypt Ghast, and is fantastic in EDH. Each instance of extort drains each player at the table and gains you plenty of life.

The downside for extort cards is the power level. Since there are only 13 cards with extort, no mythics, and the rares are very situational, it’s hard to justify playing cards with extort in a card pool the size of EDH. Extort can do a lot of work in lower power level Commander groups, but I’d avoid playing extort cards on power level alone against mid or high-level EDH decks.

Another downside for extort in EDH is the lack of any legendary extort creature. You often had sets with less legendary creatures and entire mechanics without a single legend before the raising of importance put on EDH. This is one of those cases which means that Commanders players can’t build around extort to the same degree they can other mechanics, even if they wanted to.

Galley and List of Extort Cards

Best Extort Cards

Blind Obedience

Blind Obedience

Blind Obedience was the only extort card to see Standard play. Controlling white decks that want to restrict haste creatures with incidental lifegain used Obedience to help get to the mid and late game.

Crypt Ghast

Crypt Ghast

Mono-black decks leverage Crypt Ghast‘s secondary ability to double their mana. A few interesting Swamp-heavy decks tried to play Ghast in Constructed, but even the decks that did use the extort as a bonus didn’t have it as a main feature.

Pontiff of Blight

Pontiff of Blight

Pontiff of Blight gives all other creatures extort, so it can let you drain players quickly without having to play any other cards with extort. In token-heavy decks that can generate lots of mana, Pontiff can quickly drain an entire table. Unfortunately a 6-mana 2/7 isn’t hard to answer so it’s a fragile card to build around in any meaningful way.

Wrap Up

Knight of Obligation - Illustration by Ryan Barger

Knight of Obligation | Illustration by Ryan Barger

Extort is a solid mechanic that won’t wow anyone, especially in terms of power level, but it can create incidental value that makes killing you tougher at low opportunity cost. I loved exploit in Gatecrash and Dragon’s Maze Draft, but I wouldn’t expect to see the mechanic in its current form outside of Limited.

I wouldn’t mind seeing more extort cards in the future, especially a legendary card or mythic rare to allow for higher power level. But extort isn’t a mechanic anywhere near the top of my list of mechanics I’d love to see return. It leaves very little impression and has next to no long-term impact.

What do you think of extort? Do you play any extort cards in your decks, or is extort just a fun piece of Magic’s history to you? Let me know in the comments down below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.

That’s all from me for today. Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll see you in the next one!

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