Last updated on April 5, 2023

Pact of Negation - Illustration by Titus Lunter

Pact of Negation | Illustration by Titus Lunter

What’s better than paying mana for spells? Getting powerful abilities for free! Kind of.

Today’s cycle of cards is perfect for any player looking to get a loan on a powerful ability and generate value while tapped out. Let’s check out the Pact cycle from Future Sight!

What Is the Pact Cycle?

Slaughter Pact (Amonkhet Invocations) - Illustration by Josh Hass

Slaughter Pact (Amonkhet Invocations) | Illustration by Josh Hass

The Pacts are a cycle of five instants, one for each color, each of which costs 0 mana. At the beginning of its controller’s next upkeep, the Pact makes them pay an amount of mana, or they lose the game. This cycle of cards was printed in Future Sight in 2007.

The Pact cycle is powerful, allowing you to play spells when you’re tapped out to generate a mana advantage and catch your opponents off guard when they think they’re in the clear. The Pacts are also intensely flavorful cards. The mechanic perfectly captures the idea of making a deal a higher power that gives you an immediate advantage, but delivers consequences if you don't hold up your end of the deal.

#5. Intervention Pact

Intervention Pact

At the bottom of the list we have the white Pact. Intervention Pact is a useful way to protect yourself against a single chunk of damage, but it doesn't do much if you’re facing multiple damage sources.

It could be useful in a deck that plays with lifegain synergies but generally just doesn’t impact the board in any meaningful manner.

#4. Pact of the Titan

Pact of the Titan

Unlike Intervention Pact, Pact of the Titan has an immediate impact on the board. A surprise 4/4 blocker is a great way to blow out your opponents.

You can also give it pseudo-haste by casting it on the end of the turn before yours to generate a surprise attacker. That said, is a little expensive for a card like this.

#3. Slaughter Pact

Slaughter Pact

Sometimes you just need to remove a creature. Slaughter Pact is a great way to do the job.

Only killing nonblack creatures does make it a bit narrow, but it makes up for it by allowing you to tap out to develop your board and still have interaction up to prevent your opponent from developing theirs.

#2. Summoner’s Pact

Summoner's Pact

Modern Amulet Titan players know the secret to getting around a Pact’s upkeep trigger: just win the game the turn you cast it.

Summoner's Pact is the Pact that works best as a finisher, finding game-ending cards like Craterhoof Behemoth or End-Raze Forerunners to win the game before you have to pay additional mana. It can also find utility creatures like Collector Ouphe in a pinch.

#1. Pact of Negation

Pact of Negation

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the blue entry in the cycle tops the list. One of the best game actions you can take in Magic is to just tell another player “no.” Pact of Negation does this so cleanly.

It’s a great Hail Mary to stop another player from winning and protects your own win conditions. It does a little bit of everything, and does it all really well.

Best Pact Payoffs

Snapcaster Mage Arcane Proxy

In all honesty, part of what makes the Pacts so good is that they work in pretty much any shell. Some of the best payoffs would be cards that let you make use of the fact that they’re free, like cascade spells, or cards that let you recast cards like Snapcaster Mage and Arcane Proxy.

Ledger Shredder

Cards that benefit from you playing multiple cards in a turn like Ledger Shredder also benefit since it’s really easy to cast numerous spells in a turn when one of them doesn’t cost any mana.

Is Slaughter Pact Black?

Slaughter Pact

Yes, Slaughter Pact is black. Each of the Pact cards was printed with a line of card text declaring that they were the appropriate color in Future Sight.

Is Summoner’s Pact Green?

Summoner's Pact

Yes, Summoner's Pact is, indeed, green. Each Pact is the color that corresponds to its effect and border. While the original printing had a line of text indicating the color, future printings added a color-indicating symbol in the type box.

Is Pact of Negation Colorless?

Pact of Negation

No. Despite not having colored mana in their casting cost, the Pacts are spells with colors. Pact of Negation is actually a blue card, not colorless.

What If Slaughter Pact’s Target Dies First?

Slaughter Pact

If you target a creature with Slaughter Pact and another source kills it first, then it no longer has a legal target and will be removed from the stack without any effect. If this happens then that means Slaughter Pact didn't resolve and its owner doesn’t have to pay the extra cost on their next upkeep.

What If Pact of Negation Is Countered?

Pact of Negation

If Pact of Negation is countered then the spell it targeted resolves and it goes to the graveyard. And since it didn’t resolve, the spell’s owner doesn’t have to pay the upkeep cost.

Do You Really Have to Pay Pact of Negation?

Pact of Negation

Technically you don’t have to pay for Pact of Negation, or any of the Pacts. It’s advisable to do so, though, unless you want to lose the game on your upkeep.

Can You Choose Not to Pay for a Pact?

You have the option whether or not pay for any Pacts you cast. If you don’t pay then you lose the game after the triggered ability resolves. If you don’t have enough mana to pay for the Pact (let’s say that you only have with a Pact of Negation trigger on the stack), you won’t have the ability to pay and lose the game.

Are There Ways to Prevent or Counter Pact Costs and Abilities?

Sundial of the Infinite

There are a few ways to deal with Pact costs and abilities! If you use something like Sundial of the Infinite to end the turn in response to the triggered ability then it's removed from the stack and you won’t have to pay.

Angel's Grace

Cards like Angel's Grace can also save you from paying by just preventing you from losing.


Cards and abilities like Stifle can counter the upkeep ability.

Can You Pay a Pact After You Draw?

No, you can’t pay a Pact after you draw. The trigger ability goes on the stack at the beginning of your upkeep, after you’ve untapped but before you can draw. If you want to use one of the above methods to stop the trigger from resolving, it must already be in your hand.

Wrap Up

Pact of the Titan - Illustration by Raymond Swanland

Pact of the Titan | Illustration by Raymond Swanland

The Pact cycle has incredibly powerful cards that give you a huge advantage at instant speed for no mana up front. While you have to pay for the Pacts on the next upkeep or lose the game, there are several ways to circumvent this downside, and it can even be irrelevant if you win the turn you cast the Pact.

These are wonderfully flexible cards that give a lot of utility to the decks that they’re in. This flexibility is what gives the cycle its high power and makes these cards worth running. There are only five right now, but one day we could see more.

Do you run any of the Pacts in your decks? Do you agree with these rankings? Let me know in the Draftsim Discord or over on Twitter.

Stay safe, and don’t forget to pay your Pacts!

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