Goblin Sharpshooter (Secret Lair) - Illustration by Mike Uziel.jpg

Goblin Sharpshooter (Secret Lair) | Illustration by Mike Uziel.jpg

Prodigal Sorcerer, affectionately known as Tim from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, was a rite of passage for casual players after Ice Age. The printing of another blue 3-mana pinger in Zuran Spellcaster meant most players built a counterspell-heavy deck with the two blue pingers as a wincon at some point. That was just as underpowered as you’d expect, but it seemed efficient when placed across the kitchen table from decks stuffed with Fyndhorn Elves and Benalish Hero.

That efficiency can still be yours in today’s Magic if one damage to a target is enough to get things done. Pingers offer a few nice Commander wincons, and some of these fellas cut the mustard for your Stuffy Doll or Curiosity combo. Ready to find out more? Let’s get into it!

What Are Pingers In MTG?

Icatian Javelineers (Elspeth vs. Kiora) - Illustration by Michael Phillippi

Icatian Javelineers (Elspeth vs. Kiora) | Illustration by Michael Phillippi

Pingers are creatures that tap to do one damage to any target, all based on the Alpha template of Prodigal Sorcerer and Pirate Ship. Starting in blue and then branching out to red, this ability has shown up on lots of cards.

Lots of creatures could seem like pingers, but from an old school boomer perspective, they are not:

These distinctions aren’t me in my “old man yelling at clouds” era. Cards that untap other cards are key to most decent pinger payoffs, so all these pinger variants don’t fit the bill. Although the original pingers were open to any target, I’ve also considered cards that target a creature or a player, or a planeswalker or player. Those might be just fine depending on your payoff.

Ready to start tapping?

Best White Pinger

#1. Icatian Javelineers

Icatian Javelineers

Look, you don’t get a lot of pingers in white, but there’s budget pinger in Icatian Javelineers. We all get it. It throws its javelins.

Flavor win? Really? I see at least three javelins in most of the arts for this card, so why only one counter? Its Masters Edition II artwork shows the dude standing in front of a literal rack of javelins!

I guess if you really need this in white and have some proliferate cards, you can make do.

Best Blue Pingers

#8. Apprentice Sorcerer + Capricious Sorcerer + Wu Longbowman

Aside from being usable only in the first main phase, Portal clones Apprentice SorcererCapricious Sorcerer, and Wu Longbowman fit the classic Prodigal Sorcerer mode. The problem is that being able to ping at instant speed is important, especially given the payoffs.

#7. Pirate Ship

Pirate Ship

This has to be a high pick in a Beta Draft or an auto-include in lower powered pirate tribal, but otherwise Pirate Ship can keep on sailing. Cue the Annie Lennox song from The Return of the King.

#6. Mawcor

Mawcor

The pitch? Phantom Monster plus Pirate Ship. Mawcor, whatever the heck you are, I like your energy. You’ve got spunk, but this a tough town.

*sigh* Look, just don’t let the door hit ya on the way out, huh?

#5. Fledgling Mawcor

Fledgling Mawcor

One more mana for an added power and toughness, flying, and the ability to go down as a morph. It doesn’t seem worth it in general, but Fledgling Mawcor is here for you if you just need a volume of pingers in blue.

#4. Suq’Ata Firewalker

Suq'Ata Firewalker

The protection from red is fine and is probably great in some kind of blue pinger versus red pinger tribal deathmatch. You laugh, but I’m getting ideas.

Otherwise Suq’Ata Firewalker is just harder to cast than the next cards.

#3. Thornwind Faeries

Thornwind Faeries

Flying! For all those times you want to attack with a pinger, right?

Thornwind Faeries is fine, but it’s also harder to cast.

#2. Rootwater Hunter + Zuran Spellcaster

Rootwater HunterZuran Spellcaster

Each is a functional reprint of the next card, but they’re not the original. Rootwater Hunter and Zuran Spellcaster hang here out of respect, but hey, runner-up ain’t so bad, especially when it’s to the this guy.

#1. Prodigal Sorcerer

Prodigal Sorcerer

The Godfather of Ping. The O.G. Oft imitated, but never superseded!

The classic 3-mana pinger has yet to really be power crept, so Prodigal Sorcerer remains as relevant as it always has. Relevant within its own niches, but still!

Best Black Pinger

#1. Cuombajj Witches

Cuombajj Witches

Cuombajj Witches is a recently reprinted goodie from Arabian Nights that’s one of the rare pingers in black. Sure, you get pinged back, but you can often engineer your deck to make that incidental. The trade-off does shut off a few combo options, though.

Best Red Pingers

#15. Chandra’s Magmutt

Chandra's Magmutt

Chandra’s Magmutt doesn’t hit creatures, which stops a lot of utility in its tracks. It comes down for two though, which can feed some synergies.

Someday something will print that will break this. Until then it’ll sit in your box of bulk commons.

#14. Goblin Dynamo

Goblin Dynamo

A pinger that you can sac as a Blaze sounds good. Seven mana for a 4/4 is a bad deal, though. If you can cheat out Goblin Dynamo, okay, but don’t you have better 7-drops if you’re doing that?

#13. Bladeback Sliver

Bladeback Sliver

You gotta be a sliver deck to start, so you won’t likely have a bunch of other pinger payoffs. Bladeback Sliver can just decimate your board if you happen to be sliver-centric.

A Sentinel Sliver means you can swarm for an attack then tap ‘em all to ping for lethal.

#12. Fervent Paincaster

Fervent Paincaster

The exert part of Fervent Paincaster to damage creatures is really rough. The three power doesn’t really help offset that drawback either.

#11. Frostwielder

Frostwielder

Costing four is tough. Although Frostwielder has that exile effect that can matter against something like a Lantern Bearer, that seems less important than the cost.

#10. Jeska, Warrior Adept

Jeska, Warrior Adept

Again with the 4-drops. Look, on defense, Jeska, Warrior Adept can take down a creature with four toughness. Are you not entertained?

#9. Fireslinger

Fireslinger

Fireslinger does a damage to your own face which matters less in EDH than an opponent-targetable ability like on Cuombajj Witches. That does halt some combos, but it opens up other efficiencies when you have a pinger that comes down for two instead of the usual three mana.

#8. Vengeful Devil

Vengeful Devil

Assuming you can get a creature to die (in red? not possible), Vengeful Devil is a really awesome pinger. Only two to cast this fella, with haste too?

#7. Syr Carah, the Bold

Syr Carah, the Bold

If only Syr Carah, the Bold were Izzet ()! If only it triggered off any effect dealing damage! That’d be a sweet tribal commander for a pinger EDH deck. It’d still likely always lose, but it would be interesting.

Is Syr Carah a better leader for your EDH burn deck than Torbran, Thane of Red Fell? Nope.

#6. Viashino Fangtail

Viashino Fangtail

Viashino Fangtail‘s pitch: Hill Giant plus Prodigal Pyromancer. Reminds me of someone who tried to pitch me a Mawcor, once.

As I said to them, I like your style, but I’m not buying any of these ideas. Did Rosewater put you up to this?

#5. Vithian Stinger

Vithian Stinger

The next card can hit planeswalkers. Vithian Stinger can ping once from beyond the grave, too. One of those is more valuable than the other.

#4. Prodigal Pyromancer

Prodigal Pyromancer

It’s the card that shifted pinging from blue to red’s color pie where it’s mostly stayed. Prodigal Pyromancer is basicpinger.red except it broadens Tim’s ability to any target. Planeswalkers, beware!

#3. Vulshok Sorcerer

Vulshok Sorcerer

The haste is super valuable here, and you could almost use Vulshok Sorcerer as a combat trick.

#2. Cunning Sparkmage

Cunning Sparkmage

The haste is super valuable here, and you could almost use Cunning Sparkmage as a combat trick. (editor’s note: I’ve taken way too much time trying and failing to come up with a snarky Curse of Echoes joke here.)

#1. Goblin Sharpshooter

Goblin Sharpshooter

This is a legit annoying feelsbad card, especially because red can drop it and give it haste. Goblin Sharpshooter can just erase a board of elves or soldiers or whatnot.

Best Multicolored Pingers

Honorable Mention: Izzet Staticaster

Izzet Staticaster

Izzet Staticaster doesn’t quite fit our criteria since it only pings creatures. I still thought you should see it given its unique set of abilities and how effective those are against token decks. If you have some untap synergies, even better!

#4. Rakdos Ickspitter

Rakdos Ickspitter

First, great name! No notes.

Second, Rakdos Ickspitter doesn’t fit my criteria exactly, but it can damage both a player and a creature. It just always must do both.

#3. Samite Archer

Samite Archer

You were fooled! You saw this Azorius () Samite card with its first healer ability and tossed it aside in the pile of abilities that mattered in the 90s, maybe. Samite Archer has another line of text that makes it a nice pinger.

#2. Razorfin Hunter

Razorfin Hunter

An almost fully functional pinger for two mana is big game in pinger land. Razorfin Hunter is likely to find a home in a dedicated pinger deck that pretty much has to be Izzet.

#1. Gelectrode

Gelectrode

Having a contained untap ability on the card takes Gelectrode even further toward the payoffs than other cards. It’s a Thermo-Alchemist that can also ping creatures, making it a great target for a Curiosity among other options.

Best Colorless Pingers

Honorable Mention: Keldon Megaliths

Keldon Megaliths

It costs mana to ping for this one, so it violates our principles a bit. But it’s a land that’s a pinger! That might be a key for you.

I don’t know why or how, but Keldon Megaliths gets a shout-out.

#3. Acorn Catapult

Acorn Catapult

I’m not sure you want this as a pinger to go after opponents because it just replaces the creature targeted. But Acorn Catapult is kind of nice as a source of continual squirrels if you target your own Toski, Bearer of Secrets.

This is kind of infinite fun with a Cacophodon, something like an Ashnod’s Altar and something that can make the dino indestructible like Darksteel Plate.

#2. Staff of Nin

Staff of Nin

Staff of Nin is played quite a bit in EDH, but mostly as a rock that draws a card a turn. Six mana is a lot for a painless Phyrexian Arena. If you’re running artifacts anyway, why not add a Voltaic Key and a Rings of Brighthearth to machine gun away the table?

#1. Endbringer

Endbringer

The most played pinger in EDH, Endbringer is a good target for various colorless ramps and/or Eldrazi deck shenanigans. It costs a lot but it’s plenty tough, untaps a lot in Commander, and has a few control abilities to boot.

Best Pinger Payoffs

There isn’t enough going on in this space for a full pinger tribal deck. Most of these cards cost three and just don’t have enough of an impact in a game where players can ramp out big beaters before you can get enough damage to matter. But there are lots of fun niche uses that can add some spice to your control decks.

Curiosity and Friends

Although most Curious Obsession types of auras specify “combat damage,” some leave the damage type open, like Curiosity. These auras can really add up when dropped on a pinger, especially if you have some untapping going on.

Sure, putting an aura on a fragile creature is just asking for a blowout, but there are times when this kind of thing can be backbreaking. Here’s some stuff to pop onto your pingers for fun and profit, some good, some meh:

Oh, and did I mention deathtouch? Deathtouch is good. Pingers like deathtouch.

Untappers

Bounding Krasis plus Splinter Twin gives you infinite hasty Krasises. That’s a good combo. With a Sigil of Sleep on your pinger while you target yourself, you get as many Krasis casting triggers as you have life. That’s not a good combo. But it highlights some largely unmined territory for pingers.

There’s a janky combo space around untapping to go infinite, like with Mirran Spy with a Banishing Knack and a 0-cost artifact. There are a few versions of that with different mixes of cards. There’s also the various Grand Architect and Pili-Pala combos, or Presence of Gond and Midnight Guard. You’re just missing a few pieces to make these work with pingers for infinite.

Until then you can likely use pingers as a stopgap while you work to build them if you’re packing these kinds of combos. You’ll likely have a lot of untap effects just laying around in your deck already.

DIY Pingers

It’s easier to manage insane combos if you can make other creatures into pingers with auras and equipment. For example, the Pili-Pala combo above can kill opponents in lots of ways, but the silliest is to strap something from the list below onto a Horseshoe Crab. If nothing else these cards allow you to expand the range of pingers in your colors in case you get something awesome to work:

Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph & Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

Ghyrson Starn, KelermorphTorbran, Thane of Red Fell

This new Warhammer commander and the Throne of Eldraine Standard terror both increase the pinger damage to three. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell has better things to do as a commander, but that could stack nicely as one of the 99 in a Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph Izzet pinger tribal deck.

This kind of deck would be clearly worse than most other decks you could use those commanders for, but it has that kind of janky allure that a brewer like myself cannot resist!

Wrap Up

Staff of Nin (Magic 2013) - Illustration by Dan Scott

Staff of Nin (Magic 2013) | Illustration by Dan Scott

Pingers are definitely a bit of Magic boomer fetishism. We all remember trying to make these cards work back in the day before moving on to actual good decks and synergies.

That’s still the case today to some extent. We all have these cards lying around, and cards like Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph sometimes come along to encourage us to sleeve up our pingers and try out some brews. Finding that old forgotten card with a new magical synergy is almost better than winning. Almost.

Have you found places in your 99 for a few pingers to round out part of your strategy? Which are your favorites to include in your decks? Let me know in the comments below or over on the official Draftsim Discord.

Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!

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