Last updated on December 29, 2023
Howl of the Horde | Illustration by Slawomir Maniak
Imagine you’re a pirate. You’ve just taken over an enemy ship. Now it’s time to raid from the spoils of combat, which is essentially what happens when players utilize the raid mechanic in Magic: The Gathering.
Raid is an ability that works if you’ve attacked with a creature this turn. Cards with a raid ability include instants, sorceries, enchantments, and creatures. And funny enough, most of the creatures with raid are pirates.
Let’s raid the MTG universe to find out more about how these cards work. When does the mechanic trigger? What are the most common themes using raid cards? Let’s find out!
Heartless Pillage | Illustration by Sara Winters
Raid, not to be confused with Raid Bombardment, is a mechanic that was introduced in Khans of Tarkir, the 65th Magic: The Gathering expansion. Two red sorceries, five human warriors, an orc warrior, a human archer, an orc shaman, and a bird have the raid mechanic in this set.
The raid mechanic checks to see if you’ve attacked with a creature during your turn. As long as you attack during the same turn, a special or replacement effect will occur as a reward. That means it’s best to cast most of these spells during your post-combat main phase to get the raid trigger.
Other raid cards, mainly pirate creatures (nine total), were released in the 76th Magic set, Ixalan. There are also two enchantments and three sorcery cards with the raid mechanic from this set. Five additional raid cards were released in Rivals of Ixalan in 2018, including four pirates and an instant, and there was a single raid card present in a Pirate-themed pack of Jumpstart 2022.
On the off chance you need a body out and Bellowing Saddlebrute is the only creature card in hand, taking 4 damage doesn’t seem so bad. If you have a Platinum Emperion or Archon of Coronation (and you’re the monarch), your life total won’t even change.
Mardu Skullhunter is on a mission to make your opponent discard a card as long as you attack with another creature first. It’s a great ace in the hole to have if you know your opponent just tutored and revealed a card they needed. Casting Mardu Skullhunter can make them discard that coveted card if it’s all they have in hand.
Sacrifice Mardu Warshrieker to Ashnod's Altar to add 2 colorless mana to your mana pool. Pay 4 mana to return Mardu Warshrieker to the battlefield and attach Nim Deathmantle to it. Since you’re still in the same turn, you’re adding 1 mana every time Warshrieker enters the battlefield. Repeat the process for infinite mana.
Throw off your opponent’s original strategy with Heartless Pillage. You can also get a Treasure token for ramp in return for attacking before casting this spell. If your opponent just searched for a card with Grim Tutor and only has two cards in hand, how crazy would that be if you just made them discard what they worked hard to tutor for?
Here comes another discard card with Deadeye Tormentor. Stripping your opponent of their resources will make them have to think of a new plan to rebound back into the game. If Tormentor dies from chump blocking, cast Reanimate after an attack to bring Deadeye Tormentor back to the battlefield and repeat the ability again.
Look at all these raid cards that can discard cards. Say that three times fast! Raiders' Wake adds more value to your overall deck build since opponents lose 2 life whenever you make them discard cards. Run a Tergrid, God of Fright deck to take control of any permanents they discard!
It’s time to loot for better resources with Shipwreck Looter. Cast it after attacking so you can draw a card to refine your strategy. The only drawback is that you have to make a decision and discard a card from your hand if you decide to draw a card.
Shipwreck Looter can trigger several card draw effects on staple cards. Teferi's Tutelage will cause an opponent to mill two cards, and you’ll get a loyalty counter on Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim if it’s already on the battlefield.
Swaggering Corsair transforms from 2 power to 3 power if you cast it after your attack step, which is great to have a substantial blocker for when you pass the turn to your opponent. Captain Vargus Wrath can pump this card and other pirates you control when it attacks.
Imagine that a creature your opponent blocked with is 2 damage away from dying after blocks. Cast Storm Fleet Pyromancer in your post-combat main phase to finish the job. This also works well if your opponent has only 2 life left and you can throw the damage at their face, making this card a rare win condition.
Does your opponent have more permanents than you? No worries! Cast Storm Fleet Arsonist after attacking to make your opponent sacrifice one of their permanents and even the playing field.
Here’s another flying creature on our list that enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it as long as you attack the turn that you cast it. Cards like Fell Flagship, Corsair Captain, and Admiral Beckett Brass can pump Storm Fleet Aerialist for additional damage in the air.
There’s nothing like pumping a creature with counters, enchantments, and equipment all for it to just be returned to your hand. For your opponent, that can be a buzzkill when you cast Deadeye Rig-Hauler after attacking to return an opponent’s large creature to their hand. Now it’s time for them to start from square one so you can rebound from all the damage you probably just took from that large creature.
Let’s welcome another 1-drop creature with the raid mechanic, Rigging Runner. Wait until your second or third turn to get another creature out, attack with it, and cast this card to get a 2/2 creature with first strike. Since Rigging Runner is a pirate, it fulfills the condition on Dreamcaller Siren to tap two of your opponent’s nonland permanents and slow them down.
Protean Raider gives you another copy of the best creature on the battlefield. You can copy your commander as long as you have Mirror Box on the battlefield. Otherwise, you can do an awesome janky combo.
Speaking of Mirror Box, include that card, Protean Raider, Kairi, the Swirling Sky, Phyrexian Altar, and Unearth for infinite death and sacrifice triggers. That’s a lot, but it’s fun when it comes together.
War-Name Aspirant is another raid creature that enters a little stronger when cast after attacking. It also can’t be blocked by creatures with power 1 or less.
Sorry, 1/1 Soldier tokens and Gilded Goose, but you can’t block War-Name Aspirant until you get some auras or equipment attached to you. Get added value by placing this card in a Lovisa Coldeyes Commander deck.
For just 5 mana and an attack, Wingmate Roc will give you an extra large bird token. This card is best for lifegain decks along with staples such as Ajani's Pridemate, Boon Reflection, Nykthos Paragon and Angel of Vitality.
Even though Bloodsoaked Champion can’t block, you can at least return it from the graveyard to the battlefield by paying 2 mana on any turn where you attacked You can cast Bloodsoaked Champion off the top of your library when playing a Nalia de'Arnise Commander deck.
Archers love inflicting direct damage to any target just like Mardu Heart-Piercer. Place Mardu Heart-Piercer in an Alesha, Who Smiles at Death Commander deck to get the creature back from the graveyard to the battlefield when they attack. A Zurgo Helmsmasher deck will also do the trick since you’re forced to attack with it each turn anyway.
Casting Arrow Storm without attacking can land 4 damage on an opponent, planeswalker, or creature. The bonus here is that the attack bumps up to 5 damage and makes sure the damage can’t be prevented. Add in Mechanized Warfare and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell to increase the damage thrown to said target.
Repeating Barrage is always accessible because of its raid cost that you pay while it’s in the graveyard. Cast it the first time to deal damage to any target you need gone. Pay the raid cost after attacking to return the card to your head, so you have access to more targeted removal when you need it.
Mardu Hordechief is a good addition to warrior-based Commander decks such as Najeela, the Blade-Blossom and Winota, Joiner of Forces. Mardu Hordechief could be one of the cards that are tapped and attacking along with Winota. The Hordechief will also trigger Najeela and create a 1/1 Warrior token that’s also tapped and attacking.
Card draw usually comes at a cost when you’re playing black. However, it’s only a small cost worth the life loss with Ruin Raider. You get the top card after each attack on your end step and lose life equal to the card’s mana value.
Who knows? The life loss may have helped you draw into one of your game-winning combos. If you already had a Sanguine Bond on the battlefield, you could draw into Exquisite Blood, gain life with Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, and start the infinite life loss loop for your opponents and infinite life gain for you.
Being able to add to your army with Timely Hordemate and return a creature with mana value 2 or less from the graveyard is a win-win. Get Drannith Magistrate from the graveyard to lock out your opponents from casting their commanders and force them to refine their strategy.
Oh no! One of your creatures died! It’s no problem because Brazen Cannonade rewards you for your creatures dying by dealing 2 damage to each opponent.
Get access to your cards when attacking so you can cast more spells before passing the turn. Have some lands untapped or mana rocks open in case you decide to cast the exiled card. End the turn with a Blasphemous Act to reset the battlefield if it’s getting out of hand!
Firecannon Blast is another raid card that has its damage increased if you cast it after attacking. However, it’s not for any target like the other raid sorceries; it can only deal damage to creatures.
Again, have cards that increase damage output for added value. Especially if you need a large creature destroyed, these damage-increasing cards will be essential!
Marauding Looter is one of the higher echelon raid cards because it triggers on every end step that it remains on the battlefield. You’re guaranteed an extra card every turn beyond your draw step, but you have to discard a card if you do the looter’s trigger.
Navigator's Ruin is the only blue enchantment amongst all the raid mechanic cards across the Magic universe. It’s a ruinous gem indeed for the opponent, milling four cards on the end step of each turn in which you attacked.
If you have Bruvac the Grandiloquent on the battlefield, the opponent will have to mill eight cards during your end steps instead. Seal your win condition by casting Traumatize to mill someone out all at once and claim victory!
All you need is 1 blue mana after attacking during your turn to counter a spell that your opponent may be trying to cast on your turn. Admiral's Order is a way better card than Force Spike where an opponent only has to pay 1 mana to negate the effect. Take command of the board by protecting your spells to keep your strategy on point.
There’s nothing like copying an instant or sorcery if it means getting added value. With Howl of the Horde, you can copy your next instant or sorcery that turn plus copy it an additional time if you attacked. Maybe your opponents’ creatures are just enormous. Whittle them down with two extra instances of Blasphemous Act thanks to Howl of the Horde’s raid ability.
Since many of the creatures come in with +1/+1 counters as long as you’ve attacked during that turn, cards such as Doubling Season and Primal Vigor can increase the number of counters placed on them upon entering the battlefield. Stronger creatures on board lessen the chance of opponents blocking and losing their staple components.
Ruin Raider | Illustration by Kieran Yanner
We hope we’ve raided your mind, in a good way, to try out some of the raid cards in the MTG universe! There’s plenty to love here, especially for players who want to be attacking!
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