Last updated on January 3, 2023
Lose Focus | Illustration by Martina Fackova
Sometimes spell copying takes a Magic meta by storm, usually when there’s an extra turn spell to abuse. But if copying a spell is something you want, to trigger an Errant, Street Artist or Stormchaser Drake, the burden of having to pack cards like Galvanic Iteration in your deck to enable those synergies is sometimes too many card slots for spells that don’t do anything on their own.
Enter replicate. What if you could copy a spell as you cast it without a second card?
Sound good? If you’re an Izzet () mage who doesn’t have these cards from all the way back in Guildpact, today I’m going to explore this mechanic and its best cards for inclusion in your Commander deck.
But be warned: it doesn’t work the way you think, and it doesn’t trigger the things you think it will. Read on and make sure your tigers are in order before your next night of Magic!
Threefold Signal | Illustration by Juliak Kok Joon Wen
Replicate is a keyword ability that allows you to pay extra mana to copy the spell after you pay its casting cost and put it on the stack. As many times as you pay the replicate cost, you make that many copies.
Replicate first appeared on 10 cards in Guildpact in 2006, all in Izzet colors. Nine of them had replicate and one gave it to other cards. It’s shown up again on one card in each Modern Horizons set, another that grants replicate in the New Capenna Commander cards for set boosters and collector boosters, and one in Battle for Baldur’s Gate.
The mechanic isn’t evergreen and seems to have hit a pattern of appearing on just a card or two in certain sets.
No, replicate doesn’t count as casting. If you cast Gigadrowse, for example, that counts as casting the spell. Then if you pay the replicate cost twice, that makes two copies of the spell. Neither of those copies were cast.
Note that this means almost every spellslinger trigger you can think of, from Young Pyromancer to Niv-Mizzet, Parun, doesn’t work with replicated spell copies since almost all of them trigger off “casting” the spell.
Replicate is both a static ability and an activated ability. The replicate ability and cost are static, but paying the cost to replicate a spell is activated.
Yes, replicate is an additional cost. the extra cost was the exact same cost as the card’s initial casting cost in the original Guildpact run of replicate cards, but that formula has since been broken. For example, Psionic Ritual allows you to tap horror creatures to replicate.
Every instance of replicate on a card is paid for and activated separately.
Although no replicate card currently has two different replicate costs in its text as printed, Djinn Illuminatus and Threefold Signal both grant the replicate ability to other spells. So if both of those cards are on the battlefield and you cast something huge like Cruel Ultimatum, the Ultimatum has two different replicate abilities on it as it goes on the stack, one for three generic mana and one for the full colored seven mana cost on the original Ultimatum card.
Replicate copies sort of also have replicate. They have the replicate ability, but since replicated spells aren’t cast, they don’t meet the criteria on the card to actually use the ability. So you can’t pay the replicate costs because it requires a casting trigger.
Countering any iteration of a replicated spell only counters the copy targeted by the counter.
So if the original Pyromatics is countered, the replicate cost can be paid and copies put on the stack which resolve before the counter. If a copy is countered, that doesn’t affect either the original spell or any previous or subsequent replications.
If the replicate trigger is countered by a Stifle effect, no replications can be made.
- Djinn Illuminatus
- Leap of Flame
- Lose Focus
- Psionic Ritual
- Shattering Spree
- Siege of Towers
- Stream of Thought
- Threefold Signal
- Train of Thought
Most of these cards are pretty niche.
If Train of Thought was an instant then it would be a great mana sink for blue players. So would you put it into a deck that used cards like Teferi, Time Raveler, Hypersonic Dragon, Najal, the Storm Runner, and Wizards of Thay? I would.
I’d probably regret it.
Threefold Signal doesn’t see a lot of play because it came out in New Capenna collector and set boosters, but it could be gas in a Grixis () or Jeskai () magecraft deck. A few enablers like Errant, Street Artist and Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, and you’ve got something.
A good something? Maybe.
If you’re gonna combo off for infinite mana, Pyromatics is a card that kills everything dead. It’s better than, say, Fireball or Crackle with Power under those conditions because even the replicate costs can still be paid if it’s countered. You can even keep putting replications on the stack after a Discontinuity!
Lose Focus isn’t a bad counterspell. It’s especially useful in counterspell wars in response to cards like Mystical Dispute and Whirlwind Denial since you can keep replicating it as long as you can pay the costs.
The cheapest replicate spell and the cheapest replicate cost, this can be a useful tool in decks that want to target things like decks that runs cards like Cowardice as well as commanders with the magecraft ability like Octavia, Living Thesis and Veyran, Voice of Duality.
The fail case of just picking something off for one mana is part of why this is a pretty ubiquitous sideboard card in formats from Modern to Vintage and is by far the most expensive card with replicate.
Remember, replicate doesn’t cast the copies, so traditional spellslinger things don’t work here. But there are still some interesting payoffs.
Magecraft seemed like a weaker version of prowess because it didn’t trigger off enchantments and artifacts. But prowess doesn’t trigger off copied spells, so if you read up until now and had dreams of making a giant Monastery Swiftspear with Gigadrowse, sorry to say you can’t do that.
But you can make a giant board with Leonin Lightscribe, draw a bunch of cards with Archmage Emeritus, make a lot of Treasures with Storm-Kiln Artist, or do whatever it is that you can do with Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios.
There are thirty cards so far with magecraft plus Ral, Storm Conduit that first had the ability without the keyword, and all of them would welcome some replicate spells.
A lot of cards in this space, like Orvar, the All-Form, have a casting trigger, so that’s a no go with replicate. But there are a few interesting things to do here anyway. If you can stick Izzet cards in a deck that use Horobi, Death’s Wail, then boom.
Here are some other powerful things that trigger off things (or themselves) being targeted:
- Blanka, Ferocious Friend
- Goldspan Dragon
- Illuminator Virtuoso
- Livewire Lash
- Opaline Sliver
- Silverfur Partisan
- Stormchaser Drake
That should get the ideas flowing, brewers!
This isn’t a payoff yet since there aren’t enough unique cards, but Errant, Street Artist is the first card that explicitly triggers off uncast spells. Wash Away targets such spells, and Parnesse, the Subtle Brush triggers off your copying of a spell.
WotC continues to print cards that copy spells, and although spell triggers mostly still have a “cast” in there, an increasing number don’t. All that is to say that it seems like this is an emerging design space in Magic. If that’s this kind of space you want to play around in as the payoffs start to emerge, grabbing some replicate spells while they’re still cheap isn’t a bad idea.
Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios | Illustration by Chris Rahn
Confession time: yes, I made drakes with Talrand, Sky Summoner and Gigadrowse before I knew what I was doing and no one stopped me. None of us, it seems, knew exactly what we were doing in those days.
I can’t say that replicate is the most mistakenly used keyword in Magic, but it’s gotta be in top five in casual circles. And now you know how to play fair with and get the most out of your replicate cards. I’d like to see more of these cards, as well as more payoffs for spell copying, in Magic’s future.
How about you? Are you a reformed replicate reprobate? Are you ready for more spell copy payoffs? Let me know in the comments down below or over in the Draftsim Discord.
That’s all from me for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: