Last updated on January 3, 2023

Lose Focus - Illustration by Martina Fackova

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!

How Does Replicate Work?

Threefold Signal - Illustration by Julian Kok Joon Wen

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.

The History of Replicate in MTG

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.

Does Replicate Count as Casting?

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.

Is Replicate an Activated Ability?

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.

Is Replicate an Additional Cost?

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.

What if a Card Has Multiple Instances of 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.

Do Replicate Copies Also Have Replicate?

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.

What if One of the Replicate Copies Is Countered?

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.

What if the Replicate Trigger Is Countered?

If the replicate trigger is countered by a Stifle effect, no replications can be made.

Gallery and List of Replicate Cards

Best Replicate Cards

Most of these cards are pretty niche.

Honorable Mentions

Psionic Ritual

Psionic Ritual is absolutely bonkers in a Captain N’ghathrod deck. It’s also absolute garbage in anything but horror tribal.

Train of Thought

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.

#5. Threefold Signal

Threefold Signal

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.

#4. Pyromatics

Pyromatics

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!

So opponents have to respond with a Disallow effect on the replicate trigger itself or else use something with split second that shuts down the stack, like Angel’s Grace.

For those of you whose metas Rule 0 conversations before an EDH battle disallow infinite mana combos, by all means cut this inefficient card. But Pyromatics is the emperor in the halls of degeneracy.

#3. Lose Focus

Lose Focus

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.

That said, how often do you see that kind of nonsense? If your answer is every Commander night at your LGS, pack a copy of Lose Focus.

This does show up in some Pauper control builds as well as a few Modern decks playing around in the Lutri, the Spellchaser space.

#2. Gigadrowse

Gigadrowse

Gigadrowse can tap down all the permanents with enough mana. So that’s an expensive Sleep, and you can also use it to tap down lands on someone’s upkeep to really mess up their turn.

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.

#1. Shattering Spree

Shattering Spree

Not as good as Vandalblast or Shatterstorm, but Shattering Spree is pretty nimble for picking off various rocks at an EDH table while sparing your own nonsense.

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.

Best Replicate Payoffs

Remember, replicate doesn’t cast the copies, so traditional spellslinger things don’t work here. But there are still some interesting payoffs.

Magecraft

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.

Ral, Storm Conduit

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.

“Becomes the Target” Cards

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:

That should get the ideas flowing, brewers!

Spell Copier Payoffs

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.

Wrap Up

Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios - Illustration by Chris Rahn

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!

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