Last updated on January 18, 2023
Preordain | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov
Wizards has tried a lot of different ways to implement better card selection over the years. While you can’t just let players draw cards all the time, you can give them better options for their next draw.
Card selection is a powerful tool in the hands of a skilled player, but it also works across all skill levels. Giving yourself some info for your next few possible draws can be pretty impactful. Enter scry.
Let’s talk about that.
How Does Scry Work?
Temple of Enlightenment | Illustration by Piotr Dura
Scry is always associated with a number. When you trigger a scry ability, you look at the top X cards of your library. You can then rearrange the cards in any order on top of your library or put any number of them on the bottom of your library.
History of Scry
Scry first appeared in Fifth Dawn, with the spoiler card being Magma Jet. All of the original scry cards were only scry 2, interestingly enough.
Scry was originally called flow. Instead of being put on the bottom of your library, the cards would be exiled or put on top in any order. R&D didn’t like how Spike-y this was and it eventually became what we now know as scry.
This mechanic would make a comeback in Future Sight and Magic 2011 in small doses. The original Theros block gave it a greater role in the set, especially with the rare cycle of Temples. It would become an evergreen keyword in Magic Origins and is now seen in small doses in every set.
What Colors Is Scry Primarily In?
Magma Jet | Illustration by Maciej Kuciara
Scry is primarily in blue and has been so since its inception. It’s featured in all colors in smaller numbers, with red having the lowest number of scry cards.
Scry became an evergreen keyword with Magic Origins. R&D found that scry fit into almost any set and the mechanic was popular enough to warrant its new status.
You can rearrange the cards you look at in any order when resolving a scry ability. You can put some on top of and other on the bottom of your library in any order.
Scry is always followed by a number, which determines how many cards from the top of your library you’re allowed to look at. If you’re performing a scry 3 action, you look at the top 3 cards of your library and then decide how to rearrange them. If it’s only a scry 1, you look at only one card.
Cryptic Annelid | Illustration by Anthony S. Waters
Each instance of scry on a card is its own unique trigger. If you have a card with multiple instances of scry then you perform each one separately.
Let’s say you have a card that says “scry 1, then scry 1 again.” You look at only one card for the first scry and then resolve it. The next instance of scry triggers after the first resolves and you look at one card again. But if you have a card that says “scry 2,” you look at the top two cards and then rearrange them.
Scry vs. Surveil; What’s the Difference?
Unlike scry’s option to put cards at the top or bottom of your library, surveil works a little differently. Surveil allows you to put those cards in your graveyard instead of the bottom of your library, but they work the same otherwise.
If you somehow have a scry 0 card, nothing happens. Per 701.18b, you don’t scry and nothing relating to you scrying triggers.
The convention version of Mystery Boosters offered a single card with a strangely similar mechanic: Biting Remark. This had an ability called “scrycast,” where you were able to cast it from your library if you happened to see it while resolving a scry ability. It wasn’t featured on any other cards in the set.
Wizards changed how mulligan rules worked back in 2015. For the longest time you would just draw one less card after each mulligan. The Vancouver mulligan rule implemented in 2015 instead lets you draw a hand with one less card. If you happened to start a game with less than seven cards in your hand, you get to scry 1.
This was changed again in 2019 with Core Set 2020 when the London mulligan rule was implemented. You still draw a full hand of seven cards, but you put a number back equal to how many times you’ve taken a mulligan. You no longer get to scry.
Whenever you trigger a scry ability you’ll see the scry pop-up interface. The face-down card represents your library and any face-up cards are the cards you’re looking at while scrying.
You can click and drag any number of cards to the left of the face-down card to put them on the bottom of your library. Any cards remaining on the right side of the face-down card will stay on top of your library in that order.
Way, way back in the early life of Magic there was a Scrye magazine. This magazine was the premier way to learn about Magic and other collectible games. It ran for 131 issues before being shut down in 2009. The Scrye magazine was so influential that the original playtest name for the scry mechanic was actually “scrye,” but it was changed before the release of Fifth Dawn.
Theros’s Temple lands are useful dual lands that fit in most formats. They fix mana and can fix your draw; what’s not to like?
Thrasios, Triton Hero
Treasure Map / Treasure Cove
Viscera Seer is another combo-enabler. You’ll usually see this card in Commander as a way to stack your deck with scry triggers.
Temple of Abandon | Illustration by Adam Paquette
Scry is a tried-and-true mechanic. It’s evergreen for a reason after all. I never feel bad seeing scry on a card because I know it’ll be useful. Knowing what cards to keep on top during a game is a great way to get an advantage and it also helps newer players get into the mindset of figuring out how their deck should work and how to think ahead.
What do you think about scry? Do you wish it was something else? Did I miss any of your favorite scry cards in my best of list? Let me know in the comments below or reach out to us on Twitter.
As for me, I’m gonna go jump back into Forza Horizon. Catch ya later!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: