Last updated on May 25, 2023

Damn - Illustration by Lucas Graciano

Damn | Illustration by Lucas Graciano

There are all kinds of situations when an overload is not a positive thing. When you’re carrying too much while you’re trying to open the door to your home; when you’ve got too many things going and not enough days; when it’s swelteringly hot, everybody’s got their ACs going, and the power grid just can’t handle it. Oof.

But it’s not all bad, because overload in Magic usually gives you an advantage for paying its alternate cost. I’ve got the full complement of overload cards here for you, but be sure to consume them at your own pace.

How Does Overload Work?

Counterflux - Illustration by Scott M. Fischer

Counterflux | Illustration by Scott M. Fischer

Overload is a keyword ability that gives a card an alternate mana cost. Overload represents two static abilities; the first is the ability that resolves if you pay the regular cost, and the second is the overloaded ability, which resolves when you pay the overload cost.

Overloaded abilities take the effect from the card’s original ability and spread it across all possible targets by changing the text of the card from “target” to each”. This means the overloaded version has no targets.

The History of Overload in MTG

The overload keyword first appeared in 2012’s Return to Ravnica as an Izzet ()-specific mechanic. There were twelve overload spells in that set, but the most iconic is probably Cyclonic Rift. Here’s the full list of Return to Ravnica overload cards:

Two more overload cards joined in Dragon’s Maze, Dragonshift and Weapon Surge. There have been reprints over the years, mostly in Commander, Modern Masters, and Double Masters products. The Modern Horizons sets have added seven cards including Mind Rake, a card that’s notable because its overload cost is cheaper than its usual mana cost.

At a six on the Storm Scale, it’s a keyword that’s in the designers’ toolbox, although with a lower likelihood of returning. You can kind of see why; it’s tough to balance an effect like this, and kicker/multikicker operates in a similar design space. March of Progress from The Brothers’ War Commander is the most recent original overload card, so there’s hope yet.

#24. Chemister’s Trick

Chemister's Trick

No. This isn’t it.

The goad keyword ability has become better than this phrasing to force a creature to attack. And Chemister's Trick just feels… off. I can’t think of any reason to use this apart from not having anything else that fits your curve.

#23. Downsize


If overloaded, Downsize is a pseudo-Fog effect, I guess. Well, -4 to all creatures’ power can be a fog, depending on what’s on board. We all know a big creature deck or two that just laughs at this.

#22. Weapon Surge

Weapon Surge

Weapon Surge can be pretty “meh” in EDH, but its common printing makes it eligible for Pauper formats. Eligible doesn’t mean “good.” Perhaps “placeholder ‘til I find something I like better” is its best job. It’s definitely fun with well-designed synergy between the name, art, and overload.

#21. Stirring Address

Stirring Address

Stirring Address isn’t all that impressive in EDH, but it can work for you in Pauper. Its early-game role is to help a creature squeak out a combat or blocking victory, but it can help a full board swing in the late-game. And it’s instant speed, so you can wait until after blockers are declared if you wish.

#20. Dragonshift


Dragonshift is ironically better in decks with very few dragons, but if you’re doing that, you probably don’t have any payoffs for swinging with a bunch of dragons. Pity. I think I’d rather just play with dragons.

#19. Street Spasm

Street Spasm

Street Spasm is an X spell with overload, and its overload cost makes it an XX spell. It’s restricted to nonfliers, though, and it honestly feels clunky to pair with Archetype of Imagination, you know? Even Rosheen Meanderer can probably find better X spells.

#18. Break the Ice

Break the Ice

Someone forgot to talk about Break the Ice when they explored mass land destruction. Not pointing fingers or anything, just sayin’.

Break the Ice is specific to snow lands (hit or miss) and ones that generate colorless mana (brutal). Goodbye Strip Mine, Thespian's Stage, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, et al.

#17. Dynacharge


Dynacharge is better than Weapon Surge despite an overload cost that’s slightly higher. First strike helps to survive combat phases you otherwise wouldn’t while +2/+2 is better for dealing more damage and clearing bigger blockers. So much the better if you’re also lifelinking.

#16. Teleportal


Teleportal is solid, but it’s nothing special compared to some of the other overload cards. It’s a small buff, and your creatures become temporarily unblockable. It’s not bad, but it’s not getting my heart racing or anything.

#15. Mind Rake

Mind Rake

Lil Québec French lesson for y’all: the anglicized French word for “discard” is “discarte,” which can be a homophone of the French words for “ten cards,” “dix cartes,” depending on pronunciation. In a five-player game, that’s how many cards the table discards to an overloaded Mind Rake. Or is it underloaded? Regardless, I hope you’ve got your Waste Not in play.

#14. Blustersquall


An overloaded Blustersquall is a mass creature-tapping effect that’ll prevent anyone from blocking you or activating their creatures’ tap abilities for a moment. It’s also a lot of +1/+1 counters for Rhoda, Geist Avenger.

#13. March of Progress

March of Progress

March of Progress is an artifact doubler that’ll make every one of Urza, Lord High Artificer’s Constructs twice as powerful if you overload it. Should you play this before or after you’ve animated them, or does it really matter?

#12. Mizzium Skin

Mizzium Skin

Mizzium Skin is another decent common with overload, one that toughens up your board and gives them hexproof. You’ll protect them from all kinds of effects, though not everything as we know well. Even cast as a 1-drop, instant-speed hexproof on one of your creatures can be very useful, a saving grace if you will.

#11. Scale Up

Scale Up

Would you still love me if I were a wurm? It’s okay; we can all be wurms!

Scale Up can turn your entire field of creatures into 6/4 wurms until end of turn. This spell only touches your creatures but doesn’t remove any of their abilities. You’re a green player, so you’ve probably got some buffing effect up your sleeve, if not already on board. Or both. Both is good.

#10. Spectacular Showdown

Spectacular Showdown

Spectacular Showdown is new as of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate. I can totally see how this could be inspired by Dungeons & Dragons mechanics. Granting a creature double strike while goading it is very much a “give and take” effect, but overloading it to affect every creature on the board is just ludicrous.

#9. Counterflux


Counterflux counters every spell on the stack that doesn’t belong to you. Spell, not ability, so activated abilities and triggered abilities are safe from this. Given its Izzet colors, it can be an extra, uncounterable counterspell in the arsenal of spellslingers.

#8. Electrickery


Yeah, this is pretty dang good. Electrickery is cheap to cast and cheap to overload. Its overloaded static ability can clear away a bunch of tokens, mana dorks, and small creatures. At common, it’s perfect for virtually any red deck in Pauper. Good stuff all around here.

#7. Rise and Shine

Rise and Shine

Rise and Shine is a mass artifact animation spell that distributes +1/+1 counters when it does so. To me, counters always beg for doublers, but the fact that it was reprinted for March of the Machine Commander points toward including proliferation.

#6. Mizzium Mortars

Mizzium Mortars

Overload and damage spells seem to go hand in hand. Makes sense, given how overloading something hints aggression, impulsiveness, and arrogance. Mizzium Mortars burns hotter than Electrickery, so it’ll clear away lots more of an opponent’s board presence. But you know what’s nice? Doubling that damage with Solphim, Mayhem Dominus.

#5. Winds of Abandon

Winds of Abandon

Winds of Abandon is an overload spell that acts as a sweeper, and it has the quirk of giving your opponents a bunch of lands. Of course, they all come in tapped, so they’re mostly useless to them until they can be untapped.

Bell Borca, Spectral Sergeant cares about the mana costs of cards that are put into exile this turn. After Winds of Abandon, that can be (checks calculator) uh, a lot.

#4. Mizzix’s Mastery

Mizzix's Mastery

Mizzix's Mastery first appeared in Commander 2015, but it came back in Strixhaven Mystical Archive. Here’s the neat thing about the copies that you make with Mizzix's Mastery: you can’t pay alternate costs for the copies, but you can pay additional costs like kicker/multikicker. You’ve already cast an overloaded Mizzix's Mastery, though, so you must be swimming in mana.

#3. Damn


That’s what I said. Damn can serve as targeted removal that gets around regeneration, but it can also be a devastating sweeper. Commander decks will need to be Orzhov or more colors to use this, but that doesn’t stop it from seeing play.

#2. Vandalblast


Vandalblast is such a good little 1-drop at its core, which is probably one of the reasons it’s been reprinted in both Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Commander and Innistrad: Crimson Vow Commander. It’s an artifact-specific sweeper, which is the perfect response to the mass-artifact animation of Rise and Shine. Kibo, Uktabi Prince can use this to gain a bunch of +1/+1 counters.

#1. Cyclonic Rift

Cyclonic Rift

Cyclonic Rift is incredibly good. Its mass-bounce effect can be devastating in the late-game, both by removing well-established boards and potentially forcing many of those cards to be discarded. That is if you haven’t swung in to end the game before that happens. If you time this right, you can bait your opponents to spend their mana and cards before you drop it. You’re dabbling in blue, so you should always aim for those moments when your opponent can’t respond.

Best Overload Card Payoffs

Overloaded spells don’t target, so they get around abilities like shroud and hexproof. A copy of an overloaded spell is also overloaded, so that’s neat. And because it has a mana cost and an alternate casting cost, your overload card can play two different roles in your mana curve: you can use it early to limited effect, or time it well late for a larger payoff.

Many overload spells remove creatures or at least tap them to clear the way. Cyclonic Rift is a mass-bouncer, Blustersquall is a mass-tapper, and Winds of Abandon is a mass-exiler. Teleportal makes your creatures unblockable. Oh, and Damn.

The best damage spells with the overload keyword ability are Mizzium Mortars and Electrickery. They also both happen to be red so that you can take advantage of cards like Solphim, Mayhem Dominus and other damage doublers.

Designed as an Izzet mechanic, spellslinger decks are a good home for overload cards. Melek, Izzet Paragon can let you cast one from the top of your deck, overloaded or not, and copies it if you do. Any instant or sorcery you cast strengthens your wizards for a turn in an Adeliz, the Cinder Wind deck.

How Does Overload Damage Work?

An overloaded spell does damage to each potential “target”. Because an overloaded spell doesn’t actually target, it’ll hit a permanent with hexproof or shroud.

Overload damage doesn’t work on permanents that have protection from the overload spell’s color. Protection works against damage, being enchanted or equipped, being blocked, or targeting. Overload gets around the targeting part of the protection, but it doesn’t work against the damage protection. #Protection4TheWin.

Can You Reduce Overload Costs in MTG?

Goblin Electromancer

Yes, you can. For example, Goblin Electromancer reduces the cost of casting your instants and sorceries by . When determining the total cost of the spell, you start with the mana value or the alternative cost that you’re paying, then you apply the cost reduction. But watch out! Your overload spell can be taxed, too.

Can You Overload for Free in MTG?

No and yes. For “no,” you can only have one alternative casting cost at a time. Overload is one, but so are abilities that let you play cards without paying their mana cost. You can’t use Omniscience or a cascade ability to get a free overloaded Vandalblast, for example.

For “yes,” convoke is a keyword ability that can help to reduce the cost of a spell by tapping creatures. It’s not an alternative casting cost, so it doesn’t override overload. There are currently five cards that grant convoke to instants and sorceries, but they’re all restricted. Hoarding Broodlord only grants convoke to cards in exile, for example, and Fallaji Wayfarer is limited to multicolored spells. You can do it, but it isn’t easy.

Can You Overload from Exile in MTG?

Yes. Using other effects that let you cast from exile, you can cast an overloaded spell from that zone as long as you don’t apply an alternative casting cost to it. You can only apply one alternative casting cost at a time, so you can’t use an effect that has you cast the spell without paying its mana cost.

A card like Hoarding Broodlord lets you play the card that you exile as part of its ETB. Evelyn, the Covetous, Prosper, Tome-Bound, and Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald also allow you to exile cards and play them from exile without forcing another alternate casting cost on you.

Can You Copy Overload in MTG?

Yes, you can. When you copy a spell, you copy many of its properties including any alternative casting costs. Because of that, a copy of an overloaded spell is also overloaded.

Why Is Cyclonic Rift So Good?

Cyclonic Rift

Cyclonic Rift is so powerful because of which players and permanents it affects. Cyclonic Rift leaves your own permanents alone, and overloading it bounces “each” nonland permanent to your opponents’ hands.

This naturally affects more players in multiplayer games, but overload also doesn’t target, so it gets around hexproof and shroud. It doesn’t destroy, so it gets around indestructible. Cyclonic Rift doesn’t deal damage, it doesn’t enchant or equip, it isn’t a blocker, and it doesn’t target when overloaded. That means that for once, protection from blue or monocolored isn’t enough! Depending on the number of cards your opponents have in hand and the number of permanents being returned, they may be forced to discard down to their maximum hand size during their next cleanup step. If you haven’t killed everyone before then.


Mizzix's Mastery - Illustration by Dan Scott

Mizzix's Mastery | Illustration by Dan Scott

Still with me? Nice going! I hope I’ve sparked some inspiration in how and where you can use overload. It’s a neat ability, but it’s tough to balance the effect, mana value, and alternate cost.

There are some iconic overload cards that are going to be reprinted for years to come, and there’s always the chance that future sets bring it back. It’ll probably be a Commander, Masters, or Modern Horizons type product, but we can always dream of a main set.

Which overload cards are the best? Which ones leave you underwhelmed? Do you want to see it come back, or should it be left alone? Let me know in the comments below, or over in the Draftsim Discord.

Thanks for reading, and remember that you too can be an Overload Overlord!

Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates:

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *