Last updated on July 22, 2022

Ancestral Vision (Iconic Masters) - Illustration by John Avon

Ancestral Vision (Iconic Masters) | Illustration by John Avon

Magic has plenty of keywords and mechanics that create quite the learning curve for new players. I remember constantly grabbing cards I’d read half a dozen times already to refresh myself on just what the heck dredge or ninjutsu was, and I know suspend was one of those.

Suspend is a mechanic like no other in Magic. It’s kind of like an investment in your future self in each game. Today I’d like to go into detail on just what suspend is, what sets and cards you can find it in, and how it works in terms of responses, the stack, and counterspells, as well as how you can make it work overtime for you and your deck.

Let’s get started!

How Does Suspend Work?

Ancestral Recall (Vintage Masters) - Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Ancestral Recall (Vintage Masters) | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Suspend is a keyword ability in Magic that allows you to pay a specific mana cost and exile a card with a number of time counters on it. You remove one of these counters from the card at the beginning of your upkeep and then cast it without paying its mana cost when the last counter is removed.

Some suspend cards have regular mana values with the suspend mechanic being an alternative cost while others can only be played by being suspended first. Suspend cards often have lower costs to suspend then they would otherwise have through their regular casting costs since the downside of waiting to cast it needs to be balanced.

History of Suspend

Suspend was a mechanic first introduced in Time Spiral in 2006 and is one of the rarer keywords to see on Magic cards. It’s mostly included in compilation and reprint sets as well as preconstructed decks like Modern Masters, Time Spiral Remastered, and Strixhaven Commander.

There were 28 unique cards with suspend originally released in Time Spiral, many of which are some of the most powerful or famous cards with the keyword. Cards like Ancestral Vision, Lotus Bloom, Riftwing Cloudskate, and Search for Tomorrow to name just a few.

The most recent cards printed with suspend was in a few of the Commander 2021 decks, which included cards like Epochrasite and Inspiring Refrain.

What Colors Is Suspend Primarily In?

Suspend is pretty well-distributed among the colors. The average amount of suspend cards for each color is about 18.7%, with 6.5% being distributed among colorless and multicolored cards. Black is a small outlier with only 14.8% of all suspend cards, with red having the most suspend cards with 21.3% of the pool.

Quick note: This is only counting cards with the suspend keyword on them, not cards that manipulate or give other cards suspend.

Is Suspend Evergreen?

Knight of Old Benalia - Illustration by Dan Scott

Knight of Old Benalia | Illustration by Dan Scott

Evergreen mechanics and keywords are common and “generic” things like trample, indestructible, haste, sacrifice, etc. These are core to Magic gameplay and balance, and you can expect to see them in every set release.

Suspend is not one of these mechanics and is instead reserved for Time Spiral cards and compilation and reprint sets like Modern Horizons as well as preconstructed EDH decks.

Do Suspended Cards Have a Mana Value?

Suspended cards typically have no mana cost which means their mana value is zero. The suspend cost is not their mana value. Their casting cost is also zero when you play them after their suspend timer is up. This is important to know because it interacts with cards that care about card’s mana costs including cascade.

If you play something like Violent Outburst, you could cascade down into a 0 mana-value spell like Ancestral Vision and draw three cards. Many iterations of Living End decks are built off of this, including Temur () Cascade decks that get multiple Crashing Footfalls‘ off early on with this unique interaction.

When Can You Suspend in Magic?

Only cards that can be played at sorcery speed have the suspend keyword, which means you can only suspend at sorcery speed. You can’t suspend on your opponent’s end step (a.k.a. instant speed) to then immediately remove a time counter at your upcoming upkeep.

Can You Respond to Suspend?

Living End - Illustration by Greg Staples

Living End | Illustration by Greg Staples

You can only respond to suspended cards when they’re coming out of exile and being cast for free. You can’t respond to a card being suspended since it isn’t being cast and doesn’t go onto the stack. No priority is passed so you have no chance to respond.

Can You Target Suspended Cards?

Suspended cards are in exile, which means they’re outside the game and can’t be target without some specific mechanic that says you can. Usually mechanics that target cards outside of the game refer to your sideboard or cards exiled by the same spell like with Karn, Scion of Urza.

What Are Some Ways to Remove Suspend (Time) Counters?

Certain cards remove counters from cards which effectively accelerates you ahead one turn in terms of casting those suspend cards.

Clockspinning

Clockspinning

Clockspinning will do just this and even give you the option of buying it back and getting a suspended card out two whole turns early.

Deep-Sea Kraken

Deep-Sea Kraken

Deep-Sea Kraken removes suspend counters from itself whenever an opponent draws a card, which you may think is awesome until you realize it comes in with nine counters total.

Fury Charm

Fury Charm

Fury Charm has an option to remove time counters from a permanent or suspend cards. This is great if you have something like Ancestral Vision or Riftwing Cloudskate to get out on turn 2 or 3.

Greater Gargadon

Greater Gargadon

Greater Gargadon is sort of like Deep-Sea Kraken in that it comes in with a lot of time counters, but it can get ramped out much quicker if you have fodder to sacrifice.

Rift Elemental

Rift Elemental

Rift Elemental has an activated ability for that removes a time counter from a permanent or suspended card you own.

Jhoira’s Timebug

Jhoira's Timebug

Jhoira’s Timebug is a permanent option if you’re running a lot of suspend cards in your Commander deck. It can effectively half the time counters on the cards. Timecrafting does the exact same thing but could be even more potent in effect.

Timebender

Timebender

Timebender actually does both and can be used to either ramp out your own suspend cards or delay your opponent’s prospects.

Venser’s Diffusion

Venser's Diffusion

Venser’s Diffusion can outright undo the progress that your opponent made with their own suspended cards, bouncing them back and seriously disrupting their plans.

Can You Proliferate Suspend Counters?

While the proliferate mechanic only hits counters on permanents, there are some options to get more time counters on cards. If you’re looking to do this, then your options are Shivan Sand-Mage, Suspend, and the previously mentioned Venser’s Diffusion and Timebender.

How Can You Mess with or Counteract Suspended Cards?

A strategy revolving around adding time counters or delaying your opponent’s suspended spells is just about as niche and specific as you can get, which makes it much more of a sideboard plan. Having cards like Timebender to disrupt opponent’s spells that you know will be suspended early just isn’t something you can main deck unless you’re drafting something like Time Spiral Remastered.

Do You Have to Cast Suspend Cards?

Mox Tantalite - Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Mox Tantalite | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Yes, you have to cast suspend cards if you’re able to. There is no “may” in the rulings for suspend. The official Comprehensive Rules for Magic say that you “play it without paying its mana cost if able. If you can’t, it remains exiled” (706.62a).

It’s a common mistake for players to believe suspend cards may be cast when this isn’t the case.

Can You Attack Right Away with an “Unsuspended” Creature?

You sure can! Part of suspend is letting you access the card immediately after the time counters are all removed. Creatures that have been suspended and are then played gain haste when they enter the battlefield according to the Comprehensive Rules section 706.62a.

Not gaining haste would seriously dampen the power level of the mechanic and make every creature with suspend far worse since they’re balanced with the idea that they get haste in mind.

Does Cascade Work with Suspend?

Sol Talisman - Illustration by Volkan Baga

Sol Talisman | Illustration by Volkan Baga

Cascade does work with suspend, which makes it one of the most unique and fun mechanics in MTG. You’re still casting these cards even if you’re not paying the mana value on the card (if there is one), which means the cascade mechanic still fires off.

There are a few combos and special interactions that makes this mechanic pair so powerful, and even some powerful Modern decks that you might have some interest in. More on this later!

When Do You Choose the Targets for a Suspend Card?

The targets for a suspended spell are chosen when the card is cast after the time counters have been removed. This is important because if you were to choose the targets for spells when you suspended them, those creatures/players/spells may not be legal targets X turns later when the spell is cast and it would just fizzle.

Is Suspend “Cast from Exile?”

Suspended cards are put into exile when they’re suspended. They remain in exile while their time counters are removed. When all of the counters are finally removed and the card is being cast, it’s still in exile right up until it’s put into the stack. For practical purposes it’s not being cast from your hand, graveyard, or anywhere else.

Is Suspend Face-Up or Face-Down?

Lotus Bloom - Illustration by Mark Zug

Lotus Bloom | Illustration by Mark Zug

Suspend is a face-up mechanic. The list of cards in exile is available to all players unless explicitly mentioned otherwise. The suspend card is revealed when put into exile and players can respond to the time counter removal trigger every upkeep.

This is very important because if a player isn’t able to see a card being suspended, they’re at its mercy when it comes out at an unknown time with unknown consequences. This would be too powerful and hard to balance.

Can You Stifle Suspend? How Can You Counter It?

Stifle

Stifle can stop the final time counter removal of a suspended card. This would leave the card in exile forever without a time counter to remove. Since suspend is cast for free when the last counter is removed, it would never give the player the option to be cast if that trigger is missed. Very powerful.

Is Suspend Good?

Suspend is a powerful mechanic and is specifically balanced with the knowledge that the card is publicly shown with a timer until it’s revealed. This downside for the casting player results in the cards being extremely powerful for their invested mana cost. These cards are even stronger if they’re abused and cast for free with the use of the cascade mechanic or other combos.

List of Suspend Cards

Best Suspend Cards

Living End

Living End

Living End is one of the most infamous suspend cards ever printed and carries some of the highest amount of power in a non-power card. It was even the flagship card in some successful Modern decks earlier in Magic’s history. The strategies revolved around milling powerful creatures into your graveyard while Living End slowly ticks down, spelling doom for your opponents.

Ancestral Vision

Ancestral Vision

Ancestral Vision is an incredibly potent mimic of Ancestral Recall that offers the same trade of cards for mana with the drawback of waiting a few turns. This downside has proven to be too weak for the formats it’s legal in, but it’s still one of the best suspend cards.

Crashing Footfalls

Crashing Footfalls

Crashing Footfalls is one of the newer suspend cards printed in Modern Horizons and is an incredible piece for some Modern cascade decks.

Decklist: Temur Cascade in Modern

Crashing Footfalls - Illustration by Dan Scott

Crashing Footfalls | Illustration by Dan Scott

Temur Cascade recently 5-0’d a Modern league on MTGO and features a few of the most powerful suspend cards I just mentioned. Most notable is the four copies of Crashing Footfalls, which the deck cascades out with the Shardless Agent and Violent Outburst combo.

The deck has some extra burn and hard-to-block creatures like Fury, Seasoned Pyromancer, and Brazen Borrower to finish off opponents who manage to kill the early 4/4 rhinos without dying.

Wrap Up

Search for Tomorrow (Time Spiral Remastered) - Illustration by Greg Staples

Search for Tomorrow (Time Spiral Remastered) | Illustration by Greg Staples

That’s everything you could possibly need to know about the suspend mechanic. I really like the mechanic if I can suspend something early on. It makes me feel safe knowing I have some good stuff coming my way and I can get some value by doing nothing.

What do you think? Do you like it as a keyword? Would you want it to go evergreen? Let me know down in the comments or over in our Draftsim Discord.

Until next time, stay safe, and stay healthy!

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2 Comments

  • Avatar
    Soulclenz September 17, 2022 9:27 am

    What happens to a suspend card after it’s cast? Does it go into the graveyard or stay exiled?

    • Avatar
      Dan Troha September 17, 2022 10:41 am

      If it’s an instant or sorcery, it goes to the graveyard as usual.

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