Last updated on March 14, 2024

Elminster - Illustration by Viktor Titov

Elminster | Illustration by Viktor Titov

Scry is a keyword mechanic in MTG that has been around for almost 20 years. Only recently, and only with little more than a dozen cards, there’s finally a specific payoff to scrying aside from the general card selection inherent in the mechanic.

Let’s explore those scry payoffs and rank them for you blue-leaning mages.

What Are Whenever You Scry Cards in MTG?

Nimrodel Watcher - Illustration by Justyna Dura

Nimrodel Watcher | Illustration by Justyna Dura

Scry payoffs (which I totally want to call “scryfall,” like landfall, but I hear that’s taken), are on 14 Magic cards, all with the phrase “whenever you scry.” The first two of these appeared in Theros. One more was in Commander Legends: The Battle for Baldur’s Gate, and the bulk appeared in The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth.

Although the Simic scry deck from LTR seems to be an underperforming draft archetype, there are a few cards here that are sneaky good in a few Commander decks.

Just like when you scry in-game, let me know if you think the top card belongs on the bottom!

#14. Flamespeaker Adept

Flamespeaker Adept

One of the original Theros cards, Flamespeaker Adept is rough, even for Limited. Unplayable.

#13. Nimrodel Watcher

Nimrodel Watcher

Generally better than the Adept, especially in a Draft set with the Ring tempts you mechanic where unblockability is better than usual, Nimrodel Watcher is likely also unplayable in Commander. There are cheaper ways to enable ninjutsu, which also blanks this card’s buffs.

#12. Knowledge and Power

Knowledge and Power

If Knowledge and Power cost less than 2.5 mana for every noun in its name, it would be a sweet payoff for a scry strategy. Maybe. It would also have to lose the additional mana cost for activation.

#11. Glorfindel, Dauntless Rescuer

Glorfindel, Dauntless Rescuer

An odd card. Even if you give Glorfindel, Dauntless Rescuer deathtouch, one of the long-festering dreams of a card with Lure, it still doesn’t make much of an impact.

#10. Chance-Met Elves

Chance-Met Elves

These last two cards are kind of the bread-and-butter payoffs of the rarely effective blue-green scry deck in Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth Limited. And Chance-Met Elves can get decently big. But in any Constructed format, including Commander, the once-per-turn limit is too big a nerf.

#9. Celeborn the Wise

Celeborn the Wise

Celeborn the Wise is pretty low impact for an elves deck, which doesn’t really want a lot of 4-drops anyway. But it’s noteworthy that this is one of only about a dozen cards with a scry on attack trigger. It seems like there will be a better stack of payoffs for that in the future, so keep this card in mind. But for now, probably not in sleeves!

#8. Legolas, Counter of Kills

Legolas, Counter of Kills

Nerfed beyond combo realm on the untapping, Legolas, Counter of Kills is thus infuriating. We all remember that scene at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring when Legolas is just speed-arrowing down many Uruk-hai. This card wants to do that, except untapping is broken. Whomp, whomp.

Still, it could seem like a fine include for a Simic counters deck because it does a nice Malakir Cullblade impression at four mana. The trouble is that it’s four mana, and the things Simic can do at four mana far outclass this Elvish princeling.

#7. Council’s Deliberation

Council's Deliberation

There certainly are better card draw spells out there, but this seems severely underrated right now. If you have access to scrying in your deck, Council's Deliberation seems better than Chart a Course as played in an attacking deck. If you want your Chart to put something in the graveyard, that’s different. But I’d rather have two cards at instant speed, separated by time, relying on an external scry rather than two cards at once at sorcery speed relying on an attack trigger.

#6. Arwen Undómiel

Arwen Undómiel

Arwen Undómiel is a solid payoff for scrying, dishing off those counters without a Legolas-ian nerf. Just a few cards like Artificer's Assistant or Geist of the Archives, and you’re Oprah-ing out counters to the team. Perhaps not good enough as a scry commander, but Arwen is a solid role player, even if you never activate that ability for six.

#5. Elrond, Master of Healing

Elrond, Master of Healing

Dishing off more counters than his daughter, Elrond, Master of Healing wants to spread the wealth. Note that if you’re considering it as your commander over the next card.

I can’t see the card draw happening except when Elrond is spot removed. But if you have an ally that can use a tap ability like a pinger to help you get cards, that could be the start of a beautiful friendship if they have a Faerie Mastermind or something on the table.

Is this card good enough to dethrone Ezuri, Claw of Progress from the top of the Simic +1/+1 counter deck commander leaderboard? Probably not. Although the more cards you have like Fathom Mage and Hardened Scales, the better Elrond looks.

#4. Galadriel of Lothlórien

Galadriel of Lothlórien

There hasn’t really been a card like this, but I think Galadriel of Lothlórien could be pretty busted. Scry isn’t as good as drawing a card. But Galadriel gives you like scry plus a half, maybe? Two ways to think about it.

First, as ramp. If you scry and see a land and need one, you keep it on the top and it’s better than drawing a land because Galadriel drops it for you. I hear Simic likes ramp like that. If I run enough scry cards, I can drop a lot of lands. I can see a world where Galadriel can come down on turn two with a tapped land, and maybe that’s better than a stalwart like Tatyova, Benthic Druid.

No, I will not calm down.

Second, in the late game, when you’re looking for not-land, Galadriel gives you two passes at the top of your deck. You scry a Forest to the bottom and then look at the top. A Hinterland Harbor? Drop it tapped! That’s better flood amelioration than scry 2 and putting both lands on the bottom.

Would you run Deliberate instead of Opt to get this kind of bonus? I’m going to give it a try!

#3. Elvish Mariner

Elvish Mariner

Galadriel is likely better than Elvish Mariner, but blue-only cards that can slot into Elminster decks are at a premium. The attack trigger is convenient at times, but like this mariner, despite its adventurous and fantastic art, it might just stay in the docks and tap down the side for your other creatures. Did you remember the scry on The Scarab God?

#2. Elminster


I’ll be honest. I didn’t expect much of Elminster when I built a scry-heavy control deck for EDH. But this card really wants to throw down with a board wipe. With just the Dungeons and Dragons wizard out, you can tick it up to seven loyalty to do a Preordain and then cast Sunfall for three.

This planeswalker is also pretty awesome with expensive spells if you’ve packed your deck with other cards that scry. When I get control of the table, I’m regularly getting a four- or five-mana discount on that first spell.

Note that Elminster’s passive works at instant speed. That makes it much easier to double spell on an opponent’s turn if that’s a trigger you are looking for.

#1. Lost Isle Calling

Lost Isle Calling

It’s trivial to get enough verse counters on Lost Isle Calling if you’re scrying and/or proliferating in a game of Commander.

With seven counters, you pay six and Time Warp, but note that it draws you a ton of cards when you do that. Since you can only crack this at sorcery speed, you may not want to keep this going longer to press your luck against Feed the Swarm for big card draw. But you could. I guess.

Also note that there are twelve other cards that use verse counters if you’re moving counters around with something like Goldberry, River-Daughter, including cheap counter factories like Lilting Refrain and Serra's Hymn.

Best Scry Payoff Enablers

These are some fascinating card designs, and I think there’s going to be some interesting deckbuilding decisions to come if cheaper cards with scry keep being printed alongside more of these scry payoffs. Aside from the Simic and Elminster strategies already outlined, here’s a few cards to look out for.


There are 41 1-mana cards that scry. Cantrips like Serum Visions, permanents with ETBs like Witching Well, and spells like Stand Firm begin to feel like actual cantrips with enough scry payoffs in the deck.

Doors of Durin

Doors of Durin

Doors of Durin gives you a lot of scry triggers while enabling a really odd Gruul beatdown plan. Which is exactly the sort of awkward kludge that happens when Tolkien’s feuding elves and dwarves get together to do a Winota, Joiner of Forces impression while doing some design work. But that also means do can think of scrying outside of passive control schemes!

Aragorn, the Uniter

Aragorn, the Uniter

There are a lot of ways to build Aragorn, the Uniter as a commander, but the scry part of this seems the most overlooked. You really want to put Galadriel and Elminster in a deck together, but you need a Uniter to get them together past color restrictions. Can you imagine all three on the battlefield at once? The triggers!!! Now, can you find a way to make a deck that can get there?

I’m going to try!

Wrap Up

Knowledge and Power - Illustration by Jung Park

Knowledge and Power | Illustration by Jung Park

I’m super excited about this design space! If WotC decides to power creep scry, that seems like a good use of FIRE design to me! It’s flavorful, self-limiting in terms of power, and creative.

I’m here for it. How about you? Let me know all your thoughts about scrying, payoffs for it, and how you hope to build around it in your future decks! Make sure to leave a comment with your thoughts or come and join the official Draftsim Discord!

Until next time, stay safe, and stay healthy!

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