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The Use and Lineage of Wishes (Exclusive CN2 Spoiler)


In Magic, making a wish has become synonymous with tutoring up a card you own from outside the game (disregarding the card that's actually named Make a Wish, which isn't really a true wish). Currently, outside the game means your sideboard and not your binder or that old box of cards in your parents basement (apparently, Wizards decided that having people flying to different states to resolve a card was a bad idea). 

Over Magic's history, there have been a total of 10 cards that allow a player to search for a card they own outside of the game, ranging from the original Ring of Ma'rûf to Coax from the Blind Eternities in Magic's newest set Eldritch Moon, and it's this group of cards we are going to talk about today. Now, you're probably wondering why I'm randomly writing an article about the history and use of wishes. Thankfully, I have a good reason: we've got a Conspiracy spoiler to show off for you all!

Burning Wish

That's right, Burning Wish is getting another printing, and it's a good thing too. Not only is Burning Wish a Legacy staple, but it only had one real printing, way back in Judgment, to go along with a very expensive judge promo printing. So, in a very real sense, putting Burning Wish into Conspiracy is another shout-out to making at least some aspects of Legacy more accessible. More importantly, Burning Wish is a really sweet card. 

First off, Burning Wish is one of the very few "from outside the game" cards that can actually wish for more wishes, which everyone knows is the correct thing to do in most situations (although it's rarely the right thing to do in a game of Magic). Seriously though, the thing I love about Burning Wish is how it changes the entire dynamic of deck building in several different ways. So, let's break them down, primarily with the help of Burning Wish but perhaps with a bit of help from the other wishes as well. 

Using Wishes

The most common home for Burning Wish is in a combo deck, and in combo decks, you're normally looking to assemble two or three different cards that together can win you the game. As such, you almost always want four copies of your combo pieces in your main deck (to maximize your chances of drawing them) and then typically some cantrips, card draw, and filtering to find the pieces that you need. However, if your combo is built around a sorcery and you're playing Burning Wish, the whole deck-building paradigm changes. Instead of playing four copies of your combo piece in the main deck, you'll often play three and leave one in the sideboard. Thanks to Burning Wish, it's like you have seven copies of your combo piece, plus copies four through seven can also be answers. Take this build of Omni-Tell, for example: 

If you're not familiar with Omni-Tell, the main goal of the deck is to use Show and Tell to put an Omniscience on the battlefield, cast an Enter the Infinite for free to draw your entire deck, and then play all of your stuff (including an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn) for free. Naturally, you'd assume the deck would be playing four copies of Show and Tell in the main deck because that's the primary plan for winning the game, but instead, the deck is playing only three copies and leaving one in the sideboard for Burning Wish. Of course, using Burning Wish to find a Show and Tell is a bit inefficient—you've got to spend two extra mana to find your combo piece. So, why is it worth the trouble? Well, apart from adding consistency (by giving you more total copies of Show and Tell), Burning Wish can be a lot more than just a Show and Tell in the deck!

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On level one, Burning Wish can get not only Show and Tell but one of your other combo pieces as well in Enter the Infinite. As a result, drawing extra copies of Burning Wish is actually a good thing, unlike drawing multiple copies of Show and Tell, where the second, third, and fourth are fairly useless unless the first one gets countered. If you don't have a Show and Tell, Burning Wish will find it, but if you do, Burning Wish will find you an Enter the Infinite to close out the game. 

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On the other hand, let's say you have your combo all set to go, but you're pretty sure your opponent has a Force of Will in hand to ruin your plans. Burning Wish has the ability to fetch up a Thoughtseize or Cabal Therapy to help you force through your Show and Tell. If your opponent decides to spend their Force of Will on your Burning Wish, that's fine—it still clears the way for resolving your Show and Tell and winning the game. 

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What if you are in danger of dying to a board full of creatures before you get a chance to combo off? Burning Wish has you covered here too! You can search up a Firebolt to get rid of a pesky Thalia, Guardian of Thraben that's slowing you down, or you can search up a Pyroclasm or Massacre to deal with an entire board full of creatures or tokens. 

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So, we've got creatures and hands covered, but what if your opponent is giving you a hard time with a non-creature permanent that's already on the battlefield? Burning Wish can take care of this as well by searching up a Void Snare to bounce anything or Meltdown as a sort of weird Legacy version of Shatterstorm

This Omni-Tell deck probably provides the best example of the power of Burning Wish, whish is a combo piece or finisher when you need it to be. It's also a discard spell, a removal spell, a sweeper, an Affinity hoser, and a way to deal with Karn Liberated, all for just two mana. The beauty of a card like Burning Wish is that it expands your deck by X number of cards. 

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Compare Demonic Tutor—likely the best tutor ever printed—with Burning Wish. Now, Demonic Tutor is amazing. If it were legal in Legacy, you can bet that people would be using it to set up their Show and Tell combos; however, Demonic Tutor is always limited to the cards that are in your deck. Let's say you really, really need a Meltdown to win a game. Demonic Tutor isn't going to be able to help you, because it would need you to run Meltdown in your main deck, and the number of times you'll lose by drawing Meltdown in matchups where it does nothing outweighs the times when Meltdown is the perfect card to win you the game. As a result, you can't really run Meltdown (or cards like Void Snare or Massacre) in the main deck. On the other hand, Meltdown is a great sideboard card, and with Burning Wish, you have access to all of your sideboard cards for the low, low price of two mana, at any time in any game. As such, the true power of Burning Wish is that it allows you to play (essentially) a 70-card deck but still have the consistency of being 60 cards. 

It is this interesting variation in deck building that I love about Burning Wish and friends. Not only does it expand the possibilities of deck building by giving access to your sideboard cards at all times, but it does so while also putting an interesting restriction on the cards that you choose for your sideboard. Void Snare is a second-tier bounce spell for most decks in Legacy because there are instant-speed options that do essentially the same thing, but in a deck with Burning Wish, Void Snare suddenly jumps to the top of the pile. So, not only do wishes have an expansive effect on deck building but they also expand the pool of cards that see play in a powerful and streamlined format like Legacy. Now that we've talked a bit about how wishes work, let's break down where they came from. 

The Lineage of the Wish Family

The Original Wish

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[[Ring of Ma'rûf] is the original wish, but it's also clearly the worst of the wishes. The upside is that it's colorless, so you can run it in any deck, and it's also lacking any sort of restrictions, so you can search up any card at all from your sideboard. Unfortunately, it also costs 10 mana to play and activate, and you also have to skip a draw, because apparently a 10-mana tutor would just be too good otherwise.  While it's a bit embarrassing to admit this, I honestly didn't know Ring of Ma'rûf was a Magic card until I started writing this article, which probably means it doesn't see much play. 

Judgment Wishes

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While we haven't really talked much about it, Burning Wish is actually part of a cycle from Judgment, a set that included a wish for each color with varying degrees of power. Burning Wish has proven itself to be the best of the cycle, showing up in significantly more decks than any of the other wishes over the years (in fact, Burning Wish has seen just about as much play as all of the other Judgment wishes put together). 

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Next in line is Cunning Wish, which does occasionally see play in Legacy, sometimes in the same decks as Burning Wish. In all honesty, a lot of decks use Cunning Wish in the exact same way as they would use Burning Wish, except they play the instant-speed versions of the spells. Want to cheat an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play? Search up a Through the Breach instead of a Show and Tell. Need to bounce something? Wipe Away takes the place of Void Snare. Creature problems? How about Kozilek's Return over Pyroclasm? The additional benefit of Cunning Wish is that it can be a oddly expensive counter and search up a Flusterstorm, Force of Will, or Spell Pierce, while also attacking graveyards with Surgical Extraction or fetch lands with Stifle, for just one additional mana. 

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Living Wish is pretty much a fringe card, although it does occasionally show up in competitive decks. Its most common use is to search up pieces of the Dark Depths / Thespian's Stage combo out of the sideboard, but it is also sometimes used to find silver-bullet creatures like Ethersworn Canonist, Meddling Mage, and Peacekeeper as well. The problem with Living Wish is two-fold. First, and most importantly, lands are some of the easiest cards to tutor for, thanks to things like Crop Rotation and Expedition Map; plus, the opportunity cost is low enough that you can afford to play some random silver-bullet lands like Bojuka Bog in the main deck, because the cost (entering the battlefield tapped) is so low compared to drawing a Meltdown. The second problem for Living Wish is that most of the best answer cards are spells, and when you're not tutoring for a combo piece, you're usually searching for a way to protect or force through your combo. Paying two extra mana to get the "gotcha" Thragtusk from your sideboard just isn't usually worth it in a format like Legacy. That said, the future looks bright for Living Wish, thanks to the trend towards printing creatures that act like spells. Once we get a Spell Queller that you can exile from your hand to counter a spell, Living Wish's day will finally have come. 

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The best thing I can say about Death Wish is that it's aptly named; if you cast it, it will very likely kill you. Really, the problem with Death Wish isn't the lack of power—Doomsday shows that people will willingly pay half of their life if it means winning the game—but that there are just so many tutor options available in black that it's rarely worth paying the cost of Death Wish. Plus, getting anything isn't as beneficial as you might think, since most of the cards you want to tutor for are instants or sorceries anyway, and with the easy mana available in older formats, it just makes more sense to play Burning Wish or Cunning Wish if you really want to make use of your sideboard. 

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Wait a second, let me get this straight. Burning Wish gets a Show and Tell for two mana. Cunning Wish gets instant-speed disruption and counters like Flusterstorm and Force of Will for three mana. Living Wish gets Griselbrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for two mana, and Golden Wish gets me a Shard of Broken Glass for five mana? While I'm sure there was a good reason at the time, every time I see Golden Wish, I can't help but laugh at how overcosted it looks in the modern world of Magic. It's double the cost of the rest of the wishes, and the payoff is that you get an artifact or enchantment? I realize that there was some overpowered fast-mana combos built around artifacts back in the day, but I'm honestly curious as to why this wish costs so much. If you were playing back in Judgment, make sure to let me know in the comments why Golden Wish is so expensive, and also what the reaction to Golden Wish was at the time. Looking over deck lists, I can't find a single instance of a deck playing Golden Wish in the past decade, but maybe it served a purpose back in the old days, before record keeping was a thing. 

The Modern Wish

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Glittering Wish finally found a home in Modern thanks to the printing of Jeskai Ascendancy and, to a lesser extent, Bring to Light. It's mostly used in the same way that people use Burning Wish and Cunning Wish in Legacy: it can find a potentially game-winning combo piece but also a ton of unique answers like Fracturing Gust, Firespout, Slaughter Games, Flesh / Blood and Wear / Tear. One of the interesting aspects of Glittering Wish is that, much like Living Wish, it keeps getting better set by set. Wizards realizes that players love gold cards, so now we see some number of multicolor cards just about every set. Plus, the power-level of gold cards is often comparatively high, since the color restriction ends up being a very real cost, which in turn allows Wizards to print more powerful effects on multicolor cards than they would on most monocolored cards. While right now it's fringe, the combination of Modern being an extremely popular format and the prevalence of powerful multicolor cards in new sets makes Glittering Wish a sleeper to shoot up the wish rankings in coming years. 

Eldrazi Wish

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Coax from the Blind Eternities is by far the most restrictive wish ever printed, searching up only a specific tribe, which means that Coax from the Blind Eternities can find a bunch of creatures, a single seven-mana wrath (All is Dust), a single seven-mana counterspell (Not of this World), and an eight-mana aura (Eldrazi Conscription). So far, this restriction has limited the play of Coax from the Blind Eternities to Standard, and even in Standard it has been fairly fringe. While there is a chance that people figure out how to use the card in a deck like Blue / X Tron in Modern, for now, it seems that Coax from the Blind Eternities is closer to Death Wish than Burning Wish in terms of playability. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! Big thanks to Wizards for a really sweet spoiler card. While Burning Wish doesn't offer much for casual players, it is a great eternal reprint and a wonderful addition to Conspiracy 2. I'm also really curious to see what this means about the draft environment of the set. Could it be that getting stuff from outside the game is part of a mechanic for limited? Conspiracy likes to shake things up and try new things, so it certainly seems possible, but I guess we'll have to wait and see as the rest of the spoilers roll out over the course of the week. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com. 

P.S. I mentioned in the intro that there are ten cards that can search for things "outside the game," but we only talked about eight. The other two aren't truly wishes; one is Spawnsire of Ulamog, which only costs 20 mana to activate, and the other is Research / Development, which tutors up four cards from the sideboard but then shuffles them into your library. 


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