Do the Twist

Posted in Feature on December 5, 2002

By Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar

When Aaron (the editor of this esteemed site) asked me to write about my favorite Magic card my reaction was a long, drooling, vacant look.

"Favorite card? You have got to be kidding me," I said grandly, once I had recovered from my initial shock. "I'm Jay M-S! I embrace all Magic cards! I've got the deck attention span of a turnip! How can I possibly decide upon a single card? One card . . . Ha!"

Somehow, Jay managed to choose a favorite card.

Aaron sort of stared back, tapping his foot while I ranted. [After Anthony and Mark, I was used to it. --Aaron]

Panic set in. One card? Is he serious? I have to pick a favorite?! That's like picking a favorite child! How on Earth . . .?

I looked over at Aaron. He kept staring and tapping, staring and tapping. [I'd heard it all before… --Aaron]

Okay, I decided, I can do this. I can play by the rules. After all, I have a favorite movie (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), and a favorite book (Birthright, written by a kick-ass author, if I do say so myself). I even have a clear favorite Magic color (green). It probably won't be too difficult to pick a favorite Magic card.

A (stare) single (tap) favorite (stare) card (tap) . . .

Which is all to say that I truly hadn't considered the idea of a favorite Magic card before. So for about a week, I sat down and poured over the Oracle card reference. Then I scanned the non-tournament sets like Portal, Starter, and Unglued. I made a list of a bunch of cards that I'm particularly fond of and had used in multiple decks. I tried to choose cards I not only like to play in individual games, but cards that players tend to shape cool decks around. Then a lot of napkins and red pens followed, with me trying to whittle my list to one card.

And here it is. After much consideration, my favorite Magic card is . . .

Desert Twister.

Here's why:


Of the twenty or so cards that were up for consideration as my favorite, about half of them were green. As I'm decidedly a green mage, it stands to reason that my favorite card is green.

But it runs deeper than that. Desert Twister is very green. It has in its mana cost and is too expensive for other colors that lack quick mana acceleration like Llanowar Elves, Werebear, and Skyshroud Claim. Moreover, other colors don't splash green for Desert Twister because:

  • White and black can splash for Vindicate or cheap instants to shore up their weaknesses.
  • Blue is content countering or bouncing threats or splashing white, red, or black to cover what it wants to destroy.
  • If red wants green, it wants it for speed, not utility. And if it wants utility, Naturalize is enough, thank you very much.

As a result, Desert Twister shows up most often in monogreen decks. I love that. Desert Twister isn't quite as green as, say, Chlorophant, but it's pretty green.


As I said during Green Week, I like decks with a lot of land. Playing Desert Twister means I'm playing a deck loaded with access to mana. If I can afford to use Desert Twister, I'm probably also using Crush of Wurms, Rushwood Elemental, Aladdin's Ring, or Silvos, Rogue Elemental. I am probably playing a deck that also avoids "mana-screw," as it's both monocolor and has access to ridiculous mana development.


Nothing says utility like Desert Twister. It can destroy an opponent's single access to red mana. In many decks, Desert Twister is green's only way to kill creatures without flying. It stops anticreature staples like Worship and Ensnaring Bridge. Best of all: It can be any of these things as needed. There is something incredibly comforting about holding a Desert Twisterwhen you have six mana on the table. I get warm and fuzzy just thinking about it . . .

"Oh, look, you played Pacifism on my Thorn Elemental."

"Egads! Teferi's Moat!"

"Hey, your Shivan Dragon can fly over all of my blockers and kill me next turn."

"Yep, it's too bad you got out Gaea's Cradle before me."

These can be demoralizing events for a green mage -- unless, of course, you're holding Desert Twister when you have six mana on the table.

Incidentally, my seething hatred for Morphling and Masticore may be explained by my love of Desert Twister. There is no fuzzy feeling holding Desert Twister and staring down a Morphling.


One of the things to love about green is the look on an opponent's face as you tap six lands. Although your opponent might not blink back tears at the sight of Desert Twister as would be done with Nemata, Grove Guardian, it's still awfully impressive that with enough mana, green can literally blow anything off the table. In a match, I once untapped Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary with nine forests on the table and proceeded to Desert Twister my opponent's Iron Maiden, then his first Indentured Djinn, then his second Indentured Djinn. (Imagine what would have happened with Mirari on the table!) In my mind, Desert Twister is a good example of green's very Hulk-like philosophy: With determination and enough power, anything is possible.


When I was younger and slightly more obnoxious, I liked to whip my hands around in the air before slapping Desert Twister onto the table. And I would even sometimes yell "WHOOSH!" I just love the image of a mage drawing lots . . . and lots . . . and lots . . . of primal energy into his or her body to summon a mighty twister. When the dust settles, the threat is simply nowhere to be found. For me, Desert Twister brings to life a battle between mages, in much the same way that Earthquake, Rod of Ruin, and even the Circles of Protection do. For me, it's cool that I can conjure a tornado during a card game.

Truly, I have only two complaints about Desert Twister. The first complaint is about flavor. What exactly does a Desert Twister have to do with forests? Unfortunately, Savage Twister, Tornado, Hurricane, and Whirlwind are already green Magic cards or I might lobby for a renaming of my favorite card. Don't get me wrong. Like I said before: I love the idea of waving my arms around and summoning up a tornado to do magical battle. It just seems weird to draw on the power of the forest to create a twister. In the desert.

Gale-force winds has always been a small subtheme of the color green, since it is a "natural" form of destruction.

My second complaint is that Desert Twister is currently not Standard legal. As I've said numerous times, Standard is my favorite format, even when playing casual games. I like Creeping Mold a lot, but it's no Desert Twister.

Still, I feel comfortable saying that if I need to pick a single favorite Magic card, right now it would be Desert Twister. Just next time be sure to ask me about my hundred favorite cards instead, okay?

Speaking of a hundred cards, join me next week when I try a wee little experiment I hope you'll enjoy.

Until then, enjoy the Twister decks below that I, um, whipped up. They contain a lot of rares, but I figured today was a day to let my proverbial hair down.

-- j

Green Smoke

Download Arena Decklist

Tribal Twister

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Download Arena Decklist

A Bad Twist

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Jay may be reached at

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