Lost in a Fog

Posted in Feature on October 16, 2002

By Ben Bleiweiss

Such a basic concept, this Fog card.

"Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn."

Fog’s been with us from the beginning of the game. It’s an old friend that rolls in, distracts you for a spell, and then dissipates into the night. Actually, that sounds more like a vampire. It’d be more accurate to say that Fog is like that friend who shows up unannounced, wastes your time, and generally accomplishes nothing.

That’s not entirely being fair to the Fog mechanic. It has been recognized as a very underpowered ability over the years, and been given many makeovers. Who could forget some of the Fog variants that showed up by Ice Age?

Wait up. No wonder Fog didn’t work out quite so well in the beginning. Was it green? Black? White? Gold? Red? Artifact? Blue? What in good god’s name happened here?

No other mechanic in Magic took on such an identity crisis as Fog. Every color dipped pretty heavily into the fog bank (Pun intended. Send hate mail to bleiweiss1@cox.net). Yet if you asked any Magic player which color is the "fog" color, the answer would be close to universal.

Green.

Green, green, green.

I wouldn’t argue with this assessment. Green certainly possesses more fog cards than any other color in Magic, but the margin might be smaller than you think. Let’s delve deeper.

WHAT IS THE FOG MECHANIC?

Simply put, the fog mechanic is one that causes creatures to neither deal nor receive damage in combat. It’s that simple! Take a look at Fog again to remind yourselves of the archetypical fog card.

  • Fog prevents only combat damage.
  • Fog prevents damage both dealt and received by a creature or creatures.

WHAT ISN’T THE FOG MECHANIC?

WHO GETS THE FOG?

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?

Fog is one of those cards that new players flock to in droves. Much like life gain, it’s a mechanic that delays the inevitable instead of furthering your position in the game. Fog won’t keep you from dying to a horde of Squirrels; it will delay that death by a single turn.

There are some cards and mechanics that R&D strives to improve to the level of tournament playability, and fog definitely falls straight into this category.

And you know what?

It turns out that fog, the very mechanic derided by serious players as ranking somewhere in power between bands-with-other and rampage, wasn’t very bad to begin with. More accurately to say, Fog itself was that bad, and the children of Fog became first rate tournament mainstays.

Maze of Ith

LOST IN A DAZE

Fog’s biggest problems stem from its one-time usage, mass effect, and lack of overall impact. Each successful variant on Fog has challenged those handicaps summarily. The first of these did its job so well it got restricted in Type 1! Maze of Ith allowed a player to untap an attacking creature, and have it neither deal nor receive combat damage this turn. As a land, it couldn’t easily be destroyed, and it sat there turn after turn selectively fogging creatures. Need to save one of your attackers? Maze it. Need to save your own hide? Maze an attacker. Maze of Ith was restricted from October of 1994 until April of 1999.

Glacial Crevasses and Sunstone: Two cards, little remembered today, that made a big impact on the tournament scene in the early days of Type 2. Both fell out of favor once the DCI restricted Land Tax, but they were integral parts of a very strange white/red deck favored in the Northeastern US. The deck packed Disenchant, Land Tax, Swords to Plowshares, Wrath of God, Disrupting Scepter, Feldon's Cane, Fellwar Stone, multiple Crevasses and Sunstones, Shivan Dragon and Serra Angel. With all basic lands in this deck being snow-covered, a player could easily keep his land count down by sacrificing to his pair of fog machines, and then Land Tax for three more lands to play around with! Able to hold off attacking creatures indefinitely, the deck eventually either ran the opponent out of cards, or won with a single copy of Serra Angel or Shivan Dragon.

WHERE’S GREEN, DAMMIT?

Notably missing above are any green cards. Fog didn’t hit its green stride until further down the road, circa the Tempest era. Two cards took different paths to achieve the same effect. In Stronghold, we got the a buyback Fog in Constant Mists. Exodus debuted Spike Weaver, as of yet the most successful fog card in Magic. Each wedded the fog mechanic to a block mechanic and came out with reusable sources of bypassing combat damage.


Theses fog effects have had varying levels of success in the tournament scene.

Spike Weaver itself proved especially strong in the Oath of Druids deck. Both Chris Benafel and Justin Gary piloted such decks to top four finishes at the Nice Masters tournament this past May.

Oath of Druids - Finalist - Nice Masters event

Download Arena Decklist

Two other green Fog variants of note are Tangle and Moment's Peace. When the Fires of Yavimaya deck ruled the tournament scene, Tangle stepped up as a way to win the mirror match. Your opponent would swing with their team, and you would Tangle said creatures, keeping them helpless for a full two turns. This made Tangle the first tournament-worthy Fog card which was neither a permanent nor reusable. Moment's Peace saw extensive play during Odyssey Block constructed season, as it could be fetched using Quiet Speculation.

Wake - Top 16 - Grand Prix Hamburg

Download Arena Decklist
Sorcery (8)
4 Concentrate 4 Kirtar's Wrath
Artifact (2)
2 Mirari
Enchantment (8)
4 Compulsion 4 Mirari's Wake
Other (3)
3 Aether Burst
60 Cards

There have been many faces of Fog, including the following:

Of all these Fogs, you might notice one very significant omission. It’s a card that’s been due for years, but has yet to show its face in Magic.

Cantrip Fog.

The closest version we’ve gotten has been Foxfire, which "Maze of Iths" a creature. All I want to see is a card which acts exactly like good old Fog, and adds the line of text which says “draw a card.”


Next week: The top five green sets of all time.

Ben may be reached at bleiweiss1@cox.net.

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