SCS: Artificial Evolution

Posted in Feature on September 27, 2002

By Bennie Smith

Bennie Smith began playing Magic in 1994 and started writing about it shortly after. A Virginia State Champion, he enjoys few things better than winning at tournaments with home brews. Bennie has a weekly column on He also recently published The Complete Commander. Follow him on Twitter, on Facebook, and the occasional Commander games on Magic Online under the handle "blairwitchgreen."

Single Card Strategy typically focuses on interesting commons and uncommons in current and upcoming sets, but for this column Mr. Forsythe tossed me a rare goodie--Artificial Evolution, a tribal card from Onslaught. But don't worry folks; most of the hard-core competitive crowd will probably undervalue this card so it shouldn't be too hard to pick up a few.

To start off, while brainstorming uses for this card,

Artificial Evolution
I wondered what would happen if you changed the word "Wall" on a Wall card into a creature type that your opponent is playing, such as Goblins. Since there is reminder text on Walls that says "Walls can't attack," would you be able to stop Goblins from attacking? As cool as this sounded, it doesn't work. According to Paul Barclay, "The text changes, but does not affect the game. So the card will say Goblins can't attack, but Goblins can still attack. Reminder text does not actually do anything except remind people of the rules, and you can't hack the rules."

Even though Artificial Evolution can't hack the rules, you can still have plenty of fun with it! One thing you may want to do before using this card is get familiar with section "K.11 - Creature Type" from the Comprehensive Rules.


Very similar in flavor to Apocalypse's Unnatural Selection, the first use I saw for Artificial Evolution was in a deck that uses both along with cards that key off creature type. While Unnatural Selection can noodle around with creature types on the fly, Artificial Evolution goes to the heart of the matter, altering the creature-type card itself. Rebel Informer, Spirit Mirror, King Suleiman, Alpha Kavu, and Coastal Drake can become powerful board control engines when you can tailor them to problem creatures your opponent control. Legendary controllers like Karakas, Tsabo Tavoc, Willow Satyr, and Empress Galina can be downgraded to playing havoc with the Goblins or Soldiers your opponent are playing. Similarly, if your opponent decides not to play his Dragon deck against you, you can still make use of Hivis of the Scale to steal whatever they're playing. Tivadar's Crusade can be Evolved into a one-way Wrath of God, and you can hack Suleiman's Legacy to completely shut down your opponent's creature theme deck. Knight of the Mists can be turned into a Nekrataal if you time it right.


Certain creature types get the benefit of some powerful search engines, especially from the Mercadian Masques block. Wouldn't it be nice to search for your Meddling Mages with your white/blue Counter-Rebel deck? Artificial Evolution makes it easy. Do similar tricks with Cateran Slaver in black, red's Moggcatcher, green's Skyshroud Poacher, and especially blue's Seahunter. And why should Dragons have all the fun with Zirilan of the Claw when you can search out Beasts or Orggs? Or would that be considered Devolution?


Ever wonder why the Lords in Magic weren't the same creature types as the creatures they enhanced? Evolution is the answer, turning creature type Lord into the appropriate boosted creature type! Lord of Atlantis looks much more impressive as a 3/3 for while islandwalking with his subjects. Eladamri, Lord of the Leaves is more effective when he's as untargetable as his Elven friends. Goblin King, Lord of the Undead, and Elvish Champion go from being lazy rulers who stay at home to true heroes leading the charge.

Wouldn't Goblin Wizard be interesting if, once he's finished putting Goblins into play, he could Evolve into putting Dragons into play, and then protect them from the inevitable Swords to Plowshares? And Orc General suffers from the fact that there's not very many good Orcs out there. Hack him to boost your Goblin or Barbarian hordes. Similarly, there are so many Kobold Drill Sergeant from Legends and really not all that many Kobolds so drop them in your Dwarf deck and start hacking. Or approach the problem from another way-- drop a Wall of Kelp into your Kobold deck and Evolve it to produce Kelp tokens... that are Kobolds.


Chainer, Dementia Master is a greedy Lord who takes his Nightmares with him when he dies. Time it right, you can hack him when he dies so that he takes out some of your opponent's creatures instead, and leaves his animated Nightmares behind. You can do similar timing tricks so you can permanently keep your Tombspawn Zombie tokens when Tombstone Stairwell leaves play.

Why should Griffins have all the fun of Griffin Canyon? Hack away. Or drop Aboshan into your Wizard deck and Evolve him to make use of that creature type. And wouldn't it be nice if Nemata, Grove Guardian could create Elves instead of Saprolings? He could make your Priest of Titania positively sick. You could do similar things with Squirrel Wrangler and Deranged Hermit. Elf tokens baby!


Artificial Evolution can be a nice defensive tool. Is your opponent's Bird deck wrecking your with Soulcatchers' Aerie? Hack it from Birds to Wizards and put it to work for you. Is your opponent's Karakas harassing your cool Legend deck? Neuter it by changing it from Legends to, say, Wombats. Is your opponent's Engineered Plague taking the steam out of your Squirrel Opposition deck? Hack your Squirrel Nest into producing a different creature type token, preferably something he's playing so he'll have to hurt his own position to stop your Nest.


Wizards often makes Walls that would be fierce in combat... if only they could attack. Artificial Evolution can hack your favorite wall into a fighting machine. Wouldn't a 10/10 Shifting Wall be ugly if it were an Elf that could attack? Put some copies of Testament of Faith in your Soldier deck and enlist their help in battle. Illusionary Wall would be frightening as a 7/4 flying, first striking Merfolk. Sunweb wouldn't be too shabby as a 5/6 flying Archaeologist on offense. And for massive style points, turn your Wall of Wood into a Berserker and swing... followed by a Might of Oaks, Giant Growth, and Berserk for the win.

Walls make good blockers, but sometimes your opponent just doesn't play them, making cards like Juggernaut, Rampart Crawler, Bog Rats, and Tower of Coireall less than impressive. Hack 'em to be unblockable by whatever creatures your opponent is playing and watch them start to sweat... well, at least they'll sweat your Juggernaut and Tower.


Do you find yourself rooting for the underdog? Do you feel bad for cards that are banished to the back of people's trade binder or, worse yet, the circular file for the sheer misfortune of just being bad? Do you wish you could shame the local loudmouth by defeating him once--just once--with a horrible card? Artificial Evolution gives you that opportunity with some notoriously bad cards. Hack your Sword of the Chosen and suddenly your little Merfolk just got problematic. Drop an Aurochs into your Elf deck and evolve him to Go Large with the elves. Marble Priest can be artificially enhanced to be a perfect foil for your friend's Saproling deck. Masked Gorgon would take some work not only with Artificial Evolution, but you'd probably want to hit it with Alter Reality too.


The best news of all is what I can't really tell you about. Namely, Onslaught's focus on "tribal" cards that make creature types matter opens up all sorts of possibilities with Artificial Evolution. Before the prerelease, I can't delve into them here but let's just say that Rotlung Reanimator and Wirewood Savage are certainly hack-worthy.

Make sure to get your hands on some Artificial Evolution, and don't let creature types stand in the way of cool decks.

Elves Say They Want an Evolution

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Bennie may be reached at

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