Flipping Coins Into The Tidal Pool

Posted in Serious Fun on September 14, 2004

By Anthony Alongi

What coin flip card can work without any coin at all?

Let's start right up with this week's card:

Long-time readers know I'm not a huge fan of coin-flip cards. I'd prefer to see the mechanic phased out in favor of red's "random reveal" mechanic (e.g., Erratic Explosion). But they also know I enjoy it when Wizards assigns me preview cards "against type"; and I gladly accept this one – because you know what? It actually fits my multiplayer philosophy pretty closely. Sneaky Wizards! Let's take a look at the real card:

A few rules notes:

  • The trigger takes place as soon as blockers are declared. That means the coin-flipping and sacrificing will take place before any combat damage gets assigned. If this doesn't make sense to you, you'll want to review the steps within the combat phase – see the comprehensive rules.
  • You can respond to the trigger, but not to the coin flip. You keep the coin in your pocket for a moment and put the coin flip "on the stack". Any responses? (Stifle, perhaps. Or maybe someone's feeling optimistic and wants to play a Predator's Strike.) Resolve anything played after the trigger. Then flip the coin. Once that coin is flipped, someone's going to lose their creatures, and there's nothing they can do about it at that point.
  • All blockers get declared at the same time. You don't flip for each individual blocker. The act of engagement – blocking – gets you one coin flip, whether a lonely squirrel token or 10,000 slivers are blocking.
  • Sacrifice is different from destruction. New players generally get confused between the two, so let's be clear: you cannot regenerate something you sacrifice, and indestructible creatures aren't protected from sacrifice.
  • It doesn't work with "becomes blocked" effects. Cards like Choking Vines and Dazzling Beauty won't trigger a Tide of War coin flip.

So what happens from a strategy standpoint when you play this card in a group game? There's a terrific three-step process.

  1. People groan because you're being silly. Silly you! You're coin-flipping. How wacky! But we've all come to expect it from you – it's what makes you so lovable.
  2. People actually read the card. There's no avoiding it now – you've put it in play, it'll affect the game, so they'd better know what's going on. Lots of rules text to read, so expect them to pass it around.
  3. People start to figure it out. Wait a sec – if I block, I might lose my entire army? And if I attack into blockers, I might lose my entire army as well? And it doesn't matter which player's attacking or blocking?

From there, it gets serious. Llanowar Elves has a 50/50 chance of taking out Darksteel Colossus, no matter who's blocking whom. The meek become strong. The strong become meek. Pinecones become grapefruit. Australians become Icelanders. Thursday magicthegathering.com writers become Tuesday magicthegathering.com writers! Freak out.

Tide of War does something nearly unique among Magic cards: it encourages every weenie to go aggro, and every 9/9 bomb to stay home…and preferably under their bed. If you're lucky, you may never have to flip a coin at all.

And that's before you even try building a deck around it.

Tokens And Trumpets And Tides, Oh My

Tide of War is a big fan of the token creature. Token generators like Kjeldoran Outpost or Spawning Pit will work very well with this enchantment. And Liege of the Hollows with Tide of War out can create some frightening showdowns!

Overall, you should see very little attacking and blocking from complex armies – and a great deal more attacking and blocking from simpler ones. Will this slow the game down, or speed it up? Basic math would suggest 1/1s will do their dirty work a bit more slowly; but it doesn't take much to imagine a deck that could hit a bit harder:


Part of the beauty here is in the trampling – blocking your creatures is extremely risky for players now, because the chances are less than 50/50 that they'll stop damage just by blocking. They could lose their entire blocking army and still take a massive amount.

Alternately, you can spare a few squirrels and hornets. Over the course of a few turns, put magnet counters on some enormous opposing creatures. Then send a token into the fray with a magnet counter on it and Tide of War on the board, and watch the fun! (You can also throw magnet counters on choice creatures between two opposing armies

This deck also gives you a roundabout way to land destruction – Kamahl turns land into creature, Magnetic Web forces land-creature to block, etc.

The swarmsnappers reminded me of another deck I used to have, built around Heat Stroke and Yare. Tide of War allows a coin-flip version that ought to go in your favor more often than not – even without Krark's Thumb:


Mogg Infestation

A word or two on the quirkier stuff. Mogg Infestation isn't necessarily "good" in this deck, but I like the way it (a) destroys forces that don't engage in combat (e.g., Royal Assassin) and (b) replaces them with lots of tokens so their controller can now enjoy the fun of Tide of War as well.

Yosei, the Morning Star is in there to remind you that goes-to-graveyard effects are pretty good with this card.

Yare is a fun combat trick, even without a Tide out. Works fine with Wall of Dust.

In addition to funky blocking tricks, white also gives us the terrific "remove from game" mechanic. I started this deck with stuff like Serra Angel…and then decided Angel's Trumpet was nastier. Here's another red-white creation:


Angel's Trumpet keeps creatures attacking (and risking their lives); Parallax Wave keeps the worst attention directed elsewhere; your haste creatures provide excellent retaliatory capability; and creatures like Shrieking Mogg, Avarax, and Keldon Champion all have fine interactions with the Wave.

Why Insurrection? Often, I find Parallax Wave decks can have trouble if players start flooding the board with creatures. This seemed like a reasonable answer.

You may have noticed I'm putting Karakas in any deck that takes a sideward glance at white. I suggest you do the same – but be ready to lose one or two when someone else plays their own copy.

Finally, here's a blue-red deck with a few interesting tricks. Remember, timing is important: you have to use any fast effects in response to the Tide trigger, before the resolution (the actual coin flip). This will limit the effectiveness of some of these cards in certain situations, and raise it in others.


There's a bunch of other ways you can go with Tide of War – hide behind Solitary Confinement, keep a Moment's Peace in your graveyard, create a massive coin-flipping festival with Chance Encounter as the win condition, play with auto-recursion like Ichorid, set up additional barriers with Propaganda, hatch a mysterious plan with Silent Arbiter, and so on. If you've shunned coin-flip cards in the past (*cough*), give this one a try and see how the tides of war favor you.

I'm moving this week – which means I may be slow to respond to message boards and/or emails for a while. Please be patient if you're looking to get in touch.

Anthony cannot provide deck help. All of his mental energy is spent trying to determine which side is heads/tails on the foreign currency that a few jokers in his play group use.

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