Top 8 Time Walks
Having spent my summer in San Francisco, I’ve seen a lot of fog. But the Fog here is nothing compared to what is expected this weekend at GP’s Orlando and Brussels. Of course, these so-called Turbo Fog decks are misnomers; in reality, they’re abusing Teferi, Azcanta, and Nexus of Fate in order to take all of the turns for themselves. It seemed only appropriate to take a look back at some of Magic’s best Time Walks.
8. Ugin’s Nexus
So for whatever reason, Ugin’s ghostly bones are a huge tourist attraction on Tarkir. Wizards likes to represent story moments on cards, and this is the place where Sarkhan travels back in time to save the cheerleader and, consequently, the world. As any fan of science fiction knows, time travel often leads to paradoxes, so Wizards created a card that was both a Time Walk safety valve and a Time Walk enabler simultaneously. To this day, countless players are unsure as to whether WOTC was trolling them by printing a mythic rare card that did literally nothing in the format. Tired of being laughed at and wanting to be taken seriously, Ugin’s Nexus decided to lie in wait…
7. The Red Time Walks
Ah, Red. Doing things that other colors do at a more aggressive cost, but usually much, much worse. While there’s some cool synergy with “can’t lose the game” cards, Time Walks typically get there power from hitting a critical mass in a deck. These cards don’t quite allow you the opportunity to take “all the turns;” you’ll have to settle for one, really good turn instead.
Unsurpringly, Black’s take on Time Walk came in Planar Chaos, also known as “Screw the Color Pie: This is Flavorful!” In Planar Chaos, Black decided to take on Blue’s abilities, unless people were willing to pay life. (See Dash Hopes.) As is usually the case with so-called “punisher” abilities, your opponent will simply choose whichever is better for them and worse for you, making this card pretty awful, particularly if your deck is built upon chaining multiple Time Walks together.
From the “Screw Blue” era of Choke and Boil, Green is proud to present Seedtime, where it gets so mad at Blue doing stuff during its turn that it literally steals Blue’s power and does something completely out of color pie for Green. Not only that, but it does it for the same price as the original Time Walk, but at instant speed. Yikes! Instant-speed Time Walks are obviously very powerful, so it’s a good thing that this one had a heavy restriction around it. The horror that could result from printing restrictionless instant-speed Time Walks is easy to imagine. Luckily, doing so is so obviously dangerous that I’m sure WOTC would never print such a horror.
Now that we’re done touring the crappy impersonations that other colors tried to do of Time Walks (except White… poor White, not really the temporally adventurous type), we can focus on the pure Time Walks that Blue provides.
Beacon of Tomorrows has the “shuffle into library” that the rest of the Beacon cycle contained, but putting this on a Time Walk is exciting. If it’s the only card in your library, you get to cast this card every single turn for the rest of the game, and so long as you have something on board that is killing your opponent, you’re guaranteed victory. However, this shuffle-back-in Time Walk carries a risk with it; if a player is able to find a Beacon every turn and slowly progress their gameplan, rather than go for a combo win, that would be a dreadfully boring and non-interactive style of gameplay. Luckily, Beacon is eight mana, a sorcery, and wasn’t printed alongside cards that allowed players to repeatedly find it. Obviously. To do so would just be asking to have Standard broken in half!
3. The Fair, Five Mana Time Walks
This seems to be where Wizards has settled for fairly-costed Time Walks. 3UU, sorcery-speed, and no shuffling back into the library. In large numbers, they can be powerful (see Taking Turns in Modern), but they can’t be recurred and are easy to interact with, being five-mana sorceries. After the OG Time Walk, Time Warp is probably where your mind goes next.
2. Time Walk
Looking at cards from Alpha is always fascinating. Seeing cards that are absurdly overpowered or underpowered (placing Healing Salve and Ancestral Recall in the same cycle of Boons, for example) demonstrates the importance of extensive playtesting with the intent to break things. Two mana for a Time Walk is insane. Sure, if it’s the only one ever printed, it might be little more than an Explore with upside. But for only two mana, it’s so easy to engage in shenanigans with this. Copying spells, looping spells, chaining copies is all so much easier to do when a Time Walk is only two mana.
But here’s the awkward bit. In a list of Time Walks, I feel ashamed of myself for putting Time Walk second on the list. But Time Walk never broke a format in half. It took twenty-five years of experimenting with good, bad, and completely nonfunctional Time Walks before Wizards finally reached the pinnacle of its temporal tomfoolery.
1. Nexus of Fate
Ugin’s Nexus was so upset that it didn’t see any play in Standard that it decided to come back with a vengeance. This time, it’s leaned way, way into the extra turns. Forget the whole “safety valve” thing; we’ve entered the darkest timeline. Nexus of Fate takes individually dangerous parts of multiple Time Walks and smooshes them all together. Instant speed, shuffling itself back into the library, and, being printed alongside cards that allow you to aggressively dig through your library. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria acting as dig, ramp, and turbo-powering Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin ensures that you will find a Nexus of Fate every turn. In fact, Nexus of Fate is so good at Time Walking, that it shuffles itself into your library regardless of how it was put into the graveyard. You are incapable of milling out (excluding exile trickery) if you have a Nexus of Fate in your deck.
It's incredibly ironic that the previous version of this card was a (admittedly poor, easily Teferi-tuckable) safety valve for its current incarnation. Nexus of Fate is a callback to everything that made the original Time Walk great, except that it’s just better now. Like the original Time Walk, it’s valuable, hard to get, and the people who designed it apparently thought it was a completely reasonable card to print. Like the misnamed Turbofog decks Nexus powers, Nexus itself is a misnomer; it’s foil-only printing ensures that it’s more of a Time Warp, but I guess that name was already taken.
No longer can players complain that Standard is just midrange decks smashing creatures into each other. Enjoy this weekend’s showcase of Magic’s most confused, mismanaged, identity-crisis’ed format as players compete in Modern Standard with their completely uninteractive Storm and Taking Turns decks!
Ryan Normandin is a grinder from Boston who has lost at the Pro Tour, in GP & SCG Top 8's, and to 7-year-olds at FNM. Despite being described as "not funny" by his best friend and "the worst Magic player ever" by Twitch chat, he cheerfully decided to blend his lack of talents together to write funny articles about Magic. Make fun of him online through Twitter (@RyanNormandin) and Twitch (norm_the_ryno).
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