[Modern] The Gifts of Magic

Hello everyone, and welcome to another Modern article here on Strictly Average MTG. I do appreciate all of you for stopping by to read these articles each week; that is truly the only gift one could ask for. As we approach the end of the year we reach the season of giving as people around the world celebrate several holidays, some of which have gift giving as part of their celebration. Magic: the Gathering is no stranger to giving as it has been doing that for many years.

One of the greatest assets to any game is how often can you replay it without losing the joy of playing. Often times the reputation of a game is based on how much time, perhaps even in one sitting, we can play a game. There have been many games over time that provide that level of greatness. Games such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and others lead the way in the home console world. While board games such as Monopoly, Sorry, and even Scrabble are favorites of many families across the world. Card games such as Euchre, Go Fish, and Uno have even brought families to the table. Magic: the Gathering is no different. This is the gift it brings to everyone who plays the game.

However to look beyond what Magic has done there is a card that has provided Gifts to many players over the history of the game, and that card is Gifts Ungiven.


This card first appeared in Champions of Kamigawa block, and has been a fan favorite since it’s printing. Allowing players to dig through their deck for four cards with different names, and having the opponent choose which cards go to graveyard, can provide for some interesting lines of play. If your opponent makes the wrong choice they could lose. However sometimes they may not have a choice at all.

Let’s take a look at some decks that this card is highlighted in.


Creatures (7)
4 Baral, Chief of Compliance
3 Goblin Electromancer

Instants (20)
4 Gifts Ungiven
4 Desperate Ritual
4 Manamorphose
4 Pyretic Ritual
4 Opt
1 Unsubstantiate

Sorceries (16)
4 Serum Visions
4 Sleight of Hand
2 Past in Flames
2 Remand
2 Grapeshot
1 Empty the Warrens

Lands (17)
4 Shivan Reef
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Steam Vents
2 Island
2 Snow-Covered Island
1 Mountain

3 Pieces of the Puzzle
3 Lightning Bolt
2 Empty the Warrens
2 Thing in the Ice
2 Abrade
1 Wipe Away
1 Echoing Truth
1 Gigadrowse

How the deck works

This deck, one of the cheapest in Modern (don’t laugh because it’s true), looks to cast as many spells on a single turn as possible.

  • Baral, Chief of Compliance; as well as Goblin Electromancer; help you cast your spells for cheaper than their converted mana costs. While you don’t necessarily need both of them getting one to stay around will often be enough assuming your hand is full of spells.
  • Desperate Ritual, along with Pyretic Ritual, provide you more mana than it took to cast them. This not only allows you to bring up the count of spells you have cast this turn, but also increases the mana in your mana pool. With Manamorphose you can convert some of that mana to blue in order to cast cards like Opt.
  • To finish off your opponent you’ll want to cast a card with the Storm mechanic. Storm allows you to copy a spell for each spell cast before it this turn. So when you cast Grapeshot if you have cast nineteen other spells before that this turn you are now doing twenty damage. Many players can’t counter that, and this will provide you the gift of victory.

Where a card like Gifts Ungiven comes into play is by searching for multiple pieces of your combo on your opponent’s end step. If you have one of the creatures out though you will only be paying three mana for this card which is where the acceleration comes in. While that’s not the only way to play this card it is one of the most common. Once it resolves you will often times look for the following cards:

It’s really difficult to choose the right combination of cards to send to the graveyard as it seems no matter what you choose the Storm player will oftentimes be able to cast all of the cards anyway.

Why you should play this deck

  • You love combo
  • You enjoy mana bases that are clean and straightforward
  • You also enjoy a simple sideboard plan

Why you should not play this deck

  • You don’t like combo
  • You don’t like blue cards
  • You may enjoy another strategy more

This deck is definitely a top contender in Modern, and has survived many banned and restricted announcements. A skilled play can pick up quite a few wins with this, and is a solid choice for anyone looking to get into the format while spending very little money.

With all of that said there is at least one other deck that also runs Gifts Ungiven that you could run into when playing Modern.

Esper Thopter Gifts

Creatures (3)
2 Snapcaster Mage
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

Artifacts (8)
3 Thopter Foundry
2 Sword of the Meek
2 Talisman of Progress
1 Engineered Explosives

Enchantments (2)
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Detention Sphere

Instants (13)
3 Gifts Ungiven
3 Thirst for Knowledge
3 Muddle the Mixture
2 Fatal Push
1 Anguished Unmaking
1 Spell Snare

Sorceries (11)
4 Path to Exile
4 Serum Visions
1 Unburial Rites
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Wrath of God

Lands (23)
4 Flooded Strand
3 Field of Ruin
3 Island
2 Academy Ruins
2 Celestial Colonnade
2 Hallowed Fountain
1 Glacial Fortress
1 Godless Shrine
1 Mystic Gate
1 Plains
1 Polluted Delta
1 Tolaria West
1 Watery Grave

2 Dispel
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Emrakul, the Promised End
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Celestial Purge
1 Negate
1 Bitterblossom
1 Fragmentize
1 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Nihil Spellbomb

How the deck works

On April 4th, 2016 a change to cards allowed (and not allowed) in Modern was provided, and many players worldwide rejoiced. Both Ancestral Vision, and Sword of the Meek were removed, and the latter immediately started seeing play. Gifts Ungiven used to be a part of Azorius Tron builds in the early days of Modern, but the card became popular again when this update to the banned and restricted list happened providing a new deck for us to play.

Why you should play this deck

  • You enjoy Esper decks that have control elements
  • You like having multiple win conditions
  • Playing giant creatures for less than their mana cost is appealing

Why you should not play this deck

  • You feel the deck is too slow
  • You might draw the wrong half of your deck
  • You don’t like control decks

This deck also has a lot of single copies of cards in them to help your searches with Gifts Ungiven. Thirst for Knowledge can also help assemble the Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek combo giving you the option of discarding the sword to meet its requirements.

In conclusion

Sadly I did not take the chance to play with Gifts Ungiven  in Standard, but I have played it in Modern (in the Esper deck above). While the card may not show up a lot outside of Storm it is a powerful tutor in your deck, and could be a good card to brew with. Remember each time you resolve it you could find a different set of cards than before, providing you the gift of non-linear game play.

Well that puts a wrap on today’s article. Thank you all again for reading. Is there a deck you currently use Gifts Ungiven in? Please leave a comment below, and follow me on both Facebook as well as Twitter.

NEXT WEEK, and looking ahead…will be a two-part article. I will be reviewing my top ten cards of 2018. At the end of the year will be a full “Year In Review”, and the new year will bring us to a multi-part article series reviewing Modern as a whole.

Until next time…


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