Channel – Alpha

Date Reviewed:  June 22, 2023

Constructed: 5.00
Casual: 5.00
Limited: 2.00
Multiplayer: 3.75
Commander [EDH]: Banned

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.

Reviews Below: 


In 1995, I was that newbie you’ve heard about. You know, the one who opened Channel and Fireball in the same starter pack, and didn’t play them together because he didn’t understand the value of converting one resource into another. In my defense, nobody really understood exactly how strong that could be at first; and it’s true that people fooling around with Channel was one of the ways we learned. Other than the iconic Fireball combo, there wasn’t an enormous amount you could accelerate into back then, although some players used it in combination with Mirror Universe. Between Channel and the old mana burn rule, it was surprisingly easy to get your life total down to a level where you could put your opponent down to one life – or lower, thanks to a particular short-lived rules quirk which led to a period where you didn’t actually lose the game until the end of the phase. There was an echo of this later on, with Lich’s Mirror from Shards of Alara, which goes to show how Channel has remained strangely relevant even as it got banned from every format and the color pie moved on.

While Channel isn’t used enormously in Vintage as a restricted card, that’s less because it’s not powerful and more because people are reluctant to put too much emphasis on it when they only have one. If it were more widely available, you could now use it not only to cast Blightsteel Colossus and the like, but also draw a bunch of cheaper colorless cards jand play them all for “free”. And thanks to Old School 93/94, you can still see people using it to Fireball each other and cast Triskelion repeatedly!

Constructed: 5
Casual: 5
Limited: 2
Multiplayer: 3.5
Commander [EDH]: N/A (banned)

 James H. 


Channel is banned in EDH/Commander, so don’t get any funny ideas.

Never before reviewed on Pojo, Channel is not a complicated card…but it might be one of the most terrifying cards ever printed. Hailing from the somewhat anarchic environment of early Magic, where the color pie of effects was more a gentle suggestion instead of a more rigid framework, Channel captured the idea of a mage swapping their life for power; it’d actually feel more red or black than green today, but here we are.

Channel’s most famous interaction is in one that formed the name of a prominent online card reselling site, the “Channel-Fireball” pairing: cast Channel, pay almost all of your life, and aim a massive Fireball at someone’s face. It might not be subtle, but it works; as long as you have more life than they do, they’re extremely dead, and you can adjust the calculus with a bit more mana. Channel is one of the emblematic cards in showing how imbalanced resource value can be; you start with more life than mana, so why not put it to use? It’s a lesson Necropotence would take to its logical extreme, but Channel was the one that taught it first.

Channel is a card that has gotten better with the passage of time, thanks to the Eldrazi offering a way to pay off colorless mana generation on its own. And unlike some of the ways people trick out Eldrazi, you do get their cast triggers here, and paying 15 life to blast an opponent for 15 damage and nom away most of their board is a good use of two green mana. Channel is a spell that has been restricted in Vintage and banned everywhere else for decades, and it’s clear as to why it is…it’s not too hard to take the one turn you have with Channel to break a game wide open, and the improving payoffs have made this even more dangerous.

Channel could only have been printed in Magic‘s infancy, and it’s impressively terrifying even today. Its relative lack of play should not be an indictment of its power, as being restricted in Vintage should give an idea of the horror an unrestrictedd Channel would wreak.

Constructed: 5 (it absolutely should not get unbanned)
Casual: 5 (Channel-Fireball may be 30 years old, but killing someone with it can still help you feel warm inside)
Limited: 2 (all of its Limited outings have generally been without weapons for it to abuse, ad it being at mythic did not help; it’s not completely unusable, but it’s hard to make work)
Multiplayer: 4 (still plenty of ways to abuse it, like Comet Storm)
Commander [EDH]: lol

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