Gifts Ungiven – Strixhaven
Date Reviewed: April 15, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of casting Gifts Ungiven – and also experienced my share of frustration at playing against it! This is partly because it involves quite a lot of cognitive effort on the part of both players, and partly because the “trick” use of it to find only two cards and ensure they both end up in your graveyard is not very intuitive the first time you see it. It’s the kind of trick that can dominate matches and even, sometimes, formats (the card was restricted in Vintage for almost eight years!). It has its share of fair uses, too, and can be card advantage with a degree of downside if you want it to.
Gifts Ungiven is banned in Commander.
Gifts Ungiven is a weird card, one with a lot more depth to it than is initially apparent. At first glance, it looks like a twist on Tempest‘s Intuition, where an opponent gives you one card out of three choices. How this spell is worded, though, opens up far ruder lines.
Gifts Ungiven asks for you to find cards with defined characteristics and guarantees two of them go to the graveyard. As you’re looking for cards with characteristics, you can fail to find…which means that Gifts Ungiven can function as a double Entomb, putting two cards in the graveyard that pair well together…like Dread Return and something rude, like Griselbrand. While that’s the most notorious use of Gifts Ungiven, you’re also going to get two cards out of it and get two cards into your graveyard, and as long as you can guarantee that what you get is worth it, regardless of where it goes, it’s worth a cast. It sees play in Past in Flames Storm decks in Modern, since they rely heavily on Past in Flames to hit critical mass to go into Grapeshot or Empty the Warrens.
It’s sometimes subtle, but this card is a notoriously powerful one. Your opponent sees what you’re fetching and can choose what goes where, but they have to make inferences on what you have available and what benefits you. And cards with flashback (or that enable flashback) change that calculus entirely. As a four-mana instant, it’s a pretty flexible weapon in all, and the deck built to take advantage of its unique talents will rarely be left wanting.
Limited: 2.25 (Kamigawa, the one block this card was part of, didn’t offer much in the way of graveyard synergy, and this gets worse if you can’t abuse the graveyard half of this card)
Multiplayer: 4.25 (“target opponent” means you can aim this at someone who will be the best for your gameplan)
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