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In the Margins — Fog
Currently, there are 2,536 decks in the EDHREC database running Fog, and not a single one of them should have it as part of the 99.
Welcome back to In the Margins, a periodic column where I make grandiose, dismissive statements about decent, playable cards like Fog. And Fog is absolutely playable. It’s got a simple, clean design at the lowest of costs and it has been a part of the game since Alpha. This isn’t a Cancel or a Manalith situation where there are too many strictly better alternatives to ever consider giving it a role. It’s like socks for Christmas; it’s not Newt Gingrich’s biography, but it’s also not Newt Gingrich’s obituary. It sits in that serviceable space in the middle.
They really didn’t leave much room for Fog to evolve when the made it cost one mana way back in 1992. One mana to save yourself from a game-ending alpha strike is solid. It’s also a great way to deal with combat tricks. Short of a flicker effect, a Craterhoof Behemoth only works once, and unless they can recur it that Triumph of the Hordes or Hatred is a one-and-done effect. On top of being useful defensively, it can also enable a win; a Fog can flip the game, letting you clap back at a player who didn’t think you’d still be alive to respond to a tapped board.
A quick glance at the commanders that most frequently use Fog shows us two (technically three) hugs commanders in Phelddagrif and Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis, a commander with Fog baked into his abilities in Angus Mackenzie and two green aggro commanders in Omnath, Locus of Mana and Rhys the Redeemed. All benefit from protecting themselves for the long haul, or in protecting themselves against the crack back after an aggressive attack.
The long and the short of it is that Fog can do work. After all, it has an archetype named after it. But are there other, similar cards that can do more work?
Fog to the Future
Yes. I mean obviously, or I wouldn’t be writing this article. So cue up a synthy 80’s soundtrack, grab yourself some Activia to show support for Jamie Lee Curtis, and settle back to read about some cards that you should seriously consider in place of Fog.
Suddenly, out of the night, the fog rolled in.
Undergrowth is the closest thing we have to a strictly better Fog. It is at the core a Fog clone with an optional kicker-like cost allowing you to pay 2R to make it not affect combat damage that would be dealt by red creatures. If you’re playing any color combination featuring green and red there is simply no reason to choose Fog over Undergrowth. There’s no downside, and having the option to let your red creatures still deal damage is all upside.
Now, to be fair, Undergrowth is an older card with a single printing in Alliances almost 20 years ago, and due to color restrictions, it is limited to significantly fewer decks than Fog. Both of those factors contribute to it having a home in a mere 27 decks. Fog is also ubiquitous having been printed in 18 different sets, including as recently as the Magic 2014 Core Set andEternal Masters. Still, I’m somewhat shocked to look at the numbers for Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis. They are the commander(s) with the fourth most frequent rate of running Fog clocking in at 65 decks, and none of them are running Undergrowth despite being in colors that would support it. It’s strictly better and there’s no reason for all 65 of those decks to not upgrade and make their list even beefier.
Constant Mists isn’t quite as easy to cast as Fog. You need to leave open an extra colorless mana, and that’s not nothing. So why run it over Fog? Buyback, baby. If you sacrifice a land when casting Constant Mists you return it to your hand instead of placing it into your graveyard. That extra mana gives you the option to re-use it as often as you want as long as you are willing to lose a land. That is utterly backbreaking in some situations. It gets even better with a Crucible of Worlds or Runamap Excavator in play.
Constant Mists sits in 2,935 decks at the moment which is just over 400 more than Fog. It’s still not in as many places as it could be, however. The Gitrog Monster draws you a card whenever a land card is put into your graveyard, meaning no only do you get to re-use Constant Mists over and over but you draw a card when buying it back. The Bog Frog also lets you play an additional land per turn, increasing the number of turns you can continue to pay the buyback cost. Despite this huge advantage, there are 11 Frog decks running Fog and no Constant Mists. That’s a mistake. There’s no situation where I’d run Fog over Mists in a Monster build.
There’s a handful of other two-mana Fogs in green, and while most aren’t quite as bonkers as Constant Mists or strictly better in the right colors like Undergrowth they’re still worth a look:
For a moment, they could see nothing, not a foot in front of them
Commencement of Festivities is a two-mana Fog that prevents damage dealt to players. Want it to be a Fog? Just don’t block. But if you have a couple of decent blockers that will come out ahead then block with them and take the rest. You’ll still walk away unscathed, and you might wind up resources ahead based on your blocking. A deck like Gishath, Sun’s Avatar is almost always filled with creatures who get stronger when they take combat damage and live, yet both Gishath dinosaur tribal decks in the database running Fog are not running Commencement.
Druid’s Deliverance is really simple to evaluate; it’s Fog that copies a token you control. If you aren’t running a deck that makes tokens there’s no reason to consider it. There’s a reason that the top three decks running this card are Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, Rhys the Redeemed, and Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter; all interact with tokens. Of the three the one that most leaps out at me is Oviya Pashiri as she has the ability to make large tokens. Spending a single extra mana to have the option to copy token that is larger than 1/1 seems very tempting, but there are six Oviya decks running Fog instead.
Moment’s Peace is Fog that can be recast for 2G giving you a second use. While I’d still rather run Constant Mists as my multi-use Fog, Mists doesn’t work from your graveyard like Moment’s Peace, and there are plenty of green decks that don’t mind putting their own library in the yard. Most Sidisi, Brood Tyrant decks spend a lot of time self-milling to make zombies, and a Fog or even Constant Mists doesn’t do much good once milled. Moment’s Peace, on the other hand, can still do work after getting binned. A quick search shows six Sidisi, Brood Tyrant decks running Fog instead of Constant Mists, and that’s a choice I think all six should reconsider.
Tangle prevents attacking creatures from untapping next turn in addition to saving you via Fog. Unless you’re going against a deck running a heavy amount of vigilance Tangle winds up almost being a double fog, giving you and everyone else twice the chance for a retaliatory swing.
Haze of Pollen/Lull are both 1G Fogs that can be cycled. Lull is the better of the two as it can be cycled for 2 vs 3 for Haze. This particular effect is less useful in EDH than standard where you’re at risks of having multiple redundant copies of the card in question in hand, but it can still provide advantages in Commander.
Now what kind of a fog blows against the wind?
Moonmist is a Fog that transforms all humans and prevents damage that would be done by creatures other than werewolves and wolves. That seems pretty useful in an Ulrich of the Krallenhorde deck, and 373 people with decks in the EDHREC database agree with me. Not all of them do, however; three decks are running Fog instead of Moonmist. I’m gonna chalk that up to some kind of head injury.
Respite is a 1G Fog that gains you one life for each attacking creature. Fairly often that’s a simple Healing Salve, but in a meta with Splinter Twin-type infinite token producers it can not only save you from an attack but put you out of range of anyone else. It’s also useful to power a Well of Lost Dreams or offset life lost due to black’s draw mechanics in an Abzan, Golgari, Jund, or Sultai build.
Tanglesap is a Fog for one extra colorless mana that exempts creatures with trample. That seems risky to me as it doesn’t stop Craterhoof Behemoth or Overrun/Overwhelming Stampede shenanigans, but it does have a home in 66 decks with Stonebrow, Krosan Hero atop the list.
Winds of Qal Sisma is another 1G Fog, this time with a ferocious clause that says if you control a creature with power four or greater instead prevent all combat damage that would be dealt by creatures your opponents control. You and your creatures still take no damage, but your creatures do deal damage back. The ferocious threshold is really easy to hit in green; the most popular green commander Omnath, Locus of Mana will hit it himself most turns.
After that, we start getting into significantly more expensive Fogs, but most also come with a decent upside.
Something came out of the fog and tried to destroy us.
Arachnogenesis shows up in 3,632 decks as it rightfully should since it allows you to yell “Surprise spiders!” every time you windmill slam it onto the table in response to an attack. It’s a 3-mana Fog that makes a 1/2 spider for each attacking creature, and non-spider creatures deal no damage this turn. It’s essentially a Fog that makes you some spiders, possibly a lot of spiders, and those spiders have a chance to kill the creatures they’re blocking. Yes, three mana is a lot to keep free, but yelling “Surprise spiders!” is worth it. Or at least I think it is. And I’m right. The seven people running Iskanah, Grafwidow decks with Fog and no Arachnogenesis apparently disagree. They’re wrong.
Blunt the Assault is a souped-up Respite in that you gain a life for each creature on the battlefield in addition to fogging. In most situations, I’m not sure the extra life gained is worth two mana over Respite, but it’s here as an option.
Snag is an expensive Fog that optionally lets you cast it for zero mana if you discard a forest from your hand. It is currently in a mere 51 decks in the EHDREC database, a number that seems about right. It’s no Force of Will as far as things go. It’s not even Foil but I can see an argument being made to run it particularly in a deck like The Gitrog Monster where you’d draw a card after pitching the land.
Spore Cloud is a three-mana Fog that adds the flexibility of being able to be used offensively when someone else is being attacked by arresting both players’ creatures.
So now here’s where things get weird. There are fogs in other colors.
A Fog of Another Color
We were aided by an unearthly fog that rolled in, as if Heaven sent.
Darkness/Holy Day/Ethereal Haze are simply Fogs in black and white respectively. Same CMC, just black and white. Why would you run these over Fog? For the same reason you’d run Harmonize over Concentrate. Concentrate in a b/g deck sucks up two blue mana in your main phase, making it harder to keep blue mana free for counters and instant-speed effects during other turns. By using Harmonize it’s easier to keep that blue mana available. Here you can use your green mana on whatever in your main phase to cast your big beater creatures while using the white or black mana free for a Fog if needed, or a Swords to Plowshares or Go for the Throat if not. Plus a lone white or black mana is much less likely to tip anyone off to your potential plans than is an untapped forest as Darkness and Holy Day combined are in half as many decks as Fog. I’m not saying you should run both or either over Fog, but there are definitely decks it would make sense.
Angelsong is Lull color-shifted to white. If you’d consider running Lull for the cycling option over Fog for the cycling then depending on your colors Angelsong might be a better fit in the same way Darkness or Holy Day sometimes works better.
Batwing Brume is Fog for one colorless and a hybrid white/black mana. The hybrid cost is relevant here because the spell is essentially modular. If you pay a white mana it’s a fog, and if you pay a black each player loses a life for each attacking creature he or she controls. If you spend both, both happen. That’s pretty solid value and seems like a decent alternative in decks that have the option.
Energy Arc gives us our first glimpse of blue. It untaps the creatures attacking as it prevents their damage, making a crack back difficult, but it can also be used in response to blocking triggers or effects you didn’t anticipate that might mess up your own attacking plans, i.e. a Fog that is going to keep someone alive for retribution after you thought you had them killed.
Then we have the Fog dorks, the creatures that can Fog.
Fogs on a Stick
And above, as suddenly as it come, the fog lifted, receded back across the ocean and never came again.
Spike Weaver costs 2GG to cast and comes into play with 3 +1/+1 counters on it. However, you may then remove a counter for a colorless mana to Fog. You lose the element of surprise unless you have some method to flash it into play, but you do get three Fogs. That’s decent. The real beauty here though is that you can easily abuse counters on Spike Weaver. Hardened Scales has it begin with four counters, Doubling Season with eight, and there are countless ways to blink or reanimate it to reset the counters again once depleted. Spike Weaver is in 2,313 decks, the most popular of which is Atraxa by a large margin.
Spore Frog is the Sakura-Tribe Elder of Fogs. For one mana you get a 1/1 that you can sacrifice at will to prevent all combat damage. Like with Spike Weaver you use the element of surprise, but it’s also easily recurrable with Meren of Clan Nel Toth or Karador, Ghost Chieftain, and its death will trigger Grave Pact-type effects. Still, there are 15 decks on EDHREC running Fog over Spore Frog, and half of those are also running Grave Pact to make it even less excusable.
Dawnstrider is a spellshaper that lets you tap her for a G to discard any card to Fog. Basically any card in your hand is Fog. That works well with The Gitrog Monster since you can draw off pitching lands, or in some kind of madness list. It’s also a good way to get cards in the yards for reanimation abuse.
There’s a ton more Fogs at various casting costs and with various tacked on extras ranging from Festival to Moment of Silence to Riot Control. Most are less useful than Fog, but there are probably plenty of narrow situations where they may be better in your particular build.
But it is told by the fishermen, and their fathers and grandfathers, that when the fog returns to Antonio Bay, the men at the bottom of the sea, out in the water by Spivey Point will rise up and search for the campfire that led them to their dark, icy death.
Hopefully that makes things a little clearer. That’s a Fog joke, people. Maybe one or two of these will work a little better for you, because over time a bunch of little betters adds up to a lot better. I’d love to hear your perspective on all the Fog variants as well as any suggestions for future cards to cover in the column. Until next time, I’m Dana, and I’ll see you In the Margins.