Singleton Shmingleton - Fog

fog mtg art header
Fog | Art by Jaime Jones

Can't Even See My Own Hand

Hello, and welcome back to Singleton Shmingleton, where I bend the singleton rules of Commander by building decks with as many functional reprints of a certain card as possible. Today, I'm taking on one of the original "critical mass" build-arounds, Fog. For just a single mana, Fog promises to keep its caster alive for another turn, an effect that is too temptingly close to Time Walk for players to forget. Well before I started playing the game, players have been trying to win by simply preventing their opponents from killing them, and the strategy has almost never paid off. It had its time to shine in Pauper with Stonehorn Dignitary loops, and even found some Standard success in a broken Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Nexus of Fate shell, but Fog has spent most of its tenure as the last pick in a booster draft.

There are several reasons why "turbo-Fog" has generally failed. First, committing one card and a couple mana per turn towards not dying means very few extra resources to advance your own gameplan. Second, no matter how many Fogs you draw, it only takes one turn of not drawing one to lose. And third, the strategy gives your opponent all the time in the world to dig for whatever they have that can get around your plan, from Counterspell to Skullcrack to Blood Artist. In Commander, there is an additional problem: with multiple opponents, you need multiple Fogs per turn cycle to survive everyone's aggression.

But true brewers see weaknesses such as these as merely challenges, and Fog remains a cult classic. And because of this, there have been countless iterations on the effect (and when I say countless, I really mean 57). But many of these effects prevent damage either to you or to your creatures, not to both. Of the "true" Fogs that do both, there are 43.

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That's a lot of draft chaff indeed. The most played of these cards is Teferi's Protection, in 283,250 decks. It is the best spell ever printed that lets you dodge any shenanigans your opponents might be trying to pull on you. The original ranks fourth on the list with 32,170 decks, with Spore Frog (43,324 decks) taking second and The One Ring (41,690 decks) hot on its heels. The least played card on this list, besides the new one, is Endure. Gosh, what a stinker! Five mana for a one-sided Fog, I'm surprised it's even in the 122 decks that include it at all.

These cards all do almost exactly the same thing, but what is surprising is how many different ways they go about it. Every year brings a Fog with a new twist, from Undergrowth being able to ignore red creatures to Thwart the Enemy only affecting opponents' creatures. Each new one of these cards presents a challenge: in general, Fogs serve only a very small group of players. They're usually Limited duds, and almost never see any competitive play. Unless they fit into a Limited environment really well, these cards are only for a tiny subset of casual brewers. And so we have cards like Hindervines and Tanglesap that attempt (and usually fail) to make a Fog that's playable in Limited.

The goal of these weird Fog variants is to make a card that can prevent damage one-sidedly. In recent years, cards like Thwart the Enemy and Eerie Interference have removed the conditions you have to meet to get such a combat trick, and they are better than the average Fog in Limited. If we want to build a Commander deck that can actually win, we need to be proactive, and the simplest way to use Fogs proactively is to find a way for them all to be one-sided. Enter Questing Beast. Amid the mountain of text on this animal are some words relevant to our brew. The first is "Legendary," which I didn't realize until I found it under the Top Commanders page for Fog (it doesn't even have a name!), and the second pertinent parcel reads "Combat damage that would be dealt by creatures you control can't be prevented." So there we go! Our Fogs are now much better.

Does That Actually Make Fog Good?

The problem with our combo is that it doesn't really solve the problem with Fog. Instead of having a deck full of cards that save us for a turn, we now have a deck full of cards that save us for a turn and let us win a combat sometimes. That's better, but it's not great. People don't play many combat tricks in Commander, because winning combat one turn at a time just isn't as powerful as what everyone else has going on.

But we've dug our own little hole, and now we're going to make the best of it. The creatures that benefit the most from having damage prevented are ones with high power and low toughness. If we can get some high-power beaters out for cheap, then they can punch damage through without worrying about getting blocked or beaten up. And if we do fall behind, we can Fog while picking off some attacking creatures. Green has some extremely powerful cards, so hopefully our plan has enough backup to carry it over the finish line.

Finally, an excuse to play Leery Fogbeast. This card has always intrigued me, and this is absolutely the perfect deck for it. With our commander out, it's virtually unblockable, since a block would turn off all blocking creatures' damage without us even having to use one of our Fogs. Gigapede finally gets its time to shine, as do Deadly Insect and Witherscale Wurm. Most of our beaters are fairly high on the mana curve, but thankfully green provides nearly unlimited ramp. The mana elf package is explosive enough that our five drops can still catch opponents in the development stage, and our Fogs actually allow the deck to take a little more time than other aggressive decks. Powerful green draw engines can keep our hand full, and Questing Beast itself is quite the card, playing offense and defense and threatening to kill anything in its way.

More Card Spotlights

Isochron Scepter: a classic Fog combo, this artifact lets us invest two cards in the opportunity to always have Fog at our fingertips.

Grothama, All-Devouring: This one is a gamble. If we play it wrong, it can give our opponents massive numbers of cards, but it's huge, and we can always kill it ourselves. It doesn't combine with most of our Fogs, since most only prevent combat damage, but Thwart the Enemy and Obscuring Haze will let it survive any fight as well.

Nessian Boar: Another huge beater that can backfire! This one nearly guarantees that the defending player will draw a ton of cards, but it also guarantees that our other creatures will get through unblocked. Who cares how many cards they have when they're dead? Nessian Boar works great as either a game-ender or to stir up some chaos.

The Decklist

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This deck is good, clean fun. It reminds me of Doran, the Siege Tower in that it takes bad creatures and makes them under-costed beaters, but instead of having that ability all in one card, we have to combine our commander with a one-off Fog whenever we want to save our creatures. But this deck can also play a mean defense. Once our opponents see what's going on, our buff creatures and open mana can ward off plenty of attacks without us having to cast a single spell. Normally, Fog doesn't punish opponents for "making us have it", but attacking into a bunch of 6/1s sure does. Another way I considered building the deck was to include as many Sedge Scorpion-style cards as possible, to lean into the defensive "rattlesnake" angle, but I love aggression too much to pass up on a chance.

We also get to lean into some of the fun politics of classic turbo-Fog decks: We can save opponents in return for favors, we can attack Leery Fogbeast into a friendly opponent and everything else into a common enemy, we can bluff like the best of them when we have exactly nothing. This deck would probably run better with half the number of Fogs, because opponents will always assume we have it, but where's the fun in that? As a Smingleton challenge, this is a success. We can build our deck differently because of our engine, and include cards like Loathsome Troll that have never seen play in constructed formats before.

Until Next Time

Let's try to break the fairness of this card. It promises so much - card selection, graveyard stocking, spellslinging - and it is a classic roleplayer. But let's see if we can turn it into the star of the show next time on Singleton Shmingleton!

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Singleton Shmingleton - Braingeyser

Jesse Barker Plotkin started playing Magic with Innistrad. He was disqualified from his first Commander game after he played his second copy of Goblins of the Flarg, and it's all been uphill from there. Outside of Magic, he enjoys writing and running.

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