The Toolbox - Heat Shimmer

(Heat Shimmer | Art by Franz Wohwinkel)

Shimmy and Shimmer

Welcome back to The Toolbox! Here we take a look at underplayed cards and evaluate where they ought to see more play. Today we’re taking a look at one of the weirdest cards that I have ever seen cast in a cEDH game, Heat Shimmer!

Yes, I've seen it in a competitive Commander game, but no, this will not be an article about competitive Commander. This will be an article all about a card that only sees play in a little over 1,000 decks on EDHREC, even though that number should be way higher! Where can this card really shine? Let’s take a look!

In the words of a good friend of mine, Heat Shimmer's strength comes from its flexibility; it can act as an Act of Treason or as a Splinter Twin. A sudden punch of damage from nowhere can catch folks off guard, and a second copy of a powerful creature's ability can also be game-breaking.

Let's begin by looking at the commanders that currently play Heat Shimmer most often.

Zada, Hedron Grinder is an old favorite of mine. It's clear why folks like Heat Shimmer for her deck - with her ability, it makes a copy of all your creatures. Meanwhile, Godo, Bandit Warlord can use it like a Fabricate, targeting himself even though he's legendary just to get a second iteration of his own enter-the-battlefield trigger.

The third most popular commander to play Heat Shimmer is Dong Zhou, the Tyrant. Yes, a second copy of his ability is actually pretty good, but Dong Zhou has only 18 decks to his name (probably owing to his very high price tag) so it's not exactly groundbreaking to say that 33% of Dong Zhou decks are playing this spell.

So, where else can Heat Shimmer make some waves?

Join the Conclave

Or rather, leave the Conclave. Ghired, Conclave Exile is leaving it, after all, so maybe we should follow suit.

Ghired's precon deck actually included some cards that function similarly to Heat Shimmer, such as Flamerush Rider. Ghired can Populate a regular token, such as his Rhinos, but these temporary-token effects allow him to make copies of cards that token strategies aren't normally able to multiply. Make a copy of someone's Blightsteel Colossus and attack for 22 Infect!

If your opponents don't have any good creatures to copy, you can also just copy your own! Copies of Armada Wurm will flood the board with big baddies. Multiple Thragtusks sounds like a great time. He's not the only thing in the deck that synergizes with this spell, either; it has amazing synergy with other popular Ghired cards like Parallel Lives and Anointed Procession, which can give you even more temporary hasty threats to attack your opponents out of nowhere.

Let's get to the decklist!

Obligatory Token Deck

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Commander (1)
Creatures (22)
Instants (9)
Sorceries (12)
Artifacts (8)
Enchantments (10)
Planeswalkers (2)
Lands (36)

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Bad Luck

Breaking a mirror is supposedly seven years bad luck, which means I have some bad news for Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.

Kiki-Jiki is basically already his own version of Heat Shimmer. This could make the effect look redundant, which is likely why his decks don't usually play this spell. However, I still like it. Heat Shimmer is great at duplicating ETB effects, and Kiki-Jiki's deck is chock full of those. We could get not just one but two Cavalier of Flame. Or perhaps another Fanatic of Mogis for a huge life swing. Maybe you'd like Kiki-Jiki to copy your Molten Primordial but you also want to use Heat Shimmer to make a copy of Inferno Titan that turn as well. This deck is built to capitalize upon ETB triggers, and Heat Shimmer gives you additional ways to do exactly that.

Another excellent use for this spell is that it removes a strange restriction from Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker's ability. Kiki-Jiki can only copy your own creatures, but Heat Shimmer can copy any creature. If you use this spell on an opponent's creature, Kiki-Jiki can then make another copy of your copy, giving you the ability to nab some other ETB effects that mono-red doesn't always have access to.

While it is a one-time spell, don't discount its usefulness in a deck that also has access to an infinite combo. Everyone probably knows by now the combo between Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Zealous Conscripts, which can untap Kiki-Jiki, giving you infinite hasty tokens. If you're afraid someone else might try to interrupt your final combo, it might be useful to make a copy of someone else's Grand Abolisher for a little extra security, for instance.

There are so many things to copy, and so little time, so let's look at the actual list.

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Auntie Wort

Heat Shimmer isn't a Goblin spell, but Wort, Boggart Auntie still seems like the absolutely perfect home for it.

Because of the nature of the Goblin tribe, there are a ton of ETB abilities to take advantage of here. If mana is a bottleneck, make another copy of Dockside Extortionist. If you need to tutor, duplicate Goblin Matron or Boggart Harbinger. Want another burst of damage? Munitions Expert, at your service.

The one-time damage output should really be highlighted here, actually. Goblins are notorious for multiplying their numbers, which means just one more copy of a simple Goblin King or Goblin Chieftain could give a big army an unexpectedly potent boost. Tapping your Krenko, Mob Boss to make Goblins, then making a new copy of him to make even more can really set up a dangerous board state if you really need to increase the tempo. (Do you lose Krenko to the legend rule? Yes, but then Wort Boggart Auntie can just get him back).

What I also love about Heat Shimmer in this deck is that you won't just get value from the token when it enters and when it attacks. You can also get value from it leaving the battlefield. Sacrifice it to your choice of Sling-Gang Lieutenant, Pashalik Mons, Goblin Trashmaster, or Skirk Prospector, and enjoy that sweet, sweet value.

It is an understatement to say that I could go all day about the interactions and possibilities that Heat Shimmer provides, but that sounds like it would take a while, so here's the decklist!

Commander (1)
Creatures (34)
Instants (5)
Sorceries (10)
Artifacts (8)
Enchantments (7)
Lands (35)

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Shimmering Away

Thank you all for your continued support of the series! I hope that you all enjoyed reading this installment, and I hope that you’ve found a new piece of tech in the form of Heat Shimmer. Do you think that these commanders pair well with Heat Shimmer? Do you think this card is just not good enough, or do you agree it’s a highly underrated gem? Do you think this card offers enough utility outside of mono-red, or is just too limited? What decks do you think should have this card in their toolbox?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and as always, have a great day!

Elijah is a mildly obsessive EDH player from Georgia. He started playing during Battle for Zendikar with Green/Black Eldrazi Aristocrats and still pays tribute to the plane with his Omnath, Locus of Rage storm brew. He is always excited to innovate and try new things in Magic and Life. Elijah is currently a full time student looking to go into Computer Engineering but also has a bit of an artistic streak.

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