Too-Specific Top 10 - Mind Bending

(Mind Bend | Art by Mike Dringenberg)

Island Forest-Home

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Dandân is the only two-drop with Islandhome?)

For those unaware of the new format sweeping the nation, I highly suggest reading up on 'Dandan' in detail with our compatriot over at Commander's Herald, Jake Fitzsimmons. If you want a TL;DR, here's the long and short of Dandan:

  • Players share an 80 card deck and a group graveyard

That's basically it! From there, it's up to the brewer to make the game interesting. This is most popularly done with the inclusion of 10 Dandâns as the only threats in a mono-blue deck, but the more the format lives and breathes out in the world, the more folks are branching out and making other decks with other key cards at the helm. I myself have made a battlebox of Dandan decks for each color, for instance.

If you're playing the mono-blue Dandân version, however, then it revolves around the two-mana 4/1 with Islandhome and the ways that you can swing through with it, prevent from getting swung in on with it, or remove it. How do you do that? Well, there are a lot of ways, but maybe the most interesting is a footnote from the early days of Magic: Mind Bends.

Top 10 Mind Bends

For those unfamiliar with the ancient and pseudo-nonexistent keyword Islandhome, it essentially states "When you control no Islands, sacrifice this creature". It was a probably unnecessary flavor workaround from the days when Wizards tried to outlaw Merfolk for not having legs, and it served as their explanation for how fish-types could share a battlefield with Bears and such. For our purposes, what it means is that you can take a card like Dandân that requires an Island to live, take a card like Mind Bend that can change the word "Island" to "Forest", and all of a sudden you have a non-living Dandân.

Is that really anything that can be used outside of a niche time-waster format, though?

Well, let's take a look at Mind Bend's EDHREC page and find out, shall we?

It turns out, no! People are using Mind Bend in Commander for the other half of the card, where it can change color words. With that power, board wipes, like Llawan, Cephalid Empress and Dromar, the Banisher, can bounce any color of creatures, or Momir Vig, Simic Visionary can search for blue creatures. This is all admittedly pretty limited in scope, but there are still some decks dedicated to it.

An interesting distinction, however, is that of Blind Seer. While it can't change a color word, like Mind Bend can, it can change the color of spells or permanents. While this gets expensive to use in the long run, it can be useful for the odd Blue Elemental Blast, even if you're now spending Gifts Ungiven and Cancel mana to use it. All in all, while Blind Seer and cards like it feel similar to the Mind Bend experience, they don't quite embody it. The golden hope with something like a Mind Bend is to target something like a Chill or a Choke and just make someone's life miserable.

So, with that distinction in mind, why not check out the most played Mind Bends in EDH?

Criteria: Instants and sorceries that can change the "color word" or "instances of one basic land type" of another card. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Balduvian Shaman

(15 Inclusions, 0% of 722,203 Decks)

In typical Ice Age fashion, Balduvian Shaman has a wall of text to wade through, but the long and short of it is this: you can change what color a Circle of Protection cares about, so long as it doesn't already have Cumulative Upkeep, and then it gains Cumulative Upkeep: 1. Sure, sure, there are other white enchantments you can affect as well, but if this was available as an Azorius Commander, I guarantee you your first five inclusions would be every Circle of Protection.

If you're in the extremely rare case of finding an Azorius+ commander that cares about color words, there are a few other spicy targets as well:

Ultimately, there's not really a slam dunk in here. What I would love is a commander with a similar ability to Balduvian Shaman that was five colors! Sure, it would be abysmal to play against, but man would it be a blast to brew!

9. Magical Hack

(323 Inclusions, 0% of 722,203 Decks)

Magical Hack is actually one of the original Mind Bends, having been printed alongside all the various Thoughtlaces in Alpha (along with another card we'll see later in this list). While still an interrupt instant, it only allows you to change references to basic land types, rather than to basic land types and color words. As such, it's not too surprising to see this at the bottom of our list, as even the most diehard Old Schoolers probably still think of Mind Bend first when it comes to this effect.

8. Spectral Shift

(406 Inclusions, 0% of 722,203 Decks)

Spectral Shift, on the other hand, does it all. It can even do it all at once with a paid Entwine cost, letting you change both a color word and a instance of a basic land type for four mana. The problem, of course, is that there are several effects that can do either/or for one mana, and four mana to do both at once is not only ludicrously expensive, but also unlikely to come up very often. There's a small feather in Spectral Shift's cap, though, because it can affect both spells and permanents, unlike Mind Bend. Is that worth the extra mana? You be the judge.

7. Crystal Spray

(635 Inclusions, 0% of 722,203 Decks)

In similar fashion to Spectral Shift, Crystal Spray changes either color words or references to basic land types on either spells or permanents. In lieu of Entwining to do both, it instead just costs three mana to choose between the two and then draw a card for your trouble. The big drawback that many miss with this card, as compared to the others, is that its effect only lasts until end of turn, rather than continuing on for the rest of the game as Balduvian Shaman, Magical Hack, Spectral Shift, and Mind Bend all do. Kind of a steep price to pay for drawing a card, depending on your strategy.

6. Sleight of Mind

(714 Inclusions, 0% of 722,203 Decks)

Sleight of Mind is our other half of Mind Bend printed in Alpha. At the time, a lot more attention was paid to this mechanic, as many cards in the old days referred to colors and basic land types. I imagine that it was therefore handled with kid gloves, given just how annoying a blue player with access to a Sleight of Mind and a Deathgrip would be. As time passed, it ended up not being that realistic to use up a whole card to possibly be able to change another card to hate on a color that might already be present at the table anyhow.

5. Alter Reality

(1,228 Inclusions, 0% of 722,203 Decks)

There's a sheer quirkiness to the whole color-word-changing idea that seems to bring both brewers and designers back to it every once in a while, and as such, you can change color words twice with the same card: Alter Reality. This has led to it being one of the more popular sources of this effect, even if you do have to pay an extra mana for it, so much so that it sees play in 13% of all Orvar, the All-Form decks, even though they don't really care about color- or land-changing at all.

4. Mind Bend

(1,419 Inclusions, 0% of 722,203 Decks)

Of course, Mind Bend sees even more play, both in Orvar decks and color-changing decks alike. On the one hand, that might be because of the greater efficiency of it being a one-mana spell. On the other hand, it also has probably the highest amount of name recognition of this effect. Given the trends we see in our data here at EDHREC all the time, I'd lean on the latter as being the actual reason that it sees play in more brews, rather than it being technically "better".

3. Glamerdye

(1,963 Inclusions, 0% of 722,203 Decks)

Of course, if you did want twice the Mind Bend Sleight of Mind, you can skip on paying for the second copy of Alter Reality with Glamerdye! Seeing play in over half of Blind Seer and Llawan, Cephalid Empress decks, and a quarter of all Orvar, the All-Form, Dromar, the Banisher, and Momir Vig, Simic Visionary decks, Glamerdye is the first consistent card we're seeing across the strategy, and for good reason. Retrace is an absolutely broken mechanic, allowing for the recasting of the same spell over and over again, provided you can find a way to get lands into your hand (which, if I'm not mistaken, is something that blue decks heavy on card draw have pretty much no problem with).

2. Whim of Volrath

(3,381 Inclusions, 0% of 722,203 Decks)

If having to discard is too much of a hassle, then you can just use Buyback with Whim of Volrath instead. Just beware: yes, you can cast it over and over again, but unlike most of the spells on this list, it only lets you change your land or color word until the end of turn. In other words, the spell you can keep on casting until the cows come home kind of needs to be cast over and over again to get the same result. So the real question is, do you care more about casting a spell over and over again, or having a single spell or permanent stay changed for the whole game?

1. Trait Doctoring

(3,544 Inclusions, 0% of 722,203 Decks)

Luckily, there's one more Mind Bend that likes to cast itself every turn. Trait Doctoring does have a few drawbacks, in that it can't target spells and it's a sorcery. Fortunately, Cipher makes up for a lot of ills, especially in a deck where you're likely to be attacking with an evasive creature or three. In the same vein, Trait Doctoring's effect doesn't wear off at end of turn, so you can wreak havoc on a different game-altering permanent every time you swing on through.

Honorable Mentions

Believe it or not, this ten-card list includes every spell that can Mind Bend! There is, however, one enchantment that I intentionally eliminated from the list because I wanted so badly to talk about Balduvian Shaman and Circle of Protection tribal: Swirl the Mists.

Shockingly, this havoc-inducing spell would've only been in 10th place on our list, probably due to its lack of flexibility. While other cards allow you to take a specific spell or permanent and doctor it to your liking, this crazy enchantment just takes all the color words anywhere on the board and points them in one color's direction. Good, bad, or meh, it doesn't care, it's just here for the nonsense!

Additionally, there are also a ton of Blind Seer type effects that are worth mentioning, as a lot of the time they will do much the same thing for you as Mind Bend effects, just on a lesser scale:

Top 10 Land/Color Changing Cards

  1. Scuttlemutt
  2. Shimmering Mirage
  3. Moonlace
  4. Jinx
  5. Elsewhere Flask
  6. Distorting Lens
  7. Tideshaper Mystic
  8. Blind Seer
  9. Reef Shaman
  10. Navigator's Compass

Kind of shocking to me that Terraformer didn't make the list, but maybe that's just my old school mentality talking!

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

Dandan as a format is in its infancy, but it's not uncommon to go to a large event or LGS and see it being played in the corner. With that said, for many this may be the first they're hearing of it, so...

Finally, what is your favorite Mind Bend? Do you play any sort of color or land-switching deck?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the blue table that unexpectedly got painted green this week. Weird.

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.