Is Whims of the Fates a Good Card in Magic the Gathering?

whims of the fates artwork

After the unprecedented success of the Commander format in Magic the Gathering in 2011, many sets released soon afterward began featuring cards that didn’t seem to serve any purpose in Constructed decks. Indeed, Magic designers intentionally began to create cards clearly geared towards casual “kitchen table” play or multiplayer environments such as Commander.

Whims of the Fates from the Born of the Gods set is one such card built for the kitchen table. It would be reprinted some years later in a Commander 2016 pre-constructed offering. Yet, unlike many of these cards which can create maddening complexities, this sorcery card is very straightforward.

Whims of the fates magic the gathering

When Whims of the Fates is cast, each player, starting with yourself, separates all their permanents into three piles. Then, each player chooses a pile at random, and sacrifices all the permanents in that pile. It’s an interesting sort of Russian Roulette with potentially very uneven consequences. Why anyone would play this card?

In Commander, at least, there are plenty of ways to abuse a card like this and get all of the permanents you lost back anyway. These include playing cards right afterward such as Second Sunrise and Faith’s Reward that let you get back at least a few cards you lost back right away.

There is an interesting caveat to this card, though, as you can choose one or two of the three piles to be entirely empty. This means you can separate cards into two piles, hoping that you will pick the empty one at random. You could also put all of your eggs into a single pile, then pray you don’t randomly hit the one with all of the permanents.

So, yes, there are possibly ways that you could play this card and cripple your opponents without losing anything. Just from a flavor perspective, this card wins big time, as you are trying to cheat fate by coming out ahead in this scenario. While you definitely shouldn’t depend on Whims of the Fates to win you the game consistently, it certainly can help you come back from behind.

Will you ever run up against this card in a game of Commander, though? Legendary Creatures seen connected to this card include Starke of Rath, Ruhan of the Fomori, Jhoira of the Ghitu, Keranos, God of Storms, Melek, Izzet Paragon, and Zedruu of the Greathearted. All those Commanders have something in common: each has an ability to make a chaotic effect like this hurt other players more so than the one casting it. But, none of these Commanders are going to play Whims of the Fates while they’re ahead, and the actual percentage of such decks that actually list this card is under five percent.

Being played properly, in a case where the caster is already in a losing position, Whims of the Fates probably won’t win its caster the game. What it will do is force players to make some very tough decisions on what can stay or go, or decide if they want to play a version of roulette.

In a politically charged environment like Commander, this card can lead to some very interesting lines of play, and of course, stories to tell. The absolute random nature of the card, however, makes it only palatable to play for those who truly adore chaos as part of their Commander playstyle, something that in the decade-plus since is done more efficiently by cards printed more recently.

Have you ever played Whims of the Fates or been forced to play against it? What are your experiences with playing against decks which invite chaos like this card?

Writing words, spreading love, Amelia Desertsong primarily writes creative nonfiction articles, as well as dabbling in baseball, Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, and whatever else tickles her fancy.
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