CottonRhetoric's picture
By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Mar 23 2016 11:00am
Login or register to post comments

Most people (reasonably) assess Monkey Cage as a bad card.

Monkey Cage

The argument against it: You can't afford both it and an expensive creature on your turn, so you have to rely on the luck of what your opponent casts to determine how many tokens you get. And you opponent usually will crack it for one or two, which was not at all worth your 5-mana investment.

The argument for it: Don't play it like that! Try the below.


1. Give it flash

If you cast it at the end of your opponent's turn, there's (almost) nothing they can do to stop you from cracking the Cage with the creature of your choice. Best options: Leyline of Anticipation, Vedalken Orrery, Arcum Dagsson, Master Transmuter.

Leyline of Anticipation  Vedalken Orrery  Arcum Dagsson


2. Exploit a templating oddity

Did you ever wonder why cards say "If you do"? Like, "You may sacrifice [this]. If you do, etc."? It's to prevent you from using the same triggered ability multiple times. But... read the Oracle wording of Monkey Cage carefully... it doesn't say "if you do." And what that means is... we can trigger it multiple times.

If you cast Ghostway and flicker three Grey Ogres... you're getting nine Ape tokens. The Cage triggers three times, and there's nothing to stop all three from resolving.

If you cast Living Death, and you and your opponent combine to put sixteen CMC's worth of creatures out... you get sixteen Apes! Other cards to try this with: Planar Guide, Pyxis of Pandemonium, Warp World.

Ghostway  Living Death  Pyxis of Pandemonium


3. Exploit, part two

There's another way to take advantage of the templating. If the Cage's trigger goes on the stack, and the Cage itself is flickered or returned to your hand, you'll get the creatures and still keep the Cage for another use. My favorite way to do this is with Aethersnipe, which simultaneously gives you six Apes, but there's also Retract, Rebuild, Master Transmuter, and the original Flicker.

Aethersnipe  Retract  Master Transmuter


4. Monitor the opponent's hand

It's not as exciting as the last two items, but Ostracize (or even Peek) is still a solid strategy for Monkey Cage. You have to hold your breath for that topdeck, of course, but this is the Just For Fun room after all. Or you could get some fateseal / Misinformation / Wizened Snitches involved if you really want to get crazy.

Ostracize  Thoughtpicker Witch  Wizened Snitches


5. Prevent casting

Silence, Orim's Chant, or Cease-Fire will all keep the Cage around for your own turn.

Be careful of their Selesnya Evangel, of course. Tokens do trigger the Cage, and their 0 CMC equals 0 Apes.

Silence    Cease-Fire


6. Low-mana, high-CMC

Maybe you don't want to do ANY of the above. You just want to drop your Monkey Cage and crack it for something big on the same turn. Fortunately, the Cage looks at CMC, not mana spent, so you can still do this profitably.

If you have out a War-Pride, and your opponent has three creatures in play, cast your Cage and attack. You will get eighteen Apes—six CMC times each of the three Cat tokens. For you see, each of those tokens is a copy of the War-Pride, which includes his CMC. (This is different from cards like Precursor Golem, whose tokens have no CMC.) P.S. If your opponent had ten creatures in play, maybe survivor tokens from your Varchild's War-Riders, why yes, six times ten is sixty. Apes. Sixty Apes. 120 points of power.

Ingot Chewer  Argent Sphinx  Nacatl War-Pride



And that's all I have to say about Monkey Cage, but before I get to a decklist, there's another card I have a lot to say about! It's the previously mentioned Leyline of Anticipation.

Leyline of Anticipation

This card has its own set of strategies most people don't think of. Most people use it for its (probably intended) purpose of just casting spells on their opponent's discard so as to leave counterspell mana open. Plus there's that much-coveted instant-speed Wrath of God. But there is so much more this card can do.


1. Break ahead on symmetry

Your opponent no longer need get first crack at your Howling Mine, Mana Flare, Maralen of the Mornsong, Day's Undoing, Tombstone Stairwell, or Braids, Conjurer Adept. Also, the odds are lower that your opponent will have a chance to destroy it before you get to use it (a HIGHLY common occurrence with Maralen especially).

Howling Mine  Mana Flare  


2. Surprise block!

If you have a High Priest of Penance in play, your opponent probably isn't going to attack with their 2/2. But if the Priest isn't in play until they've already attacked....

Also try this with Serene Master, Hornet Nest, Aetherplasm, and Soul Collector.

High Priest of Penance  Hornet Nest  Soul Collector


3. Open up your mana

When you cast a Nature's Revolt, you've tapped too much to lunch a good attack. Your opponent will probably just cream you with their own land creatures before you even get to your next turn. But not if you cast it as an instant!

It can be hard to drop enough cards on the same turn you cast Ideas Unbound to make it worthwhile—but it's easier if that two mana is spent on your opponent's turn. (The discard happens "at the beginning of the next end step," so just cast it in the middle of the opponent's end step.)

Another one: when you cast a Phyrexian Processor, you don't usually have enough to activate it on the same turn, and your opponent just destroys it before you untap. But if you cast it as an instant, you're almost guaranteed at least one untap with it.

Similar principle with Recycle! The turn you cast it, you don't likely have enough to really go off. You have to wait through your opponent's turn and hope they don't destroy it (or, worse, cast Mind Rot). So just cast it on their discard. As an added bonus, you'll have a full grip on that first turn of yours, rather than the usual two.

Nature's Revolt  Phyrexian Processor  Recycle


4. Pseudo-haste

How often does Precursor Golem get to swing for 9? How often does Phage the Untouchable get through for the win? Rarely to both, unless they don't spend an entire turn sitting around with summoning sickness. The same with any high-impact fragile creature, like Thalakos Deceiver, Cloistered Youth, or Ertai, Wizard Adept.

This also applies to non-creatures, even. Nevinyrral's Disk and Mirror Universe are more likely to activate if they're dropped right before they're used.

Precursor Golem  Thalakos Deceiver  Mirror Universe


5. Skip drawbacks

Any card that makes you pay something at the end of your turn can be skipped at least that first time. See Grafted Skullcap or the above-mentioned Recycle.

Serra's Avenger can't be cast on YOUR first, second, or third turns—it can be cast on your opponent's second turn though.

Thundermare ordinarily prevents you from attacking with anyone else. But your guys won't be tapped if he's not cast during your pre-combat main! This is actually one time when you want to cast early on the opponent's turn, rather than their discard phase, so you can also prevent them from attacking.

Grafted Skullcap    Thundermare


Phew! And NOW we can get to some decks.

There is enough above to go in a great many different directions, including really any combination of colors (even colorless, if you use Vedalken Orrery instead of Leyline of Anticipation). For my first deck, I'll pick blue-red, because:

Blue and red both have some stellar evoke creatures, which combine very well with Monkey Cage and at least respectably with the Leyline. It also gives access to several "pet cards" above, such as Thundermare and Thalakos Deceiver. Plus, blue's looting will help with redundant copies of the Leyline. (And it's nice to have the option to hardcast one, since even with a full playset we do only have a 40% chance of getting one in our opening 7.)

Most of our deck is quite expensive, so we'll add some mana accel (my favorite being Worn Powerstone) and some early control (my favorites being Flame Slash, Wall of Tears, and Pyroclasm.)


Monkeys of Anticipation
2 Ingot Chewer
4 Merfolk Looter
2 Wall of Tears
2 Thalakos Deceiver
2 Aethersnipe
2 Spitebellows
2 Thundermare
16 cards

Other Spells
2 Flame Slash
2 Peek
3 Pyroclasm
3 Worn Powerstone
2 Mulldrifter
4 Leyline of Anticipation
4 Monkey Cage
20 cards
13 Island
11 Mountain
24 cards


But let's do one more! This time I'm going black-white. High Priest of Penance was the main pull, but I also like having Ostracize and Silence. Shriekmaw is the clear evoke of choice here. (Wispmare can be ignored, as its 3 CMC isn't worthwhile. I'm just running regular Disenchant instead.)

Colorless still has looting with Anvil of Bogardan. And there was an odd cluster in the mana curve around 2 and 5, with VERY little at 3 or 4, so a 3-mana accel would be our best option here. I went with Orzhov Cluestone, although I also like Seer's Lantern.

Brave the Sands and Spidersilk Net give respectable upgrades to our creatures. OK enough palavering: