Salt piling up under a grinder

What is Salt or Salt Score in MTG Magic: the Gathering?

In Magic: the Gathering (MTG), we often find ourselves engaged in heated debates and conversations around strategy and gameplay. Among these discussions lies the topic of “salt” or “salt score,” which may be unfamiliar to newer players. Let’s rectify that by discussing the main factors that make a single card salt-inducing, why a card may garner just a little salt, and how to avoid making your friends salty at all.

Wizards standing in mountains staring up at a floating white goddess

Salt, in the context of MTG, refers to the level of dissatisfaction, frustration, or general negative emotions experienced by players during the game. This can stem from various factors such as tough card matchups, unfortunate RNG (random number generator), or simply the result of an opponent’s playstyle or deck choices. It’s important to recognize and understand salt levels for a better grasp of player dynamics and, ultimately, to make our MTG experience more enjoyable for everyone involved.

I’ve seen firsthand the impact of salt on my games play groups. Here are some insights into salt levels, strategies to keep them in check, and ways in which we, as a community, can continue to prioritize fun, camaraderie, and education in the fantastical universe of Magic: the Gathering. But also, if you really want to be that guy (or girl), steps for creating a salt-inducing deck!

Understanding Salt in Magic: The Gathering

3 wizards playing cards

In Magic: The Gathering, “salt” is a term we often encounter during gameplay. Generally, it refers to the frustration or negative emotions that arise from losing or experiencing unpleasant game situations. Let’s dive deeper into the multiple facets of salt in MTG.

For starters, it’s vital to recognize that salt levels can vary among players. We have all been there, the crushing defeat induced by our opponent’s cunningly orchestrated strategy, or even a string of unfortunate draws. Like the swingy nature of the game itself, salt levels fluctuate and can manifest differently among us. 

Some players may express mild irritation, while others may spiral into a fit of rage or, in extreme cases, unleash a tirade of expletives.

It’s essential to understand that salt can impact both gameplay and community interactions. In a casual gaming setting, experiencing salt is commonplace. 

Tipped over salt shaker with spilled salt

We’ve prepared a small table to demonstrate salt levels and their possible outcomes:

Salt LevelDescriptionPlayer’s Reaction
LowMild frustrationA sigh or light grumbling
MediumModerate annoyanceVenting or cursing softly
HighIntense angerSlamming cards or trash talk

While it’s natural to feel salty when facing defeat, embracing Magic’s inherent unpredictability is crucial. Recognizing that losing is just part of the game allows us to continue playing and having fun, knowing that we can try again, or change decks for a different outcome. Instead of wallowing in our salty despair, we can analyze possible misplays or reevaluate our deck construction choices. This healthy coping mechanism ultimately contributes to our growth as players and enriches our MTG experience.

Let’s address the consequences of salt on our community dynamics. Players expressing high levels of salt can create an unwelcoming environment and intimidate newcomers, potentially driving them away from Magic. In such situations, empathy and understanding can go a long way in diffusing unnecessary tension.

As seasoned veterans, it becomes our duty to set an example by embracing sportsmanship, reminding ourselves and each other that Magic is, above all, a game meant to bring us joy and camaraderie.

We must acknowledge and tackle our salt levels head-on. By doing so, we can continue to foster a thriving and inclusive MTG community where everyone, regardless of skill or experience, feels welcome to join in on the fun.

The ‘Salt Score’ Concept in MTG

Wizards playing cards around a table. One stands up and sets the table on fire. He's clearly tired of the high MTG salt score cards.

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At times, playing Magic: the Gathering (MTG) can evoke strong emotions, especially when that one card shows up.

You know the one we’re talking about, right? That card that elicits groans of annoyance, intense frustration, and a whole lot of “saltiness” around the table. 

Sometimes it may be the one that lets your opponent take a bunch of extra turns, gain a massive card advantage, or just a name like Cyclonic Rift. Another playstyle that will bring out the salt is a mill deck.

MTG Cyclonic Rift card

It can also be possible to not know how much salt one of your cards may initiate, especially for newer players, resulting in grumbling around the table. Phrases like “wtf” and “damn noob” may ensue.

Let’s explore the concept of the “Salt Score” in MTG and how it’s used to measure a card’s potential to annoy or frustrate a lot of people.

EDHREC Salt Polls

To better understand how the community feels about particular cards, the website EDHREC has conducted surveys on “salty” cards.

These polls aim to gather insights from fellow MTG enthusiasts about which ones have the highest frustration factor. The outcome of these polls is a valuable list showcasing the top 100 “salty” cards in MTG, an invaluable resource for any player looking to avoid raising the salt level at their table, (or to increase it.)

These surveyed cards are assigned a “Salt Score” between 0 and 4, representing their perceived annoyance or frustration level. The higher the score, the saltier the card. 

To put this into perspective, here is a brief snapshot of some infamous cards and their respective Salt Scores:

Card NameSalt Score
Armageddon2.69
Stasis2.99
Thassa’s Oracle 2.72
Winter Orb2.99
Static Orb2.72

These cards, despite their undeniable power, have earned their place among the saltiest of the salty – and we can see why. Nothing ruins a fun evening of MTG quite like being locked out of playing due to Stasis or watching all your hard-earned lands get wiped out by Armageddon.

To explore the full extent of the top 100 saltiest cards, take a closer look at the EDHREC Salt Polls video.

Keep in mind, though, that while these cards can lead to heightened emotions among players, part of the beauty of MTG is its vast card pool – which allows for countless approaches and strategies to the game.

As you build your decks and plan your next matches, remember that the choice is yours to include, or exclude, cards based on their Salt Scores. Whichever route you choose, it’s essential to understand the impact of these infamous cards and prioritize what matters most to you and your playgroup – may it be enjoyment, competition, or a bit of both.

At the end of the day, MTG is a game we all love, no matter its inherent saltiness.

Deckbuilding and Strategy

Before we get into how to build a salty, or not-so-salty deck, let’s take a look at basic Commander deckbuilding strategy.

Wizards card game on a glowing magic table

Land and Mana Management

When building our decks, we have to carefully consider land and mana management. It’s essential to our strategy as it fuels our ability to play cards and execute our game plan. To ensure a smooth flow of mana, we must thoughtfully balance lands, ramp cards, and mana rocks. Let’s dive into these elements:

  1. Lands: They’re the primary source of mana for our decks. We should aim for a good mix of basic lands and specialty lands, such as dual lands, fetch lands, or utility lands. Depending on our deck colors and speed, the number of lands can vary from 30 to 40.
  2. Ramp: This refers to cards that accelerate our mana production. Inclusion of ramp spells and creatures like Cultivate or Birds of Paradise can propel us ahead of our opponents in terms of resources. We generally shoot for 7 to 10 ramp cards in our decks.

  1. Mana Rocks: These colorless artifacts produce mana or grant other mana-related benefits. Mana rocks like Sol Ring or Commander’s Sphere can greatly supplement our land base. Usually, 6 to 10 mana rocks are a solid addition.

Keep in mind that balancing these elements greatly depends on the colors we choose for our deck. For instance, green decks have access to more ramp options, while black decks may focus more on mana rocks.

The Role of Commanders

In Magic: the Gathering, the commander of our deck is a powerful legendary creature that can be cast multiple times. Choosing the right commander and synergistically supporting it can make or break our deckbuilding and strategic approach. When designing our decks, consider these points:

  1. Commander’s Ability: Pick a commander that suits our preferred playstyle and strategy. For example, if we love playing fast and aggressively, Edgar Markov can lead our vampire-themed deck, quickly populating the board with tokens.
MTG Edgar Markov card

  1. Color Identity: Our commander’s color identity determines the colors of cards allowed in our deck. We must build around it to optimize our mana base, ramp, and card choices. For instance, building a deck with Niv-Mizzet, Parun requires us to only include blue and red cards.
MTG Niv-Mizzet, Parun card

  1. Mana Curve: Ensure our deck has a good distribution of spells at various mana costs, to maximize resource utilization. Ideally, we should have a blend of low and high-cost spells so that every turn presents numerous options and strategic decisions.

As we continue to build and refine our decks, always remember the importance of synergy between the commander, lands, ramp, and strategy. By balancing all aspects we’ll create an entertaining and formidable deck worthy of any commander table at our local game store.

The ‘Salty’ Cards of MTG

Wizards card game laid out on a table with magical lamps

In the world of Magic: the Gathering, there are certain cards that are notorious for causing a bit of “saltiness” among players. These cards, often deemed controversial or overpowered, can turn the tide of a game in an instant or lock down the board in a manner that makes it difficult for opponents to interact. In this section, we’ll delve into the world of these salty cards, covering some notable examples and the decks where you might face them.

Controversial Commanders and Creatures

From our experience, some of the most contentious cards in MTG are powerful Commanders and Creatures that give their controller significant advantages. Take, for example, Craterhoof Behemoth – its ability to massively pump up the entire creature board, frequently ending the game upon resolution.

MTG Craterhoof Behemoth card

Another example is Dockside Extortionist, which, when entering the battlefield, generates Treasures based on your opponents’ artifacts and enchantments. This can create an absurd amount of ramping, especially in multiplayer games, and propel you far ahead of your competitors.

MTG Dockside Extortionist card

Not to mention Blightsteel Colossus, an indestructible behemoth that brings about defeat in a single swing due to its infect ability.

MTG Blightsteel Colossus card

STAX

STAX in Magic: The Gathering, particularly in the Commander format, refers to a strategy focused on resource denial and game control.

The term is derived from the card Smokestack, a notorious artifact from the “Urza’s Saga” set known for its ability to severely hinder opponents’ ability to play the game.

MTG Smokestack card

A STAX deck aims to restrict opponents’ resources, making it difficult for them to cast spells or use abilities. This is achieved through various means:

  1. Land Destruction or Mana Denial: Using cards that destroy or render lands unusable, thus limiting the mana opponents can generate.
  2. Taxing Effects: Implementing cards that require opponents to pay extra mana to cast spells or activate abilities, slowing down their game progression.
  3. Hand Disruption: Forcing opponents to discard cards or have fewer cards in hand, limiting their options and strategies.
  4. Board Control: Employing cards that restrict the number of creatures or permanents opponents can have on the battlefield.
  5. Lockdowns and Win Conditions: Once the opponents’ resources are sufficiently constrained, STAX decks establish a game state where opponents can hardly make any meaningful moves, while setting up their own win conditions.

STAX decks are often considered frustrating to play against due to their focus on preventing opponents from executing their game plans. However, they require a deep understanding of the game and the current meta, as well as careful planning and execution, making them challenging and rewarding for some players.

Land Destruction Cards

A salt mine in one clear category is land destruction. Cards like Armageddon and Blood Moon are notorious for causing frustrations among players. 

Armageddon outright destroys all lands, setting everyone’s progress back, while Blood Moon has a more subtle, yet still powerful effect by turning all nonbasic lands into Mountains, effectively shutting down multicolor strategies.

Notorious land destruction cards

Card NameEffect
Armageddon Destroys all lands
Blood MoonTurns all nonbasic lands into Mountains
Obliterate Destroys all artifacts, creatures, and lands 

The decks built around these cards are designed to constrain opponents’ resources, giving them little chance to retaliate.

Permanent and Untap Cards

When it comes to controlling the flow of the game, nothing quite gets under opponents’ skin like permanents that restrict untapping.

Disruptive Untap Cards:

  • Stasis
  • Winter Orb
  • Static Orb
  • Hokori, Dust Drinker

Stasis and Winter Orb are two of the most infamous cards in this category.

Stasis forces players to skip their untap step, while Winter Orb allows players to only untap one land per turn. Likewise, Static Orb and Hokori, Dust Drinker present similar challenges during untap steps.

These cards force opponents to carefully manage their resources and can easily throw a wrench in their plans.

How to Create a Super Salty Commander Deck

Oh boy, do we have a treat for you, fellow planeswalkers! We’ve conjured up a super salty Commander deck guide for those of you who want to leave your opponents with a bitter taste of defeat.

Bear with us as we traverse the world of MTG saltiness step by step.

First things first, let’s talk about selecting the perfect salt-inducing commander.

Aim for commanders that have a reputation for being notoriously difficult to deal with or that constantly disrupts your opponents’ game plan.

A good example would be Narset, Enlightened Master. The hexproof and attack-triggered free spell casting are just enough to drive your opponents up the wall. Pair this with STAX cards so that you can cast freely while your opponents are tied down.

Here’s a list of commanders that can be real salt-starters:

Moving on to the cards, search for the triggering effects. We’re talking about cards that specifically stop opponents from executing their strategies effectively or cause them to doubt their every move. 

Let’s turn the table with STAX elements like Winter Orb, or multi-color denial like Blood Moon.

Here’s a devious selection to consider for your salty deck:

  • Stasis: Skip all untap steps, leaving your opponents paralyzed.
  • Armageddon: Mass land destruction, a true MTG sin.
  • Iona, Shield of Emeria: No spells of a chosen color! (Would need a rule 0, Iona is banned in Commander!)
  • Smokestack: Everyone sacks permanents every turn.
MTG Iona, Shield of Emeria card

As we build our deck, it’s crucial to maintain a consistent theme to maximize the salt. Are we going for a stax-heavy deck that prevents your opponents from playing their spells?

Or perhaps we should opt for a heavy control build that counters, destroys, and bounces threats left and right? Pick your poison and roll with it!

We previously mentioned a mill strategy can get your opponents salty. A commander like Bruvac the Grandiloquent is bound to get a few sighs going around the table.

MTG Bruvac the Grandiloquent card

Throw in a TraumatizeArchive Trap, and Maddening Cacophony among others to really ruin someone’s day.

Finally, for the cherry on top, let’s adapt our land base to suit our salty theme.

Apart from your typical dual and fetch lands, consider including bespoke utility lands like Strip MineWasteland, or Maze of Ith. These lands will catch your opponents by surprise while adding an extra zesty layer of saltiness to your deck.

In the end, it’s all about fun, but sometimes just for you! But, what’s salty for some might be a delightful challenge for others. Embrace the salt and laugh together, because that’s what makes Magic such a unique and bonding experience.

So, now that we’ve shared our secrets to creating a super salty Commander deck, wield this power responsibly, and let the plane-wreckage begin!

How to Create a Very Low Salt Commander Deck

A wizard with cards spread all over the table in front of him, holding a glowing yellow gem

The opposite of a super salty deck would be one that doesn’t attract any attention or hate. Let’s dive into crafting a very low salt Commander deck that’ll keep the game fun and enjoyable for everyone.

We want to maintain an environment that fosters creativity and camaraderie, so it’s crucial to avoid overpowered strategies that might frustrate our opponents.

First thing’s first, let’s talk about Commanders.

When selecting our Commander, we should focus on those with balanced abilities and fair costs. We want to avoid Commanders that consistently generate too much value or allow us to lock down the game.

Instead, let’s look for interesting synergy and novel strategies.

For example, Zedruu the Greathearted provides a unique game experience by donating permanents to opponents in exchange for card draw and life gain.

MTG Zedruu the Greathearted card

Another strategy could be the Group Hug, where you want your commander and library to offer not only you, but also your opponents benefits. Think Howling Mine.

MTG Howling Mine card

Some Group Hug commanders include Gluntch, the Bestower, giving 3 players special treats each turn, and Braids, Conjurer Adept
which allows each player to play certain card types from their hand without paying the cost during their upkeep.

Next, we must fill up our 99-card main deck. Here’s a handy breakdown of what the deck composition could look like:

TypeQuantityDescription
Lands35–40Balanced mana base with a mix of utility lands
Ramp10–12Keep the game moving with mana acceleration
Removal8–10Handle problematic permanents
Card Draw8–10Refresh our hand and maintain momentum
Win Conditions3–5Fair and interactive ways to close out the game
Synergy5–8Support our Commander’s theme and playstyle
Flex Slots~15Customize and show off our personal flair

When choosing cards, you may want to pick budget-friendly options. This helps level the playing field by not dropping high-priced cards all over the table and keeps the cost of the deck in check.

So, let’s avoid those pricey staples that we can’t live without, like Mana Crypt, and look for cost-effective alternatives like Fellwar Stone or Mind Stone.

Now, we want our opponents to engage in memorable and interactive games. With that said, we must refrain from including cards that actively prevent opponents from playing Magic, like mass land destruction and heavy tax effects.

Armageddon and Winter Orb might seem like effective tactics, but they’re notorious for creating tense and unfun game experiences.

Lastly, resist the urge to combo off. Sure, winning with a three-card combo might seem appealing, but it’s important to keep the balance of power in check.

Instead of infinite loops and instant wins, let’s strive for incremental value and synergies that reward us for making thoughtful plays.

By adhering to these guidelines, we’ll create a very low salt Commander deck that promotes enjoyable and engaging gameplay among friends and pods.

Influential Players and Community Impact

Wizards playing a card game around a table

When we dive into the world of Magic: the Gathering, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the significant role played by influential players in shaping the community’s understanding of salt and salt levels. These players, through their experiences and insights, have helped us navigate the social dynamics of MTG. Let’s talk about some of the key players and their impact on the community.

The Online Community

The MTG community thrives on various online platforms, where players come together to discuss strategies, share experiences, and form connections. The subreddit dedicated to MTG, r/magictcg, boasts a staggering membership of over 500,000 people.

This platform serves as a melting pot of discussion and interaction, in which discussions on saltiness and its impact on player experience often arise.

Many MTG Facebook groups exist with tens of thousands of members, and saltiness is often a topic of the day.

By fostering healthy communication on these crucial topics, both experienced players and newcomers can understand the importance of managing salt levels in the game.

EDHREC and Metrics

In addition to the discussions on platforms such as r/magictcg, players also rely on data-driven resources to better understand and manage salt levels.

EDHREC, a website dedicated to providing data and metrics for the EDH (Elder Dragon Highlander, otherwise known as Commander) format, has become a go-to resource for many players.

This site not only supplies data on popular cards, strategies and overall metagame trends, but it also offers insights into how cards and strategies can impact the salt level in games.

By carefully analyzing this data, players can take a more calculated approach when building their decks and managing their in-game interactions.

Collaborative Efforts

Finally, the collaborative spirit of the Magic community shines when it comes to addressing the concerns surrounding salt levels.

Influential players often come together for the greater good of the community, organizing events, discussions, and collaborative content.

These endeavors encourage a productive conversation around salt, its impact on gameplay, and ways to build a better, healthier environment for everyone involved.

Take for example this video by Tolarian Community College:

The influential players and community impact within the world of MTG have played a vital role in addressing the issue of salt levels. By emphasizing fun, community-building, and education, these individuals have fostered the growth of a healthy and thriving MTG community.

Ready to find the best salty or bland commander for your next deck? check out the top 100 mono blackmono bluemono greenmono red, or mono white commanders!

We also have a write-up on the top 20 colorless commanders!

Like the Facebook page, and join the Mono Color Magic Facebook group to discuss all things Magic!

All cards are copyright Wizards of the Coast and many above images and symbols are copyright or trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC (now a subsidiary of Hasbro.)

Bryan - MCM
Author: Bryan - MCM

Magic player since Revised in 94. Still remember opening boosters of Revised, the Dark, and Arabian Nights as a kid. Watching it be a big deal (and then let down) when Fallen Empires dropped. Then Magic got it right again and really took off. While the current state of Wizards is debatable, I still enjoy playing with friends and my kids. I don't do tournaments much these days but I've played Draft, Sealed, Standard, Extended (not a thing anymore,) Pre-Release, Grand Prix, States Qualifiers, and Teams tournaments. Though I'm not a judge, I'm the one the friends turn to when there's a rules question, and if I don't know it, I find it. Please, ask me anything, comment on posts, and share Magic with your friends and family!

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