Cascading Into X Spells: How Does It Work in Magic: The Gathering?

Cascade is a fun and powerful mechanic in Magic: The Gathering that lets you chain together spells for big value. But what happens when you cascade into an X spell with a variable mana cost? Can you pay for X or does it automatically become 0?

In this guide we’ll cover the ins and outs of playing X spells off cascade so you can master this interaction like a pro.

What is Cascade in MTG?

First, a quick refresher on what the cascade ability does. Cascade is a keyword that appears on cards like Bloodbraid Elf Maelstrom Wanderer and other big spells. When you cast a spell with cascade, here’s what happens

  • The cascade trigger goes on the stack after paying the spell’s costs.
  • Reveal cards from the top of your deck until you hit a nonland card with lower converted mana cost (CMC) than the original spell.
  • You may cast that spell for free, then put the rest of the revealed cards on the bottom in a random order.

So cascade lets you chain into another spell for free if it meets the CMC requirements. This offers great value and flexibility.

Casting X Spells off Cascade

X spells have a mana cost like {X}{R} where you get to choose the value of X as you cast it. This means their CMC is variable.

Here are some examples of X spells you might cascade into:

  • Banefire
  • Comet Storm
  • Earthquake
  • Hydroid Krasis
  • Walking Ballista

These provide a lot of options to hit with cascade. But what happens if you actually cascade into one of them?

The Default CMC is 0

The key rule is that the CMC of an X spell on the stack is what you actually paid for it. However, in every other zone besides the stack, X is considered to be 0 by default.

So if you cascade into an X spell, its CMC is 0 for meeting the cascade requirements. This means:

  • You can cast X spells with CMC 0 off cascade, like Banefire.
  • You cannot pay any mana for X. It will be 0.

You essentially get to cascade into and cast the X spell, but X will automatically be 0 when resolving since you didn’t pay for it.

Examples of Cascading into X Spells

Let’s look at some examples to see how this plays out when you cascade into an X spell:

  • You cast Bloodbraid Elf and hit Banefire off cascade. You can cast Banefire for free but must choose X as 0, dealing 0 damage.

  • You cascade into a Walking Ballista with CMC 0. You can cast it for free but it will enter with 0 counters.

  • You cast Maelstrom Wanderer and cascade into a Hydroid Krasis. You can cast it but X will be 0, so it’s just a 0/0 with no card draw.

  • You cascade into an Earthquake. You can cast it for X=0, doing no damage.

As you can see, you get to cast the X spells but without paying any mana for X, severely limiting their impact. Still, it’s better than nothing!

Special Exceptions

There are a couple special cases where X spells work differently with cascade:

  • If the X spell has additional modes or abilities beyond just X, you can use those. For example, you could put counters on a Walking Ballista even if X is 0.

  • If the spell has an additional mana cost like kicker, you can pay that cost separately. So you could cast a Banefire with X=0 and pay its kicker for 5 damage.

  • If the spell has an alternative mana cost like flashback, you can cast it for the alternative cost instead.

So in some cases, X spells cascaded into aren’t totally useless. But you always get X = 0 unless you can pay the X cost normally.

Casting X Spells Later for Actual Value

While it may be disappointing to hit an awesome X spell off cascade just to have X be 0, look at the bright side: you got to cast it for free and it’s now in your graveyard!

That means you can often cast the X spell again later on and actually pay the X cost for full value.

For example, you might cascade into a Pull from Tomorrow, cast it to draw 0 cards, but flash it back later with X=4 for huge card draw. Or cascade into a Banefire for 0 damage then recast it for lethal damage.

So don’t fret when X spells fizzle off cascade. Just bide your time and recast them to take over the game down the road.

Other Rules and Interactions with Cascade

Here are some other key rules about cascade worth knowing:

  • You must cast the spell off cascade right away or not at all. You can’t save it for later.

  • You can cast cards with higher CMC than the card with cascade. The cascade trigger just happens first.

  • Any “when you cast” abilities of the cascaded card trigger when cast off cascade.

  • Cascade only happens once, it doesn’t keep chaining.

  • Cascade checks the CMC anywhere on a modal DFC, not just the front face.

So while cascade into X spells may be limiting, the mechanic provides tons of advantage overall. You essentially get two spells for the price of one!

With the intricacies of casting X spells for free off cascade now clear, you can leverage this interaction to maximize value from your cascade spells. Cascade on my friend!

History[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 702. 85. Cascade 702. 85a: The ability “cascade” is activated when the spell that has it is on the stack. It only works when that spell is on the stack. “Cascade” means “When you cast this spell, deal damage equal to or less than this spell’s mana cost and remove cards from the top of your library.” If the spell that comes from that card costs less in mana than this spell, you can cast it without paying its mana cost. Then, in any order, put all cards that were sent to the graveyard this way that weren’t cast on the bottom of your library. ” 702. 85b If a player can do something with one or more of the exiled cards “as you cascade,” they can do that action after they are done exiling cards because of the cascade ability. Once this is done, the player can decide whether to cast the last exiled card or, if no suitable card was exiled, put the exiled cards at the bottom of their library in any order they choose. 702. 85c If a spell has more than one cascade, each one happens on its own.

[ | ]

In February 2021, Cascade received a rules update to change the interaction with MDFCs and Adventure cards. From then on, the spell that is cast when the ability is triggered must also have less mana than the spell that fell. [6].

The rules previously said “You may cast that spell without paying its mana cost. player can cast a spell with a higher mana cost while holding a card with a lower mana cost. You can cast that spell without paying its mana cost if its mana value is less than this spell’s mana value. This rule change makes that clear. “, making this no longer possible.

What IS Cascade?!

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