Wizards of the Coast sure is pushing the envelope with almost-busted cards lately.
Cards that are this abusable don't come around frequently. It's not a matter of if this is busted, but how busted this card is.
Even at a base level, Wishclaw Talisman is going to let its owner search for two cards and their opponent search for one card. That's a pretty great rate. But most of the time, the opponent is going to get to use the effect of the Talisman before its caster. The reason for this comes down to the mana investment being sunk into the mana cost of the tutor itself, and probably not being able to use the card that's tutored up as a result.
This means that the best ways to use Wishclaw Talisman are going to involve circumventing its symmetry somehow. Luckily, because of the exact text of Wishclaw Talisman, it's easy to find something that makes the effect less symmetric; it is a tutor, after all.
The first and most obvious way to remove the downside of Wishclaw Talisman is to simply return it to its owner's hand before the opponent gets a chance to use it.
Searching up a copy of Teferi, Time Raveler, for example, is the most obvious way to play an already good card alongside a new one. Teferi then returns the Talisman to your hand, allowing for another tutor – this time while being up a planeswalker and a random card.
Preventing the Opponent from Using it
There are a few ways that allow the opponent to gain control of Wishclaw Talisman, but never actually get the chance to search their library.
Ashiok, Dream Render already sees a reasonable amount play just because of Ashiok's ability to turn off graveyard nonsense from Kethis strategies, and a good chunk of ramp cards. Being able to see play as a proactive synergy piece is what has allowed Ashiok to see maindeck play in some versions of Kethis, and Wishclaw Talisman is another way to make that happen.
It takes a bit of time, but Soul Diviner eating counters off the Talisman is another way to ensure that the opponent never actually has the chance to use the Wishclaw for themselves.
In older formats, it's fairly common for players to jump through hoops in order to enable a layer of consistency in their decks via tutors. Wishclaw Talisman does a reasonable job of replacing and/or outclassing some options that were previously available.
Grim Tutor is the first card that comes to mind that is almost entirely invalidated by Wishclaw Talisman in these styles of decks. The fact that Grim Tutor costs more mana is almost entirely irrelevant, but the fact that Talisman can be paid for over the course of two turns is a big deal, as is the fact that it doesn't cost any life to find something.
In something like Legacy Storm, being able to pay the cost of the tutor over two turns can be the difference between winning the game and being a mana short. Dark Petition has been the standard for flex slot-tutor, but Wishclaw Talisman could completely change that.
An enormous benefit to something like the Talisman is that it doesn't need to clear as high a bar to be put on the stack before breaking any copies of Lion's Eye Diamond that its controller may have. Having extra copies of Lion's Eye Diamond has always been something akin to an embarrassment of riches in the past, but Dark Petition, in particular, could be awkward at times, due to it demanding five mana before any LEDs could be cracked.
In Vintage, Voltaic and Manifold Key already see play in order to take infinite turns with Time Vault, but now they can combo even harder with Wishclaw Talisman. Simply activate the Talisman, retain priority, untap it, and activate it again in order to get two searches before the opponent gets any.
The fact that Manifold Key is in Core Set 2020 means that this combo will even be Standard legal if there's a card combination strong enough to warrant this kind of synergy.
Despite Wishclaw Talisman seeming like it could be a political card in a multiplayer format like Commander, there are some absurd ways to break the card in half there. Aminatou, the Fateshifter, in particular, is a great way to search for something, then blink the monkey's paw after its been donated, and then use it again. Talk about value!
Turning It Off
If using the card once is something that you're comfy with, it's possible to even go as far as lean into effects that will effectively remove the rest of the text from the card in order to stop the opponent from using it. Oko, Thief of Crowns, for example, is a card from Thrones of Eldraine that can turn Wishclaw Talisman into a 3/3 Elk after its been donated in order to make sure the opponent doesn't get to do anything more powerful with their newly acquired permanent than have a Centaur Courser.
Although most of what Karn, the Great Creator is used for is grabbing colorless artifacts, he isn't actually limited to it. Wishclaw Talisman is an enormous upgrade to Standard Karn sideboard packages, allowing Karn to do a reasonable impression of Mastermind's Acquisition – one that even leaves a planeswalker behind.
Best of all? When the opponent gets control of the Talisman, they can't even activate it for as long as Karn's on the battlefield.
To get really wacky, Karn can even animate the Talisman to make it a creature and Trostani then gives it back to its owner during the next end step.
Luckily, the uses for Wishclaw Talisman don't end in Standard, and get even crazier as they go further back. The most obvious of which is trying one of the most surefire ways of being positive that the opponent doesn't get to utilize the Talisman: kill them before it's their turn.
A fairly intuitive way of ensuring that other players don't get to benefit from the Talisman is simply grabbing a card that is going to destroy it. This is particularly attractive when it's something in the vein of a sweeper that's going to impact the rest of the battlefield as well. That way it's actually worth investing the mana into a tutor effect to actually search up whatever card it is that will be destroying the Wishclaw Talisman. It wouldn't make much sense to spend three mana to just find something that was only going to destroy the tutor without effecting anything else, after all.
Despite artifact decks having an abundance of reasonable tutors these days between Goblin Engineer and Whir of Invention, Wishclaw Talisman gives the deck another angle of tutoring in the form of an artifact. Goblin Engineer, in particular, sticks out as a way to abuse the fact that the Talisman doesn't have to stay on the battlefield in order to search its owner's library.
In some synergy-based decks, Wishclaw Talsiman having such a low cost, relative to its effect, could be just the push that was needed to breathe life into a deck that has seemingly fallen to the wayside in the last few months:
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 4 Arcbound Worker
- 3 Hangarback Walker
- 2 Scrapyard Recombiner
- 1 Steel Overseer
- 4 Walking Ballista
If only there were a Commander that were specifically interested in sacrificing artifacts that could play cards with a black color identity…
Understanding the Applications of Wishclaw Talisman
The main takeaway here is that in most instances, Wishclaw Talisman isn't just going to be a value card. It's going to be abused with some card that makes it near-unusable for the opponent or getting some combo piece that invalidates whatever the opponent would be doing otherwise.