(Click here to see cards 100-81)
(Click here to see cards 80-61)
(Click here to see cards 60-41)
(Click here to see cards 40-21)
(Click here to see cards 20-1. Oops, you’re already here. Sucker!)
Here we are, at the final installment of my Bottom 100 Cards of all time Countdown. For those of you who have been following this series all week, thank you for your support and interest in this series! If you’re looking back at this in an archive or you’re one of our extraterrestrial conquerors looking for a glimpse at early 21st century popular human culture, then a howdy to you as well. I bow down to our new masters.
There’s a lot of ground to cover in this article, the most of which is the list of the 20 worst Magic cards of all time. Before we get started, I’d like to make this introduction even longer, so you have to scroll down and ignore all non-list stuff that I’m putting here.
There are two people I’d like to thank for making this list happen. The first is my former editor at Magicthegathering.com, Aaron Forsythe. Aaron gave me the opportunity to write the first of my”Top of” lists for MTG.com, and it proved immensely popular.
The second person I’d like to thank is my current editor at Starcitygames.com, one Ted Knutson. He really liked the idea for this series when I first pitched it (three months ago) and kept pushing for me to finish the list up. I didn’t think he knew what he was in for when I sent him 5000+ words for the first part. This list is for Ted, who is every bit as bad as a certain 100 cards I’ve just spent a week discussing.
I enjoy making these lists, but they do take a long time to research and write. I want the lists to reflect well on the effort I’ve spent on compiling them, and so I don’t just pick names/cards out of hats and throw them up to see what sticks. Even though a couple of cards slipped past the cracks on this list, I’d like to think that as a whole, the list is defensible, and that the series has been a good read. Not everyone will agree with my picks, but community debate is very important to me, because it shows people are passionate and care about Magic.
As promised, here is a breakdown of the cards on this list, by set first. Cards which shared spots (for instance, Hidden Path and Aysen Highway) count as a fraction of a whole. Cards only counted for their original editions – this is because there are no original cards in the base sets past Alpha/Beta/Unlimited, only reprints.
Ice Age: 8
Mercadian Masques: 8
The Dark: 7
Urza’s Saga: 4.33
Arabian Nights: 4
Fallen Empires: 1
Urza’s Destiny: 1
Urza’s Legacy: Zero
What does the above list mean?
- Legends has the highest number of worst cards ever of any set.
- The Dark has the highest percentage of worst cards ever of a set.
- Mercadian Masques block had the highest number of bad rares of any block since Mirage started blocking block.
- The cards in Alpha/Beta/Unlimited have really stood the test of time, given that it was the set designed first, yet it has a very small quantity of cards on the list.
- This list above isn’t indicative of total set power. Homelands is a lot worse than any of the sets above it on the list (and most, if not all of the sets below it) – just as Urza’s Saga is a more powerful set overall than any of the four sets which had no cards on this list.
- The older the set was, the worse its bad cards were. This is a testament to the job R&D has been doing recently. The only notable exceptions to this are Mercadian Masques block (which was intentionally underpowered after the overpowered Urza’s Block) and Odyssey (which somehow managed to have a whole lot of bad cards and still be a really decent set).
And now, on to the worst 20 Magic cards of all time!
20) Tombfire (Odyssey: Rare)
Target player removes all cards with flashback in his or her graveyard from the game.
Why it’s bad: I’ll get this out of the way now: there were decks which ran Burning Wish which used Tombfire as a wish target. This wasn’t a good solution to flashback cards, and this strategy was neither widespread nor long lived. This is because Tombfire is completely useless 99% of the time – unless you wish for it, it’s more likely than not going to be a dead card. Flashback cards don’t tend to stay in graveyards for long – they are there to be cast! Additionally, very few cards in Magic even have flashback, making this card virtually worthless outside of Odyssey Block Constructed.
How to fix it: It’s a niche card designed to hose flashback cards. It’s strictly worse than Coffin Purge in virtually every comparison, but Tombfire was a rare, making it particularly horrid to open in a pack. How could we boost Tombfire to make it slightly better as a sideboard option against flashback cards?
Target player removes all cards with flashback in his or her graveyard from the game. Then, that player reveals their hand and discards all flashback cards.
As a rare, this isn’t an overpowering effect (it makes all flashback spells into one shot affairs), but it does help to hose flashback cards a little harder, in addition to combining the Black themes of discard and graveyard removal.
19) Break Open (Onslaught: Common)
Turn target face-down creature an opponent controls face up.
Why it’s bad: There are two types of morph creatures: small creatures with a surprise value, and large creatures which will bash in your face. Against the latter, you’d almost never want to give your opponent a free pass on paying a morph cost (You played a morph on turn 3 my good man? Please, allow me to Break Open your creature. Ah, Towering Baloth. A fine vintage, good sir!). Against the former, you’re still going to force a morph trigger (thanks for the free Skinthinner, sucker!). There aren’t many non-morph face down creatures in Magic, and those which are face down (Phyrexian Dreadnought, anyone?) you’re not exactly going to be champing at the bit to have turn over, much less at the cost of your own card.
How to fix it: Would it have been so bad to allow Break Open to morph your own guys? It would have been a way to get large creatures going early in the game on the cheap, but by no means would it have been as unbalancing as many of the other ridiculous commons in the block (*Cough* Sparksmithwatchelf *Cough*). To combat the newfound power of the card, we’ll make it a sorcery so it can’t be so much a combat trick as a way to morph a creature for cheap.
Turn target face-down creature face up.
18) Shelkin Brownie (Legends: Common)
G1, Creature — Faerie
Tap: Target creature loses all”bands with other” abilities until end of turn.
Why it’s bad: Dwarven Pony gives Dwarves Mountainwalk. Cabal Inquisitor allows you to force an opponent to discard, but only later in the game and at a cost. Shelkin Brownie can tap to target a creature if it is enchanted by Fracture Loyalty. There are a grand total of zero creatures in Magic which naturally have the bands with others ability. That’s right, Wizards printed a card (common to boot!) that acts as a hoser for an ability that doesn’t exist naturally on a single creature in the entire game. With banding out of the game for good (or at least for the time being), the Brownie only gets more and more useless as time goes on.
How to fix it: Banding and Bands with Others isn’t the same ability. Just make this guy a banding hoser and be done with it. Why Green (the color of pack hunting and animal togetherness) would want to hose banding is beyond me, but not a whole lot made sense back in the days of Legends.
G1, Creature – Faerie
Tap: Target creature loses banding until end of turn.
17) Fatal Mutation (Scourge: Uncommon)
B, Enchant Creature
When enchanted creature is turned face up, destroy it. It can’t be regenerated.
Why it’s bad: Why is this worse than Break Open? At least Break Open might, in Limited, cause your opponent to lose a fire off a Skirk Marauder at an inopportune moment. Fatal Mutation leaves the morph creature in play (as a 2/2). It can be responded to with an actual morph (making the Mutation a dead enchantment). On a non-morph (or non-Camouflaged/Illusionary Masked – I’m just putting this here cause otherwise the pundits will do whatever pundits do when I don’t make an all inclusive list of every effect that will turn a creature face down) creature it’s useless.
How to fix it: Lingering Death already acted as a Black creature-kill spell in the common slot of Scourge, so I don’t think we’d want to make this a strict”kill enchanted morph creature” or”kill enchanted creature if it has morph” effect. How about we make this a little more interesting to play with?
B, Enchant Creature
When enchanted creature it turned face up, destroy target creature. It can’t be regenerated.
Voila! Now you’ve got a really useful yet conditional creature kill spell that turns any of your creatures into Skinthinner. Highly playable and pickable, but not universally useful.
16) Rapid Fire (Legends: Rare)
Play Rapid Fire only before the declare blockers step.
Target creature gains first strike until end of turn. If it doesn’t have rampage, that creature gains rampage 2 until end of turn. (Whenever this creature becomes blocked, it gets +2/+2 until end of turn for each creature blocking it beyond the first.)
Why it’s bad: For four mana, you’d better get a whole lot out of an instant designed to mess with combat. Might of Oaks works because the bonus it grants is huge. To say Rapid Fire doesn’t work would be an understatement of the first degree. Rapid Fire doesn’t boost a creature’s power unless it’s blocked by two or more creatures. The only ability it grants against a single blocker is first strike – hardly a deal breaker for four mana. Worst of all, you can only cast Rapid Fire before your opponent blocks, so it can never be a surprise if, on the off chance, you have a creature gang blocked.
How to fix it: This one could definitely get a modernization of the first degree. Rampage doesn’t exist anymore, but its legacy lives on through cards like Gang of Elk.
Target creature gains first strike, and gets +2/+2 until end of turn for each creature blocking it.
Now you’ve got a combat trick which is up to snuff in limited, and can turn a Grizzly Bear into Kezzerdrix, if only for a turn.
15) Warping Wurm (Mirage: Rare)
GU2, Creature — Wurm
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may pay GU2. If you don’t, Warping Wurm phases out.
When Warping Wurm phases in, put a +1/+1 counter on it.
Why it’s bad: Your initial investment into Warping Wurm costs four mana. In exchange for this, you get a 1/1 creature with no discernable special ability. Then, every other turn, Warping Wurm leaves play. The turn it returns, it becomes larger. That’s right, on the third turn of Warping Wurm, it becomes 2/2. The next turn, you have to pay GU2 or it leaves play again. Once you do decide to pay four mana as an upkeep cost to keep Warping Wurm around, it will simply phase out your next turn. Warping Wurm gives a new definition to the term”slow growth.” Between the phasing, upkeep costs and small size to mana ratio, Warping Wurm is definitely one of Magic’s great losers.
How to fix it: Warping Wurm would be a lot more interesting if instead of naturally having phasing, it could phase on demand. This would make it akin to Rainbow Efreet or Teferi’s Honor Guard, but without the headache of keeping track of alternate turn phasing and unphasing upkeeps.
GU2, Creature – Wurm
When Warping Wurm phases in, put a +1/+1 counter on it.
GU2: Warping Wurm phases out.
14) Nameless Race (The Dark: Rare)
B3, Creature — Nameless-Race
As Nameless Race comes into play, pay X life. X can’t be more than the total number of white cards all opponents control plus the total number of white cards in their graveyards.
Nameless Race’s power and toughness are each equal to the life paid as it came into play.
Why it’s bad: If your opponent(s) aren’t playing White, Nameless Race is a 0/0 creature. If your opponent is playing White, this might be a 2/2 in the early game which costs you two life to cast. It’s a weak hoser which is 99.999% useless against non-White decks.
How to fix it:
Marauding Knight (Invasion: Rare)
BB2, Creature — Knight
Protection from White
Marauding Knight gets +1/+1 for each Plains your opponent controls.
Minion of the Wastes (Tempest: Rare)
BBB3, Creature – Minion
As Minion of the Wastes comes into play, pay any amount of life.
Minion of the Wastes’ power and toughness are each equal to the life paid in this way.
Nameless Race has the worst aspects of both these cards. Just use one of these variants and be happy that you there aren’t many cards from The Dark that still exist in Magic today.
13) Shaman’s Trance (Judgment: Rare)
Until end of turn, other players can’t play cards from their graveyards, and you may play cards from other players’ graveyards as though they were in your graveyard.
Why it’s bad: Hey look, Yawgmoth’s Will is so broken in Type One that Wizards thoughtfully printed a three-mana Red card designed specifically to hose it! Oh wait, what’s that you say? This card wasn’t designed to stop Yawgmoth’s Will, but instead was designed to let you (and your opponent) play flashback cards out of each others’ graveyards? Never mind then. To flash back an opponent’s Call of the Herd, you’d need to spend RG4 mana. If your opponent isn’t playing flashback cards, this is nigh unto useless.
How to fix it: Too many people try playing this without realizing that it doesn’t allow you to play cards in your opponent’s graveyard as though they were in your hand – it only allows you to play cards out of their graveyard if said cards would normally be able to be played out of the graveyard. This doesn’t seem like a very Red ability does it? How about we make this into a variant on Yawgmoth’s Will, but for your opponent?
Until end of turn, other players can’t play cards from their graveyards, and you may play cards in target opponent’s graveyard as though they were in your hand. If a card would be put into any graveyard this turn, remove it from the game instead.
I seem to be more willing to make really good cards out of the really bad cards – this might be because Shaman’s Trance is such a tease, and in the end I want it to deliver some useful effect!
12) Chimney Imp (Mirrodin: Common)
B4, Creature — Imp
When Chimney Imp is put into a graveyard from play, target opponent puts a card from his or her hand on top of his or her library.
Why it’s bad: The newest card on the list, Chimney Imp defines pathetic. Sengir Bats were bad, and the bats costs three mana for the same body. Chimney Imp costs a full mana more than Hawkeater Moth, and has a marginal special ability. I say marginal, because by the time you cast Chimney Imp, your opponent more likely than not has emptied out their hand. Chimney Imp will also rarely trade two-for-one (your opponent losing a card to the top of their library + their creature dies in combat with the Imp) because the Imp is so pathetically small. It doesn’t have anything to do with the artifact theme of the block, it clogs up a common slot in draft (meaning you see it way too often), and it’s worse than even the worst of Green flyers – and Black’s supposed to be the third best flying color! Something went horribly wrong with this card in development, and the end result was the worst common creature in Magic history.
How to fix it:”Female dogs and cats are spayed by removing their reproductive organs, and male dogs and cats are neutered by removing their testicles. In both cases the operation is performed while the dog or cat is under anesthesia. Depending on your dog or cat’s age, size, and health, he or she will stay at your veterinarian’s office for a few hours or a few days. Depending upon the procedure, your pet may need stitches removed after a few days. Your veterinarian can fully explain spay and neuter procedures to you and discuss with you the best age at which to sterilize your pet.
Spaying or Neutering Is Good for Your Pet
Spaying and neutering helps dogs and cats live longer, healthier lives.
Spaying and neutering can eliminate or reduce the incidence of a number of health problems that can be very difficult or expensive to treat.
Spaying eliminates the possibility of uterine or ovarian cancer and greatly reduces the incidence of breast cancer, particularly when your pet is spayed before her first estrous cycle.
Neutering eliminates testicular cancer and decreases the incidence of prostate disease.
Spaying or Neutering Is Good for You
Spaying and neutering makes pets better, more affectionate companions.
Neutering cats makes them less likely to spray and mark territory.
Spaying a dog or cat eliminates her heat cycle. Estrus lasts an average of six to 12 days, often twice a year, in dogs and an average of six to seven days, three or more times a year, in cats. Females in heat can cry incessantly, show nervous behavior, and attract unwanted male animals.
Unsterilized animals often exhibit more behavior and temperament problems than do those who have been spayed or neutered.
Spaying and neutering can make pets less likely to bite.
Neutering makes pets less likely to roam the neighborhood, run away, or get into fights.
Spaying and Neutering Are Good for the Community
Communities spend millions of dollars to control unwanted animals.
Irresponsible breeding contributes to the problem of dog bites and attacks.
Animal shelters are overburdened with surplus animals.
Stray pets and homeless animals get into trash containers, defecate in public areas or on private lawns, and frighten or anger people who have no understanding of their misery or needs.
Some stray animals also scare away or kill birds and wildlife.
Spay or neuter surgery carries a one-time cost that is relatively small when one considers its benefits. It’s a small price to pay for the health of your pet and the prevention of more unwanted animals.” – From the Humane Society website at http://www.hsus.org/ace/11879
Ok, so I made one snide comment in this countdown. Sorry R&D!
11) Wood Elemental (Legends: Rare)
G3, Creature — Elemental
As Wood Elemental comes into play, sacrifice any number of untapped Forests. Wood Elemental comes into play with a +1/+1 counter for each Forest sacrificed this way.
Why it’s bad: There are no creatures in the worst ten Magic cards of all time, but Wood Elemental finishes the creature segment of our countdown in style, sliding in at number eleven. Much like Nameless Race, Wood Elemental comes into play as a 0/0 for four mana. For each untapped Forest you sacrifice, Wood Elemental gets a single 1/1 counter.
Untapped. Forest. Sacrifice. My god, if I spend four mana and sacrifice my one remaining land (which must be a Forest), my reward is a 1/1 creature? For five mana I’ve received Llanowar Elves with no special ability? Sandbar Merfolk without the cycling? There’s no getting around it – the drawback on this already overcosted creature is so harsh that it easily, with no arguments, can be proclaimed the worst creature in Magic. End of story.
How to fix it: Wizards did fix Wood Elemental, and the result was a card which was actually quite good in Mirage/Visions/Weatherlight limited:
Fungus Elemental (Weatherlight: Rare)
G3, Creature — Elemental
G, Sacrifice a Forest: Put a +2/+2 counter on Fungus Elemental. Play this ability only if Fungus Elemental came into play this turn.
Fungus Elemental takes everything that was wrong with Wood Elemental, and sets it right. It has a 3/3 body for four mana, which is par for the course (unlike the 0/0 the Wood Elemental carries). For each Forest you sacrifice, Fungus gets +2/+2, instead of the +1/+1 gained by Wood. It costs a little more mana to use Fungus Elemental’s ability, but Wood Elemental cost you untapped Forests anyhow, so Fungus Elemental’s cost ends up being the same. Plus, you can use artifact mana to pay the G in Fungus Elemental’s sacrifice ability, as opposed to needing to sacrifice untapped Forests for the Wood Elemental (which also keeps you from using that mana for other spells).
10) Power Leak (ABU/3rd/4th: Common)
U1, Enchant Enchantment
At the beginning of the upkeep of enchanted enchantment’s controller, that player may pay up to 2. For each one mana less than 2 he or she pays this way, Power Leak deals 1 damage to him or her.
Why it’s bad: Welcome to the top/bottom 10, depending on how you choose to look at it. We start the absolute worst of the worst with a little number I like to call Power Leak. Power Leak was the first enchant enchantment, meaning that it’s useless unless your opponent is playing with enchantments. Not all people play with enchantments. Competitively, a good number of decks run zero enchantments. The number of enchantments you’ll see on average in a casual environment is higher.
Let’s say your opponent is playing with enchantments. For the cost of a card, you can penalize them 0-2 life a turn or 0-2 mana a turn, their choice. You don’t destroy their enchantment. They don’t necessarily get hindered in any appreciable way by your Power Leak. They choose which way the penalty goes, and neither way is particularly strong. Enchantments are the least played permanent type in Magic (behind creatures, lands, and artifacts), and having a card which barely hoses an already underplayed card just doesn’t cut the mustard.
How to fix it: Black’s anti-artifact theme comes from making players suffer for playing with artifacts (Relic Bane, Disciple of the Vault), and not from destroying artifacts. Blue does the same with enchantments, but Power Leak needs to be a mandatory effect in order for it to be of any use.
UU1, Enchant Enchantment
Enchanted Enchantment has”At the beginning of your upkeep, you lose 2 life.”
It still keeps the Power Leak theme, since it’s an enchantment which is literally leaking power, causing harm.
9) Leeches (Homelands: Rare)
Target player loses all poison counters. Leeches deals 1 damage to that player for each poison counter removed this way.
Why it’s bad: Poison was the first alternate kill condition in Magic that A) was developed post-Alpha and B) had numerous cards devoted to its theme. Most of these cards were pretty bad in their own right – a 1/2 creature for four mana with no evasion abilities, a 1/1 with no abilities for three mana, and a 0/1 flyer for two mana were among the handful of poison creatures in Magic (the good ones weren’t much better – including Suq’Ata Assassin and Crypt Cobra). Poison debuted in Legends, and continued into The Dark, Alliances, and Mirage.
In Homelands, Wizards printed the only card in Magic designed to hose poison (a mechanic which is weak only because it must be made weak – if you make poison creatures too strong, then the opponent starts at ten life instead of twenty for all intents and purposes), and it was bad. Here you have a card made to stop an alternate win condition that can virtually never win except in the most casual of casual environments, and the hoser not only stops this weak strategy from winning, but damages the caster in the process! The mechanic surely didn’t need hosing, but as a hoser it fails because it hoses both you and your opponent.
How to fix it: Leeches is the very definition of a niche card – it’s a card designed to hose the poison strategy, much like Catalyst Stone hoses flashback and Stabilizer hoses cycling. Even though we can’t much change what it does, we could change how it does it.
WW2, Creature – Leech
As Leeches comes into play, target player loses all poison counters. Put a +1/+1 counter on Leeches for each poison counter removed in this way.
Leeches is still really narrow in focus, and you wouldn’t want to play it most of the time. In the new form, at least it will come into play most times as a 5/5 or 6/6 for four mana, which isn’t bad. It’d still be one of the worst cards ever in the fixed version, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near this far down on the list.
8) Mudhole (Odyssey: Rare)
Target player removes all land cards in his or her graveyard from the game.
Why it’s bad: Designed to hose threshold and Terravore, Mudhole costs way too much mana and has way too narrow an effect. Threshold players aren’t going to necessarily have any lands in their graveyard, making this useless in a lot of threshold-disabling situations. Against a huge vast majority of decks out there, casting this will do absolutely nothing. Most decks don’t care what goes on in the graveyard, and until Crucible of Worlds sees print in Fifth Dawn, most decks don’t care when lands go to the graveyard. As a rare, this is the epitome of a card you would hate to open in your booster pack.
How to fix it: Since it’s rare, we can make this into a much more powerful effect. It’s designed to stop threshold, but compare this to Haunting Echoes, which stops Threshold completely dead in the opposite direction, plus strips your opponent’s deck of good cards? Mudhole should be much better, while still maintaining the anti-graveyard anti-land theme.
Remove all lands in target graveyard from the game. For each land removed from the game in this way, that player chooses a land they control and removes that land from the game.
Now we’re cooking! This would give land destruction decks a potential Armageddon effect, or it might just be a”win more” card. In multi-player, this would be a house, potentially taking out a single opponent in the mid to late game. In constructed, it might see play on the top of the”Stone Rain/Stone Rain/Molten Rain” curve.
7) Hint of Insanity (Odyssey: Rare)
Target player reveals his or her hand. That player discards from it all nonland cards with the same name as another card in his or her hand.
Why it’s bad: In a block which features madness, flashback, and threshold, why would you print a card which is not only a super-weak discard spell (it co-existed with Persecute, Duress, and Cabal Therapy), but that helped all three of the aforementioned mechanics? Hint of Insanity was designed to hose deck redundancy, but it can’t affect lands (which are the most likely cards to be seen in multiples in a player’s hand) and can be played around with ease. Discard is a tenuous strategy at times, and a discard spell which will more often than not act as a three mana, non-cantrip sorcery version of Peek is worth avoiding. Plus, it’s another bad Odyssey rare!
How to fix it: Why not make this card really hose people for playing redundant spells?
Hint of Insanity
Target player reveals his or her hand. If any of those cards share the same name as another nonland card in their hand, graveyard, or in play, remove all copies of that card from their hand, graveyard, and from play.
6) North Star (Legends: Rare)
4, Tap: For one spell this turn, you may pay colorless mana equal to its converted mana cost rather than pay that spell’s mana cost. (Additional costs are still paid.)
Why it’s bad: Ice Cauldron allows the player to store up mana over the course of turns, so that the player can better pay mana costs. Metamorphosis gives you access to off colors of mana, so in desperation you can cast that Rushwood Elemental off of your Dawn Elemental. North Star allows you, for the low cost of four mana, to cast Birds of Paradise using a Swamp. It only affects one spell a turn, it costs eight to use if you want to use it the turn it comes into play, and it doesn’t help pay the actual costs of the spells themselves. This is the worst mana fixing card in Magic, because once you activate North Star, you’re operating four turns behind in mana – plus you should just be playing with real mana fixers and/or multi-color mana producing lands if you’re concerned about producing the correct colors of mana.
How to fix it: Cards like Celestial Dawn, False Dawn, and Mycosynth Lattice have done a fine job of mass-fixing and color washing the mana costs on spells.
Celestial Dawn (Mirage/6th: Rare)
Nonland cards you own that aren’t in play, spells you control, and nonland permanents you control are white. Lands you control are Plains. Spells and abilities you control produce white mana instead of any other color. You may spend white mana as though it were mana of any color.
Permanent, reliable, effective and cheap – that’s everything that North Star isn’t.
5) Erosion (The Dark/4th: Common)
UUU, Enchant Land
At the beginning of the upkeep of enchanted land’s controller, destroy that land unless that player pays 1 or 1 life.
Why it’s bad: Erosion exists purely from a thematic standpoint – it’s the water eroding the land. Blue shouldn’t have land destruction spells, so from a mechanic standpoint, this card makes absolutely no sense. It’s way too color intensive to be played in all but the most Blue of decks, and why is a Blue deck going to waste a card and UUU mana in order to deny the opponent one mana/destroy a land to begin with? The”drawback” (if I can call it such) to having your land enchanted Erosion is that you must tap the land to pay for itself until you decide to tap another land to pay for the land enchanted by Erosion.
How to fix it: Erosion shouldn’t exist. That it survived to make a base set rotation (4th Edition) shows that Wizards didn’t have a clear-cut philosophy in the early days about what should or shouldn’t comprise a base set.
4) Sorrow’s Path (The Dark: Rare)
Tap: Choose two target blocking creatures an opponent controls. If each of those creatures could block all creatures that the other is blocking, remove both of them from combat. Each one then blocks all creatures the other was blocking. Sorrow’s Path deals 2 damage to you and 2 damage to each creature you control.
Why it’s bad: No card finishes #1 in other people’s”worst cards of all time” lists than Sorrow’s Path. I have it at #4 – it’s a horrible land which doesn’t tap for mana, kills your own creatures, and damages you. The only time you can activate it is when your opponent is blocking, and only when they are blocking with at least two creatures. It’s situational, it has a major drawback, and it can easily just sit there doing nothing. In the one out of one hundred games when you can get it to work, Sorrow’s Path won’t do anything too impressive. Your opponent can work around it by not blocking, and deckbuilders who enjoy playing with bad cards have been using this for years.
Once Oracle came along (the DCI official rewording of all cards, and the wordings I have been using to talk about all of these cards), this card was completely neutered. In the past, people had used Donate to give their opponents Sorrow’s Path, and then used Icy Manipulator to tap down this bad land.
T: Exchange two of opponent’s blocking creatures. This exchange may not cause an illegal block. Sorrow’s Path does 2 damage to you and 2 damage to each creature you control whenever it is tapped.
It’s the”whenever it is tapped” clause that caused it to deal damage regardless if it was tapped because of the ability (much like City of Brass). With its new wording, you can’t even give the Path to an opponent and use it to kill their creatures/them.
How to fix it: Man, how do you fix a card this broken? In today’s game, it wouldn’t be a land (it’d most likely be an enchantment), and it wouldn’t have massive drawbacks. Because of timing issues and rules confusion, Wizards has tried to remove all instances of”move around attackers and blockers after blocks are declared.” False Orders, for instance, is a casualty of this former mechanic. Go see General Jarkeld for a fixed version of this mechanic, but even he is rather weak.
3) Deep Water (The Dark: Common)
U: Until end of turn, if you tap a land you control for mana, it produces U instead of its normal type and amount.
Why it’s bad: Sorrow’s Path did something, but that something was bad, and had a drawback, and couldn’t be played very often. Deep Water doesn’t do anything. The last three cards of my countdown all don’t do anything, but Deep Water is the least offensive of the three. Granted, when you activate Deep Water you get to have all your lands produce Blue instead of what they’d normally produce. However, Deep Water costs UU to cast, meaning you’ve already got two Blue mana sources to go with by the time you cast it. It also costs mana to activate, and in what situation would you be so hard up for a mana fixer that you need to Blue wash all your lands? I’m sure someone somewhere has used this card to some effect, but it’s only because they are too stubborn to invest in Tundras, Adarkar Wastes, Thran Quarries and/or Grand Coliseums.
How to fix it: The fix for Deep Water (see, I’m not stopping the fixing – I was just resting my eyes for a couple of cards. I swear!) comes via Blanket of Night from Visions.
Blanket of Night (Visions: Uncommon)
Each land is a Swamp in addition to its land type.
This effect isn’t great, but it has a very distinct advantage over Deep Water – it transforms the actual basic land types. See, having lands produce Blue mana is all nice, but having all the lands in play turn into Islands can be useful. It allows your Islandhome creatures to attack, fuels your High Tides, and makes Thwart that much better of a card.
Each land is an Island in addition to its land type.
2) Bands with Others Lands (Adventurer’s Guildhouse/Cathedral of Serra/Mountain Stronghold/Seafarer’s Quay/Unholy Citadel: Legends Uncommons)
Green Legends you control have”bands with other Legends.”
(Cathedral of Serra = White, Mountain Stronghold = Red, Seafarer’s Quay = Blue, Unholy Citadel = Black)
Why they’re bad: Remember Shelkin Brownie? Now he can tap to hose whatever Legends you might have in play while you fiddle around with these five lands which….do nothing.
From the comprehensive rulebook:
502.11 – Bands with Other
502.11a – Bands with other is a special form of banding. If an effect causes a permanent to lose banding, the permanent loses all bands with other abilities as well. [CompRules 2003/07/01]
502.11b – An attacking creature with”bands with other [creature type]” can form an attacking band with other creatures that have the same”bands with other [creature type]” ability. Creatures with banding can also join this band, but creatures without banding can’t. The creatures in this band don’t have to have the creature type specified in the”bands with other [creature type]” ability. Blocking this band follows the same general rules as for banding. [CompRules 2003/07/01]
502.11c – If an attacking creature is blocked by at least two creatures with the same”bands with other [creature type]” ability, the defending player chooses how the attacking creature’s damage is assigned. Similarly, if a blocking creature blocks at least two attacking creatures with the same”bands with other [creature type]” ability, the attacking player chooses how the blocking creature’s damage is assigned. [CompRules 2003/07/01]
502.11d – Multiple instances of bands with other of the same type on the same creature are redundant. [CompRules 2003/07/01]
You need two creatures with Bands with Others of the same type in order to get them to work – and in that case you’ve got a confusing rules mess for an ability that doesn’t work intuitively, and is strictly worse than regular banding – which in turn was weak in non-Limited formats and awfully confusing to the average player. Plus, these lands only help Legends, banding is supposed to be a White ability, and these lands give it to all five colors, and did I mention none of these lands tap for mana?
How to fix them: How about one giant Legendary Land which helps all the Legends gain banding? Doesn’t that sound nice?
The Legendary Land
Tap: Add 1 to your mana pool.
Tap: Target Legend gains banding until end of turn.
Nice, simple, weak, and boring. What a fix!
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the card you’ve all be waiting for: The #1 worst Magic card of all time!
1) Masticore (Urza’s Destiny: Rare)
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may discard a card from your hand. If you don’t, sacrifice Masticore.
2: Masticore deals 1 damage to target creature.
2: Regenerate Masticore.
This undoubtedly will be a controversial pick for the worst card of all time, but seriously, it costs you a card each turn! It’s also an artifact, making it doubly vulnerable to creature kill and artifact kill spells.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed this recounting of Magic’s worst cards of all time, and I look forward to reading any comments, complaints, and criticisms you have in the forums.
If you’ve read this far, then you’ll know that Masticore isn’t really the worst card of all time, but I wanted to see how many people would read the whole article and how many people would scroll down to the bottom of this list to see which card occupied the #1 slot. I wonder how many knee-jerk reactions we’ll get in the forums, eh? Ok, that’s enough tomfoolery for now – let’s get to the real #1 worst Magic card of all time!
The Real #1) Pale Moon (Nemesis: Rare)
Until end of turn, if a player taps a nonbasic land for mana, it produces colorless mana instead of its normal type.
Why it’s bad: Adventurer’s Guildhouse can allow Johan and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa to band with each other. Deep Water can help you fuel out Invoke Prejudice. Sorrow’s Path can mess up some blocking situation somewhere at some time. Pale Moon? You cast it, and you’ve lost a card. It’s meant to hose non-basic lands, but Back to Basics this ain’t. How about back to the trade binder instead? What was R&D thinking when they printed this card?
I don’t have an explanation for what Pale Moon is supposed to do, especially since it occupies the Rare slot. It doesn’t deny mana, it only denies colored mana. It affects both players (shutting off your own countermagic for a turn), it has no permanent influence, and it exists in the same set and rarity slot as Parallax Tide, a much more useful land hoser for Blue. This card, even as a cantrip, would be pretty awful. If your opponent plays Sorrow’s Path, you at least know you’re going to be facing a wacky deck that will involve blocking hijinks. If your opponent plays Deep Water, you know that your opponent will be playing a deck that relies heavily on Blue mana. If your opponent plays Pale Moon, you just shake your head and go”What the…?”
How to fix it: If this were meant to be a serious hoser for nonbasic lands, then why not use the fading mechanic to make Pale Moon somewhat useable?
Fading 0 (This artifact comes into play with zero fade counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a fade counter from it. If you can’t, sacrifice it.)
When Pale Moon comes into play, put a fading counter on it for each non-basic land in play.
Whenever a player plays a nonbasic land, put a fading counter on Pale Moon.
Nonbasic lands produce colorless mana instead of mana of their normal type.
I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading this series as much as I’ve enjoyed working on it for these past months. As a completely unrelated note, I hereby release myself of all 18,000 words I owed the Magic community from my White wager last year – this, I feel, was enough of an undertaking that I’ve paid off my dues from that travesty. Fear not though – I’ll be writing weekly for StarCityGames.com!
Magic Card Manager, Starcitygames.com