Avoiding the Obvious – The Top 20 Underrated Cards in MD5 Limited

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… actual strategy, in the form of the top 20 most underrated cards in MD5 Limited. The order is based on the disparity between how good people think a card is and how good it really is.

[Potential readers: Here’s how today’s article rates in the relevant categories on a scale of 1 to 10:

Strategy: 7

Humor: 3

Self-Promotion: 5 (it’s subtle, but it’s there)

Sanctimonious Buffoonery: 10]

Yes, you read correctly. You are about to read a new article by Tim Aten a mere week after reading a different New Article. It took a crack consort of experts to make this dream a reality:


Ted Knutson

Josh Ravitz

Naturally, nothing’s going to get done without me, since I’m the one who writes the articles. Mainly I included my name to make the list look longer. Let’s move on.

Here’s a recent AIM conversation I had with Ted (with the names changed so you can’t barn the bestest editor in the whole world) that shows Mr. Knutson’s role in this wonderful late-summer miracle. [Do you ever get that feeling that something is about to go savagely wrong just before it actually does? Me neither. – Knut]

MyNamesTedAndIWearADress: i’m feeling pretty stressed lately

RaverBoi77: mmhm


RaverBoi77: oh, oh um

RaverBoi77: right

RaverBoi77:”Gee, Ted, why is that?”

MyNamesTedAndIWearADress: I have all these great writers but none of them want to do any actual work.


RaverBoi77: oh, well at least you still have Ben Bleiweiss

RaverBoi77: heh heh

MyNamesTedAndIWearADress: That is true.

MyNamesTedAndIWearADress: He does provide consistently high-quality content on a daily basis.

MyNamesTedAndIWearADress: but it really takes more than just one man to make a site great




MyNamesTedAndIWearADress: alas and alack and oh woe is me

RaverBoi77: siiiiigh

RaverBoi77: fine ted

RaverBoi77: I promise to write an article every week under penalty of umm

RaverBoi77: penalty of…

MyNamesTedAndIWearADress: mowing my lawn for a year wearing a chipmunk suit

Raverboi77: where would you even find one of those?

Raverboi77: regardless, that doesn’t seem too harsh

MyNamesTedAndIWearADress: and writing one two-page article that makes it look like you’re barning all of your friends by saying that they’re the”Future of Magic”

Raverboi77: nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Raverboi77: nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

MyNamesTedAndIWearADress: heh

Raverboi77: okay, it’s a deal

MyNamesTedAndIWearADress: that’s suited heimens

Raverboi77: whatever you say brahski


Raverboi77 signed off at at 10:19:36 PM.

As for Ravitz’s role, well…I’ll get into that in a little bit. Later on in the hour, I’ll also be exploring some cards in Fifth Dawn, and to a lesser extent, Darksteel and Mirrodin, that people may be misevaluating in Limited. I seem to write this type of article more than anything save tournament reports, but there’s a reason for this: If you already know that a good card is good or a bad card is bad, is there really any need for me to elaborate?

Don’t Play Sparring Collar!”

“Wow, Tim, I can’t believe how much your insight has improved my limited game!”

Trinket Mage Is Good B/C It Fetches Bola And Longbow!”

“That couldn’t be…hold on, let me read the Mage…and Bola and Longbow…do in fact…cost one mana! By Jove, Tim! No wonder you were on the front page of the DCI Limited Rankings until you went on full tilt during the draft portion of Worlds!”

Maybe if you’re really unlucky, I’ll have time to run you through my top five songs of the week. Oh joyous rapturous ecstatic bliss.

Before I get to any of that, I would like to give you a few illustrations of the fine line between mastery and stupidity that I (and others) breach when they insist on drafting while on full tilt. Here’s a lame-ass italicized segue.

The drafts I am about to describe are completely real. I did them on Magic Online with my own packs. In these drafts, I was”thinking outside the box*,” but I truly believed (and still do) that these decks had a chance to be successful in addition to cute. Well, the first one anyway.

Last week, I was in an 8-4 draft with Josh Ravitz. We saw that we would be playing each other round two, so we agreed to simply split if we both won our first rounds. Needless to say, neither one of us won. I did slightly more raredrafting than usual because I figured I only had to win one round. Additionally, as tended to happen a lot in that several-day span last week, I got weak signals, had a hard time picking colors, and ended up with something that certainly could not be described as the foundation for a solid deck after the first fifteen cards.

When I’m on tilt, I will often draft a situational or otherwise”inappropriate” card and then try to build my whole deck around it. One example of this is raredrafting a foil Absorb and then going Blue/White despite signals that this might not be the best idea (which I actually did several years back). I should have just taken it for what it was and not set my heart on playing it… no matter how fun it is to play Constructed-caliber cards in Limited. In this particular draft, the card was Power Conduit. I snagged it 11th then went out of my way to craft the rest of my draft around it. Not smart, not smart. This works out well approximately 2% of the time.

Surprisingly, this actually ended up being one of those times. Take a gander:

Auriok Transfixer

Pteron Ghost

Auriok Bladewarden

Blind Creeper

Grimclaw Bats

Iron Myr

Coretapper (!)

Wall of Blood

Emissary of Hope

Thermal Navigator


Moriok Scavenger

Razor Golem

Darksteel Colossus


Pentad Prism

Energy Chamber

Power Conduit

Sun Droplet

Gemstone Array

Arcane Spyglass

Clearwater Goblet

Rude Awakening

Solar Tide

7 Plains

7 Swamp

3 Forest

(41 cards. Seemed fitting).

As I said, I lost first round. This is probably somewhat intuitive. What may not be intuitive is the fact that I was up a game and about to win game two, but I ran out of time. My opponent was some dreadful foreigner, probably a European, with”mise” in his nick who briefly dabbled in trying to help me run out of time by arbitrarily re-equipping his Healer’s Headdress. I would like to take this opportunity to say that Body Spray Is Not A Substitute For Showering. You Still Have To Use Actual Soap. [This goes for people who live in New Jersey and Florida as well. – Knut, learning things on his travels he’d rather not know]

Game One: He starts by saying that his deck isn’t that good and that I should have an easy time with him. I tell him to wait a few turns and see if he still thinks that. I drop a turn 2 Coretapper and a turn 3 Sun Droplet. I figure Happy Time will be over in short order because he has Emissary of Despair along with a Pteron Ghost; Sun Droplet isn’t really enough to counteract that, especially since adding counters with Coretapper only helps if the Droplet is bare to begin with. Fortunately, I am able to play a Clearwater Goblet for three on turn 5. I put a fourth counter on it with the ‘Tapper, then sack it to add two more counters when he tosses an Irradiate at Coretapper. Heh, he Irradiated a Coretapper.

He plays another guy, and I rip Power Conduit. Thanks to his attacking creatures, the Droplet provides not only two life back per turn, but also an endless supply of fodder for the Goblet. My only”real” permanent is Razor Golem, but no matter how many creatures he plays, he can’t make a dent in my life total. I draw no action for about ten turns. An Energy Chamber and Arcane Spyglass eventually join the”squad,” and with seventeen cards left in my deck, I rip Rude Awakening. I didn’t bother to pore over my Sun Droplet, but I did count the number of counters on the Goblet: exactly twenty. Before I attack with my lands for the win, and assuming I will still lose the match, I say,”You will remember this game for the rest of your life.” Chances are, he might. As long as he (God forbid) gets hit by a bus sometime next week.

Game Two: He isn’t as aggressive this game, and I don’t really have any combo pieces. We basically stare at each other for half the game. I notice he’s sided in some Islands for either countermagic or bounce; this was a good call, since he had no way out of the lock in his Black/White deck. I attempt to Solar Tide away his three three-power guys, but he has the Vex. He Arrests my Colossus, so I sacrifice it to Thermal Navigator knowing that I will eventually draw it again. With two minutes left on my clock and three cards left in my deck, I cast Rude Awakening. He blocks most of my real creatures and Turns the Tables on the rest. With one card remaining in my library, he gives me the old miserable bastard pre-emptive”Good game.” There are truly few things more infuriating when some scum-oozing assbite says”good game” when the win isn’t evident on the board, then untaps and Shrapnel Blasts you twice, or whatever manloving nonsense he was so clever for knowing about because it was in his hand the whole time.

I draw my last card. He draws, leaving him with 2 cards left. I sacrifice Colossus to Navigator and draw it again. (I took extra care to ensure the survival of the ‘Grafter and the Navigator during the Rude Awakening turn, since I knew there was a Turn the Tables in the draft, and if this guy got it, I would need to deck him). He draws, leaving him with one card left. I pitch Colossus to Fleshgrafter, and it gets shuffled back in. Then I run out of time. After that, I go for a drive, screaming”…but home is nowhere” by AFI louder than I’ve ever done before. Do you know that part at the beginning of Slipknot’s”Duality” where he’s all like”I have screamed until my veins collapsed”? Of course not. Who listens to Slipknot? Anyway, he says that, and I think I did it, because I was rather dizzy when I woke up the next day, and passage of time didn’t assuage said dizziness.

I know Ravitz made a cameo in that last anecdote, but his role in the genesis of this gospel pertains more to the other deck I’m about to list.

It’s Tuesday, August 24th. Partly cloudy, 92 degrees, 20% chance of rain. I have lost three drafts in a row with increasingly terrible decks. I made it to round two in my first two drafts and made it to game three in each of those before having my dreams crushed. In the third draft, I got flooded with some terrible G/u/w concoction sporting about nineteen playables and was summarily defeated by Dross Golem with Cranial Plating two games in a row. I usually have a pretty good bead on when to call it quits, but something beckons me to continue my pitiful attempts at winning one damned draft today.

I start off with Looming Hoverguard and Skyhunter Patrol, allowing myself to either go U/W or abandon one of these picks. The next pack is pretty mediocre with nothing great in my colors, but an alarm goes off inside my head when I see the rare: Sword of Kaldra.

AIM Chat with Ravitz from a few nights prior…

RaverBoi77: blah blah this format blah blah lol

CuddlyPuppy666: blah blah master blah format blah blah

RaverBoi77: I have a new mission in this format.

RaverBoi77: At some point, I vow to Assemble Kaldra.

CuddlyPuppy666: lol.



Yeah, I wish I remembered more details from that chat. It seems that, rather than reconstruct a chat that has been deemed too inconsequential to even remain in my memory, I should have determined a way, with a proper introduction and conclusion, to simply state that I had solemnly sworn to Ravitz that I would make a Kaldra token in MDF Limited. You know my policy about cutting losses, or heaven help me, deleting something that I’ve already typed out.

Needless to say, I take the Sword of Kaldra. I then scoop up a few Myr and proceed to see Not Much in the realm of playables for the rest of the pack. In Darksteel, I see Shield of Kaldra second pick. I think for half a second about trying to table it, realize that there’s a chance it won’t come back, then snag it without any concern for the rest of the pack. My Fifth Dawn pack contains… Hoverguard Sweepers. I take Infused Arrows out of that pack, and convey my disappointment to Jill (who seems intrigued by my endeavor) and the Cack (who, like a cat, seems to only pay attention to you long enough for you to feed him or maybe scratch behind his ears, and naturally couldn’t possibly care less). Fortunately, the mortifying suspense doesn’t last long, as I am rewarded for my quixotic whimsy with a second pick Helm of Kaldra.

A word of caution: Never ever try this. It’s not cute, it’s not fun, and there is no way you will see a Helm of Kaldra third pack if you’ve managed to mise the other two Kaldra pieces. Do you have any idea how stupid this whole premise is? I was blinded by the potential, to quote Ravitz,”to be as legendary as the Kaldra token itself” should I pull off the literally impossible. Oh yes, literally impossible. One of the definitions of”impossible” is”reeeeally reeaaally hard,” not necessarily”completely 100% not possible.” The hardest part was over, but it would be no small feat to actually get all three of these clunkers in play at once.

Sword of Kaldra

Shield of Kaldra

Helm of Kaldra

Copper Myr

Iron Myr

Thought Courier

Sylvok Explorer

Nim Replica

Viridian Joiner

Skyhunter Patrol

Arcbound Hybrid

Tel-Jilad Archers

Spire Golem

Looming Hoverguard

Pristine Angel

Tangle Golem

Darksteel Gargoyle

Awe Strike

Conjurer’s Bauble

Reshape (!)

Guardian Idol

Pearl Shard

Dawn’s Reflection

Infused Arrows

6 Forest

5 Plains

5 Island

You like that deck? You like that mana base? And I have a 2118 Limited rating…or at least I did till reality hit once again at Worlds. This should illustrate how much stock you should take in your precious”ratings.” It’s a mockery.

Mana symbols aside, once I knew I was going for Mission: Kaldra, I tried to set up a deck that could hold out on defense long enough to actually get the combo in play. With lucky mana draws and even luckier spell draws, I believed I could achieve my newfound dream. That Reshape was a fourth pick.

The deplorable foe this time around is someone from Team Punisher whose name I remembered right up until the time I had to write this sentence. He’s playing a Red/White deck with real cards.

Game One: He gets Leonin Squire, Spikeshot Goblin, and Hematite Golem out early. I’m drawing the proper lands and creatures to stay alive, but his tempo advantage has halved my life total in short order. After my Tangle Golem trades with his Razor Golem and my Infused Arrows takes out his Spikeshot and Vulshok Sorcerer, he has a Hematite Golem, Leonin Squire, and Goblin Brawler to my Spire Golem, Looming Hoverguard equipped with Helm of Kaldra, Viridian Joiner equipped with Shield of Kaldra, Skyhunter Patrol, Pearl Shard, and seven life.

I attack with the Spire Golem, but unfortunately, one of his cards is Blinding Beam. I’m forced to chump with Skyhunter Patrol, and I need to draw either a creature, Awe Strike, Reshape, or Sword of Kaldra to stay alive and/or complete my mission. I draw Battlegrowth. I should have given more thought to what he could have had, since I’m never going to get that close to assembling the mighty Kaldra ever again. What I was actually worried about was that he might concede before I got a chance to play the Sword (which obviously was an unfounded fear), and barring Blinding Beam, the Spire Golem attack was a safe one. I’ve learned my lesson, though. Well, not really. After I finish the write-up of this match, I’m gonna draft again.

Game Two: I mulligan, he gets Specter’s Shroud on a guy… then I get turn 4 Dawn’s Reflection, turn five Pristine Angel. On turn six, I rip Infused Arrows to off his Spikeshot, and my opponent concedes in what I could only imagine to be disgust.

Game Three: He doesn’t have much action, but he Bowsers’d me right out: he casts Barbara J. Lightning on my Joiner, Shatters my Myr, and Rain of Rusts my Forest. That bastard. I have two Islands in play when I concede in embarrassment.

Yes, Gerry, I know this was ignorant. You don’t have to tell me about it later. Thank you.

To”segue” into the draft strategy portion, I will now use a bit I lifted from Entertainment Weekly, called the Shaw Report therein. You’ll get the gist of it, and it will help you keep abreast.


5 Minutes Ago





namedropping John Pelcak

namedropping Gerry Thompson

namedropping Anton Jonsson


Journey of Discovery

Fists of the Anvil

Affinity 🙁

Affinity 🙁

Affinity 🙁

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… actual strategy, in the form of the top 20 most underrated cards in MD5 Limited. The order is based on the disparity between how good people think a card is and how good it really is.

20. Spawning Pit

There’s a chance I’m biased here since I love wacky counter-filled decks and usually end up with about twenty-one non-Pit playables, but I think this card should be maindecked with somewhat greater frequency than seems to be the case now. Spawning Pit gives creature-rush decks a bit more staying power, as you get a replacement 2/2 for every man that had the misfortune of running into your opponent’s Tel-Jilad Archers or Skyhunter Patrol. Red/Black doesn’t really want to see this card since it turns one-for-one removal spells into a losing proposition. Its value has risen slightly with the addition of Fifth Dawn because of Energy Chamber, Ion Storm, and to a lesser extent, the chance to fizzle the Scry on some spells.

19. Ferropede

Like Spawning Pit, this card isn’t secretly spectacular. It looks like unplayable chaff, but it’s actually more along the lines of”solid 24th card” (a subtle distinction). While incredibly fragile, your opponent will be loath to waste a removal spell on it. If he has a Vulshok Sorcerer, well… good beats. The ‘Pede goes from mediocre to rather respectable if your opponent has sundry arcbounds or sunburst cards or if you have equipment such as Specter’s Shroud or, if you’re an incredibly lucky bastard, Mask of Memory. Incidentally, Kartin’ Ken has been saying for a very long time that Mask of Memory is the best equipment in Mirrodin, considerably better than Loxodon Warhammer. I’m not saying to start listening to everything he says, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t hit the mark with that one. If you don’t have room for this card, don’t cut anything respectable to force it into your deck, but there’s no need to be embarrassed when you toss this thing out there on turn three.

18. Tangle Asp

For a mere two mana, the noble Asp can take down everything from Tel-Jilad Chosen to Greater Harvester to Sawtooth Thresher. Most people won’t want to trade any of their”real” creatures for it, so it can often slither in unmolested for a few points of damage if you don’t need it on defense. When your opponent finally does decide to trade his 2/2 for your 1/2, any of Green’s assorted pump spells will allow you to micturate on your opponent’s visage. Two-drops may not be as important now as they were in Onslaught block, but they’re essential in filling out your mana curve in any Limited format. The Asp, in particular, is excellent in this role, as it allows you time to get your larger Green or sunburst landbeasts online.

17. Annul

I still rarely draft this card, and when I do, I rarely play it. There’s a chance this is a mistake, though. While not a high pick and not an early game card, Annul will often serve as an undercosted removal spell. Assuming you haven’t clued your opponent in that you have it (i.e. saying”wait a minute” when he plays his Lifespark Spellbomb, tapping an Island, untapping it, staring at your hand for a second, then saying”okay”), he is likely to play spells after combat; Annul can throw off his math by taking away a potential blocker or Icy Manipulator activation he was counting on to survive through your attack. Decks are more artifact-light nowadays, but most decks will still have several attractive targets for this. It has its limitations, naturally, since topdecking it won’t save you from a Pentavus or Pewter Golem that’s killing you. While Annul should certainly see more play than it does, there’s no need for it in every deck.

16. Energy Chamber

Assuming you have an appreciable number of artifact creatures or Sunburst cards, Energy Chamber makes Dragon Blood look downright foolish. One of your artifact creatures will get a little bigger each turn for no cost beyond your initial two-mana investment. After a few turns of this, you will likely be able to trade one of your creatures for two of the opponent’s like-costed fellers. That hardly seems fair. Nor does it seem fair that I’m trying to write this article with my friend Erik Jones blaring the VMAs in the background while he makes out with his girlfriend and the girlfriend’s archetypal Fat Funny Friend half-watches and pretends not to be jealous, occasionally providing startlingly innovative Garofal-esque musings on the television fare. I should go over to the couch with her so that she doesn’t have to live vicariously through her svelter compatriot, but dammit, I’m dedicated to my craft. As for the Energy Chamber, most people seem to realize that it’s a good card, but they may not realize just how good it is. In the right decks, it’s probably a first pick. John Pelcak says it’s the best uncommon in the set.

15. Stand Together

The only reason this isn’t higher on the list is that no Green cards seem to be in high demand nowadays. This is to be expected, as a table can likely only support one or two competitive green decks nowadays. Nonetheless, there’s no reason for this card to still be going 5th to 8th pick. It’s rather hard to lose a game when you successfully cast a Stand Together, and it is, in fact, one of the reasons to want to draft Green to begin with. In G/X decks (and, to a lesser extent, 5cG decks), the best strategy is to draft lots of cheap creatures and supplement them with pump spells. This allows you to overwhelm slower opponents and have a chance to race against White or Blue decks with a lot of fliers. Barring an untimely removal or bounce spell, as I’ve said before, Stand Together is like a five-mana 4/4 haste creature…and this isn’t even taking into account any blocks your opponent had the misfortune of making. Green isn’t terrible if you’re drafting it properly.

14. Horned Helm

Equipment is butt, but trample is pretty good. I want to use better, more precise diction than just saying every card is”(adverb) good,” but let’s not get carried away.

“Horned Helm is okay.”

Just okay?”

“No, Dad…it’s spectacular.”**

Naturally, this is best in Green, where it becomes the equivalent of having an untapped Auriok Bladewarden in play. It’s also acceptable in white equipment decks or, if your draft went as badly as mine often do, to force through damage with Drossodile.*** Not to say that Leonin Scimitar is outstanding, but Helm is superior to the piddling sword.

13. Relic Bane

People still aren’t giving NeurokSpyWithHasteOmg its due. It doesn’t affect the board, but it does put your opponent on quite an impressive clock. If you have superior board position, the Bane will give your opponent fewer turns to stabilize. If there’s a stalemate, the Bane will essentially break it. If you’re behind, the inevitability of the Bane may actually still allow you to win through desperation chumpblocking. In some cases, opponents will have to destroy their own artifacts to stay alive. Unless the destruction of the enchanted artifact was your goal, this is ironically a bad thing for you, as you will probably expend resources differently if you assume the Bane is the only”damage” source you need to win the game. In conclusion, if you see Relic Bane, take it, put it in your deck. It is…

12. Vulshok Gauntlets

Gauntlets are obviously better now thanks to Loxodon Stalwart, Skyhunter Prowler, and Battered Golem. In most cases, I would prefer to have a few such cards before I would maindeck the Gauntlets, but they aren’t completely necessary to make the cumbersome equipment worthwhile. The Gauntlets are great with Vedalken Engineer and can be a powerful late-game addition to Green decks, particularly those with Fangren Hunters, Predator’s Strikes, or even Viridian Joiner. I will sometimes put them in decks that look like they may be prone to flood, including my broken retarded unfair PTQ San Diego deck (which featured two of the aforementioned Engineers). As long as you have two creatures to trade the Gauntlets between and six mana or more in play, the Gauntlets are a fine stalemate breaker; the trick is gauging how often a deck will produce that scenario. Ideally, you’ll have plenty of removal and instant-speed pump spells and won’t have to maindeck it, but some decks really do”want” this card.

11. Fill With Fright

I have been wrecked by this card several times on Magic Online. In most cases, people won’t or can’t hold back lands, and this can potentially strip an opponent of two key spells. Granted, it’s not the ideal turn 4 play, and (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) it doesn’t affect your board position, but I digress. Here’s a summary of my stance on this card: When you’re separating your card pool into”playables” and”non-playables,” start this out in the”playable” and try to keep room for it, but don’t be afraid to cut it. It’s possible that this is like Wail of the Nim, in that every Black deck would like to have one (but usually not multiples), but I haven’t played with it enough to be sure. It probably should not be going as late as 12th-14th, but I can see why it sometimes does – I’ve often found myself struggling to get enough creatures in the first two packs, so I have to pass on superior spells in the last pack. If you only have eleven guys when your tenth Fifth Dawn pick comes around, you’ve gotta take that Thermal Navigator.

10. Sawtooth Thresher

Like Fill With Fright, Thresher is often chillin in the pack with Viridian Scout, Vicious Betrayal and Mana Geyser when the 12th pick comes around. There’s no reason for this. I think people shy away from five-color-Green because it’s tricky to draft, the Sunburst cards and Dawn’s Reflections won’t necessarily show up, and because people hate Green. The second point holds true for two-on-twos and sometimes three-on-threes, but in an eight-man table (and correct me if I’m wrong on this), you can be fairly certain that you’ll see a Dawn’s Reflection or two and a Thresher or two as well as other sunburst cards… particularly if the archetype is underdrafted. I’m not going to continue with this asinine line of reasoning that’s basically stating”Thresher is underdrafted as long as it’s underdrafted.” Instead I’ll move on to say that Thresher is a respectable curve-topper as long as he’s a 4/4. Sometimes even a 3/3 Thresher is sufficient, but ideally you’ll be putting at least three counters on it. The threat of its activation makes it harder to block, and it will eventually trade for a big creature or a few smaller ones. It’s not a first pick, or even a fifth pick, but it’s definitely not a 13th pick.

9. Rain of Rust

It’s obscene how much worse than Shatter this card is. I have some news for you, though. We’ve all been spoiled by Shatter. The most apt comparison I’ve heard people make about this card is to Pinpoint Avalanche. Sure it costs 3RR, but it gets the job done. It kills Bola and Longbow, doesn’t it? *windmill slam* Where do I sign up? But seriously folks, there are fewer artifacts now, but most decks will have a few worth smashing.**** I’ve also seen dreams crushed when the Rust destroyed a land enchanted with Dawn’s Reflection. As with Annul, I am slow to take this card and quick to cut it from my deck, but maybe we should all be a little more forgiving. Is this card really that much worse than Murderous Spoils? As sad as it seems, we should probably be maindecking this card if we have enough Mountains and fewer than three answers to equipment and other artifacts in our decks.

8. Blind Creeper

To compare this to Ebon Drake is an insult to Mr. Creeper, to me, and to all of you attractive and well-toned readers out there. A turn 2 Blind Creeper usually spells six or nine damage for your opponent before he can muster a defense. Sometimes its drawback is a huge liability, but my friends with thirty pro points and 1947 Magic Online Limited ratings and I have all played this format enough to know that Creeper is insanely good with a considerably greater frequency than it’s a festering turd. Sure, it dies straight up to Echoing Decay or Magma Jet, but in that situation it was still basically a 3/2 for two mana that traded for a two-mana spell. The B/x aggro archetype in Limited is rather strong, and the Creeper is one of the most important players in it.

7. Thunderstaff

I covered this in last week’s article. Read that einks.

6. Echoing Truth

I always want to play one of these in my Blue decks. It just does too much to not maindeck it – It removes a key blocker, neutralizes a pump spell while improving your tempo, counters a removal spell, saves a creature from what would have been a trade, undoes a Raise the Alarm or One Dozen Eyes, refreshes the counters on Baton of Courage or Arrows, blah blah blah. The only good reason to cut it is if you have affinity elements and you’re forced to cut colored cards. Even then, do anything you can not to cut this.

5. Wail of the Nim

Like Stand Together, this could also be a casualty of its color being underdrafted. Like Relic Bane, this also seems to be a mainstay of”underrated” lists. Lots of good creatures have one toughness, and if played during combat, it’s basically like all your creatures get +1/+0 and become indestructible until end of turn. If you play it with damage on the stack and you control one-toughness creatures that were involved in combat, those creatures will die, but other than that, the comparison holds fairly well. As you may have read, I used the regeneration half to save my Glissa from an Essence Drain. It’s tragic how underrated this card is. Tragic. You should always maindeck one of these in Black.

4. Avarice Totem

I knew this one was good from very early because two better players than myself – yeah, those do actually exist – destroyed me with it. If you want a good laugh, go read my”first impressions” article on Fifth Dawn artifacts. I was wrong on just about everything, and I put Avarice Totem near dead last. If I haven’t mentioned it before, the Totem works thusly.

1) Get an advantage in board position.

2) Take something of your opponent’s.

3) Win the game.

Your opponent will be forced to spend all or almost all of his mana just to keep from getting further behind. Sometimes the Totem will backfire, and sometimes it will be completely useless, but in aggressive decks, the risk is well worth it. On occasion, you’ll be able to play and activate it in the same turn to remove a key blocker. It gets better with bounce spells, but forget about the pipe dream of”If I have ten mana and my opponent has less than five untapped, I can switch two of my things, and put that on the stack and then…” No. No no no. You’re not getting to ten mana. I mean sure, that would be neato if you did, but you won’t. Also, you can fetch this bad boy with Trinket Mage and it helps with affinity. Since, like, it’s an artifact that costs one. Yeah, yeah uh uh. Uh uh yeah.

3. Salvaging Station

Like I did with the All-Incubator back in the day, I take this every time I see it, no questions asked. You should scoop up all the off-color Spellbombs you see in Mirrodin when there are no respectable maindeck picks left in the pack; even if you’re not fortunate enough to get a Station, they still cycle and combo well with some other cards in Fifth Dawn. If you didn’t manage to get any of those, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to pick up some Conjurer’s or Wayfarer’s Baubles in the last pack. I would run Salvaging Station as long as I had at least two Spellbombs or Baubles; I prefer three or two and some way to fetch one. The Station also has the nice bonus of being able to retrieve a destroyed Bola or Longbow, but it’s not worth playing just for that purpose. An active Salvaging Station means you will draw at least two cards per turn if you desire. You can imagine what might happen if you got this with Pyrite or Aether Spellbomb. It’s even degenerate with a simple Sunbeam Spellbomb – Gain five life a turn (or more) until you’re at a healthy life total, then start peeling extras. At Pro Tour Seattle, Cack was skeptical about this card, I was cautiously optimistic, and Gadiel was positive that it was completely retarded. Now all three of us are in Gadiel’s camp.

2. Grimclaw Bats

This is the best Black common in Darksteel even though you often have to take Decay (and sometimes Essence Drain…yuck) over it since removal is at a higher premium than creatures. Specifically, the only time I would take Essence Drain over Bats is if I had no removal. Pat Sullivan says that Grimclaw Bats vs. Murderous Spoils is debatable. I think we’d both probably take the Bats. One of the people who was keen to the bats before almost everyone was… and you’re not gonna believe this… Ted Knutson. Assuming two or three untapped Swamps, nothing can safely block or attack into the bats. They’re perfect for picking up Mask and other equipment. They’re hard to kill with damage. If the opponent doesn’t have fliers and doesn’t appear to be able to deal one damage, they have a Shepherd-of-Rot-like effect on the game; you can basically change both players’ starting life totals ex post facto.

Because people weren’t hip to the cards, the archetype, or even the color, I was able to draft a few decks on MTGO with double Bats and double Blind Creeper. Hardly fair. I got manascrewed and lost round two of one of them. Errrrrr, I mean, I easily won both of those drafts without losing any life except to the Bats themselves, and then I got dealt pocket 4s and beat someone with pocket Aces. In all seriousness, in the draft that I did win, the deciding game went as follows:

Turn 1: Avarice Totem

Turn 2: Blind Creeper

Turn 3: Blind Creeper

Turn 4: Nim Replica

Turn 5: steal Neurok Spy

Turn 6: Fireball for five for the win.

1. Healer’s Headdress

This card is powerful enough to be a 2nd or 3rd pick, yet it consistently makes the full lap around the table, even though White seems to be overdrafted. It’s passable if you’re not White, but it’s foolish if there are Plains in your deck. Being able to move the Headdress at instant speed severely limits your opponent’s ability to damage your creatures, and to a lesser extent, you. With combat damage on the stack, you can pass the Headdress back and forth between your untapped guys until finally letting it come to rest on a creature that needs the toughness bonus to survive the turn. I can’t believe I’m saying something to this effect twice in the same article, but KK was right when he said this was in the same league as Bola and Longbow. It’s very powerful utility equipment. Take it earlier, or consider yourself blessed for getting it late.

And I’m spent. Join me next week when I finish up my Seattle report, tell you about a”cute” draft deck that actually won a few rounds, and give you my heartbreaking tale of woe that is my Worlds report: part one.

Hugs ’til next time,

Tim Aten


The Most Diabolical Hater This Side of the Mississippi

[email protected]

RaverBoi77 on AIM

It’s not confidential. I’ve got potential.

*losing on purpose

**Yeah, I like referencing that movie. I also like using italics since I love putting emphasis on every other word I write, and Ted always spoils my fun with the caps lock.

***How is it possible that I know what I’m doing (which I do), yet I seem to draft awful decks about half the time? Gerry once said that I must be the best player in the world if I draft decks as bad as mine and still win. I’ll take that as a compliment.

****I can go on rephrasing things I’ve already said about other cards for pages.