Embracing the Chaos – My Least Favorite 25 Cards In The Format

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Thursday, October 29th – The wide-open nature of the EDH format means that there are cards that aren’t quite ban-worthy, since they’re not exactly broken, which are still not fun to play against or seriously challenge the format’s social nature.

The wide-open nature of the EDH format means that there are cards that aren’t quite ban-worthy, since they’re not exactly broken, which are still not fun to play against or seriously challenge the format’s social nature.

I can’t disagree with the argument “They’re legal, so I should be able to play them.” You’re right, they are legal. If the group you play in thinks these cards are fine, then they’re fine. That said, EDH is designed to be the ultimate Timmy format. You can play it if you’re a Spike, and you can strangle it with laser-focused, finely-tuned, kill-everyone-on-turn-3 decks. What I’m suggesting is that if you’re that much of a Spike, stay with Spike formats, and let the Timmies have theirs. If you find yourself playing with a significant number of cards on this list, then it’s clear that you haven’t quite gotten the EDH vibe. I keep repeating the words “social” and “interactive,” hoping that more folks will hear the message and that it will sink in.

Many of these cards might actually have reasonable uses, but for the most part, they’re used in completely anti-social way. You might get tired of hearing me sing the same song over and over again, but I actively dislike strategies that involve keeping players from playing the game, which is why I thoroughly hate mass land destruction and lock combos. After someone once stole my Yosei, the Morning Star, and locked down another player for most of the rest of the game, I took it out of my deck. I completely understand that denying the opponent(s) the opportunity to play the game they want to play is the best way to win at Magic. And it’s the best way to lose at EDH.

One of the common responses to talking about antisocial cards is people saying “Well, you should just pack <X> removal or counterspells.” If you toss into your deck all kinds of answers to whatever might come up, you end up dedicating such a portion of your deck to removal that you don’t then have a coherent strategy. I love toolboxes as much as the next guy, but I’d like to be able to do something other than just respond to someone else’s stuff.

And don’t read into anything here think that this list is any kind of prelude to December bannings. None of these cards is under serious consideration. They’re just cards that I personally dislike. Your mileage is welcome to vary. Except my comments about Ben Stiller. If you like him, it exposes some deep character flaw, and you should seek professional help.

Academy Ruins

I’d be okay with someone infinitely recurring their Solemn Simulacrum, but I’ve seen few people to play this land other than to fuel other nasty things like infinite Mindslavers or Magister Sphinxes. Infinite board sweepers like Oblivion Stone and Nevinyrral’s Disk make for an unfun game as well.

Arcum Dagsson

This guy has, for quite some time, been on the brink of getting banned as a General. It’s fuel for things that lock up the game make it thoroughly annoying to play against. No one uses Arcum to help make piles of Wasp tokens. They use him to put Darksteel Colossus into play on turn 2 or worse.


For the longest time, I played Armageddon as a response to players in my local group (here’s looking at you, Justin) spending the first six turns of the game getting a dozen extra land into play. I felt as though there should be some punishment for that. Instead, I changed my tune, and just started stealing the stuff they played with all that mana.

Brine Elemental

You know my feelings on Pickles lock and other locks. The slow bleed might be perfectly acceptable in competitive Magic, but the EDH player that does it is asking for retribution in subsequent games. Instead of creating bad blood (I swear, I will attack you for the next month), consider a path to victory that will make your opponents go “oh, cool” instead of “that was completely annoying.”

Decree of Annihilation

Uncounterable land destruction. Aren’t you just the coolest. I’m a big believer in being defensive or at least having the Damocletian Sword of Obliterate and friends hanging overhead (and we’ll talk more about that under Obliterate), but this is just raw-dog wrong. Again, I’d much rather see people have the opportunity to play than just watching them sit there.

Hokori, Dust Drinker

Certainly as a General, this guy is the suxx0r. Winter Orb effects have their place, especially when your opponents are really getting out of hand with the mana generation, but the guy who plays Hokori as a General is just a griefer. If you’re playing EDH so that you can irritate other people, you should go back to playing PvP WoW and killing all the n00bs for their temerity of not being l33t.

Magister Sphinx

There’s been considerable cry for banning this guy (along with Sorin Markhov), but it’s not going to happen. The main reason: the last two times I’ve cast him, I’ve used it to reset my own life total to 10. I know there are nasty recursive uses of Magister Sphinx, and I generally don’t like seeing him, because the people who are playing him are using Academy Ruins and Sharuum to keep him coming back again and again. It’s justice to see this guy put onto the battlefield by its owner’s opponent by Bribery or Acquire.


Another card that’s the source of considerable discussion, though it’s mostly about redefining the rules for Generals (ain’t happening any time soon), this actually isn’t as bad in practice as it seems in theory since it’s really expensive to get running, but the fact that the things that get stolen just fuel up the Tolarian Academy which the Memnarch player is inevitably running make it frustrating.


I wouldn’t mind seeing a player using Mindslaver to have one opponent kill another, but it’s never used that way. And one activation is fine, but again, no one uses it just once. It’s used to completely screw over a player. If you think that Slaving someone and making them sacrifice all their resources and empty their hand is funny, you probably think that Adam Sandler is a gifted comedian—which I suppose is fine if you’re 12. The reason Mindslaver isn’t banned is the distant hope that someone somewhere will find ways to use it in truly amusing ways.

Mycosynth Lattice

Never played except with some ridiculous Forge[/author]“]Darksteel [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]/March of the Machines combo. “But the combo costs a lot!” you reply. “It’s hard to get into play!” If that’s your defense, you lie. And you know when you lie, God kicks a puppy.


I confess that I used to play this card offensively pretty frequently, with Indestructible guys and whatnot. I always said that in my Rith deck, I wanted to get off Elspeth’s ultimate and then Obliterate just once, and I’d take apart the deck. I realized what a downer this when it’s cast from an upper-hand position, so I decided to only play it when it’s my only out. I like having the threat, but it’s like a nuclear bomb—it’s better as a deterrent than actually using it.

Seedborn Muse

Another confession: I love this card. It fuels insanity. And that’s why I hate seeing it played against me. Its inclusion on this list only came from the fact that when I was originally drawing it up, I was sitting between Scott Larabee and Toby Elliott, and they both made me put it on.

Sensei’s Divining Top

Top is not broken, although it’s pretty awesome, and it’s not actually what the card does that annoys me—it’s that it slows down the game. Multiplayer games are long to begin with, and waiting until the end of the turn of the guy before you to Top slows it down even more. What we’ve instituted is that you Top at first (not last) opportunity, and reserve the right to change your mind if the board situation changes. This way, less time is wasted. This kind of trust is what makes friendly games so much fun. If we could teach everyone to Top “in the EDH fashion,” then the card would go off the list. Unfortunately, there are those ultra-competitive folks out there who either refuse to Top the EDH way or whine when others do it.

My best Top story is when fellow Team Lives in the Red Zone member Ben McDole had it and Future Sight on the battlefield, along with lots of mana. He dug and dug and dug, filling up his hand—and at EOT, died to Cerebral Vortex.


If you think this card is funny, then I’m going to insult worse than the Adam Sandler comment. You think Ben Stiller is funny (and yes, I recognize his “brilliance” in Zoolander). The people who play this for its comedic factor are just like vegans—they just do it to be a pain in the ass.

Sharuum the Hegemon

Yes, I recognize your genius in figuring out how freaking awesome Sharuum is as a General. Really, he’s nuts, and I can think of numerous wild and wacky ways to play him. Now move along and actually play something that a zillion other players haven’t also figured out.

Staff of Domination

This is the card on the list that’s actually most in danger of getting banned. It’s a great card that gives a player great flexibility—and it’s been reduced to powering up infinite combos, especially with the otherwise-inoffensive (okay, mostly inoffensive) Rofellos.

Strip Mine

I’ll admit that in some cases, people play Strip Mine in addition to Wasteland so they have extra answers to the big three lands: Academy Ruins, Volrath’s Stronghold, and Gaea’s Cradle—but I needed 25 cards. I mean, who wants to read a list of 24? It’s a pretty lame number, unless you’re Willie Mays.

Sundering Titan

Just like Mindslaver, one iteration of this would probably be okay, but you can never get only one, since it has both comes into play and leaves play triggers. People say “you should just play more non-basics,” to which I respond “Yes, yes you should. It makes my Anathemancer and Wilderness Elemental better.”

Thawing Glaciers

Sensei’s Divining Top slower cousin.

Tidespout Tyrant

Another card that I’ve played up until recently. The argument that it’s expensive means nothing in a format where you can get it onto the battlefield in numerous ways for next to nothing. After it’s on the battlefield, it’s not long until opponents have nothing in play. Lame.

Time Stretch

If I had a dollar for every time Aaron Forsythe said “Ban Time Stretch!” I’d have enough money to pay Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller to never “act” again. What a beautiful place that would be. My hatred of Time Stretch comes from games that are just humming along, with everyone involved, and then BAM! Two extra turns lead to more extra turns (yes, Einstein, Eternal Witness getting back Time Stretch is good) and suddenly a pleasant game turns into watching one guy play with himself. Oh yes, I went there. And that’s only because Pete told me I couldn’t use the word “d**chebag.”

Tooth and Nail

Another in the list of cards that could be used for raw laughs that ends up with Kiki-Jiki/Pestermite. I’m okay even with Triskelion/Mephidross Vampire. A man needs his Wrath effects every now and again.

Vicious Shadows

Toby demonstrated how broken it was in his Ulasht deck last year. We even kind of shrugged when he played it—and then he followed up with Wheel of Fortune. Bad times. It’s another one I’ve taken out of my decks since the time at US Nats this year when I literally did nothing in the game until I cast VShad on turn 7—and then killed everyone at the table when someone was forced to Wrath. I’m all for punishing players for drawing lots of cards (Spiteful Visions seems to run the right balance of giving and taking), but this is another one card game-ender. That said, if you resolve it, I’m happy to cast Copy Enchantment. Seems only fair.

Zur, the Enchanter

So much potential, so little implementation. Another General teetering on the brink.

I guess in summary, the cards that I like the least are those that keep players from playing the game or are one-shot game-enders. I’d rather see players win through clever play than just dumping some cards on the table. There are plenty of “I just want to win now” players out there who either don’t like interactive play (combat phases that involve both attackers and blockers are interactive) or don’t think their play skills are good enough to overcome the skills of other players, so they lean on the crutch of cards that can’t be overcome by play skill.

I understand that it’s a style of play that not everyone likes, and I want to make sure you understand the message that this is what I like (or dislike), not what you should like (despite the above comedic-effect snarkiness). The card pool for EDH is so wide open that I’d like to see innovation and outside-the-box thinking instead of the same stuff again and again. Doing something wild, wacky, and new is a considerable part of Embracing the Chaos.