Good & Bad: Installation I

Greetings, all my loyal fans and longtime readers. And hello to the rest of you that aren’t the six people mentioned above. Over the next few installations of "Unnamed Column," I’ll be discussing certain Magic cards which are bad despite popular belief. Similarly, I’ll be talking about how good cards are often slighted when it…

Greetings, all my loyal fans and longtime readers. And hello to the rest of you that aren’t the six people mentioned above. Over the next few installations of "Unnamed Column," I’ll be discussing certain Magic cards which are bad despite popular belief. Similarly, I’ll be talking about how good cards are often slighted when it comes to deck-inclusion.

I could take the route of some writers and tell you that my opinion is the only opinion… but that would only be my opinion. Or, I could humbly suggest to you my ideas. Either of these tactics might turn you away from this article, and I need to grasp on to every reader I can get! So, I’ll simply say that this is what I think, and I’ll back myself up with Professor Logic with whom I have collaborated with on this project. (You see, kiddies? THAT’S how we construct a sentence that doesn’t end with a preposition.)

Before I present to you my ideas, know that I often grasp the whole picture when looking at a card. If Card A couples well with Card B, that just doesn’t do it. "What if’s" are hardly worth considering. Also, when a card is going to be put into exclusively one type of deck (how many Wildfires are in Sligh?), you must look at the card in that context. So, without further ado, my radical thoughts.

Bad: Unearth

Some people use this card. Some don’t. A couple of my Magic-playing buddies are convinced that this card is God’s gift to black. Observe the following testimonial:

"I was playing my Suicide Black deck against his Wildfire deck. I had Phyrexian Negator out, and I was using it to beat him silly. Then, out of the blue, he casts Wildfire! [Insert: Why wasn’t the Wildfire player dead yet?!] After the smoke had cleared, I had nothing on the board. He had no creatures and just a few lands. I shrug and ask if he’s done. He is. I draw, play a Swamp, cast Unearth, and proceed with the Negator beats!"

Now, I admit that in this situation, the Unearth proved to be an award-winning card. However, how often are you going to actually use this card? Will you use it to get back the Skirge you sacrificed when you played a creature? Or to get back a Shocked Skirge? How about to make that chump-block with the Skirge seem worth it? Notice a trend? There are very few cards with which you can effectively use this card. Besides, it’s Suicide Black, not Temporary Self-induced Coma black. "But it has Cycling," you say. That’s all well and good, but if you’re only going to use it for Cycling, why not just put in a better card? "You can use it on Skittering Horror," you say. Which brings me to my next point…

Bad: Skittering Horror

This card just bugs me. I mean, it’s a 4/3 for 3, yes, that’s good. However, I despise relying on Dark Ritual. I know that you can never really trust probability, but the chance of drawing a Dark Ritual before turn three are 1:6. Not great odds. So, by turn three, you have plenty of mana with which to cast this and other creatures. But, at the three mana threshold, I’d MUCH rather cast Phyrexian Negator than Skittering Horror (unless I’m playing red, but I’m dead then, anyway). You say it can be Unearthed… see above paragraphs. This card is greatly inferior to its cheaper, flying cousin, the Skittering Skirge. However, I admit defeat. This card has beaten me. I have tried over and again to find a replacement for this card in most decks, but to no avail. Sigh, I guess I’ll just have to live with it until something better comes out.

"Wait, Daniel!" you may be saying. "Don’t be forlorn! I know another card that can go well with Skittering Horror that just might make you feel better. Lurking Skirge isn’t a creature when it’s played, making it a great choice!" Well, as you said that, I’m sure you noticed me twitching. Observe my next installment.

Bad: Lurking Evil

WHAT’S WITH THIS CARD?! This card might have been a lot better in the previous environment of decks not centered on life. But, these days, everything kills you by loss of life, be it by creatures or enchantments or Soul Feasts or burn. Against green, you’ve just cut your game-time in half. Green couldn’t care less about one creature. Unlike the player opposite the green mage, the Natural One’s life total is a resource to be ignored. "You can still win with one life." Same thing for white. If you end up paying 10 life for this guy, you’re going to die. If you pay less life for it, it means that you’ve been attacked, and you’re going to die. What about red? {laughs} Do I even need to start? For blue and black, this might be a problem, but any creature of noticeable size is likely to suddenly become Treacherous, and what’s the chance of playing against black?

"But, Daniel," you say, "you can get it out Turn One with Dark Ritual." You weren’t paying attention, were you? You should know my feelings about relying on other cards, especially Dark Ritual. Don’t even start to tell me how this couples well with Skittering Horror because you’re likely to play this BEFORE the Horror hits the table. Anyway, let’s see what the other side of the spectrum has to offer in the way of overused cards…

Bad: Defiant Falcon

For those of us who don’t know (which means you’re playing with Ramosian Lieutenant; kudos!), Defiant Falcon reads:

Defiant Falcon — 1W
Creature – Rebel Bird
Flying. 4,T: Search your library for a rebel card with converted mana cost three or less and put that card into play.

Now, let me tell you why Ramosian Lieutenant is STRICTLY better. First of all, how do they compare? Well, they’re both rebels, they both have a 1W casting cost, and they have the same ability. However, the Lieutenant is a 1/2 whereas the Falcon is a 1/1 with flying. So, what’s worth more, the point of toughness or flying? Toughness, toughness, toughness! "Why?" you ask. Allow me to elaborate.

What makes rebels so good? Their ability to search for more of their kind. What makes flying good? The ability to attack unblocked by non-flying creatures. Put these together, and what do you have? An inefficient creature. You see, rebels have to tap to use their abilities. You also have to tap to attack. So, to exploit the Falcon’s ability, you need to attack instead of search. And that’s where the inefficiency comes in. Would you rather save your Defiant Falcon until your opponent’s end step without blocking for fear of it dying, or would you rather have the Lieutenant out who can block elves, other rebels, etc. and still search? The latter, I’m sure. And, once you’re ready to attack with the creatures, you should have a formidable army and the extra flying won’t make much of a difference.

"Oh, Daniel!" you exclaim. "I have another reason why the Lieutenant is better than Defiant Falcon! The Lieutenant can’t be killed by Rath’s Edge and the Falcon can!" And you wondered where I got my nervous tic…

Bad: Rath’s Edge

The more I looked at this card, the worse it became. This card lets (makes) you tap it, four other mana, and sacrifice a land to deal one damage to a target. That’s SIX resources that you need to invest in this card. (See a later article for more on resources.) By the time you have four land out and this card, any 1/1 is going to have done what it wanted to do. This card is AWFUL! It’s nasty-bad and terrible. I could pull a better card out of my ……… Nevermind. And not only this, it’s LEGENDARY! That’s right, now this card can possibly make you have dead cards in your deck!

Now, I can accept that this is a bad card. There are lots of bad cards. What really got me riled was that it started popping up EVERYWHERE! Always, lingering around the bottom of some decklist, there’s:

1 Rath’s Edge

And that makes me think: Why isn’t that an Island? A Mountain? Hey, it could even be a Swamp, and you could freak your opponent out. It could be a Phyrexian Tower or Gaea’s Cradle; you might not have a use for it, but if you have one out, your opponent doesn’t. And, these cards’ll be doing you as much good as Rath’s Edge would be. This is a wasted card slot in a deck, wasted in the sense that you’re practically playing with a 61 card deck because you’ll have to draw and extra card to get something useful.

By the way, I AM aware of this card’s uses in Limited. However, if you haven’t noticed, my writing’s primarily based around Standard.

Well, that’ll just about do it for this week. Next time, be on the look out for cards that I think are good that are shunned by the rest of the community.

Daniel Crane