As we ease into the middle segment of the Onslaught/Odyssey territory looking to rank the lesser-known cards, we hit an odd snag: the Flexibility ratings go wonky. This is because of Onslaught’s relentless addiction to Tribal, which it had to be weaned off of to later develop the friendlier Lorwyn.
We have cards like Ravenous Baloth and Rotlung Reanimator; both solid cards, but a lot less useful outside of their respective Beasts and Clerics zones. So I have to rate them low, but then I have to mention the places where they shoot up to a 7 or an 8.
Genesis is one of those cards that’s only really good in a long grind of a game; you want this when you have eight or so mana, so you can fetch back a creature for 2G before your draw step and then cast it. This becomes deadly when the creature you’re Raise Deading is, say, Nekrataal, and you shotgun-blast someone’s dude every turn and then chump block. It pretty much ensures you have a solid draw every turn.
That’s great, because it actually makes the price a little better; you don’t want to purchase four of these in your deck. All you need’s one or two for when you get to that long haul. That also means, however, that you only want it in a deck packed with utility guys that intends to get to the long game, which not every deck needs; the decks that need this will find it golden, whereas many decks will find it dead weight.
This is one of those cards that’s so insanely powerful (and, at 4WW to cast and another 5W to activate, so insanely expensive) that you’re almost guaranteed that it’s not going to work. Someone will cap it, and thanks to the expense, you won’t get to use it. However, this essentially reads, “If I can survive long enough to be activated, any combat damage dealt to me goes straight to someone else’s face.”
That’s a lot of fun. I’ve done it. But most of the time, someone caps it the turn you cast it, or just attacks all-out while the shields are down, and you go boo. Or they Shock you once the activation’s fired, ensuring that the two more recent damage gets redirected and all the combat damage now goes straight to you.
Still, the fun of getting this to work is so insanely joyous on the rare occasions that it does go off that I figured someone else should share in the happiness of an active Glarecaster.
I love the Incarnations, mainly because everyone forgets what’s in your graveyard. And Glory is one of the finest; like Genesis, it’s intended for the long games, but for 2W you get to give all your creatures protection from a color of your choice. That means, by the time you cast Glory and have her go the graveyard, you can almost certainly give all your guys protection from any color, twice.
What would you do with an army that’s immune to any given color? Alpha strikes galore? Immunity from combat tricks that target your guys? And let us not forget that, as I said, everyone will forget that Glory exists after a few turns past, so when they target your folks with that evil Aether Burst, they’re going to be very irritated when 2W keeps all your tokens firmly planted on the soil.
Once Glory’s happily dead, bad things happen. And for three bucks for a set, she’s totally worth it.
Grizzly Fate ($0.25)
As far as token generators, this is one of the more card-efficient ones; under the right circumstances, you could get as many as eight Bear tokens out of it. That’s a lot of tokens for a single card.
However, it is expensive mana-wise to use, and tricksy to get the Threshold off, reducing this one’s use to a very narrow range of decks. But if you’re looking for the maximum bang for your buck, this is one card that will fill the board with furious Yogis time and time again.
Innocent Blood ($0.50)
The other must-have card for your Mono-Black Control multiplayer deck (in addition to Cabal Coffers), for $2.00 you get to have a lot of players sacrifice many things. This is one of the best cards you can topdeck after a Wrath of God, when everyone’s been waiting for the Mutilate and now casts all of those expensive Angels and Dragons and Bears, oh my! that they’ve been sandbagging.
Then you cast Innocent Blood, and all that protection from Black means nothing. Cackle evilly. Oh, they love it.
The “Flexibility” is only because a) most decks aren’t going to want more than one or two copies of an eight-mana Sorcery, and b) many of the aggressive Red decks that can consistently provide three Red mana won’t make it to the late game.
That said, whenever I cast this, I generally win. The ability to take everyone’s creatures and attack immediately makes this a superpowered Reins of Power (and we all know how much I love Reins of Power) where no one will have anything left to block because you own them all. Mwoo hah hah!
Now, the usual combat tricks apply, and a Fog effect will ruin your day… But combine this with Goblin Bombardment (or any other no-mana repeatable sacrifice effect) to get one of the most satisfying plays in the whole dang game.
Iridescent Angel ($4.00)
Again, that whole “seven mana and up” makes it hard to justify its presence in every deck, but having protection from every color makes this a solid player against almost every kind of deck except a) Green tramply decks and b) Urzatron decks that abuse Darksteel Colossus and Triskelion.
The only problem, in my experience with Iridescent Angel, is that she’s almost never on the offense; considering she’s a damn near-perfect blocker, it’s hard to justify sending her out into the field when she’s standing in front of your face so beautifully. So strangely, though she’s seven mana, 4/4, and flies, I wouldn’t really count her as a win condition.
Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
Now, this is a win condition. Kamahl’s used so often in my decks that I’ve begun to feel guilty about using him; any time I have Green weenies of any sort, whether that’s Elves, Saprolings, or Conclave shenanigans from Ravnica, I immediately go to the original Kamahl. If I have enough mana, I can get double-Overrun (or, if I’m going with Gaea’s Cradle-style craziness, I can make terrifyingly large creatures stat).
Now, Kamahl can get popped pretty easily, and honestly if a turn goes by then he will get annihilated before he comes on-line. That’s why I try to play him with unfair mana accelerators — things like Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Priest of Titania, and the aforementioned Cradle. Basically, I make it so that I can cast him and get an insta-use out of him, destroying the player most likely to hurt me and then hopefully he’ll live to the next turn.
It’s good, baby. You want him. You just have to need him with other expensive cards, which drops his value somewhat in a Bargain Hunter’s Guide, but if you have crazy money then this one’s value skyrockets.
Keep Watch ($0.10)
I don’t want four of these in my deck, but I do frequently drop one or two into my Blue decks as a way of drawing tons of answers at instant-speed for three mana. Yes, it only triggers off of attacking creatures, but this is multiplayer — you generally have enough attack phases to make this worthwhile. And you can often get eight cards off of a single attack phase, making this one of the best conditional bargains in all of Magic.
Krosan Tusker ($0.25)
For three mana, you draw an extra card and get a basic land, at instant speed. And it can’t be countered (except, as always, by things like Stifle). How awesome is that? And, if you find yourself desiring a threat in the late game, it turns into a generic 6/5 Boar Beast.
That is a very good deal that’s hard to beat, and at least three of my Green decks pack four-ofs of these.
Last Laugh ($0.50)
At least once in every one of these articles, I pick a card that I myself don’t like all that much but I know some Johnny is salivating to use. This week’s choice is Last Laugh — which isn’t quite as Johnnytastic as some of the past picks, because it can be useful rawdogged in a deck not specifically designed for it.
Essentially, Last Laugh puts a complex table into DefCon 5 — the first creature that dies is going to cause a cascade of further deaths that will, quite often, pile up for far more than twenty damage. If nobody has any instant-speed enchantment removal, this is going to get ugly. The table freezes, with no one willing to attack — except for that one madman who wants to set it off, and has a Sakura-Tribe Elder just waiting…
That said, the trick is surviving your own Laugh. That’s what you need to build a deck for. So it’s not very flexible, but it is very fun. And if you can create some pile of cards designed to Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast your own Laugh, then good for you.
Living Wish ($4.00)
The Living Wish is a tournament staple in the formats it’s legal in, and it can be even more awesome at a Casual table where the Wish is defined as “Any creature/land card you own, anywhere” — not just your sideboard (which most good casual decks don’t have, anyway!).
The biggest problem with the Wish, which is obviously insanely great, is that you have to hash out the rules with your friends in advance — which all but shouts, “I HAZ WISH!” — and that some annoying git will spend several hours flipping through his collection, looking for that one card.
As such, I have two suggestions for Wishes:
1) You have thirty seconds after it resolves to choose a card. If you haven’t named one by then, it fizzles. The lesson? Think of the right card before you cast it.
2) Assuming it’s not some crazy-ass rare card we know you don’t own, just use a token to stand in for it. Nobody wants to twiddle their thumbs while you riffle through your cardboard trays, muttering, “Kokusho… Kokusho… oh, is that in this deck?” Just put it down, and we’ll all agree that for the rest of this game, that’s Kokusho.
Llawan, Cephalid Empress ($0.50)
This is not a great card, but some Blue-hater is going to see this card for the first time and plotz. That said, it doesn’t stop your opponents from casting Blue instants, so you’ll have to find some way to protect her from the hordes of bounce spells that will doubtlessly be fired in her direction.
OMG Painter’s Servant OMG WHO KNEW?
Mana Echoes ($1.00)
I wouldn’t normally mention this card, but it’s a classic in any number of creature-generating combo decks. Simply put this on the table with, say, Sliver Queen’s token-generating ability, and WHAM! Instant infinite creatures, as each new Sliver that comes into play generates more mana, which can be used to generate more creatures, and whee!
That said, it’s a creature-based combo, which leaves you vulnerable to both Wraths and Fog effects. Still, it can be fun.
Moment’s Peace ($0.75)
One of the greatest Fog effects of all time, this allows you to Fog eight times off of four cards. Plus, as I mentioned earlier with Glory, nobody pays attention to the graveyard, and lesser players will get pantsed when they forget your earlier Moment’s Peace is waiting to make a comeback.
Between this and Constant Mists and Isochron Scepter, you could probably make a very annoying deck. Don’t make me punch you.
More dependent on your lands, of course, but often straight-up better than a Wrath of God, a Mutilate won’t often touch a Darksteel Colossus but it will destroy almost every other indestructible creature out there. If you’re playing a Mono-Black Control deck, it’s not a bad idea to go halvsies on this and Damnations; what one doesn’t catch, the other will.
Patriarch’s Bidding ($3.00)
One of the few weakened replacements that can go head-to-head with its momma Living Death, Patriarch’s Bidding is one of those cards that’s narrow. In a heavily tribal deck, it can destroy your opponents — you get back all your Beasts, they choose between the one Angel or that Hound over there. However, if your opponents are also tribal, this can backfire quickly.
Generally, you want this in decks where even if your opponents benefit, you will benefit more, so you don’t want it in little tribals like Goblins — you want it in big daddy decks like Dragons, or in quasi-combo decks like Clerics.
FUN FACT: Wanna know how to shut down a Patriarch’s Bidding? I did it with a Gather Specimens in response. Boy, did they hate that one! (And, because an opponent benefited from me being in a stronger position to take out his enemies, I actually got some free Birds out of it.)
(For the record, the Bidding doesn’t ask you to name the creature type until it resolves, so when they realized I’d steal all their Dragons, they simply chose creature type “Turtle.”)
Phantom Nishoba ($3.00)
Phantom Nishoba is a great card that, unfortunately, is slightly underpowered for seven mana. If the mathematics in this world were different and we could have, say, twelve different kinds of seven-mana cards in a given deck, then this would be awesome; as it is, it’s competing with all the other big finishers you can throw in.
That said, much like Iridescent Angel, this is an awesome blocker; it can’t block fliers, but it can theoretically get you 7+6+5+4+3+2+1 life. And that’s if you don’t have a way of getting counters back onto it. Plus, if you do want to send it out onto the attack, it’s not going to die, and it does trample.
Ravenous Baloth ($3.00)
For four mana, you get a 4/4 guy that can sacrifice itself and every other beast to get four life at instant speed. That’s a nice effect by itself, but when you consider how nice lifegain is in multiplayer and that you can attack and/or block, stack the damage, then sacrifice it if it turns out you’re going to lose the combat, that makes it extra-nice.
That said, it’s only really a must-have in a heavy Beast or Changeling deck, but in those kinds of decks you’d be a fool to play without it.
Riptide Replicator ($1.00)
It’s pricey, I know. But it’s also very flexible; if someone’s churning out Slivers, you’ve got Slivers, too. If someone’s got protection from Black, you just churn out White tokens. And of course it can always play into your own tribal plans, and it’s a slow but reliable way of cranking out dudes through a series of Wrath effects.
It’s not for every deck (which is why its flexibility is four — paying eleven mana for the first 3/3 token is a heavy, heavy up-front investment), but for decks that expect to go the long game, this can be a useful addition.
Rotlung Reanimator ($2.50)
The flexibility here, as noted up-front, is a bit of a misnomer; if you don’t have a Cleric deck, who cares? And if you do have a Cleric deck, this is the card you want, making your Cleric deck not die horrifically to the first Wrath of God.
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