Retiring The Most Underused Cards Of All Time – Entry XII

Abe adds his latest set to the Underused Hall of Fame, enshrining the many underplayed wonders of Innistrad Block to later remembrance by eager casual and Commander players in search of a strong card they’ve never heard of or may have just forgotten.

Hello folks! Have you ever found yourself looking over your older card stock and wondering why you aren’t running some of those great older cards in any decks? There are tons of cards out there with scads of flavor and power. Sometimes you’ll find some cards that used to be players in Standard, and they are still strong at the Kitchen Table. Sometimes you’ll find the perfect cards for your next Commander deck or project and it’s not even Modern legal.

In the dark depths of Magic’s history, there are thousands of cards that are pretty solid entries, but many people have either forgot about them entirely or just never knew about them. That’s where this series steps in.

The goal of this series is to acknowledge the many great casual options that are out there for a lot of deckbuilders. Many of these are old-school combo engines, forgotten utility cards, and useful creatures. Some are great for sixty-card decks while others appear tailor-made for Commander and bigger-deck formats. At the end of the article, in the Appendix, you’ll find the full list of every iteration of heavily-underplayed cards with two caveats: some of these cards were added before Commander became a thing, and their play value has increased accordingly while others have since lost effectiveness due to rules changes – examples of these include Desertion and Blood Frenzy.

For the last few years, I have retired cards that are a decade or older and I have retired cards from Blocks just a few years old. In each of these cases, enough time has gone by that we have had years to find out if a card is truly underplayed or not, and years to find a home at the kitchen table. As mentioned above, many of these cards were once seen at tournaments and then fell off the map post-rotation despite really deserving a place at the kitchen table. When you give cards time to work those things out, you can get a feel for the truly underplayed cards out there.

Today, we will be counting down the ten most criminally underplayed cards from Innistrad Block, retiring them into the Underused Hall of Fame.

Now one of the issues with hitting up Innistrad Block is that there are so many major hits for casual players and tournaments Spikes alike, from Liliana of the Veil and Snapcaster Mage to Avacyn, Angel of Hope and Griselbrand. From Parallel Lives and Restoration Angel to Olivia Voldaren and Deadeye Navigator, there are a lot of strong Kitchen Table-style cards. Cards that I might normally want to highlight, such as Predator Ooze, are hardly underplayed.

In fact, it can be a bit difficult to find ten truly underused cards from Innistrad Block since it is such a beloved and well-known quantity. For some of these cards, I might be more reminding you of their value then to bring them back. Although, frankly, there are still some cards here whose lack of kitchen table play just staggers me.

Innistrad Block is a known quantity, right? Right?

10. Zealous Conscripts

The Conscripts sometimes see play in formats outside of casual land, and were a sometimes-choice in Standard for a while. While I have occasionally seen them here and there in Commander decks since then, that has been nowhere near enough compared to the quality the Conscripts offer. Look at how low their price is here! They are barely above bulk rare. In a block where a ton of rares have already spiked in value due to casual play, and in a set that was under-opened, it’s odd to me that Zealous Conscripts is worth so little, showing that my experience in games online and in real life is probably true elsewhere.

That makes me sad, because the Conscripts bring a fun, hasted creature with a potent enters-the-battlefield (ETB) trigger that can bring an answer to almost any sort of problem to your decks. The Conscripts can steal literally anything when they arrive, so it provides an answer to entire classes of permanents the color red usually can’t touch. You can take a planeswalker and steal its ultimate – now that your opponent has built that Sorin, Lord of Innistrad up, you can be the one to benefit from its ultimate! Worship got you down? Steal it and bash away. Plus you get to haste-smash with any creature you’ve borrowed with the Conscripts as well. Peell off their biggest blocker and attack with both it and the Conscripts for a ton of damage out of nowhere. And the Conscripts promise more Threatens as you bring them back from the graveyard, bounce them or Flicker them and so forth. Give them another look!

9. Reforge the Soul

There was a time when this Wheel of Fortune spell was a bulk rare. If that were still the case, it’d be the lock for the number-one most underused in this article. But people still play with it somewhat, which has maintained some of its original price. But, with all due respect, this is a Wheel of Fortune. It should be in a lot more decks that it is! In this case, I think the Miracle ability has prevented people from getting to the heart of the card. We all know how good Wheel of Fortune is, I don’t need to sell you on that. This has to be the “Fox Offering Syndrome” all over again!

The Fox Offering Syndrome is when people look at a card and judge it based on some ability that makes the card more complex. If Patron of the Kitsune were printed without the Fox Offering ability, then it would be “worse,” yes, because it had one less potentially-useful ability, but it would also be cleaner and more people would get the card. If Reforge the Soul didn’t have a Miracle ability, it would be worse as a card – but it’d get a lot more play because people would get past the rarely-used keyword that clutters the spell.

8. Sever the Bloodline

This spell is great at doing a few useful things. First of all, it’s a useful tool to exile any annoying creature, even one that cannot normally destroyed by removal – your regenerators and indestructible heavyweights can all fall before Sever the Bloodline, it handles them just fine. And because it also exiles other creatures with the same name, it has some added value – you can play it to deal with a bunch of creature tokens, since it can kill a ton of Soldiers or Saprolings or Zombies with equal aplomb. It answers commonly-played power cards like Rite of Replication in a way most cards that are not mass sweepers just can’t, and as an added bonus you can flash it back for another dose later on. Thanks to both of those aspects, Sever the Bloodline provides a strong mix of card advantage and additional options. These various combinations of everything it brings to the table are pretty strong, and you should roll it out in your next deck!

7. Undying Evil

I really like spells that have keep my stuff from dying. This often takes the form of something like Boros Charm or Rootborn Defenses or Ajani’s Presence out of white, while green has Withstand Death to offer the same type of trick to another color. There are tons of situations where you can put it to your benefit, from answering removal (both targeted and mass) as well as messing around with combat tricks. But did you remember that black has a similar tool as well? Undying Evil, Hail to the King baby! The creature of your choice dies and comes right back bigger than ever. Undying Evil even provides you with a few benefits mere Indestructibility would not: you can give more tokens to critters like Triskelion that can use it for various effects, or you can bring back a creature for another shot at its enters-the-battlefield trigger such as Bone Shredder or Shriekmaw, either of which can find it easy to jump into the graveyard in order to jump right back out again. Undying Evil lets you turn the tables on your opponent by taking something that was about to die, keeping it, and then adding another surprise on top.

6. Evil Twin

The very first Magic set has not one but two cloning effects – both Clone and the oft-forgotten Vesuvan Doppelganger – so we have always known that cloning effects would be a serious part of Magic moving forward. While early additions to that august circle were odd, such as Dance of Many, we would eventually begin to reap a variety of benefits from different versions of creatures that copied creatures. Recently, we’ve seen a lot of really high-quality Clones, and Evil Twin is another entrant in that majestic lineage. Evil Twin not only comes down as a copy of the best creature on the board, it also possesses the ability to just tap some mana and the Twin in order to kill the original. That’s a fun mechanic, and it also brings a level card advantage to the role! And in Commander, don’t forget that you can clone another Commander now under the new Legend rules and then time after time you can just tap to keep killing the opposing Commander every time he, she or it rears their ugly little head. That’s really evil, but here’s a case where it’s good to be bad!

5. Mentor of the Meek

What is keeping Mentor of the Meek from charting higher? I have seen in one or twice, here and there, but it’s still on the outskirts of a top five underused card from the whole of Innistrad Block. Remember that white is supposed to be the worst color at drawing cards because white can, literally, do virtually anything else. It can destroy any type of permanent, fetch lands, counter spells, prevent damage, make tokens, works great for both aggro or control decks, sweeps the board and so on and so forth. So when white has a way of drawing cards, take notice. Since this is a really good way to do so, you can draw serious cards. Remember that you can tap a mana anytime a smaller fry arrives – that includes any of your tokens of the appropriately-low power: Soldiers, Warriors, Cats, whatever. The Mentor also plays very well with many of white’s various themes, from flickering to smaller aggressive or utility creatures. Even bigger creatures with a smaller power (like Commander Eesha) will trigger the Mentor and let you draw a card. That’s a lot of cards!

4. Tandem Lookout

I played a ton of Avacyn Restored draft when it came out. I really enjoyed the format more than a lot of people, and I rocked a ton of FNM drafts. It was not exactly the next Pro Tour or anything, I know, but still, I had a ton of FNM experience. My favorite archetype to draft was Azorius. Who doesn’t want to blink their stuff all over the table? Green was solid too. I wasn’t afraid to dip somewhere else if needed. Black was weak, but people often stayed away so you would regularly fight with just one other player – once I was the only black player at a table, and it doesn’t matter how weak a color might be if you have four Death Winds. I came away from these drafts with a really enjoyable experience with the Soulbond mechanic, and from cards like Stonewright, Wingcrafter, and Nightshade Peddler. In draft, Tandem Lookout always played exceedingly well for me. You could drop it before you swung with a creature that was likely to be unblocked, get a hit in and draw a card, and you are already pushing the table.

I began to try it out in other formats and was always pleased with it. It even made my Commander Cube in the very first iteration of the Cube, and even though roughly 40% of the cards in that first Cube are no longer with us it’s still there going strong; it’s earned its place. It comes down early before people have a lot of blockers available, you have multiple opponents to attack so you can slide in damage for those cards, and if they slay the creature soulbonded with your Lookout, just play another. It’s a very strong role-player for your causal decks.

3. Alchemist’s Refuge

Everyone knows that Winding Canyons is one of the best lands for multiplayer generally and for Commander specifically. You have the ability to flash out a creature to answer opposing threats, can create a surprise blocker out of nowhere, and just in general you get to play havoc with other people’s plans. In fact, a board with nothing more than just open mana and cards in the hand is a serious threat when one of those lands is Winding Canyons. All of this leads me to seriously question the sanity of any player who has a deck that includes blue and green but does not want to add in Alchemist’s Refuge. Yes, it’s only playable in decks like Simic, Bant, Sultai or Temur. But it’s even better there than Winding Canyons since you can play any non-land card, any. That includes – creatures, sorceries, planeswalkers, artifacts, and enchantments. See anything there that you’d like to play with a big surprise packed into it? Remember, lands are not the easiest permanent to destroy, so your Refuge will likely be out a lot longer than a Leyline of Anticipation or Vedalken Orrery would. Seriously, what are you doing?

2. Nephalia Smuggler

I owe a personal apology to Nephalia Smuggler. After all of that drafting Avacyn Restored, I forgot about the Smuggler. Just totally forgot. After I built my Commander Cube, we needed to push some cheaper blue creatures into the deck. I literally looked up every one-drop in blue here on SCG’s spoiler. After reviewing them, I decided to swap the Smuggler into the Cube after rediscovering it. Ever since I have, that little thing has been a major engine. It’s played great roles in multiple decks and variants, and I’ve even started porting it over to 99-card Commander decks in order to take on major supporting roles for different builds and color combinations. And the reason is that we all collectively missed on Nephalia Smuggler. Play it early and flicker as-needed for everything from more enters-the-battlefield triggers to saving creatures from death to resetting some annoying Commander-removal auras that I have seen an upswing in post-tuck rule (Song of the Dryads, Darksteel Mutation, here’s looking at you). It works wonders, especially for a one-drop.

1. Grim Backwoods

This is going to be something of a Grim Backwoods rant:

Did you all get hit on the heads as a collective Magic community? Do you all get together behind my back and decide to ignore card advantage from here on out? I get that it was in Commander 2013, and maybe you all decided that you are too cool for school and wouldn’t run amazing cards that were reprinted there because you wanted to be seen as a real innovators or didn’t want to follow WotC’s lead on something. Whatever. Are you playing both green and black? Do you have any creatures in your deck? Do those creatures sometimes die? Would you like to draw more cards in your deck without being forced to spend a precious non-land slot on it? Then why isn’t Grim Backwoods in your deck?

For a moment I just want you to mentally set aside sacrifice decks, or Golgari graveyard tricks, or tokens decks that would benefit from the Backwoods even more. Set them all aside. Wouldn’t it just be nice to sacrifice your Birds of Paradise when it was about to die for a card? Wouldn’t you like to sacrifice that Solemn Simulacrum so you can draw two cards rather than one after it chump blocks? Wouldn’t you rather turn some creature that is about to die to a removal spell into a card and get a two-for-one out of the deal? Then Grim Backwoods should be in all of your decks. And if you are running one where sacrificing is a theme, or you have a lot of disposable fodder, then this thing really shoots up in value.

End Grim Backwoods Rant.

Well, there we are. Ten more cards for our Underused Hall of Fame. What did you think? Are there other cards from Innistrad Block that you think are seriously underplayed?

As always, thanks for reading!

Appendix – The Full Underused Hall of Fame


Ashling, the Extinguisher
Bane of the Living
Crypt Angel
Dark Suspicions
Desolation Angel
Do or Die
Forsaken Wastes
Gate to Phyrexia
Ill-Gotten Gains
Infernal Tribute
Krovikan Horror
Nezumi Graverobber
Night Dealings
No Mercy
Organ Grinder
Plague Sliver
Planar Void
Predatory Nightstalker / Wei Assassins
Sengir Autocrat
Sever the Bloodline
Sins of the Past
Sudden Spoiling
Tainted Pact
Tombstone Stairwell
Tortured Existence
Undying Evil
Vile Requiem


Aeon Chronicler
Alexi, Zephyr Mage
Aura Thief
Chromeshell Crab
Coastal Piracy
Deep-Sea Kraken
Draining Whelk
Dream Fighter
Drift of Phantasms
Ertai’s Familiar
Homarid Spawning Bed
Icy Prison
Kaho, Minamo Historian
Knowledge Exploitation
Magus of the Jar
Meishin, the Mind Cage
Mischievous Quanar
Nephalia Smuggler
Pendrell Mists
Phyrexian Ingester
Possessed Aven
Reality Ripple
Recurring Insight
Riptide Mangler
Sphinx of Magosi
Tandem Lookout
Three Wishes
Tolarian Serpent
Vodalian Illusionist
Whirlpool Warrior


All Suns’ Dawn
Arashi, the Sky Asunder
Avenging Druid
Budoka Gardener
Carpet of Flowers
Cream of the Crop
Enshrined Memories
Fresh Meat
Forgotten Ancient
Greater Good
Grizzly Fate
Hibernation’s End
Holistic Wisdom
Kavu Titan
Krosan Tusker
Loaming Shaman
Masked Admirers
Molder Slug
Nantuko Vigilante
Nature’s Resurgence
Night Soil
Primordial Sage
Realms Uncharted
Scarwood Bandits
Silklash Spider
Spike Feeder
Stonewood Invocation
Veteran Explorer
Viridian Zealot
Wild Pair
Wolfbriar Elemental


Ancient Hydra
Blood Frenzy
Conquering Manticore
Desolation Giant
Fanning the Flames
Ghitu Slinger
Goblin Bombardment
Goblin Marshal
Grand Melee
Hoard-Smelter Dragon
Homura, Human Ascendant
Knollspine Dragon
Kumano, Master Yamabushi
Lightning Surge
Mages’ Contest
Mogg Infestation
Reckless Embermage
Reforge the Soul
Scourge of Kher Ridges
Shard Phoenix
Starke of Rath
Subterranean Spirit
Tahngarth, Talruum Hero
Wild Research
Wild Ricochet
Wildfire Emissary
Zealous Conscripts


Commander Eesha
Feudkiller’s Verdict
Guardian of the Guildpact
Hand of Justice
Holy Light
Kor Sanctifiers
Lashknife Barrier
Lieutenant Kirtar
Magus of the Disk
Masako the Humorless
Mass Calcify
Mentor of the Meek
Nomad Mythmaker
Null Chamber
Patron of the Kitsune
Phyrexian Rebirth
Prismatic Strands
Pursuit of Knowledge
Retribution of the Meek
Soul Sculptor
Spectral Lynx
Spirit of the Hearth
Spurnmage Advocate
Stonehewer Giant
Swell of Courage
Sunscape Battlemage
Temple Acolyte
Vengeful Dreams
Witch Hunter
World Queller


Aether Mutation
Alchemist’s Refuge
Asmira, Holy Avenger
Aura Shards
Captain Sisay
Colfenor’s Urn
Crime // Punishment
Darksteel Sentinel
Elemental Augury
Evil Twin
Fight to the Death
Fracturing Gust
Frenetic Efreet
Grim Backwoods
Hex Parasite
Journeyer’s Kite
Kaervek the Merciless
Loxodon Hierarch
Mindless Automaton
Mirror Golem
Mystic Compass
Nova Pentacle
Novablast Wurm
Order // Chaos
Phyrexian War Beast
Precursor Golem
Rasputin Dreamweaver
Rings of Brighthearth
Saffi Eriksdotter
Seer’s Sundial
Skyship Weatherlight
Snake Basket
Spine of Ish Sah
Spite // Malice
Tawnos’s Coffin
Vhati Il-Dal
Wilderness Elemental
Wrexial, the Risen Deep
Yavimaya Hollow