Wizards has, undeniably, gotten better at the art of creating cards in the past ten years. We look back fondly at old sets like Arabian Nights and Ice Age, but the truth is that most of them were kind of crap. For every Library of Alexandria, there’d be seven overpriced, underpowered legends with utterly uncastable costs.
Even Ice Age, widely viewed as the birth of modern Magic, was a disappointment. Compared to what had come before it was awesome — but having opened lots of packs of Ice Age and experienced the quote-unquote “joy” of multiple Balduvian Shamans, I can tell you that there were a lot of chaff cards in every pack.
Thankfully, Wizards has more or less mastered the art of creating valid packs. Every pack you open has several playable cards, and while some packs are more potent than other — I don’t think anyone would argue my last week’s pull was anything less than exceptional in terms of dollar value — most of them are worth the $3.29 you pay.
Yet with that great price comes the loss of something that was once great and wonderful:
The loss of the crap rare.
Oh, you think you know crap rares. “One With Nothing!” you cry. “How bad can it get?” But my friends, you haven’t compared until you’ve looked at cards like Pale Moon, Carnival of Souls, and — the worst rare of all time — Rakalite. (Ben Bleiweiss once devised his own list of the crappiest cards in Magic; I disagree with his final order, but the list itself was pretty solid.) The fact is that Wizards has been getting steadily better at creating cards, and that rising tide has lifted the boat of the crap rare.
G’wan, look at Rakalite. Tell me that’s better than anything you opened in Lorwyn. I frickin’ dare you.
Just what is a crap rare, though? Let’s look at my definition of a crap rare from a long time ago: “A crap rare is a card that you would not play under any circumstances, in any format, for no reason. A card that is crap in Limited and crap in Constructed and crap all around.”
Let’s look at Morningtide. What’s crappy there? Out of fifty rares (according to my search), there are certainly cards that aren’t good — many folks would look at Boldwyr Heavyweights — but frankly, against certain decks in Limited where they can’t outclass your Heavyweights, it’s not a card so terrible that you’d never play it. Gilt-Leaf Archdruid involves playing an unlikely deck, but if you were to play a Druid-themed deck, it wouldn’t be a bad card at all. Knowledge Exploitation is a marginal card for a Rogue deck compared to Notorious Throng, but it’s not something I’d never play.
Primal Beyond is certainly underpowered, but not flat-out awful in an Elemental deck that needs every color. Rhys the Exiled is, at worst, a 3/2 for three, which isn’t so bad a deal, and I’m not thrilled with Vengeful Firebrand — but again, a 5/2 for four isn’t something I’d never drop in.
Sensation Gorger? Sadly, this is as close to a crap rare we’ll get in Morningtide. And even then, it’s a cheap body that can, if it’s the last card you play and your opponent’s got a full grip, benefit you.
There are no crap rares in Morningtide. Think about that.
There are no crap rares in Morningtide.
But who can blame Wizards? Designing a crap rare is more difficult than it sounds! After all, way back in 2000, I held a contest asking the readers of this here site here to design their own crap rares, and people kept producing actually good cards by mistake!
Here are some examples of cards I’d probably play with:
T: Put a 0/1 Guest token into play. At the end of the turn, sacrifice this token.
For zero mana, I get fodder for my Pit Fiend, for my Recurring Nightmare, to fight my opponent’s Diabolic Edicts….? Uh, yeah. It’s not the greatest card, but I could see it in several decks.
Instants and Sorceries that target you cost 3 more to cast.
I assume this is an enchantment (the guy didn’t say), but I kind of think this would be an auto-sideboard card against Sligh and Goblin decks.
Look at the top three cards of target opponent’s library.
Put them back in any order, or pay 2 life to play those cards as though they were in your hand. Gain control of any permanent that comes into play.
Look at target player’s hand and choose a card from it. Search that player’s graveyard, hand, and library for all cards that share a color with that card and remove them from the game. You lose 1 life per card removed this way.
Again, these cards may be overpriced. (Anger Blinded is pricey, but devastating.) But they’d probably see play somewhere. And people thought these were crap rares! Just like people once thought that Necropotence was a crap rare, and Donate was a crap rare, and Tarmogoyf was no big deal.
We cannot decide. And sadly, since Wizards has been so good as to print genuinely good cards across the board — or, at least marginal cards — the Art of the Crap Rare has been lost to us.
…or has it?
It’s been eight years since I held this first “crap rare” contest, and looking back I think it’s high time that I did it again! I think that you, my intelligent and cunning readers, can come up with a crap rare to beat all crap rares! And if you do it, I will send you not one, not two, but three crap rares of your choosing!
But first, some guidelines.
1) You must send your submissions to [email protected] by midnight EST on Saturday, April 11th.
2) Said submissions must be clever. Which is to say that anyone can come up with a crappy rare that reads something like:
Prevent 3 damage to target creature.
No, a truly great crap rare is like Carnival of Souls — something fiendish that looks like surely, someone could use it in a deck, then discovers that it’s so terrible that you can only do it as an exercise in deckbuilding. Anyone can design a terrible card (and Wizards has certainly done it), but a crap rare has to be something that appears to be workable until you look closer.
3) You can submit as many crap rares as you want. Explaining why said crap rares suck are even better. But too much and you risk trying my patience.
4) Flavor text will be the tiebreaker in any given situation. Because I like flavor text.
5) Creatures called “The Ferrett,” clever though they may be, will have an uphill battle winning this sucker.
I note that the winner last time created a card called “Discord” that turned out to be an awful lot like Words of War, although Stephen Cutcliffe’s masterpiece was mana-free but only able to hit players. But it’s proof positive that Wizards is watching this very site!
Wizards wants to print terrible, awful cards. But they need your help! Clearly, they’ve forgotten how to print absolute dreck!
Help them find the way.
The Weekly Plug Bug
This week in my post-apocalyptic rock-musical comic My Name Is Might Have Been, Kurt .45 leads his band in their first session. But the rebellious Bombay Sapphire has some issues that might just tear them apart…
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