Mindless Automaton (Exodus Rare)
I’ve always been a huge fan of this card, as any of my long-term buddies can attest. Of course, in my group game decks I’d run Squee, Goblin Nabob and Krovikan Horror as infinitely discard fodder to make this guy ridiculously huge, but even without that silliness he can serve some modern day functions. First, he’s a fairly cheap way to pitch cards into the graveyard for reanimation or madness fun. He’s also not a bad creature to suck up some Graft counters when he comes into play, and he plays very nicely with Life from the Loam. The one downside to cropping up now, you used to be able to at the very least “cycle” him off to draw a card even if your opponent removes him (effectively getting two-for-one card advantage), but with all of the good Split Second removal spells able to terminate him with no responses, he’s slightly less good.
Moorish Cavalry (Arabian Nights Common)
Arabian Night’s white Hill Giant wasn’t all that interesting even with trample outside of their cool artwork, but now their type has become Knights and there is currently a very good crop of Black and White knights for a deck built around Haakon, Stromgald Scourge to emerge.
Mystic Snake (Apocalypse Rare)
Everyone knows just how good this guy is, but I thought I’d point out that, as an honorary Simic dude, his normally minimally significant 2/2 body can be enhanced with Graft tokens at instant speed, even if you’re not interested in countering a spell. Also, if you have a way of sacrificing him in response to a spell going on the stack, he gets rather disgusting with Adarkar Valkyrie. Yes, I do still miss my sweet old Kiki-Jiki Extended deck, why?
Nicol Bolas (Legends Rare)
Thank goodness Goryo’s Vengeance has shuffled off to Extended-land, where it’s bound to terrorize the unsuspecting with a briefly reanimated Nicol Bolas. But even in today’s Standard, pitching this fellow, reanimating him, and paying the upkeep is not all that difficult to do.
Orcish Librarian (Ice Age Rare)
Back when I first started getting competitive about Magic, I did a lot of reading on Usenet about the Sligh decks of old, and some of them ran Orcish Librarian (including the original deck as played by Paul Sligh). While I loved the janky Orcish Artillery, I was never quite sold on the book-eating Orc. Today, though, we’ve come through the age of Arc-Slogger, and realized that it can be worth throwing away chunks of your library for a strong effect. Think of this fellow as neo-Sensei’s Divining Top that can actually shuffle your deck; after removing four random cards, take the best one or two of the remaining four, and then activate the Librarian again. While I’ve heard a few people talk about using this card in combo, keep in mind that Sligh used the Librarian to keep the beatdown flowing.
Orgg (Fallen Empires, Fifth Edition Rare)
This guy was the original – and arguably the best – of Red’s “coward” cards. If you pack enough removal spells – say, splashing Black so the size of your opponent’s creatures don’t matter – then Orgg’s drawbacks really don’t come into play. Orgg also plays nicely with cards like Darkblast, Last Gasp and Sudden Death to make large opposing creatures much less scary to his Scaredy Orggness.
Ovinomancer (Visions Uncommon)
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Ovinomancer, and tried to make him good in a deck with cards like Exploration and Horn of Greed. While we do have cards like Summer Bloom and Vinelasher Kudzu nowadays, I’m not sure Ovinomancer can make the grade this time either, though if you can get him to stick combining him with Vesuvan Shapeshifter (to get around the comes-into-play drawback) is interesting.
Pandemonium (Exodus Rare)
My combo-loving friends are looking for the second coming of Pande-Naught or Pande-Burst, but they haven’t found anything remotely resembling that. Yet. Living End certainly has some possibilities if you can time it right.
Pendelhaven (Legends Uncommon)
If you liked Okina, Temple of the Grandfathers, you’re gonna love Pendelhaven, which functions much like Okina – a source of Green mana that can occasionally pump one of your creatures. In a lot of ways it’ll be better; if you’re attacking with a few 1/1s and your opponent has a 2/2 he can’t really block you, and then once you get the damage through, you can use Pendelhaven for mana to cast something.
Pirate Ship (Alpha – Fifth Edition Rare) & Prodigal Sorcerer (Alpha – Seventh Edition Common)
What’s kinda funky is that, combined with Fledgling Mawcor and Gelectrode, Blue (splash Red) decks have pingers at two, three, four, and five mana. All of them are quite fragile at their mana cost, but if weenie decks have got you down one or more of these fellows might fit the bill, especially without Jitte around to make your utility weenies sad.
Psionic Blast (Alpha – Unlimited Uncommon)
Oh, c’mon! This is ridiculous…
Sacred Mesa (Mirage Rare)
With enough mana lying around, this card can be insane. In the set reviews I’ve read so far, this card has been somewhat dismissed, but I can remember hordes of flying 1/1s pumping out of this card during my end step. You can stack things too so that you tap the Pegasus you’re going to sacrifice along with another one to Forecast Sky Hussar and draw a card, or just pump out three or four 1/1 fliers, let the Mesa go and then drop a Celestial Crusader for some big beats.
Safe Haven (The Dark, Chronicles Rare)
There is one big difference between when this card came out and now – now you can stack damage before dropping your creature into the Safe Haven. Does that make Safe Haven playable now? Probably not, but it is significantly better than it used to be. Keep an extra eye out for decks where your creatures have nice comes into play abilities you might want to reuse.
Scragnoth (Tempest Uncommon)
I used to hate counterspells with a passion (and I’m still not overly fond of them), and when Scragnoth was printed it was like mana from heaven. It’s not unreasonable now either, especially since some decks are moving away from splashing Red and instead splashing Blue for Psionic Blast as creature removal. Time Spiral also brings out some really good Blue bounce spells, and Scragnoth stands strong against that too. Don’t overlook this old sideboard classic.
Sengir Autocrat (Homelands Uncommon, Fifth – Sixth Edition Rare)
Back in the day, you might have played the Autocrat at the top of your Black beatdown/Bad Moon deck mana curve, since 0/1 Serf tokens don’t exactly lay the beats. And how lucky—Bad Moon is back! Still, I think Autocrat will more likely play as Nantuko Husk food for players wandering lost in the wilderness after the loss of their Promise of Bunrei.