The Kitchen Table #198 — No Rares Allowed: 200 of the Best Casual Cards (#150 – #101)

Read Abe Sargent every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
Good Thursday to you! Welcome back to the series that will take 200 non-rares and put them up for your perusal. Included here are some of the best hidden gems I know. Today we are counting down 150-101, but remember, these cards are not ordered… not until we get to the Top 50. Ordering a Top 200 would be a bit much, don’t you think?)

The Kitchen Table #198 — No Rares Allowed: 200 of the Best Casual Cards (#150 – #101)

Blurb: Good Thursday to you! Welcome back to the series that will take 200 non-rares and put them up for your perusal. Included here are some of the best hidden gems I know. Today we are counting down 150-101, but remember, these cards are not ordered… not until we get to the Top 50. Ordering a Top 200 would be a bit much, don’t you think?)

Good Thursday to you! Welcome back to the series that will take 200 non-rares and put them up for your perusal. Included here are some of the best hidden gems I know. Today we are counting down 150-101, but remember, these cards are not ordered… not until we get to the Top 50. Ordering a Top 200 would be a bit much, don’t you think?)

Before we begin, let’s do another entry of…

Abe in London, part V

On the day that you are reading this, I will have just one day left as an ACD for EMU. That’s pretty crazy. Since I got my Masters, I have had only one job, this one, for six-plus years. In a few days, that changes.

I know that we are the generation that is supposed to be used to changing careers, but I like many things about my job. Over the years, the things I don’t like seem to grow, and it is past time for me to depart, but I still love my job. Now I’m leaving on Friday.

In fact, I will be flying out to London on Wednesday, arriving on Thursday, in just one week’s time from you reading this. That’s how close I am.

Here is something about me that you might find weird: I often get cold feet about commitments. I will agree to go to a prerelease and I’m amazingly happy, but then the night before rolls around, and suddenly, I’m not sure I want to go. It’s not a major commitment, it won’t take much of my life away from me… but I still get cold feet, and that will often keep me from going. It’s weird, I know.

I have done so much to get here. Investigated a lot of universities, applied for class with Middlesex, send in a fee, got my FAFSA all filled out, applied for loans, applied for student visa, argued with my bank about my missing loan check, looked for a flat for ages, finally got one and filled out more paperwork, got my picture taken, bought a plane ticket, paid two thousand dollars for my classes to guarantee my spot, and spent a lot of time reading suggested documents meant to walk me through this process.

After all of that, now, I start to get cold feet. Am I really leaving? I bought my plane ticket, and it was cheaper to get it round trip than one-way. So I can go back in a week if I am totally overwhelmed. It was cheaper, sure, but do I really want a parachute? Am I fully committing to the London experience, or am I leaving myself an out, just in case?

I don’t want to be the person who goes back home because they have gotten homesick, or it’s a bit too much for them.

Am I really leaving in less than two weeks? (One week from the day you read this.) It doesn’t feel like it. It just feels like I am going to keep at my job for the rest of my life.

Excitement mingles with anxiety in equal measure.

That is where I am at today.

[Abe, you’ll love it. And I’m only a couple of hours away if you wanna sling some cardboard… – Craig.]

Began Actual Article

#150 — Jilt — (Common, Blue, Apocalypse) — I love Invasion block bounce. Four bounce cards from that block are among my favorite of all time, and Jilt is one of them. The beauty of Jilt is that you can use it as a simple Unsummon or you can Shock a creature as well, which kills one creature and bounces another. Unlike most bounce spells, you neatly avoid card disadvantage while still getting tempo. A fine card indeed.

#149 — Forge[/author]“]Thran [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] — (Uncommon, Artifact, Weatherlight) — I love this card for a whole host of reasons. While on the board with two mana open, your opponent treats all of your creatures as having that extra power. It’s great to pump evaders for an extra damage reliably. I love to make my creatures artifacts and then they get some advantage from a card like Forge[/author]“]Darksteel [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] or Leonin Abunas. You can Disenchant opposing creatures by making them artifacts. This and Neurok Transmuter turns into an expensive Ghitu War Cry.

#148 — Treasure Trove — (Uncommon, Blue, Exodus) — For Blue decks, this should be one of their most sought-after cards. Mana should never go unspent in a control deck, and Treasure Trove is a perfect application of extra mana. Every control deck wants to draw cards. It takes less mana than other things like Capsize or Whispers of the Muse.

#147 — Calming Licid – (Uncommon, White, Stronghold) — Licids have always been confusing for many, and Licid tricks are well documented. The Calming Licid can do all of the tricks of a normal Licid, but its ability when it is an enchantment is pretty good, keeping a potential attacker from hitting the red zone. Remember that it can hop to another creature when you have need.

#146 — Raise the Alarm — (Common, White, Mirrodin) — I know that players who are fond of token creatures gravitate to Green. However, every color has some great token producing cards, and White is no exception. Raise the Alarm is a great way to make two creatures, and is better than other choices in Green like Sprout. It is great on an Isochron Specter or with soldier decks. It’s also good on its own as an instant to make a couple of dudes.

#145 — Mistral Charger — (Uncommon, White, Dissension) — I love quick aggressive and splashable creatures like this. I had four in my Five Color aggro deck until I took it apart for the move east. These guys are great beaters, and there is some value here beyond the obvious. A 2/1 flyer for just White can fit into a lot of decks that cards like Leonin Skyhunter cannot join.

#144 — Clock of Omens — (Uncommon, Artifact, Fifth Dawn) — I’m a big fan of combo decks and build them frequently. In my Framework, you can find me pretty much anywhere. I love building all sorts of decks. Clock of Omens is one of those cards that you can use in a variety of situations and decks, but they are often of a combo nature. The Clock is great at reusing some key artifacts, and unlike the Voltaic or Galvanic Keys, it is mana free and reusable.

#143 — Consume Strength — (Common, Gold, Apocalypse) — Card advantage from your removal is always a nice plus. This card can instantly take out any one or two toughness creature it can target. However, when you get into the right combat situation, it regularly takes out two creatures, or saves one of your own while taking out another. In multiplayer, attacks and blocks happen so often, that this card can easily find a use.

#142 — Peace of Mind — (Uncommon, White, Exodus, 9th) — It’s a madness engine, reanimation engine, and general all around solid card in one package. In your Mono-White reanimation deck, this card can put your Akroma in the graveyard for Resurrection or Miraculous Recovery or Breath of Life. It can also put Glory into your graveyard. You’ll find that the life gain is not unreasonable, the mana cost not heavy and the subtle effect on the game much greater.

#141 — Legacy’s Allure — (Uncommon, Blue, Tempest) — It feels like an early version of Veldaken Shackles. It’s mana free, and you get to steal at instant speed — which is something nice. In multiplayer, it is a bigger rattlesnake than Seal of Doom or Fire, but not as much of one as Pernicious Deed. Opponents will attack elsewhere when this is in play with a few counters on it.

#140 — Dead/Gone — (Common, Red, Planar Chaos) — I already love his card. It goes in almost all of my Red decks that are designed for the multiplayer table. Versatility is key, and this is a Shock-lite or an Unsummon-lite. Although each side is a bit weaker than the obvious version, the parts that it can do are the more common uses of their original spells. Shock is used more on creatures than people, and bounce on opposing stuff than your stuff. Opponents don’t expect bounce from the Red deck, even this soon after Planar Chaos, and you can really get some powerful uses from this. A nice Isochron Scepter imprint as well.

#139 — Yavimaya Granger — (Common, Green, Legacy) — I just read in an article by Forsythe on Wizards that Civic Wayfinder had a functionality that hadn’t seen print. This works great with all of the cool ways to abuse 187 creatures on record, from Erratic Portal to Momentary Blink.

#138 — Skull Catapult — (Uncommon, Artifact, Ice Age, 5th. 6th) — There will be not Goblin Bombardment on this list, but there might be some similar cards. I think I like GBB so much because I loved Skull Catapult first. Sure, it taps, and it costs more mana to play and a mana to use, but it deals two damage and can be played in any deck due to its artifact status. I first used it in a Nether Shadow/Ashen Ghoul deck that won Type Two tournaments. From Skull Catapult (and Krovikan Horror) to Goblin Bombardment ain’t much of a jump. This still works great with decks that are happy to sacrifice a small number of creatures.

#137 — Court Hussar — (Uncommon, Blue, Dissension) — The first time I saw this card, I was underwhelmed. It took several passes through the card list before I began to see some power here. After playing with it, allow me to state that this is a really good card. In multiplayer, the average back end can stop the early creatures (average, because thee toughness at three mana is not sterling). It Impulses as well, and that’s really good in the early game. Then the creature has vigilance, so it can nip over for a damage and keep your defense intact.

#136 — Savage Gorilla — (Common, Green, Apocalypse) — I first fell in love with the Gorilla of killing and drawing during Abedraft. It was an engine of death with the right deck. Today, I still find a use for it in the occasional deck, although its mana requirements are not easy on the deckbuilder. (Urborg Elf can help). It is still a 3/3 creature with all of the advantages thereof, while also being able to off medium sized creatures and draw a card. This is one ape I like.

#135 — Stench of Evil — (Uncommon, Black, Ice Age) — I feel like Stench of Evil is the hoser that time forgot. It’s way better than Flashfires as a hoser. Depending on your metagame, this may be a card that you can get away with. It’s certainly a nice Wish target.

#134 — Puppet Strings — (Uncommon, Artifact, Tempest) — This is not the creature untapper I referred to earlier that will be charting later. Although it does untap, and that adds a nice set of versatility, it is also in the tapping of the creatures that it finds most of its value. Icy Manipulator can be used to lock down opposing permanents, but as we all know, tapping a creature is its typical function. This has that function, but can also allow you to untap a blocker or a creature with a tap ability. Put this is a deck that wants to do both, and it will be one of your most potent cards.

#133 — Private Research — (Uncommon, Blue, Destiny) — Private Research is like a one Blue mana Howling Mine for just your self. However, you draw the cards once, and that’s it. Still, for an investment of a single mana, this is a card with some serious power. Slap it down on turn 2 on your one drop and watch the counters rise. Drop it on something that can sacrifice itself, like a Hapless Researcher or Teardrop Kami, so that it can never be Disenchanted without you getting your prize.

#132 — Fog of Gnats — (Common, Black, Legacy) — I had a bit of a renaissance with these guys after I put them in my Mono-Black Control precon in a previous article. After playing with it, I remembered why I always thought so highly of them. As a cheaply available common, you should get your hands on a few of these and mug up the skies, with the ability to occasionally fly over for a nip.

#131 — Sandstone Warrior — (Common, Red, Tempest) — This is another winner from the precons I built. Firebreathing + first strike = own the table. You can mercilessly attack into some of the nastier creatures at the table with ease, and on defense no one wants to attack a creature that will kill their big ground creature of doom.

#130 — Shuriken — (Uncommon, Artifact, Betrayers) — I love this card. Most people forget the Shuriken trick you can do with your creatures in order to keep it, but with that trick in mind, this is a card with a cheap cost that can gatling gun your opponents. (The Shuriken Trick: Your Shuriken is equipped on Creature A. Move it to Creature B. While the move is on the stack, tap Creature A to shoot an opposing creature. Allow move to resolve. Shuriken is now controlled by opponent but on Creature B. Tap Creature B to deal two damage to one of your creatures that will survive two damage. Now you have your Shuriken back. Repeat as you have untapped creatures, mana, and creature with the ability to absorb the damage).

#129 — Azorius Guildmage — (Uncommon, Hybrid, Dissension) — I love this guy for one reason alone. He can tap a lot of creatures, so long as you have the mana. At the multiplayer table, you get the mana heavy but repeatable tapping, the 2/2 for two mana, and an easy mana cost too, and you get the ability to counter activated abilities at your leisure. That’s a pretty saucy deal!

#128 — Abyssal Gatekeeper — (Common, Black, Weatherlight) — In last week’s article, I talked about the value of Innocent Blood. Today I am looking at its friend, the Abyssal Gatekeeper. When this puppy dies, you Innocent Blood everybody. It goes great with something like, say, Skull Catapult above.

#127 — Floodgate — (Uncommon, Blue, Mirage) — I love me some janky Blue removal, and Floodgate is the jankiest. I have used it in a mono-Blue Elder Dragon Highlander deck and some of my decklists here for StarCityGames.com. It’s a card that no one respects until they have seen it in play. Note that its ability triggers when it leaves play. I think Blue might find a way to have a permanent leave play without killing it.

#126 — Goblin Shrine — (Common, Red, The Dark) — Whatever happened to classics like these? Goblin Caves and Shrine are classic cards to pump your goblins. Everybody is running jank these days, like Goblin Warchief. I love the days when Goblin King, Shrine, and Caves were your only three options, and you ran as many copies as you could find. You traded for the crappy Goblin Artisans because they were goblins, man! That was a great day!

#125 — Browbeat — (Uncommon, Red, Judgment, Time Spiral) — I’d like to take a second and thank Wizards for reprinting Browbeat. More players began to play it at our multiplayer table, and do you know what I saw? Everybody let players draw the cards. At Judgment time, no one played it, because it was deemed crappy, but now I have seen the light. It’s three cards for three mana in Red, and no one at my table counters it for five life. If you can get away with that at your table, start playing this now.

#124 — Contagion — (Uncommon, Black, Alliances) — It’s a cool card from the same set and cycle that brought us Force of Will. This card is really good, but often overshadowed by the power of the FoW. It can take out two creatures against weenie decks and turn a Serra Angel into a 0/2 flyer with vigilance. You can play it with no mana, which suits decks like Pox that may not have a lot of mana untapped.

#123 — Aether Storm — (Uncommon, Blue, Homelands) — Aether Storm used to have an automatic home in any deck where the creatures were of an artifact nature, since it only affected summon spells. Today, Aether affects artifacts as well, so the Storm is quite a problem for their engineering. This card now works in either a more defensive deck as part of a taxing structure (see Feroz’s Ban, Soul barrier, Manabarbs, Pendrell Mists, Rhystic Study and other such cards) or in an aggro deck that plays some early critters, swings for some early damage, and then drops this down before your opponent can play some more expensive but nice defending creatures. Then your opponent has to pay four life after getting beatdown or not play that Eesha they drew. A card that fits multiple decks is a good card stock to my mind.

#122 — Sunhome Enforcer — (Uncommon, Gold, Ravnica) — One of the ways I can tell that I like a card is by seeing how often I put this card in my decklists. Judging by that criteria, I must love this card. It is perfectly suited for a Red/White deck. It is bigger than most burn. It survives a lot of sweeping effects like Pyroclasm, Wave of Reckoning and Retribution of the Meek. It’s a serious threat when on the table, but not so much that it screams “Send Your Removal Here,” like some other creatures do. You are hard pressed to find a better R/W creature that suits the color combination as well.

#121 — Bequeathal — (Common, Green, Exodus) — This is sort of like a Private Research except you can draw the two cards right away and you’ll never get more. Again, make sure you have a target like Sakura-Tribe Elder that can sac at any time in order to ensure drawing the two cards. Green card drawing has always been there, you just have to look for it.

#120 — Clutch of the Undercity — (Uncommon, Gold, Ravnica) — I found out that I don’t think that four mana is an exorbitant cost to pay for bounce when you get added effects. The Transmute allows you to retrieve any four casting cost card in your deck, and that is often a lot of cards. Three and four are the best transmute numbers, because the spells are still playable and the transmute targets are getting good.

#119 — Standstill — (Uncommon, Blue, Odyssey) — After writing an entire article on the strategy of Standstill at a multiplayer table, you probably get that I have a high opinion of the card. My favorite element of the card is that it is a two mana enchantment that basically allows you to put all of your lands into play from your hand, because no one breaks it for several turns, so you can develop your manabase. By the time someone breaks it, you have seven lands in play and are ready to roll with the big guns.

#118 — Howling Wolf (Common, Green, Masques) — I love card advantage in Green, and this is another guy. If you play him, you can basically draw three cards, but they are all overcosted 2/2s. There are other cards with the same mechanic (Nesting Wurm, Skyshroud Sentinel), but as the original, I give the nod to Howling Wolf. This is a solid mechanic for your Green magi out there, because there are a lot of ways to use those cards in your hand.

#117 — Genesis Chamber — (Uncommon, Artifact, Darksteel) — This is another engine card that I simply must put in some of my combo decks. I love the Chamber and what it gives you. For a simple investment of two mana, you can begin to reap a harvest of Myr tokens straight away. In a deck that likes to play a lot of creatures, by, say, bouncing them with things like Cloudstone Curio, you have the backbone of a very powerful deck. A card that would not be out of place in Equinaut has to make the cut.

#116 — Spikeshot Goblin — (Common, Red, Mirrodin) — I love how this card is a tease. You want to pump it with a creature enchantment like Errantry and then start smackin’ people around for four damage a tap. However, that is the route to card disadvantage as someone kills the Goblin. I find better uses to include permanents like Goblin Caves, Gaea’s Anthem, Glorious Anthem, or Goblin Burrows. If the Spikeshot dies, you have lost just one card, and your pump effects can be used on other targets.

#115 — Martyrdom — (Common, White, Alliances) — I love this card because it is similar to lot of other cards that can keep you safe from damage, but this one protects from all damage for the turn, burn and attack damage together. The only thing you need is a creature that can take it, like Cho-Manno or Dawn Elemental, or even a regenerator like Revered Dead.

#114 — Rolling Thunder — (Common, Red, Tempest) — At the multiplayer table, you often want your XR spells to have multiple targets. Despite the extra Red in its cost, Rolling Thunder is often a better choice for maximum damage than even Fireball. I use them in decks all of the time, and you can too, because they are pretty cheap to acquire.

#113 — Krosan Grip — (Uncommon, Green, Time Spiral) — This card has all of the advantages of your typical Disenchant or Naturalize, taking out at instant speed either an artifact or an enchantment. For just one more mana, however you can take out things like Pernicious Deed and Nevinyrral’s Disk before they go. All you need is priority.

#112 — Keeper of Kookus — (Common, Red, Visions) — This card has three major uses. It’s great in a deck with Red sweeping effects like Earthquake because it can stay alive. It is also good in any environment that packs a decent amount of Red, since you can block their creatures or survive their burn. Finally, you can play him in a deck with Kookus. All three uses are pretty nifty, and my favorite is the first (which you will notice when another card charts in the Top 50).

#111 — Vine Trellis — (Common, Green, Masques, 8th) — You know that I like cheap walls, especially in Green. Vine Trellis stops the early beats while accelerating your mana development. In many multiplayer decks, this is a flat out better card than Llanowar Elves.

#110 — Frozen Aether — (Uncommon, Blue, Planar Chaos) — Blue is he perfect place for the new Kismet. It is so powerful in adjunct with the horde of Blue stalling methods, and of course the King of The Soft Lock — Stasis. You’ll find that it will just suit your decks so well, and remember that it nobbles every opponent, so at a multiplayer table, a lot of people are going to have tapped stuff. See also: Royal Assassin.

#109 — Naf’s Asp — (Common, Green, Arabian Nights, 4th) — When I played Shandalar years ago, I fell in love with Naf’s Asp, having never before understood its power. As a one drop, it will hurt someone’s mana development as they will often pay the mana instead of taking the extra one damage. If they do not, then they took an extra damage and you deal two with a one-drop. Note that this used to say damage, and not the Oracle loss of life, so the damage would trigger itself and you’d keep taking damage.

Begin Mini-Rant

Wizards of the Coast — if you are serious about restoring cards to their own functionality, based on the number of cards in print that have the wording, then fix Naf’s Asp to deal damage from its ability instead of losing life. The Arabian Night version says lose life, bit the 4th says damage. They have stated that they go by the number of cards in print with the new wording as a reason that they didn’t change Relic Bind, so let’s put Naf’s Asp back to damage instead of loss of life.

While we are on the subject, why did you change Aura of Silence from target opponent in Weatherlight to all opponents in 10th and the promo card? Doesn’t that directly fly in the face of your own claims?

I have a great idea for an article. Have people (or me) pick maybe twenty or twenty-five cards that we want to know what’s going on with their errata-ization, and then have Mark G. explain why they haven’t been fixed.

End Mini-Rant

#108 — Izzet Chronarch — (Common, Gold, Guildpact) — Better than any other Anarchist/Gravedigger/Treasure Hunter variant except for one which will appear in the top 50 later. The ability to essentially get any non-permanent from your graveyard is quite good, since you can get anything from countermagic to burn to tutors to land search to removal and in between. Since it is on a body, it comes with all of those tricks as well, but I’d prefer it to cost one less mana, so it hits lower in the chart than it would have otherwise (remember, that all cards outside the Top 50 are to be viewed as on the same level, and are unranked).

#107 — Catapult Squad — (Uncommon, White, Onslaught) — Of the cool tribal “tap some guys and get an effect” “lords,” this is one of the coolest. It requires a small investment of soldiers being tapped, so it can work in decks that are not soldier heavy, but in those decks, it can be used a lot of times, with obvious scalability. It punishes attacking you, which is good in any multiplayer game while also a useful combat trick when you attack.

#106 — Citadel of Pain — (Uncommon, Red, Prophecy) — This enchantment is a friend to decks that are comfortable tapping their lands on their main phase and an enemy of those who want to leave some untapped. This card hurts lands like Kor Haven and Maze of Ith, while also hosing decks that want countermagic or instants available on other turns. It can totally mess with people’s plans and is an easy card to build around so that you don’t take damage. It’s a classic Red enchantment for your table.

#105 — Geth’s Grimoire — (Uncommon, Artifact, Darksteel) — I’m a fan of drawing cards for no mana. This card allows you to draw card whenever someone discards, which is often at the multiplayer table. Sometimes you’ll go a few turns before drawing cards, and then you’ll draw several all at once. Memory Jar is your friend.

#104 — Submerge — (Uncommon, Blue, Nemesis) — Much like Massacre, or Saprazzan Legate from last week’s article, this is often a free spell. The Forest is the most common basic land type in play, based on my experience with numerous playgroups. At your multiplayer table, you will be facing Green somewhere, and that makes this instant Time Ebb an amazing card. Even if there are no Green players to be found, it’s just one more mana than normal (See Aether Well for example). It’s a great card.

#103 — Disturbed Burial — (Common, Black, Tempest) — There are a few obvious buyback cards with power — Whispers of the Muse, Corpse Dance and Capsize. I love Disturbed Burial as well. In the later game, you can use five mana to keep recurring a precious resource, and you get to choose which creature you get. In the early game, if you are under some pressure, feel free to play it like a two mana Raise Dead in order to get a good creature back. Either way, you get a solid card that has use in different stages of the game.

#102 — Talon of Pain — (Uncommon, Artifact, Darksteel) — This is basically a rechargeable X spell that stays in play. This card is golden in a deck with pingers, typically either Red or Blue (or both, hello Gelectrode and Razorfin Hunter). You can always use your extra mana each turn to activate a Talon for some damage. Note that this can be used a creature control or as player control.

#101 — Aphetto Exterminator — (Uncommon, Black, Legions) — I love morph creatures because unless they are one of the big ones (Red Akroma, Willbender, Hystrodon, Exalted Angel or Bane of the Living — one for each color), no one can ever guess what they are. This is a removal card while also having that bluff ability that all morphs have. People will fear you when you attack with it, not knowing what it was. This one is bigger than a Skinthinner, and with a cheaper morph cost as well, so I think it’s way better.

And there you have another 50. Whew! Make sure to stay tuned next week, as we countdown another 50 non-rare cards that you should have in your deck stock and play in your decks!

Until later,

Abe Sargent