The Kitchen Table #353 – Retiring the Most Underused Cards of All Time: Entry VII

Tuesday, September 7th – Our Casual Magic historian introduces you to ten fantastic cards you may have forgotten!

Good, day folks! Welcome to the column that is dedicated to the other side of the Magic coin. This series sees me retire the great casual cards that have been lost to time. They have fallen into the cracks of Magic — so just call me your Card Archeologist. I’ll bring them out, dust them off, and give you another round with them.

There are a bazillion Magic Cards out there, and that’s plenty of space for a few to fly under the radar. The great unwashed mass of cards in Magic are simply ho-hum, mediocre cards. They are discarded by Magic players everywhere and collectively placed in this virtual no-man’s land between Good, Great and Amazingville on one side, and the Land of Bad, Sucky, and Awful on the other.

This is where average, adequate, merely sufficient cards go to rest the rest of their days. Rootwater Alligator? Average. Living Airship? Average. Mire Kavu? Average. Buoyancy? Average. Longhorn Firebeast? Average.

Yet beneath the Middle of the Road lurks the discarded chaff of many a player. What happens when the cast-offs of Magic aren’t as bad as that? What happens when a mistake is made? That’s when I step in.

When I see a card that is criminally underplayed in Casual Magic, I can’t help but be motivated to give it some new life — so welcome to this series! Here, I talk about those underplayed cards I’ve rediscovered… Then bring them out and retire them.

Sometimes I’ll retire a card, and then it explodes on the tournament scene. For example, Scapeshift was doing nothing for a long while, and I retired it, as one of the best cards no one was using. Then Zendikar came out, with all these cool new lands — led by Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Suddenly, Scapeshift went from zero to hero.

Of course, Scapeshift will still retain its status on the list. It was underplayed when it made it on the list.

Today, I intend to retire another ten. I will talk about them and their awesomeness at length. At the end of the article this week, there will be a double Appendix: One with the Deck Necro of the Week from Ye Olde Tyme, and the other will be the entire list of every card in the Underused Hall of Fame.

Let’s count these down from 10 to 1.

10. Enshrined Memories
Rare — Betrayers of Kamigawa
When I point out this card to deckbuilders, most of them really thank me. They either didn’t know about it, or they forgot about it — neither of which are good.

This card exists, and it has has power. Green has little card drawing outside of Harmonize. Now, I understand this has restrictions — it only draws creatures, and it shows what they are, etc. Even in a deck with twenty-four creatures, that’s only a 40% chance of each card being a creature. Of course, you can play it with cards that set the top few cards of your library, like Scroll Rack. You can also just play it for the moment. Once, at a multiplayer game, I cast Memories for twelve cards and flipped over eleven creatures in Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy. This card creates an event. It’s fun, and it’s powerful. Consider it.

9. Acquire
Rare, Fifth Dawn
There was a time, shortly after its release, when Acquire terrorized the multiplayer world. In 5-Color, its status was immediately in question since the banhammer had already been laid upon its brother-in-arms: Bribery.

While Bribery’s best friend is often Akroma the Greater, Acquire’s best friend is often Darksteel Colossus. Even when playing against Darksteel-less decks, it still has a lot of value, because almost every deck has artifacts in it of some sort. I’ve built tons of decks without enchantments… but without artifacts? That’s a little different.

At the multiplayer table, there is always a good juicy target for a great Acquire, but even if all you get a Sol Ring, it’s not a bad play at all — you saw their deck, you shuffled it to prevent any shenanigans, and now you are up a card from it. Plus, with the upcoming Scars of Mirrodin set, who knows how many more artifacts are going to see print? I think it’s time for you to acquire a few Acquires.

8. Manriki-Gusari
Uncommon, Saviors of Kamigawa
Of all the cards on this list, this may be the one you find the most surprising — good! There are a lot of things that have value here.

First of all, as far as equipment goes, it’s got a cheap cost to play and equip, and its impact isn’t so good that it demands immediate destruction. It makes your 5/5 flying dragon win when battling their flying dragon. It turns Commander Eesha into a 3/6 flyer of death and blockingness. It turns Indomitable Ancients into a creature that can survive a Darksteel Colossus attack. This weapon makes your dudes better, without being offensive. The +2 to defense is quite good in multiplayer.

More importantly, we have reached a point where we have a critical mass of equipment, and I expect that to continue in Scars. There are enough pieces out there that you can add whatever strikes your fancy to your decks. From granting creatures abilities to power pumping to having weird effects and combo pieces, the result is a good number of equipment that you can expect to see on a regular basis. Some are just downright awesome, like the Sword of Kaldra, Sword of Light and Shadow, the Sword of Fire and Ice, Lightning Greaves, Whispersilk Cloak, Loxodon Warhammer, Skullclamp, Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang, Umezawa’s Jitte, Basilisk Collar, Behemoth Sledge, Deathrender, Diviner’s Wand, and even the #1 card on this very list.

Besides those, you can easily expect to see many others — which means you need an answer to cards like Lightning Greaves and such. In a mono-Black deck, this is your answer to a Sword of Light and Shadow, among other things. That’s where this card shines. Every time you play multiplayer, you will see equipment get played — and when it does, you can rely on this little guy to get you out of the mess. In addition to flying under the radar with its pump, you can use and reuse it to destroy opposing equipment.

Depending on how many creatures you have, you can do it several times. Play it, equip to creature A, and then tap that creature to destroy an equipment. Then equip to creature B, tap it, etc. Repeat as needed.

7. Knowledge Exploitation
Rare, Morningtide
Sometimes people get confused and it’s my job to disconfuse them. (All made-up words are my own!) For example, Patron of the Kitsune is a great card, but because of its fox offering ability, it’s hard sometimes for people to see it. Just play it in any deck, even one without foxes, and it rocks.

This card has the same issue. Ignore its Prowl ability! Just focus on what it does! Tap seven mana, and Bribery/Acquire your opponent for a sorcery or instant, and cast it for free. What could you get? Well, since you are playing Blue, the ability to play an off-color spell like Damnation or Wrath of God (even for seven mana), seems really amazing.

There is always someone with mass removal in their deck. You could also use it for any number of commonly played cards in multiplayer, like Insurrection, Blatant Thievery, Time Stretch, and more. Dragonstorm is awesome if you are packing a few dragons in your deck. This card is very flexible. You can use it to steal stuff, draw cards, kill something, kill many things, tutor, etc.

I like it with Restock (recur this and something else). You will find tons of great things to play off of this.

6. Sins of the Past
Rare, Ravnica
It seems like every time I do one of these lists, there are randomly two or three cards that do similar things. In this case, both Knowledge Exploitation and Acquire search an opponent’s library for something to cast, and both Knowledge Exploitation and Sins of the Past allow you to cast something for free.

But whereas Knowledge Exploitation relies on what your opponent or opponents are playing, this card relies on what you are playing — specifically, what have you already played? Well, play it again for free. Everything from mass card draw (such as, say, Tidings) to some of the cards mentioned above is in order.

In your deck, you could have already played Damnation or Living Death, prepared for a Dragonstorm, or whatever. If it’s in your graveyard, you likely already used it, and your deck is built around it, so why not get another go? Six mana to play a sorcery/instant from your graveyard isn’t that much. Remember that you don’t have to pay the cost of the graveyarded sorcery. You can use it to play stuff that you would normally wait for, or even suspend spells. This is just a great card all around.

5. Feudkiller’s Verdict
Rare, Morningtide
We are now in the top half, so the power level keeps increasing. Who likes gaining life at the multiplayer table? I do! It’s great fun to play one card and increase your life total by 50% of its starting amount. Solid! Then, if your life total is better than at least one of your foes, you get a 5/5 giant creature for free.

Six mana gives you a 5/5 creature and 10 life. Seems like a pretty good deal to me. Can I tell you a secret? I have cast this spell at least forty times in multiplayer, and every single time I’ve gotten a giant from it. If you didn’t get a giant, then you must have really needed the life gain, which makes that aspect of the card a lot better.

4. Dark Suspicions
Rare, Planeshift
Sometimes cards on my list were once the bee’s knees in multiplayer, but then diminished quickly. I wonder where they went?

A good example is Bane of the Living, which went from mega-awesome to “Who plays that?” in the span of about a year. Sometimes these cards were once great on the tournament scene, but casual players never picked up on them. An example is Frenetic Efreet, which is a great example of a creature that can dodge removal for no mana, and yet got no real casual play ever. I’d play it in an Obliterate deck, wouldn’t you?

Then there are these cards that never had their time in the sun, despite rocking. Remember how I introduced Enshrined Memories as a card that many either forgot about, or never knew? Well, this is that card times ten. I can’t tell you how many people simply do not know about this awesome card from Planeshift. It affects every opponent, it ties in perfectly with cards like Grafted Skullcap and Ensnaring Bridge, and it is a powerful force on the table. Dark Suspicions is simply one of the most powerful Black enchantments that can screw an entire table, and it’s right there with cards like Megrim and Underworld Dreams. This is an awesome card, and I would like to introduce it to a new generation of Magic players.

I’ve decided to use an old Dark Suspicions deck from long ago as today’s deck from the old days in the appendix, so check it out.

3. Wild Pair
Rare, Planar Chaos
There was a short time when tournament players were all over this card. I don’t know why you aren’t, casual players! Get on the stick!

This is an awesome creature tutor for combo, Johnny, Abe, and anyone in between. Control loves it; they get a free creature, and that equals massive card advantage. It’s on the expensive side for aggro, but a mid-range aggro deck may find it quite valuable. A Green deck can get this out on turn 4 without even trying, and turn 4 is not too much of a stretch (for example, first-turn Llanowar Elves or Fyndhorn Elves, second-turn Priest of Titania and having three Forests in play on turn 3 will give it to you). You are turning a Wall of Blossoms into a free card and a Fauna Shaman. Even a Wellwisher can get you a second one. Getting more than one of an important creature out can help protect against spot removal like a Dark Banishing. Well, they may have killed one — but the other?

This makes Dual Nature look like the stupidest card ever. Play it, and love it.

2. Grizzly Fate
Uncommon, Judgment
How many times do you see modern decks using great token makers… and they forget the best token-making spell of all time? How many times have you seen a deck with Green looking for a way to keep on the pressure in the mid- to late-game?

This spell is reliably four bears in front, and four more on the backswing. Adding eight 2/2 tokens to your battlefield can really change things. I’ll regularly draw it, drop four, and then flash it back on the next turn for four more. Now I’m in control of the board.

Opponents will die after a Grizzly Fate. I’ve seen more death to Grizzly Fate tokens than to burn spells. This is a very powerful sorcery, and I think you should take another look at Grizzly Fate. Its time has not yet come.

1. Sunforger
Rare, Ravnica
There are several reasons why this is one of the best cards in multiplayer. There are several reasons why you should be looking at it for your decks.

First of all, the combination of White and Red instants means that you can get (and play!) a lot of stuff. You can get Holy Day. You can get Lightning Bolt. You can get Disenchant. You can get Path to Exile. You can get Tithe. You can get Steam Blast. You can also get a split card like Fire / Ice, then play the Blue half. You can get gold cards like Terminate, Suffocating Blast, Absorb, Reviving Vapors, Heroes’ Reunion, Fight to the Death, and more. The list is virtually endless.

Me? I like to grab Firestorm and sweep a board. You can find a ton of uses. But let’s not forget that Sunforger turns the equipped creature into a house. Virtually every creature in the game wants +4/+0 added to it. Shadow creatures, flying creatures, intimidate creatures, Yuan Shao’s Infantry, Beloved Chaplain, Amrou Kithkin… I’m sure you can find some powerful choices.

Allow me to recommend Soltari Guerillas for you. Ouch.

And that brings us to the close of another article. I hope that you really enjoyed this week’s edition of the Underused Cards Hall of Fame. We’ll catch you next time!

Until later,
Abe Sargent

Appendix A: Today’s blast from the past was published May 15, 2005. It was published as part of an article on obscure cards and the decks I made from them. If interested, you can find the article here: http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/article/9669.html I hope that you will find today’s deck interesting!

When people actually read Dark Suspicions, I find that their eyes light up. Their expressions range from, “Wow, I didn’t even know this card exists” to “I hope Abe doesn’t play this card in a deck.” Let’s build that deck right now.

Now, it’s important to note that Dark Suspicions requires you to have a low number of cards in hand while your opponents are rolling in cards. There’s a great way to ensure that this happens. This will be my last deck, so let’s see if we can’t create a nice surprise by adding Blue to the deck.

Gustha’s Scepter is interesting tech for this deck; it’s a quick and useful way of emptying your hand as quickly as possible so that the Dark Suspicions kick in. If you play a Scepter on the first turn, then use it every turn to remove your hand of cards, you can play Dark Suspicions on the fourth turn and have just one card in hand. People will start taking serious damage immediately.

The Megrims and Underworld Dreams are present to tell people that you are playing a different deck. Obviously, your deck works on Dark Suspicions, but players are likely used to seeing Megrim decks. Those enchantments will protect the real ones, because people will often go after Megrim and Underworld Dreams over Dark Suspicions.

If you play Wheel and Deal, players will take twice the number of cards discarded in damage from Megrim, seven damage from Underworld Dreams, and up to seven damage a turn from Dark Suspicions. That’s a pretty powerful group of cards.

You want players to play slowly, and Pendrell Mists helps to keep them off your back while you set up. Giving all creatures an upkeep should hopefully lock up several mana as your opponents continue to play.

You have a quartet of Rend Flesh and a Maze of Ith to help keep creatures off your back. In the meantime, you can set up, and make sure that you have both the needed countermagic as well as few to no cards in hand.

Remember that you can tap Gustha’s Scepter as an instant, returning a card Sceptered to your hand. Feel free to tap the Scepter to bring back countermagic, and then use it. Likewise, you can Scepter back a blue card to use with Force of Will’s alternate casting cost.

If you want this deck to run more smoothly, take out Pendrell Mists and a pair of Rend Flesh for three each of Fact or Fiction and The Abyss. It’s a more expensive option, but your deck will run much better.

Other Deck Ideas:
You could use Red or Green for damage. Green offers Stormseeker, while Red provides Sudden Impact. You can up the Scepter count and run Wheel of Fortune, just putting cards drawn under the Scepters and playing them until you have few cards n hand. Green can give you Regrowth effects that could prove very useful as well. Both colors have something to offer

Appendix B:
This is the full list of cards in the Underused Cards Hall of Fame:

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
Sins of the Past
Sudden Spoiling
Tainted Pact
Tombstone Stairwell
Tortured Existence
Vile Requiem

Aeon Chronicler
Alexi, Zephyr Mage
Aura Thief
Chromeshell Crab
Coastal Piracy
Draining Whelk
Dream Fighter
Ertai’s Familiar
Homarid Spawning Bed
Icy Prison
Kaho, Minamo Historian
Knowledge Exploitation
Man o’ War
Magus of the Jar
Meishin, the Mind Cage
Mischievous Quanar
Pendrell Mists
Possessed Aven
Reality Ripple
Riptide Mangler
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
Forgotten Ancient
Greater Good
Grizzly Fate
Hibernation’s End
Holistic Wisdom
Kavu Titan
Krosan Tusker
Masked Admirers
Molder Slug
Nature’s Resurgence
Night Soil
Primordial Sage
Scarwood Bandits
Silklash Spider
Spike Feeder
Stonewood Invocation
Veteran Explorer
Viridian Zealot
Wild Pair

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

Commander Eesha
Feudkiller’s Verdict
Hand of Justice
Holy Light
Lashknife Barrier
Lieutenant Kirtar
Masako the Humorless
Nomad Mythmaker
Null Chamber
Patron of the Kitsune
Prismatic Strands
Pursuit of Knowledge
Retribution of the Meek
Soul Sculptor
Spectral Lynx
Sunscape Battlemage
Vengeful Dreams
Witch Hunter

Aether Mutation
Asmira, Holy Avenger
Aura Shards
Captain Sisay
Elemental Augury
Frenetic Efreet
Journeyer’s Kite
Kaervek the Merciless
Mindless Automaton
Mirror Golem
Mystic Compass
Nova Pentacle
Phyrexian War Beast
Rasputin Dreamweaver
Rings of Brighthearth
Skyship Weatherlight
Snake Basket
Spite / Malice
Tawnos’ Coffin
Vhati il-Dal
Wilderness Elemental
Yavimaya Hollow