Hello and welcome to the latest edition of The Underused Hall of Fame. Did you know that there are hundreds of good cards that you aren’t playing with? In fact, there are so many good cards out there, we’ve all forgotten them. We’re often hit with Shiny New Syndrome. We look at the latest and greatest cards that are printed like clockwork, and then the old cards of value are shunted aside. Away into the darkness you cards go!
Well, no more! Since day one I’ve used this column to grab a flashlight and stumble into the darkness. I want to find these cards and illumine them for a day. A famous French philosopher once said that, “The bad thing about new books is that they keep us from reading old ones.” It’s the same thing in Magic. The bad thing about new cards is that they keep us from playing old ones. Let’s light up ten cards from the past that have been neglected by the casual community.
These ten cards will be added to my Underused Hall of Fame, which includes a ton of cards inducted over the years. We have cards on today’s list going back to Stronghold and stretching forward to Alara Reborn. That’s a long era of Magic to harness, and we’re ready to rock. Allons-y!
10. Fracturing Gust (Rare, Shadowmoor)
For a while, The Fracturing Gust was played everywhere and people really acknowledged it as a new card of great power. No less a wordsmith than The Ferrett claimed that it was a Congregate/mass removal gem. This was the new hotness… Then we sort of forgot about it. The Gust fell by the wayside, and I’m not sure why. I take a look at all of these casual decklists that are playing the right color(s) and not including this, and I wonder. Sure, it’s not an automatic inclusion in every deck. If you have a deck that relies on enchantment and artifacts then you want to look somewhere else for a killer. But not playing it at all is a missed opportunity.
Does anyone seriously think that you shouldn’t be running Wrath of God if you have creatures in your deck? Then why is Fracturing Gust seeing little play in decks that have a moderate (or even small) number of artifacts and/or enchantments? I especially see this missing in many Commander decks. I’ll play against someone with both colors and they won’t run it, but when I look at their trade stock there’s a pair of Gusts. You have three artifacts in your deck; why aren’t you running it? You can’t be afraid of losing a Sol Ring, so play it! This card doesn’t deserve the lack of play it’s been receiving the last year or so.
9. Ashling, the Extinguisher (Rare, Eventide)
The reason Ashling is only hitting the #9 spot on today’s list is because it’s played some, and I have to acknowledge that. I think it should be played more, especially in any deck that has cards like Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots. There’s a lot to like in Ashling and more to recommend. First of all, her casting cost doesn’t break the bank, but she has a nice sized body to deal with idiots. She is one of many quality 4/4 creatures for four mana that has enough juice to change the game in an instant. The best part about her is that ability.
In addition to abusing it with things like Whispersilk Cloak and Lightning Greaves, it has another impact on the board. If someone doesn’t want to lose a major creature, then they won’t leave themselves open to an attack. That means they often won’t swing at anyone. Why should you tap that Baneslayer Angel to attack for five if it opens you up to losing it after taking an Ashling hit? Therefore, your foe keeps their Angel back in order to keep their creature in play. This sort of table play shows Ashling to be a lot more powerful then you may realize at first. She really is a great card to have out.
8. Pongify (Uncommon, Planar Chaos)
Pongify is basically blue’s only reliable creature kill card. Sure, you can run stuff like Turn to Frog and Psionic Blast and Control Magic, but this just kills something outright. Giving someone a 3/3 dude often keeps them from hating you too much, which is key in any multiplayer game. I was surprised to see the Commander decks from WotC failing to run this staple. Then I looked around and saw that many didn’t see it as a staple like I did. Hmmm. I don’t know how to change that either. I think it has to do with expectations.
When I add black to a casual deck, I make sure to include Doom Blade or Go for the Throat or Rend Flesh or something. When I add white to a deck, here are some Crib Swaps or Path to Exiles. When you add blue to a deck, you are thinking about countermagic and card drawing, not creature kill. So we sort of skip over the great power of Pongify because we aren’t consciously thinking about it. This is especially true in Commander where the starting life total of 40 means the 3/3 dude from Pongify has less meaning. I could understand why a 60 card Draw-Go deck doesn’t want to make a 3/3 dork for their foe, but not in most blue decks. Here’s our wakeup call — PLAY PONGIFY!!!
7. Magus of the Disk (Rare, Time Spiral)
If you were to ask people what the ten best artifacts for multiplayer were, I’d guess a lot would suggest Nevinyrral’s Disk. If that’s the case, why is Magus of the Disk not played more? It has two weaknesses compared to the Disk but a lot of strengths as well.
Why Magus is weaker than the Disk:
1). It’s a white card so it can only be played in white decks. That reduces the decks that can play it significantly.
2). Since it’s a creature it can be killed by creature removal before it untaps. Since you typically play a Disk to remove stuff, anyone who doesn’t want it to pop can just spend a simple two mana on a Terror to take out the Magus.
Those are both very important points, but now let’s look at the other side.
Why Magus is stronger than the Disk:
1). It blocks, so it can contribute to your defense while sitting around.
2). In a pinch you can give it equipment or swing if needed.
3). There are a lot more cards that involve bringing back a creature than an artifact, so if you want to abuse it this one is easier to do it with. Plus there are tricks with cards like Clones or Dance of Many or Lightning Greaves and Aphetto Alchemist or…
Now I’m not suggesting that Magus of the Disk is a better card than the original; that’d be silly. What I am suggesting is that because we mentally assume it’s a worse card, we just sort of move on. How many decks would be better by playing both Magus of the Disk and the original? I’ve played with this card a lot over the years, and I can tell you that I’ve gotten it to sweep a lot of boards. Try it out again.
6. Fanning the Flames (Uncommon, Stronghold)
Multiplayer games tend to go on for longer than duels. While there are some duels that may last a half hour and some multiplayer games that are over in ten minutes, the general trend is that multiplayer games go on for more turns and more time. That means you often have more mana at the close of the game than a normal deck expects to have in a duel. Considering that, the inclusion of X burn spells makes a lot of sense. There’s no reason not to include something like Death Grasp or Rolling Thunder. With the large amount of mana smoothing and ramping, decks nearing turn eight or ten could have twelve or fifteen mana running around the board. That makes Fanning the Flames a much better choice for your X spell than many others.
If you pay three mana when you play it, you don’t lose the spell and can replay it over and over. If you have out fifteen mana, Fanning the Flames with buyback does ten damage and brings it back, and a simple Demonfire will deal fourteen damage once and that’s it. Which would you rather have? Looking at how useful buyback is in general, as well as on an X spell in particular, I think many of you might want to give it another look. Maybe the newest card you’ll add to your deck will have been printed more than thirteen years ago.
5. Wargate (Rare, Alara Reborn)
Are you ready for the top half of our countdown? I guess we’ll see with this entry! It’s harder to judge if cards in the Mythic era are as underplayed as they are in previous sets. Take #7 Magus of the Disk as an example. It’s worth a buck mint and the foil is $4 or $5. That’s not a lot of play. After the printing of Mythics, we have a smaller number of rares per set and more packs being opened, which gluts the market with most rares. Are cards like Wargate truly underplayed or just undervalued? Wargate is made worse because it can only fit in decks with at least three colors, so it’s not like every deck can run it. I look for it in Bant decks in articles online and rarely see it, and I rarely run into it when playing. That leads me to believe that it’s just not finding much play, and that’s sad because it suits a lot of decks.
For example, I found a place for a copy in every eligible deckâ€”it’s in my Five-Color Planeswalker Commander deck, my Commander Equenaut, a foil one slipped into Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy, etc. This card is awesome! The ability to Tutor anything from your deck to the battlefield is worth the mana. You can grab a combo piece, a creature, a piece of removal (such as Seal of Cleansing), the right land, or a powerful planeswalker. Everything from Maze of Ith to Akroma the First to Mind’s Eye to Mirari’s Wake can be gathered. This card rules if you can play sorceries as though they had flashâ€”say hello to your new best friends like Leyline of Anticipation or Vedalken Orrery. Wargate is worth its casting cost in gold for your decks.
4. Nantuko Vigilante (Common, Legions)
We need more morph creatures. Morph was a great mechanic, and I was happy to see it in Time Spiral block so we could have more bodies. People had gotten used to the morph creatures that were played. Forget the flip werewolves or anything, in my mind morph was the weirdest and riskiest mechanic we’ve had. The problem with morph is that you need a certain number of morph creatures in your deck to make them secret and worthwhile. If the only morph creature in your deck is Exalted Angel or Akroma the Second then I can figure out what that morph is, and it loses some of its value.
As people take out a card here and there from their decks, they find themselves pulling the occasional morph creature. Then one day they look and realize that they no longer have a critical mass of morphers running around, so they pull out the rest and replace them. That’s what has happened with great morph guys Bane of the Living, Root Elemental, Willbender, and Hystrodon. Nantuko Vigilante was always one of the single best morph creatures out there because its Naturalize morph trigger was very powerful. With morph not seeing a lot of play, it’s sidelined. It’s got all of the value to see play, but there aren’t enough morphers running around to justify its inclusion to many. That’s why I want more morph creatures. If we see another ten creatures or so with good value printed, it will be a sunny day for cards like the Vigilante again. But until then, maybe it’s time for another wave of morphing in your deck.
3. Loxodon Hierarch (Rare, Ravnica)
There are several paths a card can take to being underplayed. One is like Wargate; it was never heavily played anywhere, which is sad. Another is like Fanning the Flames, which has just too much age on it to remain on people’s mind. Another common path is the Hierarch’s. These are cards that were once played in casual tables and in tournaments, then they drifted away from the light and don’t get around much anymore. For example, there was a time for about six months where you could buy Vindicate for $2.50. I remember picking up four from StarCityGames.com for my deck stock because no one was playing them at all. While Vindicate had a second wind, the Hierarch has not been so lucky.
It’s another powerful 4/4 costing four mana that brings a lot of power to the table. Unlike Ashling’s one powerful ability, the Hierarch brings two lesser abilities to the table. Firstly, a bump of four life is nothing to sneer at. In casual formats that don’t use forty life as a starting point, an extra twenty percent of your life is quite valuable. Then you have his ability to save your whole team by regenerating them. Sure, he sacrifices himself for the glory of the cause, but you can keep your guys out through mass removal that allows regenerationâ€”such as Day of Judgment or Destructive Force. He also doesn’t require a tap to use his ability, just mana, so you can use it after attacking. This is a great card from the days of old, and perhaps you should give it another looksee.
2. Colfenor’s Urn (Rare, Lorwyn)
Let me ask you a simple question. Go look through your favorite multiplayer deck. What percentage of creatures have a toughness of four or more? 50%? 75%? More? It’s likely to be a large chunk of your guys. From Wall of Omens through Butcher of Malakir, our creatures have at least four toughness most of the time. That’s not always the case, and good cards like Kitchen Finks, Gaddock Teeg, Flametongue Kavu, and more have smaller toughness. But it’s usually the lion’s share of creatures. Considering that, why aren’t you playing with the Urn?
Take a look at a random Commander deck I’m grabbing from my deck box. It’s…an Oros, the Avenger deck. Okay, here are the creatures the Urn works withâ€”Akroma Sr., Akroma Jr., Deepfire Elemental, World Queller, Avatar of Woe, Avatar of Fury, Pristine Angel, Exalted Angel, Angel of Despair, Bogardan Hellkite, Dread (I’m not sure what the rules would be on whether or not you could place it on an Urn), Yosei, Commander Eesha, Magmatic Force, Visara the Dreadful, Kaervek the Merciless, Guiltfeeder, Hoarding Dragon, and Mortivore. That’s nineteen creatures out of 28 that can be placed on an Urn when they die, for a rate of 64% of my creatures having a high enough toughness in just one deck.
Take another look at the Urn. Whenever a creature with the right toughness dies, you can exile it with the Urn if you want (you’re not forced to in case you have graveyard tricks or something you want to use). At the end of any turn if there are three or more creatures removed by the Urn, then the Urn is sacrificed and they all come back to play. That is massively powerful. Feel free to play that Damnation now, because all of your big creatures will come back at the end of the turn for no extra mana. You can lose creatures over time to removal or trades, and then bring them all back at once. You’ll acquire another round of triggers for guys like Angel of Despair, Indrik Stomphowler, or Woodfall Primus. This is a nasty artifact, and it shocks me that it doesn’t see more play.
1. Mass Calcify (Rare, Shadowmoor)
I like to make the top card in each article an entrant that just absolutely demonstrates the concept of an underplayed card perfectly. In today’s article, I feel that either the Urn or this could be in this spot. I went with the card that I’ve underused as well. I don’t know why this great mass removal spell passes many by, but it does. There are essentially three types of mass creature removal cards
2). The second are ones that cost a bit more mana and add something to the mass removal. You can add to mass removal a Buried Alive for your foe (Life’s Finale), add an instant to that Wrath (Rout), or even make two Spirits (Kirtar’s Wrath). These give you some more options.
3). The final slot is for expensive mass removal spells that are designed to allow you to build around them and then not to kill your creatures. Examples include Winds of Rath (which keeps enchanted dorks alive so you just play auras), Hour of Reckoning (which keeps alive token creatures), Retribution of the Meek (which destroys creatures with a power of four of more so just play smaller creatures), and so forth. Â
The third category is the most powerful because you still have creatures post-Wrath when most or all of the opposing ones bite it. Of all of the potent spells in this category, none is easier to build around than Mass Calcify. Just toss it into any deck where a majority of the creatures are white, and you are good to go. The one issue is that it will keep roughly 20% of creatures in play when it goes off (my guess is that the number of white creatures that are gold and the number of colorless artifact creatures cancel each other out so we stand at approximately 20%). That’s a bad thing, right? Well, since you know you will keep your whole army, it is that bad if the occasional creature will survive the Wrath? Even if one player keeps half their team around after, is that a bad price to pay to keep your entire team floating? I don’t think so.
In fact, I didn’t play with it much for that very reason. Then I got a copy in my Quest for a certain Magic program’s Quest Mode (called Forge, and you can find it here).I built a deck around it and just broke games in half. Then I added it to another deck for multiplayer, and off it went. Soon I was rolling in games that I won on the back of Mass Calcify. I had learned my lesson. This card is very good in many decks and environments. It’s virtually a seven-mana Plague Wind in many situations, and when it’s not, it’s still really close. This is the card you are missing from your white decks.
And that brings us to the close another entry. I hope that you found a few cards here worth giving another look. After all, that’s the reason I write these! In the Appendix you will find every single card in the Underused Hall of Fame, as well as a list of all of the previous entries if you want to read a few earlier versions. Enjoy!
Here are the previous entries in The Underused Hall of Fame:
Entry Vâ€”This is an April Fool’s Day article that makes fun of many of the things I usually do in my columns. It includes some big jokes and some subtle, such as cutting and pasting a card from a previous article into this one (Arboria) and some truthful comments on many cards to mix things up. I like writing an April’s Fool article that has just enough believability in it to make people question it. It includes highlights like Sol Ring, Mind Twist, and Dark Ritual. Enjoy!
Entry Iâ€”The original entry tossed cards like Tortured Existence, Alexi, Zephyr-Mage, Desertion, Krosan Tusker, Earthquake, Desolation Angel, and Vhati il-Dal into the Hall. Because it was the first class, it included many of the most underused cards of all time for the era. Now cards like Desertion are making hay in Commander, but at the time these guys just weren’t getting that much play at all.
This list includes every card inducted into the Underused Hall of Fame. It includes the cards from today’s article.
Ashling, the Extinguisher
Bane of the Living
Do or Die
Gate to Phyrexia
Predatory Nightstalker / Wei Assassins
Sins of the Past
Alexi, Zephyr Mage
Drift of Phantasms
Homarid Spawning Bed
Kaho, Minamo Historian
Magus of the Jar
Meishin, the Mind Cage
All Suns’ Dawn
Arashi, the Sky Asunder
Carpet of Flowers
Cream of the Crop
Fanning the Flames
Homura, Human Ascendant
Kumano, Master Yamabushi
Scourge of Kher Ridges
Starke of Rath
Tahngarth, Talruum Hero
Guardian of the Guildpact
Hand of Justice
Magus of the Disk
Masako the Humorless
Patron of the Kitsune
Pursuit of Knowledge
Retribution of the Meek
Spirit of the Hearth
Swell of Courage
Asmira, Holy Avenger
Crime / Punishment
Fight to the Death
Kaervek the Merciless
Order / Chaos
Phyrexian War Beast
Rings of Brighthearth
Spite / Malice