Did you know that if you include my daily articles as well as my weekly ones, I have published more than 500 articles for StarCityGames? That’s crazy to think about! A full decade ago, July, 2004, I introduced the idea of an Underused Hall of Fame, and roughly once a year, I add in cards to that Hall that are drastically underused.
Every Magic player has a passion in their card-slinging life. Mine is the great unwashed masses of cards that you are not playing. Based on how much this game has grown in the last five years, most of you started playing recently and simply may not know about some of these great cards. Others may have forgotten them. With so many cards seeing print annually, many powerful tools slip under the radar. This series is a chance to pull them out again.
At first, I inducted a huge number of cards per iteration – eventually I just dialed it back to ten cards per article. That’s a good number. The full Underused Hall of Fame is at the bottom of today’s article!
Last year I wrote one that happened to have a theme. It included ten cards from Zendikar Block that were underplayed. So I checked to see if Scars Block had enough cards for an article. I found 11 cards I felt were great examples of underused cards. So I added one to my list for a future, non-themed article, and then we’ll induct another set of ten cards to the Hall, quite appropriate for a Tenth anniversary!
Just imagine the staggering number of cards out there. Thousands upon thousands of cards have seen print. It’s difficult to know them all, and to play them all is downright insane. So here is a ten-spot of cards that you can explore for your next kitchen table Magic night!
When Skinrender was revealed, I remember a lot of speculation about it being the new Flametongue Kavu – a powerful, four-mana uncommon creature that could kill enough stuff to be a Standard powerhouse. It never panned out. I think that left it an afterthought in a lot of deckbuilding. After all, black already has guys from Nekrataal to Shriekmaw that hit opposing creatures on arrival. Of course, they won’t always kill guys that can regenerate, swing and miss on indestructible folks, and usually come up blank on other black creatures. The Skinrender fills that void by killing Konda, Shriekmaw, and so forth. It puts -1/-1 counters on the target, so even if someone drops a Giant Growth effect, it’ll die. It’s a solid threat, like Flametongue Kavu, at the kitchen table. Which is where I play anyway!
Because he brings nine power of creatures to the table for just five mana, the Precursor Golem saw some modest play in Standard. He has some disadvantages (you can Swords to Plowshares the whole team) and some advantages (Berserk for the win baby!). The Precursor trinity is interesting, because you can chump block, swing past defenses, and really make some interesting builds. For example, you can play it, sacrifice the tokens, and bounce the daddy back to your hand and reload. Or you get three cards for Affinity or instant metalcraft. You can use it with other golems or the Splicers (Blade Splicer et al.) to have a fun deck. And even if you don’t play these prolific, synergistic combos, you still get nine power for five mana. It still works.
Imagine that Magic 2015 had the following blue rare : 5UU, Sorcery, Destroy Target Permanent. It’s a reprint of Desert Twister in blue, for an extra mana. That would be a great card for blue! It would give blue an answer to creatures, lands, artifacts, planeswalkers or enchantments. All in a color that is used to countering/stealing/tapping/bouncing said cards; blue can do everything but actually just remove the card! Well, guess what – that card exists! Spine of Ish Sah is often seen in artifact-focused decks that can cheat it out via cards like Tinker, Goblin Welder and such, but it has a lot of value elsewhere too. A blue deck can run it as backup removal, a black deck can use it to take out artifacts or enchantments, a red deck can use it to hit bigger non-burnable creatures and enchantments, and so forth. Shoot, even green, which actually has Desert Twister, can accelerate to it and then sacrifice this and play it again and again via Gaea’s Cradle/Rofellos/Priest of Titania tricks that use a sacrifice engine to reload. Everyone can use this awesome card!
Ever since Ice Age, we’ve had Lhurgoyf-style creatures with their power and toughness based on creature cards in everyone’s graveyard. The more opponents you play against, the bigger these creatures can become. Bonehoard brings two such uses to the table. First, it’s a Lhurgoyf all by itself, so for four colorless mana, you can have an X/X equal to the contents of all ‘yards combined. And then you can also equip it onto another creature to give them a big size. Perhaps your Germ/Goyf died, or maybe there’s a powerful creature with lifelink, flying, shadow or some other variant of unblockability. This enables you to slip though a defense for a massive amount of damage.
I keep expecting to see a bunch of Darksteel Sentinel cards running around. They aren’t. This card is amazing, and along with Exsanguiante, was the best multiplayer card in the set. Exsanguinate is just one color, and despite the naturally-lowered demand that brings is still worth eight times what a Darksteel Sentinel is worth. Look, you want to not die, right? You want to play a creature that can be played out of nowhere to block an anticipated attack? You want to be able to swing with your blocker and still keep it available to do its defensive thang, right? You want your blocker to survive removal both mass and targeted, right? Folks, welcome Darksteel Sentinel to your hearts!
Do you love Duplicant? Sure, we all do! Did you know that blue has a creature which is essentially a Duplicant? Nope? Well, here is your new best friend! Blue gets a creature that exiles another creature on arrival, and then pumps up the Ingester by an amount equal to the numbers on the card. All of this just costs you a single blue mana more than Duplicant. Now sure, it can’t be abused by artifact tricks from Tinker to Muzzio, Visionary Architect. But it’s still an exiling body that will have a good size to it – 7/7, 8/8, 10/10 – quite easily. So grab some of these and start exiling those targets!
Mass removal happens. When it does, you can lose a lot of your stuff. Doesn’t that make you sad? Well, prepare to turn that good ol’ frown right upside down baby! Because now, you can sprout out a 3/3 token for each of your creatures that bit it this turn. This can help to keep an army post-destruction. Note that it still counts the death of any of your token creatures. That means if someone kills your Grizzly Fate horde of 2/2 Bear tokens, you can reload your battlefield presence. Fresh Meat will serve!
How often do you see enemy planeswalkers when you play? If your casual table is anything like mine, you run into quite a few of them. From Jace Beleren to Jace, the Living Guildpact, we have seen quite a few ‘walkers printed, and many are constant presences at kitchen tables worldwide. In steps Hex Parasite. This one drop is a solid 1/1 beater, and you can spend some mana to pull counters off ‘walkers, typically killing them while doing a nice pile of damage as well. This gives you a cheap, reusable tool to take out planeswalkers while also pumping up the Parasite to trade with a nasty creature or somesuch. That’s a strong ability. Of course, Hex Parasite does more than hose ‘walkers. It yanks counters off loads of things, from Spike Weaver to Marchesa, the Black Rose; Darksteel Reactor to your own Dark Depths. Sound like a deal?
I like sweeping removal, because people tend to overextend in multiplayer without realizing it. They have just dropped down a few critters to join other armies and match strength with their foes. Soon, ten or fifteen creatures are running around, and you get massive card advantage play sweeping the board clean and starting over. It’s also a powerful route to victory, since this Wrath variant not only sweeps the dorks off, it leaves you a huge friend with which to bring the beats. The added value of the decent-sized token creature is enough to push the board even further in your direction. I’ve seen plenty of games won by that token. Win some of your own!
Hoard-Smelter Dragon is a classic example of an underplayed card. It was printed recently enough for you to pick them up at low prices. Your six mana investment gives you a perfectly serviceable 5/5 flyer. Now, in addition, every four mana you churn into it can blow up an artifact – multiple times a turn. Now, that alone is worth the price of admission, but then it also pumps as a result of its artifact-smashery. So you can blow stuff up in a pseudo-firebreathing capacity to hit for more damage. Despite all of this, you aren’t playing this much. Why not?
There is another blast of cards for the Underused Hall of Fame; I hope that a few of these spoke to you! There are just too many amazing cards that have fallen beneath the collective weight of Magic-dom. Grab a shovel and dig them up!
P.S. – Here is the full Underused Hall of Fame. A few caveats are required.
Firstly, this Hall was created before Commander became a major part of the casual community. Commander has since enabled a lot of the cards on this list. So, as an example, a long time ago, Desertion was an underused counterspell. Now it sees common play! But I can’t pull it off, that’s against the concept of the card. The same is true of cards like Decimate.
Secondly, some of the cards were added and then rules changes reduced their value. The banner example of this is Blood Frenzy. For years you could use this to put damage on the stack of any attacking creature and then destroy it without taking extra damage, making it very potent. Now it’s less so. Similarly, consider Frenetic Efreet or Rainbow Efreet which could put damage on the stack and then phase out. (Or attempt to do so with Frenetic Efreet) so they could deal damage in combat, and then dodge taking some. Frenetic Efreet or Blood Frenzy aren’t getting pulled off the list, even though they have lost some of their value.
Finally, there are some cards that have gotten another day in the sun. Consider Ill-Gotten Gains, recently reprinted in Conspiracy. It entered the Underused Hall of Fame a long time ago, but now a new generation of fans have been given a chance to play with it! Coastal Piracy was great, and now a slightly better Bident of Thassa gives players the chance to see why!
Despite those caveats, get ready to enjoy some classic cards! You have utility creatures like Avenging Druid and Loaming Shaman. Combo engines like Holistic Wisdom, Infernal and Wild Research. Unusual burn like Illuminate, Lightning Surge, and Fanning the Flames. Want to exile creatures? How about Exile and Order // Chaos? We have Plague Sliver to hose Slivers, Aura Thief to steal enchantments and take a look at how nasty Homura, Human Ascendant is when you have a deck with sacrifice engines! Think black can’t blow up artifacts? Gate to Phyrexia! Just look at Dark Suspicions! Stonewood Invocation is good at boosting and protecting your guy (with split second, so it can’t be countered or responded to!) There’s a ton of goodness here you can delve into for your next Commander deck or kitchen table night. Enjoy!
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
Sphinx of Magosi
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
Spine of Ish Sah
Spite // Malice
Wrexial, the Risen Deep