For Article #100, I decided to write about my 100 favorite Magic cards. It’s self-indulgent – so sue me. I include some multiplayer goodies, some fond reminiscences and – in a couple cases – some near trash for which I have an unreasonable attachment. In those cases, I’ll tell you why they are worth getting. I’ve also included a price guide, based on what StarCityGames.com is/was selling them for, as follows:
$ ranges from $0.25 to over $2.
$$ from $3.00 to $8.00
$$$ ten bucks or a bit more.
$$$$ big bucks and up.
I did not list some staples, like Wrath of God, Congregate, and Oblivion Stone, since everyone knows what they do, and why they can be good in multiplayer or duels. I’m leaving space for cards I’d rather write about, and which might be more interesting to read about. Don’t believe that – try this experiment – write a paragraph about Shrapnel Blast that says something new and interesting, and does not involve obscene uses of the physical card.
I made the list, then randomized it, so the order means nothing. This section the lists starts with:
Graveyard Recursion is an important part of a lot of my Green and Green/ Black decks, and Genesis is a big part of that. It is a standard Living Wish target and a staple of my multiplayer Survival and Rock builds. It also made my most recent Extended Rock decklist, but it is a borderline card. My only regret is that Wizards didn’t make the cost to recur creatures just one mana cheaper, since that would have made the card great.
Dromar’s Charm $
I am a sucker for nearly anything with Charm in the name (although the Onslaught charms have nearly cured me of that.) Charms provide versatility and are rarely dead cards. That’s exactly what I want in multiplayer cards. Dromar’s Charm gives you the option of gaining life (ho hum), killing an annoying creature (better) or countering a spell (great!) In one game, Dromar’s Charms fizzled a Rancor by killing a River Boa, countered a Living Death and countered an Armageddon. That’s pretty useful.
Living Death $$$
I debated including Living Death. I play with it a lot, but I’m not sure I really like it. Living Death is always a huge swing in a multiplayer game. It often results in a concession, especially when it has been properly set up (Buried Alive, Survival, other stuff removed via Withered Wretch and so forth.) On the other hand, I own at least eight, and they are all in decks I play a lot. I am fighting to put a Living Death into my current Extended Rock build – and it is automatically in any multiplayer version. It is that good.
Plaguebearer (I keep wanting to spell him”plaque bearer” – bringer of bad dental health? presenter of cheesy awards? whatever.) anyway, Plaguebearer is a cheap 1/1 with a great ability. For XXB, where X is the converted mana cost, he can destroy non-Black creatures. For B, he toasts Ornithopters (wait, the examples get better.) For 4B he kills Arcbound Ravagers. He doesn’t tap, so if you have a lot of mana, he slaughters a lot of cheap creatures. He shines in a matchup against U/G, since he kills Wurm tokens for B. Combined with Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, he kills any land for GB. Again, he is a standard multiplayer Living Wish target in G/B decks and has occasionally found a home in other competitive decks, including the T1 decks making T8 in big T1 tourneys this month.
Originally, I was going to list Orcish Settlers in this spot, but changed at the last minute. The Settlers are a great addition to decks like multicolor Survival, running Gaea’s Cradle, since you can often ‘Geddon an opponent, and they deal with problems like Maze of Ith and Starlit Sanctuary. However, I like Plaguebearers better.
Seeds of Innocence $
Since Mirrodin block, a lot of multiplayer and casual decks are being built around artifacts. As a result, I have dusted off some of those old artifact hosers. Some, like Titania’s Song, are okay answers to Skullclamp, and others, like Energy Flux and Corrosion, are just plain mean. However, one of my favorites is Seeds of Innocence. Seeds of Innocence is almost a Swords to Plowshares for all artifacts – they are gone. It kills opposing Platinum Angels, even if I cannot target the Angel, So what if your opponent gains a lot of life – he just lost a lot of permanents. It will just take a little longer to kill him. I’m playing around with this in a multiplayer Tooth and Nail deck -if I have a Colossus in play, it gives me eleven life without harming the Colossus. Not bad for 1GG.
Night Soil $
Another cheap, old school card that most people would have to look up. Who says Fallen Empires doesn’t have good cards? (Well, nearly everyone, with justification.) Night Soil was an early answer to Survival and Reanimator decks. It was somewhat limited in that it could not remove a single card, but it did fit nicely in Enchantress, and in multiplayer there are often graveyards inhabited by multiple creatures cards. If you are a Green mage looking for an alternative to Phyrexian Furnace and Scrabbling Claws, try Night Soil. It may look bad, but it does create token creatures at instant speed.
Death Match $
This is one of those”fun” multiplayer cards Wizards keeps foisting on us. However, this is a bit more playable than Vernal Equinox, Goblin Game, or that Green thing that holds mana between turns (hey – I can’t remember the name. Is that proof of repressed memory syndrome?) [Perhaps you are just getting old, Pete? Anyway, I believe Upwelling is what you are looking for. – Knut] Death Match gives a target creature -4/-4 whenever a creature enters play. That effect can be abused when paired with creatures that cannot be targeted, or with token generators that allow you to create creatures at will. A set or two back, I built a deck around Death Match, Squirrel’s Nest, and Gigapede. Nice, but not worldshaking – which is a pretty fair description of the card, as well. You can build a good casual or multiplayer deck around it, but you will not win the Vintage World Championships with it.
Devout Witness / Capashen Unicorn $
I place a very great reliance on utility in cards and hate having dead cards. I value cards that are, basically, a good effect on a creature that can beat or block. For a while, I was unnaturally found of my Asian Capashen Unicorns – which were sort of the prototypical Viridian Zealots. The Unicorns, however, were significantly worse than the Masque block common Devout Witness. Devout Witness is a 2/2 Spellshaper for 2W. Spellshapers let you replicate a spell by paying a cost and discarding a card. The Devout Witness replicated Disenchant, and – unlike the Unicorn or Zealot – did not need to be sacrificed. The Devout Witness hangs around, ready to block tiny creatures or kill problems. Those decks playing enchantments and artifact will hate it, but may not be able to remove it easily. The burn and beatdown decks will generally leave it alone, at least initially, because they fear the enchantments and artifacts it kills. All in all, a very solid multiplayer card.
City of Brass $$
If I had to list the cards (other than basic lands) that have been in more decklists than any other, City of Brass would be on the list. It is the classic mana fixer. It is more durable than Gemstone Mine, Glimmervoid, or Thran Quarry, faster than Mirrodin’s Core, and more colorful than the painlands. Sure, there have been games where the City killed me (including the horrible game where a Bird of Paradise and Opposition did fourteen damage by tapping my City, while neither my opponent nor I could draw anything at all.) However, for every game where City damage has hurt me, I can think of a dozen where the City mana has allowed a turn one Birds, or Duress, or Force Spike, or whatever. This is another card that I own in large numbers, and use in large numbers. Like most multicolored lands, they are worth the investment.
Radiant’s Dragoons $
The purpose of Radiant’s Dragoons is to stall the battlefield and gain some life while you set up whatever it is that your deck will do. Teroh’s Faithful, Staunch Defenders, and even Venerable Monk can do the same, but Radiant’s Dragoons have always been a favorite – five toughness for four mana (albeit paid twice) is nothing to sneeze at.
Combo decks always involve two things – the combo parts, and the stuff to help you find the combo parts. Tutors fill part of that need, but simple, instant speed card drawing that lets you dig through your deck is also necessary. Impulse is one of the best methods of digging around – and it is really cheap. Buy some. I have found that, among cards that cost a buck or less, Impulse is probably the best method, at least in Blue, of digging for a casual deck. Obviously Ancestral Recall, or Intuition for Accumulated Knowledge, can be better, but if you want cheap and simple, nothing digs deeper than Impulse.
Prophetic Bolt $
Ah, the joys of random lists. I just Gushed over Impulse (pun intended, sorry), and Prophetic Bolt is Impulse with some damage attached. Since it hits creatures or players, you can always find a target. For casual play, where effectiveness of the effect often counts more that cost effectiveness, this is a fine card. It is a little slow for tournament play, but it was solid in its day (that day being Invasion block, I’m afraid. Search for the Star Spangled Slaughter decklists.)
Dregs of Sorrow $
In tournaments, I discovered to my disgust, this has always been too expensive, too slow, and too often a dead card. In multiplayer matches, however, you often get more mana and more time. That means this card really can kill multiple creatures and draw multiple cards. It isn’t Living Death – few cards are – but if you want a card that can have a large effect, and want to pay just a buck for it, Dregs could be the card.
Soltari Visionary $
Another utility card, Soltari Visionary is a shadow creature that kills enchantments. It is also a 2/2 creature, which means that it can be Skullclamped and beat for three. Since Shadow is an old mechanic, not much played, shadow creatures are very close to unblockable. For a couple bucks, you can get a full set of shadow dudes. Add some Equipment, like Sword of Fire and Ice or even Loxodon Warhammer, and you have an extremely annoying deck. It will get better with the new Fifth Dawn Equipment tutor.
Grave Pact $$$
Since it has been reprinted in 8th Edition, Grave Pact has risen in price. However, for the effect that it has, it is still worth it. The best use of Grave Pact is probably a deck with Bottle Gnomes, Grave Pact, and Corpse Dance, but many other uses are also possible. Grave Pact even won some slots to US Nationals, when combined with creatures that sacrifice themselves, like Clerics.
If Grave Pact can be good enough for Type Two Regionals, imagine what it does to a whole table in a multiplayer game.
Aura of Silence $
Aura has two effects – sacrifice to Disenchant something, and making all opponents’ enchantments and artifacts cost more. When Weatherlight was legal, Aura of Silence had a home in many, many tournament decks. As good as that was in duels, it is even better in multiplayer. I have dropped this early in an emperor game, when my opponents were playing various affinity decks, and used it to shut down opposing Enchantress decks. It is so good.
Soltari Guerilla $
Soltari Guerillas is another shadow creature, but one that doubles as creature removal. Like the Soltari Visionary, it gets a lot better with Equipment, like Swords and Warhammers, but even a Bonesplitter on the Guerillas is enough to kill Visara (if Visara doesn’t kill them first.) The casting cost of Red and White is a little difficult, but the evasion and removal abilities make up for it. Given its small butt, it is somewhat vulnerable, but that vulnerability can be overcome with common White cards, like Mother of Runes or even Shelter.
Silklash Spider $
One of Green’s”themes” has always been a lack of fliers, but lots of cards that can kill fliers. The problem has been that these cards were nearly all bad. Wing Snare, for example, was a dead card unless your opponent had fliers (and bad if they did.) Even in Limited, cards like this were reactive and defensive. Yes, they were effective, but you would almost always prefer a card that did something. Even earlier cards that had some value, like Spitting Spider, were not that good at controlling the air.
Silklash Spider changed that. For the first time (we can argue about Ancient Spider), a spider was good enough to see Constructed play. Moreover, since Hurricane was always a two edged sword, and not reusable, Silklash really did provide dominance of the air for the first time. It isn’t completely amazing, but to see green anti-flying cards that are actually playable and useful in constructed was a nice change.
Fire / Ice $
Although I said I wasn’t going to list all the good cards, and even though I have already expressed my liking for split cards, Fire and Ice gets it’s own slot. A cantrip that can stop a Darksteel Colossus from attacking is a good card. Instant burn that can spread out to kill a Goblin Welder and a Royal Assassin at the same time is a good card. Putting them both on one card makes it great. This is an automatic inclusion in any Red/Blue deck, and maybe any deck running Isochron Scepter.
Hey, I like a card that isn’t a crap rare, like Dregs of Sorrow. Who’da thought?
Monk Realist $
Hey, it’s another Disenchant on a stick. Monk Realists have long been staples in my toolbox decks, at least those that support White. Cloudchaser Eagle is in the same boat, but has enough evasion and power to, potentially, beat for the win. For years, the standard creature tool for Artifacts was Uktabi Orangutan and for Enchantments it was Monk Realist. These both feature in decks like Survival, or Conspiracy, the Saga / Masques alternative. Conspiracy was a fun deck.
Academy Rector $$
Sacrifice this dude, put an enchantment into play. As a means of searching out exactly the right enchantment, she is hard to beat. She has been pretty good in Pattern Rector in recent Extended, and gets better if you can double Skullclamp her.
A side note: I am beginning to make my preparations for Nationals. I couldn’t play in Regionals, so I will have to grind my way in. Knowing my play skillz, I am also prepping for the side events, which include an Extended tourney or two. I figure that it should be enough to take any old existing deck and throw in Skullclamps, right? (Actually, Skullclamp looks good in Rock, not good in Tog. Ravager looks like it could have some issues with Rack and Ruin, Powder Keg, and Pernicious Deed. I am running hot and cold on Pattern Rector with Clamps – the deck was really tight on space already, I don’t know where they could fit.)
I also have a truly stupid extended combo deck that runs off Carnival of Souls and Skullclamp. It needs more testing – it goldfishes fine, but I need to fit some disruption into the mix. More later, if I can get it to work.
Eater of the Dead $$
Someone errata’d Eater of the Dead when I wasn’t looking. In the past, Eater could empty enemy graveyards at instant speed. Now it’s”remove a creature card from a graveyard, untap Eater” ability only works when it is tapped. That’s okay, it still works with Viridian Longbow. In the deep, dark past, I used Fire Whip to make Eater a pinger, then used it like Goblin Sharpshooter. If you add Venomous Fangs, from Saga, then it kills anything that isn’t pro-Black, and untaps to boot. The artwork on Eater of the Dead is cool, too.
Wall of Roots $
Wall of Roots is a cheap wall, a better mana source than Vine Trellis, and insane with Survival or Mind’s Eye. It is a real shame that it will never be reprinted (Wizards doesn’t like -0/-1 counters anymore.) I have played Wall of Roots in nearly every multiplayer Green deck I have ever built, and it has been solid in all of them. It was even a standard constituent of the original Aluren decks, where it was used to generate infinite mana. I think I own more than twenty copies, and all are in decks at the moment.
Living Wish $$
I really like all the Wishes (well, some more than others). I’ve said it before, but casual play with Wishes gives Magic something it was missing – home field advantage. Playing Living Wish in the same room with my extensive card collection is like playing mental magic with wildcards – it is way too fun. I can Living Wish for a host of fun cards – everything from Dodecapod against discard to False Prophet against swarm and Darksteel Colossus, to True Believer or Sustainer of the Realm. The Wishes provide a reason to play casual play with sideboards – sideboards of wish targets.
Gargantuan Gorilla $
It is a 7/7 fattie for seven mana that can swat Akroma out the sky without dying. It’s reusable, Green creature control – what’s not to like? Years ago I settled on this as a Green method of killing annoying creatures like Peacekeeper. It is even better with Snow-covered Forests, which are also cheap.
Scroll Rack $$
Impulse may be one of the cheapest instant card drawers, but Scroll Rack may be the best around Scroll Rack is pretty good with a handful of cards, but it is broken with shuffle effects. Scroll Rack is amazing with Land Tax – an effect I first exploited years ago for a Dojo article, and pull out every so often. Scroll Rack also works in Turboland, and has featured in a lot of my combo decks over the years. It isn’t flashy – it just does what it does, and does it very well.
Simian Grunts $
I like the idea of instant speed creatures, and fat-butted creatures for very little mana. I have taken a lot of players by surprise with the Grunts – the best was an opponent with three lands and a Phyrexian Negator who attacked into a sudden near Armageddon. I also count the Grunts as a successful bluff. One week I wrote about playing them in my G/B Survival deck – the next week I had people playing around them at a PTQ – even though I had left them out of the deck. It was strong evidence of two things: 1) people read my writing, and 2) those people are idiots. Actually, the Grunts are quite useful in multiplayer, if you want to deter people from attacking without having creatures out to die to Wrath of God – just nail the first incautious attackers with the Grunts, and watch opponents attack elsewhere whenever you have three mana up.
Karn, Silver Golem $$
Karn was one of the first Saga rares I ever got, and was a key part of the first deck I ever played in a tournament. It had lots of mana acceleration, like Mana Vault and Grim Monolith, plus Urza’s Armor and Purging Scythe. Karn would animate those artifacts to beat for the win. The deck also ran some Red for Pyromancy. It even splashed Black for Dregs of Sorrow. I did win two matches, but the deck wasn’t good.
I think round two really summed it up. I was playing Bob Maher, Jr. (yes, that Bob Maher) and he cast Lobotomy game two. He started flipping through my deck to pull the cards, and after examining it, uttered the following memorable phrase:
“Oh, so that’s what your deck is supposed to do.”
No, I didn’t even come close to beating Maher that match. Or that year, as I recall.
Dancing Scimitar $
I tend to play defensively and build my position slowly while I set up some bizarre combos or tricky interactions. That is probably why I have always liked Dancing Scimitar. It used to block most anything that could reasonably be expected (although, nowadays, it is not amazing versus Darksteel Colossus.) I had hoped to see it come back, but, if the spoilers are true, it is apparently coming back as animatable Equipment. That’s kinda cool, but animation costs are a pain in multiplayer.
I like bounce. I like cantrips. I like not dying. That’s why I like Repulse. It doesn’t hurt that I have a half dozen foreign copies. Repulse is a great method of surviving to find some solid combo or control element. No one gets as mad when you bounce things as when you kill them, and Repulse deals with practically everything (including most of what a Tooth and Nail deck produces.)
Seedborn Muse (bottom end of $$)
Seedborn Muse is a great multiplayer card. It is a personal Awakening – a chance for your stuff to untap every turn. It is generally good in any deck, but it is broken with anything that taps to have a beneficial effect. My”Answer” deck had Isochron Scepters, Planar Portal, and Viashino Heretics, and other similar permanents that become ridiculous when they can be used on every single turn. Even the classic J-Tome are amazing when used every turn. As for a more extreme example – I built a deck around the Muse that abused Mobilization and similar effects.
If you play multiplayer, get a couple Seedborn Muses. They are not very expensive, but are really worth having.
Emerald Charm $
I will admit I have probably put too many charms on the list, but I really love versatility. I have played Emerald Charm since my first extended PTQs, a two day event in Iowa, in which I used all three options of Emerald Charm. I killed a Pandemonium. I made a flier – I can’t remember what, but I like to think it was a Morphling – lose flying and run head-first into an Endless Wurm. I also untapped Gaea’s Cradle several times, to produce a lot more mana and do broken things. In multiplayer, all three of these effects are useful – which is reason enough to get a card that costs $0.50 at StarCity, and G in a game.
Years and years ago, I wrote an article for the Dojo on all the abusive things you can do with Lifeline. On the strength of that article, Dojo offered to pay me for future articles as a featured writer. When the Dojo went bust (not, I hope, because they paid me) I was offered a new home at StarCityGames.com. Given that, how can I not have a soft spot for Lifeline?
On the flip side, Lifeline is totally broken in multiplayer. So many of the things that you can do with Lifeline are so unfair and unfun that I would recommend banning it in most casual groups. I have only played Lifeline decks in multiplayer twice – once preparing for that first article, and once testing for the Millstones and Lifelines recap article (which was actually my 100th published Magic article.)
Although it is a little expensive, I like the idea of having a reusable, searchable Swords to Plowshares-effect for Survival decks, or those running Living Wish. It is not the most broken card ever, but it is quite playable.
I expect everyone knows Duplicant – it is in the current set and in Tier 1.1 Tooth and Nail decks, so you have probably played with, and against, Duplicant. You don’t need me babbling at length about it.
As in part two, I’ll cut this off at about four thousand words. That makes it long enough, and it also means I should be done next time. After that, I will get back to writing something more interesting.
Any comments – positive or negative – are more than welcome. Hit the forums, or send me an email.