For Article #100, I decided to write about my 100 favorite magic cards. It’s self-indulgent, and this is the third and final part. I include some multiplayer goodies, some found reminiscences and – in a couple cases – some near trash for which I have an unreasonable attachment. In the later 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 didn’t 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 Arcbound Ravager 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. [See, after that Ravager comment, I read that sentence as”I made the list, then sodomized it. The power of suggestion is surprisingly strong. – Knut, random] In this section, the list starts with:
Stampeding Wildebeest $
This is a great example of a creature with a disadvantage that can be turned into an advantage. Wildebeests requires you to return a Green card to your hand during upkeep. That can allow you to get full use out of a lot of good green creatures. For example – you can draw cards by returning Wall of Blossoms or other cantrip creatures, gain life with Spike Feeder, after eating one token. You can generate mana from Wall of Roots, kill artifacts with Woodripper or get counters from Hunting Moa. Deranged Hermit generates a lot of squirrels when he enters play every turn. You get the idea. (The fact the Wildebeests are also an undercosted fattie with trample doesn’t hurt, either.)
Fleetfoot Panther $
I mentioned that I love instant speed creatures, and this is even better. I have fizzled a lot of targeted removal by bouncing the targeted creature with Fleetfoot Panthers, which is really good when you are fizzling a card drawer like Repulse or Prophetic Bolt. (Okay, okay – not”fizzled,” countered on resolution because the target is gone/invalid. Now can I have my Judge card back?) Fleetfoot Panther has also replaced a lot of elves, just before blockers would be declared, and surprised some creatures that were suddenly not quite big enough. It has also pulled some chump blockers back from the brink of the grave – and the Abyss. It is not broken, but it is a nice card overall.
Benalish Herald $
Another card that is perfect for my play style. It sits around, ready to block, then draws a card in the end phase before my turn. Admittedly, this is nothing amazing, but it has always been a favorite. Even when I should be playing something better, I find myself adding one or two of these to a deck.
Venomous Fangs $
Thankfully, once this came out, Wizards learned the lesson. Most cards now say”whenever this deals combat damage.” However, Venomous Fangs still says”whenever enchanted creature deals damage to a creature, destroy that creature.” Put Venomous Fangs on a Prodigal Sorcerer, it kills any creature that isn’t pro-Blue or indestructible. It is even worse on a Goblin Sharpshooter – that clears the board. My all-time favorite combo was Eater of the Dead, Fire Whip, and Venomous Fangs – scarcely consistent, but hugely effective if I ever got it going. Goblin Sharpshooter and Venomous Fangs is even better – but the Eater combo was killing creatures long before the Sharpshooter was even a glint in R&D’s eye.
Pernicious Deed $$$
I never really got excited about Nev’s Disk, and am only luke-warm about Oblivion Stone, but I love Pernicious Deed. It helps that it is in some of my favorite colors, but it is the selective destruction element that I like. Global resets are very good in multiplayer, and Deed is certainly no exception. It may be difficult to Deed away a Platinum Angel, but it is easy to Deed away the Lightning Greaves, then Oxidize the Angel.
Krovikan Horror $
Krovikan Horror is one of those versatile creatures. If it is in the graveyard under a creature card, it returns to hand. It is a source of direct damage to both creatures and players. It is great in Survival decks as a compliment to Squee. The main reason it makes the list, however, is that it brings back memories of great games. Here’s an example, from an old tourney report I posted to the DoJo.
I dropped the (Phyrexian) Negator turn 3, then wasted his Wasteland and the Bayou he had topdecked on turn 4. We both got Survival down, but I got it first, Survivaled for my Lyrist and killed his. He nailed mine. I beat with the Negator a few times, killing Walls and dropping his life total by 10. Then he finally got enough mana to play the Plaguelord, so we stalled for a couple turns. Then I drew a fourth land, cast Krovikan Horror and attacked with my Negator, leaving one Wall of Roots mana free. He blocked with the Plaguelord, as expected, then sacrificed a Wall of Roots and a mana bird to make my Negator a 3/3, also as expected. I asked if he had other effects, or if damage was on the stack. When he agreed it was, I used Krovikan to throw the Negator at the Plaguelord. This caught him by surprise and he never recovered from this three for one. Hey, one of the advantages of casual play is that you see a lot more strange combinations involving different cards from different sets than most tournament players. I’ve done a lot weirder things with Krovikan Horror and the stack, but I’ll save those for another article.
Wall of Souls $
Early on, in multiplayer games, you want to make a point of being a lesser threat than anyone else so people don’t pick on you. That means you don’t want to play obvious attackers too early. You also want to discourage people from randomly choosing you as an attackee – which means you want to play some form of defense. Walls meet these goals, but if you just play a zero-toughness wall, people may run into it anyway, especially if they have a couple creatures to send. Wall of Souls is the perfect solution. It is non-threatening, costs almost nothing to play, and tells people to”attack elsewhere” better than nearly anything else. Once your playgroup starts playing lots of combo, it isn’t amazing, but against creature decks it is golden.
Avatar of Woe $$$
The original Visara is still great in multiplayer. In many games, the creature count gets high enough to cut the casting cost. The fact that the Avatar is not a Legend is also useful – I have had three out at once. The Avatar is a good, solid control element – which is the type of game I usually play. In Constructed duels, Visara is almost always better, but in multiplayer, Avatar of Woe rules.
Fertile Ground $
I have played Wild Growth in some decks, and Birds of Paradise, and Rampant Growth, but having a multicolored mana source that does not die to Wrath or Bolt can be very useful. I also like the fact that Fertile Ground is a common, meaning that I can give some to new players struggling to get their mana working. I also appreciate the fact that Wizards is playing up the Green ability to get all colors of mana – and Fertile Ground is a part of that.
False Prophet $$
False Prophet is one of those”dead man switch” cards – where if you shoot the nutcase, his grip relaxes and the bomb explodes. That kind of thing. False Prophet preaches”don’t come near me, or – so help – me, I’ll do it! I’ll take us all with me!” If Academy Rector is a wall, False Prophet is a nuclear minefield – except, of course, for the opponent with no creatures and a Lightning Bolt, for whom the Prophet may be an irresistible attraction. The plus side to False Prophet is that it removes creatures from the game, making it an answer to Darksteel Colossus. Note that False Prophet, Altar of Dementia, and Lifeline is an evil combination.
Fattie ‘geddon was a good deck way back in the day. Its strategy – drop a threat, then delay them long enough to kill them – is still valid, as some of the Regionals Ponza and R/G LD decks proved. In multiplayer, Armageddon is annoying, but extremely effective. It is especially good in certain decks – my favorite being a G/W with mana acceleration, Mystic Enforcers and Terravores. A turn 5 Armageddon in a multiplayer game makes for a really big Terravore.
Funeral Charm $
I love Charms. I love the versatility. I love the fact that the card is never dead and often gets me out of some serious scrapes. For one Black mana it kills Royal Assassins, River Boas and Disciples of the Vault, If there is nothing to kill, it can knock a critical card out of a player’s hand or let you Swampwalk for the win. Funeral Charms are great on Isochron Scepters – for one thing, they are one of the few ways to force a player to discard during their beginning phase, after their draw but before their main phase. This even works in T1 – where this sort of thing actually happens in Scepter Tog against decks like Slaver.
Sometimes certain permanents just need to die. Vindicate, and its more expensive cousin, Desert Twister, will do the job. (Okay, protection aside.) Cheap, solid and effective, Vindicate is great in multiplayer and casual – and in 5-color – and good enough for tournament play.
Lumbering Satyr $
Lumbering Satyr was a recurring theme in my first published PTQ T8 report – on another, defunct, website – and the card that won me the big green multiplayer tourney for St. Patrick’s day. It is also a reasonably big creature with a”drawback” that can be exploited. What’s not to like? This is a common answer in Living Wish sideboards – and brutal in decks with Recurring Nightmare and/or Phyrexian Plaguelord. Now you can’t block – and now I can.
I have even gone to the extreme of playing this and Gaea’s Liege, to give opponents Forests, but that is one of those nine-card combos to be avoided.
Survival of the Fittest $$$
I have probably mentioned my various Survival decks a dozen times in this series already – so of course Survival is here. Survival and Squee is amazing card advantage. Survival and Volrath’s Shapeshifter is, I admit, stupid. Nonetheless, I think Survival was a part of the best formats in the last seven years – namely the Extended formats after Legends rotated, but before the dual lands left (and excluding the High Tide / Academy / Free Whalie period). I liked that format. It was complex as heck, but the games were interesting.
Goblin Welder $$
I have always loved creature-based trick decks. Survival was one. Stacker II and T’n’T were as well. (Now Workshop Slaver is, sort of, but I’m not having as much fun with that.) Goblin Welder is the core of all those decks. The ability to weld artifacts in and out of graveyards is really good – possibly too good given some of the artifacts now in existence. However, Welder is a 1/1, and dies to nearly everything that can kill a creature, so it isn’t insane – but it is close enough.
Ah, the joys of random sorting – all the T1 playable cards seem to be in order here at the end. Misdirection is not quite as powerful as it once was – back in the day of four Gush GroATog, for example, when Misdirecting Mana Drains and Ancestral Recall was huge, but it is still very powerful. It is also good in multiplayer and casual, where powerful spells are often cast, and having a”free” counterspell is golden because you often end up tapped out. Misdirection cannot counter some backbreaking spells (Living Death, Armageddon) but it does counter Fork, direct damage and other single target silliness.
Phyrexian Plaguelord $
Once upon a time, Phyrexian Plaguelord could control the most powerful creatures in the format – up to and including Masticore. Back then, Counterspell and its clones kept the really big creatures in control, and combos like Plaguelord and Deranged Hermit swept the board of smaller fry. Magic was a different game back then. Now the Plaguelord isn’t really all that useful – but it is still a solid 4/4 for five with a lot of useful abilities. I still play one copy in my T2 G/B Cemetery deck – although that deck is not good enough for Regionals or the grinders at Nationals. It works fine for casual play, or things like the T2 tourneys at Gencon and Origins.
Voltaic Key $$
This is another uncommon I once had a pile of, but traded them away too early. I loved this card. I did use it to untap Grim Monoliths and Thran Dynamos – but only so I could cast Colossus of Sardia and Phyrexian Colossus. After that, I used the Keys to untap the Colossi.
Having built and played the combo decks that revolve around the fast mana that Voltaic Key can produce with Grim Monolith / Mana Crypt / etc., I understand why it is banned and restricted. Still, I still miss the opportunity to play with big artifacts that didn’t untap – and of using Voltaic Key to get around that problem.
I have very mixed feelings about the non-basic land hosers printed over the years. I hate Back to Basics – I never felt Blue should have that ability. (I also hated Stasis.) Price of Progress left me with mixed feelings, since little Red decks killed me on occasion, but they also helped control Maher Oath decks, and other multicolored problems. Ruination is bad, but kind of fun nowadays, when so many people are playing Affinity in casual and multiplayer games. I have a multiplayer Red deck with Ruinations which catches a lot of people by surprise.
Black Market $
I built a deck around this years ago, and wrote about it then. I love the tension this card produces – having a ton of mana, whether you like it or not, and often needing a mana sink to use it. The card is way too slow for duels, but it is a great multiplayer card – even an Emperor card. It is powerful without being dominant, and even opponents can find the card interesting. When you have no cards in hand, twenty-six counters on Black Markets and no mana sinks in play, your draw becomes high drama. Do you pull a Drain Life, or a Mishra’s Factory to sink the mana, or do you burn, burn, burn? Drama.
It is the original Molder Slug, in some ways. It is also a Beast, and it kills artifacts. With a Ravenous Baloth in play you can put fading on the stack, kill three artifacts, then sack it for life. Unlike Molder Slug, and occasionally Uktabi Orangutan, Woodripper does not kill your stuff. It was, for its time, a very fat body for very little mana. Best of all, it can kill three artifacts immediately. (Note that random ordering puts it just above Viashino Heretic, which is one of maybe three other artifact killers in the same league as Woodripper.)
Viashino Heretic $
For the record, I think those artifact killers are Gorilla Shaman, Viashino Heretic and Keldon Vandals. Gorilla Shaman is Type One’s Mox monkey – with the ability to destroy lots of small artifacts easily, although the Shaman isn’t as good at killing a Platinum Angel. Viashino Heretic is slower and less cost effective at killing a Mox, but it can kill anything cheaply and hurt the owner in the process. It loves Platinum Angels. Keldon Vandals are Uktabis that really beat – although the Echo is less than exciting. The three cards play different roles: respectively, control in Type One, board control in multiplayer and casual, and spot removal and pressure in Type One beatdown (although Oxidize may have replaced the Vandals here.) Note, however, that only the Viashino Heretics are a real answer to Darksteel Colossus – not because they kill the Colossus, but because that direct damage can kill the owner.
The Fetchlands $$
Although I hated to have the dual lands rotate out of Extended, one advantage was that cards that could fetch”Forest” and”Swamp” could be printed, meaning that they can fetch duals in casual play once again. The Onslaught fetchlands are a great innovation, and a nice way to keep multicolored deck feasible. Although I will miss them in Type Two when the November rotation happens, that should drive the price down, and let me get more.
Birds of Paradise $$
Birds of Paradise was one of the first cards I ever owned, and the one that made my I first deck (pile of 100 random cards) better than other piles. After Ingrid and I started playing competitively, Birds of Paradise was the first card we deliberately bought more of, even after we both had complete playsets. Cheap mana acceleration and color fixing is very, very good.
Shadowmage Infiltrator $$
I included Finkel because it is a very strong multiplayer card. It is not highly threatening, but as a 1/3 it can block, when necessary. More importantly, it can almost always draw a card, because someone will not have Black or artifact creatures (okay, except when someone is playing a Darkest Hour/Light of Day deck.) It is a good card for the colors, and is readily available. It’s worth playing, so order some.
Intruder Alarm $
I am not going to spend a lot of space on the card here, because I have written about a half dozen decks built around Intruder Alarm – most recently my Type One tourney report. I’ll just say that it is quite easy to go infinite with Intruder Alarm.
Gaea’s Blessing $$
This card has a very interesting combination of abilities. Although it was probably originally printed as an anti-milling card, the fact that it triggers on your own milling attempts makes it great. I play Blessing in my Whetstone deck, and have played it in Oath of Druids decks, of course, but it also works well as a Regrowth-like effect in random Green decks. I also like the fact that it is a cantrip.
Creeping Mold (sort of) $
This was going to be Creeping Mold’s slot, with an honorable mention to Befoul, because of versatility, etc., However, I just talked about charms and so forth, so I’ll replace it with an anecdote about a card that almost made the list.
I was playing in a Saga / Tempest block T2 tourney. I was playing a mono-Red beatdown deck, but had gotten a slow start. My opponent, Jason, was playing an artifact deck that abused Voltaic Key, fast mana and Temporal Aperture. He had some fattie out, plus control cards like Cursed Scroll and maybe Disrupting Scepter. In any case, I was playing off the top of my library and hand nothing but land out, while he had a massive advantage. He probably could have won immediately, but decided to try to get his entire deck into play first. He had over thirty permanents in play, and about five cards left in his library, when I topdecked this card. Note that it is a good reset in multiplayer, and brutal when your opponent is ahead on the board and has no counters.
The card: Apocalypse. Read it and weep Jason.
Armadillo Cloak $
Sure, Loxodon Warhammer is better in almost every case. Sure, Armadillo Cloak is bad in nearly every Constructed format, and doesn’t even make the cut in W/G Enchantress, but it makes my list because of one deck – my no rares, wow-the-little-kids deck that ran Armadillo Cloak on Squallmongers. I first built it when it was Type Two legal, and still have it together – the only change being that Blastoderms were replaced with Phantom Centaurs (which are also pretty good with an Armadillo Cloak.)
Dual Lands $$$
Ingrid and I are lucky enough to own many dual lands, but I want more. Dual lands will fit into nearly every multiplayer deck I create, with the sole exception being those that are designed to hose non-basics with Back to Basics or Ruination, or all Swamp decks using Cabal Coffers. Duals are just that good. I fully support Wizards no-reprint policy, because I think that breaking it would hurt card dealers, which would, in turn, hurt Constructed play, but I would love to see the dual lands reprinted. Not the moxen and P10 – just the duals. I want more! I’m making do with Invasion tap lands in many decks, but it’s not the same.
Ebony Charm $
I love Charms. I love the versatility. I love the fact that the card is never dead, and gets me out of some – wait, I already said this. I’ll include an anecdote instead. This was the final round of a PTQ, playing for T8, and shows why I included Ebony Charms in the sideboard:
Game 2 was more interesting. I got in some beats, then stalled. He had Sylvan going, and Oath of Druids brought forth a Morphling. The second time he activated Oath he got the Weaver, but I cast an Ebony Charm and removed one Blessing and some random stuff in response. He stopped activating Oath after that. He eventually put three spike counters on the Morphling and began flying over for 6 a turn – all with mana to protect the Morphling. I blocked with mana birds which I then threw at him with the Krovikan Horror. Finally, we were both at 6 life and it looked like I had to topdeck a Bird or Weaver to live. I drew Deranged Hermit, sighed, cast it and passed the turn. He decided not to Oath, gave Morphling flying and beat for 6. I asked him, as deadpan as possible, if damage was on the stack. He said yes. I cast Ebony Charm to drain him for 1. I went up to seven life, took the 6 damage – and I wasn’t dead! He looked at my Wall of Roots, Krovikan, 5 tapped land, brand-spanking-new Hermit and the 4 squirrels friends for a while, then at his dice showing 5 life – and he conceded. In general he played well, but I know he will spend a few days thinking”If only I had Oathed, or if only I had pumped Morphling one.” Tough way to lose, but an amazing way to make T8.
Natural Order $$
Calvin’s Green Transmogrifying Spell is still some good. Tooth and Nail is a modern reprint, but the original is still pretty nice. I have a (slightly modified) copy of Secret Force together, and play it in casual duels against random good decks. It is still solid, and it is nice to teach newer players what”the best fattie ever printed” is – or what, exactly, spikes do. Sure, Survival is a better method of fetching an answer, but Natural Order still gets the job done, and playing it brings back memories of the old Wakefield articles.
Note: anyone that has never read Jamie Wakefield writing: give yourself a treat – read it here.
Force of Will $$$
For me, this card is associated with two-on-two partners games and Extended in the era of Counterslivers and Trix. I know it is a staple of Type One, and it is amazing and all that, but I still find it nostalgic. Even though I played Survival for much of that period, and was usually on the wrong end of this card, I enjoyed the format. Except, of course, for mono-Blue Stasis, but the annoying cards in that deck were Daze and Stasis more than Force.
True, Saga block had some broken stuff, but it also had a lot of interesting cards. One example was the cycle of super removal cards, including Scour, Quash, Eradicate, and Splinter, plus the Red land destruction card whose name I cannot remember at the moment. All of these not only kill / counter a card, they search the player’s hand, graveyard and library and remove all copied from the game. I played a Nature’s Revolt / Eradicate deck for a while, which would animate lands, then Eradicate them. I once managed to Eradicate Islands early on against a Stasis player, and Mountains against a Sligh player. That is serious mana screw.
Nowadays, Splinter is a consideration, but not against Ravager – they just sacrifice the Ravager in response. However, Splintering Skullclamps is a Good Idea™.
This is yet another card that makes the list not because it is good but because of a favorite funky combo. I once played a deck with Shocker, Fire Whip, and Sunder. The combo was to make a player pick up all their lands, then ping them with Shocker to make them discard that fat hand and draw new cards. Then I would beat down with Monstrous Hounds – or just deck them. Of course it wasn’t invincible, or even solid, but it was fun.
Rhystic Study $
Hey, random sorting comes through – we close with a great card. Mind’s Eye is more splashable, and may be more consistent card drawing in the later game, but Rhystic Study is either going to slow all your opponents, or draw you a lot of cards. I always considered Rhystic Study a skills tester for opponents (if they let you draw cards, they suck), but enough players are either bad or desperate that I find I still draw a lot of cards off Rhystic Study. Ingrid is even more fond of this card than I am, and I find myself occasionally failing the skills test when she has one out – and I definitely know better. It is very good – probably the best multiplayer card you can get for a quarter. Order some now.
That’s it. If I counted right, that’s one hundred cards. (If not, screw it.)
Thanks for your endurance.