The Kitchen Table #200 — No Rares Allowed: 200 of the Best Casual Cards (#51 - #1)
Hello and welcome to my two hundredth article. I am writing the meat of this article before I leave the States and head over to London, so that I can have a couple of weeks to settle without major deadlines. I will still update the Abe in London section to this week, of course.
Abe in London (really), part VII
Well, I’m here.
London time has arrived. On my first day here, the Tube broke down, I injured myself carrying my luggage to my Leyton flat (complete with heavy Magic cards), was told that I’m actually in Walthamstow. My landlord pulled a bait and switch on me, claiming that the agreement that we made was for a shared room with another, when no such thing was ever stated or implied, and that the rent on my room without another is double — putting it at a ridiculous amount. I reduced my time here at my flat to two weeks as a result, and now I am looking for something else quickly.
My house? All of my flatmates here at Hungarian, and they only socialize with other Hungarians and speak only Hungarian in the house. Two are nice enough to me, but most treat me as if I don’t even exist. No support here.
Oh, and the wireless has been down here at the flat for days, and is out on campus as well (under upgrade there). Luckily I found a local cyber cafe with its own computers for 50 pence an hour... but I can’t take my laptop there, so I can check e-mail but that’s about it, and that only once a day or so.
At the end of the first day, I felt totally overwhelmed. I have never felt overwhelmed until now. I knew that I was returning home on my flight, scheduled for October 2. What was I doing in another country pursuing a random degree just for fun? I left a job I liked with people I loved to come here?
Someone is reaching too far.
I figured that I would go to International Student Orientation at Middlesex University the following day before making any rash judgments (this would be Friday 21st).
One good thing that happened here was that as we were traveling from breakfast to the meeting hall, I heard American being spoken. As an American, I view our dialect as accent-free (barring a thick Southern accent or similar). Obviously, the people here think I have an accent, but it cuts through conversations. At the end of International Student Orientation, I had met two Californians, a Georgian, a New Yorker, and an Oklahoman. I also began decent conversations with a person from Malaysia, Denmark, and Sweden, and I know all of these people on a first name basis.
Two Americans are pursuing Masters degrees as well, and one in Philosophy. I find these Americans to be islands in the sea of London. Of course, the rational side of me wonders at having to go overseas to socialize with people from my own country, but right now, any port will do.
Sometimes I think that loneliness is only multiplied by the number of people around you. You can feel so isolated in a busy city with millions of people, certainly more so than in any cabin in the woods.
For those of you who remember being freshmen, do you recall going to college and hanging with people who went with you to university from your high school, because you knew them, despite never talking to them much in high school? Then, as you each find more permanent friends, you begin to drift apart very quickly. You are merely harbors.
I am reconsidering my stance on not living in a residence hall, and have sent out emails and an online application to see if there is any room for me at a residence hall off campus by the Wood Green subway stop.
Unfortunately, Walthamstow is pretty cool, and it’s a disappointment that I will be leaving here soon. There’s a great outdoor market reminiscent of Middle East markets, a nice shopping street right here (called a high street in London), an actual indoor mall, a small green space, and the Tube station plus a major bus depot right here. It’s very cosmopolitan, and there are times when I am the only white person on a street with twenty other people. There are a lot of people of Arabic, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and African. I had dinner tonight from an Arabic restaurant. It was Lamb Doner... I don’t know what Doner means, but it was lamb and pita bread and cheese, with onions on the lamb [Heh, a Doner Kebab... usually eaten after a night on the tiles. — Craig]. I also found a shop that served me a sandwich with butter and not mayo! I thought the British were soaked in mayo, but here I found a cafe that serves sandwiches with butter — very tasty. [Nope, butter or butter-equivalent is the norm here. — Craig again.]
A few comments before I head back to the article:
I will try to attend the prerelease in London on Saturday. If you coming, say hi to me.
Is black and gold the universal sign of a pub in London? Every one in Walthamstow that I’ve seen is decked in black and gold.
Yay for Irn Bru! Coke products must have a different formula here because they taste very different, sort of filmy, with a bad aftertaste. Irn Bru, on the other hand, is a great local soda that I am really digging.
What’s with the British and queues? During Orientation, we had to make a second queue at Middlesex with around twelve people if our online enrollment was not working. Other British students would walk by and ask “what’s this queue for?” with glee, almost as if they wanted to wait around in a line. No wonder Heathrow doesn’t think the backlog for people entering with a VISA is long (and it is).
If I were staying in Walthamstow for a longer period of time, I’d apply for work at a local pub (Chequers) or game store (Gamestation). The pub has posted, and I overheard someone asking about a job at the game store and the clerk said they might be looking for someone. Especially the pub job. That’d be a great way to meet people.
Imams are the nicest people in Walthamstow. People also give them a nice berth of respect on the sidewalks, and I’ve not witnessed anyone push past an Imam like they would others. It’s nice to see clergy get that sort of respect. I’ve seen Imams talk and greet every single person who comes by, whether Arabic or not, and the first help I received when traipsing all through Leyton was from a local Imam who was at the stairs to his temple when I walked by.
If no one talks to each other on Tubes, buses, on the street — how do people in London ever meet? I’ve witnessed friends and couples coming onto the Tube, sitting by each other, and then not saying a word to each other. What is that about, I wonder? “We’ll hold hands but we don’t know each other well enough to have a conversation?”
When traveling on a London Tour on Saturday with some other International Students, I can totally see where Americans get their reputations. Four American foreign exchange students were talked about how they got blasted in a dorm party the previous night, and one girl was discussing the fact that she woke up with no shirt and doesn’t know who was there, and they were loud, obnoxious, and crude. I was sitting with a guy from Kuala Lumpur and two Chinese students just in front, and I could tell that they were shocked. I was embarrassed to be an American at that moment.
Even if I bomb out and return home Oct 2 with my tail between my legs, I have learned more in the past few days than I have in a long time. This option is still open, to my mind. I am in London, but I have no place to stay after another ten days. I am hoping that the residence halls come through for me.
Sometimes, if I think about how low my chances that place in Wood Green, and how I have no place to stay after a few days, I feel a pit of despair in my belly, and it slowly engulfs all other feeling until I start to shake from the overwhelming thought of it all. This has been a harrowing and humbling experience in just a few days. I am not the same person who got off the place all giddy at the thought of finally being here.
I have become Despair, Destroyer of Hopes.
I’ll leave this section for now and head back to the article. I still have intermittent Internet connections, so no promises that I’ll be able to respond to the comments you leave, but like always, I will read them, I promise.
Begin Actual Article
It’s been three weeks of 150 cards from the uncommon and common sections of Magicdom. Today we count down the Top 50 cards remaining. The previous 150 were all at approximately the same level, but today’s cards are going to be in the form of a countdown, taking you all the way to number one.
These are some of the best cards for multiplayer and casual games — the gems that time has forgotten or your play table may have dismissed. I hope that after you have read this series of four articles, you will discover new cards and rediscover old friends.
Welcome to the Top 50.
#50 — Angelic Favor — (Uncommon, White, Nemesis) — You can play, for free, a 4/4 flying angel token into play at instant speed in order to ambush an attacker with an angel. This is no Exile or Chastise, but those cost mana to use, this merely requires that you tap a creature. This is a very spider-y card, and I love it. Tap yourself out, keep a Weathered Wayfarer untapped or something, and when someone comes your way with their Serra Angel, tap the cleric and meet Angel with Angel. It’s a Fog, its creature kill, and if you are clever enough, you can sac the token to something like a Blasting Station or Altar of Dementia.
#49 — Earthlore — (Common, Green, Ice Age) — If I told you that one of my top Green cards was an Enchant Land and it didn’t make mana, would you believe me? Earthlore is money. For just one Green mana, you get an aura that can seriously pump a blocker. The beauty of the card is that with Green, you can find ways of untapping the land and repumping. One of the first things that every multiplayer deck has to do it survive. You are not going to swing your four Grizzly bear tokens off a Grizzly Fate at me if one will die from a block, another is stopped by a wall, a third is killed by a Ley Druid after pumping it with an Earthlore, and then the Druid is used to untap the Earthlore land, which then taps to make the Birds of Paradise survive blocking the fourth. (For more tricks, see: Forbidden Lore or Verdant Field)
#48 — Confound — (Common, Blue, Planeshift) — There are a lot of spells that counter other spells. Confound is amazing because it protects creatures. In decks where I have a vital creature and at least two non-White colors, I find that my protection spells are better off as Confound than Counterspell. I use it all of the time in my decklists as a result. I will sometimes use them and Shelter in a U/W deck, and that’s real protection. These guys are even nice in a mono-Blue deck with a solid amount of creatures as a supplement to the normal countermagic.
#47 — Mtenda Griffin — (Uncommon, White, Mirage) — This is a card that definitely got a lot better in my eyes a few weeks ago, after working on the griffin deck for you. Later in the game, it becomes a recursion engine in an all-Griffin deck. Forget that, though. Just combine with Daraja Griffin and Unyaro Griffin. Those two sacrifice to hose Red and Black. You can keep it up with Mtenda Griffin. It costs some mana, which prevents it from charting too highly, but these guys are worth another look. See also: Conspiracy naming Griffins.
#46 — Beasts of Bogardan — (Uncommon, Red, Legends, Chronicles) — As can be seen from the charting of Pyrohemia in last’s weeks article, I like Red sweeping effects. I also love it when Red creatures are immune to those effects, from Skirk Fire Marshal to Inferno, from #4 below to Earthquake to Slice and Dice. These guys have the requisite Pro Red. They also hose White a tiny little bit by being a 4/4 for four mana, and there is usually something White on the table to pump them when you are facing multiple opponents. They do not have an ability that helps out your deck, like Subterranean Spirit (which I put in my Underused Hall of Fame), but they are beefier most of the time. They are just a great card.
#45 — Mirror Strike — (Uncommon, White, Prophecy) — I was disappointed by the commons and uncommons of Prophecy, and you won’t see many cards charting this list from that set. The beauty of this card is that it is elegant. Captain’s Maneuver might work on more stuff, but this one is four mana, and any creature. It doesn’t require any Red mana like the Maneuver or Boros Fury-Shield. It’s very elegant. Attack me, and your creature deals you that damage. Now, try to attack me with Phage...
#44 — Undo — (Common, Blue, Visions) — Before Visions, there was no classically good bounce effect. Time Elemental was arguably the best around, and that hardly stood the test of time. Then came three commons in Blue — Shrieking Drake (charted), Man-o’-war (too much press to chart on an underused list like this), and Undo (charting). You get to bounce two creatures with three mana. Sure, it’s a sorcery. It is also the single best tempo bounce spell ever (that is just pure bounce, you might argue Time Ebb or something, but that’s not pure bounce). Three mana = two creatures going home. In multiplayer, that can be an entire player’s defense. That Darksteel Colossus someone Tinkered out is going back home and send their Fog Bank of blockiness back too, so we can punish him. Undo is a fine card.
#43 — Endangered Armodon — (Common, Green, Stronghold) — In my precon building, I mentioned how I loved this card. Play it in a deck with no creatures at two or less toughness and you have a 4/5 for four mana with zero disadvantage. Combine with #4 below for real fun. I won’t bore you with details of how it is so good just a few weeks after spending paragraphs on it in a previous article, just remember that I love it, and it is worthy of your deckbuilding attention.
#42 — Diversionary Tactics — (Uncommon, White, Apocalypse) — This is not an Opposition or a Glare of Subdual. It shines at times where you have a lot of creatures, more than normal. See: token production. It doesn’t scare opponents like Opposition would, as that would get you in major trouble. Squirrel Nest, #30 below, and Opposition would get you killed. Combine with this instead and people laugh, but it is still quite effective.
#41 — Seton’s Scout — (Uncommon, Green, Torment) — I played with these guys in a major tournament back in block. They are a fine two-drop with beatingness already in stock with their 2/1 body for two mana. Post-threshold, they get the bump to four power, just like Werebear. However, they are perfectly fine aggressive creatures pre-threshold, unlike many creatures that suck pre-threshold. It’s great early and late, and you know how I like those cards.
#40 — Orcish Settlers — (Uncommon, Red, Weatherlight) — This is the only land destruction card to make the 200-card cut. It’s good enough to chart here because it has the ability to take out numerous lands, at instant speed. A lot of people won’t attack into you for fear that you will smash their manabase. No one wants to lose both their Mountains and their Island, leaving them with just Forests. Its main purpose is to take out multiple offending utility lands, from Kor Haven to Volrath’s Stronghold to Maze of Ith and Academy Ruins. This is where it shines at the multiplayer table, because someone always has the land hookup.
#39 — Evasive Action — (Uncommon, Blue, Apocalypse) — Countering is a lovely thing, and having a four or five mana Mana Leak is simply amazing. Ever since the new dual lands, the domain cards from Invasion Block have gotten better. It’s very easy to have a Mana Leak on the second turn with one dual and one basic out. In three or four turns, you could easily have a super Mana Leak with four or five mana required to stop the counter. It remains useful much longer than Mana Leak as a result for a similar price in any deck with a lot of colors, and at my multiplayer table, that’s a lot of decks.
#38 — Teferi’s Honor Guard — (Uncommon, White, Visions) — Self-phasing made the Rainbow Efreet the best mono-Blue control creature until Morphling. The ability to dodge Wrath effects, removal, and do the block/hide trick combine too make the Rainbow Efreet a great creature. Teferi’s Honor Guard can do all of those tricks too. Now, it’s on the ground and just s 2/2, but the flanking/phasing combination makes a powerful creature nonetheless. You’ll never be upset that you lost the Honor Guard if you run out of mana the same way you would with a Rainbow Efreet. It’s good, but it’s not so good that your opponents put it on a must-kill list.
#37 — Harvest Wurm — (Common, Green, Weatherlight) — A 3/2 for two mana doesn’t come around very often. It has a disadvantage, but you can turn it into an advantage in a deck with creatures like Rogue Elephant or Fallow Wurm. It also is a great beater to drop post-Armageddon with your two creature/artifact mana to return a land and keep going. It’s got a lot of uses.
#36 — Probe — (Common, Blue, Invasion) — This is another entry in the key Invasion commons. Probe is a divine card, letting you filter through some cards while also hitting an opponent for two. In a duel, this card would jump up the list even more, but making a single opponent discard two card can sometimes make you an enemy, so be careful when you use the Black kicker. This is not as powerful as #22 below at pure discarding, but it does add something to the typical filter card drawing spell.
#35 — Raven Familiar — (Uncommon, Blue, Legacy) — I like Impulse-ish effects on creatures. You saw the Court Hussar in an earlier article and now you can see the Raven Familiar. It has all of the established brokenness of other creatures with “comes into play” abilities. You can definitely use and abuse this bird. (For something to use with it outside the normal abuse cards that I mention from Shrieking Drake to Flicker, see Raven Guild Initiate)
#34 — Kyren Negotiations — (Uncommon, Red, Masques) — This is a great combo card for Red, allowing it to tap critters to kill opponents. Critters typically smell like goblins and come from Goblin Warrens or Goblin Scouts, or even Warbreak Trumpeter and Goblin Offensive. Tap a bunch of creatures (like Goblin Medics or Kyren Sniper), and kill players. You can also use this merely to supplement an existing Red strategy by dealing extra damage at the end of an opponent’s turn, then untapping and doing your normal things.
#33 — Ballista Squad — (Uncommon, White, Masques) — This is the highest charting card from Masques block. Defense is key and offense is nice too — basic multiplayer strategy. Ballista Squad fits that strategy perfectly. You can tap to Blaze any attacker or blocker. You’ll find enough attackers and blockers at the multiplayer table to keep your heart content. It also is an answer to an Akroma of Anti-Red-Anti-Black-ness.
#32 — Seeker of Skybreak — (Common, Green, Tempest, 7th) — This is the promised untapper at last. It’s a 2/1 cheap creature that loves to attack in the early game, and block if needed. Its ability to tap to untap a creature is legendary. Make more mana with a Llanowar Elves in play. Triple use that land with a Ley Druid out. Go outside of your color to find creatures that tap to draw cards, tap to deal a lot of damage, tap to do virtually anything. The Seeker loves you. You can also untap an attacker to have it as a blocker.
#31 — Nightscape Familiar — (Common, Black, Planeshift) — I enjoy a great card as much as the next guy, and this is the second Familiar to chart from this cycle, so I must have liked it. Regenerating gives this the ability to hold off a far greater creature without dying. In multiplayer, this is often in the middle game, when creatures like Ravenous Baloth or Nagao, Bound by Honor come to play. It will often send these kinds of attackers elsewhere as a player looks for blood. Don’t forget the massive speed boost that this creature gives your deck if you are Blue/Black, Red/Black, or heaven forbid, Red/Blue/Black.
#30 — Aether Mutation — (Uncommon, Gold, Apocalypse) — How much many 1/1 Saproling tokens must a five mana spell make before it is good. Five? Six? Aether Mutation regularly makes a lot of Saprolings and bounces a major threat. There’s fuel, beaters, and blockers for you, loss of tempo for an opponent. This is a great trade for one card.
#29 — Unearth — (Common, Black, Legacy) — You have personally witnessed me regularly list off creatures with “comes into play” abilities, from Ghitu Slinger to Raven Familiar to Bone Shredder to Auramancer. This will bring back one of those guys and you get the ability too. Maybe you’ll bring back a utility creature like Merfolk Looter or Birds of Paradise. Even if you don’t you can just cycle this away to draw a card, which makes it very handy indeed.
#28 — Reviving Vapors — (Uncommon, Gold, Invasion) — This is an old standby. With the ability to lightly Impulse, put two cards in the ‘yard, and gain some life, this is a powerful package. You regularly get something you need, two to five life, and get some nice tasty cards in your graveyard. When you deck is built with it in mind, you’ll be happy to reveal a Glory and put it in your graveyard. Maybe a Wonder. Even Narcomoeba will head to the ‘yard, and thence to play. Flashback like Deep Analysis and Prismatic Strands join your cause. There’s a lot here to really help you out a lot.
#27 — Jungle Barrier — (Uncommon, Gold, Apocalypse) — Jungle Barrier is a souped-up Wall of Blossoms with the same card drawing “comes into play” ability. It’s big enough to cause serious problems to any ground creatures that decide to attack. Carven Caryatid is close enough that I knocked this card down a bit, but there is a significant difference between five and six toughness and what it can handle, and Jungle Barrier is actually a wall, which I like too.
#26 — Recoil — (Common, Gold, Invasion) — The last of the core Invasion commons to which I referred in my previous article is the Recoil of awesomeness. It’s an aggressive bounce spell that under the right circumstances can be an instant Vindicate and is always causing havoc with your opponent’s hand. Bounce plus discard equals awesome.
#25 — Leonin Bola — (Common, Artifact, Darksteel) — If you like to tap down a lot of creatures, this is a colorless way to do so. Use it, equip on another creature for a single mana, tap to use it, and repeat. The problem is that this cannot be done at instant speed, so it is no Opposition or Glare of Subdual or Diversionary Tactics. However, it fits all decks by color and it is a powerful effect, even if used aggressively. Plus, in multiplayer, you can tap down an opponent’s creatures and then laugh as multiple combat phases from different players are between you and him.
#24 — Azorius Aethermage — (Uncommon, Gold, Dissension) — This is one of the key engines that makes Equinaut go. It is also a powerful combo tool in its own right, suiting a lot of decks and previous entries like Shrieking Drake and Crystal Shard. From 187 creatures with a Crystal Shard to Drake Familiar and the bouncing CIP enchantments to Rancor/Auratog to Barbarian Guides and Ball Lightning, there are a lot of combos in Magic that require you to bounce something back to your hand. All of these can be broken in half by the addition of an Azorius Aethermage. See also: #7 below.
#23 — Mistmoon Griffin — (Uncommon, White, Weatherlight) — As I said in the article a few weeks ago where I built the griffin deck, I had already been looking at the Mistmoon Griffin as a card I needed to get some use out of. It’s a 2/2 flyer, which is pertinent to the red zone as an attacker and blocker. Once it dies, it brings back the top creature card. You can ensure that creature is big by cycling something hefty just before the Griffin dies, or by having a discard outlet like Peace of Mind.
#22 — Unnerve — (Common, Black, Saga) — Discard is not the biggest tool that a multiplayer deck can have. It usually targets one player, pisses them off, and no one else cares. People build decks so they can play their cards, not so their hand is discarded (see also; land destruction and countermagic). However, Unnerve hits every player for two cards, and that’s a lot of card advantage. It’s about the same amount as Syphon Mind, but I have it ranked much higher because you didn’t follow up a discard with drawing a grip of cards, so people don’t always see you as the major threat post Unnerve.
#21 — Thalakos Seer — (Common, Blue, Tempest) — This is the highest charting shadow creature and card that was advantaged from my recent creation of the Abe Precons. The ability to draw a card when it leaves play is great. It works well with Blue bounce and cards like the newly errata’d Tawnos’s Coffin. See: Crystal Shard.
#20 — Wilderness Elemental — (Uncommon, Gold, Coldsnap) — This is the highest charting gold card. Wilderness Elemental is a pure beater. In multiplayer, he is easily five or six power around the time you can cast him, and in double digits later in the game. Playing a three mana 11/3 trampler with no disadvantage is pretty powerful.
#19 — Vodalian Illusionist — (Uncommon, Blue, Weatherlight) — I like the phasing of the creatures. You can phase out an opposing creature and keep it from getting enchanted by that aura on the stack. Fog a creature. Save a creature from removal, either mass or targeted, or even after blocking. It can keep phasing out bad guys from Akroma the Original to Darksteel Colossus. This is all very useful for your typical Blue deck.
#18 — Keening Banshee — (Uncommon, Black, Ravnica) — I like 187 creatures with more pertinent combat abilities, like Nekrataal or the Banshee’s flying. This is a real creature. The -2/-2 will off a lot of creatures at the multiplayer table, from Birds of Paradise to Cho-Manno. You’ll be surprised at just how much you’ll like this card. Like other “comes into play” creatures, there is an established history of how to abuse it.
#17 — Legerdemain — (Uncommon, Blue, Tempest) — This card really benefited from my writings, because I use it a lot in deck lists. I like it better than Donate in many situations because you get something back, and you can use it to trade an extra combo piece for a good blocker or something. Note that it will not work on lands and enchantments, just critters and artifacts — but opponents usually have the former and often have the latter.
#16 — Traproot Kami — (Common, Green, Betrayers) — The top two Green cards are both from Kamigawa block. Interesting, no? This is an ideal wall for any Green deck. It can block the flyers, it costs just one mana, and it gets better as the game goes on. It’s not as good as Wall of Wood on the first few turns, when Savannah Lions can attack you with impunity, but it will catch up, have no worries. And while it does, you will be spending your mana elsewhere. In the late game, it can block better than Silklash Spider, keeping away bad guys like Silvos. Too bad is it not an actual wall or it would work with Wall of Mulch.
#15 — Hana Kami — (Uncommon, Green, Champions) — This is the single highest-charting Green card. It is a fantastic card at bringing you back a key spell. Throughout this list we’ve seen a handful of arcane spells like Horobi’s Whisper, Terashi’s Grasp, and Otherworldly Journey. Combine with Terashi’s Verdict, Rend Flesh, Glacial Ray, and Wear Away to use some of the key arcane spells. Then this creature becomes simply broken. Rinse and repeat with soulshift, and it becomes a lynchpin of any spirit deck that includes Green. Outside of all Kamigawa Block decks, it is still a great card with just two arcane spells in the deck, four of each, for a total of eight total cards.
#14 — Songs of the Damned — (Common, Black, Ice Age) — Take a look at this card. Take another look. Here is a simple question from me to you — why are you not playing this card? It is one of the most comb-rific cards around, and it works wonders in decks that dump a bunch of creatures into your yard. Dump ten creatures into the yard, play this, make ten mana, and then do broken things. This is not a hard card to use and it has plenty of power, so use it.
#13 — Sun Droplet — (Uncommon, Artifact, Mirrodin) — This card will gain you a lot of life if you take damage. Since it triggers every turn, it’s important to realize that in multiplayer, there are a lot of individual turns. If you take six from an attack in a five-player game, you really only took one when it comes back around to that person again. It’s a powerful shield, and opponents might ignore it because it never gains you extra life, it merely restores life lost. See: Well of Lost Dreams.
#12 — Guardian of the Guildpact — (Common, White, Dissension) — Do you have a lot of attacking creatures that could be blocked on the ground? Are removal spells from Pestilence to Jiwari ruining your day? Here is Guardian of the Guildpact. The only things that can harm it are multicolored and artifact. There are enough of each to matter, but not so much that the power of the Guardian is not made manifest.
#11 — Opal Acrolith — (Uncommon, White, Saga) — Opal Acrolith is an enchantment for three mana that can quickly become a 2/4 after it is played. You could run it in my Guardian Deck from a few weeks ago. As an enchantment, you could use several methods to bring it into play, despite it being a creature a little later. Auramancer and Replenish are just two examples. Where this really shines is in a deck or metagame that features a ton of mass removal. Barring something that also takes out enchantments, it can dodge all mass removal from Wrath of God to Mutilate.
Hello... Top 10!
#10 — Dread Return — (Uncommon, Black, Time Spiral) — This is the first of four cards with a recursion theme to hit my Top 10, all from Black. That may show my biases, but I don’t build many reanimation decks, so if I have a bias, it’s not one towards deck building. I love this card for two reasons. First, it’s just a Zombify with an occasionally awkward flashback. If you never want the flashback, you can still just Zombify with it. Second, it fuels combo decks with its flashback and Narcomoeba. I think that’s a pretty cool combo, and many of those combo decks can rule at the multiplayer table just as well as they are doing in tournaments.
#9 — Sunscape Battlemage — (Uncommon, White, Planeshift) — This is the highest charting White card. You’ve heard it from me before, so I’ll be brief. It kills virtually every threat at the multiplayer table — they all fly barring Darksteel Colossus and the occasional ground beater like Silvos or Deep-Sea Kraken. It kills Akroma, every legendary dragon, Visara, Mystic Enforcer post-threshold, Red dragons, White angels, Black vampires, Blue Djinns, and not much in Green. Virtually every major threat is killable with the Green kicker, and you can draw cards with the Blue one. Remember that this card can be used with the bounce effects, but not so much with the traditional “comes into play” creature abuse. I played one in the original Equinaut.
#8 — Ashen Ghoul — (Uncommon, Black, Ice Age) — Although higher creatures are nominally able to attack, this is really the highest charting creature designed to go the red zone. It’s the card that made Nether Shadow good and Buried Alive broken. It is a creature of swingingness, card advantage, and fuel for engine parts all at the same time. The engine parts include Mind Slash, Attrition, Phyrexian Vault, Gate to Phyrexia, and more. Ashen Ghoul will dominate the table after a Buried Alive sticks three in your graveyard.
#7 — Oboro Breezecaller — (Common, Blue, Saviors) — Out of the stink that was Saviors of Kamigawa, we were blessed with one creature that I have referred to as the Brokencaller. This is one of my all time favorite combo engines. For two mana, you can bounce a land to untap a land. There are countless ways to abuse that, and I have built several decks for you that turn the Brokencaller into a broken piece of machinery that kills everybody at the table with ease. I have referred to it as the card from Kamigawa Block with the most potential. This is a stupidly broken card, and if you don’t think so, start tinkering around with it. You’ll definitely come around.
#6 — Drift of Phantasms — (Common, Blue, Ravnica) — This is not the highest charting creature, Blue card, or even wall. It is the highest charting card from Ravnica block and beyond. This is the single best uncommon or common made since Ravnica, and I stand by that statement without having seen the Lorwyn cards yet. Drift of Phantasms is a great double use card. An 0/5 wall of flyingness is nothing to sneeze at, although it would preferably be a bit cheaper, a la Angelic Wall. The transmute is perfect. Numerous combo decks that I have built both in real life and in decklists for my articles have needed a tutor for a three-cost combo piece. Drift of Phantasms get that combo piece, or it can be played to block attackers while you finish setting up your combo. Either way, it helps the combo deck out tremendously.
#5 — Gravedigger — (Common, Black, Tempest, Odyssey, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, Uncommon, Portal) — This is the most printed card to be on the Top 200, and it hits and number five. I believe the Gravedigger is a classically underplayed card, because people have a tendency to play the sexy cards, and this is not a sexy card. As a creature with a “comes into play” ability, it has a listed set of numerous things you can do with it. I have listed those in previous entries in the Top 200, from Cavern Harpy and Shrieking Drake to Ninja of the Deep Hours and Otherworldly Journey. It also works wonders with a lot of Black recursion cards, from #1 below to Living Death. Note that this is a highest charting creature with power.
#4 — Aether Flash — (Uncommon, Red, Weatherlight, 6th, 7th) - The highest charting Red card is also the highest charting uncommon. Aether Flash makes a lot of those annoying creatures at the multiplayer table suddenly remain in their players’ hands. From Birds of Paradise to Mother of Runes to White Knight, the Aether Flash is a perfect way to keep those critters off the board. Red can then supplement this removal with its own burn, such as Shock or Bloodfire Kavu. Even a crappy Rod of Ruin keeps the three toughness guys from getting played. Two Aether Flashes out will shut down virtually everything. Meanwhile, you can combine this with Light of Sanction or Absolute Law, or just play Pro Red creatures like previous charting Beasts of Bogardan, Subterranean Spirit, etc. You could even play your own high toughness cards from Wall of Diffusion to Wall of Granite.
#3 — Fade Away — (Common, Blue, Exodus) — Fade Away is Blue’s Wrath of God. When timed right, a Fade Away can devastate a board position. In the early game, opponents are regularly tapping out to play threats, defense, tutors... pop a Fade Away on them and see what happens. As a Blue player, you can force the issue with cards like the previous charting Rishadan Cutpurse (Footpad and Brigand as well), Pendrell Mists, Propaganda, Soul Barrier, Rhystic Study, and much more. Fade Away is simply the best way to take out opposing creatures Blue has ever had, with Pongify being a close second.
#2 — Steel Wall — (Common, Artifact, Mirrodin) — How can a simple wall be number two on the list? When it is a 0/4 for just one mana that can fit into any deck. Suppose I have out a Steel Wall and Bob has out nothing. On turn 2, where are you going to attack with your Savannah Lions? The Steel Wall is simply the single best one-drop in multiplayer Magic (where I define one-drop as a creature, and not a Land Tax or something). Better than a Soul Warden/Essence Warden, better than a Weathered Wayfarer, and even better than the 2/1 creature of your choice. Every player can summon a Steel Wall to immediately shore up your defenses to a high level. It will take a while before a player can attack with a creature big enough to kill your wall. Even when someone gets a Ravenous Baloth or some similar creature in play, it may not attack your way. This card is like four or five Fogs all wrapped up in one card, giving you time to build your manabase, and find the crucial cards your deck needs to win.
#1 — Tortured Existence — (Common, Black, Stronghold) — This is no surprise for those who have read my articles going back years. I once declared Tortured Existence the best card you weren’t playing, and it made my inaugural Underused Hall of Fame list at the top of the Black entries. I have tried to steer mostly away from Hall entries, although I have allowed a few to trickle in here and there when I feel they still need some press and lovin’.
This card is awesome. It costs one Black mana to play, and one to use. Then, for the rest of the game, at instant speed you can swap a creature in hand with one on the yard. It’s amazing! Every creature that you draw can be the best creature in your graveyard. A late game Llanowar Elves is now a late game Visara. Your dead Phage will came back to your hand via that Ravenous Rats your drew and you can play her again. It is cheap and really, really good. I like to use it to rearrange my graveyard with cards like Nether Shadow, Ashen Ghoul and Krovikan Horror. It’s also a dandy way to sneak an incarnation into your yard at instant speed... surprise your opponent by dropping Anger, Glory, Genesis, or Wonder. Swap a Carrionette in and kill something, sneak in a Necrosavant or Nim Devourer for a creature that can come back during your upkeep. Reuse #6 above and keep transmuting for the good stuff. There are a lot of options here. It is one of my favorite cards of all time, and trust me — it is a great gem.
That brings us to the end of another article, another series, and another milestone — this time the 200th! See you next week for a less conventional article (at least from me).