I hope you are having a great day today! Happy 2019!
Let’s look back to the past as we look forward to the new year. Welcome to Odyssey Block!
The goal of this article (and series!) is to take a look back at these cards for newer players who may have missed it or to jumpstart conversation for those who did. I played every set since The Dark was a brand new set and Legends packs could be purchased in stores. From 1994 until now, and folks, that’s a lot of Magic! A. Lot. Of. Magic.
I played sealed, draft, and was at the prereleases of all three of these sets. I wrote about Odyssey Block Constructed and went to the formats.
Odyssey Block really appealed to Spikes. It’s various mechanics played well together when Spike-d hard and the resulting three major archetypes during this era all pushed synergies that were very powerful together.
What three archetypes are those? You are going to want to know because we are going to talk about them below, and all of those cards are going to hit below in one or more slots.
MBC (Mono-Black Control)
Those are the main three decks.
Let’s review the big bad of the era which the other two tried to fight - Madness
What I am about to show you is a typical deck from this era. Enjoy!
Sample U/G Madness Deck | Odyssey Constructed | Abe Sargent
- Instants (4)
- 4 Circular Logic
- Enchantments (2)
- 2 Compulsion
This deck wanted to punch you quickly with a two-drop that then give you a 4/4 trampling Arrogant Wurm on turn three as well as free Rootwallas. You could discard a Wonder to Mongrel/’Moeba/Compulsion and then have a flying horde. You could discard a Deep Analysis or Roar the Wurm to get a much cheaper flashback option, and then you could cast Quiet Speculation and get three flashback cards in your yard, which were typically Roar of the Wurm.
This deck was fast, deadly, and consistent with its many two-drop discard engines that made everything pop. It was very hard to stop.
Sample MBC Deck | Odyssey Constructed |Abe Sargent
- Sorceries (26)
- 2 Skeletal Scrying
- 2 Diabolic Tutor
- 2 Soul Burn
- 4 Chainer's Edict
- 4 Corrupt
- 4 Duress
- 4 Mind Sludge
- 4 Mutilate
- Enchantments (2)
- 2 Phyrexian Arena
This deck abuses Cabal Coffers and it’s mana-fueled fun times to zark people with discard, removal, and long game winning with your given kills of Nantuko Shade and Laquatus's Champion. Unlike the first deck, which was Block, I choose to give you a Standard version, although you can easily pull the Corrupt, Duress, Soul Burn and Arena for cards in the block. None of them are essential. This deck has 2 Tutors and 4 Coffers for you. Nantuko Shade is a game-winning force when backed by a lot of Black mana.
Sample Upheaval Deck | Odyssey Constructed | Abe Sargent
- Creatures (4)
- 4 Psychatog
This is a common control deck that uses Upheaval to delay the game and then drops the Psychatog to win. You’ll note cards like Duress, Recoil, Aether Burst, and Repulse that bounce or force discards early, all with the goal of slowing your foe down, while you rack up card advantage with Fact or Fiction and Deep Analysis. Your Edict’s are valuable removal tools for dorks that evaded your bounce and Counterspells. You can drop the Psychatog, and then simply win. Enjoy the deck!
These three builds came from this block and abused tournament level Magic for a long time.
So let’s take a look at the best cards from this era, some of which are in the above lists!
One of the cool things about Odyssey Block is that, like the previous block before it, it’s one of the first times you’ll see most of the dominant and best cards printed in common and uncommon slots, rather than saved for gold. In fact, just TWO of the below slots are owned exclusively for rares (#5 and #2).
Mr. Teeth. This was perfectly suited to end games as the discard +1/+1 effect put the cards in your graveyard which the graveyard exiling +1/+1 effect played into. That made this card very different than the others! It’s reach to smash people early is useful at putting people in their place. However, while it was the perfect partner for #2 below, it also wasn’t as useful on its own. It needed the right shell and home. It’s never dominated any other format it’s been legal in and I’ve not seen this dominant Vintage, Legacy, or Commander deck where this was too abusive. Its great! It can work! But it needs the right partners, which drops it to #10 on my list. At least it’s here!
9. Nimble Mongoose
Nimble Mongoose was a powerful card that came right off and punched people in the face. It’s a useful 1-drop that turns into a 3/3 effortlessly and quickly becomes a major threat as you can’t answer it with targeted removal. It was played in Block, Standard, Legacy, Extended, and more. It’s been a strong card with its class and power, and it has become one of the most commonly seen cards from the Block in decks these days. Good job Nimble Mongoose.
8. Deep Analysis
The best card drawing spell of the era, Deep Analysis was a game-winning punch in the face. Lots of card drawing ensued. You could cast it for two cards up front and then another as you had 2 mana left after other things. You never felt bad discarding it to a discard engine and then just flashing it back for two cards and 2 mana as you still made out while your Aquamoeba punched for three damage. It was iconic, and you’ll note it was played in any deck that ran the colors, and it is still a valuable card in casual formats like Commander and Pauper today.
The best burn spell made during this era was Firebolt. Burn was arguably the 4th best deck of the era, (I ran it myself) and used cards like Firebolt, Fiery Temper, #3 below, and Violent Eruption to win. Firebolt was the best burn spell in the era, and it really pushed people well. You could cast it on the first turn to hurt Birds of Paradise or Llanowar Elves (or a first turn Basking Rootwalla). You could cast it on a Wild Mongrel and force them to discard reactively. You certainly had the time t flash it back later and smash another creature. You could also use them together for just one more mana then the flashback to kill a bigger body, such as Arrogant Wurm. You could also use it the extra range it offered to kill folks after they took some early face-punching from you. Firebolt aw the best burn spell of the era, and has remained one of the best one-cost burn spells out there – I’d put it 4th or 5th after Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning.
6. Wonder. Anger. Genesis. Glory. Filth. Brawn. Valor.
In this order, this uber-cycle of Incarnations is amazing. By giving you a powerful suite of cards that was hard to interact with, you could give your team a hard-to-answer power bump. Wonder’s flying was a key component of winning decks, and Anger’s smash-tastic ways joined it. Genesis was great as a way to answer control and add grinding elements to your game, while Filth gave you a way to end the mirror match for MBC as well as other decks. Glory’s activation to save your team was iconic. Only Brawn and Valor disappointed. And to this day this suite of cards has created a strong shadow at many casual kitchen tables or formats, such as Commander, where they are great.
5. Living Wish. Cunning Wish. Burning Wish. Death Wish. Golden Wish.
The Wish cycle was a very outside-the-box cycle of cards that was an immediate hit in a huge number of places. I ran a Cunning Wish Vintage deck where I had around 10 different instants in my sideboard that I could grab for the Cunning Wish including hosers, or my 4th Fact or Fiction and such. Living Wish was arguably the best for casual play as the two mana cost fetched you two very highly desired card types with lands and/or dorks. Burning Wish made a lot of headway as well. Death Wish’s additional life cost was enough to keep it from play while Golden Wish cost too much mana to be commonly seen. This suite of cards was an iconic part of the game!
4. Roar of the Wurm
Roar of the Wurm broke this format as a 6/6 for 4 mana was difficult to deal with. There were a few answers here and there, but it was rough. You couldn’t easily find the answers you needed game after game, and cards like Quiet Speculation and #3 below were very strong at pushing people to a face-smashing win. This is clearly a card designed and pushed for Spikes. Timmies look at this and see two 6/6 Wurms, and are happy to pay for both, both Spikes know how nasty that 4 mana 6/6 is, and then will do what they can to get it out on the fourth turn, and will move hell or high water to do so. This was the Era of the Roar of the Wurm.
3. Wild Mongrel
This was the best 2-drop of its era, was a card you pushed your drafts toward, and was a powerhouse of multiple decks and formats. Wild Mongrel looks normal to modern viewers, but it was anything but. The ability to discard cards to win battles or shift color was nice, as you could avoid color-based removal or dodge a Glory’s activation. Even before Torment introduced the madness mechanic that abused its discard, it was heavily played. It was a force in flashback and/or threshold graveyard decks that were prolific. And then when all of its friends popped out, the Mongrel downright owned the format and was the most loathed 2-drop.
Without Psychatog, Upheaval is still a threat. I can run other game-ending face-smashers. It was the best and cheapest, but I could point to many other options out there. Unlike the weaker sweepers of the era, like Mutilate, it was a game-ending sweeper against tokens like Roar of the Wurm’s or Grizzly Fate’s token-bombardment. It’s so good, reliable, and annoying that it’s banned in Commander. Playing against Upheaval was the epicenter of a boring match, as it didn’t have the courtesy of killing you quickly, a la Madness.
1. Cabal Coffers
No card from this era was as key as Cabal Coffers. It single handedly made MBC a deck without which it was impossible to keep up with Madness. It gave you a potential mana outlet that could rival the lands of old from previous blocks, such as Gaea's Cradle. It was an amazing option for folks that sought to punch people in the face. It remains a force of Black nature at the kitchen table where Commander and other decks use it, and it’s one of the top lands ever printed.
And there we are! So what did you think of my list? Anything I missed? Anything you disagree with? Just let me know!
Appendix of Top Ten Block Lists:
Did you enjoy our throwback list of the best cards of yore? Did you want to keep going back and check out some more fun times? Excellent! Check these out as well!