Cards are awesome! Magic is awesome! Want to know what else is awesome? Unearthing cool cards no one else is using and then unleashing them on your unsuspecting playgroup—that’s awesome-plus.
There are a lot of cards out there that I need to remind you exist. Last week, we looked at ten cards flying under the radar right now. What else is out there?
Most of these cards are from a few sources. Many are cards that work in Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy, my own threethousandish card Highlander deck. I play them there, and then get a real feel for that space. You’ll find there are some great cards out there which often slide past the window of play for most playgroups. I’ve found as more and more cards get released, a smaller variety of cards is getting played, particularly in Commander. Doesn’t that seem odd?
Here’s why I think that’s the case. As people play their decks, most of them are using and abusing various cards and concepts. Back when there were a few thousand cards in print, and many of them relatively minor Rootwater Alligators you didn’t need to keep in mind, players had a strong sense of what cards existed. However, in a game with roughly seventeen thousand game pieces, it gets a little hard to keep track of everything .Even after the Craw Wurm and Devoted Hero are removed from consideration, there are still too many game pieces to keep track of. So, I think a lot of players have a small number of “go-to” cards for various situations. They pinpoint removal, like Murder, Hero's Downfall, or Silence the Believers, instead of the best card for the situation.
Into this sort of gray mass, fewer and fewer cards are getting press and attention. So, I like to remind folks of the good stuff out there for their casual-minded ways. You can track down a lot of these cards and do some strong yeoman’s work with them. These cards have been used by me many times, and they work.
(The occasional card in here is also from my own Underused Hall of Fame: I belabored to find truly powerful cards for various decks, metagames, and more, and then created a Hall of Fame for them to rest in.)
Ah yes, the Hateflayer. I like to attack with it, untap it and fling some damage at a blocker. It’s great to keep stuff from getting too big with its Wither, while that sexy untap ability gives it strong merit in a lot of builds (such as with #5 below). In fact, it’s my favorite of the untap mechanic creatures from Shadowmoor/Eventide. While I find the mechanic plays poorly for the most part, the Hateflayer is good enough to rock the block. There’s always something to shoot down, and some heat to bring.
Arboria has always been one of those odd ducks which can help your foe out as well as yourself. It’s also a funky World Enchantment, which means you can use it to destroy other World Enchantments. Pretty weak, I know, but if someone doesn’t play anything (including lands) on their turn, you can’t attack them. That includes you! I’ve used this card to great effect in a lot of decks and metagames. It really works well with a variety of concepts like combo, control, mid-range, and more.
If you were to put a gun to my head, and ask me to name one of the best cards to see very little play but should see more, one of the most underutilized and underappreciated cards of all time, it’s Tortured Freakin’ Existence. It’s amazing. It plays awesomely. I once named it the best common/uncommon for casual Magic of all time. It’s a powerhouse. It’s a Survival of the Fittest for your graveyard. Because it costs so little to play, you can drop it early, and then exchange expensive late game creatures for smaller ones you’ve played, like Sakura-Tribe Elder. You can swap an early game card you draw later, like Weathered Wayfarer, for the strong beater you just had killed. Bring back that Nekrataal, Flametongue Kavu or Mulldrifter. It’s an awesome card. And considering just how many Commanders and casual aficionados out there love this thing, get ready to invest in something seriously awesome.
Did we all take collective stupid pills? Did we forget how awesome Far Wanderings is at the 3-mana spot for land fetching? In decks which reliably hit threshold early, this is a major bomb of land fetching lovin’. And with all of the discard, Madness, and Delirium in Shadows over Innistrad right now, this is a good time to take advantage of all of the good stuff Far Wanderings has to offer.
I like drawing cards. Don’t you? The right card at the right time can really push a table. You can use Jushi Apprentice to slowly draw cards over the course of a game. And then if you have enough cards in hand? Flip your Apprentice into a major force. Don’t poo-poo a card like this either. Right after churning out a four article series here about the Top 100 Cards in Multiplayer of All Time, I then spoke about how Treasure Trove was often just as good, if not better, than some of the cards on that list.Why? Because it doesn’t have a target on its back. You can’t use something you don’t control. It doesn’t matter how broken your Rhystic Study/Mind's Eye/Consecrated Sphinx is if it’s in your graveyard or exile zone. Cards like Jushi Apprentice and Treasure Trove actually work to draw you cards. There’s a lot of value here. And if you can flip your Apprentice into Tomoya the Revealer? Then you’ve got serious Mind's Eye level card drawing potential anyway.
Welcome to the grind. There are a number of Magic metagames where people are playing multiplayer games which end up going long, where things turn into an interesting grind. And that’s right where Heartseeker fits in. It’s a very strong card in grindy games, where you have mana, and you have a need for a strong board presence. You can afford to equip the Heartseeker on some chump creature, then pull it off to toss it at a creature and slay it. Shout out in your best Fred Saberhagen voice, “For thy Heart! For thy Heart! Who Hast Wronged Me!” The sword flies out, slays the target, and then needs to be equipped again, but the long-term value is quite immense. (I have to think Heartseeker was an homage to Farslayer). You even give your creature a little bit of a bonus to its size as well. I also find that the threat of tapping to slay a creature is often enough to keep folks from attacking you, so the board presence it has is immense.
Blue doesn’t have the abilities other colors do when it comes to dealing with permanents. You can’t destroy Lands, Creatures, Artifacts very easily. You bounce, you counter, you copy, and you steal. How do you deal with uncounterable lands? What do you do when someone is playing a dorky Volrath's Stronghold or Gaea's Cradle to powerful effect? You can’t counter a land drop, and there are very few ways steal a land, and even fewer copy effects that can copy a land. Blue also rarely gets mana generation. It doesn’t have a lot of ramp. And that’s where Annex comes into play. You can steal a really annoying land like Cabal Coffers or Academy Ruins, or you can steal a land like Command Tower, City of Brass, or Jund Panorama. Feel free to grab something to smooth your mana or to take out an opposing problematic land. I like stealing Maze of Ith before I attack so you can’t use it.
There was a short time after its release in which Galepowder Mage was played pretty frequently. That time is now gone, which is sad for a variety of reasons. First, because you have to attack in order to get the blink trigger, you are encouraged to actually play the game. A lot of Blink-a-ganza decks just frump around not doing much for a long time. But here, you are swinging and trying to bring the game to a close. I’ve also used the Mage to blink out a defender in order to guarantee a hit with either it or my team. Both approaches work nicely. Considering where we are today with the love of all things ETB and blink, it slides into a lot of shells.
In any multiplayer environment, you are always being outdrawn. That’s why a mass discard effect like Syphon Mind or Liliana's Specter is so valuable . You can use it to great effect to strip out some cards, and to help fight the good fight. The Specter is a great, cheap 2/1 flyer capable of actually attacking, blocking, and carrying equipment. It also holds Heartseeker pretty well. As a creature, you can abuse it with the usual suspects, and with the enters-the-battlefield trigger, it can be used over and over again. It’s arguably the best of the ETB effects for any creature that forces a discard in multiplayer. Grab a few and try them out!
The amount of +1/+1 counters people are putting on their creatures is at an all time high at a lot of casual tables. Shut them all down with Kulrath Knight! From Commanders like Marchesa, the Black Rose to The Mimeoplasm, and from Prime Speaker Zegana to Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest, there is clearly a lot of love for +1/+1 counters. Counter hosers like Kulrath Knight are at an all time high in terms of value. Also note that the Knight does not shut down your own creatures, just opposing ones. That makes the Knight a powerful deterrent in the modern metagame of Magic.
And there we have it! I hope you enjoyed this exploration of ten cards you might not have remembered. There are so many cards out there, so I totally get why a card like Tortured Existence, Annex, Arboria, and Heartseeker either fell from your memory or was never in it. So get your card on!