Hello folks! I hope that you have had a fun May-fueled splendor of a week. Right now I’m in the middle of job interviews, flying all over America. As of the time you are reading this, I will have flown out to Prescott, AZ and am heading out to Winston-Salem tomorrow, and these trips take days out of my schedule. Trying to jam pack in some work for my normal job, and then a bunch of articles too, isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do!
The good thing is that I write my articles as I am inspired, not to a schedule. So I published a Top Ten article a few weeks ago on ten random cards I hit on Gatherer and then talk about them. And I noticed an odd thing. I played every single one of those cards at some point in time!
Well that’s fun. I’ve been playing since 1994, all of my adult life. I have played in an epic amount of limited, casual, and tournament level fun. And then I have a draft format where I have at least one copy of every card ever made that we draft from, and that’s pretty cool too! (I’m only missing fewer than 20 of the most expensive cards ever made, including the Power 9).
Given my experience with the game, and the draft as well, I have probably played with an overwhelming majority of cards in the game. I actually wrote this article two days after the publication of my 1st iteration of this article after it was warmly received, and just waited until I had time in my schedule to publish it. With my aerial endeavors engaged, it seems time to grab some random cards and continue the theme!
So let’s put that to the test again! I hit up Gatherer, and hit the “Random Card” function ten times (well actually twelve, I got Mountain and Swamp in there twice).
Gush is a fun card that I had played in a few decks. It’s great for builds like landfall, Stasis or Winter Orb that care more about hitting your land drop each turn than the number of lands you run. Draw some cards, and reset some lands to play to steal more stuff with Roil Elemental! Here’s a fun fact for you: I once thought that the gushing water in the back of the art was an iceberg. With a community rating of 4.796 I suspect this will be the highest ranked card by the community on Gatherer today. (Gatherer, please don’t read that as a challenge. I don’t want to flip Time Walk next). But we all know the power of Gush. It’s so good it was restricted in Vintage. That puts it on the same list as cards like Ancestral Recall (And, to be fair, 2 cards for 0 mana is roughly equivalent to 3 cards for 1 mana). Gush away my friends, Gush away. It even makes Commander decks, like Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper, look askance at the power of the Gush. When Mercadian Masques block was released, I had a Standard turbo Stasis deck with all of the trimmings, including Howling Mine and Stasis. I embraced this all day long, as well as Thwart and a later entry from the block in Foil. I bounced lands, so I could keep replaying them and upkeeping my Stasis. And that was not the last time that I ran Gush either.
All right, that was a fun start . . . let’s Gush away to number nine . . .
9. Infernal Darkness
Man, Ice Age had some seriously janky enchantments. There are a few effects in this vein of the Infernal Darkness. Take Ritual of Subdual that makes all of the pretty lands tap for just colorless mana, or the Naked Singularity that makes everything tap for the wrong mana, or even stuff printed in the same era, like the infamous Blood Moon. Sorry that you can’t play Magic! Infernal Darkness just washes all of your pretty mana into Black, and it won’t stick around for long either. Now, in Commander, it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth. Even if I’m playing Black, unless my deck is Mono-Black, I can’t cast my leader. So any deck that requires its leader to be on the battlefield to work is going to have to destroy or wait-out the Infernal Darkness. And since you are playing the card, it’s not like it’ll bother you at all, right? Now, I can speak at length about the power of Infernal Darkness because I run Contamination in a Mono-Black build I have, and I sacrifice creatures that self-recur like Bloodghast, Nether Shadow, and Reassembling Skeleton. Blood Moon let’s people use their basic lands, so it’s answerable in a way that these effects are not. They can push a table in your direction very nicely. Enjoy.
8. Silver Seraph
This has always been one of my favorite threshold abilities, due to how abusive it can be to pump your team by +2/+2 on a threshold. Now, I do think that if Silver Seraph were made today, it would just remove the “other” language and let you pump herself as well. If I’m paying 9 mana for a 6/6 creature that also needs threshold to work, then I should get a better creature too, right? Right! A lot of Commander decks that run White have graveyard centric themes that try to build it up and use it as a resource, like Karador, Ghost Chieftain or Teneb, the Harvester. We have a lot of White cards that work nicely with reanimation and recursion, so White slides right on in for a build like that. In that shell, the Seraph works wonders for two major reasons. First, you are likely to have threshold given your desire of stocking the ‘Yard. Second, you can Unburial Rites the Seraph or cheat it out with other ways rather than paying full cost. And a 5th turn 6/6 flyer that is making the rest of the team a serious threat is a nice play.
7. Fire // Ice
Well, we almost beat Gush on the Gatherer challenge! Umm . . . whew! Just 4.469 community ratings instead. And like Gush, Fire // Ice has a major pedigree in Vintage and other older formats as well. It has been played in decks like Keeper as a kill or tempo card as well as other shells too. The “tap and draw a card” of Ice is very flexible given the right targets. And as metagames shift, the card’s value does as well, but for now, it looks (sp)icy and hot. Along with Spite // Malice, and Order // Chaos, it was one of the key three split cards from Invasion Block that were really powerful. It’s kept its reputation. I have played it in countless decks over the years!
6. Silvos, Rogue Elemental
To my mind, Silvos is the first Force of Nature variant that doesn’t suck. Early on in Magic’s history, the early editions of cheaper casting cost big tramplers always had a nasty break on them to prevent them from being overly abusive. Here, let me show you:
Alpha — Force of Nature — This is a cheap, big trampler that will shoot you in the face without that upkeep.
Legends — Craw Giant. So many Green symbols! This was the first attempt, not to have a reasonable cost or a big boot, but instead to have a higher cost attached to your creature (often far in excess of what other colors would pay for similar sized creatures).
Alliances — Gargantuan Gorilla. Yup. Enjoy the suckage with that weakness.
Visions — Stampeding Wildebeests. Self-bounce away to get this 5/4 joy.
Urza’s Saga — Child of Gaea — Trampling and regeneration on a big ol’ booty. Result? Still 2 mana each upkeep. Sorry.
Urza’s Saga — Endless Wurm — What a break.
Now compare those to Silvos. Silvos is a cheap six mana, although all of this rare gladiator cycle has heavy commitment to their color, like Rorix Bladewing and Arcanis the Omnipotent. So a simple six mana investment gets you an 8/5 trampler, with the same power and slightly less heavy cost than Force of Nature and others in this ilk. It’s bigger and two mana cheaper than Crash of Rhinos, and embarrasses cards that were intentionally kept weak like Yavimaya Wurm in size or Endless Wurm in ability.
Now add on regeneration like Carnassid or Child of Gaea, but with just 1-mana required, and your 8/5 trampler can swing with impunity, smashing foes all over, while keeping only one open to protect your investment of smash-ery. Can’t you just see how in one card Silvos changed the game of Magic in a major way, paving the way for considerably better beaters moving forward? I loved running Silvos at the kitchen table, and it made an immediate impact in my various decks, including the at-the-time svelte Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy with around 300 cards or so. You know what? Nothing is stopping you from getting your smash on today with said beater! So go out there and get your Silvos on!
And now it’s time for the final 5 random cards.
5. Corpse Dance
I literally whispered, “Oh my,” when I randomly hit this. I have always enjoyed Corpse Dance as a great way to do some stuff Black recursion that’s pretty rare. Re-buyable, recursion with haste, but then exiling follows if the creature is still on the battlefield, and with the limitation of the creature needing to be on top. But there’s so much good here. Johnnies love this combo with creatures that you can sacrifice for mana, like Composite Golem or Rasputin Dreamweaver or Workhorse. Reduce your play cost with Memory Crystal or Jet Medallion to make mana each iteration. Sacrifice Ticking Gnomes over and over again to kill someone. Sacrifice Bottle Gnomes over and over again to gain a (literal) ton of life. And because none of the components here for the various combos are bad cards outside of their combo, you can easily build a deck with Jet Medallions as your mana rocks and a few buyback cards in addition to CD. That deck was actually a winning Standard deck at the time.
But there are so many ideas. Here’s one. Get Nicol Bolas into your graveyard. On turn three, cast, with no buyback Corpse Dance. Hit someone for 7 flying damage and make them discard their hand. Now sure, NB will be exiled right after, but I think you might win that game. (See also: Shallow Grave). Sacrifice outlets like Goblin Bombardment and Ashnod's Altar come to mind. Fell Shepherd! Lord of the Void! Great Whale! Thada Adel, Acquisitor! Dragon Mage! Afraid of losing the creature you smash with? You could run Giant Adephage, make a token, and then exile the original. Scion of Darkness? Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder? Mindleech Mass? But my favorite non-Nicol Bolas card is . . . wait for it . . . Medomai the Ageless. Time Walk and smash for 5. What’s not to love? The synergy of Corpse Dance with the vast untold riches of Magic is very important to understand. I’ve used it myself in combo decks, Commander, and lots more!
4. Hail Storm
Old school tech meet your new era of Magic. Take another look at Hail Storm. Because it was reprinted in Time Spiral as a timeshifted card, it’s legal in Modern. Take a real, serious look at what Hail Storm does — as an instant, you deal 2 damage to each attacking creature and 1 to you and your stuff. Why? Well, silly, clearly because Hail is worse than Sand (i.e. Sandstorm). Now, when is this a good card to use? When:
- Your foes have lots of 2 or fewer toughness creatures
- Your foes tend to swing out with the team, instead of keeping them back
- You don’t have a bunch of X/1 creatures
- For special consideration — When either a Green mass damage source would be unexpected or get around protection, or when you don’t have Red for other stuff
I have run Hail Storm myself in my sideboard against aggro decks as a great way to clear out Pump Knights like Order of Leitbur or Jackal Pups as an awesome game-changing surprise. If your foes are bringing the heat with Goblin Guide or Kor Firewalker, then this is a cool spell. Note that, unlike normal mass damage effects, such as Anger of the Gods, it only deals 1 damage to your stuff, and thus is much more likely to keep alive your own Goblin Guide or Monastery Mentor. I’m not saying it’s the newest tech for Modern or anything, but don’t sleep on options if the metagame for any format where it is legal meet the perfect storm.
3. Elven Lyre
This is part of an artifact cycle in Fallen Empires that mimics the initial “boon” cycle of cards from Alpha with an artifact that you sacrifice for a weaker version of that effect. Here the Lyre is a weaker but colorless Giant Growth. Others in this cycle and what they are supposed to recreate:
Now I have played every card in this cycle, although Balm very rarely. They are all on the Reserve List too, which strikes me as pretty odd. None of them are that good. I’ve run Implements, the Horn and Aeolipile in various Commander ’95 builds, where you can only run a card that was initially printed before or during 1995. All have done good work there. I’ve also used this full cycle at various times in the draft I mentioned before, and I used the Lyre in an artifact-focused build with some random cards from various artifact-centric sets liking it. And the cycle has done some strong stuff in there as well. It’s fun when I get to add Aeolipile to an artifact-centric build I got randomly from the history of Magic. Enjoy the boon cycle, in artifact form.
2. Trokin High Guard
Well, we knew it was going to happen eventually. I was going to eventually hit a vanilla creature with no abilities, it was just a matter of time. But I’m glad it was this bizarre card from Portal Second Age. Guns. Swords. Shiny Metal Armor. And an oddly blown-by-the-breeze red banner thing from the High Guard’s helmet. Hello classic Ron Spencer art. Oh, and we have a Hill Giant in White, did you know that? No abilities, nothing. Just a 3/3 for four. Now I actually haven’t run Trokin High Guard, so there you are! Gatherer won this time!
Are you ready for the final Random Card!
So what’s been your take on living weapon mechanic? I think it’s worked wonders for me. Other than the obvious “Batterskull is Broken” conversation, many of the Living Weapons are great. I even really enjoy this and Flayer Husk, because they give you a creature, and then post death, stick around for helping the team. Sure, a few living weapons are downright awesome, like Bonehoard or Lashwrithe. But the value of Necropouncer, Skinwing, Mortarpod, and Scytheclaw are strong too. The only one in the set of living weapons I think is too weak is Strandwalker. Five mana for a Giant Spider? Outside of Limited, four mana for a Giant Spider is way too slow these days. And then another four to Giant Spider up a creature? Nah. But don’t sleep on the solid Sickleslicer and its kin.
And there we go! Another ten random cards gathered from the bowels of Magic for a return in the sun. So what did you think? Anything in here you like or want to run? Do you want to see this series continue? Let me know!