Zendikar Rising Standard Set Review with Ali Aintrazi
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Top Ten Unheralded Cycles


Hello folks! I hope that your day is going well! Last week I looked at classic cycles that have been printed down through the years such as the Titans. You can check out my article here.

In that article I discussed four types of cycles. Reverse Cycles such as Black Knight and White Knight that mirror each other. Mega cycles across multiple sets such as Academy Ruins and Hall of Heliod's Generosity. Horizontal cycles across multiple colors such as the Command cycle like Cryptic Command. And vertical cycles were our last one, and these are (often) at multiple rarities in one color such as the Wards in the first set like White Ward and Black Ward.

Today I want to look at cycles that fall into a few camps.

  1. Never Weres - These are awesome cycles that never caught on, but they should have. They are cycles that are forgotten to the history of Magic. A good example of a never were cycle will hit #1 below!
  2. Has-Beens - There are many great cycles out there were they were all played. But time has passed them by, and that's unfortunate because they are still strong options at the kitchen table through today. They'll hit as high as #2 on my list!
  3. One Left - There are a few cycles out there were one (or two) were hits and the rest are unplayed or are forgotten. However, the rest are much better than their reputation and we'll see some classic cycles hitting our list.
  4. Unheralded - There are great cycles out there that get a lot of play even today at the kitchen table that are not seen as these classic cycles. They are the Unheralded Cycles of MTG as they don't hit as high as they should on people's radar. We'll bring a few of these to you and one of them will hit the #3 spot.

Are you ready to get your cycle on?

Let's do it!

Honorable Mention - The Bloodfire Cycle

Bloodfire Kavu
Bloodfire Colossus

This is a vertical cycle from Apocalypse. This is a great example of a Has Been cycle as Bloodfire Kavu and Bloodfire Colossus used to be heavily played at the kitchen table. What this cycle seeks to do is to have three creatures with sacrifice abilities for sweeping removal of the same rarity. The common Bloodfire Dwarf sacrifices for a common Tremor. The uncommon Kavu sacrifices for an uncommon Pyroclasm. The rare Colossus sacrifices for a rare Inferno. The latter two were heavily played, and the Colossus was one of the best creatures in red for a long time in any multiplayer format. This is a key vertical cycle. Don't sleep on it!

10. Odyssey Block Aven Leaders

Commander Eesha

This is our only Mega Set Cycle that's hitting today and it's a Never Were Cycle. They are all great, but Commander Eesha and Lieutenant Kirtar hit a special place in my heart. The former is amazing at so many things in casual. Blocking? Stopping folks from hitting you? Slipping in through creature-based defenses? Dodging creature-based removal? I got you! I also love Kirtar. I enjoy Kirtar as a Commander who is cheap, flies, and has a useful sacrifice effect you can use to go smash someone. He basically is a Seal of Order (from Order // Chaos). Kirtar is awesome and pertinent. Even Major Teroh is no bad shakes. I adore this unsung cycle!

9. Ixalan Legendary Enchantment Flip Cycle

Arguel's Blood Fast

Two of these, Growing Rites of Itlimoc and Search for Azcanta, are played heavily and adored by different styles of players. The other three...aren't. But they should be! Making this an example of a One Left that's more of a Two Left. But I have won games with each of the other cards in this cycle. From Vance's Blasting Cannons card advantage and great flip to Legion's Landing on curve play, they are all great. Don't forget about them today! Shout out to the enemy colored cycle in Rivals of Ixalan as well as they are very underplayed as well.

8. Champions of Kamigawa Legendary Lands

Minamo, School at Water's Edge
Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
Eiganjo Castle

This cycle of legendary lands is pretty heavily played in Commander where it has obvious synergy with the leader, but outside of that format? Not really. And it should be! After the rules changed for legendary permanents you can each have one copy of it on the battlefield rather than the previous "Just one" rule that prevented someone from running their own copy out there if there was one there. None of the lands in this cycle come into play tapped or have a pain or slow taps or anything else so even if you don't control any legendary creatures at the moment, there is no issue with it at all. They need more respect from 60 card formats. Because of the Commander respect, they drop to #8 but no further.

7. The Talismans from Modern Horizons and Mirrodin

Talisman of Conviction
Talisman of Unity

Particularly in Commander, they don't get the play they should! They are cleaner than the Signet cycle that gets played a lot more despite needing a mana to use and being less helpful when you only need 1 mana. Their ability to tap for colorless and remove any pain from them is their typical mode. But if you need the right color, then it's ready for you at the push of a pin. In a format that begins with 40 life that life loss is pretty minor. Yet I don't see them get nearly the play they should. They are an ideal two-drop mana rock. Don't forget about them when you build your next Commander deck!

6. Medallions from Tempest

Pearl Medallion
Ruby Medallion

These are another underplayed two-drop in Commander. They are best in decks with a small amount of colors, and ideal in a mono-colored deck. Each of them has mad value in casual land formats outside of Commander where they can drop multiples and really get things going. Want to know something? I have seen many mono-colored Commander decks in real life not run a Medallion even though I know that that player owns some copies. They are best in colors without ramp and they are the perfect 2-drop accelerant in many a mono-colored home. Enjoy them and don't forget about these amazing tools either for your next Commander build!

5. Alliances Pitch Cycle

Force of Will
Scars of the Veteran

Bounty of the Hunt

Our highest charting One Left Cycle is this one. Force of Will dominated during its era and still does some formats today! But the rest of this cycle? It's pretty saucy! I've saved a key creature with Scars of the Veteran and then pumped it up. I've killed multiple creatures with Contagion in Legacy in my Pox deck. I've gotten two or three dorks killed with Pyrokinesis. I've traded or killed with a pumped dork with Bounty of the Hunt. All are great! This cycle began the pitch mechanic that continues to be used through today! It was one of the first free spell that made heavy rotation later. It's a well fleshed out and it's not just Force of Will and some sidekicks. Run the others and see if you agree with me!

4. Invasion Tap Lands

Urborg Volcano
Shivan Oasis
Elfhame Palace

Salt Marsh
Coastal Tower

I don't know if you remember just how bad multicolored lands were when Invasion dropped this cycle. These includes the comes-into-play and cannot tap for pain free colorless of Tempest's enemy colored pain lands or the slow lands of the same set that included lands like Mogg Hollows and Caldera Lake, both of which are big losers for reliable mana fixing. But here? With this cycle it heralded the end of bad lands for making mana and just two sets later we'd get enemy pain lands. This cycle has not been respected as it should!

3. Cycling Lands from Urza's Saga

Smoldering Crater
Blasted Landscape
Polluted Mire

This key cycle defines an Unheralded Cycle. It's never been respected as this amazing cycle that opened possibilities for lands. These six lands were great ways to churn extra land that was draw later in the game into another card, all for the cost of tempo. They arrived tapped. You would drop them on a turn you didn't need them anyway like turn one or 2. The tempo cost was more than worth it. The value for this was really strong in colors not heavy in card drawing like Red, White and (at the time) Green. They are played but not as respected as they should be!

2. The Battlemagi

Stormscape Battlemage
Sunscape Battlemage
Thornscape Battlemage

Thunderscape Battlemage
Nightscape Battlemage

Our top ranked Has Been is this formally played cycle from Planeshift. How are these still not played? They can do anything! Destroy an artifact? Enchantment? Dork? Land? Shoot for damage? Gain life? Draw cards? Force discard? They are a massively flexible cycle of dorks that can do anything. The worst thing is that they don't work with modern blink technology like other key enters-the-battlefield triggers among dorks. But that cannot be the sole reason for these to have faded. Respect them again!

1. The Sanctuary Cycle

Raka Sanctuary
Ceta Sanctuary
Necra Sanctuary

Ana Sanctuary
Dega Sanctuary

I don't know if this uncommon cycle from Apocalypse inspired the legendary Shrine from Champions of Kamigawa like Honden of Seeing Winds. But I run them all in my Five-Color Friends deck and this cycle works wonders there! This is a great example of a Never Were cycle that never caught on no matter how good is was! They all have powerful triggers that get better the more of an enemy color you have. Just one? The small trigger. Both? A much bigger one! They are great in a five-color Commander deck where your Commander is all five colors and owning it nets you both triggers. They are also good in a wedge color with the enemy one having the Sanctuary. Like Ceta Sanctuary in a Temur deck as your leader will have both Green and Red. My favorites are Ceta Sanctuary and Raka Sanctuary. I'll fetch each regularly from my build with cards like Academy Rector.

And there you go! So, what did you think of my list? Did I miss anything? Anything you agree with? Just let me know and have an awesome (and safe) day!

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