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Top 10 Flavor Winners of 2015


Apart from being a Level 20 Flavor Judge, I am in many ways normal. After the holidays, I want nothing more than to kick my feet up and play a few matches of Modern. But duty calls. As the highest-ranked flavor judge on this plane, I must assess the best Vorthos elements of every card printed this year. Using Excel, Sensei's Divining Top, and an Ouija board, I have scientifically determined those cards with the best names, flavor text, and art. I have chosen the most flavorful mechanics and top story-builders of the year.

People tend to believe such things as story and prose are too subjective to be judged. Ha! What simple minds. My certification in the Flavor Judge program is both a well-earned privilege and a burden. The truth always is. Prepare yourselves for it.

10 — Most Feels

Blessed Spirits

The flavor elements of Blessed Spirits demand an emotional response—and a powerful one. Joy fills us from the idea of brave children continuing to do good even though now not everyone can see them. Or we shudder at the thought of children dying young. We wince at the pattering sound of small feet crossing the cathedral flagstones, at distant laughter in empty rooms.

The flavor text, card name, and art of Blessed Spirits combine into pathos. Whether we are brightened or unsettled, we felt something real. We cannot ask more of a game.

Runners-up for Most Feels: Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Sarkhan's Triumph

9 — Best Flavor Text, Long Form

Cloud Manta

Magic cards present a story glimpse by glimpse. Vanilla creatures give us an opportunity for a longer look, this time into Zendikar. We learn that people came to revere the dread Eldrazi by mistake. We sense the outrage, the crushing betrayal and despair felt by the devotees. Their gods have come alive to consume their world. What higher power can the people turn to now? Their greatest hopes are nightmares.

Also, bonus mantas.

Runners-up for Flavor Text, Long-Form: Vampiric Rites and Hedron Archive

8 — Best Bod

Enthralling Victor

Flavor judging is a highly technical pursuit. My observations have confirmed that certain segments of the Magic player base view this card for statistically longer intervals than the card abilities would warrant. They also talk about Enthralling Victor more than one could expect for a card not played in Constructed. The difference can only be attributed to flavor. No doubt people are appreciating the double meaning in the flavor text.

Runners-up for Best Bod: Kiora, Master of the Depths and Dragonlord Atarka

7 — Most Banana

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

This year’s contentious award for Most Banana has a clear victor in Tasigur, the Golden Fang, for his appetites and good taste in undead serving vessels. Not only does the art and card name give us a chilling image of a decadent tyrant, but the game mechanics also add to the flavor. Tasigur’s ability presents the opponent with a choice, often a cruel one. This sadist loves seeing his foes squirm, forced to decide their own doom.

The mechanic of delve also fits here. It’s easier to pique Tasigur’s interest and summon him if the game has had more grief and death—a fitting forefather of the Sultai Brood. Say, whatever happened to him?

Runners-up for Most Banana: Youthful Scholar and Dragonlord's Servant

6 — Best Bling

Dragonlord Silumgar

Silumgar wears tyrants for jewelry. He coerced Tasigur to betray the other khans, who were ambushed and corroded by a blast of elder breath. All the Dragonlords are epic conclusions to the time-travel narrative of Tarkir, but none of the rest has Silumgar’s panache.

I, for one, welcome our new Dragonlords.

Runners-up for Best Bling: Glint and Karlov of the Ghost Council

5 — Best Card Name


Great flavor helps us remember game mechanics. Here, we can easily imagine a dragon swooping down and roasting someone. Ground creatures are easy targets, and we’re also given a reason it is 5 damage, as that’s the average power of big, scaly flyers since Shivan Dragon. The monosyllabic nature of Roast grants it the most punch and helps when recounting Magic games or commentating.

The promo of Roast also deserves a mention. Here, the damage is conceptualized with a lava flow. It is even clearer why only ground creatures can be targeted. A pair of wings will take you over the deluge of molten rock. The more you know.

The flavor text is also an agony. I love it.

Runners-up for Best Card Name: Collateral Damage and Anticipate

4 — Most Flavorful Mechanic: Ingest

Fathom Feeder

In previous ages, Eldrazi such as Ulamog's Crusher devoured the opponent’s permanents through the ability of annihilator. As players know who have faced against the more recent Bane of Bala Ged, this feels terrible. In no way could this demoralizing ability scale down to Eldrazi drones. And yet, we want to remember that they are consuming the lands, leaving Wastes of calcified desolation. We should be scared and disgusted at Eldrazi, even small ones.

The mechanic of ingest lets us feel just the right amount of defiled. The Eldrazi are slurping away our future, our library, and then processing it into horrors we never before imagined. Thanks, Wizards.

I chose Fathom Feeder as our ingesting representative for its art alone. Its alliterative name is just gravy.

Runners-up for Flavorful Mechanics: “choose one” (Palace Siege) and experience counters (Mizzix of the Izmagnus)

Now come the most difficult picks yet. I must select the three best flavor winners of the year. Some might sweat under the pressure, the fear of making a mistake in these final moments, but not me. I left human error behind in Level 19 of the Flavor Judge program.

3 — Best Backstory

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death

With the expanding role of storytelling in Magic, some powerful narratives may not be obvious on the cards themselves. Such is the case with Alesha’s tale, “The Truth of Names” by James Wyatt. The story introduces us to the first openly trans character in the Multiverse and reaffirms Wizards’s dedication to making a game that welcomes people of all backgrounds.

Runners-up for Best Backstory: Jace, Vryn's Prodigy (“Absent Minds”) and Daxos the Returned (his wiki)

2 — Most Cackles

Demonic Pact

Curse the day that Dromoka's Command was printed! It kept the flavor gem of Demonic Pact out of Standard. The possibilities of this card could tempt even a cold-hearted grinder. One has to only glimpse its power to begin imagining the glee of drawing two cards, draining someone for 4, and then cheating the contract before the final, dooming hour.

The mechanics of Demonic Pact insert us into Liliana’s story. We feel her same desires and desperate hopes. As gamers, how could we blame her for selling her soul? Look at all that value. With a bit of scheming, we can avoid the terrible costs and win with style. Nothing will go wrong, surely.

Runners-up for Most Cackles: Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Arachnogenesis

Placing the player in the story is the most powerful way games can engage us. We remember best by participating. The top winner of 2015 succeeds in this as well through the use of great game mechanics and overall flavor synergy. Before we look at this card, however, I will mention that I am not biased toward any particular color or lavender-glowing Planeswalker—definitely not.

1 — Best Storytelling and Best Flavor Overall: Transformed Planeswalkers

Liliana, Heretical Healer
Liliana, Defiant Necromancer

Each Magic Origins Planeswalker tells a story on a single card. I might have chosen any one of them as the winner or selected them as five of the top ten for the year. They are all fitting protagonists for the Magic narrative. We can come to feel their sorrows and triumphs. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy has to discard memories (cards) before his spark ignites. Gideon, Battle-Forged only becomes great after leading his friends into danger (and death). Nissa, Vastwood Seer has to explore much of Zendikar before she gains her revelation.

Though I might’ve picked any of the Origins Five, Liliana has the most poignant story, the most evocative mechanics, and most Karla-Ortiz of all the arts. Liliana’s card names are also on point, guiding us to the idea that she would use any means to heal her ailing ally. When her magic goes awry and she resurrects only a mockery of life, the shock ignites her spark. Rather than falling into remorse, she embraces her newfound powers and dresses herself in swagger.

Runners-up for Best Storytelling: Zurgo Bellstriker and Crux of Fate

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