The past few weeks I've kind of been wracking my brain, trying to think of topics to cover. Every format has seemed dominated by companions, so that's what we've been talking about. Week after week. And yet week after week, they can still be found in the majority of top performing decks! The lack of IRL events due to the pandemic has also slowed metagame evolutions to an extent as well.
So this week I wanted to branch out and talk about something more uplifting. I wanted to talk about something I like, rather than something that has been bugging me in nearly every competitive format. This week I want to talk about my Top 8 favorite Standard cards that don't see much - if any - play. I also have another list of my Top 8 least favorite Standard cards to follow next week!
As an aside, isn't it weird that, as Magic players, we frequently discuss things within the confines of Top 8 lists? Typically lists are Top 5 or Top 10. But due to the nature of the game, we're accustomed and familiar with things being ranked to the eighth spot. Just an interesting observation.
8. Ugin, the Ineffable
This just happens to be one of my favorite planeswalkers that are legal right now, but old Eugene doesn't see nearly as much play as he used to. Unfortunately he just doesn't compete with a lot of the other 6- and 7-drops in the format, and that's a little sad. I still think this card is aces and it does everything you want from a planeswalker. Or rather, it fits the planeswalkers template perfectly:
+1 draws a card in some way, in this case he makes a 2/2 that goes into your hand at a later point.
-3 gets rid of a creature or permanent somehow, in this case he has the restriction of it having to be colored.
And because he has a static ability, there's no ultimate ability present. I just really like this Ugin, and I wish it was seeing more play, but I suppose that last part is true of all the cards on this list. The only reason it's coming in at number eight is because there was a time it did see some reasonable play.
7. Bioessence Hydra
I still contend that this is one of the coolest creatures printed in a while. It's just such a great build around that, on its face as a 4/4 with trample, isn't even that bad. Typically a card like this would be a 1/1 for four mana or something, and you'd be required to help it grow for it to pull its weight. The Hydra enters play with some pretty formidable stats and at a reasonable cost.
If you remember not too long ago we actually played a deck where the Hydra was the centerpiece, and it was extremely easy to get it in the 20/20 range, especially with cards like Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner and Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Unfortunately, two of the cards in the deck - Oko, Thief of Crowns and Once Upon a Time - have since been banned, but I'm not sure that's the biggest loss. We can just add some copies of Ugin, the Ineffable to give the Hydra a +5/+5 boost on the next turn. Ha!
One of my favorite parts of the card is that it has been designed for maximum play: it doesn't penalize you for playing your planeswalkers before you cast the Hydra, and it doesn't force you to have them on board before you cast the Hydra.
6. Tectonic Giant
This was a card that actually surprised me. I ended up testing it out when I played my buddy Marc's Mono-Red deck. We were making some changes to the deck, and eventually added a few copies of Tectonic Giant. They ended up being surprisingly good. While the Giant doesn't have an "enters the battlefield" ability, it kind of does, in the sense that if the opponent kills it, or tries to kill it, you actually get your choice of abilities. One of which is just a nice three damage to the dome, which makes killing the Giant in the yet game potentially problematic. The other is essentially drawing a card. Considering that you may "play" the card until the end of your next turn (meaning you can hit land drops), no matter when they try and target the giant, you'll get a shot at the chosen card.
5. Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves
This is another card that did happen to see play in some of the Niv-Mizzet Reborn decks, but not in terribly much outside of that. Tolsimir does it all, and really reminds me a lot of Thragtusk in fact. It gains you life, it makes a 3/3, and it costs five mana. The only difference, really, is that Tolsimir has 3 power on his face, rather than five, and that his wolf is actually able to kill something when it enters the battlefield. So are all future wolves, in fact. I really love this card and I think it checks a lot of boxes for what you want a midrange creature to be doing.
4. Kiora Bests the Sea God
In another time, this would be one of the best control deck finishers we could ask for. In 2020 Standard, however, this card barely sees any play. This card just does so many things that Blue decks are trying to do. It makes a humongous 8/8 hexproof sea creature, it taps all of their nonland permanents for two turns, and it lets you steal any permanent they control. Forever! I mean, I get that it costs 7 mana, but surely we can ramp to this, right? Every time I read this card, I'm more surprised that it doesn't see more play.
3. Brokkos, Apex of Forever
I remember during my set review with Rob, talking about this guy and not being completely impressed with him. I think that had a lot to do with my confusion about the mutate mechanic at the time. Since then I've come to realize that Brokkos turns any creature you draw in the late game into a 6/6 trampler, which is extremely hard to deal with. Paradise Druid? 6/6 trampler that taps for mana. Arboreal Grazer? 6/6 trampler with reach. Murderous Rider? 6/6 trampler with lifelink. The fact that Brokkos keeps coming back, over and over, is just such a pain to deal with. And even just casting him for his cost leaves you with a 6/6 trampler for only five mana. This card is another gem that should be seeing more action.
2. Genesis Ultimatum
Easily one of my favorite new Ultimatums, if not my favorite. It's basically just the Inspired Ultimatum, but with a lot more mana value. Both are allowing you to draw five cards, and I think being able to put those cards directly into play is significantly better than dealing five damage and gaining five life. You could be netting something like 15 free mana with this card. I had a blast playing with this card in the Fires of Invention deck I showed off a while back, and this is another Green card that I feel like we should be ramping into.
1. Nethroi, Apex of Death
I actually have no idea why this card isn't seeing more play and, despite doing an entire set review, I was pretty shocked at its abilities; I guess didn't even really remember them. For starters, this is simply a 5/5 for five with lifelink and deathtouch. A bigger Vampire Nighthawk, if you will. But once you mutate it, you get to return any number of creatures with total power ten or less from your graveyard to the battlefield?! How on earth is that a reasonable ability?
While the mutate cost is a little expensive at seven mana, you can easily just cast it for five, then when you have six mana, mutate something like an Auspicious Starrix onto it. Can you even imagine the value here? Any number of creatures with ten total power is a lot, and typically at least two bodies. I'm actually going to try and build around this card in the next week or so, so I'll keep you guys updated as to how it goes.
Folks, that's all I have for this week. I hope you all enjoyed this list of fun rares and mythics, and I'd love for you to list your favorite cards that aren't seeing enough play in the comments below! Be sure to also use promo code FRANK 5 for 5% off! Thank you so much for reading, I love you guys a ton, stay safe, and I'll see you next week!