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Sorry We... Put Brainwash Online Instead of These Cards (Part 2)


Alright, let's hit it with some more semi-suckitude from the early sets that aren't online. Remember, no particular order until next article and the top 10.

30-27) Color hosers that almost don't suck

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No, none of these are top-of-the-line color hosers. They're all like $1.99 clearance DVDs of Transmorphers: The Last Fallen Dark Age of Extinction.

But we don't get any color hosers anymore, so I think it's important to get the ones that are maybe a tiny bit playable online. So-so color hosers are like air bags — you may go your whole life without needing them, but the one time you need it you'll REALLY need it.

Magnetic Mountain has some really odd flavor. First, what about living in a magical Arabian realm with flying carpets and Djinns says, "let's talk about the principles of magnetism?" I get that magnetism is LIKE magic to some portion of the population, especially clowns, but it's actually science. Well, except the part where a mountain suddenly turns magnetic and then buttons and dinner goblets fly out of people's hands for 20 miles in all directions. That doesn't actually happen with magnetism like it does in the art. But most puzzlingly, what the heck does a bunch of flying metal hooks and cups have to do with blue creatures? There's not even hint of a single blue creature anywhere in this art. For a spell that only affects blue creatures, that seems like a bit of an oversight. My theory is that nerdy blue creatures get super engrossed in figuring out things like how magnetism made that iron ring fly off someone's finger without taking the entire finger with it and don't have time to fight or untap.

Jovial Evil is a bad card. It would be a much better card if it affected all opponents like our next, very similar card, but nope. It has a truly awesome looking demon in the art, but the name is definitely awkward. "Jovial" is defined as "cheerful and friendly"... uh huh. I mean, he uses nice words like "lark", but if your only friends are murderous demons, can you call yourself jovial? I don't think that "cheerful and friendly only towards other genocidal monsters" really fits the same adjective that Santa Claus gets.

Typhoon is a better card, but not by all that much. If you're playing against 3 mono-blue commander decks, it's the bestest card in your deck, but otherwise, its probably about half a Sizzle. The wind with the face of a fat baby is weird, but even odder is the fact that the WIND is casting a shadow on the perfectly calm and flat water. If air cast a shadow, we'd all be living in some kind of Plato-style eternal dark cave or something. Between the flat water, lack of rain, and solid wind that looks like soft-serve ice cream, the whole thing seems really un-typhoon like to me.

Wall of Putrid Flesh is both the opposite of Wall of Light, and the complement to Cemetery Gate, both of which made it online. It's pretty fairly costed, even today, and even has some weird bonus clause hating on Boggle decks. It also has an enormous pea-soup green "thing" in the middle that I have never been able to figure out. Rotting flesh, sure, got it. Weird green thing? No idea what that's supposed to be. Did someone swallow a speedboat before they died?

26-25) Two dumb green snakes

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One from the first expansion, one from the last "early" expansion, these two vaguely venomous snakes have something else in common, they were all over the original Shandalar game, which was awesome. Nafs Asp was in several of the green decks, and there were entire dungeons where every enemy started with a Marsh Viper in play. I may have lost to those dungeons in spectacular fashion more than once.

Until the moment I started writing this article I thought Nafs Asp was "Naf's Asp" and there was a person named Naf who lived dangerously and owned some snakes. Nope, "nafs" is an Arabic word meaning "self or soul." For 24 years I thought this was a poisonous snake and that this extra damage represented poison, but no way, it like poisoned your soul all along, man. Who knew? Back before we had 2 power green creatures for 1-mana without drawbacks, this little guy was pretty good, but I think we might've moved past that, even in pauper. Programming his weird "special payment action" might be a bit tricky, but if Microprose in 1997 could do it, Magic Online can do it... right? Right?

Marsh Viper is the only card in Magic that doles out poison counters that isn't online, now that Pit Scorpion made it. (P.S. He's way better than Pit Scorpion. Huh, P.S. also stands for "Pit Scorpion." Weird.) Marshy was also the first poison creature that had a good chance of maybe actually killing your opponent with poison instead of damage, and was not just a long and winding way of writing out a vanilla creature. Back then, killing with poison was so rare you'd immediately call up your friends and brag to them about it for the next week. These days, thanks to Glistener Elf, the shine has worn off and it happens 10 times a round in every big Modern and Legacy event. It's become the fidget spinner of win conditions — some people still do it, but now no one cares.

24-22) Banding!

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I resisted putting too much banding on the list, but how can you not love these three?

Helm of Chatzuk has absolutely got to be the worst match of art/flavor and ability in Alpha, and that's saying something. This is a set that had Sunglasses of Urza. You're trying to convince people to join up with you and band together to fight, and you show up wearing what appears to be maybe a gas mask made out of a melted deer skull? And that's not even close to capturing what this thing is. It's like the thesis project of a community college art student who was really into taxidermy.

I'd love to have us stare at every cool piece of old Magic art blown up to maximum size, but you know, the internet's only so big. But for this one I made an exception.

Chatzuk!

I mean... yeah. Are his ears made of... tail bones? Is he wearing a cloak made of... veins? That Mark Tedin is sure a creative dude, I'll say that, but I think this card could probably benefit from some new artwork to convince people to band together instead of violently attack the person wearing this.

And though people knock banding, it's actually a pretty darn good ability in any kind of casual format. It makes it both hard for opponents to want to block your stuff and hard for them to attack you back, and at (1) and (1) the price is right. It's also complicated enough that it makes it hard for opponents to understand what the heck is going on, which depending on how evil you are that might be the icing on the cake.

Also let's not forget that it sounds really awesome to say, "Activate Gideon, use two Helm of Chatzuks, attack. So see, Gideon, he's in this band with Tuknir Deathlock and Ramses Overdark. They're sort of a prog metal Queensrÿche meets Metallica meets Rasputina thing, they started touring last month with a gig in Karakas. Yeah, he was in a band with Sivitri Scarzam but they broke up last turn. Creative differences."

Fortified Area might as well say, "Walls you control are indestructible" because that's what it does. If you have at least one wall with a big butt, you can divide a whole lot of damage among your walls with none ever getting near the graveyard. Wizards just had a defender/wall subtheme in Iconic Masters, and this is the missing piece for your ALL WALL Doran, the Siege Tower commander deck. C'Mon, it's a Wall "lord" that isn't even super overcosted, isn't this the kind of fun "defenders staring at each other" thing we want to have online?

Master of the Hunt is not a great card, but it is doubly adorable. First, it doesn't grant banding, it grants banding's emaciated little brother that they keep chained in the attic, "bands with other." A more limited form of banding so useless, they never even actually gave it to a creature. There's this guy that makes the tokens and the Unholy Citadel cycle of the worst lands of all time, and that's it. There's also Shelkin Brownie, who actually hoses this. Just this sub-mechanic! Yes, Magic needed a hoser to make sure "bands with other" didn't get out of control. Did I mention that the Legends set has ZERO ways to destroy (non-Aura) enchantments, but they have Shelkin Brownie? It's exactly like printing a 2-mana 1/1 that says "TAP: Target land can't be fortified".

The second adorable thing about Master of the Hunt is how no one has told him what wolves are. He has a pack of adorable doggies, maybe Old English Sheepdogs, that run around with him. He says, "you're such good wolvies," while they scamper around and lick his face, and they play fetch with his big stick, it's just delightful. There is absolutely no way these adorable ragamuffins on his card are actual wolves. I mean, I call my cat "komodo dragon" but he can't even speak Indonesian.

21-20) Blue auras that politely discourage attacking

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Blue gets all the best cards, but it does get the short end of the creature removal stick. For one-mana aura removal *cough* spells, you can't ask too much of Blue. Blue spells aren't meant to permanently stop a creature — just sort of slow things down and make it ponder why the heck it has so much anger that it wants to attack all the time. And these spells sort of do that job!

The ability on Backfire, weirdly, did not come again to Magic until a few years ago in Visions of Brutality. It's certainly not a Blue ability, and apparently after 20 years of debate that led to repeated outbreaks of fisticuffs and small-scale internal riots they decided Black was the correct color - but only if it's also colorless. Remember when that was a thing? Oy. Backfire features a purple dinosaur growing out of the shoulder of a dome-headed android with stringy hair while their life forces are sucked away in the form of musical notes, but that's hardly the weirdest thing we've seen today, is it?

Tangle Kelp has actual non-abstract artwork that actually depicts what the card is supposed to represent. Hmm... that makes it harder to make fun of, though it is pretty ridiculous that you're summoning like 10 pieces of seaweed. I think a Minotaur walking on the beach is more likely to make a sushi roll with it than be stopped by it, but maybe that's what slows him down for a turn. It's like one third of Claustrophobia at one third the cost. So... it must be as good as Claustrophobia, I guess? Somehow the math doesn't quite work on that one.

I do wish these cards had been printed at Common instead of Uncommon, because maybe Pauper or the "some people swear that it's a thing" Pauper Commander decks could use these. But in general we shouldn't be asking Wizards to change rarities of cards on a whim. That way madness lies.

19) Natural Selection

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Ok, it's an Eagle-Tiger offering you an enormous fruit. Sure, man, I just want to know where this badass race of Eagle-Tigers has been hiding in Magic for the past 24 years.

I'm not super clear on how this card is representing Natural Selection, exactly. Cards with the same idea like Natural Order, Preferred Selection, and Survival of the Fittest all universally feature one creature slaughtering a weaker creature, not a Christmas fruit exchange. Is the gigantic fruit the peak of fruit evolution? Or is it supposed to be about the awesome Eagle-Tiger who I have just now named Mickey? Is Mickey going to prove he's top of the food chain by eating the biggest fruit he can find? Mickey, the fruit, and "the concept of Natural Selection" don't really seem to gel at all.

Even Unstable won't let you augment into a Half-Eagle-Half-Tiger, which to me is a huge missed opportunity. However, they did actually feature his long-lost brother.

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I'll bet I know which one is the black sheep of the family, not even trying to crossbreed his fruit with an elephant or a dinosaur or anything.

Natural Selection plays around in a unique space for green, "messing with the top of opponent's library." Since Jace, the Mind Sculptor proved that opponents looking at and setting your draws every turn isn't actually much fun, they've backed way off from this space. Barring Master's set reprints, I think the last card that let you mess with the top of opponent's library to screw their draws was... Dimir Charm back in Gatecrash? So it's been almost 5 years, and this is Green's only card with this effect. Now, in terms of looking at your own library, it's kind of related to Mirri's Guile and Oath of Nissa and Sensei's Divining Top, but, you know, one-shot and way worse.

Still! Let the Eagle-Tiger named Mickey who's trying to enter the state-fair-largest-fruit contest be free to not be played online, just like he's not played in paper now! Let Mickey's awesome Eagle-Tiger people go!

18) Abu Ja'Far

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Strangely, it seems like new artwork for Magic's favorite leper has shown up in the MTGO program somewhere, but not the actual card. I can't find any article or blog post mentioning when he's being released anywhere, but some on-top-of-their-game websites (like the one you're reading this article on) have it listed. So we may actually get this card online somehow, sooner or later!

Here's the new artwork (sorry, only putrid yellow foil version available at the moment):

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He looks way less sickly than before - assuming that yellow is from the terrible MTGO foil, anyway. In the original artwork he's got eyes sunken into the back of his skull and is touching all of your clean drinking water with his leper-infested hands. Now, he's just standing near your drinking water but looking pretty chill about the fact that he's a leper and everyone shuns him and his touch is instant death.

Of the creatures that came later and basically copied it, Loyal Sentry made it online and saw no play, and that was in Standard, not Legacy. Abu Ja'far's ability is basically the mono-white version of deathtouch, so he's about the same power level as Typhoid Rats and Sedge Scorpion. He's better with Lure, so that's a thing. The possibilities are... not endless, but perhaps a smidgen more than one might expect?

17) Festival

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So, one-mana Fog-like effects are pretty much always playable somewhere. Some kind of Turbo Fog Commander deck if nowhere else, and boy, that sounds like a black hole of fun for everyone. Did you know that the last "new" one-mana fog effect they gave us was in Kamigawa block 13 years ago? And they haven't even reprinted Fog itself in standard since M14, more than 4 years ago? Wizards is really, really not cool with making these effects cost one-mana anymore, so we should probably get all these other early mistakes online. Plus, it has a secret bonus combo with one of the cards in our top ten...

I'm just going to quote the flavor text entirely. "Only after the townsfolk had drawn us into their merry celebration did we discover that their holiday rituals held a deeper purpose." And then I want to show you a close-up of the guy in the background.

HE'S HOLDING A HUMAN SKULL

HE CARVED THE ANARCHY SYMBOL INTO HIS FOREHEAD WITH A DULL KNIFE, POORLY! HE FILED HIS YELLOWED TEETH INTO RAZOR-SHARP POINTS! AND HE'S HOLDING A FRICKIN' HUMAN SKULL!

If this guy comes out to greet you before a Festival and you're like, "hey can we join your merry celebration" and then "only after" discover that something's wrong, maybe adventuring is not the profession for you. I think most people would have seen a few red flags before it got that far and just started lobbing flaming arrows over the walls at this hellpit of a town.

Maybe the holiday they're celebrating is "Be Kind to a Vampiric Ghoul Day"? They dress them up in adorable jester outfits and parade them through the streets while they cuddle with the skulls of their latest victims. Celebrating diversity is great, but that would still get the flaming arrows from me.

16-15) Legends cards that are not cool with instants

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This pair of oddballs from Legends both hate on every competitive player's favorite card type, the instant. They just both do it really inefficiently.

Ichneumon Druid has orange-ish skin covered in tattoos and a very dark face, and then also a yellow beard with a jet-black goatee coming out of it. I'm really not sure what's going on with all that. Make up your own theories. He'd actually be pretty great if he didn't have that whole thing about only hosing the second instant a player plays. The first Lightning Bolt frying one of his friends doesn't bother him, it's the second one where he gets really pissed off. Ok... He's like Ruric Thar, the Unbowed's lazy little brother who wants to do nothing but play video games all day, and you have to ask him twice to get off the couch and use his vengeful magic.

Now, that is one ginormous Ring of Immortals. It covers two knuckles and looks about as comfortable as a Chinese finger trap. I'm not sure how that person is physically bending their finger into a fist, but it probably involves multiple broken bones. It's also a repeatable counterspell, which is kind of cool. I mean, it does actually counter the first Lightning Bolt thrown at your creatures each turn. However, its restriction of only countering instants or Auras that target your permanents means no getting involved in counterspell wars or other fun with instants, instead it's more like half-hexproof. Back in the day Ring of Immortals was even more useless, since it only targeted "interrupts" at "interrupt speed" (raise your hand if you have any idea what I'm talking about) but they were nice to it when they updated Oracle and let it counter instants instead, something it totally couldn't do before. Thanks Oracle!

14) Dark Sphere

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There's always room for 0-mana artifacts at the Unlikely Combo Ranch. Various bad combos involving Retract and Hurkyl's Recall can always use more options. Plus, maybe the card really is kind of ok for a 0-mana artifact? Did you know it's the only (? didn't do the research) 0-mana way in Magic to stop an unblocked infect creature with hexproof? It allows you to choose a source and halve that damage, and does not target. Also stops fireballs from burning you out and even stops Marit Lage for a turn. The fact your opponent can kind of always see it coming is a bummer, it could really use flash, but what else do you want from a 0-mana artifact?

The artwork is a super classic from Mark Tedin, but kind of a horrendous mismatch with the flavor text. "The strange curiosity I carried fell to the ground..." Someone clearly didn't get the memo about what size this Dark Sphere is supposed to be.

13-12) Cards from The Dark that sort of destroy multiple lands, but are usually Lava Axes instead.

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Both of these cards start out really great. All land is destroyed for 3 mana! Lands can't enter the battlefield for 5 mana! But then they both pile on these weird escape clauses which results in your opponent probably losing about 5 life on average (everyone in the case of Cleansing) and nothing else happening.

I thought Cleansing was a one-sided 3-mana Armageddon with Angel of Jubilation in play, but it actually isn't, so, uh, nevermind. It also features the common apocalypse trope of giant vats of bread dough falling from the sky and engulfing everything. That's one way to ruin some property values, I guess.

Worms of the Earth is the only card in Magic with the oracle text "lands can't enter the battlefield." There's only a handful of other things that stop lands from being played (Limited Resources and Territorial Dispute most directly), but they all let you Rampant Growth away to your heart's content. Not here! Also, notice that if you can somehow give this card "indestructible" permanently the turn you play it (tough for a black enchantment but not impossible), then it has no escape clause! Old templating used "destroy" instead of "sacrifice", and then it just completely shuts down new lands forever. The art is great and creepy, though I always want to scream at the guy in it to stop beating up the dirt and run, because he's about 4 inches of loose soil (that somehow hasn't collapsed) away from becoming fertilizer.

Both of these cards have effects that are unique in Magic. Unfortunately, that means that they would probably require some extra programming to get right. But Worms of the Earth is the only card in Magic history with the words "mucous" or "residues" printed on it (yes, I did do the research), so you know it's totally going to be worth it.

11) Urza's Avenger

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This guy was the bomb-diggity back when Antiquities came out. I can't even express how cool he was back then. He was sort of the original Akroma, Angel of Wrath except you had to maim him to give him all of his cool keywords. At the time, Magic had less than 500 cards total and we'd never seen anything like this before and he was big money. He (sort of) had FOUR keywords for crying out loud! They'll never top that...

Apparently he's some kind of robot bodyguard Urza built. My mental picture of Urza (with head attached, anyway) is as an annoying arrogant busybody who accidentally destroyed the world, but he must have had this conversation at some point.

"You're going to need to avenge me when I'm gone. Here's a crossbow hand, that should help."

And that just makes Urza seem way cooler. I mean, I'm not sure why Urza's Avenger's face is a kidney or why his whole left side is just exposed bones, but... crossbow hand! Screw hooks, crossbows are where it's at for severed limbs.

He's one of those cards that reads cooler than he actually plays, so I couldn't quite put him in the top 10. Just like his callback Jodah's Avenger, he'd be very limited playable in any set but he's not quite there for constructed. But I miss having him online, I need that Urza's Avenger-shaped hole in my heart filled. He's in my personal top 10 for sure.

 

Join us next time as we finish off the early sets and see if we can dig up some playables. Until then, keep playing the bad cards!


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