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Sorry We... Put Brainwash Online Instead of These Cards (Part 3)

Now we're into the good(??? ??? ??? ?? ? I've run out of question marks) stuff. Below are the top ten best cards not yet online from the early sets!

10) Land's Edge

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Ok, confession time. Turns out I have been misreading this card for years until halfway through writing this article - for one, maybe two decades, even. I know I used to play it in 1994, and I think I used it correctly back then, but ever since Seismic Assault was printed, my brain wires got crossed and thought this card could hit CREATURES and players like Seismic does, and its only drawback was that your opponents could use it too. I didn't understand why Legacy Life from the Loam decks weren't running it alongside Seismic Assault, as it's easier to cast and the drawback doesn't seem very relevant to that deck.

Now all is clear. RTFC, kids! So... I originally had this at number 1 in the countdown, but I think it's still ok here at number 10. It still does the "finishing your opponent" part of what Seismic Assault does in combination with Loam, it just can't ping down all their creatures first, which, you know, is often a tiny bit relevant. That's definitely worth the extra awkwardness of casting a spell with a third red mana symbol in a deck with almost no other red cards.

But saved by Commander sort of! Apparently this card goes into some Hazoret the Fervent Commander decks. That's a thing, so totally earned its top 10 spot. Also, stop me if you've heard this before, but as a World Enchantment it can randomly hose The Abyss or Nether Void - bonus!

Ok, sorry, that's all I got. *mic drop*

9) Tolaria

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Tolaria! One of the most important locations in Magic's entire history. Home of the Tolarian Academy, Dominaria's premiere school for snooty elite wizards-in-training. Think Hogwarts, but more explodey. Somehow, the entire island of Tolaria only provides 1 blue mana while the Academy that's a small part of it provides approximately 17 blue mana every time you tap it. That does NOT MAKE SENSE. Maybe it's some kind of Doctor Who bigger-on-the-inside paradox, I don't know.

I have definitely seen decks that want to dodge Choke and run things like Oboro, Palace in the Clouds which is also an otherwise useless Legendary Island. This would slot right into those decks. And it really bugs me that we got the other 4 Legends Legendary Lands online, but not this.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

All these other doofuses (ok, 2 amazing deck-defining cards and 2 doofuses) are online, but they completely skipped Tolaria just because "nobody plays with banding." That's so unfair! Hammerheim stops landwalk, how'd putting that one online work out for you? If you go through the history of Magic Online and check every Legacy and Commander match in the 8 years since it's been released, I'd place money on Hammerheim's second ability having been activated 0 times. You might not have programmed it at all, and we'd never even know! You can pull the same trick with Tolaria.

P.S. Have you ever been to England? Man, I wish Oxford and Cambridge were housed on a gorgeous white sand beach on a tropical island, instead of a cold damp island where queuing is the most fun you can legally have.

8) Dream Coat

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Dream Coat is rad. Blah, blah it has a bunch of poorly-phrased text, but it's actual ability is very simple and reprintable. "0: Enchanted creature becomes the color or colors of your choice. (Like, permanently.) Activate this ability only once each turn."

If you are in the market for changing up a creature's color, you're not going to get any more efficient than this. Ok, Prismatic Lace exists, but with the Coat you can change your mind every turn! It's the mood ring of Magic cards. "Hmm... I'm feeling a little Bant this turn. Next turn I may branch out to Atraxa, but if I look at that houseplant on my way to the bathroom maybe I'll feel mono-green." Whatever you're feeling right then, Dream Coat has a color for you, at instant speed!

The art depicts a Minotaur(?) wizard blending into a wall with a hat made out of the octopus mentioned in the flavor text. Flavor text that, by the way, comes from a fairly unknown 6th century BC Greek poet, the eldest quote in Magic except Homer, I believe. Back in 1994 you couldn't search this stuff on the web so some flavor guy must have actually been a Classics major and actually remembered a super obscure quote about changing colors. These days, I believe the flavor guys and gals write all of Magic's flavor text on their phones in the changing room of the local indoor skydiving arena.

Spirit of Resistance! Bloom Tender! Soul of Ravnica! Conqueror's Flail! Um, Civic Saber and Blessing of the Nephilim! Those are some of the quite literally a-dozen-ish cards in Magic that combo really well with Dream Coat. Also, Coalition Victory is a thing... except it's banned in the one format where it would be a thing. And then there's the ultimate meme usage: "Dies to Doom Blade?... Not so fast, my friend."

7) Powerleeeeeeeeeeech

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

The opposite of the "I cost 2 more or else I'd be here" Mr. Haunting Wind, this gains you 1 life when an opponent does anything artifact-y. No upkeep cost, no payment to gain the life, just sits there and does its weird thing. Is it a useful thing? It's mostly better than Golem's Heart! That's something. For it to be worth it by itself, it probably needs to gain 12+ life. I think in multiplayer Commander, that's pretty easy. In Legacy, it can probably gain that against Affinity, and it's nice that it even gains life when they attack, but they'll probably just kill you next turn instead. But its real value is comboing with all the stuff Magic has that triggers off lifegain, because it's going to randomly trigger a whole lot of separate times. Ajani's Pridemate, Archangel of Thune, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, and lots of other black and white cards people play in Commander that make its GG cost really awkward.

Early Magic art sure had a variety of creatures featured on non-creature spells that don't actually exist anywhere in the Magic multiverse. Here, we have a half-crab-half-wurm-half-dragon with a very weird armored crest on its head. I'm not sure what the point is in having an enormous gap in their back armor (maybe to guide broadswords directly into their brainstem?) but apparently that's how they evolved. My guess is the Argothian Treefolk keep this weirdo around so it can be the official coat rack of Argoth forest. Treefolk HATE it when you hang coats on them.

6) Mind Bomb

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Ok, this artwork makes absolutely no sense at all and Mark Tedin took the name "Mind Bomb" way, way too literally. That being said, it's one of the greatest pieces of Magic art ever painted. It's like one of those alternate history novels where wizards and necromancers fought in WWII and some necromancer packed a giant's psionic brain into a bomb casing instead of atomics. How cool is that? I want to write that novel, but I guess now I'd have to pay Mr. Tedin royalties. Ahead of the curve, that guy.

Ability-wise, it's interesting. It's a blue Lava Spike that hits everyone, where players can discard cards to save damage. Everyone includes you, but maybe you're in re-animator or just have a lot of useless cards in hand? For one mana, the price is right and there's lots of other reasons like Dredge or Delve you might actually want to discard. You're running blue, you'll figure something out. The problem is that blue just doesn't really need a Lava Spike, because it can't really back it up with more direct damage. It's got a bunch of bits of really useful cards stapled together, but the whole just doesn't quite come together.

Artwork: the bomb. Ability: more like a sparkler in an unfamiliar color.

5) False Orders

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

In a world almost like our own, red has a 1-mana instant that says "Target creature can't be blocked this turn". Not "target creature can't block this turn." Red has plenty of those, but actually making a creature unblockable retroactively - as long as it wasn't double blocked. So, kind of like taking Advanced Menace 201.

In a world so close you can taste it, this spell also has a clause that says "like, eh, 25% of the time, you also get to force an opponent's creature to chump block. And if it was double blocked, you might even force two creatures to chump."

In a world only a single choice away, this spell is a common and pauper-legal, and maybe even sees some occasional play with Goblins or Atogs or Kiln Fiends.

In a world that actually is our own world, after printing this fine Magic card, for some reason designers immediately thought that they should call it Teleport and move it to blue and charge three times as much and upgrade it from common to rare while also removing the chump block clause. I thought that was totally ridiculous and I just wanted to point out that it really happened. I kid you not, they then added ANOTHER mana to it and called it Trailblazer. Magic eventually got to the right cost and rarity and color(well, sort of) with Slip Through Space, but it took a looooooong time to get there.

In a world gone slightly mad, Wizards finally lets us play with this very unique card. They already have the code in the callback Balduvian Warlord, after all, so no excuses there. And I don't accept "tired programming fingers" either.

Maybe someday we won't have to imagine such a world... someday we'll live in it. *Epic music soars to crescendo. Picture of single tear rolling down cheek.*

4) Transmutation

$ 0.00$ 0.00

The other Pauper-legal card on the top 10 countdown, this card does one thing, and it does it... not nearly as well as the other Pauper options in Inside Out or About Face. Inside Out, by the way, sees regular Pauper 5-0s in combination with Tireless Tribe. So this effect is actually tournament good, but this version is pretty much the worst one ever printed.

But what it does have going for it is 100% Blackness! In Pauper, Legacy, and Commander, you can run "infinite" life decks that give Daru Spiritualist or Task Force infinite toughness in combination with various Nomads en-Kor types, and then sac them for life equal to toughness. These decks are usually black for Starlit Sanctum and discard. Once you're comfortably at 800 jillion-gabillion life, one way to win was by Transmutationing the infinite toughness into infinite power (long before some lame Infinity Elemental showed up). I swear, this card was in some of those decks. I actually saw this card cast and win a game while judging one of the first four Legacy World Championships! Like, at a back table, yeah, but it was there!

It's the only mono-black card that can switch power & toughness, and it's the only switcher not online. And how many of these cards can say they won a (meaningless) game at a World Championship? Not to mention it also has great art of a nature fairy looking really messed up about the fact she's slowly turning into a crab person. What more could you ask of a bad card?

3) Sorceress Queen

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

How on earth is this not online? For those of you not playing (or alive) in 1994-1995, Queenie here was everywhere. Every black deck was running 3 or 4 copies. I mean, it turned Serra Angels and Erhnam Djinns and Force of Natures into useless 0/2s. For only three mana! And it could do it every turn! I mean, sure, you could just Terror them for even cheaper, but this was way more fun. Even today, the Commander deck databases (the eternal refuge of unloved cards) have her in over 300 submitted decks! The average card on this list shows up closer to 20 times, so I know I'm not alone in my love for Queenie.

Sorceress Queen also holds a dubious distinction in Magic Online history. Of the 45 cards in Planar Chaos that were "color-shifted" with the special frames, Serendib Sorcerer is the only one whose "original" version is not online. That's some poor planning. They have the exact code for Queenie ready to go, and it's been sitting there 10 years and they never bothered putting the super-awesome original Sorceress Queen online. Magic promoted some GUY from Serendib in her place even though she has 13 years of seniority as an evil size-changing wizard. That's like gender discrimination or something! C'Mon Magic, you're better than that!

2) Volcanic Eruption

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Holy crap, I think MaRo just felt a chill down his spine, because someone is talking about the most color-pie breaking card in all of Magic. Yeah, you could argue for a few others, but here's a list of things this card does that blue is never supposed to do.
-Destroy a land
-Destroy multiple lands at once
-Deal direct damage to a creature
-Deal direct damage to all creatures
-Deal direct damage to an opponent
-Deal direct damage to all players

Even the artwork screams "I'M A RED CARD," what with the explosions and the mountains and the hurling of fiery rocks. There's not a shade of blue on it. I kid you not, even in 1994 we knew this was a messed up card. There was a raging debate in our playgroup if this was supposed to be a red card that was severely misprinted.

How the heck did this come about? These early sets had a weird color-pie philosophy that MaRo has briefly explained before: "It's ok to completely disregard the color pie, but only to use an enemy color's own effects to hose that color!" Lifetap and Acid Rain are other classic blue examples, and every color has a few. Blue Elemental Blast and Red Elemental Blast also come from that philosophy, the destruction for blue and the countering for red.

This is a philosophy that was eventually deemed "dumb and really confusing" kind of like Freud's theories and they eventually stopped doing that (again, like Freud). But this tremendous mistake of Magic somehow missed the cut for all of the Master's Edition sets.

Now, is it good? Red itself doesn't even get this effect at this cost. Try running it in a blue/red Commander deck with Blood Moon, and then you tell me.

I mean, I honestly don't know, so please tell me, but it sounds pretty sweet.

1) Siren's Call

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Number one on the countdown is... this thing? I know, I know, but let me share the Oracle text. No, forget it, it's too long. Let me share a summarized version of the relevant part of the Oracle text:

Creatures the active player controls attack this turn if able.
At the beginning of the next end step, destroy all non-Wall creatures that player controls that didn't attack this turn, except creatures that entered the battlefield that turn.

Plenty of cards these days can force an opponent's creatures to attack, like Bident of Thassa and the recent Imaginary Threats. What they don't do is massacre those creatures if they can't attack for any reason whatsoever. Only six-ish cards in Magic do that, and only two of them are online.

This storied group includes Siren's Call and Nettling Imp from Alpha, Norritt and Arcum's Whistle from Ice Age, and Maddening Imp and Oracle en-Vec from Tempest. Strangely, it seems like they printed this ability on 2 cards, forgot about it for exactly 2 years, and then printed it on 2 cards again, forgot about it for exactly another 2 years and then printed 2 more cards with it, and that was it for this ability. They haven't touched it in 20 years now.

Nettling Imp and Norritt are the same card, where you get to choose only one creature to force to attack. Boring. Arcum's Whistle is a way, way worse version of those cards. Boringer. Oracle en-Vec lets your opponent choose who is forced to attack, so 95% of the time, that's a strict Squire downgrade. Boringest. (For completeness - Season of the Witch, Total War, and Aggression are old cards that do semi-related things, and are also very awful.)

Maddening Imp is the only other card in Magic that actually does what Siren's Call does. It even does it a little better, because it nabs any creature that your opponent foolishly chose to cast pre-combat. But here's the difference between these cards. One is a 3-mana 1/1 that needs to live a turn to activate its ability, which your opponent can see coming, and the other is a 1-MANA BLUE INSTANT.

There are a ton of ways you can combo with Siren's Call to make it into a targeted Plague Wind with an 8-mana discount that you can also pitch to Force of Will.

-Tap down opposing creatures: Cryptic Command, Sleep, Ensnare for no mana, Gigadrowse, Icy Manipulator, etc.
-Make attacking have a high cost: Propaganda, Elephant Grass, Sphere of Safety, etc.
-Make them skip their combat phase: Stonehorn Dignitary, Blinding Angel, Moment of Silence, etc.
-Make them otherwise unable to attack: Ensnaring Bridge, Peacekeeper, Chronomantic Escape, Intimidation Bolt, Lavinia of the Tenth, Orim's Chant, Festival from earlier in our countdown. etc.
-Make attacking do something good for you: Isperia, Supreme Judge, some others probably, looking stuff up is monotonous.
-Like, just have some good blockers and stuff: You can figure that one out.

This is the blue Wrath of God we never got, except it's one-sided and instant speed and only costs 1 mana! Yeah, there's a bit of setup involved, but really, as the list above shows, you have a high school variety show's worth of different options.

This spell kills utility creatures that can tap, defenders that aren't walls, hexproof creatures, you name it. It doesn't even target your opponent, so you can cast it through a Leyline of Sanctity. Can you do that, Gifts Ungiven? How about it, bored rabbit lady?

This card has a ton of untapped potential and is practically the only mass removal mono-blue has ever gotten. It also has a Goth siren either singing some really solid looking notes or vomiting up last night's fish dinner, you decide. I give you your number 1 card!


Fascist Art Director [UNH]

I put this at the bottom of this article because the intro article was already long enough, and I wanted to kill your joy at the best possible time, i.e., when you were the most excited about getting these old cards online. I'm evil that way.

After Master's Edition 4 in 2011, except for the old art Power 9 in Vintage Masters Redux and maybe a few promos back in 2012-2013, Wizards has not released any cards with pre-Mirage art online.

It's definitely known that the Magic art contracts changed with Mirage. The general assumption is that art from before Mirage may not be able to be reprinted in some ways without compensating and/or asking permission of the artist. (The Time Spiral Timeshifted cards did have some special agreement worked out, it's rumored.) That's why paper hasn't had such a card printed since 6th edition in 1999. However, it was assumed that Magic Online was an exception to that rule, and we happily had 4 Master's Edition sets from 2007-2011 with no issues. After Master's Edition 4, however, something changed internally at Wizards. Maybe even though the contracts/promises hadn't changed, the lawyers just got nervous about it like they did with the Reserved List and it stopped being ok. Or maybe they just put a policy in place that anytime they'd reprint a pre-Mirage card in any form, it would have to get new art.

In the awesome recent Treasure Chest update we got 11 cards from the pre-Mirage era.
4 with 5th edition printings, and all used the 5th edition art (we'll discuss that more later)
7 others, all of which got new, never-before-seen art

To summarize:
-Getting old art online requires some sort of special effort, and that may be worth it for the Power 9, but not most older cards.
-It's unclear, but we will almost certainly never see a Master's Edition 1-4 flashback draft week or see those cards in the treasure chest. What's online now is likely all we'll ever get of those beautiful old duals, etc.
-We're probably going to get cards from Alpha through Alliances online (with new art) at a rate of 7-8 every 6 months. That group includes 523 cards!
-So it's SUPER IMPORTANT that the next time they ask we let Wizards know what old cards we actually want online instead of Brainwash. Though, as it turns out, Brainwash kind of gets a pass because it had 5th edition art, so they didn't need to commission a new painting for it. Still, Brainwash sucks so unbelievably hard, just had to mention it again.

So this time we got new art for Drafna's Restoration, Flood, Field of Dreams, Burnt Offering, Cemetery Gate, Energy Tap, and Metamorphosis. Even here where old art would be convenient and clearly save them money, they put new art on these. Now, none of these were terrible choices, they all would have made a top 50 for sure. But if we only get 14-16 a year, we need to be SUPER clear on which cards are the most desired by the most players. We need a bigger survey and more responses. I hope this article series and the next ones give you some guidance on which cards you'd personally like to see. Along with the 50 I exhaustively listed, don't forget there's 214 more just from these early sets that are even worse than these cards. But who knows, maybe you're really into unicorns and getting Pearled Unicorn online would make you filled with rainbow sparkle joy.

Next time, we'll dive into the deep end with the "bad" sets: Fallen Empires, Ice Age, Homelands, and Alliances(yeah!). If you think I had to stretch a bit to justify some of the cards on this list, next time it'll be contortions that frickin' Cirque Du Soleil would be proud of. Until then, keep playing the bad cards!

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