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Sorry We... Put Brainwash Online Instead of These Cards (Part 5)


Greetings from the Great White North, eh, that's Canada to you, eh, where today we're going to talk about our topic. And the topic is hosers, and why there're no hosers today, eh.

(If you have no idea why I'm talking about hosers, google Bob and Doug McKenzie. If you have no idea what color hosers are, see below.)

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A long time ago, Magic really thought that it needed color hosers like the classic Alpha Common/Uncommon noncreature cycle above. They thought these effects were a key part of balancing Magic and essential parts of every set. Nowadays, we realize that they're kind of super unfun, with effects that are hugely undercosted/overpowered (and back then, off-color) just because an opponent is playing a particular color. That opponent often ended up playing a game more like "Go Fish" than Magic. (Do you have that card? You do? I lose.)

They also worked a lot better in small play groups like Richard Garfield originally envisioned where your opponents would bring similar decks most weeks, and if they beat you one week, you could really prepare for that deck next time. Color-fixing back then was decidely subpar and most decks were 1 or 2 colors so they were more effective, too. These days, in a 15-round Modern Grand Prix, I seriously doubt putting a Flashfires in your red deck would ever be worth it. Even if there's a card-eating bacteria for Black, Blue and Green cards and White Weenie has a 40% deck share, I still don't think I'd run it. It's just a very different environment these days. Even in Commander, there's too many multi-color decks and players are generally against effects that make people rageflip the table.

The last color hosers in Magic (barring random Master's reprints) were 2 1/2 years ago in Dragons of Tarkir, and then it was 2 years before that in M14. They're mainly a relic of Magic past at this point. So why put them online? Well, they are undoubtedly some of the most "powerful" cards not online in terms of their effects, and because Wizards is not doing any more, they're unlikely to ever be totally eclipsed (in my heart). In fact, three of them make the top 10 this go around. 1v1 Commander is also a competitive format and it's ok to totally screw your opponent and you might have room in your 99 occasionally. And what else are we going to put online, Balduvian Bears? These still have a nonzero chance of being the right card at the right time.

40-39) Fallen Empires: Blue v Green: Dawn of Badness

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Fallen Empires has a complete set of 10 hosers, though weirdly scattered between common, uncommon, and rare without much rhyme or reason. Though asking Fallen Empire's designers to show "reason" is like asking a trained porpoise to do your calculus homework. Trust me when I say the green-blue pair is second best, way behind Order of Leitbur and Order of the Ebon Hand. You can look up the other ones if you want, but they make better bird cage liner than game cards.

Homarid Shaman is a straight-up lobster. Some of the other Homarid artists added a few humanizing features, but not here. Here's a pet lobster wearing a feather boa with a magical toothpick awkwardly taped to his carapace. And he has an adorable little crab buddy hanging out that I assume is his cousin. If you're in the market to repeatedly stop green creatures from attacking you, he taps a Tarmogoyf or Primeval Titan as good as anyone else with this ability, which is no one else. He sees a bit of play in Blind Seer Commander decks, but if he was a 2/5 like Scion of Glaciers instead of a 2/1, he'd probably see a lot more.

Thelon's Curse is green's version of Magnetic Mountain. It's cheaper but the effect is way worse. On the plus side, it actually features an actual blue creature on it, actually being restrained by some greenish things, which is almost unheard of for Magic art of this era. Um, also, did you know that Thelon of Havenwood whose curse this is raised Thallids and Saprolings for the purpose of EATING them? Every three turns when a Thallid would spawn off a Saproling, it would be dinnertime for Thelon and his pals. But did you know that then the Thallids and Saprolings grew sentient and rebelled? And Thelon of Havenwood went right on creating new Saproling Souffle recipes and eating those sentient creatures. No wonder there's that bit of black on his card.

38-36) You Know What, Let's Just Finish Off Fallen Empires Entirely

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These are the 3 other Fallen Empires cards that made my top 50. Spoiler alert: No card from Fallen Empires made the top 10. I'm sure irate commenters are heading to Reddit right now.

See, I was serious, read Thelonite Monk's flavor text. "...some Thelonites turned to fertilizing with fresh blood..." And he's holding an enormous scythe and a weird sacrificial dagger in addition to having some giant spiky praying mantis arms. One of Magic's few green villains, these Thelonites are some sort of disturbing cross between cannibals and the aliens in that Tom Cruise War of the Worlds flick. Apparently eating raw Saproling doesn't provide many nutrients, though, since he's only a 1/2 for 4 mana when today he'd be at least a 3/4 for that cost. Ability-wise, it's pretty unique. You can permanently hose Maze of Iths and Cavern of Souls and Urza pieces and manlands and turn on forestwalk by saccing any green mana dork you have lying around. You might even be able to color-screw them if you're lucky.

Thrull Wizard is a member of a group closely related to color hosers, the "self hosers" Magic seems a lot more willing to print these recently, as seen on Jace's Defeat, etc. He's a black card that just hates on other black cards. He's also super duper disturbing. There's the whole alabaster-skin skeletal-grin I-have-no-thumbs thing. And the whole wearing-a-lower-jawbone-as-a-shirt thing. But to me the worst part is that his nostrils are above his eyeballs. That just kinda freaks me out on a deep I-had-a-nightmare-about-that-once level. It's a really, really weird card all around — black activated counterspell with multiple cheesy escape clauses. Basically his text came out of some kind of Magic mechanics blender, much like his face did.

Dwarven Lieutenant is the only card where I can use evidence to argue for a rarity downgrade to common (and being Pauper-legal). He's uncommon, but Icatian Lieutenant was a rare that got reprinted at common in Master's Edition 1. Dwarven Lieutenant here is the exact same card, but at the time Magic didn't have many dwarves so this guy got kicked to the curb. But after Kaladesh, we're living in the frickin' Golden Age of Dwarves, and it's high time he made it online, preferably as a common. It's nice that he can "rally the troops and boost morale," but he's standing all alone and the rock merchants trying to trade on a Sunday morning really wish he would just shut the heck up.

Done! Can we please get back to some Homelands cards yammering incessantly in their flavor text about how cool they all are?

35-33) Ice Age Hosers With Upkeep Costs

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Nope, let's head to the Ice Age and talk about everyone's least favorite thing, upkeep costs. Back in the day, paying mana during upkeep, including cumulative upkeep, was just a thing you did. Card and tempo advantage were not really concepts yet and it didn't really occur to us (or notably, the designers) that paying WW every upkeep was exactly the equivalent of accidentally Strip Mine-ing yourself. Among the less than 1000 cards that existed, an amazingly high portion had upkeep costs, so we just paid them. We just wanted to play with the retrospectively terrible new cards!

I won't make you read the tiny type, I'll give you the good portion of Drought. "Spells and activated abilities cost an additional "Sacrifice a Swamp" to activate for each black mana symbol in their costs." Drought is harsh. Almost all color hosers that hosed basic lands types have gotten much worse, because we now have a ton of nonbasics with no land types (Concealed Courtyard, Temple of Silence, etc) so doing something annoying to people playing swamps is mostly meaningless. But not Drought. Nope, you literally can't cast that black spell without saccing an actual Swamp. Another way to think about it that I just made up is that any black mana you add to your pool becomes colorless unless it comes from a swamp. You can't use that mana to pay for any black stuff at all. Harsh, but then again so is paying two white mana every turn.

When you first look at Justice, I wouldn't blame you for thinking that the printer switched a Yu-Gi-Oh card art with a Magic one 8 years before Yu-Gi-Oh was invented. But nope, that's yet another awesome-looking guy in Magic whose story we don't get to know just like Veldrane of Sengir. He also appears one more time on Surge of Strength, which takes place moments after Justice, though he did have time to install even bigger and more awkward shoulder pads. It was the 90s, man, shoulder pads were a thing, ask your parents.

The effect of Justice as it reads now isn't that good. "Whenever a red creature or spell deals damage, Justice deals that much damage to that creature's or spell's controller." What's always bugged me is that Oracle totally hosed this card. It says right on the printed card "If another spell or effect reduces the damage dealt, it doesn't reduce what Justice deals." The 5th edition version cleaned this up to use "when a red thing assigns damage," but kept that same effect when you played it. According to both printed versions of Justice, you can prevent all the damage and still damage back a red player for the full amount, but the Oracle text doesn't let that happen. That wouldn't be much better, but it's slightly better and it should have that clause! I hereby throw down my white glove and challenge the rules manager to a rules battle! It's like a rap battle but way, way less entertaining.

Breath of Dreams has pretty great if nonsensical Foglio art of a Geisha with some epic Princess Leia hairbuns. She's surrounded by foggy demons, and I guess she's a dream and also breathing? General Jarkeld, the arctic idiot, has a quote on her card, which is weird because he and his army are mono-white and therefore neither blue nor green, but I guess the man just loves hearing himself speak. Ability-wise, this is a card for sadomasochist people who think, "Well, I'm miserable paying Cumulative Upkeep. Here's some for you to pay, and we can all be miserable together. Your pain is the only thing that brings me joy."

32-31) Ice Age Hosers Without Upkeep Costs

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Here's a pair of Ice Age color hosers that don't have upkeep costs. That's rather nice of them! That automatically makes them 100% more playable than most enchantments not online. The other thing they have in common is STEALING NAMES THAT DON'T BELONG TO THEM. If I said "Hey, I need some Flooded Woodlands for my deck," 99.9% of the Magic playing public would say "Yeah, the blue/green land from what set?" (Incidentally, no one can keep track of dual land names these days. See previous article series.) Flooded Woodlands has absolutely no business being on a blue/black enchantment. It should have been called "Zur's Jungle Cruise" and it probably would have been a pretty popular ride until Disney shut it down.

Reclamation's flavor text says that the Kjeldoran Skyknights (warning: not as cool as they sound) are going to "tear the earth asunder" in their quest to oppose Lim-Dul. Sure, that's fine for you, you're a skyknight and don't have to live on dirt anymore. But Reclamation is actually defined as the careful process of filling in swampy wetlands areas with rocks and then dirt to make new arable land over the course of years. That's kind of the exact opposite of what the Kjeldoran Skyknight (warning: not as cool as they think they are) is proposing to do. Tearing things all asunder by having your bird peck the earth, like REALLY hard, is just going to make more swampy land, not less. Also, this name should have been saved for Crop Rotation or Harrow or at least Reclaim, which is the card it always gets confused with.

The abilities (and flavor) of both would be much better if you had to sac a forest or swamp instead of "any land" when you attacked, then it could have approached Drought levels of harshness. But no, as is they're both annoying identity thieves taking nice simple names away from us forever, but they're not going to stop people from attacking you for lethal.

30) Omen of Fire

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For some reason, Metallica always starts playing in my head when I look at this card. It's totally metal. That's General Varchild of Varchild's Crusader and Varchild's War-Riders on the card. I did not know she was a bad-ass valkyrie chick who could summon frickin' COMETS to smite her enemies. Yes, she uses Flashfires to burn all the plains, I get that, but then an actual comet hits the islands... and they return to their owners' hands. Does that mean all the water gets flung up into the air by the comet and then falls down in an orderly fashion around one naked island at a time while the rest of the water hangs suspended in mid-air? Cause that's how it actually plays out.

Unlike Veldrane of Sengir and Justice guy, she actually does have a complicated backstory that unfortunately makes this card into total nonsense. She was raised in Kjeldor, the boring white nation of Ice Age (every Magic plane has a boring white nation) and hated Balduvia, the barbarian red place (every plane of Magic has a barbarian-ish red tribal confederation) despite being very red herself. So... she destroys all the plains and islands of her home Kjeldor and its allies, and somehow that makes Balduvia, safe in the mountains, burn up, somehow? See, nonsense.

I also like how you can sacrifice white permanents to put out the Flashfires. Hey, Kismet and Crusade, can you abstract concepts go fight that fire until you're dead? Thanks! (Also I think it's great that the "mental concept of giving a wall a soul" can be a firefighter, but mainly I want to link Animate Wall because that art is hilarious.) It's totally a huge color pie break, but what else is new?

I just want to know why more low-level wizards don't routinely summon, I repeat, COMETS, to smite everyone. Though kudos to Star of Extinction. I also kind of want to know why her armor has an uncomfortable metal jockstrap attached to her belt that no other Kjeldoran seems to have. Maybe she took a vow of "no sitting until Balduvia burns!... whoops, burned my homeland and everyone I know. Ok, let's try again."

29-28) Black Graveyard-y stuff

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Let's move on from color hosers to a different kind of hoser, kinda sorta. These primitive "graveyard hosers" don't actually hose graveyards in any way, but I didn't have quite enough vaguely playable color hosers for today, so here I am, scraping the bottom of the barrel so hard I made a hole in it and ruined the darn barrel.

The 1995 model of 1994's original Night Soil, Drudge Spell is part of that same graveyard-eating lineage that runs through Necrogenesis to Pharika, God of Affliction to today's The Scarab God. Also Bearscape, which has 7 adorable bears hidden in its art. Awww. Drudge Spell makes Drudge Skeletons instead, and apparently that was so powerful it has a clause about "burying" (boy, that takes me back) them when Drudge Spell leaves play. It also features a cool skeletal knight, but if you look closely you'll notice that his head fell off and then attached itself to the skeleton of a dog. Awkward. And then if you look close there's a regenerating skeletal chicken in the corner that you apparently also summoned to fight for you. Good luck with that.

Unlike Night Soil and others I mentioned, Drudge Spell is not actually a graveyard hoser per se, unless hosing your own graveyard counts. Which it doesn't... unless your opponent is playing our other card, Spoils of Evil. It's one of those cards that sounds really great but plays less so. In a mill deck, you can possibly gain a metric ton of life and colorless mana! Or possibly your opponent is playing Storm or Burn and you get nothing! There's no way in Magic to put cards into your opponent's graveyard that aren't in their deck, so it's really hard to make this card consistent. Still, in Commander it's often at least a Seething Song that gains you 5 life, so that's a thing. I feel the necromancer on it should really have trimmed his nails and washed the extreme amounts of fresh blood off his hands and face before handling the loot. Did someone swallow the "spoils" and you had to do a little afternoon eviscerating? No one's going to want these "spoils" with intestines and bloody fingerprints all over them... though most people would still take the entrails over the card game Spoils. *Burn*

27-26) Ice Age enchantments that helpfully suggest that playing creatures is bad

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Back in the day, playing creatures WAS bad because they were all terrible. Decks (like the confusingly but understandably named "The Deck") played only two creatures and all broken spells. Really, these cards are both like helicopter parents concerned that you're going to have a bad time playing Magic circa 1995, so why don't you play less creatures and more spells, sweetie? In the interest of staying on theme, I'm going to squint real, real hard and call them "creature hosers."

Brand of Ill Omen can definitely stop someone from casting creature spells. It's kind of a cool and flavorful idea to put an effect like that on an opponent's creature. If not for extreme card-killer cumulative upkeep, it might see play. It's certainly a cool effect for red to have; red could use whatever mechanics aren't BURN YO FACE that it can get its hands on. And dude! They just kicked a 12 year old boy out of the tribe and threw him into the Tundra with no food! And no shirt! Bleeding! In the snow! Forget Drought, this has some Game of Thrones level harshness going on.

Soul Barrier sees a surprising amount of Commander play for a card on this list. Like Haunting Wind and Powerleech, it just sits there and does its annoying weird thing to all of your opponents forever. Cast a creature? Take 2, unless you pay 2, in blue. It's a miracle this didn't get slapped with "Cumulative Upkeep: Sacrifice a creature and a land and a shred of dignity."

I like to imagine the possibilities if I had a giant weird window in my house through which I could see into the dimension of trapped souls. I would definitely turn it into a sideshow attraction of some kind and charge money. Have a floating soul pretend to be someone's Grandpa Earl? Train them to do some kind of spooky dance routine? Have them pass a magnet around to generate electricity? There would have to be some way to get rich off of this.

Until next time, keep playing the bad cards!


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