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Sorry We... Put Brainwash Online Instead of These Cards (Part 6)


Straight from the Dark Ages of Magic (but not The Dark, strangely) comes these fine but rather common examples of Magic cards for your approval. Some high percentage would not be common today with New World Order rules, so it'd be kind of nice to get them online because you are officially never ever getting pauper effects like these again. Plus, Pauper is the beer goggles of formats and has lower standards for what might see play, unlike fancy-pants-we-only-drink-Dom-Perignon Legacy. In that analogy Commander's the semi-famous rich guy who was in that one thing that time and drinks only sparkling wine and does have a big mansion, but it's usually full up with groupies.

25) Baton of Morale

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Ok, we've got 13 commons to talk about today, but this first one and the last one aren't. But I really wanted to find a spot to talk about Helm of Chatzuk's uncommon younger brother.

So, Baton of Morale costs 2 and 2 instead of Helm's 1 and 1, but you can use it more than once per turn. They're both around the same power and fun-level, which is roughly "fun if you like to make combat math into a pop algebra quiz." It also doesn't look like an elder god vomited on your face like Helm of Chatzuk does, so somebody may actually be inspired to band up with you because you have such an impressive looking stick.

But I'm not sure, because it's just so.... disturbingly shaped. To put it delicately, it kind of looks like an escapee from someone's leather dungeon with a ribbon haphazardly draped on it to make it more "festive." I'm sure that's not what they were going for, but... sorry, now you'll never be able to unsee that for the rest of your life. Now I feel bad. Sorry humanity!

24-22) Alliances Pauper Stuff

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Did you know that (most) Fallen Empires and Alliances commons had multiple pieces of art? To "make it more collectible," you know. Which in Fallen Empires' case, had less value than encouraging people to collect different shades of earwax in little baggies. But if you think I'm not going to show you all the artwork, you're crazy - that's twice the nonsense to make fun of!

Gorilla Berserkers just barely made the list, but it is the best creature with RAMPAGE ever printed, Magic's least-loved combat mechanic but most-loved arcade game (and Magic's 3rd-most-loved upcoming-2018-movie-starring-The-Rock). Facing it, you have a choice: it's a 2/3 unblockable or a 6/7 trampler that's being blocked by 3 of your creatures. Unless you have 2 life or 3 Ancient Brontodons in play, you're probably taking the 2. If Gorilla Berserkers either cost 4 mana or had 3 power, it'd be near playable, but it doesn't quite get there. Art-wise, you also have a choice: do you like your gorillas all rageface menacing with a spear, or super-chill-looking but you just know they're unhealthily internalizing their anger? You decide!

Soldevi Adnate has a nice subtle power - it can sacrifice itself! It's a cross between Basal Thrull and Priest of Yawgmoth, and a bit better than both of those. So, the word "adnate" means "linked or fused to something unlike itself" which kind of works for cultists, except that "adnate" literally only applies to plants and mushrooms. Teaching Magic players new words is great, but let's try not to go full Shakespeare and invent completely new uses for obscure words. There'll be that one time at a party I call a cultist an "adnate" and my non-Magic friends all make fun of me; I know it's coming. Apparently when you join the Soldevi Machine Cult, women get cool but nonsensical facial tattoos, and men get both eyes plucked out but only one replaced with a robot eye. That's a rough deal.

Undergrowth is the only actual 1-mana Fog effect not online. (Festival's a bit different.) It's strictly better than Fog itself, and it even created one of the greatest Magic mechanics of all time in kicker. Thanks Undergrowth! Now, why you would want to play Fog effects in aggressive red-green, no one really knows, but it's here for you when you do! This almost made the top 10; it's got some potential play with red + Wild Mongrel pauper decks, which used to be a thing. And I love that dude in the first art. He's the epitome of "they don't pay me enough to cut down these magically-recurring brambles."

21-20) C-C-C-C-C-Combo!

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Ha! Martyrdom's two arts tell the story of a mulleted dudebro who thinks he's going to take on an army by himself and immediately gets fatally peppered by arrows. While the other guys hang back and are like, "What an idiot. Let's not do that." One of the best uses ever of multiple card art in Magic.

How is this a combo card, you ask? Well according to Oracle, it does this: Until end of turn, target creature you control gains "0: The next 1 damage that would be dealt to target creature or player this turn is dealt to this creature instead." Though there are some weird tricks you can pull involving Stuffy Doll and the like, the main use is to be an instant speed back-up for Nomads en-Kor in various infinite toughness / infinite life combos involving Daru Spiritualist and friends. It's the only card in all of Magic's 25-year history that can infinitely target a player, and one of only two that can infinitely target any opposing creature (No-prize for the other in the comments). It's also a Fog for only your opponent's stuff if you have an indestructible creature or a high toughness one you don't mind losing. It's a tricky card with a ton of oddball uses, and I think that someday a card will be printed that totally breaks it, so we should probably get it online.

Seizures doesn't seem remotely like a combo card at first glance, but let me assure you it is! The combo here involves Seeker of Skybreak or Tidewater Minion untapping itself with this aura attached and dealing you infinite damage. It's a "slow-concede" combo! No, you then also need a way to do something with the infinite damage. Hallow (targeting Seizures on the stack) or Samite Ministration can gain infinite life. Shining Shoal can send some chunk of it to an opponent's face for no mana, etc. But what you do is almost irrelevant, because hey, you've gone infinite with a card that's supposed to be a bad Pacifism! That deserves a new scouting merit badge of some kind.

I'd also like to point out that the artist on Seizures either got lazy on the backgrounds or this lady is visiting the enormous angled transparent-monolith sculpture garden (or EAT-MSG for short). I just have no idea what that's supposed to be. State fair winning bubble farm?

19) Juniper Order Druid

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The Ice Age reprint of Ley Druid, because Ley Druid was so important to the format they had to give him a new name as soon as possible so you could play with eight. Really. There's definitely been a few Pauper decks that have tried using Voyaging Satyr and Arbor Elf to untap lands with Wild Growth and Overgrowth on them to ramp into something big. Since green is no longer allowed any kind of 2 mana ramp (*sad face*), this card fits right in with Modern design principles. In fact, Ixalan just had Blossom Dryad, which is this exact card +1/+1. Which makes him even less necessary, but you never know.

He's one of only three "Cleric Druids" in Magic, all from these Icy sets. Basically he was printed with "Cleric" for some reason, and when Magic did the Grand Creature Type Update, all creatures that had a valid creature type in their name got that type, so he's also a druid. One of the others is his leader, this guy:

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I guess it's one of those religious orders where the low-level guys wear mud-robes and bandages, and the head honcho (whose name is "Kolbjörn") gets to wear freshly-pressed robes so white they're blinding and a jeweled-circlet and a jade bracelet. He just commanded that all of his Juniper Order abandon the towns and live in the woods. Who exactly does your laundry in the middle of the woods Björn-y? The bears? I think you're one of those "live like I say, not like I do" cult leader types.

The only other member of the Juniper Order that we know of is Freyalise Supplicant. She almost made this countdown, but she was one of the last five cuts because she's not common. She had the unfortunate accident to not be born with "Druid" in her name, so while the GCTU made everyone else in her order into "Druids," she got left behind despite her flavor text clearly saying she's a member of the "Druids of the Juniper Order," same as the other Cleric Druids. Wizards should probably fix this, but there's some MTGO bug reports on corner cases I sent in more than 10 years ago that haven't been fixed, so priorities and all.

18) Library of Lat-Nam

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Ok, I forgot, this card is actually a rare, so there's really only 12 commons today. Unless your opponent has a counterspell and wants to counter your one thing, you'll draw three cards next upkeep and then it's worse than pauper's Brilliant Plan, so you can see where the confusion came from. The artist definitely drew one of his 90's hipster friends with a mustache + soul patch combo as purple wizard in the art. I think the "Ice Age" was Dominaria's version of the 1990s, and we just didn't see all the flannel robes and people who thought skateboarding was cool.

Library of Lat-Nam has one of the (unintentionally) goofier arts in black border. Maybe blue wizard is stealing the book, but it really looks like he's just levitating it and is going to bonk it onto purple wizard's head and run away laughing. Oh, the wizard school hijinks! I hear that JK Rowling totally hasn't ever seen this card, especially not in 1996. Also, is this library just some shelves in a cave? Because there's clearly some stalactite/stalagmite action going on in the background.

They tried to fix this card in Distant Memories, but screwed it up almost beyond comprehension, and I want to discuss that. With Distant Memories, you search your library right away and then reveal the card you want to put into your hand. Then your opponent gets to decide... can I beat that card? If they can't, you get three cards and the card you really wanted is trapped in exile forever. At least with LoLN, though it costs one more, your opponent might sweat the choice a bit imagining what card might be lurking in your deck to ruin them. With BM, I mean DM, it takes all of that fun away and reduces it to a boring calculation. Plus, and I repeat, THE CARD YOU WANT MOST IS PERMANENTLY EXILED! You just 100% made your deck worse for the privilege of casting this oh-so-amazing spell! It's an infuriating rare. According to the Gatherer ratings, it's a full point behind fellow Mirrodin Besieged absolutely-terribad blue rare Mitotic Manipulation. On a 5-point scale! People HATE Distant Memories with a passion almost unheard of for blue draw spells.

Everyone, just forget both of these cards exist and play Concentrate and Tidings, ok? I'll be happier, you'll be happier.

17) Zuran Enchanter

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Ok, apparently goatees and soul patches and all kinds of facial hair monstrosities were cool in the Ice Age. I'm not sure how Zur the Enchanter, who doesn't know what a comb is and wears robes that could politely be described as "coming from the garbage" manages to get this polished and coiffed Shakespeare-sleeve wearing guy to follow him, but he does.

Apparently when you're an enchanter your primary job is to capture butterflies in soap bubbles. Just in case you wanted to apply for the job, that's all you do, day after day. After a while, you kind of grow to hate butterflies, those sneaky bastards.

Anyway, he's already online as Vodalian Hypnotist, but she's uncommon and this guy would be Pauper-legal. He's better than Cat Burglar and Wall of Distortion just by virtue of costing half as much. He is super-slow card advantage in a format without much. Maybe some Pauper deck could make that into a thing.

16) Soldevi Sage

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Speaking of highly questionable card "advantage," the Soldevi Sage can double Strip Mine yourself to draw a slightly higher number of cards than normal. I think I'll stick with Merfolk Looter, thanks, but it's not impossible that some combo deck could use this. Definitely an effect that Pauper (or like, anywhere) is never going to see again.

Let's zoom in on the GRANDMA EATS YOUR LANDS version.

You'll notice that either she's Russian (honestly she kind of looks like a babushka), or somebody flipped the art and there's clearly a backwards "R" on her card. And the not the fun "Toys R Us" kind of backwards R.

It turns out Wizards figured out they made a mistake and then flipped it back for its 6th Edition printing.

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Here's the Wizards link that explains the whole mini-debacle.

As for the art, Grandma is holding that way too enormous book way too close to her chest. The whole thing looks very awkward. Either she's reading text a half inch above her belly for some reason, or more likely she fell asleep reading in her heavy, snuggly robes. "Warm afternoon nap grandma" is officially the most idyllic Magic card in existence.

15) Pestilence Rats

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I know I'll be dinged by some people for not including nostalgic favorite Plague Rats, but Pestilence Rats are my highly-contagious-disease-infested Rattus Rattus of choice. Plague Rats seemed cool in the day because it was Alpha's only proto-sliver, but the fact that it only looks for things named "Plague Rats" really limits the shenanigans. Pesty here plays much better with forever-rat-king Pack Rat and the host of other rat token makers. Of course, it's probably better just to discard it to Pack Rat, but that's true of 99% of Magic cards ever printed, so let's try not to hold that against it.

It's kind of amazing how this card has enough space to BOTH remind us that "in play" means no matter who controls them and give us a lesson in kindergarten-level math of 0+2 = 2. Does anyone need their diapers changed while we're at it, because I'm pretty sure the text on this card (not the rats themselves, that's gross) would do that too. Some people complain about recent core set reminder text, but back in the day like 50 different cards spent 3 lines reminding everyone how losing life is different than dealing damage via "Effects that prevent or redirect damage cannot be used to counter this loss of life." Which, by the way, doesn't even make even a lick of sense because no one ever "countered" damage or life loss in any version of the rules. That nonsense is even printed on Force of Will! You kids should thank your lucky stars we have succinct, parenthesized, italicized reminder text today.

Chittering Rats and Crypt Rats both see real Pauper play. Could Pesty make the all-rats deck happen in Pauper? No. Absolutely not. But it might be fun to try.

14-12) How bad can 1-mana pauper cantrips be?

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Um, pretty bad, as it turns out. First off, yeah, they're all "slow-trips" that draw you the card at the beginning of the next upkeep, because early designers thought these cards might otherwise be TOO GOOD. Seriously. And the rules enforcement back then was really shaky on this subject, so if you were a jerk and drew fast enough before your opponent could say anything they usually wouldn't get the card. So it added memory effects and mind games/rules arguments into what should have been very simple spells. That's the Ice Age design philosophy in a nutshell, along with "we made 19 separate hosers for snow lands and like 3 marginal reasons to play with them, have fun."

Clairvoyance is definitely the best of the bunch and almost made the top 10. It's almost exactly Peek, but it's worse on the top deck and in a few other places, but it's fine in Talrand, Sky Summoner decks. Also, just a note to the married couples out there, like half of America I pronounced this word "Clare-UH-voy-ance" my entire life until my wife corrected me one day. If you want to avoid one of those scenes where you both race to look it up on your phone, and then someone says "you were right," heed this lesson well: no "uh", duh.

Prophecy has a unique history in Magic. There's a small handful of cards that later became the names of sets, before every set was *sigh* legally required to have the name of the plane in it. But Prophecy is the only one that comes from one of the five worst sets of all time (Homelands), named one of the five worst sets of all time (Prophecy), and is also an abysmal card itself. A trifecta of terrible-ness! Now, white is supposed to have awful card draw and seriously only has five other 1-mana cantrips in existence, so maybe this goes in a Monastery Mentor deck before he gets banned or restricted in every possible format, including Rich Text.

Ray of Erasure is Thought Scour's much older brother who still lives in their Mom's basement. Thought Scour made something of himself and was recently honored with an "Iconic Master" lifetime achievement award. Ray skipped the ceremony, naturally. Ray was too busy looking at his Demon and/or Minotaur X-rays for some almost certainly unsavory reasons. He does all the same things Thought Scour does, just like half as well and way more slowly, like a true deadbeat older brother.

11) At last... General Jarkeld

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Finally, the old "arctic fox" himself. I certainly wasn't putting him in the top 10, so he ended up here. General Jarkeld was leader of the army of Kjeldor (the boringest nation). Is Kjeldor around any more? That's a big nope. Apparently he accidentally led the entire Grand Army of Kjeldor into the Adarkar Wastes without a map and everyone died and the entire nation was overrun. That's the actual story, look it up. And honestly, that comes across as one of his BETTER strategic moves.

I'm not going to belabor how useless his ability is; I've done that at length before. It requires a truly insane amount of things, most of which aren't under your control, to align perfectly to have the slightest use at all. He's a 4-mana Squire with a burdensome upgrade to Legendary-class. But he's the only Legendary creature not online I haven't mentioned, so I guess he's on this countdown for those Commander players who want to lose with no style AND be mocked by their peers.

Art-wise, it's really hard to tell what's going on, but let's try and figure it out.

Jark!

The first thing you'll notice is that he's swooshing his luxuriant long red hair like he's in a frickin' shampoo commercial. The second thing is that for an orderly white general, he sure has a lot of skulls hanging from his shoulders. The third is that even the artist got sick of him and stopped coloring after his face and literally just slopped the same blue color over everything else. The fourth thing is... is he wearing a gag in this picture? Which leads into the fifth thing... is he wearing spiked handcuffs? And finally, why are a bunch of clearly red Balduvian Barbarians running naked through the snow just below him?

I have a theory that explains all of this weirdness. While chasing the Balduvian Horde, Jark here was easily captured and put in spiked shackles. He instantly gave up the location of his army the moment they threatened him with torture. Then they decorated him with some of their sacrificial totems and threw him off a cliff while they ambushed his army. Him tumbling through the air (with his back momentarily in the cliff's shadow) is why his hair is so flippy and why the perspective is so odd. And since he didn't die right then, that's literally the most strategic moment he's ever had and that's what they decided to paint for him. I wonder if nepotism was involved in his hiring, because the Kjelds would have done better appointing a houseplant that can lean towards the sun as their general.

Let's go through a selection of flavor text that General Jarkeld gets quoted on, so you can hear him in his own words.

Arctic Foxes "Those Foxes are wily, swift, and ferocious. They are the warriors of the snows." —General Jarkeld, the Arctic Fox
Really? They're 1/1s for 2 mana that have 'skulk' in the astronomically unlikely circumstance that your opponent is playing with a snow land. That's what you tell your warriors to emulate? Or did you just like the nickname "Arctic Fox" and insisted everyone call you that and then tried to convince everyone how badass these shy and adorably fluffy foxes are?

Battle Cry "In the thick of battle, you must keep your wits about you. Yelling a lot helps, too." —General Jarkeld, the Arctic Fox
So your advice as the GENERAL of the army to your troops is to just start yelling really loud? Maybe shouting a plan would be better? When you see the enemy in the distance, do you just start continually screaming like a banshee until they're all dead or you are, because you think that helps? Do your advisors (who really run everything) just kind of wheel you into your screaming tent and leave you there until after the battle?

Breath of Dreams "Get up, blast you! They're attacking! Why are you all so slow?" —General Jarkeld, the Arctic Fox
I already mentioned this one, but setting aside the weirdness of him blathering on a blue card that affects green creatures, Jark lives in a world with Adarkar Unicorns and his own clerics summoning giant spectral hands with manicured nails to protect them on Armor of Faith. Yet he has no clue that magic exists and that maybe that's why the entire army fell asleep at once? Does he believe his entire army is pranking him just before a battle? I mean, I definitely would if I was in his army, but still.

Fyndhorn Brownie "I've been insulted by drunks in a hundred inns, but never as skillfully or annoyingly as by those blasted brownies." —General Jarkeld, the Arctic Fox
Did he just say that hundreds of times he's walked into an inn and people began crudely insulting him, probably until he shamefully left? And that he appreciates that the brownies at least take the time to make really biting and insightful insults against his character? Is that seriously what this card is telling us? I think it is. Remember, this guy was supposed to be the Captain Kirk of the Kjelds, this guy right here.

Pygmy Allosaurus "I don't understand the appeal of keeping these things as pets, unless you want your children eaten." —General Jarkeld, the Arctic Fox
We already covered this one, but the fact he doesn't think that kids would want a dinosaur as a pet cracks me up every time.

Snow Hound "If you're starving, eat your horses, your dead, or yourself—but never eat your dog." —General Jarkeld, the Arctic Fox
That's your advice to your army that you got lost and forgot to bring enough food for because you have no idea what supply lines are? Start eating dead people and then EAT YOURSELF before you eat the darn dogs? You've doomed an entire generation of Kjelds to die in the Adarkar Wastes because you're a useless imbecile, but you won't let them eat the DOGS? Are you serious? Tomorrow, is it going to be just you and 75 dogs and 20-odd men hobbling around eating their own limbs? Because as cute as those doggies are, when it comes down to it I'm pretty sure you're all going to be puppy chow in the next 12 to 24 hours.

Rally "Stand your ground, troops! This shall be our finest hour!" —General Jarkeld, the Arctic Fox, last words
I think this one pretty much speaks for itself.

Next time I'm going to try and convince you that some cards are good! We'll see how that goes, I give it like a 40/60. Until then, keep playing the bad cards!


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