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Sorry We... Put Brainwash Online Instead of These Cards (Part 7)

At last, we finally made it to the "best" of some of the absolute worst sets in Magic. These are the top 10 cards that aren't online yet from 3 of the worst sets of all-time... plus Alliances! Can I convince even one person that one of these cards is playable? Let's find out!

10) Stench of Evil

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

And we begin with... a color hoser. Sorry. But it's really not that bad! (people start casually looking around for the exits) This card is Flashfires except it's black and does complicated bonus damage to players! (people stand up and begin urgently tugging on their significant other's sleeve) It destroys Plains with the power of smells, but opponents can pay two mana increments to buy noseplugs to prevent them from getting nauseous. (people start thronging the aisles trying to get away as fast as possible) Barring thing like Pox, this is black's only mass land destruction spell ever printed! (a riot ensues as people throw themselves against the clogged doors in waves)

But wait, did I tell you about all the cheek hooks? (dazedly, people lower the unwrenched seats they were using as battering rams) This card summons giant Hellraiser reject heads to live in your fields. (people begin to cautiously smile again and look around for survivors) And what's the amazing ability this imposing stone monolith from Hell has? The power of bad breath. The same power as the hobo who lives near the bus stop. (spontaneous clapping, stepping off of bodies trampled underfoot) But... aren't plains kind of outdoors-y? I mean, sure, it might smell bad for a day or two, but there's a reason the Romans didn't just fart all over the lands of Carthage when they conquered it and say "good enough." (cheering, some light wolf whistling)

Anyway, it's an utterly ridiculous idea for something that could destroy a land but I swear it's better than lots of other Magic cards! (sound of pitchforks being sharpened)

9) Curse of Marit Lage

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Another color hoser?! After the riot, you'd think I'd learned my lesson. I did warn you and say there was going to be three in my top ten, so...
The first thing to notice about this card is that the perspective is really funky. At first you think maybe you're looking at the ocean floor, which happens to be elaborately carved, and all the water just drained away? But nope, that crab in the corner is clearly upright. Then it dawns on you, what happened is that all the water in the ocean instantly vanished and this poor sawfish, sea horse, and angelfishes are doing Wile E. Coyote double-takes (*blink* *blink*) as they're suddenly suspended in mid-air. That's seriously the moment the artist chose to capture. I feel some Zoidberg noises coming on.
As for ability, hey kids, it's Choke. Choke sees play in a couple of formats, and this is a more expensive kind of Choke-ing that also taps all islands when it comes into play. Not too shabby, like a hobo with pants.
But the thing that's even weirder than the cartoon physics is the flavor text. "Our world has not felt her thundering footsteps in lifetimes, but Marit Lage's presence is still with us."
This is the Marit Lage he's talking about:
Whoops, not quite. (Credit to randominc99 on reddit for the image.)
I'm pretty sure it's this one:
So, you know what I'm not seeing a lot of in that picture? Feet. Arms, we've got those aplenty, but not so much in the way of lower appendages. So exactly what kind of "thundering footsteps" are you worried about here? Especially since, you know, she FLIES. "Our world has not felt her thundering footsteps since the last time her tentacles got tired of flapping."
Marit Lage is an other-dimensional Lovecraftian elder god that (unlike the Eldrazi) is all about the Grixis colors and really petty vengeance. She has one complementary color hoser that actually made it into 8th edition.
$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00
Apparently the three things that cosmic entity Marit Lage dreams about as she's slumbering for untold eons are: how much she hates leaves, how much she hates goblins, and how much she hates fish.
8) Sunstone
$ 0.00 $ 0.00
One of the more rarely discussed of the Earth/Dominaria art crossovers, hey look, it's a Thai-style jade Buddha! Those Foglios did not get the memo about keeping Dominaria for Dominarians, as they're responsible for some of Magic's most blatant references to Earth. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love their stuff, but the characters in a lot of their Magic art look completely unlike anyone else in that block, or the entire history of Magic. I already mentioned their Einstein fetish (not that there's anything wrong with that) but there's also Earth-y Geishas, Zebras, Fishing Lures, etc.
Ability-wise, it's an infinite fog machine for any snowy deck, which is actually quite infinite with Crucible of Worlds or Ramunap Excavator or Life from the Loam. The flavor text, like many we've covered, seems wildly out of place on this card. "It is true that these artifacts can be dangerous." Really, the card that prevents everyone from ever doing any damage again AND grows prize-winning flowers as a bonus is "dangerous?" This is in a set with frickin' Skull Catapult (Ice Age version here). They are killing people so they can use their SKULLS to kill other people! Pit Trap (Ice Age version here) features impaling right on the card! But this inner peace+miracle grow Buddha is one you agree is dangerous? You suck, Arcum Dagsson, and not just your card.
Glacial Crevasses can do the same thing even cheaper, but only in red decks that play lots of snow mountains. So, infinite fog is pretty obnoxious to begin with. Did a single set really need TWO infinite fog machines? Ice Age designers answered that with a resounding YES! Depending on how you count it, we've had a TOTAL of three since Ice Age in Dawnstrider and Spike Weaver and Constant Mists. The Ice Age designers just couldn't wait to sacrifice their otherwise useless snow lands as fast as possible so that they could stare at each other turn after turn and have deep philosophical conversations about why they're playing this game. Turns out Ice Age wasn't really a Magic set, it was an advanced philosophy simulator.
7) Foresight
$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00
The slow-trip version of Manipulate Fate, which is a real card in Food Chain decks! Which is kinda sorta a real deck in Legacy! Plus, this one's Pauper-legal (the only common that made the top 10), so Pauper can join in the shenanigans with... uh... hmm...
Ok, no card in Pauper currently combos with it that I can find, but you know, progress and stuff. Maybe it'll be cast for its intended purpose to exile three cards that are bad for the current matchup? Somebody probably did that once. It's only slightly worse than having a card with cycling in your deck that you're required to cycle every time!
Awesome Terese Nielsen art, but you know, just because it's a blue card, you don't HAVE to draw everyone underwater. It's not actually a requirement. Merfolk lady I get, but the young lady in the first art is not going to be happy when she wakes up and finds that while she was in her precognitive trance her friends threw her into the pool while still wearing her prom dress.
6) Tidal Control

$ 0.00 $ 0.00
Last color hoser! Please put those pitchforks away, this one's a doozy. With Cumulative Upkeep! (dodges thrown pitchfork) So, for 3 mana, you get to counter ALL of the green and red spells ever by paying 2 life each. Gee, is there a format where Everyone Definitely Has lots of life and plays lots of colors?
Plus, you can convince OTHER people to pay the life (or even mana) for you! Maybe not the Radha, Heir to Keld player, but it's definitely a "group hug that turns into a series of vicious backstabbings" kind of card. Not for every playgroup, handle with care, but there's some groups that this card is perfect for. And don't get me wrong, paying cumulative upkeep each turn feels as good as paying the water bill in Arizona. ("I have to pay HOW much just to not die of thirst?") But considering you get no mana counterspells in return, you can probably keep it going for a few turns.
Speaking of water... I'm not sure what this card is showing. The Homarid Shaman (of course looking like a completely different crustacean than his other depictions) is slowly pushing the surface of the water a few feet away? I think this card is the equivalent of a dimmer switch. No idea how the power of Homarid mood lighting affects forests and mountains or lets you counter green and red spells, but whatever.
I just figured out what's actually going on in the art. "Hey lobster ladies, come back to my place. Here let me Tidal Control the lights down low and turn on some Barancle White. Have you seen my... coral bed?"
5) Soraya the Falconer
$ 0.00 $ 0.00
What? A Homelands legend? I thought we were done! With Banding? (Nimbly dodges several waves of thrown pitchforks) Hey, Soraya's the only Homelands legend that isn't a total dweeb. Despite her haircut.
If you want a bird lord for a Commander, your only other choice in Magic is Kangee, Aerie Keeper, who charges an extra two mana just to show up the first time and is absolutely one of the worst legends of all time. Plus he has a really, really dumb mask. Soraya is like an all-star quarterback compared to Kangee's guy who carries the Gatorade. She only costs 3 mana to give birds +1/+1, rather an almost inconceivable 7 mana. Plus, she has Baton of Morale's ability (sorry, no links to that one) for the birds!
Soraya was literally the moment I realized that someday they'd have to do the Grand Creature Type Update. I opened this card in a booster pack in 1995, saw that it gave "Falcons" +1/+1, and I thought "Nope, that's not going to work." Are they going to only make Falcons for the rest of Magic's history? They tried pretty hard in Mirage block. Are they going to maintain Falcons and Birds as completely separate types forever despite that making no sense? Nope, I knew back then they'd need a GCTU. How the designers back then couldn't see that if a high school kid could, I'm not sure, but it happened.
I was going to make fun of the little pom-poms she has strapped to her bird's head, but apparently that's a real thing in falconing, so go go Magic teaching me stuff!
4) Lim-Dul's Paladin
$ 0.00 $ 0.00
$ 0.00 $ 0.00
She says "Greet death with sword in hand" and he's like "Yeah, I'm all about that." His text is the poster child for tiny and over-complicated but basically he does everything she ever asks him to. He:
-is 2 power or less, but hits opponent for more (4 life)? check
-is 2 power or less, but hits creatures for more (6/6 trampler)? check
-gives you a discard outlet for other 2 power creatures? check
-can sacrifice himself (to draw a card, unlike almost every other upkeep cost) and then is ready to reanimate? check
She keeps trying to get him to point more forcefully, he keeps trying to get her to spruce up her armor a bit, but she goes for functional plates over 6x shoulder pad lava skull designs. They both love highly impractical capes and playing the "I'm not left-handed" trick when they get into swordfights. He's got a gig as the general for Beardy McDeath, I mean Lim-Dul the Necromancer, whom Alesha will occasionally smile at.
He's a little bit older, but they're absolutely besties that accept each other for who they are. Which in his case is one of the most complicated uncommons Magic ever produced. Her Commander decks online are very sad because the Magic Online gods have banished him from the realm just for having 11 lines of text and the fashion sense of a hyperactive 4-year-old whose Dad is an Iron Maiden roadie.
3) Chain Stasis
$ 0.00 $ 0.00
Our top card from Homelands, Chain Stasis is a weird cross between Twiddle and Chain Lightning. (Twiddle, by the way, also made our "weirdest Magic art" list back in the day.) The first time you read it, it seems like a strictly worse Twiddle that your opponent can also randomly screw you over with. But its true calling is as a dirty combo card. It's actually this card in disguise:
$ 0.00 $ 0.00
Sort of. But mostly way worse! If you have a blue mana to start, and a creature that can produce 4 mana, one of which is blue, you've suddenly got infinite mana! Note that the Staff requires 5 mana (albeit of any colors) to go infinite, and Chain Stasis only needs 4, so it has a tiny edge there. Wirewood ChannelerAxebane Guardian, Harabaz Druid, and Selvala, Heart of the Wilds are its infinite buddies. If you have some way to filter green mana into blue mana, about 10 more cards can join the party.
Now, stuff like Crab Umbra, Galvanic Alchemist, Pemmin's Aura, Umbral Mantle and of course, Freed from the Real can also do this, and some for cheaper. But what Chain Stasis has that these Nintendon't is instant speed. You can combo off in response to a removal spell, rather than being blown out by it when you cast one of the above. Ok, ok, so can Staff of Domination but still, second place isn't bad. Just ask Sega Genesis.
It can also tap down a blocker or make a surprise blocker, which is more than Crab Umbra can say. Speaking of which, Crab Umbra, Horseshoe Crabs don't have a million little cone-shaped legs, so I think you summoned Muppet armor by mistake.
I really like the artwork too, so let's move on to the flavor text. You know, Sea Trolls are surprisingly articulate with a well-developed sense of irony and comedic timing in the flavor text of Chain Stasis. Especially for creatures that live in the ocean and whose only contact with human culture is, according to their own card, sailors screaming at them as they drown. Maybe they get Homelands TV underwater and are totally obsessed with the bad soap opera that's the Homelands legends. Autumn Willow's "All My Unwashed Children", Baron Sengir's "Fifty-Seven Lives to Live" and "The Days of Your Lives... Are Numbered," Chandler's "The Bold and the Beautiful Especially in that Shirt" etc.
2) Mystic Compass
$ 0.00 $ 0.00
Yup, this is my top card from Alliances, and I bet you've never heard of it. I think this card is great, but I don't think I've ever seen it in a deck I didn't build myself. Sometimes I wonder if it really exists or if someone has been playing an elaborate prank on me for decades.
Ignore all that stuff about it only affecting mana-producing lands. The 6th edition version of Mystic Compass cleaned all that up so it can affect any land. Thanks proto-Oracle!
*goes into infomercial voice* Now, what can you do with it? What can't you do with it?
Can you color fix your own lands? Yes you can!
Can you color screw an opponent? Yes you can!
Can you set up landwalkers real nice? Yes you can!
Can you blank any non-basic land? Yes you can!
Can you mess with Koth and other things that target Mountains or basics? Yes you can!
Can you put it into any Commander deck? Yes you can!
I don't want to oversell it here, it does the same thing as Reef Shaman and Dream Thrush, but it lets all colors get in on that action and isn't a super-sweepable tiny creature. Magic hasn't let you repeatedly turn opponent's lands into basics since those two, so after 16 years it's pretty clear we're not getting another one. And it even has a quote from Jaya Ballard, Task Mage on it! Where instead of talking about burninating things, she's insisting that the concept of "North" is a relativist human construct and meaningless beyond how you can convince others to interpret it. Kind of an odd fit for her character, but hey sorceress arsonists can have hidden depths too.
The artwork is kind of atrocious, it could definitely use an upgrade. For being a "mystic" compass it looks pretty practical, like something you'd see plugged into your engine at the local auto body shop. Four anonymous dials that somehow mean you're going to have to pay $289 to have your 'sparkplugs rotated'.
The only actual unusual part of it is the side handles, where I imagine you're supposed to hold it but instead have three sharp spikes jutting up. But that makes it seem more "annoyingly impractical" than "mystical" to me. Why on earth would anyone put spikes right where you're supposed to hold it? Is it like a refrigerator alarm so you don't become too dependent on the compass? Maybe you become reluctant to take it out because you accidentally cut yourself every time?
1) Altar of Bone
$ 0.00 $ 0.00
Unlike card #2, which I'm still fairly certain is a figment of my imagination, it wouldn't surprise me at all if someone called this as #1 for the Icy sets way back in the first article. Just by looking at the prices, you'll notice it's the only one of these cards worth more than a stick of gum. It's among the top 10 money cards of Ice Age, half of which are Brushland and the painlands. It's also listed in hundreds of Commander decks. How we got Brainwash online before this... I guess I'm forced to believe someone at Wizards was brainwashed.
Note that Altar of Bone is not a "great" card by any stretch, because if it was it'd certainly be online already, and then it wouldn't be on this countdown and I wouldn't have written that, or this, or sjlfhjkgfilkhf, and then it all becomes a causal loop straight to infinity. It's like a Diabolic Intent in colors that never get real tutors... except for Eladamri's Call, which yeah is strictly better. But Commander only gets one Call, so there's room for a considerably worse version. It's roughly the same kind of card disadvantage as Worldly Tutor and Sylvan Tutor, and my bird-, I mean, card-watching journal says I've seen both of those in the wild somewhere. Probably Missouri.
Only after staring at the art for a bit did I realize how much trouble someone went through to make this thing. Those are NOT ribs along the sides, those are pairs of detached tusks. Someone gathered a whole herd of Woolly Mammoths and then slaughtered them based on tusk size, starting with kid mammoths for the top of their altar. That topmost one was like a newborn, man. This whole concept's a pretty weird color fit for white-green. Though we've met some green villains in this countdown (*ahem* Thelon of Havenwood and his top-of-the-food-chain-pals), here in Ice Age white and green are good and boring and good and monkeys like they normally are. They're not really into the wholesale slaughter of entire families of enormous mammals to create exciting innovations in bone-based interior decoration. Feels more like someone Rakdos the Defiler had to kick out his circus for being both "too extreme" and also "way too interested in hand-crafting furniture".
I can't be the only one who thinks that this "altar" looks more like a bony xylophone than some kind of sacred table. Every time I look at it, the Skeleton Dance runs through my head. Now it can run through your head too!
I imagine you probably disagree with every other card on this countdown and think Fylgja (Fill-Guh-Juh?) is the greatest Magic card ever and how dare I leave it off. But it's pretty hard to argue with Altar of Bone as the most useful card from these four sets not online. It's an actual tutor spell that doesn't require you to pay cumulative upkeep in fingers or your opponent to have 11 Swamps in play to do anything.
Artful Looter [UNH]
So, as mentioned before, Wizards for whatever reason has a policy not to print old art online anymore. That includes all of the sets on this countdown in addition to all the cards from the first countdown. Everything I've covered so far. It looks like we might get 7-8 of these cards online every six months, from this enormous group of 523 cards! (Note that I'm excluding old cards with new art in 5th edition, we'll cover those later.) So if any card on these countdowns has struck your fancy, the next time Wizards asks us which cards we want please tell them so we can slowly get the "best" cards (and not Brainwash) online and make Magic Online as close to paper as possible!
I'm going to take a little break after this one before we dive into the terrible hats, extremely sketchy firearms, and butchering of Chinese history that is the Portal sets, but I'll be back soon. Until then, keep playing the bad cards!

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