Sunday 27 November 2016

Most Overrated Cards

This is to go as a pair with the most underrated cards list. This one was quite a lot harder to do as there are many cards that are misused rather than overrated. A good card like Brainstorm is often just used in the wrong place or at the wrong time. It is not that the player has overestimated the power of the Brainstorm and getting less than the expected value, they are generally just using it wrong! It is a different thing but looks very similar to the observer. A big part of what makes this list are cards that you make and visibly see people just giving up. It is like you have already won but you haven't actually done anything yet. When I think the game is still close but my opponent thinks the game is over it is usually because they overrate the card I have that they are facing. It may also be the reverse effect of the Brainstorm example I gave earlier where they simply don't know how to play against the card. I think there are a lot of things at play that affect how people rate and react to cards and I think psychological factors are more significant than game mechanic ones for this particular list. That any why particular cards mislead people's perceptions is potentially more interesting than the magic itself!

True-Name NemesisTrue-Name Nemesis

Obviously a very tedious card as well as a very powerful one but it is super easy to beat a True-Name. It is just one fairly feeble body and you can be sure that the heavy blue mage with the True-Name doesn't have much more meat to back it up with. You can go wide with loads of dorks (even forcing mass removal is less issue as that will also remove the pesky Merfolk), you can go round with various forms of evasion or you can just plow right through it. Three power won't kill your premium dorks and one toughness does barely anything against trample. You can force a defensive True Name to attack by making planeswalkers. The game is far from over, you have lots of options to beat it. Often times a Wall of Omens does more than the True-Name does. A True Name will either put a clock on the game or it will slow it down somewhat but it isn't getting any value, it just sits there not interacting with much in any interesting way. It is a reasonably significant investment and is only ever really the nail in the coffin when that player is already quite ahead. It is a good anti aggro tool but probably not better than a Kitchen Finks. Against control and midrange it often does little to nothing. Occasionally it still wins games that any respectable man land would also have won in that same situation and gets a bunch of respect for doing nothing special. I think there is a bias surrounding any cards perceived to be OP that they are the reason the result went that way when loads of "weaker" cards would have done the same thing or even completely different cards used earlier in the game already decided it.

Umezawa's JitteUmezwa's Jitte

This is only a problem if you are relying on small creatures. Otherwise it really isn't all that. The Jitte costs four mana to get online and requires you to have a dork. It is utterly brutal to have your mana wasted with removal when you go to equip Jitte. It isn't too hard to find ways to prevent the Jitte getting counters in combat with plenty of sac outlets and other trickery floating around. Jitte is inconsistent, it is a large tempo risk and it is only really strong against a relatively small section of the meta. These days you can usually just race a Jitte, they invest so much tempo in this one card that ultimately gains them four life or four damage a turn in the race. Might as well play a Vampire Nighthawk... Yes, if you have loads of X/1s and X/2s, no way to kill the Jitte and no way to kill creatures or prevent combat damage then the Jitte is going to ruin you. This is far from the normal state of affairs however. Certainly still a card well worthy of cube in terms of power but none the less one of the most overrated cards on the list.

Fact or FictionFact or Fiction

Card draw got a whole lot better around the time of Tarkir! Fact or Fiction was the big card draw card for such a long time before then people just assume it is good because it has had so much love over the course of magic history. Fact or Fiction was already stating to struggle competing with a lot of the card draw planeswalkers before Treasure Cruise and the more damning Dig Through Time came along to really ruin the day of Fact or Fiction. Another aspect to this issue is how other people see it. You only ever cast Fact or Fiction when you can and that pretty much means every Fact or Fiction seems brutal. You never really get to appreciate when playing against Fact or Fiction how often it sits in hand as an unplayable card while you die to cheap tempo cards. When against Fact or Fiction it purely seems good and so people rate it above where it should be. It is a great card when you have the time to cast it, lots of dig and decent return on cards, but in a quick and powerful format like cube that is just far too infrequently for this to be any sort of big name card any more. Four mana is a lot, having it spare all in one go to do something that has no impact on the board just isn't viable too much of the time.

Ancestral VisionAncestral Vision

Another card draw spell that now finds itself incredibly lacking. This one suffers a similar issue to Fact or Fiction in that it is rarely that appropriate. When you get this turn one and are able to relatively freely drop it down then you are in for a good time. When you need to do other things in the early turns to not fall too far behind or don't draw this until turn four then it is far too close to a dead card. Cube games are high powered and fast paced. You might be ahead on turn four when you make your Vision but you might also still be completely dead within three turns and quite possibly as a direct result of doing nothing with one of your cards. I want a lot of card quality in my deck before I play this one. I am finding more and more these days that even when I get the Visions in my opener that it will put me behind if I play it turn one instead of something else. More playable than Fact or Fiction for sure but equally risky and a little narrower in range.


Apparently I am hating on some blue cards. It feels a bit off me laying into Treachery as it singlehandedly won me the last cube event I played in. Treachery is certainly on of the most swingy cards in the game or at least has the potential to be. In practice the thing is much more of a liability. While it is a huge win when you snag the best dork on the table for no mana it is also a pretty big lose when it wiffs in some way, often a game ending lose. Against ramp and reanimate decks the ability to steal one of their massive fatties is insane. Just having that one card will make your matchup a pretty good one. Against almost any other creature deck the card does surprisingly little. When they are beating you down and you have to steal a tapped guy and it is just too slow to help. When they just kill you before you hit five mana. When all you can steal is a 2/1 and that just doesn't matter. When they have some way to fizzle the spell and just wreak you by denying you the untap of lands. This one is especially brutal, I have lost a lot of games to people using spot removal on their own stuff to wreck a Treachery turn. Against most midrange decks Treachery is just a bit of stall, you will take something, the game will stalemate for a while and then they will find a way to kill the Treachery and carry on winning as before. Utterly brutal card in the right situation but getting to the stage where I consider this more of a sideboard card.

Coalition RelicCoalition Relic

This is good ramp and great fixing. You can get mana right away with it or you can stockpile it and get a double hit the following turn. In a cube without enough one and two drops this is a fantastic card. Against any well built cube deck this is just far to slow. You play artifact ramp when you don't have other quicker ramp available to you however this is a ramp card you need to ramp into for the ramp to be that effective. If you just do a bunch of nothing on your first three turns and hope to cast some exotic six drop off the back of this on turn four and not just be totally and completely already dead then you are perhaps too full of optimism. Talisman and Signets are far less onerous of a cost and far more conveniently timed to get into play. Being a bit better is of no use if you are too late and too expensive. This is a good card that should just be too slow for what it does to be viable in any refined (non-speciality) cube. Gilded Lotus is the kind of card Relic has to compete with because of its cost and it falls incredibly short there too. It sits in an unfortunate middle ground.

Library of AlexandriaLibrary of Alexandria

Remember when I said that even a turn one Ancestral Vision was frequently an awkward thing to fit in? Well, Library is a whole lot harder than that. You still ideally want it on turn one but then it costs you a mana every use there after ensuring you are super behind on tempo. Library pretty much says, OK, I'll draw double for the rest of the game but you can have a Time Walk right now, on me. It is a total liability to use and even when you can get away with it you are still going to face tough choices to sensibly recover your tempo so that you can win with your card advantage. I have had Library in my unpowered drafting cube for nearing a year now and it has like a 40% win rate at best as a turn one play. Certainly much of that will be misuse and greed but still. Library is old enough that it spent most of its life in metas where you could do nothing in the early game or waste a bunch of mana and be totally fine. Threats mostly sucked and so there was no real punish for obscene early Library usage. Now there really is. Library is a decent card still but it is far from broken. Much of why it is decent is that it isn't a dead card on turn seven like Ancestral Vision, it is still a land and that makes it low risk to build with at least.

Mind TwistMind Twist

Another super powerful card I want to poo poo. Obviously this is still a very unfair card and well worthy of inclusion in any cube professing to contain the powerful cards in magic. There are two issues with Mind Twist that make it a Treachery like card. I like to win with reliable cards and play skill rather than powerful cards that situationally win the game. This means I do have a bias against cards like Mind Twist and Treachery so while I class them as overrated that should be taken with a pinch of salt as I certainly underrate them! Anyway, Mind Twist has a very small window of power. As you mana up and gain potential value on the Twist they will generally be using their resources to power up. If they are not directly emptying their hand onto the board they will at least be developing mana and things themselves so as to be able to protect against what may come. Often you will be faced with the choice of Twisting now for half their hand due to your mana restrictions or Twisting next turn for likely as many card due to them having so few left at that point. You want to Twist around turn four but that is also one of the most important and powerful turns of the game. Doing something that has no impact on the board can mean death. Then if you don't Twist on those key turns it is often just dead weight for the rest of the game hitting a land at best. .


I'm not sure this has ever been good, certainly not in cube. In constructed I think it was Spellstutter Sprite and Mistbind Clique that were good rather than the Bitterblossom. In cube this is painfully slow and frequently a liability. I only really rate this cards worth when you have a strong need of lots of creatures, or at least permanents. This is an OK card for a blue black Opposition deck or some Smokestack affair. Otherwise I think it is pretty bad. Bitterblossom is like the Ancestral Vision of Ancestral Recal to Lingering Souls! It is relatively limp aggressive card, it is a weak late game top deck, it is a risk to play when your life total is being attacked or you are in a long game without lifegain tools. All told I think this is one of the most overrated cards on this list.

Flametongue KavuFlame Tongue Kavu

Sad to see the mighty fallen. This was one of the very best creatures ever for a pretty long time period. Now he is all just clunky and wrong. He is a pretty midrange card. Any self respecting red aggro deck does not want a four drop that does no immediate face damage. They generally don't want any situational cards or four drops at all so FTK is a double no no there. Red midrange isn't really that much of a thing. When you do see it the four drops they play are way more versatile and powerful than a fairly limp 2 for 1. You don't see much Civic Wayfinder in cube and FTK is much the same sort of thing. A fairly bland effect on a fairly weak body for its cost. Sure, four damage to a dork can be good but it doesn't kill everything, it kill almost nothing that important to kill and leaves you with a body that is almost impossible to get any value from offensively. Most one drops trade with it... Burn is only good removal because it is cheap and versatile. Four damage is more than three but make it only hit dorks, cost four mana and at sorcery speed and it is limp. You can Control Magic something for four or exile it and gain a load of life. Mizzium Mortar's sees very little play and it has quite a lot over the FTK as a removal option. If your not playing FTK as removal then you are going to struggle to convince me that a 4/2 is good. With cards like Torch of Defiance now available this thing shouldn't really even be in most cubes any more. Not a great fit anywhere and no longer even a great card.


Time for the big one. Just because I call something overrated doesn't mean it isn't still good. In the case of the last two cards that might be so but Goyf is still certainly very strong and well worthy of a cube slot. What Goyf isn't is anywhere near the power level he is in modern, or legacy for that matter. Goyf is just big and cheap, that is all he brings to the table. He isn't even that reliably big without some effort towards that end when you make him early. He is not so big that other stuff doesn't trump him and he is not so cheap that he is outpacing much of anything. He is meaty, good stat value but he isn't more exciting than Wild Nacatl in that capacity. Typically it is best to squeeze in some value or utility alongside your basic meat and that is entirely doable in cube. Sylvan Advocate, Scavenging Ooze and many more spring to mind. Cards that will be bigger than what your opponent does with that amount of mana but offering a little more on the side.

Natural OrderNatural Order

The green Tinker right? Kind of but blue needs that burst a lot and can protect it. Green really doesn't need the burst and can't easily protect any juice it does Order up. Natural Order is very strong but it is a bit of a risk to play, a tiny bit situational and it comes at the cost of making your deck less threat dense. You have to really want that extra turn or two with the fatty or want a very specific fatty for Natural Order to be that much better than just not playing it in favour of another Rampant Growth or Llanowar Elf! The real issue with Natural Order is that you have to get something that can resist removal else you put yourself down too many cards to recover well. You have to guess if they have mass removal or exile effects and accordingly get your persist dork or token generator. Alternatively you can pack things like Progenitus that you have no hope of actually casting and this further reduces the consistency of your deck. All told, Natural Order is one of the worst cheat effect cards commonly used in cube. It isn't that it isn't powerful, it just isn't very well suited or offering anything green desperately needs.

Ajani VengeantAjani Vengeant

Ajani rarely performs that well in cube, it is mostly about a Warleader's Helix level of value. There are two issues with Ajani that combine to make him simply not very exciting. The first is that his +1 does nothing to protect him against haste creatures, or untapped creatures he can't Bolt down, or say, something as uncommon as more than one creature. The second is that he starts at 3 loyalty. This makes him one of the hardest walkers to keep in play for very long and one of the hardest to get real value from. Just to get a pair of Lightning Helix you need Ajani to live two turns taking no damage. With so many things that can deal four damage right away the risk of trying to +1 Ajani right away is often too great as you get barely any value at all if that happens. His ultimate is great but I have seen it once ever in cube and this version of Ajani has been about for a very long time now. To get there you need your opponent to do basically nothing the whole time you have Ajani ramping up. What happens with Ajani is you make him, kill their 2nd best dork and force at least some of their next attack into Ajani. This is about as much as you should hope from this card. Want for more and you will be met with disappointment.


  1. Thanks for this very interesting article again, I agree with pretty much everything you said. Your comments about Library may shock some people, because there is so much belief that turn one Library equals win. I remember LSV taking P1P1 Fastbond over Library in a streaming session of MTGO Vintage Cube causing an uproar within the crowd of the viewers, but even if it seemed a very unconventional decision, the guy ended up building a strip mine crucible deck in which Library would have never fitted in. So your rating is in line with my own experience playing with and against Library.
    WizCo should read your post and bring a lot of cards back to the Legacy cube, because a lot of their banning decisions is based on the overrating you describe (even if I do not miss Jitte in the Legacy cube, because of the tempo problem you describe).
    Personnaly, I may say that I overrate a bit Bitterblossom, as I wrongly believe I will be able to crush every control deck with it.
    Last remark, I do not think anybody overrates tarmogoyf, I'd rather say too much people considers it to be weak in the cube, to the point of not maindecking it in decks in which it would perfectly fits in.

  2. Yeah, LSV is one of those players it is really hard to disagree with. You can actually thank LSV for this blog. I asked him to review cards for cube as well as limited and constructed when new sets came out. He didn't so I did and here we now are.

    Regarding Goyf, glad to hear it! I think I somewhat assumed people rate it because of other formats and how much attention it gets. In reality I have no evidence at all that people still overrate it. I need to play some more modo and see what people are up to these days!