Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Top 8 Five Drop Dorks

Deranged HermitFive drops are very powerful cards, or at least the few that grace the cube. It is hard to include a lot of five drops in any deck. So when you do play one you want it to have a massive impact, you want it to probably win the game, or at the least offer a big swing in your favour. Cheaper cards tend to be more linear in what they do, five drops tend to do a lot of different things and generally in a big way. They plug many holes or threaten in several different lines. That one extra mana on a four drop gives a huge increase in power. You get a lot more five drop for your buck than you do with four drops. The change in power level between four and five drops may not be the steepest change but it is one of the more significant ones as it falls within the realms of the cards you can include without ruining your curve or consistency.

In true Magic TV ripoff style I am not only doing this as a top 8 but starting with the honorable mentions I have of which there are 3 (kind of 5). First of those is Glen Elandra Archmage. Much like Aetherling she is a card that you really want to leave up a blue mana when you cast thus making them psuedo CMC+1 drops. I rate Glen higher than some of the cards on this list but she isn't a true 5 drop in the same sense as these. You do drop her at 4 when you need her as a blocker or suspect you wont resolve her the following turn etc.

Siege-Gang CommanderNext up is Shreikmaw which looks even more like a 5 drop than Glen but in reality is mostly a 2 drop. Without the evoke option the card would be clumsy and pretty weak and people would still play Bone Shredder instead of it most of the time. As such I don't regard it as a five drop in the same way as these cards. It is a two drop that gives you some extra late game gas, synergy and reach. It is the black Firebolt! Great card, not a true five drop though.

Lastly we have an actual five drop that held the crown of king five drop for many years. Siege-Gang Commander is still a good card but it has been edged out of all bar the tribal cube archetypes and is no longer a part of my drafting cube as a result. Pia and Kiran Nalaar was the thing that finally pushed it out. Gang was basically the best five drop creature in the game from its printing till M10. Seven years at the top is more than most dorks have ever had in magic so he and his minions deserve some recognition for that. Before Gang we had Deranged Hermit as the big name in that slot. Hermit is still just about playable in cube but pretty niche. Before that is was probably the original Serra Angel which is not so playable anymore. Mild history lesson over, now onto the big names of now.

Baneslayer Angel8.   Baneslayer Angel

This is the card that took Gang off the throne from M10. It singlehandedly reshaped my cube design and meta. Removal wasn't a big deal before this card, either you killed people with spells or you made a better dork or you made more dorks and so you didn't need to wast time and consistency on including removal. Then this thing saw print and you could't make a better thing, more things still couldn't race her and it even stopped a lot of the non creature decks in their tracks. Huge chunks of lifegain on top of a decent enough clock was just too much to handle. Now the cube is full of creature removal and there is a good chance Baneslayer will eat some on sight. This is why she has fallen from the throne herself over the past half decade. She is the victim of her own power level and the general power creep in creatures. The game is more creature focused and removal is a larger part of that. The one vulnerability of Baneslayer is that she is contained all in one card making it easy to go one for one with her and gain a tempo swing at the same time. She is still absolutely as game ending when they don't have removal though. Basically nothing can block and kill her, you have to have some pretty serious stuff to be able to attack into her and even if you do then you are probably just forcing a race you might struggle to keep up in. Exceptional art has also really helped secure the legend of this card.

Thragtusk7.   Thragtusk

By far and away the least threatening card on this list. A 5/3 body with no other keyword abilities doesn't actually do that much. Many far cheaper cards will trade with it easily in combat and so it typically just sits there and stalls out the game. The reason Thragtusk is so strong is that it ends a lot of aggressive strategies, specifically red ones, and unlike Baneslayer Angel, killing the Tusk does nothing to help. Getting past two lots of 3 toughness dorks plus five life is a huge ask for decks full of 2/1 dorks and Shocks! Other than effects that prevent lifegain the Tusk is about a five for one against RDW. Another great use for Tusk is in combination with flicker effects where you trigger not just the five life but also the 3/3 each time. This is too much for almost every deck and doesn't take long to end the game that way. Thragtusk is the big brother of all the speed bump cards like Baleful Strix, Kitchen Finks and Solemn Simulacrum. It is such a big speed bump that it is often impassable and effectively ends the game. Tusk is very reliable and always gives a good amount of value. It is a disposable value dork against slow decks and your best, most game ending card against the aggro decks.

Angel of Invention6.   Angel of Invention

This newcomer has somewhat been stealing the show from Baneslayer Angel of late. This new five drop Angel is far more rounded making her a lower risk card to use. It offers many of the same functionalities as Baneslayer as well as having its own unique things to give. Angel of Invention will generally leave a pair of tokens in play if she is the target of removal. Should you have any dorks in play when you make her she will have some immediate effect on the game as well. These were the two big failings of Baneslayer. Angel of Invention can race well, she can block well, she can be a good threat or a good defensive tool. You can play her to good effect in most kinds of deck from aggro through to control too. She is a great example of a five drop having both good range and power. Historically the one mana army five drops have been some of the best five drops. It would seem as if they are migrating to other CMCs as Angel of Invention is the only card on this list that can come with dorks.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel5.   Gray Merchant of Asphodel

The weakest body by far on this list, with this card you are almost entirely paying for the effect. Ideally you play this and win right there meaning it would make no difference if the card was a 0/1 or a 20/20. The most useful thing about the body is that you can easily recur or reanimate it for repeat offences! It does happen where you need to throw down an emergency survival Grey Merchant and then you are pretty glad of a 2/4 wall to go with it but you are probably losing that one anyway. This is one of the defining cards for a selection of heavy black strategies. Black historically lacked both reach and surprise burst. Black is generally a slow colour to respond to things. Basically, unless you were dead to the board against a black deck you probably were not dead. You are not about to eat a Craterhoof Behemoth or a Forked Fireblast and die! You are not going to get repeatedly Time Walked by the black player. Grey Merchant gave black both these tools as well as a great source of lifegain. It is the perfect pairing for cards like Necropotence. The one thing that keeps this card in check is the necessity to build around it. Most of the cards in this list are good just so long as you can cast it. This you need to have the right sort of deck as well. For it to be super effective you also need the right kind of board, the two point drain it does all by itself isn't worth anything much at all.

Creeperhulk4.   Creeperhulk

Decent fat trampling body that can finish the job solo if needed. Should you have other dorks then Creeperhulk also represents a bit of an Overrun option every turn. It is incredibly hard to survive being attacked when all the things hitting you can also become 5/5 tramplers on command. Creeperhulk is usually; you let me untap with this and I win. Where ramp decks will play a Craterhoof more conventional decks will play this and they will rarely be disappointed. You can even milk some immediate value from the Creeperhulk should you have enough mana to turn dudes into 5/5s right away. A perfect reach card combined with a top end threat. While this is basically as easy to kill as a Baneslayer Angel it is not so much of an issue for the cards performance. As it needs removing right away you force the issue and have a lot of control over things. Baneslayer needs to stay in play to give you the control hence being more of a risk. Being able to hold off till seven or nine mana and get some immediate value with Crepperhulk allows it to retain some of its reach even in the face of removal.

Archangel Avacyn3.   Archangel Avacyn

This nutter does far too much. The fact that this can wrath you yet you are still quite happy running it in a weenie deck really should give some indication of the stupidity of the power in this card. It is a Serra Angel with flash. It is a Wrath protection on first cast and a really great way to blow out any attack into you. Either of the flash or indestructible effects gain you a lot of immediate value and means you are far less worried about spot removal putting you behind than you are with cards like Baneslayer Angel. The wrath on the flip effect is great when you are the player with the few larger dorks however it turns out it is just so good that you don't care when it kills most of your board anyway. Being able to swing in for 9 damage in a turn likely following one you got 4 flying damage though ends most games or at least puts them out of reach. A lot of power and a surprising amount of utility even if it is a little awkward to maximise.

Verdurous Gearhulk2.   Verdurous Gearhulk

I was super tempted to drop this in right into the number one slot. It is simply terrifying facing off against this. It is so cheap for so much stats with a great deal of versatility that if frequently just ends games prematurely. Being green you can reasonably expect to cast this before turn five if you have it.
It offers a lot of what Creeperhulk offers, a fine stand alone threat or a boost to your board. Creeperhulk can do both or either interchangeably but Gearhulk does it a lot more powerfully and quickly. More often than not a spot removal effect with only deal with half of the Gearhulks threat. More often than not Gearhulk will be able to effectively add +4/+4 to the attack of the turn you make him. People have mostly compared this to Wolfir Silverheart which is reasonable but also quite clearly the Gearhulk is just better in almost every situation. I think the most apt comparison is to a Broodmate Dragon where you reduce the cost, colour requirement and give one of the 4/4s haste! The main reason I decided this wasn't as valuable as the number one card is that green has a wealth of strong and versatile five drops. Planeswalkers as well as dorks. Yes, this improves green but it was in a fine place before this.

Thundermaw Hellkite1.   Thundermaw Hellkite

Likely no surprise here we have the mighty dragon. The card that toppled the Baneslayer from the coveted number one slot! Thundermaw Hellkite is starting to look really quite fair compared to a lot of these other cards on the list. Most of them offer more value, more stats, more utility and even race better now. So why is it that Hellkite is still the best five drop when it probably isn't the most powerful anymore? Simple answer, it is incredibly well suited to the task and the colour. It's EtB trigger is quite narrow and it is a one off effect but it near guarantees that Thundermaw is unblockable for its first attack. Even against the Baneslayer you can get in for give with a Thundermaw. Sometimes it is the ultimate answer to a Lingering Souls or Baleful Strix but usually it just taps down their chump (if they even have one) and allows you to do a clean five to either kill them off or perhaps a planeswalker. So yea, Thundermaw Hellkite is just a Lava Axe that occasionally kills 1 toughness fliers and leaves you a 5/5 flying dragon in play! Usually the Lava Axe is enough but when it isn't the bonus dragon you get over Lava Axe usually is! Red wan't to kill people, it wants to do direct damage and this is incredibly efficient and reliable damage that offers to also be value at the same time. You don't plan on having this in play very long, not because it is relatively killable but because it should have let you kill you opponent with ease.


  1. I would say that Thundermaw Hellkite cannot tap Baneslayer Angel, because Angel has protection from dragons. Great article, as usual!

  2. Rules is not my thing but I am pretty sure that as it doesn't target and as the tap is not conditional on the damage that it does tap. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. I am pretty sure that protection from something equals to damage being prevented, so Dragon damage cannot tap Angel.

    On the other hand, how many archetypes do you support in a given color? Two archetypes for white color alone? White weenie and tokens?
    That's not counting color pairs, of course.

  4. Most colours only have one distinct viable mono coloured archetype in my cube that they can go. You could argue more for blue, you could equally claim blue had no good mono archetypes! There are several ways you can typically build each of the mono archetypes, for example, I consider tokens to be a variation of white weenie. My cube has so much fixing in it that I don't feel it is an issue having less directional options within single colours.

  5. Thanks for the response! I also think that mono blue is a difficult archetype to success with. Only viable option is control draw-go style or spell-matters based. Failed to make blue tempo-devotion work! (I am running a 540 powered cube)

  6. Just thought I'ld drop in to confirm that Thundermaw Hellkite does in fact tap Baneslayer Angel. Her protection saves her from the damage, but the tap ability is not contingent on that damage being dealt.