Friday, 16 March 2018

Top 10 Cards from 2000

Saproling BurstThis is pretty comfortably the weakest year for MtG for power level. That however is a little unfair on the year. At the time it had some of the best creatures ever printed and was generally quite exciting and relevant. It is only over time and due to extensive power creep in creatures that this era now seems pretty barren. The reasonably long list of "relevant" cube cards is somewhat misleading. While it is as long as some other years I have done this for so far it is full of significantly less powerful and playable cards. I have only four cards left from this year in my drafting cube and do not commonly fish out others when brewing. Nemesis, Prophecy, Invasion and the non event that was Starter 2000 are what make up the year 2000. Here are some of those few and sparring relevant cards from the era not on the list;

Global Ruin

Tribal Flames
Worldly Council
Saproling Burst
Seal of Cleansing
Seal of Removal
Seal of Strength
Skycloud Poacher
Sterling Grove
Global Ruin
Collective Restraint
Thorn/Stormscape Apprentice (the original DRS!)
Phyrexian Altar
Animate Land
Archaological Dig
Irrigation Ditch cycle
Rising Waters
Captain Sisay
Hanna, Ship's Navigator
Lin-Sivvi, Defiant Hero
Mana Maze

Spiketail Hatchling10. Spiketail Hatchling

I have not run this in a couple of years now. Probably since Judge's Familiar saw print. This is both a weak disruption tool and and a weak tempo play. It can be just the ticket in some places but the growing importance of the early game has edged cards like this increasingly out of the meta. I would have to have an aggressive deck using a lot of effects that enhance creatures, or perhaps require raid triggers or crewing before digging this out these days. If you manage to get ahead then Spiketail is  effective but playing from behind the card is pretty woeful. It probably has seen the last of its days already and has only made this list due to lack of anything else better. It has a more impressive history than Repulse which is probably the card that should be 10th. Repulse has lost value far slower than Spiketail ans so while Hatchling was a bigger name in cube ten years ago that is likely no longer the case.

Exclude9.   Exclude

Most decks have creatures and so a three mana counter draw is pretty decent. It is not mana efficient disruption nor the most reliable way to deal with creatures which makes it more of a filler card. While Exclude is a fine card I find in building I would always prefer to run a mix of pure filler in the form of card quality and more precise and efficient answers. A mix of things like Counterspell, Wrath of God or Control Magic and card quality is a more streamlined way to control things. When you land and Exclude on any dork that costs three or more it feels great and that leads to a bit of bias overrating the card. Don't be fooled, Exclude will screw you when they make a walker or a vehicle or you just have two mana up. Three mana disruptive or reactive cards need to be substantially more powerful or far broader in their range than Exclude. Repulse falls into a similar sort of trap. Exclude is the more powerful effect but I actually find Repulse a little more playable.

Parallax Tide8.   Paralax Tide

Tide is a rather odd card. It is almost exclusively found in combo decks that revolve around enchantments these days but it has always been something you can use to buy time or force things through as well. It was fairly common to see in cubes a decade or so ago. On curve you could expect to deny two whole turns of having much in the way of mana and that is pretty nuts. Paralax Tide can be more than a Time Stretch. Sadly, when behind on the board or super late game when all are flush with mana it turns into rather more of a do nothing. Cards that don't add to tempo or deal with existing tempo at this cost struggle to perform in the higher powered cubes these days and Tide is exactly such a card. Forcing through things or taking advantage of being ahead on the board are not really things blue needs. In red or green Tide would have been much more useful and would likely still see lots of love.

Parallax Wave7.   Paralax Wave

Pretty good creature control whatever the situation. In an aggro deck this will be much like a one sided Wrath and clear the way for you to finish them off. Wave kills tokens off nicely and will buy a lot of time against most forms of creature aggressive. In some cases it will bait people into wildly over extending into a Wrath the turn the Wave fades away. Wave is also a commonly seen tool in enchantment themed decks as it offers a lot of control and is one of the few enchantments that lets you do stuff at instant speed. Sadly it is a bit of a four mana time waste spell a lot of the time. Unless you have other stuff going on buy a bit of time isn't a great use of a card. A lot of dorks are not things you want entering the battlefield repeatedly either and so plenty of cube dorks are bad Wave targets. Removal wants to be permanent and maintain card equality ideally, and great though Wave is, it fails to do either of these things.

Fact or Fiction6.   Fact or Fiction

For a long time this was considered to be the second best one hit draw spell after Ancestral Recall. A few people clung onto the idea Stroke of Genius held that title but those are the kinds of people who are used to having excess mana! Undeniably FoF is a potent spell, it provides a lot of graveyard fuel, it digs very deep, it averages a good number of raw cards for the mana and most of all it forces play errors from your opponents. Sadly for FoF a combination of increasing tempo and the introduction of planeswalkes rather put a damper its its desirability and then Khans came along and blew it out of the water with delve draw options. There are now very few places in which I would choose to run FoF over other cards or even as a replacement for something. Be it Mystic Confluence, Dig Through Time, Hieroglyphic Illumination, or Jace, Architect of Thought, FoF just doesn't fair well in comparison.

Tangle Wire5.   Tangle Wire

This is one of the last mana denial come lockdown cards they ever printed and that is probably for the best. Tangle Wire is an immensely polar card being a dead draw in the late game and often a Time Stretch against the right sort of deck in the early game. It has those free win elements that you can get with Hymn to Tourach, Ankh of Mishra, Stripmine and other such old lame things however it more brutal when it works and frequently a total do nothing when it doesn't. As things tend towards cheap proactive midrange decks Tangle Wire is increasingly on the do nothing end of the spectrum. The average performance of the card is in decline even if the top end performance is just as good. Given the type of card it is and the effect it has on games I think it is best to avoid running this in unpowered drafting cubes.

Daze4.  Daze

Probably the second best free counterspell on the market after Force of Will. Mental Misstep is better in legacy and the like but in cube there isn't enough... sorry, as many, one drops making Misstep rather narrower. Force Spike is a good card and being able to do so at any time really keeps people on their toes. One can play around Daze but it is often more damaging to do so than to run right into it. That is one of the great things about the Daze. The cost is very real and scales in a peculiar way. Early on the cost of bouncing a land is vast, far more painful than exiling a blue card and losing a life. Later on it is negligible. The inverse scaling of the pitch cost to the effect of the spell has a lovely balancing effect on the card and leads to some really interesting choices as to how to play with the card from both sides of the table. Daze is certainly up there as one of the best designed cards you can play for no mana although it might not feel like that when your hand is all four drops...

Seal of Fire3.   Seal of Fire

Seal of Fire has enjoyed a huge resurgence in power lately. Delirium has made Shock on an enchantment frequently more desirable than all the non-Tarfire Shocks on offer. Insult / Injury has also meant that any ways in which you can do direct damage for no mana cost on a specific turn a pretty big deal. While these are both fairly minor synergies Seal of Fire was a pretty solid card prior to these little boosts. Shock is a very strong effect, just because we have Lightning Bolt and multiple other slightly better than Shock cards doesn't mean Shock is itself bad. One mana for two damage is lovely and when you can invest that mana early then it is a big win. Often the effective cost of Seal is nothing and you barely give away any relevant information. You get more from people using the information badly than you lose from letting them know you have a Shock option. Seal of Fire is rather more better than Shock that I think most realise.

Chromatic Sphere2.   Chromatic Sphere

I very nearly gave this the number one slot as it feels more playable than coloured card. I mean, it is, it doesn't just feel that way! Being more playable doesn't actually mean you see more play however. People are rarely desperate for Chromatic Sphere and when they are it is because something else is a problem in their deck, be that terrible fixing or lack of playables. You rarely want to play Chromatic Sphere, it is just often the least bad thing to run. It is a great card to have in the cube, it has loads of nice synergies and it helps increase the overall consistency which in turn increases the overall quality of the games. Chromatic Sphere raises the floor in cube but it barely ever effects the ceiling. All cubes should have it and most don't. It is not a card that excites people and never seems to do super impressive things. It gets the opposite bias that Exclude gets. Exclude always looks good when you use it and so it is overrated while Sphere rarely looks like it did all that much and goes under valued. It is very easy to cut a card like that and very hard to get excited about it. The reason it is not number 1 and not as played as my number one choice is simply that Chromatic Star and Terrarion are also things and are played almost interchangeably in my cube. Sphere gets a lot less play than it otherwise might as there are essentially extra copies of it in the cube. While those extra copies further help increase cube consistency and raise the floor they don't help Sphere get high ratings. It is not a case of redundancy helping the effect as is often the case for cube cards. It is not a build around effect and that is where you want your redundancy.

1.   Opt
Great little card that has been given new life in constructed with a recent reprinting. It is super fair card quality, one of the lowest powered offerings but being instant the cost of the card is very low as well. I typically prefer Opt to things like Preordain in decks with prowess dorks or counterspells. I like to save my mana till the last minute and Opt does a great job of that. Opt is a combat trick with prowess dorks or zero mana when you want to keep mana up to represent counterspells and you really don't need much extra on a one mana cantrip for it to be nuts. Scry is already more than enough! Imagine how much play Sleight of Hand would see if it were zero mana or had a mini giant growth option you could use if you wanted! As raw card quality Opt is worse than the big names like Ponder and isn't something you are desperate for in your combo decks. In your more generic cube decks where you are playing it as support and filler Opt is frequently a better card.

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