Friday 4 May 2018

Top 10 Cards from 2006

Coiling OracleThis was an exotic year with the new world of guilds coming to life and the quirky start to Time Spiral block. I have always been a huge fan of Time Spiral for its design, I love how it went outside the box in so many ways and hope to see another set like it one day soon. Time Spiral block has a higher than usual contribution towards combo than most other modern blocks. It had a lot of adventurous design but unlike many other adventurously designed cards it didn't feel like it broke any thing too badly. Coldsnap also greatly contributed to the exotic feel of the year. It brought yet more diverse flavour with yet more mechanics. 2006 visits more planes and story lines than most other years. Coldsnap also had free spells and some other old flavourings contained within. I always feel like 2006 is the year most likely to contain hidden and forgotten gems! Coldsnap was received poorly at the time but I think it has aged wonderfully. I think mostly people were spoilt with Rav block and looked unfavourably on the things around it for their relative merits.

Dark DepthsSpell Snare
Shock Lands again
Bounce Lands again
Signets again
Simic Sky Swallower
Coiling Oracle
Academy Ruins
Ancient Grudge
Angel's Grace
Burning Tree Shaman
Celestial Crusader
Dark Depths
Dread Return
Empty the Warrens
Rise // Fall
Greater GargadonField Marshal
Flagstones of Trokair
Ghost Quarter
Greater Gargadon
Grape Shot
Green Seeker
Hatching Plans
Jotun Grunt
Krosan Grip
Lightning Axe
Lightning Storm
Living End
Lotus Bloom
Magus of the Candelabra
Magus of the Scroll
Martyr of Sands
Marty of Frost
Living EndMight of Old Krosa
Mystical Teachings
Penumbra Spider
Perilous Research
Prismatic Lense
Protean Hulk
Proclamation of Rebirth
Riftwing Cloudskate
Rite of Flame
Scryb Rangers
Scrying Sheets
Serra Avenger
Shattering Spree
Silhana Ledgewalker
Serra AvengerSkred
Spell Burst
Stromgald Crusader
Sudden Shock
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Terramorphic Expanse
Think Twice
Tin-Street Hooligan
Trygon Predator
Urza's Factory
Wee Dragonauts
Wheel of Fate
Wild Cantor
Wipe Away
Yavimaya Dryad

Ohran Viper10.   Ohran Viper

For the past few years this has been in and out of my cube a bit. It sits in the role of a green value dork but Ohran Viper needs to survive to attack and then get through to face before it is offering card advantage. This doesn't happen super often, Viper eats a lot of removal and is blocked almost whenever he can be. Fortunately you don't need Viper to draw you cards to be good. You have generally won if you manage to get him in at all, not just because one damage and a card is so back breaking but more because there is a very good chance that if it just happened it will be happening again the next turn too. You were ahead to get him in once and you will be more ahead as a result of doing so. What makes Viper a good card is the combination of its high threat level and its deathtouch. Either you bait an immediate answer for a mere three mana or you get to trade up nicely or you get to win! Viper on the turn two is especially brutal and super common in green! Even when you can't attack with Viper he will still sit back and threaten to trade with their best attacker which is usually a tempo win at 3 mana. He holds off most cheaper dorks very well too. Against control the Viper is at its best where they have few cheap creatures to block it with, most of which have low power and high toughness thus being awful blockers. While a fair card by cube standards in terms of power level it is a uniquely positioned card that winds up seeing more play than any of the other creatures that generate cards when they attack like the classic Ophidians and Shadowmages. Viper is a win more card like those others but Viper is substantially better when behind and actually does relevant work. Shadowmage is just a Lumengrid Warden when not able to attack and that is dire.

Condemn9.   Condemn

I have mixed feelings on this one. I like how it is a nicely balanced, or fixed, Swords to Plowshares. I dislike that it is narrow in that aggressive decks should never play this. There is a decent argument for this being the 2nd best creature kill spell in white control decks after Swords. Basically there is an argument for Condemn being superior to Path to Exile in those places. It just doesn't matter all that much overall because of how unplayable this is in aggro decks while Path gets better in them. Much as I am all about the widely playable cards I don't feel I can be too choosy with white removal. While it might have the best of the removal it doesn't have the depth of removal that other colours do and so this rare high performance offering seems unwise to pass up on. Condemn is towards the lower end of things in terms of play that it gets. Much like black Doom Blade effects, restriction to attackers effects suffer diminishing returns and each new addition that trumps an old one in that group (Settle the Wreckage) has appreciable impact on the value of the others.

Boreal Druid8.   Boreal Druid

Easily the weakest of the one drop ramp dorks and arguably the weakest of all the one mana ramp cards (excluding silly things like Honered Hierarch). Boreal Druid is good because it is a reliable mana source you can make on turn one. It is only bad because all the other cards that do that do it better! In the same way that Sleight of Hand is easily the worst of the card quality spells we have Boreal Druid for green ramp. Someone has to be last but it doesn't mean such things are not worth playing! Indeed Boreal Druid now has some advantages in some situations. It is nice fixing for some Eldrazi! Cube is great for bringing these low end performing cards within a grouping to the forefront. When you need one mana card quality or one mana ramp dorks you play what you have to the desired number. Sleight and Boreal Druid see less play than the others in their group but they still see more play than a lot of cube mainstays.

Mogg War Marshal7.   Mogg War Marshal

The most tokens you can make for the least mana. Very much a support card but one of the best in those roles. In any of the go wide or token strategy decks War Marshall is something you really want to pick up. It is all about the scaling. A 2 mana Arc Lightning with a Goblin Bombardment, six cards in one with a Skullclamp, 6 damage with a Purphoros, +3/+3 to a Carrion Feeder and so on and so forth. Mogg War Marshall is also unique in that it is the only cheap token generator that gives you the tokens there and then, for no extra mana, that is a dork. All the others are spells which is both a pro in some builds and a con in others. War Marshall is a pure support card in that it is actively quite weak (4 mana for slow 3/3 stats or 2 mana for a 2/2 worth of stats also partially delayed) when played on its own. The best thing it does without support is mimic a Fog (also poorly)! On the positive side though, it is one of the best token support cards going and winds up in most goblin decks as well as any token deck with red in it.

Utopia Sprawl6.   Utopia Sprawl

Certainly in the bottom three one mana ramp cards in my cube for play (along with Arbor Elf and Boreal Elf) but one of the most powerful when used well. The combination of Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl can afford four mana on turn two! That is actual Sol Ring good, none of this Treespeaker pretender nonsense. I have seen that into Garruk Wildspeaker for a turn three nine mana with 3 ramp cards and none of them Cradle or Rofellos! This is turning into more of a plug for Arbor Elf than one for Sprawl! Utopia Sprawl is great because it is super hard to disrupt unlike mana elves, it is fixing as well as ramp and used after turn one it has haste effectively. The only real drawback Sprawl has is that you have to find specifically a forrest to put it on which limits your construction options and typically lowers the consistency of the Sprawl. Otherwise it would be Birds of Paradise levels of good, often better.

Mishra's Bauble5.   Mishra's Bauble

A bit of a sleeper that came into power with the advent of delve and delirium mechanics. It was the prevalence of this card in modern that brought it to my attention as a serious card for general use. A zero mana cycler with any upside is a pretty big deal but the delay on the draw is real when using cards like this. It is a big delay on action and will concede initiative in most cases when off the top late game. In the early game it initially denies you some information on your own state as well as lowering your potential option power (as in, it might not actually lower your option density but any options it does bring will be less potent than actual cards you could play). If you have the synergies, or indeed you just lack the playables, then the Baubles are your friends and the perks grossly outweigh the drawback. Mishra's is substantially better than Urza's in almost every way. Mishra's combos with sac lands and other shuffle and mill effects to act rather like a scry. It is also a much more pertinent and unique piece of information to have than things in hand. Lots of cards let you see someones hand and you can infer a lot about it but little does tops of library. You certainly can't deduce information that is unknown to your opponent as well as you! Mishra's Bauble can keep you at a state of perfect information for a whole three turns in combination with a Peek effect. It can be scry, it can be a mana with delve, enable delirium at no cost, trigger prowess effects, reduce hand size etc. Highly versatile card with minimal cost. A card I now play rather a lot.

Search for Tomorrow4.   Search for Tomorrow

A unique card in that it is essentially one mana ramp but it does so via lands like your typically two mana Rampant Growth cards. Just in terms of ramp it is somewhere between a one drop Elf and a Rampant Growth. Search doesn't accelerate you to a 3 drop like most other one drop ramp cards but rather to four the turn after like most two mana ramp cards. Unlike those however Search lets you use your mana for other things on turn two itself. While less powerful ramp than an Elf Search is a more
powerful effect overall. Getting actual lands into play is much safer than playing a 1/1 and has other ongoing benefits and synergies. I have found a balance of creature and land ramp effects are my general preference in cube so as to retain some good speed but not become overly cold to a Wrath. Obviously this depends rather on your exact build, I wouldn't be running this in an Elf deck! In most cases I am keen to run this when I have the option, I think it is top two non dork ramp with Explore.

Chromatic Star3.   Chromatic Star

We have had a lot of these in short succession with Terrarion in 2005 and the Sphere a few years prior to that. Star has the best of all the variants, it draws right away, it draws even when you sac it for alternate uses, and it can be used to fix mana immediately as well. There are a few random occassions Sphere is better such as using Yawmogth's Will but otherwise this is where you want to be. It is the premium in colour consistency enhancers and one of the best support and filler cards there is. Barbed Sextant is a touch weak although it has seen some use but there is certainly space in the cube for more cards like this should they print one of sufficient quality. Chromatic Star is near the bottom of my cube for power level but actually one of the more frequently played cards.

Ancestral Vision2.   Ancestral Vision

A pretty good "fixed" Ancestral Recall. You can abuse this a bit with cascade and As Foretold but by the time you have set that up the broken drawing three for little or no mana is rather less potent than the unfettered version. The vast majority of the time Visions is something you just play and wait on. It is a pretty tasty turn one play but gets worse at a quicker rate than most hand disruption cards. Obviously the slower control decks gravitate towards this more but it is actually much more risky for those kinds of decks to invest a card and a mana for so long before any returns are to be had. A good number of games end with Visions still suspended and no surprises that the significant majority of those end in a loss to the Visions player. Cube is slow enough that you can pack this in more aggessive decks and usually risk less by doing so. This is especially the case if you have much in the way of looting or other filtering to pitch the later Visions away. It isn't so much that Visions is a great card but more the case that most other draw options cost too much mana and so are too much of a tempo hit. Of the pure draw options this is one of relatively few cards that feels playable. Obviously fantastic when it works out but a little on the polar side.

Looter il-Kor1.   Looter il-Kor

I am continually impressed with this little dude. He is the all in one Smuggler's Copter! A loot every turn is worth a card and two mana. The unblockable 1/1 body is what propels the il-Kor version above the classic Merfolk option. Even with nothing else going on at all Looter tends to get in a good three damage a game often over five which is a decent chunk of bonus pressure and leads to Looter being a strong aggro card. The option to forgo a loot and ping a planeswalker is always nice to have and acts as a bit of a deterrent. What makes Looter really get out of hand is when you can flop a Sword of Fire and Ice on him or something and turn him into a really scary threat. Looter il-Kor is the original Search for Azcanta! Looter is a little more vulnerable but offers better card quality and better pressure while having less build incentives attached to it. Looter is not more powerful than Search but it is more playable and it is a lot closer in cube than you might think given the two cards great disparity in performance in constructed formats. Looter il-Kor is unique in that you probably consider him a utility card but he does also apply pressure and has a tempo component, all be it an unusual one. Thus far in these lists, in nearly 15 years worth of magic there are only a couple of dorks that are there to attack with, Jackal Pup, Isamaru and they are both rather low on lists. There are a couple more that do do some attacking but it is very much not what they are there to do like Eternal Witness and Dark Confidant. Looter is the first card that is about attacking to top a list.

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