Last week, we talked about homogeneity and cards that seem to make the cut way more often than not. But what about the cards that consistently get left behind? I’m not talking about Accursed Centaur, Mudhole or other really terrible cards here. I’m talking about the cards that always end up in my 150-card first drafts but never survive the jump to a clean 100-card library. Am I right about these cards, or am I just not giving them enough of a chance? I’ll tell you how I feel about some of my favorite 101st cards, and you can tell me where you think I’m missing the mark on some real gems. This article is as much an admission of guilt as anything else – I feel bad cutting these cards, which means I should probably give them all more of a chance!
I always imagine wanting to play this in green decks that play mostly at sorcery speed. You don’t pay much for the creature stat-wise, you get the ever-helpful reach, and you get a ton of free 1/2s! It’s unlikely anyone will be jumping to blow this up unless they’re playing a spellslinger deck, which means you’re likely to get three or four triggers out of this one card most of the time. So why don’t I play it? Maybe it’s because this set came out right before the whole pandemic thing and I haven’t seen anyone play it. Maybe it’s because the floor is too low on this card – it’s not impactful on its own late, but we can’t ask every card to be that, right?
I like some of the Khans/Dragons enchantments, but Citadel Siege gets cut more often than I’d like to admit. It takes effect right away if you choose Khans (assuming you play it in first main) and very soon thereafter if you choose Dragons. For some reason, neither effect ever quite seems like it’s worth spending the mana on – maybe I’m envisioning games being shorter than they really are, or maybe I’m massively undervaluing the flexibility.
I always imagine this card just having great value applications by allowing me to spend my mana better. In practice, it seems to work with Prosper, Tome-Bound or cards like Bottled Cloister, but without a serious commitment, I find it impresses me less than I’d like. Is this a case of me misidentifying a niche card and thinking it has wider implications, or is my deficiency in deckbuilding and play skill? With so many cards to ask myself about, I may literally never know, but my instinct is to think that I’m wrong on some level about pretty much everything in Magic – after all, there’s so much knowledge and information out there that statistically I must be missing something here.
For two fewer mana than Craterhoof Behemoth, this card feels like a really good deal. An Overrun that leaves a 6/6 trampler behind for just one more mana than actual Overrun (and a more forgiving casting cost) sounds nice, but I start to remember how much less +3/+3 is than “+lots/+lots” from Craterhoof or even Overwhelming Stampede. Unless your board is very wide or has five or six sufficiently tall non-tramplers, +3/+3 isn’t getting the job done. Combine that with the fact that I would actually have to go seek out a copy of this card and I just end up not slotting it in. I imagine if you want to play Overrun Tribal or even just play a few of these effects to ensure good consistent combats in the late game alongside multiple Wrap in Vigor/Make a Stand/Teferi’s Protection/etc. effects, you could make that happen.
This card exists in a weird space between Growth Spiral and Urban Evolution, both cards that my subconscious ranks higher than this one. I haven’t cast Urban Evolution in a while either, and the more I look at Eureka Moment, the more excited I am about having this effect at instant speed. I don’t really want to commit to Urban Evolution as a sorcery, but is holding up four mana in Simic really where I want to live? Well, probably, with Rewind, Mystic Snake/Frilled Mystic, Cryptic Command and even personal favorite Insidious Will all living at that same mana value.
Every time I see this card, I remark on how happy I am it exists. I also play it in exactly zero decks in tabletop Magic. Where’s the disconnect here? It’s fantastic in monocolor decks to reset utility lands like Bojuka Bog, and of course landfall decks and anything helmed by a colorless commander are interested as well. Am I just not playing enough Mystic Sanctuaries? Do I not have enough cycling lands to play early and then throw aside late? Or am I on the right track when I drop this – and other bouncelands – from my lists late in the build process?
I feel like this card asks a lot of you – you need three good targets, a lot of mana and a legendary creature or planeswalker. That said, the rate here is fantastic… or is it? The linear scaling is easy to understand, but when stacked up against Crackle with Power, I start to have questions. 3RR into Crackle gets you five damage to up to three targets, where Jaya’s only bolts each one. Comet Storm at instant speed raises further questions about the utility of this spell as well.
I sing the praises of the Zendikar Rising MDFC lands every time I play or talk about Commander, so why don’t I play this one very much? It’s the picture-perfect MDFC – the spell half has a niche application, and when you’re land-light and need to make your drop for the turn, you toss it onto the battlefield without much thought. It even works well with Guildless Commons and the like, cards I mentioned I probably undervalue earlier! Is that the hidden connection here? Are you folks out there bouncing your MDFCs to hand with your Dimir Aqueducts and so on? I hope so – that’s a play I talk about plenty but rarely end up doing!
I cannot possibly explain to you how much I want to run this card in basically every deck. In theory, entering the battlefield tapped doesn’t matter when this is played on curve, but it just feels bad after that. I just want to use my opponents’ Mazes of Ith, Kessig Wolf Runs and other utility lands right away, okay? I suppose in a deck that can readily untap permanents with cards like Kiora’s Follower it should be good, but I just never end up playing those decks. This is one that I’m guessing feels much worse than it actually plays, but at this rate, I’m not finding out unless I pick a deck for it right now.
I talked this card up a ton when it got printed, and since it compares so well to Explosive Vegetation, a card I played for many years quite happily, I expected myself to really take a shine to it. I think I’ve played it in one deck – every other time I’ve considered it, it’s lost its spot during the drafting process. Is four mana too much to pay for ramp like this at sorcery speed nowadays? Am I just playing in games where the power level is a little too high? Or has the card pool passed effects like this by, even with cycling attached?
I love the idea of “rattlesnake” cards like this one, especially when they’re so cheap to both cast and activate. I should be very excited to play Soul Snare in both enchantment-based and politically-focused decks, but when the time comes to cut cards, I just end up playing Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile and the like over this. Perhaps this is a personal failing of mine, or perhaps the restriction is too much – not every creature I want to get rid of is attacking me! In fact, with creatures like Etali, Primal Storm and Kalamax, the Stormsire, it’s often urgent to get rid of powerful creatures before they can even turn sideways.
I often feel like planeswalkers are Healing Salves with upside in games of Commander, at least the ones I play. They’re lightning rods for removal and attacks alike, and unless you’re really dedicated to them, I find it hard to justify sleeving them up without a really specific application. That said, Teferi should be an all-star with instant-speed activation for card filtering and defense! I should probably build a Rielle, the Everwise deck and sleeve this Teferi up to really understand the power of this card, but I imagine there are plenty of other places I could be using it.
This was originally going to be a top 10, but well, top 12 is some free extra value! Or maybe it’s an apology for not bothering to rank them in numerical order. You decide, I guess. Please shout at me about your favorite 101st cards or your quibbles with my list on Twitter at @RagingLevine, because I’m not on the internet enough already or something. Can’t wait to write about Kamigawa goodness next week!