The Era of the Overpowered Uncommon
I think it was windfall that did it for me, that finally sealed the deal, and made the uncommon the best card type out there. I remember looking through my first pack of Urza’s Saga, and brushing past the rare (Barrin’s codex, I think. A decent rare) to look at the card, and I whistled. Three minutes later, I constructed a deck based on uncommon cards that was to become known around the school as “Mr. Nice Guy” and was immediately slaughtered upon the revelation that it was being played. Overpowered uncommons have always been around (juzam djinn [Editor's Note: Remember, there were no rares in AN.]) but they were usually the exception. Not the rule.
In fact, though I didn’t see it until saga, the era of the overpowered uncommon could have been seen from tempest onwards. Looking at bottomless pit, goblin bombardment, whispers of the muse, and overrun, for example, it would be clear to anyone that looks for it that a new age is dawning on magic, and one that can serve a casual player well…
The key to the era of overpowered uncommons is situation. Rares are good because they are hard to stop, or effective if they aren’t stopped. Uncommons must be the same, placement matters a lot. Under the right circumstances, there are uncommons more powerful than most rares. Even under the wrong circumstances, they are almost all more effective than pale moon. Rares have been getting less and less dominant, and the game is converting to a mode more viable for those without unlimited funds.
A look at the recent play scene will confirm what I am saying: More uncommons have powerful abilities than ever before. Look at waylay, for example! The difference is visible in every color. Red sligh is almost rare-free, and green stompy consists of hunted wumpus, albino troll, river boa, and company. Uncommons simply have the flexibility that niether commons nor rares offer.
Look at a typical card, stone rain. A common card, and a useful one, but limited. The rare versions of stone rain include wake of destruction, which is too expensive, wildfire, which strays from the point, and seismic mage, which is ridiculously easy to kill. Meanwhile, the commons offer Lay Waste, a low-end stone rain, and raze, which is quicker but less effective. Then we look at what the uncommons have to offer us, and we find a more effective card: pillage. I would rather place four pillages in a red deck than four of any of the other cards here.
The last two vestiges of rare domination, are, alas, the hardest to take. Combo decks and Accelerated Blue still rely on rares to guide them, but that may be changing. Combos are getting less and less expensive to make, and accelerated blue, even using Morphlings and Grim Monoliths, must fall back on thwart, foil, counterspell, and a hundred other commons and uncommons to run.
We are, my friends, entering an age where the casual player needs only their wits and a sharp eye for details to make a viable deck. Even combo decks, which are notoriously expensive, can be made with uncommons, if one has the will.
Mr. Nice Guy, my multiplayer deck
2 Bottomless pits
4 Dark rituals
4 Counterspell (any two mana or ACC counterspell works)
4 High Tide
4 Peat bog