The Comboist Manifesto: Looking Back at Fame and Shame [Article]


The Tentacled One
Nomination thread:
Winner: Adarkar Valkyrie

Ransac: Dark Depths
Oversoul: Braid of Fire
BigBlue: Adarkar Valkyrie
Spiderman: Allosaurus Rider

Committee: Mooseman, Ephraim, Killer Joe

Well, we weren’t down to a record low count on nominations, as we’d already been down to three nominations for Apocalypse, but this was the lowest we’d had in a while, and came right on the heels of the trouble with Guildpact and Dissension.

Melkor and Ransac were both a bit disappointed with the choice of Adarkar Valkyrie. “Dark Depths was robbed.” My own reaction was a bit more of a generalized malaise with some of the winners I’d been seeing lately. I tried to describe it. We’ll come to that. But first, I should note that Ephraim shed some insight on why Adarkar Valkyrie was more appealing to him for the Hall of Fame than Dark Depths.
Ephraim said:
One of my criteria in selecting a card for the Hall of Fame is that the card does not lend itself solely to singular and obvious strategies. In the most recent vote, I felt that Adarkar Valkyrie, in addition to having very attractive numbers, also has an ability with diverse utility.

In Dark Depths, I saw a card that plain-and-simple requires a deck to be built around it. If the deck is not built around Dark Depths, then it will almost certainly have something better to do with 3 mana every turn and can typically win long before Dark Depths has accumulated enough counters to matter.

Contrast this with a past selection that I supported: Evolution Vat. It plays best in a deck designed to abuse it. On the other hand, it does not play poorly anywhere that you might consider playing with Dragon Blood. It has a lot of low-level utility combined with a flashy ability that makes it very exciting to play.
Oversoul said:
I don't know. I probably would have gone with Dark Depths myself had I been on the committee, but it does seem like we're getting a lot of flashy rares as winners. The nominees themselves are somewhat diverse, but it seems like the cards that actually win are always cast from the same mold...

Mana cost: 5-8, enough for a powerful card, but not too much to hard-cast
Rarity: Rare--no contest
Card type: Creature!
Power/Toughness: At least 3/3, but probably 4/4 to 6/6. Stuff like 4/5 or 6/4 is good, but 5/1 or 0/8 makes it less potent for either blocking or attacking. And once you get bigger than 6/6 or 7/7, you're dealing with stuff that's strictly designed to beat people's heads in, which isn't very interesting...
Abilities: Flying or something is a nice bonus, but it should definitely have some sort of activated ability, very probably with tapping as the cost, and the more unique the better…
I don’t think I explained myself very well there, but it’s interesting to think that I could have been explaining the thought process WotC had for making legendary creatures in the era when creature design started being informed by EDH considerations, for several years up until the “Philosophy of F.I.R.E.” took over and everything went crazy. Anyway, Mooseman pointed out that Dark Depths made a much bigger creature than the size ranges I specified and was “designed to beat people’s heads in.” He was right, but…

Oversoul said:
Dark Depths didn't win. I'm talking about the cards that tend to win. The nominations seem more diverse.

Since I'm talking about my perception of the winners, I'd better also take a look at the numbers. Since Legions (a rather arbitrary cutoff, but the earlier sets seemed pretty diverse in their winners from what I remember), what percentage have been creatures and how does it compare to before Legions?

Well, it's not as bad as I thought, but there's a marked difference. Before Legions: 12 out of the 28 winners were creatures. After Legions, 8 out of the 12 winners were creatures. Roughly 40% vs. roughly 60%. My complaint about them having tap-activated abilities was probably inspired by the very recent ones. All three of the last winners (two of which have been creatures) have tap-activated abilities. But a lot of the other stuff since Legions has not.

The trend with creatures winning is there, although it's not as bad as I thought, and I forgot that some of the recent winners are pretty low-power creatures, rather than the generic "I can attack for a lot of damage, block a lot of damage, maybe use some sort of evasive ability to get past blockers, and I have a cool activated ability too!" legendary creatures I had in mind.

But the rare thing is actually worse than I'd imagined. Since Legions, our winners have been 0 commons, 2 uncommons, and 10 rares. Before Legions it was 2 commons, 6 uncommons, and 20 rares. That's like 17% non-rare vs. 40%. Obviously the nature of print runs is going to affect this and create a strong bias toward rares. But I'd like to think that there are still interesting commons and uncommons being printed…
This led to an interesting discussion regarding the role of card rarities and their connection to the factors that make a casual cards great. I won’t quote the whole thing. But you can go back and read it if you want.

My thoughts now
Huh. There are a few elephants in this room. Well, let’s try to address them all. Firstly, there’s the obvious point that Dark Depths is notorious as a tournament card and was championed by multiple people here as a casual card, while those same people were also the ones critical of nominations perceived to be tournament cards. In fact, Spiderman commented that I had a tendency to nominate “tourney cards.” I pled ignorance at the time. Looking back and attempting to assess the extent to which my nominations were too competitively oriented, I do have to say that I find the whole idea a bit overblown. A few of my nominations were definitely potent tournament cards, but most were not, and pretty much everyone who was critical of cards on this basis turned out to also nominate tournament-worthy cards, sometimes more frequently than I did. Besides that, it’s not a contest. There’s no real distinction in being the person who nominated the most obscure junk or something. I mean, if you’re a total hipster, then I guess there is. But if that’s your goal, then whatever? This is all a bit of a mess, but I have to give credit where credit is due. And as far as I can tell, the Dark Depths issue is anachronistic. It took me by surprise to see it as a well-regarded nomination, especially by Ransac. Then I remembered that this was all still 2007. I do not think the card had a significant tournament presence prior to the printing of Vampire Hexmage. In theory, other combos could have been used to exploit Dark Depths before 2009. But I am not aware of any that saw tournament play. So I think that everyone who supported the Dark Depths nomination is off the hook on this one. They had no way of knowing, in 2007, that this was a card that would later be banned in a major tournament format.

Another elephant in the room is that I nominated Braid of Fire in a world that still had mana burn. This is one of those cards for which the removal of mana burn from the game rules fundamentally changes the card. I still think that Braid of Fire is cool, but I do think that part of what made me nominate it was the danger of self-inflicted life loss, which could be managed by a clever deckbuilder/player.

So, we might say that Dark Depths was a reasonable nomination at the time, but has since become a broken card due to printings like Vampire Hexmage and Thespian’s Stage. We might say that Braid of Fire was a reasonable nomination at the time, but lost some of its luster with the elimination of mana burn. Oddly enough, there’s a third elephant in this room: Allosaurus Rider has also become strongly associated with tournament play. And again, I believe that this was a development that only took place after our discussions in 2007. So it might be a tournament card now, but if it didn’t really have that role in 2007, then does it count? Our members cannot see into the future. Allosaurus Rider became prominent in the Modern format in 2019 following the printing of Neoform. Prior to that, it had seen a little Modern play, but I think that was marginal, and I am unaware of Allosaurus Rider taking on a major tournament role in any format as far back as 2007. Again, we might imagine that there would have been some use for it, but nothing like what Neoform did for this card.

Amusingly, if those three nominations are tainted, the only one left is the card that ultimately won. This brings me to the funniest elephant in this room, which is that Adarkar Valkyrie was the only card among the nominations to already be a successful tournament card prior to our discussion, and yet it was also the unanimous winner in the committee.

We never settled on criteria for what makes a good nomination, nor was that ever really the idea. But the “tourney card” issue came up repeatedly, and I think the discussion on it with this set really illustrates how muddled the issue can get. No one even said that my nomination of Braid of Fire was too tournament-tainted. One of the only reasons it was discussed at all with Coldsnap was because when I brought up my complaint that the winners tended to “fit a mold” too much, Spiderman brought up the confounding variable of who the people are that are doing the nominating in the first place.

Spiderman said:
The "who" has been nominating what may matter slightly because different people nominate different types of cards. For instance, up until recently (maybe the past 3 expansions), I believe you have been nominating more "tourney" cards rather than casual cards (IMO). Someone may have been nominating non-rares but when they get on the committee, they have to stop (and then perhaps they disappear for a while). So noting who has been nominating what may aid in spotting trends or certain types of cards.

Or maybe not
Reading it now and trying to put it in context, this seems generally pretty fair. But the first time I saw this text again while reviewing these old threads, my initial reaction was something like, “That’s pretty rich, saying I’m the guy who nominates tourney cards when you nominated Allosaurus Rider and someone else nominated Dark Depths, while my own nomination was Braid of Fire. My card isn’t played in tourney decks, but those two are tournament powerhouses.” Like I said though, these cards didn’t really see tournament play in 2007, and I can’t expect CPA members to be able to predict the future. Here’s the thing though: the cards that I think were my perceived “tourney card” nominations had some variety and character to them, which was why I nominated them. And that goes back to my original complaint. I was trying to pick cards that didn’t all fit the same old mold! Sakura-Tribe Elder and Ninja of the Deep Hours might have seen considerable tournament play, but I find them to be good and interesting cards. Isochron Scepter was definitely a tournament staple, but I thought that it was also just a really fun card. Adarkar Valkyrie is a beefy midrange creature with a combat-oriented ability and an activated utility ability. I got tired of seeing those cards win. Not just get nominated, but win.

The issue of how to treat “tourney cards” in the Casual Card Hall of Fame and the issue of me finding generic beefy midrange creatures with a combat-oriented ability and an activated utility ability boring are totally separate issues, but they got kind of mixed together in this discussion. Well, neither issue was ever fully resolved. And both are pretty nuanced. I’m already running pretty long on this one. I try to be charitable with these retrospective analyses and I’d feel guilty if I were just bludgeoning a bunch of mostly-gone CPA members with all my years of hindsight. But it’s hard to help it here! I was self-admittedly not one of the people who took tournament performance into consideration with these nominations, so when the issue of tournament cards being suitable for nomination came up again for this set, I look back and see that my own nomination was the only card among the four not to have a significant tournament presence.

You know what? I don’t have to always be nice with these takes. My nomination was the only good one here and everyone else’s nominations were bad. They suck. No one is going to actually sit around and pay thirty mana to remove counters from Dark Depths. They’re going to cheat on that cost somehow, which, by the way, was possible even back then. And what if they don’t? What then? Is the sort of game in which your control deck shuts your opponent down for a long time and eventually grinds out a 20/20 and swings for the win really your idea of casual fun? As for Allosaurus Rider, the tools to exploit it weren’t as great back then as they are now, but if you weren’t going to Metamorphosis it or Food Chain it or whatever, then why were you even pitching two cards from your hand for a creature that would be small if you didn’t have a lot of lands? And if you had a lot of lands, then you could just hardcast Allosaurus Rider, which means you could also just hardcast a better creature anyway. So this one doesn’t make sense to me either. Adarkar Valkyrie is a perfect example of the sort of card I was complaining about, so I don’t like that one either. Braid of Fire was a way better choice. This set also has Wall of Shards, Herald of Leshrac, Thermopod, Tamanoa, Panglacial Wurm, Thrumming Stone, and Arcum Dagsson. Despite my misgivings, if I picked a card today, I’d still go with Braid of Fire.


The Tentacled One
Time Spiral
Nomination thread:
Winner: Greater Gargadon

Ransac: Greater Gargadon
Spiderman: Stuffy Doll
Mooseman: Trickbind
Melkor: Sengir Nosferatu
Oversoul: Pull from Eternity

Committee: Ephraim, Killer Joe, Rokapoke

This one was pretty quiet and no noteworthy discussion developed here.

My thoughts now
This was a pretty great set with a surfeit of appealing casual cards. We never discussed Fool’s Demise, Kher Keep, Norin the Wary, Saffi Eriksdotter, Vesuva, or Paradox Haze. If I were to choose now, it’d be a close contest between Stuffy Doll and Children of Korlis. I suppose that I’ll go with Stuffy Doll.


The Tentacled One
Planar Chaos
Nomination thread:
Winner: Braids, Conjuror Adept

Melkor: Braids, Conjurer Adept
Mooseman: Dash Hopes
Ransac: Chronozoa
Oversoul: Heroes Remembered
Gizmo: Wild Pair
Spiderman: Dichotomancy

Committee: Killer Joe, Rokapoke, Spiderman (emergency addition to replace Ephraim)

Gizmo came back just in time to nominate a card. Unfortunately, Spiderman had to rescind his nomination in order to fill in on the committee. We can’t see the exact details, but it looks like attempts were made to reach out to Ephraim, and eventually the committee gave up.

My thoughts now
This was a set I didn’t care for at the time, but I’ve since come to use more of the cards from it. I should note that although I mostly like the color-shifted cards in this set, nominating an alternate version of a some random classic Magic card feels a bit weak. I think we captured most of the best nominations, but I’d actually award the win to a card I’ve made great use of in several decks: Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.


The Tentacled One
Future Sight
Nomination thread:
Winner: Jhoira of the Ghitu

Ransac: Steamflogger Boss
Mooseman: Sprout Swarm
Oversoul: Bitter Ordeal
Melkor: Jhoira of the Ghitu

Committee: Killer Joe, Rokapoke, Spiderman

Our consistent members who’d been nominating cards were slow to nominate anything for this one, and this led to some discussion. I think Ransac accurately captured the issue.

Ransac said:
I think it's difficult to decide on a "Hall of Fame" caliber card in the recent sets. It's like comparing Adrian Peterson to Walter Payton. Sure he's had a heck of a year, but will he be good over the long haul?
This was the impetus for “pausing” the Hall of Fame. There was a rough consensus that new sets should get at least a year before we voted on them. Ideas were pitched for alternative card nomination categories. Ransac pitched the idea of doing thematic categories, something that had been floated before. He also brought up the possibility of inducting cards from sets that the Hall of Fame had skipped. Spiderman didn’t consider them to be “serious” sets.

For reference, if we had chosen to incorporate non-Standard sets that released new cards into the game, the ones we’d skipped up to this point, from the beginning of the game up through 2007, would have been...
  • Portal
  • Portal Second Age
  • Unglued
  • Portal Three Kingdoms
  • Starter
  • Unhinged
In contrast, the non-Standard sets with new cards released since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have been…
  • Unsanctioned
  • Commander 2020
  • Jumpstart
  • Zendikar Rising Commander Decks
  • Secret Lair Drop Series: The Walking Dead
  • Commander Legends
  • Commander Legends Commander Decks
  • Kaldheim Commander Decks
  • Strixhaven: School of Mages Mystical Archive
  • Commander 2021
  • Modern Horizons 2
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Commander Decks
So yeah, things sure have changed.

My thoughts now
I notice that I gave the nod to Aven Mindcensor, Barren Glory, and Tombstalker before eventually settling on Bitter Ordeal as my nomination. I’m not so keen on Aven Mindcensor and Tombstalker as candidates for the Hall of Fame anymore, and not because they’re tournament cards. I just find them to be good cards that fill uninteresting roles. Bitter Ordeal is cool in theory, but in practice I do think that Jhoira of the Ghitu is more fun. Steamflogger Boss was always just kind of this wacky card, and I have a soft spot for it, but not to the extent that I think it’s Hall of Fame material. I forgot that Sprout Swarm existed and I’ve never seen anyone manage to make good use of that card. Some cards we didn’t discuss, but which I consider worthy contenders, include Akroma’s Memorial, Arcanum Wings, Bonded Fetch, Boldwyr Intimidator, Muraganda Petroglyphs, Force of Savagery, Nacatl War-Pride, Rites of Fluorishing, and Daybreak Coronet. But my favorite has got to be Barren Glory.


The Tentacled One
Nomination thread:
Winner: Garruk Wildspeaker

Ransac: Brion Stoutarm
Shabbaman: Shriekmaw
Orgg: Goatnapper
Train: Garruk Wildspeaker

Committee: Oversoul, Rokapoke, Spiderman

So, I remembered before I started this retrospective that I was one of the last people, if not the last person, to be inaugurated into the Hall of Fame committee. It wasn’t until I got pretty far into this that I realized I actually didn’t ever join the committee until the final run of sets before the Hall of Fame project was abandoned. I was nominated in the voting for the committee several times, so it’s not like everyone just hated me and didn’t want me on the committee. I just kept losing out in the vote, so my “turn” on the committee didn’t come up until the end, and even when I did make it onto the committee, it was because the first choice, Modus Pwnens, went missing and I was the runner-up. For a second I thought something like, “Oh no, was I just such a stupid jerkface that no one wanted me on the committee?” But I don’t actually think that was ever the case. It was just a quirk that I was often second place in the vote for a new committee member. And once I thought about it some more, I thought it was actually kind of cool. The committee can’t nominate cards, so I got to nominate more cards than any other CPA member. In fact, I was the only person to nominate a card from every set up to this point. How distinguished!

Because of the delay in getting the Hall of Fame running again after it was paused, the nomination schedule was pretty wonky here. Shabbaman proposed Lignify, Brion Stoutarm, and Deathrender as cards of interest, settling on Shriekmaw as his nomination, all long before nominations were officially opened for this set. I nominated Shriekmaw and presented a substantial justification for it, with my nomination being officially recorded. Then I was pulled for the committee, which struck my nomination. Train had kinda-sorta seconded my nomination anyway, so it still went in. It was unfortunate, but we clearly had a committee that was partially biased in favor of a specific nomination, even if I tried not to be.

Ransac and I had some discussion on the whole planeswalker card type issue. I won’t quote it all. But here’s perhaps the most relevant bit.

Ransac said:
I'm merely insinuating that, because this was the first set to have Planeswalkers, other worthy nominations were dismissed. Each of the Planeswalkers have a casual appeal to them (and I believe Chandra fit this the best), but I thought that R&D did a fantastic job designing the overall flavor of the entire set (from a casual perspective) and the Planeswalkers were not at all the best choice. '

I'm simply not impressed enough with "First set with planeswalkers = automatic selection" concept.
My thoughts now
I find myself a bit torn on the planeswalker issue. I find myself with the same qualm I expressed a few months ago in a different forum.

Planeswalkers are a nuanced topic, and something of a hot button issue too. It's complicated. I guess I'll say that the development and exploration of the planeswalker card type was bold and innovative, and the corresponding "cool factor" that WotC was going for seems to have been achieved. And also, planeswalker cards often lead to some pretty frustrating gameplay patterns that Magic was better off without. It's possible for both of those things to be true simultaneously.
Anyway, I think the true inductee from this set should have been Oblivion Ring.


The Tentacled One
Nomination thread:
Winner: Boldwyr Heavyweights

Ransac: Knowledge Exploitation
Shabbaman: Cloak and Dagger
Mooseman: Bitterblossom
Orgg: Boldwyr Heavyweights
Al0ysiusHWWW: Mutavault

Committee: Rokapoke, Spiderman, Oversoul

Ah, there have been multiple occasions on which I’ve used, as an example, the argument between Ransac and Al0ysiusHWWW over Mutavault that was generated during the nomination process for this set. It got a bit snide, perhaps, but was generally an interesting discussion. I don’t entirely side with either party on that one. I do find it interesting that Bitterblossom didn’t spark similar debate, mostly because Mooseman just didn’t seem interested in that discussion.

My thoughts now
It’s been a long time since I actually read the whole argument in the Morningtide thread. Al0ysiusHWWW could be a bit acerbic and dismissive, which happened here. And Ransac came right out of the gate objecting to the nominations of others, while I think he might have convinced me to vote for Knowledge Exploitation if he’d spent more time making the case for his own pick and less time picking on other cards. I don’t think the incivility in the thread really mattered: both Ransac and Al0ysiusHWWW struck me as pretty thick-skinned anyway. But there was a kind of irreconcilable difference at the root of this debate.

Al0ysiusHWWW had always liked man-lands and they’d served him well in the past. In our own games, he killed me with Stalking Stones, Mishra’s Factory, and Faerie Conclave. After quitting the game for a while, Lorwyn was the set that brought him back, and of course he was drawn to an efficient new man-land that acted synergistically in tribal decks. Ransac seemed to view cards as tainted if they’d created negative experiences in Standard tournament play. I don’t really know why Mooseman nominated Bitterblossom.

The final vote in committee for Boldwyr Heavyweights was unanimous, but I forget what my rankings would have been. Maybe I didn’t feel this way back then, but I’m a bit frustrated with cards like Boldwyr Heavyweights these days because even if you jump through hoops to neutralize the card’s dangerous triggered ability, you still only have an 8/8 trampler. It’s not bad, but the cost it comes at is too awkward for my tastes. I think if I were to make my own choice today, I’d go for Thornbite Staff.


The Tentacled One
Nomination thread:
Winner: Reaper King

Shabbaman: Wort, the Raidmother
Ransac: Swans of Bryn Argoll
Melkor: Oona, Queen of the Fae
Orgg: Reaper King

Committee: Spiderman, Oversoul, Turgy22

I was the lone dissenter on this one.

Oversoul said:
Since I've only said anything about the Shadowmoor nominees in my one PM, I just want to note that the winner was my least favorite choice this time. Apparently I'm the exception and I suppose with enough people someone is going to be. I ranked Swans first, Oona second, Wort third, and Reaper King last. I don't think it's a terrible card, but I am a bit surprised that it's so popular.
Turgy delivered a compelling counterpoint.

turgy22 said:
Reaper King, IMO, screams casual. First of all, it's a pioneer in the multicolor department (much like Sliver Queen, who won Stronghold), being the first 5-color hybrid mana card. BUT, by the nature of it's 5-color arrangement, it can actually be played in any deck, which I find interesting.

I also think it's the best nominee because it's a powerful card, but a niche card. It wants you to build a deck around it... a deck of scarecrows, which are also a niche creature type... and, IMO, a casual creature type (like Ninjas or Thallids). And, if you manage to put the right pieces around it, it turns into a 6/6 Vindicate on a stick, while giving all the pieces around it +1/+1. At the same time, it's still delicate (expensive + artifact + creature = anyone can deal with it) enough to be exciting when it actually works.

On a different level, it has a lot of qualities that draw casual players to Magic. 6/6 = big. Legendary = cool. Multicolor + artifact = unusual. Art = creepy, but he's got a pumpkin on his head, which is kind of funny. The flavor text is solid, if unspectacular.

So Reaper King gets my vote atm. I'd vote Swans #2, Wort #3 and Oona #4, if we need a "points" tie-breaker.

PS: I just read the nomination thread and I think it's worth noting that 3 of the 4 people who put in nominations mentioned Reaper King. Shabbaman called it "unmistakably cool" and Ransac said it was "so ridiculous." And that's from the people that didn't actually nominate it.

Also, I'll note that of the four nominees, I've only actually played with one - Wort - which I never really had any fun with. I've played against Oona numerous times and it never felt casual. I was fairly open to either Swans or Reaper King, but just looking at them, Reaper King has a more casual feel. You don't even really need to make an argument for it. There's so many quirky things about it that makes it seem like a casual HOFer. Swans is the sort of card I love - efficient with a quirky drawback - but not so "casual" IMO.
The reception for Reaper King was generally positive, with everyone else who chimed in concluding that it was a good pick or even “the right” one.

Oh, it also looks like this was around the time that discussion first came up regarding sets that never actually made it into the Hall of Fame. Turgy inquired about which sets he’d be on the committee for, and sets as far ahead as Zendikar were mentioned. I can see that we actually stopped with Shards of Alara, but I don’t recall the details.

My thoughts now
Well, I’m still in the minority. I’m with Ransac in his initial assessment. I think we had a nice set of nominations to choose from, but Swans of Bryn Argoll was my clear favorite then and remains my favorite to this day.


The Tentacled One
Nomination thread:
Winner: Helix Pinnacle

Ransac: Helix Pinnacle
Mooseman: Crackleburr
Shabbaman: Gilder Bairn
Orgg: Helix Pinnacle

Committee: Spiderman, Oversoul, Turgy22

Helix Pinnacle was the most popular card discussed here. Shabbaman’s nomination of Gilder Bairn was something he deliberately threw in for variety, a bit tongue-in-cheek and practically another nomination for the actual winner.

Shabbaman said:
Here we go again. Eventide's themes are enemy hybrid, chroma and retrace. There's a heavy "color matters" theme with chroma and triggered effects. What I remember about eventide is that it sucked. There are some strong cards, but with all the hybrid cards (and all those lands) you could just play any card you want. Boring.

In fact, only Helix Pinnacle is worthy of the hall, despite that it isn't a showcase of any of the sets mechanics.

Or is it? There are a lot of counters in this set and the sets in this block and Lorwyn block. There's even a card that makes it easier to win with Helix pinnacle: Gilder Bairn. That card is awesome. Actually, it isn't it's just the card and the flavor. I can imagine that someone would want to build a deck around this (or Crackleburr, for that matter :) ). Take a look at it. Creepy. So I'm nominating this card as a reminder to vote for Helix Pinnacle.

I could understand Figure of Destiny, but I've seen the card too much to still like it.
There was some disappointment at the lack of nominations. Rokapoke and TomB both chimed in to note that they didn’t follow the new sets and didn’t really have anything to nominate. Turgy explained why he found Helix Pinnacle to be kind of lackluster.

Turgy22 said:
Like, I said, I wasn't thrilled with it. I just think it's a boring card (speaking of design, not playability - I've never played with or against it). It's basically just an alt-win mana sink that they put a huge number on. There was nothing particularly new or innovative or flavorful about it. Just 100. And shroud. Because if it didn't have shroud, it would suck. I think any one of the alt-win enchantments from the Odyssey block are more "casual" (esp. Battle of Wits) and none of them won for their respective sets, so I felt disinclined to vote for a card when a more deserving (IMO) card was left out. Had Figure of Destiny been nominated, I probably would have voted for it, since it's more of a new idea.

So, there's a little glimpse into my thought process. For anyone wondering, here are all the things I put into consideration when casting my vote (in order of importance):
1. Historical significance. Does the card hold a special place in Magic history outside of the tournament scene? Has it inspired new formats or other cool cards?
2. Innovation. Is the card a new and creative idea? Does it break old rules and have the potential to inspire new cards in the future?
3. Casual play relevance. Is it particularly fun or dominant in casual games? Would I want to build a deck around it?
4. Flavor. Does it have a particular quality outside the rules text that makes it fun? Do the name, flavor text, and art all fit the mechanic?

In the case of Helix Pinnacle, obviously the first factor is moot. The set's too new to see any long-term impact of the card on the game.
The second factor, as stated above, is where the card failed, IMO. It's a new twist on an old idea, and not particularly special in that regard. It just has a big number.
The third factor is what separated HP from the other nominees. I never played with the card myself, but Ransac laid out a pretty good argument for it. There are a lot of ways to build a deck around it and playing kitchen-table magic with a stack of 100 counters and trying to keep track of them is awfully fun.
The fourth factor is another meh. Name, art, ability... nothing on the card does anything for me in that area.

So there's where my reservations come from. Everyone was enthusiastic about it, which I took into consideration, but only Ransac gave any reason why. Had more people come out and said "Helix Pinnacle is teh awsome... here's why..." then maybe the enthusiasm would have spread to me, but as it was, I just saw a card that's actually been sitting in my MTGO account because I never felt it was particularly interesting.
And Shabbaman explained why he thought the card was special.

Shabbaman said:
I think I was pretty clear why Helix pinnacle is a good choice. I still think it's part of a hidden subtheme in the set. I really don't see how Figure of Destiny is a casual card. The card is simply insanely strong. It's not that I can't see it's appeal: the card is very strong and the evolution mechanic has flavor. But there's no one in the world that would ever say "wow, you made a figure of destiny deck".

Yes, Helix pinnacle is a lame alternate win condition. But alternate win conditions are rare, which makes them special to begin with. The card itself is also pretty good, as it has a low CC to slip through permission and it's hard to get rid of because of shroud; this is also what makes the card very different from the other alternate win conditions.
My thoughts now
Looking back, I do think that Eventide had some serious flaws as a set. But there were worthy nominations to be found, and the lack of participation in the Hall of Fame was the real issue here, not the quality of the set. Worm Harvest, Regal Force, Necroskitter, Waves of Aggression, Springjack Pasture, and Cold-Eyed Selkie are all pretty cool. The drop in nominations hurt this and kind of focused all of the discussion around Helix Pinnacle, when really it could have been a close contest. I don’t particularly think that Crackleburr or Gilder Bairn were strong considerations. Things got awkward here.

If I were to simply make my own choice today, I’d be inclined toward Worm Harvest, but ultimately, I find Shabbaman’s reasoning persuasive, and I’m sticking with Helix Pinnacle.


The Tentacled One
Shard of Alara
Nomination thread:
Winner: Sarkhan Vol

Shabbaman: Kresh the Bloodbraided
Ransac: Sarkhan Vol
Melkor: Flameblast Dragon
Spiderman: Sedris, the Traitor King

Committee: Oversoul, Turgy22, Orgg

In the committee, Turgy supported Sarkhan Vol and Orgg supported Flameblast Dragon. I was a bit torn, but sided with Turgy.

Oversoul said:
I thought I wasn't going to support Sarkhan Vol. I still think of him as stealing Fires of Yavimaya's thunder. Definitely not my favorite card in the set.

I almost sided with Orgg on Flameblast Dragon. To an extent, I already regret not doing so, but my thinking is that Flameblast Dragon is yet another in a long series of the same thing. How many big, red, flying dragons do we need? They've been coming out since the beginning of the game and some of them are more interesting than this new one and some of them are stronger cards and some of them are both of those things. Flameblast Dragon looks like something that, if I were looking at a new set list and saw it, I would immediately pass over as uninteresting. There are already a couple dozen big, red, flying dragons. I can't see myself ever playing it, as one of its predecessors is probably too much better for whatever my purpose is. In contrast, Sarkhan Vol is only like one other card I can think of (Fires) and is probably better than it (which is the main reason I am bitter about it anyway, since I liked Fires). I could easily see myself using Sarkhan Vol in a deck.

The other two I don't care for at all. I kind of wish someone had nominated one of the really cheesy cards from this set. I don't think any of them would have won, but I'd have pushed for them. Especially Lich's Mirror.
Orgg saw it differently.

Orgg said:
I was all for the Flameblast Dragon. Here is my direct quote from my argument:

Frankly, I've played with all four cards, and the most fun one is without a doubt the dragon.

I attack. BWHOOOSH!

This dragon doesn't just have a little hyped up butane lighter, it can belch a bigass'd ball of fire at ANYTHING you want it to!

It's very fun just to go swing, and BWOOOSH!

It's without a doubt the most casual card that was nominated, and is one of the most fun cards to play with in the set.
There was some discussion between myself, Shabbaman, and Turgy regarding the merits of a card that exemplifies a set as opposed to a card that just does its own thing.

My thoughts now
Looking over this set, it really does have some splashy, unusual stuff. I have no idea what was going on with the nominees this time around. I maintain my stance that Flameblast Dragon is mediocre and forgettable in the long line of big, red dragons in Magic. Sedris is pretty cool as a commander, but I wasn’t thinking of that aspect so much in 2009. Kresh still doesn’t really impress me, although I could see it being the sort of build-around card that some players might really enjoy. Shabbaman did specifically call out Kresh’s role in EDH, so I suppose that’s fair.

Ransac had a nice list of considerations, some of which I might like better than Sarkhan Vol. Melkor mentioned two cards, both of which I like better than his actual nomination. I think cards like Death Baron, Titanic Ultimatum, Mayael of the Anima, Gather Specimens, and Lich’s Mirror are pretty cool. If I were to pick a card today, I think I’d actually go with Godsire.


The Tentacled One
Winner: none

Committee: Oversoul, Turgy22, Orgg

So here’s where it ended. I had long forgotten what happened. Reading the actual thread, it was a bit sad, really. Shabbaman was unhappy with the set in general. He mentioned Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. Then he mentioned Progenitus and Sigil of the Empty Throne, finally seeming to settle on Knight of the Reliquary, but it was all kind of half-hearted. The ostensible deadline passed, so Spiderman commented that Shabbaman should basically win by default. Nothing else was nominated.

Ransac commented, but implied that Shabbaman had already nominated Progenitus, and that he liked the choice but felt obligated to add another card. Like Shabbaman, Ransac brought up Sigil of the Empty Throne and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. He also mentioned Thornling. Ransac nominated Ancient Ziggurat, but after I pointed out that Ransac’s implication of Shabbaman’s nomination seemed incorrect, Ransac switched his own nomination to Progenitus.

Spiderman said something about waiting on more nominations. He didn’t want to just nominate a card himself and then close the thread with only three cards nominated for this set. Orgg, Turgy, and I were on the committee, so we couldn’t nominate. DarthFerret dropped in to say that he wasn’t familiar with these newfangled cards. Then we got some discussion of how to change the process and maybe salvage the Hall of Fame. It seemed pretty hopeless. Shoe showed up and mentioned Meglonoth, Noble Hierarch and Path to Exile. That was about it.

I think part of the problem was the time gap. Back in 2007 when this process was scheduled and pretty consistent, people were showing up to nominate cards on a regular basis. When we slowed it down to give new sets more time for players to experience them, we had a severe dropoff in participation.


The Tentacled One
So, that was the Hall of Fame. Now for the Hall of Shame! This was a concept proposed by BigBlue in July of 2008, right about in the middle of the pause in activity for the Hall of Fame between Future Sight and Lorwyn. I’d forgotten what the timing was, but this makes a lot of sense. With the CPA waiting for new sets to get more time before bringing them to the Hall of Fame, it seemed like a fun idea to start a Hall of Shame to go along with it. So here’s the thread BigBlue made:

If you like weird comments from the past, that thread contains some gems.

Spiderman said:
I think Ransac will use the goat and paddle on you then…
Mooseman said:
hmmmm I agree with Oversoul?
What's next... do I start to believe in Creationism and Ralph Nadar as a politician?
Melkor said:
Not to mention that bad commons just sort of go into a box where you never see them again. Bad rares go in your binder to constantly remind you of that wasted 4 bucks.
Budget Player Cadet said:
Ferret said: where did I put that cane?


The Tentacled One
Limited Edition
Nomination thread:
Voting thread:
Winner: Farmstead

Melkor: Farmstead
Modus Pwnens: Word of Command
DarthFerret: Lich
BigBlue: Personal Incarnation
Oversoul: Gray Ogre
Spiderman: Purelace
Mooseman: Word of Command
Ransac: Lich
Shabbaman: Power Leak
Ferret: Plague Rats

There was some salient discussion here, in part because early game design decisions left some glaringly odd cards in the oldest sets, and everyone felt differently about how to weigh those oddities. For instance, I dismissed Lich on the grounds that it seemed to be a valid combo piece and Word of Command on the grounds that it could steal a powerful sorcery, arguing instead for Gray Ogre because it was strictly worse than two cards within the same set. There were some reasonable justifications put forth for most of the picks here. But when it came time to vote, Farmstead won in a landslide.

My thoughts now
It’s funny, but I still have stronger reactions to some of these Hall of Shame issues than to the Hall of Fame ones. You can claim whatever weird card you like is a good representative of a set, but when you claim that a card is worse than it is, I apparently want to jump in and defend it! Anyway, I’ve been listening to the “So Many Insane Plays” podcast and their epic, multi-part review of every card in this set, so deep discussions of these cards are fresh in my mind. For a long time, I’d have looked at something like Farmstead and thought, “Yep, that card is crap.” Now I look at it and see that Richard Garfield showed a lot of early hesitation with lifegain effects. Permanents with lifegain abilities were universally underpowered, and Farmstead was one of the only reliable ways to gain life. It’s super-slow, but it also gives some insight into the early trepidation toward allowing lifegain to be good. It’s easy to see how, with limited information and early feedback, WotC might have been worried that lifegain would lead to games becoming stalled-out and boring too often. Ivory Tower and Zuran Orb would even get banned in tournament formats, for that same reason. So yeah, Farmstead is a weak card, but it has an important historical connection. Most of these cards do.

The case for Lich is rather messy. At the time of our discussion, the oldest Lich-containing decks I’d seen at all dated to after the release of Ice Age, which introduced Zuran Orb and Glacial Chasm. In recent years, I’ve had the opportunity to see some classic Lich decklists, and the card does have a legitimate function. If we confine our analysis to only the cards from the original core set, Lich can be even more of a liability, and there might not be a home for it in any kind of competitive format under those conditions. But this is the Casual Players Alliance. This card does something unique and powerful. I don’t think it should seriously be considered the worst card in the set.

Plague Rats got nerfed by the four-card rule, but it’s merely a weak creature, and not even that bad by the standards of older sets. Personal Incarnation is kind of weak, but has its uses. I was actually thinking of throwing it into an EDH deck. Power Leak is pure mediocrity, but technically does the job it’s supposed to do. Bad, but not the worst.

Purelace and the other Laces are certainly underpowered and the presence of five different versions of this effect wasted rare slots in many old booster packs. That’s unfortunate. There were some notable tricks that could be pulled off with the Laces, but Spidey actually picked the one that just might be the least useful. I think a lot of players wish that the “cantrip” concept used to bolster cards with generally mild effects had been applied here, but we didn’t start getting proper cantrips until Weatherlight.

I no longer like my case for Gray Ogre, although it is interesting. I think this creature might have the distinction of being the only card with two strictly better cards printed in the exact same set as it. At least, I can’t think of another example.

I think there’s a decent case to be made for Conservator, a card that offers some hilariously overcosted damage prevention. But at least it’s an artifact, so it doesn’t have strict color requirements (as though that matters when you’re this bad). Yeah, I think I’ll side with Melkor on this one, like I did back then. Farmstead is the worst card in this set.


The Tentacled One
Arabian Nights
Nomination thread:
Voting thread:
Winner: Pyramids

Budget Player Cadet: Sandals of Abdallah
Ransac: Camel
BigBlue: Pyramids
DarthFerret: Pyramids
Oversoul: City in a Bottle
Shabbaman: Aladdin's Lamp
Spiderman: Metamorphosis
Ferret: Camel

There was some lively discussion. Almost inevitably, someone would chime in about having found a use for an obscure card that someone else nominated. Mooseman took a hit in the Mindmaster format from my nomination. Ransac had employed Spiderman’s nomination. I’d used Shabbaman’s nomination in my decks back when I was like 13. I also had a bit of history with Ransac’s nomination, a card I’ve talked about a bit elsewhere at the CPA. No one really had anything nice to say about Sandals of Abdallah or Pyramids, though. The issue of how to evaluate “ante” cards was raised, but that topic didn’t really go anywhere.

In the voting thread, I noted that I’d stuck to my guns. But Pyramids won in a landslide.

My thoughts now
I spent some time and money earlier this year completing my collection of this set. For how small of a set it is, this was one I was really deficient in, just because the cards are so old and rare.. Now that everything is sleeved up and the cards are arranged in order, I’ve become more familiar with the themes and nuances of this set than ever before. Fortunately, anyone can view the cards online and see what they do. Still, most Magic players probably never even see a complete set of Arabian Nights. The power level of this set over all does not hold up well by today’s standards, and I suspect that putting in the work to collect the set has made me rather soft on what are, mechanically, some pretty bad cards. Sure, the set is flavorful, but there are some cards here that are just not worth playing even in casual decks, and really, they never were. There are some serious duds to be found in this set. Pyramids is not one of those.

Yes, I sat there nodding along in 2008. I concurred with the group that Pyramids was a bad card. But hear me out! Pyramids might not really be cost-effective, but it was highly unique and, more or less, still is. Nothing else quite replicates Pyramids. The closest thing is Consecrate Land, and that can only affect one land. Pyramids can be used on any number of lands, if you have the mana to pay for it. Of course, it costs 6. And that’s too much. It really is. But at least it does something. If you were playing against a Psychic Venom deck in 1993, this card would have been a lifesaver. More importantly, I could still throw this thing into a deck with big mana enhancers and Armageddon right now and blow up everyone else’s lands while protecting my own. In a late-game situation, it’s not even that hard. Mana Flare could get you most of the way there. Clunky? Yes. Too situational? Sure. Overcosted? Yeah. Worst card in the set? I have to object to that. It does a job that could be worth doing and it is practically the only card in the game that has this function. Even today, you have to jump through some hoops to protect your lands from destruction. So I find myself defending a clunky six-drop artifact with situational defensive functions. But there’s a big difference between Pyramids failing to be as efficient as I’d like it to be and Pyramids being totally irredeemable.

No one spoke up to defend Sandals of Abdallah either. That’s understandable, although I’m a bit surprised that none of us mentioned how cool the art on this card is. The comparison Ransac went with was War Barge. My first thought is usually that Flying Carpet is in the same set, and generally more useful. War Barge might be another useful comparison, but for all their similarity, the cards clearly diverge in actual application, assuming anyone bothers to play with them. War Barge doesn’t have to tap to activate, so it can give a whole team islandwalk. Sandals of Abdallah has to tap, so it only functions on one creature. War Barge kills the creatures if it is destroyed. Sandals of Abdallah gets destroyed if the creature it is used on dies. War Barge costs more mana to use than Sandals of Abdallah. From those differences, I see War Barge as more appropriate for making big plays on stalled board states. More risk, more investment, more reward. You turn an opponent’s land into an island, put your creatures on the Barge, and swing for the win. If the Barge gets destroyed, then the result is catastrophic. Sandals of Abdallah, despite the same initial mana cost, is the cheaper, less risky version. Sometimes you only need to get one creature through unblocked.

I’ve gone on for too long about these cards already, but hey, I’ve got my newfound appreciation for this set and I can’t help but share it. Ultimately, while I do not think that either the Sandals nor the Pyramids are particularly good cards, they seem to have been alright for their time, and suffer largely from being exclusive to an extremely low print-run set and not having the tournament prestige to compensate for that. If these cards had been reprinted in a core set or reprint “extension” set, as was the case for some other lackluster Arabian Nights cards, then they’d probably have been regarded by the CPA as decent for their time, but a bit too niche.

Camel, in hindsight, is an interesting one to me. I notice that Ferret also nominated Plague Rats. The two cards both suffer from the same problem, but from different sides of the table. In 1993, when the original core set and Arabian Nights was designed, there was no four-card rule in Magic. Richard Garfield definitely envisioned Plague Rats as existing in an environment where someone might build a deck with a whole bunch of them. And when you get a whole bunch of them on the board, the effect is potent. The four-card rule directly nerfs this card. Similarly, when Richard Garfield designed Desert, the same principle could have been applied. There might have been Desert-filled decks that could ping attackers to death. In a single-color deck or especially in an artifact-based deck, the opportunity cost to loading up on Deserts instead of basic lands would be minimal (or even nonexistent, at the time). Camel and a couple of other cards in Arabian Nights were clearly designed with this consideration in mind. The four-card rule and the relative obscurity of Desert as more new lands arrived in later sets rendered this anti-Desert tech almost useless. Hypothetically, Camel as a casual card would have seen an uptick in relevance during Amonkhet Block, although that was still a long way off in 2008, when we voted on these cards. Anyway, while I find all this interesting, I also think it’s moot. Camel has banding, an ability useful enough on its own, that I don’t think it should seriously be a contender for the worst card in the set.

I’m a bit stumped at Spiderman’s nomination of Metamorphosis.

Spiderman said:
I'll nominate Metamorphosis. Because if you had the mana to cast the creature to be sacrificed in the first place, you should have enough mana to cast the creature you're gonna cast with Metamorphosis in the first place.
The same would seem to apply to Sacrifice, a card that wasn’t even brought up in discussion for the previous set. Granted, it could be that there were too many other bad cards to talk about or that no one happened to think of Sacrifice at the time. But I’d made some use of Sacrifice myself and had played the crap out of Burnt Offering, the strict upgrade to Sacrifice from Ice Age. Metamorphosis is a similar card, and strikes me as really pretty good. It’s a bit less broadly applicable than stuff like Burnt Offering, because the mana has to be spent on creature spells and because black has more synergies for this form of mana ramp. Still, there are some real ways to abuse this card. I think maybe Spiderman was evaluating this card based on what it could do just within this set, where it doesn’t have a lot of strong uses.

Just because I used Aladdin’s Lamp as a kid doesn’t mean that it’s not a bad card. It really is far too expensive. But in the environment where I used it, the card really did the job I wanted it to. I’m not eager to defend it, but I believe that there are worse cards in the set.

That leaves my own nomination. On the one hand, I find my reasoning from 2008 to be solid. On the other hand, picking a set-hoser card feels like a bit of a cop-out to me now, in the same way that picking an ante card or a conspiracy card would. It just doesn’t seem right. City in a Bottle is essentially useless in normal Magic, and you can come up with some made-up format to turn any card into a good card. Is Mindmaster a legitimate showcase of this card providing real value? What about The Djinn-Efreet War? Well, maybe flipping through these wonderful old cards and seeing their art has softened me on this issue, but I no longer agree with my own nomination and vote for this set, although I can understand why I made the decision at the time.

So, are there worse cards in Arabian Nights than the ones the CPA members picked out in 2008? I contend that yes, there are a few. Junun Efreet is a bad way to tie your mana up in an aggressive black deck and would almost never be worth it. Hasran Ogress has the same problem. Merchant Ship is a blue lifegain card with almost no reason anyone would ever play it (except flavor). Island of Wak-Wak is a land that can’t produce mana and its only ability is to negate a single flying attacker. Cyclone is a Hurricane knockoff that is far too expensive and unreliable. But my pick for the worst card in Arabian Nights is Jandor’s Ring. Most of the other bad cards in this set are at least kind of cool or are almost practical, if not for some little deficiency. Jandor’s Ring is appallingly bad.


The Tentacled One
Nomination thread:
Voting thread:
Winner: Rakalite

Melkor: Rakalite
Mooseman: Urza's Miter
BigBlue: "Urzatron"
Ferret: "Urzatron"
Shabbaman: Rakalite
Modus Pwnens: Coral Helm
Oversoul: Golgothian Sylex

Melkor reflexively nominated Rakalite, mentioning that he didn’t even look through the whole set, but was confident that Rakalite was worthy of nomination. Mooseman nominated Urza’s Miter, sarcastically devising a combo with Nuisance Engine. BigBlue nominated the “Urzatron” lands (he did not call them that). He also noted Su-Chi. Ferret seconded the Urzatron pick, mentioning that he thought about Su-Chi but that the mana could be useful. He also mentioned Goblin Artisans. Shabbaman, the voice of reason, seconded Rakalite and gave some analysis on other cards. He was unimpressed with Reverse Polarity as well and also baffled by Goblin Artisans. He questioned the choice of the Urzatron lands, as he recalled them being sought-after, and called Su-Chi “just a good card.” Modus nominated Coral Helm. I had similar thoughts to Shabbaman, especially when it came to Su-Chi and the Urzatron lands. Then there was this…

BigBlue said:
Another card which I think is weak but wasn't nominated is Mishra's Workshop... The mana is only useful to play artifacts... and you have to take 3... a better alternative would have been "T:1; T:2; T:3 - and each of these abilities could only be used to play artifacts" or even allow it to be tapped for 1 to be used w/ artifact abilities…

Also, during the voting period, I switched sides and went with Coral Helm. It looks like it became a contest between Golgothian Sylex, Coral Helm, and Rakalite, but Rakalite got more votes than the other two combined.

My thoughts now
This just might be the strangest deliberation in all of our threads for the Halls of Fame and Shame. I had remembered that someone thought Su-Chi was bad, but I forgot that BigBlue complained that Mishra’s Workshop should have been more flexible. Re-reading this was surreal.

Let’s get the easy ones out of the way. Goblin Artisans is a 1/1 red goblin for a single red mana. The ability is egregiously situational (and weird enough that it confused multiple CPA members), but fundamentally, this is just a slight upgrade to Mons’ Goblin Raiders. Urza’s Miter is pretty bad and I can see why Mooseman nominated it. The non-sacrifice clause is just unfortunate. It’s a weak card and a bad design, but might have fringe playability in some environments (perhaps with artifacts that destroy themselves). Reverse Polarity is fundamentally just a lifegain spell, albeit a weird one. Coral Helm and Rakalite are both extremely bad. Golgothian Sylex has the same problem as the other set-hoser cards,

I’m a bit stuck on how to tackle the cards that were brought up as bad, which I consider to be some of the strongest cards in the set. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt and not bring in out-of-context information. For instance, mana burn was removed from the game rules, which makes Su-Chi even better. I still think that Su-Chi was a pretty strong card even before the removal of mana burn. But it’s possible that BigBlue and Ferret were considering Su-Chi only from the perspective of it being a mana burn liability. I disagreed with them back then, but I don’t want to be too hard on them. Depending on how much, if at all, you’ve seen Su-Chi in action, the explosiveness it offers alongside things like Ashnod’s Altar might not be obvious. Also, with all the new printings, it’s probably a lot easier to take advantage of Su-Chi’s ability now than it was back in the Paleolithic Period, when they were playing Magic. :p

BigBlue was the only one who mentioned Mishra’s Workshop, and I remain totally bewildered by what he wrote there. Even if he wasn’t familiar with the role of Mishra’s Workshop in Type 1 (and Type 1.5) tournament play, it should still have been obvious that Mishra’s Workshop was a good card. I don’t know what to make of this one. At the time, I guess I assumed that he was joking, although I see no real humor in what he wrote now. I’m stumped.

Now, how was it that some of us thought that the Urzatron lands were excellent cards while others thought that they were some of the worst cards in the set? I want to analyze this in a way that is fair to the people who were unimpressed with this cycle of cards, as they considered them back then. These lands are now infamous in the Modern format and almost every time I see them mentioned anymore, it’s in the context of a Modern “Tron” deck. So it’s important to keep things in context: our entire Hall of Shame fell by the wayside and was abandoned before the Modern format ever existed. It wouldn’t be fair to the Urzatron haters to retroactively apply our knowledge of these cards in a format that didn’t exist at the time. This leaves me wondering, “Just how long ago was it that the Urzatron lands first became good?” It’s a tricky question. I do know that these lands were prominent in tournament play alongside Mirrodin Block cards, thanks to their reprint in Eighth Edition. This was well before the Hall of Shame discussion, but perhaps the CPA members who considered the Urzatron lands to be Hall of Shame material were simply unaware of the performance of big mana decks in Standard and Extended tournament play during the mid-00’s. After all, why would they know about that? This is the Casual Players Alliance, not the Tournament Players Alliance. I don’t know. It seems like these lands would have been perfectly fine in casual decks that entire time? Where’s the drawback? Sure, a Strip Mine probably locks the lands out of producing extra mana, but they still each tap for colorless mana, which is not bad. They get hosed by things like Back to Basics or Price of Progress, but that applies to lots of lands, including ones with far less potential than these ones. So yeah, I’m not seeing it.

Is there anyone around reading this now who was more critical of the Urza lands in the Hall of Shame discussion? I’d like to get another perspective on this, even if you didn’t vocally decry them or vote for them as the worst card in the set. I’m open to the possibility that I’m viewing the lands in a different light than those who were harsher toward them. From where I’m sitting, they seem like good cards.

Ultimately, the voting in on this set came down to Coral Helm vs. Rakalite, and that seems fitting. I’d certainly give a nod to Urza’s Miter here as well. I voted for Coral Helm at the time, and I don’t think that I was wrong. However, new printings have gradually made Coral Helm a kind of plausible inclusion in the right kind of casual deck. When I voted for the card, I saw the random discard as too great a liability to work around. A deck based around the “madness” mechanic could probably get away with it. So, Coral Helm is bad, but not the worst card in the set.

There are a few contenders in this set that just didn’t come up in our discussions. Staff of Zegon is incredibly expensive for all the almost-nothing it does. Tablet of Epityr is a bad lifegain card. So is Urza’s Chalice. Orcish Mechanics is overcosted for a weak creature with a weak ability, but I guess it can do damage, at least. Overall, though, I think the clear winner (or loser) has to be Rakalite, for all the reasons already mentioned by CPA members. Damage prevention is a notoriously weak effect and has to really scale up to be worth it even in a very casual deck. Rakalite takes overcosted and underwhelming damage prevention to an extreme.

I’ve come to view Rakalite as a kind of gatekeeper for the worst cards in Magic. The card technically does what it is supposed to do and could technically work in a deck, so it’s something I’ll probably never see as the worst card ever. But it is so ridiculously overcosted for such a weak effect that it makes an easy reference point when someone tells me that some card or other is one of the worst cards in the game. Is it worse than Rakalite? No? Then it’s not even worth discussing. Only those cards I deem to be even worse than Rakalite are ones I consider to be the worst of the worst. Not every set is going to have such a card. Most sets probably don’t. Antiquities seems not to.


The Tentacled One
Nomination thread:
Voting thread:
Winner: Wood Elemental

Oversoul: Wood Elemental
DarthFerret: Tobias Andrion
BigBlue: Forethought Amulet
Shabbaman: North Star
Melkor: Great Wall

I gave (dis)honorable mentions to Great Wall, Adventurer’s Guildhouse, and Glyph of Delusion. Ultimately, I came out vocally decrying Wood Elemental as not just the worst card in this set, but possibly the worst card in the game. DarthFerret nominated Tobias Andrion on the basis that he’d opened too many in booster packs when he wanted the better legendary creatures, which is kind of a personal thing and not a “Hall of Shame” thing. BigBlue explained that Forethought Amulet was not a bad deal for the mana generally and complained about Frost Giant not seeming thematically appropriate. Shabbaman seemed to want to nominate the entire “bands with other” land cycle, but grudgingly admitted their thematic relevance within this set, and instead chose North Star. Melkor nominated Great Wall.

Generally, the idea of inducting a vanilla legendary creature into the Hall of Shame wasn’t popular, and the CPA seemed set on picking something weird. There was some argument over how you could try to use Wood Elemental, and I broke down how the math worked out on those, how it was always such a ridiculously inefficient creature. This might have helped seal the card’s eventual induction into the Hall of Shame. Or perhaps not. I don’t know. Also, we had a brief tangent on Chains of Mephistopheles, a card that was never bad, but which was deemed confusing.

In the voting thread, there was some disagreement over an interesting kind of issue on card evaluation when it came to argument over Great Wall vs. Wood Elemental. One card hosed a mechanic that was virtually nonexistent even in casual decks. The other card did provide a creature, a kind of resource that could be used offensively or defensively in the game, but at a price that would realistically be impractical in any deck. So which is worse: a card that does nothing or a card that technically does something for you, but hurts you so badly that it’s stupid to use it? This is a perennial point of contention when it comes to discussions of what the worst card in Magic is, and I’m surprised it took the Hall of Shame until Legends to really get into that debate ourselves.

My thoughts now
Over the years, this set has really grown on me. Legends just might be my favorite Magic expansion ever. In a sense, it was the only set to ever feel like an expansion at all, because the people who designed it seemed to view the idea of an expansion in the more traditional sense, and not in the way the Magic sets turned out. I’ve been listening to Stephen Menendian and Kevin Cron’s exhaustive podcast review of the original base set, and it’s fascinating how much Legends managed to recapitulate and build on the same themes that the base game established. Of course, that comes with the caveat that some of the mistakes in this set are even more extreme than most of the ones in the base set. Legends has some glaring flaws, most of which were born out of its attempt to emulate the same overemphasis the original base set placed on card color, basic lands, walls, and enchantments. I could go on about this for a while, but I just have to note that I finally, after all this time I’ve been playing Magic, feel like I understand how and why Legends went wrong with some of these bizarre cards. Doesn’t mean they’re not bad, though.

Let’s get the uninteresting mentioned cards out of the way first. Frost Giant isn’t especially bad and doesn’t strike me as thematically inappropriate. Tobias Andrion and his fellow vanilla legends are certainly underpowered, but a card that’s a bit too weak for what it costs is not Hall of Shame material. And Chains of Mephistopheles mostly confuses people because of its awkward Oracle text. The original card text looks pretty clear to me.

So, what about Forethought Amulet? The upkeep cost is annoying and unconnected to the other function of the card, and the card itself costs 5 mana, so this probably leads to some annoyance along the lines of Rakalite or Aladdin’s Lamp that the this is an artifact that is just too marginal to justify its intense mana requirement. Do not let the card’s clumsiness distract you from the fact that its damage prevention effect can operate on a scale unseen on Magic cards since Forcefield. With Forethought Amulet out, you can shrug off a 20-point Fireball. Yes, no opponent is going to waste a Fireball on you while you have Forethought Amulet out, and you’ll be stuck paying the upkeep perpetually, but that’s not nothing. More importantly, Earthquake and Hurricane were core set staples when this card was printed, and while a simple Circle of Protection would often be a more practical means of preventing damage from instants and sorceries, Forethought Amulet opened up a new, different, option, and could be used in non-white decks. I do not think it’s that bad.

I’d forgotten that North Star was nominated for this and it kind of surprises me to see it in the discussion. North Star was never a great tournament card or anything, but its effect was new and totally unique at the time, and the sort of thing I’d think casual players would appreciate. You get to ignore colored mana costs when casting a spell! That’s cool. Is a four-drop artifact that you have to pay 4 and tap in order to use it worth that benefit? Probably not, but at least it’s something interesting and different. I’ve considered running this in EDH in some five-color deck or something. Where’s your sense of adventure, Shabbaman? Or maybe I’m being soft on what’s fundamentally at least eight mana to have the privilege of what was basically glorified mana-fixing. Ouch. Still, I kind of like this card and want it to work. Unless I’m mistaken, its ability did and does work with Drain Life and such. So maybe there’s some potential there?

There was also the cycle of “bands with other” lands: Cathedral of Serra, Seafarer’s Quay, Unholy Citadel, Mountain Stronghold, and Adventurer’s Guildhouse. This cycle of lands suffered from two major issues, one of which no longer applies. The first major strike against these lands is that they do not produce mana. The second major strike against these lands, for many years, had been that “bands with other” was an even worse ability that it first appeared to be, as WotC somehow managed to determine that it should be even weaker than it already was. The Magic rules have largely done away with this, but at the time we were having our Hall of Shame discussion, the ability was constrained in a highly convoluted way. This was done in a weird attempt to make Shelkin Brownie’s ability relevant, but I don’t see why an entire cycle of lands should suffer just because one creature’s ability was poorly thought-out, and it looks like WotC eventually came around to my point of view on this. And despite causing such a messy rules issue and being a 1/1 for two mana, I don’t think that Shelkin Brownie is quite the worst card in the set either.

In my evaluation now, I really think it’s got to be a contest between Great Wall, Glyph of Delusion, and Wood Elemental. Wood Elemental was easily my choice back when we voted on this and probably would have been for several years thereafter, but I have to admit that the advent of Titania, Protector of Argoth makes Wood Elemental almost a useful card. Now that we have Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth, one could even try some shenanigans of some sort. Yeah, it should not make the cut even in a pretty silly casual Titania EDH deck, but in principle, the application is there. And thinking about this, I’m giving Glyph of Delusion another look, as the card is so preposterously situational that it seems almost impossible to make good use of it. Even by today’s standards, it’s remarkable how much worse Great Wall is than Deadfall or Undertow. The card is a testament to the lack of proper set development WotC struggled with in its early years. And yet, I think I’m sticking to my guns. Four mana to blow up your own untapped forests is still bad. New printing maybe made it slightly more feasible, but the payoff just isn’t there and never was. So my pick for this set is Wood Elemental, but not quite as emphatically as it was in the past.


The Tentacled One
The Dark
Nomination thread:
Voting thread:
Winner: Sorrow’s Path

Melkor: Erosion
BigBlue: Amnesia
Oversoul: Sorrow’s Path
Shabbaman: Deep Water
DarthFerret: Niall Sylvane

There was very little discussion on this one, and DarthFerret’s main complaint with his nomination seemed to center around not liking the art. BigBlue didn’t like that Amnesia was a blue card with an effect normally used on black cards. Sorrow’s Path seemed to win this one pretty handily.

My thoughts now
Oh, I’d totally forgotten that I was the hapless fool to nominate Sorrow’s Path in the first place. So this is awkward. Well, there is a complication here. Sorrow’s Path is, for general usage, a pretty bad deal. If you just try to run it in a deck you’ll be, as the name of the card warns you, sorry. However, Sorrow’s Path does occupy some unique niches in certain obscure casual decks, and its most important niche was, at the time we were voting on this, taken away from it. Originally, like City of Brass, Sorrow’s Path’s damage would trigger whenever the land was tapped, no matter how it was tapped. This meant that it was possible to get the land under an opponent’s control and then use other cards to tap the land, pinging your opponent and all of your opponent’s creatures. So you could use Political Trickery to steal an opponent’s good land and saddle them with a land that you could use to not only hurt that opponent, but to essentially get a one-sided Pyroclasm. This functionality has since been restored. So paradoxically, even though the reversion of the erratum made Sorrow’s Path more dangerous to player using it, this also made it a stronger card, because it’s the best land to place under the control of an opponent. Much like Illusions of Grandeur, a card that is ordinarily something of a liability can be quite potent if it is being used as a gift with something like Donate. Furthermore, Sorrow’s Path was always technically a synergy for something like Fungusaur. That niche was a bit too narrow in 2008 for me to care, but more recent printings have made Sorrow’s Path a respectable Magic card. Oh, it’s a very strange Magic card, and even all of its niches put together combine into a real cornercase of Magic deckbuilding, but still, it’s not bad. I mean, it is bad. But it isn’t. Look, Sorrow’s Path is weird, alright? It’s not the worst card in The Dark.

Niall Sylvane is unremarkable. Amnesia is strong, albeit expensive, and the fact that it’s blue instead of being in the traditional discard color is interesting, but not a reason that the card should be considered for the Hall of Shame. Deep Water is, well, actually pretty bad. Huh. I’m struggling to think of a realistic use for this card, which I’d forgotten about. I guess it’s not too implausible that you’d be running a deck that wanted lots of blue mana for something, but you used lands that produced non-blue mana too, so you could use Deep Water deal with that. Like it synergizes with Gaea’s Cradle or Cabal Coffers or something? I don’t know. It’s a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit.

Erosion is miserably overcosted and ineffective taxing in blue, a color that has much better ways of disrupting opponents, even within this set. It occurs to me that even if I built a deck that was monoblue and themed around mana denial, I still wouldn’t run Erosion, because the card just doesn’t do enough for what it costs. And if it’s not worth it even in a deck that is based around exactly what it does, that’s a pretty damning evaluation. I figured there must be some card in the set that is worse than Erosion, but reviewing the set list, nothing comes to mind. So yeah, my pick at this time for worst card in The Dark is Erosion.


The Tentacled One
Fallen Empires
Nomination thread:
Voting thread:
Winner: Delif’s Cube

BigBlue: Implements of Sacrifice
DarthFerret: Elven Lyre
Shabbaman: “all the homarids”
Mooseman: Ring of Renewal
Oversoul: Delif’s Cube

Shabbaman noted that his nomination of all the homarids in the set was a joke, but BigBlue did put it as an option in the poll, so I guess I’m counting that as a “nomination.” Anyway, Delif’s Cube won this one in a landslide, but Mooseman stood up for the card.

Mooseman said:
Most likely it shouldn't be a group of cards, just to keep things from getting out of hand.
And what's with the Cube votes????? It works with Lim-Dul's Paladin and Ornithopter-type creatures (who's gonna block that one?)...... :(
Bunch of freakin anti-cubists :D
Mooseman said:
here was a partisan conspiracy from the anti-ring segment of this board......The shadow Cubist party........
So that’s a thing. I usually forget that Mooseman is some kind of mad genius because it usually doesn’t come up at the CPA.

My thoughts now
I think a reasonable consensus was built early on that Implements of Sacrifice and Elven Lyre were really just mediocre, but not shamefully bad. I’d go a step further and contend that Implements of Sacrifice is a reasonably useful card overall, even if it hasn’t been powerful enough for my own decks, nor captured my attention. This was a contest between Ring of Renewal and Delif’s Cube, and rightfully so. The two questions I find myself asking are which one is really worse and, more importantly, what else in the set might have also been worse?

Heroism and Draconian Cylix are pretty bad, but I think the CPA had this about right: Ring of Renewal and Delif’s Cube really are the worst cards in the set. Notably, Ring of Renewal’s random discard happens before the card draw and is not a cost, so if you have an empty hand, you can just draw cards without discarding. Still Ring of Renewal is ridiculously overcosted, as most old card-drawing artifacts from this era were. Grafted Skullcap, this is not. The one feature of this card that is almost a saving grace is the same issue I raised for Coral Helm: random discard can be worked with more using synergies with new cards, and these old, overcosted pieces of junk are actually a bit better than they were in the old days, even if there’s not a real home for them in any extant Magic format.

Call me an anti-Cubist or a member of the shadow Cubist party. But I still say Delif’s Cube is an appallingly bad Magic card and the worst card in Fallen Empires.


The Tentacled One
Ice Age
Nomination thread:
Voting thread:
Winner: Melting

Mooseman: Ice Cauldron
DarthFerret: Cold Snap
Shabbaman: Melting
BigBlue: Avalanche
Ransac: Infernal Denizen
Oversoul: Snowfall

Not much discussion in the nominations this time around, but the voting thread turned into a debate between myself and Shabbaman over which was worse between Melting and Snowfall. I guess Shabbaman won?

My thoughts now
Here’s another set where our nominations in 2008 turned out to clash with the way the game would later evolve. In particular, both Modern Horizons and Kaldheim have turned snow-covered lands from an imperceptible niche thing into a very real and potent theme that decks can mess with. Hosing snow lands back in 2008 would have been silly in almost any environment, even weird casual ones. These days, it’s a very real consideration in EDH and other formats. All that being said, Cold Snap and Melting are not even particularly good at the job of hosing snow lands. Avalanche is perhaps a bit better, but is pretty overcosted. So maybe not a lot has changed for these cards. Also, Infernal Denizen is a decent card for casual play and I have no idea what was up with that nomination.

Some of the worst cards in Ice Age would be Mystic Might, Arcum’s Sleigh, Maddening Wind, and Cold Snap. Despite the growth in utility for snow permanents, Snowfall remains amazingly bad. I think the arguments I presented in 2008 still ring true today. So my pick for the worst card in Ice Age is still Snowfall.


The Tentacled One
Nomination thread:
Voting thread:
Winner: Leeches

Shabbaman: Leeches
BigBlue: Forget
DarthFerret: Daughter of Autumn
Oversoul: Leeches
Melkor: Koskun Falls
Mooseman: Apocalypse Chime

Shabbaman said:
If you're using this against poison... you're a moron. Why run this maindeck? There are three people with poison decks.

In the whole world.
Oversoul said:
At least Apocalypse Chime can kill Cemetery Gate or Eron or something else pretty decent. Leeches is so bad, we don't even really know what it's for. I can't think of any other card in the game like that (except maybe Lich before the release of Legends with Mirror Universe to combo with it). Is it a poison-hoser or a kill card for a poison deck? It's almost like it can't be either. It can't hose poison because it's clumsy and damages you. The opponent will either finish you off with damage (most poison decks also deal some damage too) or simply rack up poison counters again, because if you couldn't deal with the creatures killing you before, this won't buy you much time. Likewise, it can't be used along with poison because it's white (poison decks are almost always B/G or monoblack) and it doesn't deal enough damage to be even remotely effective. Melting won the vote for Ice Age and it does a lot more than this card. Way more people use snow-covered lands than use poison. And Melting actually hoses snow-covered lands. Leeches just makes a token effort at hosing poison but probably kills you or does nothing instead. Removing 9 poison counters hits you for 9, and that's a lot of damage to be doing TO YOURSELF. Man, this card is bad.
Oh, my sweet summer children. Or something. I was 23 years old at the time and Shabbaman was, let’s see, 30 (according to the forum, at least). We had never heard of “New Phyrexia” and neither had anyone else. Poison decks were just a tiny niche even in the most casual of playgroups, and the notion of wanting a card to hose poison was laughable. Like the rest of the Magic community, we had no idea then of the horrors that awaited us in 2011. I forgot that not only did Leeches win this one, but that I co-sponsored its nomination. Reading these comments now, it’s surreal. There are tons of Magic players who only started playing after 2011 and would not understand the concept that poison was considered a garbage mechanic. My little rant there is just precious and Shabbaman’s initial nomination is even better. I love these posts.

My thoughts now
Leeches remains pretty bad, even though poison itself has taken on a very different tone in the game. Where once there was just Pit Scorpion and Serpent Generator applying poison counters so slowly and painstakingly, we now have, well, some other stuff. And it’s safe to say that more than three people in the world are now running poison decks. Despite that, what about the card itself? Leeches is still bad. Worst card in Homelands? I don’t know. Maybe not.

Daughter of Autumn and Forget are really not that bad. Koskun Falls is moderately popular in EDH now, and pales in comparison to Propaganda, but still gets the job done.

How do I evaluate Apocalypse Chime? City in a Bottle and Golgothian Sylex were both designed for the earliest Magic expansions, back when Richard Garfield still wasn’t sure how the game would look or be played. Remember: WotC initially designed a new card back for Arabian Nights and waffled over whether to include basic lands in the set. In hindsight, the set-hoser cards are super awkward and require their own sections in the game’s rules because of the issues they create. They hose a tiny fraction of Magic cards and in a given format, they are either so situational as to be nearly useless or so overwhelmingly powerful that they just end games by themselves. So making these cards was a mistake, but it makes some sense that no one could have really understood just how much of a mess these cards created back when they were first put in Arabian Nights and Antiquities. Then the very next set introduced the concept of reprinting cards from expansions, and it should have become clear that set-hosers were an idea best left abandoned. The next few sets didn’t have set-hosers, and it makes sense that they wouldn’t. Over a year later, along came Homelands. A mistake that was excusable in early 1994 looked pretty dumb in late 1995.

What else is really bad? Evaporate? Baki’s Curse? Mammoth Harness? Melkor pointed it out, and I’m compelled to agree. Homelands is chock-full of unusual cards that just don’t do very much, but almost nothing in the set is as utterly miserable as the worst cards of most other sets. I think it’s the extreme conditionality that this evokes that makes me inclined to go with Apocalypse Chime. In a set full of crappy-but-not-the-worst cards, the card that can only be used against cards from this set is the one that turns out to be worst in the set. And WotC shouldn’t have allowed another set-hoser, especially since they’d already printed Chronicles at this point and should have understood how problematic such a mechanic would be in the game. That’s why Apocalypse Chime is utterly shameful.


The Tentacled One
Nomination thread:
Voting thread:
Winner: Thought Lash

BigBlue: Thought Lash
Melkor: Dystopia
Budget Player Cadet: Thought Lash
DarthFerret: Urza’s Engine
Shabbaman: Thought Lash
Mooseman: Dystopia
Oversoul: Carrier Pigeons

Thought Lash drew some ire right out of the gate and was the favorite to win/lose. Mooseman and I offered some contrary analysis, though.

Mooseman said:
Thought lash is a crap card, but it seems there are decks out there that actually use it
There is some engine it combo's with Future Sight to mill yourself and play whatever you like along the way. (some Lotus Petals/Lion's Eye Diamonds for mana, then diving top a bunch of times to up the storm count into a lethal brain freeze.

It also seems to be a favorite of some donate decks.....

I don't like the card, but I'm just saying.....
Oversoul said:
Well, Thought Lash is a crap rare. Moreso than any other card in this set. So I can see why there'd be disdain for it. Really, this is a testament to how good of a set Alliances was. Even Thought Lash is better than the other cards that have been discussed for previous sets. I think it's especially true in these earlier sets that enchantments are easy targets. They're often overcosted and sometimes completely useless. Unlike creatures, you can't say, "Well, at least it can chump block."

But I'm wary of Thought Lash as a hall of shame card. Here's why: it's explosive. The penalty for what it does is harsh. But it can actually do a lot. If you have your opponent on a clock and he needs to kill you before something kills him, Though Lash can shake off quite a bit of damage while you wait.

And while it's not the best card to use with Donate, it does work.

So yeah, it's situational. That's the problem with all bad cards. But a card that is situational and mediocre even when it does get the job done would be worse than a card that is situational and extremely powerful if it is what you're looking for.
Despite our efforts, Thought Lash won in a landslide.

My thoughts now
There are times when I’m kind of proud of the CPA, and reviewing Hall of Shame’s threads for this set was not one of them. Firstly, I pointed out that Homelands preceded Alliances when both sets came up in the Hall of Fame and did so again with the Hall of Shame, but barely anyone even noticed this time. If you’re going to do the sets in order, then do the sets in order. It’s not hard. I was there to point out the error both times. Maybe I’m being pedantic about this? I don’t know. It happened twice. Why did it even happen at all? Man, I'm grouchy.

There’s also the matter of Thought Lash. The card is now worth over $20 and has proven itself as a moderately popular card in casual play and has even cropped up in Legacy tournaments. Now, it’s definitely true that Thought Lash has more synergies to work with now than it did in 2008, but the reason that I am not letting the CPA off the hook on this one is that Mooseman and I both explained how the extreme volatility of this card could be exploited. We warned you guys, and you didn’t listen. Also, Dystopia isn’t great, but it strikes me as an effective color-hoser in some environments.

Despite my commentary that this set lacked bad cards, I do spot some that seem mostly useless. Suffocation can only be used when a red burn spell damages you, and all it does is damage the player who cast the burn spell and then slowtrip; good luck winning a direct damage race against a red deck with your blue deck, but I guess at least you'll draw a card at the beginning of the next upkeep. Phyrexian Warbeast hurts you and makes you sacrifice a land if it dies, all for the benefit of having a very slightly undercosted artifact creature. Storm Elemental is offensively overcosted, but otherwise fine. On further reflection, yeah, I still totally think Carrier Pigeons is the worst card in this set.