Several weeks ago, two readers requested an article about underplayed or forgotten cards. I love writing these types of articles, since I usually go through my collection to find good cards that I haven't seen in a deck in a while. It inspires me to put together some new decks or reminds me of old decks that would really benefit from some new cards.
This time was different. I put out the request on Twitter to hear your nominations for underplayed cards, with a focus on cards that are a little older. The response was great! Brandon Isleib, a friend and writer at GatheringMagic.com, emailed an entire list of cards. These are cards that some of my newer readers will be seeing for the first time, and will hopefully bring a smile to the veterans who remember these cards from a while ago.
Copperhoof Vorrac: Back in the "Olden Days" of Magic, there was something called "mana burn." It used to be that if you had mana in your mana pool and didn't use it, you had to take a point of damage for each mana in your mana pool. This didn't come up often. Sometimes you had a land that tapped for more than one mana. Other times, someone was going to tap all your lands, and you wanted the mana available in case you needed it, but you had to risk mana burn. It was rarely relevant and when it did happen, it just felt like a bummer to take the damage.
Copperhoof Vorrac could exploit that like crazy. Your opponents could make him much smaller, but they would have to tap their lands to do it. They would have all this mana and have to risk taking mana burn. It was very annoying.
Now, mana burn is not a problem, but Copperhoof Vorrac still rocks in multiplayer games. Most opponents will be happy to keep their stuff untapped, as long as you are attacking someone else. Assuming a four-player game, two opponents will happily leave all their permanents untapped, while the person you are attacking will tap as much as possible to limit the damage. By turn five, the two opponents who are not going to tap probably have four or five lands, a couple of creatures, and a couple other permanents. That would suggest the Vorrac will be getting +16/+16. All you have to do is find a way to avoid getting him chump blocked.
Jabari's Influence: If you are running blue or red, then Jabari's Influence isn't all that exciting. However, if you're running white, this can be a complete shock to your opponents. It does have the downside of requiring the creature you are influencing to have attacked you that turn, but the big boom boom fatty that is attacking is often the creature you are looking to control anyway.
The real value of Jabari's Influence is the shock value. Opponents are expecting you to kill their creatures, not steal them. When opponents are trying to determine how threatening you are, they tend to look at the creatures you have on the battlefield, preparing to deal with those, not the fear that you are going to steal the biggest offensive threat and hit them with it repeatedly. I love how this card messes up your opponents' carefully laid plans.
Floodgate: More people suggested this card than any other. That might be enough to get it booted off the list, but no one seems to ever play it. You can see why. A 0/5 creature with defender for four mana is awfully pricey. It is what you get in return that makes the card so much fun. You are getting a blue creature that Earthquakes at any time! Once this hits the board, all you have to do is make it fly, and opponents everywhere will be shaking their heads, wondering how so many of their creatures died to a lame wall.
The key to Floodgate is the threat of activation. As long as you have mana open, you could make it fly. As long as you have a creature out that gives flying, you could make it fly. As long as you could make it fly, Floodgate leaves your opponent wondering whether to play that next creature or not. Much like Pernicious Deed or any other mass-removal spell that sits on the board, everyone else needs to determine whether to put their plans on hold, keeping valuable creatures in hand to avoid losing them to the Floodgate, or if they should just play into the card and force you to use it right away. Cards like this are a blast to play.
Yes, the drawbacks on this card are significant. You don't get to choose how much damage is dealt unless you want to limit your mana by not playing Islands. And there will be times when you really need to do 1 more damage but finding two Islands in your deck in time to stop the problem is almost impossible. But really, blue just doesn't get great flavor text like this!
Ixidron: Ixidron is the answer to the question, "But how will Floodgate get rid of my opponent's flying creatures?" Put Ixidron into play, then Floodgate. With at least four Islands and a way to give the Floodgate flying, you wipe the entire board. Now that earns you style points!
Even without Floodgate, Ixidron is often the equivalent of a board wipe. Your opponents will have 2/2 face-down creatures, but now they don't fly or have any of the annoying abilities that were probably the reason they were in the deck in the first place. Running Ixidor, Reality Sculptor will allow you to bring your valuable non-morph creatures back online.
Another alternative is to run creatures with +1/+1 counters and/or Equipment. Your 2/2s will be much bigger in the battle of the vanilla creatures.
Abundance: This card is rarely seen as anything other than a way to set up combos. In the right decks, you can stack your library exactly how you need it to combo off. This makes for an interesting card, but that's not enough to recommend its widespread use.
Remember all those times when you were begging your deck for just one more land so you could play your amazing creature and still be able to protect it? And you would draw the instant that offered no help at all? Remember all those times when you just wanted something, anything, from your deck, other than a land? Yet turn after turn all you ever saw was another Forest?
Abundance eliminates both mana flood and mana screw. It isn't a tutor, but it does guarantee you gas every time you are supposed to draw a card. Now that is a reason to put it in your deck.
I should also mention, if you are noticing a rise in group hug1decks with your group, or a few more of your friends are trying to mill2you out than you are comfortable with, Abundance can help you out. Abundance offers a replacement effect to drawing a card. If you use the effect but can't find anything, then the effect ends and you did not have to draw. It is not something that will happen often, but it is a nice fringe benefit.
Netherborn Phalanx: Have you noticed that cards making token creatures and whole decks pumping out token creatures seem to be all over the place? If your play group is lousy with decks making piles of token creatures, do I have the card for you! Make their lives miserable with Netherborn Phalanx. You can sit there with your Cheshire Cat grin on your face while your opponent Larry adjusts the two ten-sided dice he is using to keep track of all of his Zombie tokens. Those won't be a problem anymore... when he's dead!
And what about those decks that have just a standard complement of creatures? The Netherborn Phalanx will only do 3 or 4 damage to them. The card isn't all that hot against those decks. The key is to make sure they get what's coming to them. Try Alliance of Arms the turn before you play the Netherborn Phalanx. Or you can roll the dice and see if your opponents will pay to bring on their own demise. Any of the Hunted3creatures also works wonders with Netherborn Phalanx.
If that sounds like too much work, Netherborn Phalanx also has transmute! Can you think of anything you'd like to find in your deck that costs six mana? Six mana is the cost of an amazing array of cards that can do serious damage to the board. Pick your Titan. My personal favorite to go with the theme is Massacre Wurm. When the 1 damage per creature from the Netherborn Phalanx is not enough, transmute it into a Massacre Wurm. I mentioned Deadeye Navigator a few weeks ago. Pairing the Navigator up with the Phalanx sounds like a nice plan. Or you can transmute and trade out the Phalanx for the Navigator. Whichever works best for you.
Purgatory: This Mirage card lets you bring back your dead again and again for four mana and 2 life. You don't need a card to do it every time one of your creatures dies, you just have to pay four mana and 2 life. This is particularly nice now that so many creatures have "enter the battlefield" (ETB) effects. If someone wants to kill your Armada Wurm, for only four mana and 2 life you can put it back on the battlefield... with another 5/5 Wurm token! Evangel of Heliod or Gray Merchant of Asphodel can see their ETB effects go off again and again. If you had a way to sacrifice your own creatures, this could get particularly ugly.
Do keep in mind that all of this has to happen on your upkeep. Some commitment is required, but isn't that the case for most good things?
Fracturing Gust: There are three reasons why this card doesn't see more play: a high casting cost; not wanting to lose our own enchantments and artifacts; and most players don't know about the card.
The high casting cost is no excuse. This card is a Day of Judgment for artifacts and enchantments, but you are also getting a life bump as a nice boost. For that, you should expect to pay five mana. On top of that, they are all hybrid mana symbols, so you can run this in mono-white or mono-green as well as Selesnya decks without ever worrying about having the right colored mana.
Not wanting to lose your artifacts and enchantments is another weak argument. There are certain decks where Fracturing Gusts don't belong, but if you only have a few artifacts or enchantments, you really aren't losing much. Would you not cast Day of Judgment just because you had two or three creatures on the battlefield? If the situation demanded the board be wiped, you'd do it. Why not use it here?
Kavu Predator: Is Oloro, Ageless Ascetic making the rounds in your play group? Kavu Predator is a card you need to check out. Even if the plague that is Oloro hasn't hit yet, Kavu Predator is a long-forgotten treat. Every time any of your opponents gain life, the Predator gets bigger. Permanently. This means that if something like Oloro is around giving its controller 2 life, the Kavu Predator gets two +1/+1 counters and can attack that player, eliminating the gain. When that player tries to gain it back the next turn, the Predator gains two more +1/+1 counters and takes away the gain, and 2 more.
It won't take long for your opponents to realize the danger of lifegain and try to stop the Predator from getting any bigger. One of my friends used to run the Predator and decided that if we weren't going to gain the life ourselves, he would do it for us. Wall of Shards worked very well with Kavu Predator, giving various opponents increasingly more life, while the Predator became increasingly bigger.
Evolution Charm: If I told you there was a card that would let you find a land, get a creature out of your graveyard, or give a creature evasion, all at instant speed for only two mana, you would likely call me insane. Evolution Charm offers all of this and it is embarrassing to me that I'm not currently using this card. There is never a point in a game where at least one of these options wouldn't be valuable.
The frightening part of this card is that it is even more versatile than it initially appears! You can give flying to an opponent's creature. Whether you are doing it as a way to have it deal more damage to another opponent, giving someone a creature that can now block the flier her or she is facing, or just tossing an opponent's creature in the air to make your Hurricane-style effect just a little more nasty, Evolution Charm does it all. It makes a great companion to the Kavu Predator; check the list!
I hope you discovered a few cards from the list you hadn't considered before. I'd love to hear your underplayed or forgotten cards. The forums, my email, and Twitter (@manaburned) are all fair game!
1:Group hug decks are a style of deck that gives everyone more cards and lands. The deck is often left alone, since most players are happy to draw extra cards and have more mana. Generally, the group hug player wins by forcing everyone to draw more cards than they have in their library, or casting some mass damage effect and winning that way. (return)
2:Mill is a style of deck that tries to empty your library, winning when you are forced to draw a card from an empty library. The term "Mill" comes from the first card that put cards from a library into a graveyard, Millstone. (return)
Bruce's games invariably involve a kitchen table, several opponents, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun playing Magic, then you are doing it wrong.