Earlier installments of the Hall of Fame:
For those of you who just want the Cliff Notes:
- We're looking at the best cards in multiplayer formats.
- The full lists are in Excel spreadsheets, available through links on this page.
- If you disagree with any of it, I expect you to do your homework before telling me - which means go back and read those first two articles!
Readers who just ask "Why didn't you put [X] on the list?" will get back a generic email. (I do write back, even then.) Those who show effort will get more. Given the time and tears I put into this Hall, my conscience has no problem holding readers to high standards. You all deserve nothing less.
Color champions so far:
- Glory - for white
- Zur's Weirding - for blue
- Grave Pact - for black
- Furnace of Rath - for red
- Shivan Gorge - for lands.
This week, we'll close with green, gold, and artifact cards. Then, for the sake of satisfying readers' natural curiosity, I'll select an overall champion. (Though I'd like to point out the list really selects it on its own, based on ratings and weights. It's just happy chance that I agree with my own list!)
Hall of Jade: Green
Green tends to be a favorite color of casual players - partly because it provides the beefiest creatures, but also because it is a "color of action" that keeps multiplayer chaos games from degenerating into an endless bounce-and-defend purgatory. Yes, trample and Naturalize do have something in common - they both get the blood flowing in a game.
That said, green is still looking for its "clever" niche - the instant-speed mechanic(s) that serve as a balance to blue's denial, black's recursion, white's protection, and red's burn. Fog or Giant Growth just doesn't seem to cut it, though some nice variants like Tangle and Vitality Charm have made strides in limited formats. Seedtime is about as close as green has ever gotten to clever - and it only works against blue.
So by and large, green's portion of the Hall contains creatures - 20 of them - and heart-stopping enchantments that get those creatures out faster and hitting harder.
Mirrodin actually didn't contribute much in the way of actual entries in the Hall (just Copperhoof Vorrac, at #18). But the color still did very well in the set, with plenty of excellent creatures such as Troll Ascetic and fine utility like Turn to Dust.
Speaking of utility, you'll find that and more in green's "staple" cards. Here are some ten suggestions to get you started on your collection:
- Wall of Blossoms , still one of the best walls in the game
- Naturalize , putting Disenchant in its proper color
- Wild Mongrel , a two-drop Randy Beuhler regrets
- Rancor , one of the reasons he regrets it
- Yavimaya Elder , green's "Ancestral Recall"
- Spidersilk Armor , an automatic air defense
- Nomadic Elf , a useful color fixer (and there are a dozen more like it)
- Yavimaya Wurm , a standard heavy trampler
- Basking Rootwalla , the amazing free pumper
- Silklash Spider , which combines a fat body with air damage - two things green absolutely must have. I could also list Rhox or Thorn Elemental here, since they're also rare creatures that any self-respecting green mage would put in a group deck without hesitation, if available.
And here are the Top Ten entries in green's Hall of Fame:
10. Genesis. By coincidence, each of the five colors has three creatures in its Top Ten (except red, which only had room for two after all those grotesque enchantments). Green's first of three is Genesis - the creature that gets you back more creatures. While the ability can be awkward every upkeep, there are certainly enough creatures worth bringing back that any green deck has to at least glance at this incarnation before moving on. Impossible to stop, short of graveyard removal, the only real solution is to kill the controller.
8. Biorhythm. When you consider that virtually no black or red spell can guarantee so much life loss across any number of players, you realize just how good Biorhythm gets. It reduces interminable nine-player chaos games into a race to the finish, and rewards overextension - which is always an interesting strategic twist. Our play group has seen this card work quite successfully with Evacuation and Ornithopters. I'm still pondering Bloodfire Colossus, Seal of Fire, and such. Can't build every deck as quickly as I'd like!
7. Chain of Acid. As Mirrodin introduces many new targets - in fact, a whole new class of targets - for the Chain, this utility card maintains its Top Ten position. Note that artifact creatures are immune - but equipment is not, nor are artifact lands. If you really want an obscure green-white spot-removal combo, try in combination with Karmic Justice.
6. Dual Nature. Warning: this enchantment is not for the faint of heart! Go to a rules site and look up the rulings on this card. With more and more creatures like Flametongue Kavu and Taj-Nar Swordsmith flying around, the stack becomes a very busy place. It gets even worse when there's another complicated enchantment like Confusion in the Ranks, Cowardice, or Pure Reflection on the board. Some players (including myself) think this sort of mess is rather fun, as long as the tangles end at some point. Others aren't as patient.
Anyway, most of my readers don't need help coming up with ideas for Oath. Decks with this card are all over the Internet. Go take a virtual walk; it's excellent virtual exercise and will remove that virtual layer of fat you've been accumulating in your advanced age. (Or maybe I'm just virtually projecting.)
4. Aluren. Ah, Aluren. Those players who only know the latest (Legion) generation of slivers may not be aware of how absolutely terrifying this card was, when Winged Sliver, Muscle Sliver, and Crystalline Sliver could come out on a whim - and all at once, for free. This enchantment has seen even more insidious uses, such as Internet-ready "Equaluren" decks that use Equilibrium to create board-locking situations. (Think Wizard Mentor and Rishadan Cutpurse.)
2. Eureka. Everything. On the board. Now.
You can access the ratings and full information for these ten cards, as well as the other thirty green cards in the Hall, here.
Hall of Steel: Artifacts
How much do I really need to write here? I think with all the Mirrodin previews you saw last month, we've all gotten pumped about the return of artifacts. Many newer players are enjoying the most artifact-friendly environment they've ever seen - all they knew before now was Mirari!
But back in the day (and that can mean either Antiquities or Urza's block, depending on your perspective), artifacts nearly always had a strong contribution to a given set. At times (e.g., Serrated Arrows in Homelands or Chimeric Idol in Prophecy), they even seemed like defining cards!
Now Mirrodin, which for the first time takes artifacts and features them in a reasonable way (evenly but not exclusively; dominating but not domineering) gives this wing of the Hall a huge boost. While in the past I could not really find enough artifacts to keep the list growing along with all the colors, now hitting 40 is fairly easy - and the lowest artifact's rating (Erratic Portal) is the same as green's lowest (Hunted Wumpus), and better than red's (Acidic Soil). They still have a fairly low average rating - that's because the "spider" rating is pretty dead in the artifact category, with the exception of Leonin Bladetrap.
The adrenaline shot from Mirrodin puts eleven new cards up there, including the Bladetrap. Another four or five get listed as "similar" - see Oblivion Stone. A bunch more, like Fireshrieker, may get on in the future. As with all areas of the Hall, I'm always open for thoughtfully reasoned reader opinions. By dumb luck, I got to revise this list in time to include Mind's Eye (#18), which I nearly completely forgot. I'm sure there are others - the cards in a new set are notoriously difficult to measure right.
Given the nature of artifacts, a shorter "staples" list will do here:
- Sol Ring is restricted, but remains the ultimate in turn-one acceleration (at least, when it comes to cards costing $2 instead of $200)
- Mirrodin's Talismans (e.g., Talisman of Unity) are excellent for getting that turn-four play on turn three
- Wall of Junk is a handy blocker, and sometimes handy trick
- Claws of Gix is a handy device for sacrifice
- Zuran Orb is a great (and restricted) life-gain engine
And so we move on to the Top Ten artifacts in the Hall:
10. Jinxed Idol. Typically, this plays out of a deck that's prepared for it with about ten spare (token) creatures. Everyone else has two, maybe. The Idol goes to one of those players, who passes it on to another one of those players, who passes it on…anyhow, the original controller probably never has to worry about it again. And if the first guy doesn't ever pass it, well, a Shock every round is just fine.
All that said, the numeric ratings for this card don't necessarily assume an overwhelming creature advantage. It's just as fun when you're not sure where the darn thing's going to show up next.
6. Worldslayer. Not many good feelings around the table as the equipped creature comes in for a landing! Like many land-hosing board-clearers, your primary "combo" is good preparation - lots of land in your deck, and preferably in your hand before you strike. Everything else is just idle talk.
4. Portcullis. Go look at the official rulings on this card. Aren't they just crazy-long? Good fun.
3. Gate to the Aether. The second of three Mirrodin cards on this list, the Gate has an excellent chance of becoming a casual classic with time. It's a fantastic party to throw for the board; they'll love you for it. I'm not sure I would try any combos with it - why ruin a good time? But follow your muse, if you must.
2. Coat of Arms. Onslaught block made this card rather absurd. But that's not Coat of Arms's fault, is it? It's still loveable. Still cute. Still deadly with ten elves on the board, which happens way too much. Firecat Blitz is also rather nice with this artifact. So is Squirrel Nest. So is Homarid Spawning Bed. So is…well, you get the idea.
What puts this over the top in multiplayer is the additional assurance that no one else will win. When you see a phrase like that, my friends, you know that R&D is paying attention to us multiplayer enthusiasts. You know that a bunch of these guys were sitting around a table (chatting via email, if we are to believe Rosewater's "stories"), talking about the card, and someone said, "How are we going to make sure the jerk who just jammed @#$&ing Congregate through a Mirari and then slapped down %*!#ing Test of Endurance doesn't get around this card?"
Or maybe they just thought it, because they're nice boys who don't use harsh language out loud. But all that counts is, it made it onto the card. Get it. Play it. Protect it.
You can access the ratings and full information for these ten cards, as well as the other thirty artifact cards in the Hall, here.
Hall of Gold
Multi-colored or "gold" cards have a special place in my heart. One of the first expert-level packs I ever opened had a Sliver Queen in it; and Invasion block was when I experienced the most personal and team success in organized play.
So it's painful to watch Magic ebb away from gold cards. I realize why it happens (just as I realized why the game had to ebb away from artifacts for a while); but I'm looking forward to the resurgence of gold in a few years. It will feel really, really good.
And it will bolster this Hall, as well. For card quality concerns, I've kept the pool at 30 entries. The best gold cards are very, very good - but the drop-off gets pretty steep, pretty fast.
Because of how comparatively few gold cards there are in the game, and because they tend to be flashier than most cards, we'll stick to just five staples:
- Gaea's Skyfolk or any of the Invasion/Apocalypse 2/2 "bears" help your deck get off to an effective start
- Order // Chaos and other split cards give you options in a chaotic environment (yes, I know they're technically not gold)
- Dromar's Charm and the other charms serve as excellent, versatile utility
- Psychatog is good beyond tournament decks (and got pretty close to the Hall)
- Charging Troll blends several appealing characteristics - a decent 3/3 for four mana regeneration, and vigilance. And it's not even rare.
Now the Top Ten Gold Cards in the Hall:
10. Bladewing the Risen. I may be extra-high on this fellow because I love dragons; but he has two undeniable advantages in a multiplayer game: he brings out an extra card that can survive him (two, if you use Bladewing's Thrall); and he can pump up a class of creatures that already starts off pretty large. The ratings I use on the sheet probably assume that you're playing a dragon deck, and I try not to do conditional ratings most of the time…but we're not kidding anyone here - this isn't a card for a wizard deck.
8. Dromar, the Banisher. Yes, it can bounce itself. But the effect is still incredible, and Invasion block came with plenty of color-play cards, if the drawback really bothers you.
7. Treva, the Renewer. The second of three Invasion dragons to grace this Top Ten list. Even life gain can be a good mechanic…if it's tied to a 6/6 flying monster.
6. Vampiric Dragon. Much like Shivan Hellkite, the Vampiric Dragon can pick off annoying weenies. Unlike the Hellkite, it grows with success. The high cost makes it hard to protect for a round while you're tapped out…but even on a tough board, once you untap you should be able to trade it for at least two or three cards.
4. Karona, False God. Oh, don't act surprised. We've gone over this before.
3. Questing Phelddagrif. "What…is your name?" (Questing Pheldagriff.) "What…is your quest?" (To wreck the opposition while handing out goodies.) "What…is your favorite color?" (Green. No, blue! No, white…aaaahhhh!)
2. Rith, the Awakener. The Invasion dragon who most easily builds off his own success. Saprolings beget saprolings. Often, he can be more productive than Verdant Force - he's just not as automatic, since he has to connect a couple of times. Since he produces permanents, he's the basis for more interesting combos than the other five Invasion dragons - stuff like Aura Shards and Furious Assault just comes naturally.
This guy and Verdant Force - green's #1 card - are two of the three best multiplayer cards in Magic overall. All of the other color champions - Glory (#26 overall), Platinum Angel (#18), Grave Pact (#6 overall), Zur's Weirding (#5 overall), and Furnace of Rath (#4) - look up at the last entry on gold's list.
- slow the game down by wiping the board clean of everything but lands?
- speed the game up by wiping the board of everything but big regenerators?
- threaten to wipe the board if anyone comes near you?
- hurt a certain set of players, without touching another set?
- combine with a series of goes-to-graveyard effects?
- play at instant speed with Vernal Equinox?
- recur with Replenish (or several different green cards like Regrowth)?
The Deed cannot answer sorceries or instants. It cannot answer lands. But it answers virtually every other card in Magic (including Platinum Angel and all the other #1s listed above not even Glory can protect creatures against it), and it sits in the two colors that may be the most powerful in the game today.
After all that, it leaves lands intact - which, for me, is critical to keeping players engaged. It's not fun to lose your mana base. Players understand mass creature kill, and they tend to favor clearing the woods of all the crazy artifacts and enchantments. But lands? Leave 'em alone. Let the players play.
Flexibility, power, and fun: great tools in multiplayer. Deed does the best of balancing all three.
Well, that's it! You can access the ratings and full information for these ten cards, as well as the other twenty gold cards in the Hall, here.
The Hall ArchiveYou can also now access the entire spreadsheet, which has all eight sheets released so far, plus the "full list" sheet that combines all 287 cards into an easily searchable, sortable list here:
One last time, I would like to remind readers that I expect folks to do their homework before offering feedback on the Hall. As I said before, it took about 60 hours to put together the spreadsheets and articles that make this version of the Hall. Please take the 60 seconds necessary to think your opinions through, and check them using the spreadsheet devices. After that, fire away - I'm all ears.
Thanks for taking a walk through the Hall with me! We'll do it again next year.
Please do NOT email Anthony with suggestions regarding the Hall of Fame until you have read the instructions on the spreadsheets. Thanks - this will help him respond to you faster. (Folks, that's his polite-and-fancy way of saying he's not going to hurry and answer readers who don't pay attention to this simple request.)
Anthony can be reached directly at email@example.com.