The 10 Most Reviled Magic: the Gathering Cards, According to Gatherer – Part 2

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21 Responses

  1. Hoju got in touch with me on Facebook, and left me this message. It seemed more appropriate as a comment to the article, so I’m copy-pasting it here.

    “JM I have been misquoted here, my problem with the hoodlums is not that they can’t block, that is just kicking a dead horse. They are at best a 5/2 for 6. Now yes black isn’t know for high power and toughness and it has the bonus of being a goblin but there are many other black goblins around for 6 that are better, and they don’t have to win a clash to be better, and they can block like for example: Earwig Squad, quill slinger boggart, warren pilferers, squeaking pie grubfellows. All better cards that cost 6… oh wait no they are all better cards and they all cost less than 6.”

    Hoju’s got a point, and I shouldn’t sweep it under the carpet. Sometimes the bad cards are just bad. There’s a lot wrong about Bogart Hoodlums. In the article, I often waved aside the casting cost to power-toughness ratio problem, because a lot of non-Magic players would read it as gibberish. But, really, that’s a miserable casting cost to power-toughness ratio…

    • Isaiah says:

      It doesn’t look like the designers for the Innistrad block are paying attention to complaints about creatures who can’t block. I purchased a few packs from the Innistrad and Dark Ascension sets, along side of an Avacyn fat pack, and I have a few Stormbound Geists and more than four Sightless Ghouls (including a foil, yay!). I doubt I’d use them unless I’m a building a thematic zombie deck, maybe.

      • Tom LaPille, who heads up Magic: the Gathering’s weekly development article went into detail on this problem in his article “The Problems That Wouldn’t Die”.

        As a quick explanation of the problem… undying is a very exciting mechanic, but it makes cards look very bad. If Sightless Ghoul was printed as a 3/3 for 3B that died and came back as a 2/2, drafters would be very excited for the card (albeit, they still wouldn’t like the fact that it can’t block). Instead, the card is a 2/2 for 3B that can’t block… the base stats look crummy.

        The Future Future League also noticed, when playtesting Undying, that the board state kept clogging up. People didn’t want to attack into that, and Innistrad block draft slowed down. The way they solved this was to make make many undying creatures not want to block, make some that started with one toughness, and make some that couldn’t block to begin with. Suddenly, the format was faster and more fun, even if occasional cards suffered.

        This being said, some players have noticed that those cards aren’t as bad as they look. Sightless Ghoul has a community rating of 2.033, which designates it as decent filler… and that’s after the negative impact of zero star ratings from looking terrible. Stormbound Geist gets a 3.55. Compare that to the Blue flying staple creature Wind Drake, which comes in at 2.85. Turns out the Geist is strong… maybe even tournament worthy.

        • Isaiah says:

          I’m still unsure of the usefulness of the Sightless Ghoul, just because he does seem a bit overpriced for what he is, thanks to his lack of blocking. That said, I’m honestly surprised that the writer suggested Pyreheart Wolf is a “finesse” card, because it seems like a “very” useful creature, especially if you were to go about building a swarm deck. In fact, I would say that many of the sets’ wolves are “a lot” more useful than the werewolves, though they are weaker with regards to toughness and power, many of them have special abilities that seem focused on overcoming defenses, like trample and the “can’t be blocked by creatures with less power than itself” rule, pair that with deploying Pyrehearts one-at-a-time, and a player can get through a pretty thick screen of creatures and walls. As for Undying, I think it’s a wonderful mechanic, and the Young Wolf is a good example of that, with a 1G cost, you may be able to get a creature who strikes for one point of damage, first turn; kamikazes an opponent’s 1/1 or 2/1 creature the next turn; then can try for a third attack or be a useful blocker at 2/2. So, at least, it should make a very fun red/green wolf deck, but I’m sure better players can do all the more with it.

  2. Isaiah says:

    The two articles in this small series were pretty interesting. Though reading the introduction for the first part, I’m now hoping that you’ll also be writing a list of your own ten most hated cards? It may prove useful as an explanation of broken mechanics, as it’s safe to assume that the list would include both awful and cheesy cards, and also provide an opportunity to read you opinion about the “deck construction vs. table-play” debate on which is more important; but also, hopefully, it will include a few of your Magic war stories.

    Returning to the article though, maybe Purelace could help to protect, say, your Elder Dragon or a similar golden legendary by reducing the number of vulnerabilities it has? I remember receiving that card when I first tried to play the game way back when, and I didn’t even know or care that it was a rare.

    • The article is popular, and demands a follow-up. Between my Facebook and Google+ accounts, approximately 25% of my friends and followers read this article the day it came out. That’s a loud and clear message… since I assume some of those readers don’t even play Magic, but were interested in cards with great poverty.

      I will probably follow this up by doing the exact opposite soon, and looking at the top 10 most desirable cards. Spoilers: Black Lotus isn’t on the list. In Gatherer, it’s card number 34. After that, though, I may come back and work on a more personal list. That’s much more difficult to assemble, since most people try to avoid thinking about cards that go beyond bad and become major dissapointments. I’m sure I can find ten, though. Magic’s a big game.

      On the subject of Purelace, I think it gets a bad rap as well. The five laces don’t have much use in a normal game of Magic because they are so narrow, but what they specialize in, they do very, very well. Since I’d want to defend the card, I intentionally made a little story to explain how painful the card would be for the majority of citizens in Magic-town. It is, after all, their story.

      • Isaiah says:

        At first, I was trying hard to imagine an instance where Viashino Skeleton would prove useful, but I gave up on it. My thought was focused on the possibility of it being a creature that you could use to throw powerful creatures into the graveyard, just to then pull them to life through some necromancy. It seemed like it would be a viable option if you were fielding a red and black deck, but I can’t help but think it demands too many other cards to make it a reliable trick. Especially when, the last I remember, one of the most important cards for the cycle, Lure and its forcing an opponent’s creatures to block Viashino, would demand a third color because it’s green and I imagine that’d dilute a deck way too much.

        All of that said, your writing was both interesting and effective, insofar as putting the Magic bug back in my head. Thanks to the list, I’ve now been eying an Avacyn and Dark Ascension set of fat packs and some Innistrad boosters as a way to wade back into the game. And hoping that no one in my family back home got wise to the fact there’s a “little” money in selling all of the cards I have stored away in shoe boxes.

        • Ha! I’m always happy to infect people with the Magic disease. Do play Magic in moderation, and take care to try other games. We’ve got a podcast for Core Worlds coming up… that’s a very interesting Deck Building Game… it doesn’t kill the Magic bug, but it does cut down on the swelling.

  3. This was a great and enjoyable article, but I wanted to say that using Twiddle or Icy Manipulator to tap Sorrow’s Path does not activate its ability anymore than than using an ability to tap an opponent’s Island or Llanowar Elves will give mana. It simply taps it, preventing it from being used (unless its ability is used in response). Please make more articles like this.

    • Sorry El Payaso Malo, but the current oracle text of Sorrow’s Path disagrees with you. After the first ability, and a solid line break, It reads:

      “Whenever Sorrow’s Path becomes tapped, it deals 2 damage to you and each creature you control.”

      …and lest you think that’s an errant part of the first ability, the first ruling on Gatherer is:

      “This has two abilities. The second ability triggers any time it becomes tapped, whether to pay for its ability or not.”

      But I do thank you for bringing this up. I probably should have quoted this in the article, since I’m sure many people are confused my Sorrow’s Path’s second ability, and I could have done a better job explaining myself.

      Also, thanks for the kind words. 🙂 A lot of people liked this article. I like talking about Magic; it’s one of the most intriguing games in existence. It is tough, however, to come up with a unique Magic article, since there are so many people writing about Magic. Don’t worry, I plan to do more. I just want to make sure I’m adding something to the game, and not adding to the noise around it. 😉

      • Wow, I’m actually shocked. I went to the Oracle to make sure I was understanding it properly, and my reading comprehension totally failed me this time for some reason. I apologize. I actually started with your article on the best cards. I had recently purchased Necropotence to finally try it out (since black is my favorite, I am actually surprised I had never ever played a game with it in these years) and it’s freaking ridiculous. Stupidly strong. I had decided to see if the modern opinions of older greats still held up, which led me to you. Surprisingly, I hadn’t even heard of most of these crappy cards. I might have that black goblin, though. Maybe.

        • Man, I miss the days when I was the only one who recognized Necropetence for what it was. I used to smash people over the head with a combination of that card, Dark Ritual, Hymn to Tourach, Order of the Ebon Hand, Lightning Bolt and Incinerate, and people would wonder how they lost.

          It almost feels like people weren’t as smart back then, though I know that isn’t the problem. It is, however, an excellent portrayal of what education does for a society. Today, Necro wouldn’t hide under the radar like that, because the card flies so many red flags. Those red flags didn’t exist 15 years ago.

          • When I first saw it, I (like most people) thought it looked terrible. I skip my draw step and then pay to draw? My mind equated it with skipping one’s combat phase and then paying X to attack with a creature, X being the creature’s converted mana cost. It just sounded rediculous to me to pay for something you get for free. After rereading the convoluted wall of text they liked to put on Ice Age cards, I realized that I could do it more than once a turn. I have a fifth edition one, so it’s much less “contract fine print lawyerese” looking. I might get one or two more. I’m not sure, yet. I can’t wait to start dominating my playgroup with this card most of them are probably going to scoff at. Hell, one dude in my group is hilarious. Even though he knows it isn’t strictly true, he equates “losing life with always bad.” Sometimes we do a thing where we switch decks. When he plays with mine, he looks at his hand and sees Grinning Demon, Promise of Power and Lord of the Pit and all he’ll play is Black Knight. It’s pretty funny to watch as he gets a look on his face whenever he draws. He typically only plays green elves, so he’s used to lifegain (which doesn’t help him against a Whispersilk Cloaked Phage).

  4. Most of these bad cards could be fixed (making them passable) by simply adjusting their mana cost. However, Razor Boomerang cannot. Even if it cost 0 to play and 1 to equip (or the other way around) it would still be useless. (Making it 0 to cast and 0 to equip would probably break it, as it would most probably allow some free infinite combos. Therefore it wouldn’t be a solution that would actually fix the card. It would just break it.)

    I think it’s rather telling if a card is so bad that it remains bad no matter how much you lower its mana cost. That requires talent.

    • It’s true. I didn’t focus on the mana cost too often in this article. If I did that, then there wouldn’t be much of an article. Just the title, a list of ten cards, and the words “These cards are too expensive”. That said, some cards are bad despite their casting cost. Temple Elder would be bad even if it cost one white. Not because it wouldn’t be playable… it would probably hit a number of good tournament decks at that casting cost. It would be bad because it’s clunky, unfun, and most people wouldn’t *want* to play with it, unless they knew it would win them games. There’s more than one way for a card to be bad…

      On the subject of Razor Boomerang… the card is terrible, I admit, but at 0 and 1 it would probably be too good. We haven’t seen Viridian Longbow, or any card comparable to it for a while, and a Razor Boomerang set to 0 and 1 would be better than that card by leaps and bounds… and that card was pretty damn good in draft, if I remember. I know I’d third pick the Longbow if I saw it again. Maybe not if I was playing red… but any other color combination, sure.

  5. James Douthit says:

    Purelace makes for an actually good combo that you guys neglected. Combust to deal 5 damage to a previously non-white creature. For three mana, instant speed, and half-uncounterable. Besides, they would not counter Purelace if you were using the combo the first time. 5 damage is pretty good. Lots of great creatures that are super valuable have 5- toughness. Boom in your creature’s face. Say they get cocky because they played their 5/5 razormane masticore artifact creature on second turn. Third turn (you went first) you blast the creature straight to the graveyard and take no damage. This works for ANY color or creature type, too. Now, that is pretty good. Maybe it is fifth turn. you have two mana open (maybe one’s a duel land, too) and you can cast something else whilst crushing the other player’s game plan and dreams.

    • jmgariepy says:

      Well, I don’t decide what’s got the lowest score, I just report it, then try to rationalize. There’s a lot of combos that I didn’t mention because, well, the audience doesn’t like the card, and that’s where the article’s focus is. That said, the audience on Gatherer agreed with you, and brought Purelace’s numbers back up. How far up? Well, you’d have to read “2013 Update: The 10 Most Reviled Magic Cards, According to Gatherer” for that, at .

  6. Marcus says:

    What I don’t understand is why some cards are just plain better than others. For example, Rumbling Baloth is a 4/4 for 2 colorless and 2 green. Obstinate Baloth costs exactly the same, is a 4/4, when it enters the battlefield you gain 4 life, and if a spell or ability an opponent controls causes you to discard Obstinate Baloth, you put it onto the battlefield snd it’s still the same color and type.

    • jmgariepy says:

      I could write a whole article on the subject, and probably would, if Mark Rosewater didn’t have the definitive article (series) on the subject “When Cards Go Bad”. I’m linking to the article where he revisits his old article, since that article links to the original article (and its second part) as well.

      There are a lot of good reasons for making cards that are just plain better than other cards (In the case of the two Baloths, I can see two quick reasons: One reason is because Obstinate Baloth is too good in a draft environment (that’s why its a rare), but Rumbling Baloth is too weak to make a splash in tournament constructed, but continues to help shape draft environments as a common. The other reason is because Wizards wants money. And they aren’t going to make any money for all the work they put into their game if they make commons that are at the same power level as rares. We can get upset at how the system works, but the truth is that Magic costs a lot of money to produce, and they got to get that money from *somewhere*.

      There’s other reasons, of course, which may or may not have a factor: Functional updates, cards that Wizards think new players should have access to, but not in a way that warps the current tournament environment, power creep/drain, to capture a feeling of leveling up when deck building, as a challenge to the players who love to play with bad cards, and ‘the card isn’t designed for you’ are all possible answers when trying to figure out why Wizards would print a card so fantastically crappy.

      None of those reasons feel right when you look at a bad card, though. That’s because it’s impossible to see the big picture when we stare at two Baloths, one that’s good and one that’s bad. When Rumbling Baloth first came out, though, I made a little whistling noise. Wizards hadn’t let the baseline common green creature get that good since… well… they hadn’t. Were there better cards than Rumbling Baloth? Absolutely. I could list 50 better green creatures that cost four mana alone. But this Baloth was a common in Magic 2014, and, standing its ground there, it was bound to effect the way we drafted that set. If you weren’t drafting Magic 2014, however, (or you weren’t a new player just getting your hands on what you could get,) then Rumbling Baloth is a redundant card. And it is. It all kind of depends on who you are, and why you play Magic.

  7. Jacob says:

    You can make your opponents eldrazi white and the it actually dies with everything else when you all is dust

  8. Some Guy says:

    So, on Christmas 2015, a friend bought me a dollar store pack of four cards, which are all rares/foils. I open it, and get a Sages of the Anima, a Grave Betrayal, and a Captain of the Mists (the only good card) for my first three cards. Then, I glance at the final unturned card. I excitedly flip it, and gasp. The card… was a foil Viashino Skeleton.

    …It is now the mascot of my collection

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