State of the Program for December 30th 2016
Top Five Red, White, Green and Gold Creatures
I started to write a normal article for this week, but pretty much nothing happened. Wizards is in Holiday mode, so no news and no updates. No large events took place over the Christmas weekend. No new cards were previewed. No new deck tech was revealed. Prices did what prices do, but that’s not enough to make an article, so I was looking for other options.
I thought about doing a year in review article. I really did – but that did not work out. First, I was way too busy to review all the news and events this year. More importantly, this year was not a lot of fun. I considered doing a “why 2016 sucked” article, but everyone is doing those, and it is far too depressing.
I wanted to do an all good news recap. I thought about this during a couple commutes, but could not come up with enough good news to fill even a short article. I could start with “draft leagues were great,” but that’s four words. Even heavily padded, that concept won’t fill more than a couple paragraphs, and my standard is 3k words per article.
So I decided to go with a holiday theme, and have some fun. I missed Christmas, but I can still make a couple top five lists. I’m going with favorite creatures in the holiday colors – red and green, plus white and gold. These are not necessarily the best of all time, but cards that I found highly notable, highly playable, and generally historically significant.
My list is necessarily incomplete. Some cards are great, but I never liked playing with them. Others I may have just forgotten. Some I left off the list deliberately because they were too obvious. Some were too good, and in some cases Wizards admitted that they were mistakes. Primeval Titan and Goyf fall in this last category. They are undeniably good, but I wanted some room on my list for more interesting cards.
With that, then, here is my list of Top Five iconic creatures in holiday colors.
I’m going to start with a golden oldie – a card that was part of the original White Weenie deck. I could have chosen an of a dozen white cards, but the pump nights from Fallen Empires were the first I played, and played against. Consider them a representative of everything from Savannah Lions
to Aviary Mechanic
, and all the two drops in between.
I decided to make all the number fives old school classics. Kird Ape
first appeared in Arabian Knights. It was so good that it was one of the first creatures banned in Standard. Kird Ape
were indeed banned twenty years ago. Magic was different back then.
Birds are from Alpha, and have always been an iconic green card. Wizards has stopped putting BoP in sets nowadays, but they were the best at what they did for over 15 years. Noble Hierarch
may be strictly better, but Birds of Paradise were there first.
By making my number fives all old school, I really limited my choices here. True, there were gold cards in Legends set (1994), but pretty much all of the Legends cards in Naya colors sucked. Wizards did not make a lot of gold cards until far more recently, (Invasion block), but they did release a few. Of these, Sliver Queen is the most iconic. Back when Bob Maher won PT Chicago with an Oath of Druids recursion deck, Counterslivers was a solid archetype which Christian Luhrs rode to the Top 4. Sliver Queen was a frequent part of Counterslivers, albeit in the sideboard.
This is not technically a white creature
card, but it certainly makes white creatures. Lingering Souls
combines the token theme and flashback into a card that was extremely playable in its day, and in every day since then. It was good enough to get Jund to splash white.
Once upon a time, this was a high pick in limited and a Standard staple. I have always loved it, ever since getting one in my first prerelease pool. It may no longer be good enough for Legacy play now, but it is probably too good to be reprinted in Standard.
Back in the days of Counterslivers and Bob Maher’s Oath deck, Jamie Wakefield was winning with a strange green deck that played elves, slivers and what Wakefield called “the best fattie ever printed” – Verdant Force
. Sometimes the deck hard cast it, and sometimes it cheated it out with Natural Order
, but Verdant Force was a Force back then. Unfortunately, it has not aged well.
I’m cheating here, because Siege Rhino is only two of the right colors, but I don’t care. I was one of those people that played Rhino a lot. I loved the card, despite what it did to other people’s enjoyment.
Thalia is a typical white weenie: a two power two drop in white with a bonus. In this case, two bonuses, and the combination is good enough that Thalia is staple in Legacy and Vintage. She is not my kind of card, but she is certainly good enough to make the list.
All of the Titans were very, very good, which is a polite way of saying pushed to the border of broken. Primeval Titan is so good that it was a central part of a couple combo decks, one of which got banned. That makes Prime Time too good for my list, but I will allow Inferno Titan on board. He is a fattie / board sweeper. I had considered putting Arc-Slogger
in this slot, but I have already included enough cards no one recognizes…
Back in the day, I wrote articles complaining about how creatures stunk and green was always the worst color. Back in the day, colors got cards that hosed their opposite colors. Green got Bull Hippo
. On the flip side, blue got Hibernation
and black got Perish
. Over time, Wizards began to give green a fighting chance. For me, Thragtusk was the card that convinced me that Wizards really had decided to make mid-sized creatures viable.
Brian Kibler is known as “the Dragonmaster” because he made Top 8 at a Pro Tour with a deck that featured actual dragons, including Rith. I don’t know that Rith has ever seen competitive play since then, but once was enough. Besides, it makes a fun Commander.
Almost twenty years ago, Ingrid and I and John and Cathy played a ton of casual multiplayer Magic. We built new decks for every session, and a lot of those were theme decks. (For example, I built decks around favorite movies, like the Princess Bride.) We played a lot of creatures, and Soul Warden gained me a lot of life. It still sees play in Soul Sisters decks in both Pauper and Modern, so it’s on the list.
This slot pays homage to a lot of great goblin decks over the years. The slot could have been filled with Goblin Lackey
, Goblin Matron
, Goblin Ringleader
/ Goblin Recruiter
or Goblin Piledriver
. They have all been important parts of the red menace, but Warchief was more often than not the enabler. I hated seeing it in play more than anything else, except maybe a turn one Lackey.
Deranged Hermit has seen play in a lot of tier one decks over the years. I started playing it in my version of Sol Malka’s “Rock and His Millions.” In Sol’s original build, the Rock was Phyrexian Plaguelord
, and the millions were the squirrels. That deck has a long lineage, and is the reason that mid-range GB decks are still called “Rock.” Another claim to fame: Aaron Forsythe, now head of Wizards R&D, played a deck called Angry Hermit, and a number of pros played Deranged Hermit in Opposition
effects have always been strong – so strong that Wizards has stopped printing them. One of the last times that effect saw play was on Realm Razer, so I’ll include it. I should add the caveat that this is mainly because there are not that many RGW cards. There are lots of five colors cards, but playable RGW cards are less common.
I thought about including Serra Angel
, which was a finisher is the first big Type I (later called Vintage) deck; has been reprinted endlessly and is still playable in limited. I considered Exalted Angel
, which was great with Astral Slide
. I considered Akroma and Avacyn, but I think Baneslayer is the most important. It was the first highly playable, easily castable angel to dominate constructed since Serra Angel in “The Deck.”
He’s the ultimate red one drop, hopefully forever – because if Wizards prints a better red one drop creature, we are in trouble. How could I not include him?
I had at least twenty green creatures all vying for a slot. I certainly left out a ton of value, but I think Acidic Slime needs to be on the list. It represents a tone of green creatures that killed artifacts and enchantments, including (Elvish Lyrist.UZ), Uktabi Orangutan
, Viridian Zealot
, Indrik Stomphowler
and many more. This has been one of Green’s signature abilities, and Acidic Slime was one of the best of those cards, in both limited and constructed.
I decided that five color (and Progenitus
) was cheating. That left Woolly Thoctar as one of the few options not already chosen. The Thoctar was great in limited, and saw play in both Standard and Modern. Turns out a 5/4 for three mana is good, even if it is hard to cast.
There you have it. I’m certain people disagree with a lot of these picks, so sound off in the comments.
I’ll have a regular SotP next week. Until then, enjoy whatever holidays you celebrate, and have a happy New Year.