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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
May 23 2013 2:45am
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Last week I turned Legends' legends into modern mythic rares. Today I'll be taking other old, underpowered cards and updating them—not necessarily to mythic rare quality, just to regular, balanced cards. WotC already does this all the time. Army of Allah becomes Righteous Charge, El-Hajjâj becomes Nip GwyllionEbony Horse becomes Reconnaissance and so on.

And yes many updates are downgrades—Demonic Tutor becomes Diabolic Tutor and Time Walk becomes Time Warp—but today I'll be examining only underpowered cards that are safely improvable.

 

Aladdin    

Aladdin

Problem:
Too slow, too fragile, too temporary an effect

Solution:
1RR
1/1
T: Gain control of target artifact.
 

       
   

Goblin Artisans

Problem:
Too big a penalty if the coin flip fails, pointless restriction against untap combos

Solution:
2R
1/1
T: Draw a card. Use this ability only when you cast an artifact.
 

       
   

Cocoon

Problem:
Very slow, huge penalty for a small bonus, prioritizing flavor over playability

Solution:
G
Sorcery
Exile target creature you control. Return it to play at the beginning of your next upkeep tapped with flying and a +1/+1 counter.

       
   

Fortified Area

Problem:
Very negligible effect for that price

Solution:
1WW
Enchantment
Creatures you control with defender get +1/+1.
When you cast a creature with defender, draw a card.

       
   

Ichneumon Druid

Problem:
This will never trigger!!!

Solution:
1GG
1/1
Whenever an opponent casts a noncreature spell, Ichneumon Druid deals 3 damage to him or her.
 

       
   

Infinite Authority

Problem:
Convoluted, affects only small blockers, essentially a worse Cloak of Mists

Solution:
1WW
Enchant creature
If enchanted creature is blocked, exile all blocking creatures and put that many +1/+1 counters on enchanted creature.
Enchanted creature must be blocked if able.
 

       
Knowledge Vault    

Knowledge Vault

Problem:
Easy to disrupt, requires discarding, slow

Solution:
4
Artifact
2, T: Exile the top card of your library. Put it into your hand when Knowledge Vault leaves play.
Sacrifice Knowledge Vault: draw a card.

       
   

Life Matrix

Problem: Expensive!!!

This was already updated into That Which Was Taken, so instead of making the effect more powerful, let's just make the cost cheaper.

Medicine Bag isn't cutting it, by the way.

Solution:
2
Artifact
2, T: Regenerate target creature

       
Takklemaggot    

Takklemaggot

Problem:
Expensive, doesn't affect power, overly complex

Solution:
1BB
Enchant creature
At the beginning of its controller's upkeep, put a -1/-1 counter on enchanted creature.
When enchanted creature dies, deal 2 damage to its controller and you may attach Takklemaggot to target creature.

       
Firestorm Phoenix    

Firestorm Phoenix

Problem:
Expensive! Then expensive again.

Of course, almost every phoenix printed since 1994 is an improved version of this card, but let's take it in even a different direction. One that doesn't endlessly tax our mana.

Solution:
3RR
3/3 Flying
If Firestorm Phoenix dies, exile it with two time counters and it gains suspend.

       
Voodoo Doll    

Voodoo Doll

Problem:
Come on, 6 mana? And XX to use? And it dies and deals me damage if I can't afford XX?

This was reworked into Torture Chamber, which has many improvements, yet is worse in other ways and is still a generally unsatisfying card. Let's try again.

Solution:
3
Artifact
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a pin counter on Voodoo Doll.
X, T: Deal X damage to target creature, where X is the number of pin counters on Voodoo Doll.

       
   

Fasting

Problem:
Just plain horrible.

It was already reworked into the perfectly playable Words of Worship, so let's focus on another side of the card: skipping an entire step.

Solution:
2WW
Enchantment
If you would begin your untap step, draw step, precombat main phase, or postcombat main phase, you may skip that that step or phase. If you do, gain 2 life.

Now this is a unique card. It's usually painless to skip at least one of your main phases for a quick 2 life. Or if you're really in a jam, skip the whole turn for 8!

       
   

Fire and Brimstone

Problem:
Spend five mana AND four life just to deal 4 damage to an opponent??

Solution:
1WW
Deal 4 damage to target player who attacked you this turn.

Still barely playable! The original Fire and Brimstone is SO far off the deep end of badness that we can lower its cost by 2 and remove a clause about losing four life, and it's still not a good card. Notice what happens if we do those same two things to another bad card, like Vampiric Spirit:

New Vampiric Spirit
BB
4/3 flying
 

See! Usually doing those things makes a card really powerful. Not with F&B though. Oh no.

       
Goblin Wizard    

Goblin Wizard

Problem:
If you can cast this guy for 2RR, you don't need help casting your other goblins.

Solution:
1R
1/1
T: Put a Goblin permanent from your hand onto the battlefield.

Although even then, I think people would still rather use Goblin Lackey. Let's give it one more try:

Better solution:
1R
1/1
Goblin spells you cast cost R less to cast.

       
Mana Clash    

Mana Clash

Problem:
It hurts you as often as it helps you

Solution:
RR
Sorcery
Flip two coins. Unless both are heads, deal 1 damage to target creature or player and repeat this process. If both are heads, deal 1 damage to yourself and stop flipping.
 

       
   

Marsh Gas

Problem:
People could just use Darkness.

(Yes, there exist situations in which Marsh Gas is better, but they're not the kind of situation you can plan for or build a deck around.)

Solution:
B
Enchantment
Creatures get -1/-0.

       
   

Mind Bomb

Problem:
Why is it symmetrical? Why is the opt-out clause so negligible?

Solution:
1UU
Sorcery
Deal 5 damage to target player. They may discard any number of cards. For each card they discard this way, prevent 2 of that damage.

       
   

Niall Silvain

Problem:
What's he got to smile about?

Solution:
GGG
2/2
When Niall Silvain attacks or blocks, you may regenerate up to two target creatures.

       
Orc General    

Orc General

Problem:
The rules text.

Solution:
2R
2/2
Other Orc creatures you control get +1/+1.
When Orc General enters the battlefield, choose a creature type. Those creatures are Orcs.

       
Derelor    

Derelor

Problem:
He's clearly a centaur.

Solution:
Change his creature type from thrull to thrull centaur!  Yeah.

       
   

Dwarven Armorer

Problem:
Too small a benefit for the cost.

Solution:
R
0/2
R, T, Discard a card: Put two +1/+1 counters on target creature.

(Notice: We have to quadruple its power before it's playable! This is what Fallen Empires' power level was like.)

       
Farrel's Zealot    

Farrel's Zealot

Problem:
Why must I choose?

Solution:
WW
2/2
When Farrel's Zealot deals combat damage to an opponent, you may deal that much damage to target creature.
 

       
Goblin Warrens    

Goblin Warrens

Problem:
Mana, mana, mana

Solution:
2R
Enchantment
T, Sacrifice two goblins: Put three 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens onto the battlefield.

       
   

Heroism

Problem:
If you read the card very carefully, you will notice it does not do anything.

Solution:
2W
Enchantment
Sacrifice a creature: Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn. Target player sacrifices an attacking creature they control unless they pay 3.

       
   

Baki's Curse

Problem:
Again, we have a card that usually does nothing. Especially since most auras increase the creature's toughness.
 

Solution:
1UU
Sorcery
Exile all enchanted creatures. Deal 2 damage to target player for each enchantment put in the graveyard this way.

       
Didgeridoo    

Didgeridoo

Problem:
Most minotaurs cost 4 or 5 mana. This doesn't reduce the cost very much (even though the flash is nice).

Solution:
3
Artifact
T: Put a Minotaur permanent from your hand onto the battlefield.
T: Target Minotaur gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

And the other way to make it good is by printing more minotaurs and minotaur lords, but I'll let WotC set their own pace for that goal.

       
   

Forget

Problem:
It's bad if you target yourself. It's even worse if you target an opponent.

Solution:
UU
Sorcery
Draw two cards unless a player discards two cards.

Or

UU
Sorcery
Draw a card and target player discards a card.

Or

(makes the expression of the guy in the picture while I think of another idea)

UU
Sorcery
What the card already does, except it's also a cantrip. 

       
   

Irini Sengir

Problem:
Exactly what white and green enchantments do you want to hose starting turn four, and how is this meager effect supposed to hose them?

Solution:
BB
2/2
Enchantments cannot be cast.

(When in doubt, make it a hate bear!)

       
   

Rysorian Badger

Problem:
Its stats are too small, its ability is too small, and I shouldn't have to fog it to work

Solution:
2G
3/2
If Rysorian Badger deals combat damage to a player, remove up to three cards from their graveyard and gain that much life.

       
   

Truce

Problem:
Unless you have actually formed a truce with your opponent, you are not trying to defeat them, this card will not help you.

Solution:
2W
Instant
Draw two cards. target opponent gains two life.
 

       
Wall of Kelp    

Wall of Kelp

Problem:
Not worth the mana.

Solution:
UU
1/3
T: Put a 0/1 blue Kelp token onto the battlefield.
 

       
   

Winter Sky

Problem:
One half is mediocre, the other half is an offense to the senses, and you have no control over the outcome.

Solution:
1R
Sorcery
Choose one—deal 2 damage to each creature without flying, or all players draw two cards.

 

And now for a Rosewater signoff:

Until next week, may your life be as balanced as these cards.

16 Comments

Always an entertaining read. by AJ_Impy at Thu, 05/23/2013 - 03:31
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5

Always an entertaining read. But believe me, Didgeridoo is plenty powerful as is.

Note to the editor: please be by CottonRhetoric at Thu, 05/23/2013 - 07:37
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Note to the editor: please be careful when making changes that you do not accidentally create grammatical errors. I am refering to the description for Truce.

I believe that the grammar in by JXClaytor at Thu, 05/23/2013 - 15:38
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I believe that the grammar in description of truce is fine.

It needs an "and" in between by Paul Leicht at Thu, 05/23/2013 - 17:46
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It needs an "and" in between the first clause and the second.

Or any coordinating by CottonRhetoric at Thu, 05/23/2013 - 17:58
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Or any coordinating conjunction.

If you want the technical by CottonRhetoric at Thu, 05/23/2013 - 18:05
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If you want the technical explanation, "this card will not help you" is the main (independent) clause of the sentence, "unless you actually have formed a truce with your opponent" is the introductory (dependent) clause, and the middle part should be a subordinate clause, meaning it needs to start with a conjunction. As the sentence stands now, it has two independent clauses (a big no-no).

...I'm also an English teacher, I should say.

I stand corrected, my by JXClaytor at Thu, 05/23/2013 - 18:31
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I stand corrected, my apologies, I read things aloud whenever I sit down to manage, and it just made no sense to me.

:) no worries by CottonRhetoric at Thu, 05/23/2013 - 19:14
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:) no worries

You are so right about by Leviathan at Thu, 05/23/2013 - 12:06
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5

You are so right about Derelor! I love that old thrull. I actually had him in a Type I deck that won a tournament. Good times.

Also, I was playing a Commander game the other day when someone played Wall of Kelp. I was truly shocked.

Good lord, some of these old by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 05/23/2013 - 18:24
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5

Good lord, some of these old cards are the stuff nightmares are made of. You lose sanity points by reading them (not to mention, eyesight. They're like overly long novels with a bad ending twist.)

I'm contemplating doing an by CottonRhetoric at Thu, 05/23/2013 - 19:15
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I'm contemplating doing an entire article on the long-winded microfont cards of olden times

It doesn't help that they by Kumagoro42 at Fri, 05/24/2013 - 02:37
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It doesn't help that they mostly seem to have terrible Douglas Shuler or Jeff A. Menges art.

About Fortified Area (I was already playing in 1994, but I don't think I ever saw an actual copy of it, possibly because everybody kept destroying all of them right out of the boosters to avoid being caught in possession of one). It actually uses an opposite approach to reach the same discomforting result, in that its text is clear and straightforward and it has good art. But let's see, I have to pay 3 mana, of which 2 white, to give +1/+0 to my Walls, i.e. to cards I'm just using as blockers? This confirms my idea that nobody working on Legends ever actually played the game. And the art, yes, it's good-looking, but is that an island, or rocky promontory, covered in wall fortifications? How does that involve the walls that aren't there? And why my enemies should want to land right there, when there's clearly a lot of better landing places on the background? (That one was actually the least likely to be chosen at all, fortifications or not.) And what if they came from the inland, instead? Is the fortified area helping preventing them to use that spot to take off?

While I understand that by Paul Leicht at Fri, 05/24/2013 - 03:20
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While I understand that impression I imagine the other scenario. They were getting rich unexpectedly (though nowhere near their apex of fortune making) and they were totally and utterly stoned every day they went to work until sometime well after Fallen Empires went to print.

Was a 4 mana 4/4 in black by MarcosPMA at Fri, 05/24/2013 - 04:10
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Was a 4 mana 4/4 in black (Derelor) so overpowered that they had to tax every black spell you cast after him?

Oh yes. Even later on, in the by CottonRhetoric at Fri, 05/24/2013 - 07:20
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Oh yes. Even later on, in the Mirage block, Nettletooth Djinn was getting the same treatment. (If you're unfamiliar with him, he's 3G for a 4/4 who Juzams you every turn.)

In that era, the strongest aggro 4-drops were Erhnam Djinn and Juggernaut. They pretty much dominated the tournament scene.

Some decks were even using Wirecat for redundancy!

Tournament decks!!!

You mean, the strongest by Kumagoro42 at Fri, 05/24/2013 - 08:30
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You mean, the strongest 4-drops after Juzam.