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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Feb 26 2014 1:00pm
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My upfront admission is that I hate article recaps.  They serve no purpose but for the writer to indulge their ego.  "I did a great job on this one, but a pretty good job on that one."  Who cares?  Except the writer themselves?

But one day I had an idea to recap my articles in a way that was actually useful.  There are two prongs:

1. Instead of evaluating how good each article was, I would highlight the most important takeaway from each article.  This would give my readers a list of applicable ideas, rather than a list of pointless self-evaluation.  (Hey, if you want to read me evaluating myself, "I'm wonderful."  Let's get on with it.)

2. I had to wait until there were actually a decent number of articles.  None of this 20th-article-celebration nonsense that I see so often.  Those aren't much use!  I waited for an entire 50—almost two years' worth (the oldest of them dates back to April 2012).

Here they are, fifty pieces of practical advice.  FOR CASUAL PLAYERS.

"Let's do it again!" —Squee, goblin nabob cabin hand

1. The Prophecy Avatars: This article's lesson is to put (Carionette) in your decks, because nobody ever notices it slip into the graveyard.  Therefore they don't expect its activation, and therefore they don't play around it by leaving their mana open.  Works every time!!!  Buy some Carionettes; trust me.


2. The Recycle Special: When playing with Recycle, you must not let your hand get flooded with lands or uncastable spells.  Rhetoric Recommends: Exploration effects.

3. Training Grounds Special: A turn one Training Grounds into a turn two Soulbright Flamekin gives you eight mana on turn three (and on subsequent turns as well).  Training Grounds is also a good combo with basically any guildmage or rebel.

4. How Do I Use This Thing??: We needn't turn our Circling Vultures into a Serra Avenger.  Cast it on turn one, on the backs of Street Wraith and other cheap cyclers!  (In a future article, I apply similar ideas to the world of pauper, where they can't access Circling Vultures but do have Barrow Ghoul.)

5. Fun with Commander: Since commander games have high starting life, Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant flips for free.  And it combos pretty well with things like Goldenglow Moth and Gorgon Flail.

6. Fun with Commander #2: Using Barrin, Master Wizard as your commander lets you turn the goofy card that is Floodgate into a (sort of) blue Flame Wave!  Also, did you know there are five Warrior creatures whose name is the same as their type line?  You'd better just scroll to the bottom of that article to see what I mean.

7. Fun with Commander #3: The doofy Starke of Rath can do a bit of damage with Magewright's Stone and he turns every Brand into a one-mana Putrefy.

    Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro

8. Fun with Commander #4: Turn two Bosk Banneret into turn three Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro lets you also tap the Banneret on that same turn three to cast a three-mana shaman, setting you up for (counting your lands) ten green mana on the fourth turn!  Every time I'm about to do this I say "Neo Tokyo is about to E•X•P•L•O•D•E."  My opponent gets the reference possibly 5% of the time.

9. Bears: Did you know there are fourteen true Grizzly Bears?  (That's 2/2 creatures for 2 mana with no abilities.)  In fact, we're up to fifteen now, thanks to Theros' Traveling Philosopher.  This is what I call investigative reporting.

10. A Bunch of Best-Of Creature Lists: I'll just quote myself, because there is no better way to say it: "You can cast a Savannah Lions with a Savannah; you can cast a Tundra Wolves with a Tundra; yet it takes two Bayous to cast a Bayou Dragonfly HMMMM."

11. More Best-Of Lists!: The entire Elder Dragon section of this article is worth reading.  I can't quote something that long.  Quoting anything else wouldn't be right.  It's a good thing I put more than one takeaway for some of these articles.

12. About the Unique Tribes: I was going to wait longer to revisit my predictions, but I will say that my adamant guarantee about more sirens being printed has already come true (there are four in the first two Theros sets, and there will probably be more in the third!)  Just keep your eyes out for some hyenas in the next couple of years.

Moonsilver Spear    

13. Best-Of Lists: Halloween EditionI have uncovered a secret: Moonsilver Spear is a reference to the Spear of Longinus from Neon Genesis Evangelion.  Also, Crosis's Attendant is Iron Man.  Not a reference to him.  Actually him.

14. What will the next big creature type be?: Cotton really is psychic.  The two tribes I rated with the highest probability, harpies and satyrs, have already made a resurgence in Theros.  (And none of my low-probability ratings showed up in Theros.  No beebles, carriers, elk, gremlins, hippos, rabbits, riggers, or whales.)

15. What else could the next big creature type be?: Well my skepticism about archons was a little misplaced (Theros has four already), but I had an appropriate level of enthusiasm about gorgons and pegasi.  And once again, my low probability ratings were all accurate.

16. Squires: I noticed that Dwarven Lieutenant has a Deceptacon logo on his belt buckle.  To which I added, "What a nerd.  No wonder he has such a crazy beard."  (This is the kind of insight you won't find from any other Magic writer.)  I also want to point out that of the four different Vodalian Soldiers versions, THREE of them have unintentionally ironic flavor text.

17. Updating Legends' Legends: Even if Rohgahh of Kher Keep received substantial upgrades, he would still be terrible.  I can understand the appeal of playing with the dorky Kobolds, who are worthless on their own, but wouldn't it be nice if one of their four lords could turn them into something worthwhile?  We shouldn't have to turn to Cloudstone Curio to make them playable!

18. Updating Other Old Cards: With just a few key revisions, Baki's Curse could have been a nice anti-hexproof weapon.  (But as it is, it remains unplayable trash.)

19. Best-Of Lists: Arabian Nights Edition: Karplusan Minotaur is better than he looks!  Also, there are a LOT of terrible coin-flipping cards.  Amulet of Quoz's badness is hard to even comprehend.

    Demonic Rising

20. Demonic Rising special: Activate a Keyrune (or whatever else), giving you the one creature needed to get a Demonic Rising token.  Next turn, leave the Keyrune un-animated, giving you a second 5/5 demon.  Next turn, attack with both, sacrifice one of them (to a Worthy Cause or Greater Good or whatever), and get another token to replace him for free!

21. Best-Of-Lists: Ice Age Edition: Ice Age's Arcum's Weathervane looks like a card with four uses but actually has zero uses.  (You may want to read my protracted explanation of its functionlessness.)

22. Overpacked Textboxes (1 of 2)Legends' Marble Priest was originally printed with 68 words in his textbox, which I was able to condense to 16 without changing his functionality.  Also Gauntlets of Chaos has some pretty inexplicable artwork.  (Those arms look like they belong to the same body... but where could that body be??)

23. Overpacked Textboxes (2 of 2): Ice Cauldron has more text than any other Magic card, at 105 words spread across 13 lines!  I was able to condense it to 35 words without changing its function.  ("It's as if I used Ice Cauldron's ability on its own textbox and paid X=70.")  I also pointed out the strange pattern that, of the almost fifty cards with eight or more lines with text, only two of them are tournament playable.  And both of them, Helm of Obedience and Illusionary Mask, are only good because of rules accidents.

24. Alpha's Evolution: Commons: Most Alpha non-creature commons have (obviously) been the victims of power creep over the years.  But some have been nerfed, such as Blue Elemental Blast, Dark Ritual, and Sinkhole.  (And Sinkhole was common!!)

25. Alpha's Evolution: Uncommons: It's a similar story in uncommon, but with more overpowered cards in need of nerfing.  Sol Ring, Animate Dead, Demonic Tutor, Berserk, a ton of others.  It's worth noting that in all of Alpha, the card to have been nerfed the hardest is an uncommon, and it isn't one of the power nine.  Those all just got 3 or 4 mana tacked onto them—think about what happened to Channel.  It turned into Shrine of Boundless Growth!  That's even worse nerfing than Contract From Below got.  Arguably.  I mean to draw 7 cards today, you just have to pay a bunch of mana and/or life.  To get Channel's 19 mana, you have to wait like ten turns.  AND cast lots of green spells.

Natural Selection    

26. Alpha's Evolution: Rares: For all of the analyses and comparisons I made in this article, possibly the most compelling aspect of any card I looked at is the artwork on Natural Selection.  I made fun of it for depicting, seemingly without reason, a tiger man with a hawk head holding a tomato.  But now I'm looking back at this article a year later and wondering: why didn't I mention the way his other hand is holding a rope?  What is it even tied to?  And why is it taut?  His arms and body are in no position to be climbing it.  Is he ringing a church bell?  (To announce the arrival of the tomato?)

27. Alpha's Evolution: Small Creatures: Creatures are of course where the strongest power creep happens.  Out of Alpha's creatures with toughness two or less, two of them have gotten weaker over the years—Scryb Sprites and Will-o'-the-Wisp.  (A couple of them, like Granite Gargoyle, were nerfed for a while but then improved upon during recent years, into Chandra's Phoenix.)

28. Alpha's Evolution: Large Creatures: Same deal here.  Almost all power creep, but a few curious cases of nerfing.  Roc of Kher Ridges doesn't have much competition from red's four drops today, at least not ones with flying.  And although I was deeply surprised by it, Water Elemental is the only blue five-mana creature ever printed to have a power greater than 4, a toughness greater than 3, and no drawback.

    Nacatl War-Pride

29. Sundial of the Infinite special: What a versatile card Sundial of the Infinite turned out to be!  Skip the penalty on Lord of Tresserhorn, remove creatures permanently with Galepowder Mage, keep the guy you evoked, get an absurd number of Nacatl War-Pride tokens!  (If you get only three tokens on the first attack, remember that each of those creates another three the next turn.  That's 16 attacking 3/3s during the second attack!)

30. Unconventional Aggro: Slag Fiend is quite the deal for only a single mana.  Pump him up early with Urza's Bauble, Chromatic Star, and Shriekhorn.  There was also another deck with Spikeshot Goblin tapping for eight with a Righteousness.

31. Fun with Pauper: In Pauper, Tinder Wall allows for a second-turn Blastoderm.  In a different deck, putting Divine Favor on a Crypt Rats lets you kill everything over and over.

32. Fun with Pauper: Using the Graveyard: Other than Crypt Rats and Pestilence, the pauper format has only two other wraths—Swirling Sandstorm and Martyr of Ashes.  Neither of them are that hard to enable (and I made a deck with 4x of each!).  A different deck's trick was to put an Aboshan's Desire on a Springing Tiger—a surprisingly formidable threat in this format.

33. Fun with Pauper: Death Triggers: The seldom-played Llanowar Druid gets six colored mana on turn three. That's a better deal than even High Tide gives you.

Llanowar Druid    

34. Fun with Pauper: Cheap & Huge: There's a secret to making equipment decks work.  Their usual problem is drawing either too many equipment guys and not enough equipment, or the other way around.  So what about splashing blue for looting?  Try it!

35. Best-Of-Lists' triumphal return: There exist twelve different cards depicting someone with their legs crossed.  See the article for the full gallery.  Also, secret hax: Flesh Reaver's penalty doesn't activate if it hits a planeswalker.  Only if it damages "a creature or an opponent."  (Still not playable though.)

36. Dragon Week: fun with dragons!: Maddening Imp, Rathi Trapper, and Royal Assassin are three corners of a triangle.  With any two of them, we can kill a creature every turn (think about each possible combination).  A second takeaway: Increasing Savagery gives your Slumbering Dragon legs!

37. Arabian Nights vs. Todaybian Nights (1 of 2): Shahrazad might be banned, but you can still recreate (half of) its ability.  Just cast a Blood Tribute.  It saves you the time of playing the subgame, as well as the worry over whether you'll win it!  One more tidbit: Aladdin's Lamp would be underpowered even if its casting cost were reduced by nine mana.

38. Arabian Nights vs. Todaybian Nights (2 of 2): Disney's Aladdin would not have sold nearly as well if the lead looked like the guy on the Magic card.  ("What would his Jasmine look like," I jested, "Hasran Ogress?")


39. Sphinx week: Fun with Sphinges!: There's another "combo triangle" to be formed here (meaning any two of the three work well together): Sphinx of the Chimes, Psychosis Crawler, and Brainstorm.  Boosh!

40. Antiquities vs. Today (1 of 2): Uncovering the seldom-used Jinxed Choker was some good advice from this article.  It came about when I observed that it was half the cost but twice the strength of Armageddon Clock.  And it accumulates damage way faster than Sulfuric Vortex, even.  Give this a try!

41. Antiquities vs. Today (2 of 2): The seemingly quotidian Power Artifact is actually a completely unique card in Magic.  (Two other cards exist that can lower activation costs—Heartstone and Training Grounds—yet those work only on creatures.)  I submit we are due for another!  I also observed during this article that most of Antiquities' cards are bad... except for the lands.  My goodness.

42. Finishing the Poems: "An Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore" is perfect iambic quatrameter.  Or if you wanted to go for a sonnet with pentameter, your opening line could be "I cast an Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore."  Take this and run with it!

43. Fun with Planeswalkers!: Painter's Servant has more uses than stuff like Chaotic Backlash.  What about combining it with Spinal Villain and Jaya Ballard, Task Mage?  (Better still is with anti-black cards, because everything looks cool when turned black but ugly when turned blue... but I'll save that deck for another article maybe.)


44. Finishing the Other Poems: Adding to Phyrexian Hulk's flavor text (see left):

It doesn't think. It doesn't feel.
It doesn't laugh or cry.
All it does from dusk till dawn
Is make the soldiers die.

But some of them are much too big
For this guy to retire.
For instance there's the aptly named
Auriok Survivors.

Gosh how did I even do that.  That is so clever.

45. Legends vs. Today (1 of 4): Natural Selection wasn't the only time Mark Poole put a bird head on somebody—look at Indestructible Aura!  I also made the stunning observation that every soldier in Shield Wall's army has a different shield design AND a different uniform.

46. Legends vs. Today (2 of 4): The flavor of Wall of Tombstones is a planeswalker waits around for people to be buried and then steals their tombstones to make a sculpture with.  Pit Scorpion has been reprinted with five unique upgrades without raising his cmc (see Phyrexian Crusader).  Immolation is way overdue for a reprint.  The flavor text for Raging Bull mentions two Chicago sports teams.  Legends includes one card in hell and another card in outer space!  (Hellfire and Cosmic Horror.)

47. Fun with Robots!: Wild Pair lets you use an 0/2 to get a 1/1... but what if that 1/1 also makes two 3/3s, like Maul Splicer?  Or what if it makes everything a 7/7, like Gigantomancer?

48. The All-Planeswalker Deck: The takeaway from this article is, and I quote, "Sometimes you just have to spend hundreds of dollars on a casual deck."

49. Legends vs. Today (3 of 4): The card name "Avoid Fate" contradicts itself.  During the grand creature type update, Cat Warriors' type had one letter removed. Magic went an entire year after Alpha before getting its first land ramp spell. Tolaria is really weak despite there being two strong lands that are a mere part of Tolaria (Tolaria West and Tolarian Academy).  Even the ruins of Tolaria's academy are stronger than Tolaria itself!

50. Fun with Heaven & Hell!: A Skittering Skirge or Demonic Taskmaster with the right equipment can end the game pretty fast.  In a different deck, Angel's Trumpet is a fairly unique card with some nutty combo potential.

Now you are all caught up.

What otherworldly revelations will appear in the 4th and final Legends article?  Check back next week!


I wasn't even aware of the by Tribal Apocalypse at Thu, 02/27/2014 - 06:36
Tribal Apocalypse's picture

I wasn't even aware of the existence of article recaps. Do people actually do that? (I mean, MaRo does, I guess).

I'm surprised you didn't mention your Vanguard period, though. I read every single one of those articles, and I still don't even exactly know how Vanguard is (was) played!

I see 'em every now and by CottonRhetoric at Thu, 02/27/2014 - 11:01
CottonRhetoric's picture

I see 'em every now and then.

As for my vanguard period, here's the last recap I did, covering all the way back to my first ever article!