CottonRhetoric's picture
By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Aug 15 2019 12:00pm

I've been writing for PureMTGO on and off since July 2009. (Yes, I still look exactly like my original user photo.) Since then I've done two retrospectives, this being my third. The goal with these isn't to evaluate myself, it's to offer readers the best parts of each article: either fun things to try, practical advice, or interesting tidbits. This will save you time and brighten your life.

I present to you, 63 takeaways from my last 63 articles! Spanning all the way back to March 2014.


1. Legends vs. Today (4 of 4)

The legends of Legends hold a special place in many (usually older) players' hearts, being not only the game's first legends, but the first cards to have this cool-looking gold border. Most of us would imagine that, being creatures from the mid 90s, they've all been subject to severe power creep over the years, and we'd be right in most cases. (Consider Boris Devilboon or Dakkon Blackblade.) But it's not true of them all! Several of the lower CMC ones are actually more powerful than anything comparable to come out since—see Angus Mackenzie, the infinite Spike Weaver himself.

    Puca's Mischief

2. Puca's Mischief Special
Although not the insta-win that Donate is, Puca's Mischief's "repeatability" allows you to gradually take everything at no real cost to yourself if your deck is built around it. Cotton recommends symmetrical cards (like Howling Mine), auras (like Faith's Fetters), and do-nothings (like Sarcomancy).

3. Fun with Land!

It's perfectly acceptable to play Sea Drake honestly, as in without exploiting its rules loophole. You can use Exploration-types to replay the lands, perhaps even at a benefit to yourself, then repeat that trick with Ovinomancer.

4. The Return of Fun!

When maximizing Concerted Effort, you don't need to hit every ability mentioned on the card. Giving your army "protection from creatures" (see Beloved Chaplain) supercedes trample, first strike, and all forms of evasion. All you need after that is perhaps vigilance and flying for defense, and/or double strike for offense. Look for creatures with multiple of these at once.

Since this article, there have been multiple other cards functioning similarly to Concerted Effort. This all applies to them, too!

Endless Whispers    

5. More Fun Decks

Endless Whispers, although unlikely to ever be competitive, can at least have its symmetry broken at casual tables. Cards like Chilling Shade and Korlash, Heir to Blackblade are better for you than the opponent. Curse of Death's Hold makes the same true of every creature.

6. Three Fun Decks

Much like the previous article, this demonstrates my love of combining bad cards with other bad cards. No Quarter: blech! Brushstrider: blech! But the two actually go together well. Then there's my deck to repeatedly trigger Saprazzan Heir and Tolarian Entrancer....

7. Goin' Crazy with Cotton

Years before red prison decks became fashionable, I was running mono-red defensive builds (except mine were off Bulwark and Scent of Cinder). I didn't say it was good, just that I was doing it.

8. Cottonstravaganza

There was a controversy some months ago about whether an infinite (Nexus of Fate) deck is unhealthy for the game, famously prompting its ban from a specific subsection of a specific format. I predicted this whole issue in 2015... when cautioning players... not to... combine Orcish Librarian with Beacon of Tomorrows in the just-for-fun room. What! It's basically the same thing.

9. Cottonsplosion

Four years after this article, one surprising fact is still true: of the many ways to make swarms of insects, only one single card to in any way supports them as a tribe. Do you know it? Click here to check.

10. Cottonpalooza

    Indentured Djinn

Forcing our opponent to draw cards, if that's what we want to do, has in some ways gotten better since the '90s. Master of the Feast downright embarrasses Sibilant Spirit. And Lord of Tresserhorn, although intensely cool, is a little impractical. But some of the old timers are still relevant: check out the stats on Indentured Djinn!

11. Judgment's Wishes in Casual

There are always ways to take old decks of yours and update them. Usually it's just by substituting power creeped versions of specific cards. Sometimes it's to add 4x of a Judgment Wish and then a bunch of situational cards in the sideboard. You can't run Reap or Winnow in most maindecks... but it can be great to summon one up at will without worsening your draw steps.

12. Un-Tapped Design Space

My article most likely to cover the same ground as a file in WotC's archives... speculations on what remaining Un- cards could inspire future card designs! Of all the designs I said are eligible, so far only one has made its way to black-bordered sets, B.F.M.'s two-card-spanning format (see the backs of Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light). More to come, no doubt.

13. The Other Four Oaths

Oath of Druids' power is well known. Oath of Mages' power is nonexistent. But the other three have some fun, explosive, and largely untapped potential for casual tables! Try combining Oath of Lieges with Aggressive Mining and Rivalry, for instance.

Task Mage Assembly    

14. The Task Mage Assembly Special

On defense, Task Mage Assembly pairs well with high toughness, shroud, and protection from red. On offense, look to Death Pits of Rath and Snakeform-types.

15. The Five Sanctuaries in Casual

With the number of gold and hybrid cards to have been printed since 2001, enabling the full mode on Apocalypse's Sanctuary cycle has never been easier. A single Inkfathom Infiltrator or Dimir Infiltrator gets Ana Sanctuary powered up, and dealing 7 damage a turn.

16. Could It Be?

Instill Energy, a card from Alpha, is still the best at what it does. It's narrower than its many imitators, but it's also cheaper. I ended up making it the centerpiece of a tribe known for its activated abilities: wizards.

17. Savvy Synergies

Dodecapod-types seem impossible to maximize in the maindeck against an unknown opponent. But there is a bizarre rules interaction that allows it: Scandalmonger. The ability is controlled by your opponent, even if the original card isn't. Free 5/5! And you thought Hollow One was a good deal.

18. Fun Decks for All

If you have some lifegain to keep you afloat, Purgatory can do some nutty things. Spark Trooper may be my favorite, but even sticking to a two-color deck, there's also Disciple of Bolas.


19. At It Again

Some cards, like Thran Lens and Oblation, are meant to be used reactively, but in the right deck, they can be proactive threats. Try pairing Oblation with Starke of Rath or Custody Battle, for instance.

20. C·O·T·T·O·N

Confusion in the Ranks is not as chaotic and pointless as it seems. If you can produce creature tokens with something that isn't itself stealable, like Kher Keep, things will get lopsided fast. You can also safely steal enchantments by casting an aura on something that isn't stealable, like Wild Growth.

21. Swarmyard Special

There are literally hundreds of possible targets for Swarmyard. Some of the best include Hornet Nest, Crypt Rats, and Deadly Recluse. My progression of this premise somehow ended up at a Dueling Grounds / Hunted Lammasu deck.

22. Necrotic Ooze Special

Necrotic Ooze can be a fun card that doesn't just insta-win with an infinite combo. Consider it with Bloodshot Trainee, Darkling Stalker, Merieke Ri Berit, Gigantomancer, or Shauku, Endbringer.


23. Sindgood

Of course Sindbad can be sindgood with some library manipulation, but did you know he also lets you cast cards with miracle or madness? Unlike (Dryad Greenseeker), he says "draw" and "discard." Level up that Pursuit of Knowledge.

24. Revisiting My Predictions

This article, in 2015, revisited some predictions I made in 2013 about the futures of all the tribes containing 8 or fewer creatures. Of my 45 called shots, 33 came true! Not too bad. I also made some new predictions during the article, which I can revisit now.

  • I was wrong about another Wombat coming before 2019, but to my credit, they did at least print a reference to the original wombat, in Graceblade Artisan.
  • I was half right that we'd get more Dreadnoughts. None with the creature type were made, but we've since gotten two with that word in the title.
  • I was right that we'd get more Hyenas. There was one in Amonkhet and another in Kaladesh!
  • I was wrong about no more Assembly-Workers coming. We've seen four since the revisitation article! It was a whole draft archetype!!!
  • My second article insisted we wouldn't get more Camels. My first article said it would take "a block with a very arid setting." There were four in Amonkhet, which was arid indeed.
  • Still no more Wraiths. Keep waiting though. Wraiths are so cool.
  • We did get 2 new Jellyfish, all according to plan.

I think my takeaway would be, the future is a fun but scary place, and it's better left unchanged. Some forces are too great to tamper with.

25. Weirdness

Cards like Sailmonger, Ana Disciple, and Power Matrix can be used to pump your opponents' creatures—and then hose them with anti-flying cards.

Heat Stroke    

26. Heat Stroke

Any regenerating creature wins any combat next to Heat Stroke. And when given a Moonsilver Spear, it can also close out the game. I also realized while writing this article that Maddening Imp's odd templating allows it to kill creatures with summoning sickness! Most opponents won't realize that until it's too late.

27. The Immortal Servitude Special

After running through all the options from 0 to 6+, I decide that, for casual decks at least, building your Immortal Servitude deck around X=3 or X=4 are the best options. 0 and 1 are for (imo unfun) combo decks, 2 doesn't do enough, 3 and 4 get the most value, 5 plays out as just a slower version of 4, and at 6+ there are much cheaper reanimation options.

28. Myr Welder Special

It can do more than just go infinite with Phyrexian Devourer or Time Vault! It can also untap itself, draw cards, deal damage, prevent damage, make 9/9s, abuse -1/-1 counters, blow up the whole board (and regenerate itself)... this article has too many suggestions to even recap here. My favorite combo might be Ventifact Bottle.

29. Monkey Cage!!!

Although a bad card, Monkey Cage can be abused in several ways. My favorite one: there's no "if you do" clause for its sacrifice trigger. That means you can use it multiple times at once. If you cast Living Death and give both players two creatures with 4 CMC each... you will get sixteen monkey tokens.

30. Paradigm Shift: The Next Big Thing?

    Paradigm Shift

Although it's an old 2-mana spell whose fixed version years later cost 7 mana, Paradigm Shift still goes unnoticed and unplayed. (I think it's the only card for which that's all true.)

Does it have uses though? Its biggest drawback is that it's only legal in formats that also have Doomsday, which requires less setup for a stronger effect. 1U is still much easier than BBB though, and I contend that this card's day may still be coming. The fact that it can exile your entire library for only 2 mana means it might combo with cards yet to be printed. (Inquest Magazine said the same thing about Lion's Eye Diamond when it was first printed, and look how that turned out!)

31. Fun with Commander #5

With Reki, the History of Kamigawa as your commander, some otherwise unplayable cards become windmill slams. Especially in a 99-card singleton format. Most of the legendary spells in green and colorless are worth considering.

32. Two Takes x Two Decks

Quirky build-around Damping Engine's obvious use is to subsist on few permanents and force your opponent to do the same. Lotus Vale-types are a nice way to do that, and since I wrote this article there's been another one printed in (Lotus Field). A funnier option is to use the Engine as your own sacrifice outlet, for cards like Hatching Plans.

33. Fun with Commander #6

Horobi, Death's Wail    

There are a lot of combos with Horobi, Death's Wail... and in commander, you use a lot of them. In 2016, the cheapest single target was Squee's Toy and the most efficient multi-target was Cauldron of Souls. I found out the hard way that Retribution of the Ancients unfortunately can't be activated at X=0.

34. Fun with New Cards

Always be on the lookout for ways to turn cards' drawbacks into bonuses. The additional cost on Angelic Purge can actually provide a nice boost to cards like False Prophet, Roc Egg, or even Flagstones of Trokair.

35. 2010 Ideas with 2015 Tech

This revisits (among other things) a perennial pet card of mine that I've still never seen a single other person use: Song of Serenity. Most notably, I pair it with several cheap cantripping auras on the opponent's creatures.

36. Going Mythic

There are a lot, a lot of cards that combine with Demonic Pact. My favorites are Flickerwisp, Reweave, Angelic Purge, and Strionic Resonator.

37. Timetwisters!

Before Day's Undoing was paired with (Narset, Parter of Veils), before (Echo of Aeons) was paired with Lion's Eye Diamond, I was looking for ways to maximize the lesser versions of Timetwister. I was doing so in less spiky ways, such as Chasm Skulker and Ivory Crane Netsuke.

I also had another deck using red X spells to enable Hidetsugu's Second Rite.


38. Triskadekaphobia!

Along those lines, black and white "bleeder" spells can enable Triskaidekaphobia.

One funny moment in this article is an aside where I calculate how many decks I'd then crafted for this website. The answer was over 400.

39. The Return of Casual Decks

I note that a Permeating Mass plus No-Dachi will kill and survive just about anything in combat. Even indestructible creatures. Just not Uncle Istvan. Who would have thought Uncle Istvan would ever have an advantage on Darksteel Colossus?

40. Underappreciated Cube Archetypes

This marks the era where my interest finally started shifting from casual Magic to something more competitive. Yes, 1995–2017 were my casual years and 2018–present are the years I play almost nothing but cubes.

Vintage cube's cardlist has changed several times since this article, so you can't still attempt the Necropotence deck I recommend, but my primer on the 4-5 color cube deck is still valid.

41. More Things to Try in Cube

Having more experience under my belt than when I wrote this article, I no longer recommend building around Moat, but my other two suggestions (The Abyss and Recurring Nightmare) are as timely and sagacious as ever. These days I endorse Moat as more of a sideboard card.

Misthollow Griffin    

42. Casting from Exile

These were some conceptually funny decks. Cards that exile your own things as a penalty can be combined with those few cards that are castable from exile, like Torrent Elemental. Or you can just cut out huge chunks of your deck at once with Inverter of Truth and the like.

43. Under- and Overrated Vintage Cube Cards

The comments I continue to see in Twitch chats confirm that not every person in the world has yet read this article, so I must here repeat that Fastbond is bad, Brain Maggot is good, and apparently WotC took my critiques of Rishkar, Peema Renegade to heart because it was removed in the next update.

44. Fun with Enrage, Mirrorwing, and Delirium

This article points out that, for the casual room, you should buy Urza's Bauble instead of Mishra's Bauble, because it cost only 5 cents instead of $6. Ooh, if only that were still true! Did you stockpile Baubles 2 years ago? If so, you could be selling them for 50 cents and $13 respectively.

This article also has probably my funniest and snarkiest closing. (Sorry, Josh.)

45. Revisiting Old Favorites

My biggest achievement of this article was finding a SEVENTH nonoverlapping deck centered on Varchild's War-Riders, my favorite card of all time. I also relay the tale of the time I lost to (the) Elaine Chase in a 1998 PTQ.

    Constant Mists

Actually I didn't relay the tale, I just mentioned it, so I'll relay it now. She had a really cool blue control deck with Nevinyrral's Disks and the biggest blue creature able to survive the Disk at the time: Ghost Ship. I was using the Constant Mists deck mentioned in this article. (No, neither of those were tier 1 decks. It was 1998 and people didn't bring tier 1 decks to tournaments very often.) Constant Mists is soft to counterspells, so I failed to establish my lock and lost the round. Chase pointed out that Constant Mists plus Howling Mine isn't exactly a "lock," which is true.

46. Chat Window Etiquette

I spent a bit of time bemoaning the various abuses MtGO's chat window sees, as well as the lack of ways to disable it, and I eventually give advice on what to do in the meantime. It wasn't more than a few weeks later that WotC designed an in-client way to disable chat! So my #1 recommendation for everyone reading is to use that feature, because you'll have a much happier life. But for the few who don't want to, I recommend reading this article in full before you type anything into that window. (For instance: complaining about luck? Insulting your opponent? Not actually beneficial.)

47. Fun with Commander

This has my favorite commander deck I've ever made: instead of trying to win, just cram your deck full of spells that help everyone. Howling Mine, Mana Flare, and so on. Just be Santa Claus for a while. Why do you have to win every game?

48. Back in the Day...

I've been playing Magic long enough to see players change from knowing every card to... not knowing every card, so I wrote this as a fun exploration of the past. Did you know...

  • ...our own planet Earth has explicitly appeared on a Magic card?
  • ...there's a card that uses a single coin flip to determine the winner of the entire game?
  • ...the same set that had a B 1/1 first strike at common had a 1BB 1/1 lifelink at uncommon?
  • in the set Legends depicted both hell and outer space?
  • ...a card in Alpha depicts a planeswalker in the art?
  • ...there are two different card types created in the Mirage block's first set and removed from the game in its third set?
  • ...the wordiest card has 103 words written across 13 lines of text? And still requires fourteen Gatherer rulings?
  • ...the card title font didn't used to have a capital H?
Nova Pentacle    

49. Casual Decks for All

This article is even more full of quirky casual ideas than most, thanks to the section at the end, but if I'm just picking my favorite one, it's that Nova Pentacle will target your opponent's creatures if you don't have any. Maybe it's time to take another look at that card you picked up during a Master's draft, couldn't trade away, and have been ignoring ever since.

50. Sagas, Sagas, Sagas

The takeaway for ME is that when I write about new sets instead of, well, Nova Pentacle, my articles get double the views. (You'll notice that I capitalized on that realization in the very next article, when M19 had just come out.)

The takeaway for you the reader is that there's a lot more to do with Dominaria's Sagas than just let them run their course. You can manipulate the number of counters, bounce them, double the triggers, trigger other things, and so on. A mere Power Conduit lets you go infinite!

51. M19's Build-Arounds

There are a few ways to cheat on (Liliana's Contract). Changelings, of course, but did you know that Sakashima the Impostor is the only card to copy everything about a creature EXCEPT its name? There are also demon tokens, but be careful, as two demon tokens from two different cards will still count together as the same one name.

52. Getting Into and Getting Better at Cube


Yes, finally I have some content for spikes instead of only johnnies. (With board states like this one, right after an Upheavalalso cater to timmies.) I think the main takeaway is that cube is the best format, the most fun, and the deepest, and everyone should sell their entire collections to maximize how many times they can draft it.

If the complexity of the format feels daunting, don't give up! Read my article, and this one, then listen to Limited Resources' episodes on cube, then draft with confidence.

Remember: when you win, draft more. And when you lose, draft more!!!

53. Magic Puzzles, Cube Edition

Skip the first puzzle, because there's an error in it, which is honestly a terrible way to start a 10-article series of puzzles, but beyond that this should be fun and rewarding for all.

The takeaway would be that you should really know what your cards do. None of these puzzles require intricate ten-step sequences, but rather simply knowing the "hidden" modes on cards and how they interact with other cards. It's a skill I've noticed many people in Twitch chat are lacking. (I shouldn't beat up on Twitch chat too much, as I'm sometimes "that person" in chat. I still will, however.)

54. Magic Trivia & Puzzles

Notice the sharp drop in readership for these articles. I guess most people don't like puzzles. It's too bad—puzzles are fun! I wish someone other than me would make a ten-article series of Magic puzzles, so I wouldn't know all of the answers.

Fun trivia: there are 5 warriors in Magic whose card name exactly matches their creature type (for instance, (Minotaur Warrior)).

Meditation Puzzle    

55. Even More Trivia & Puzzles

This was the first time I used the puzzle format of identifying whether a title was a Magic card or a song by a specific band. While designing them, I found that metal bands are by far the best for this game.

56. "4 of Every Card" Puzzles

Here I designed a puzzle format so versatile that it deserved three of its own articles. Your deck has four of every card ever printed, you have some kind of tutor in hand, and you have to think of some oddball card in the game's history that wins the game in a specific scenario. They're surprisingly hard. Note that the solution relies entirely on trivia, not strategy.

My takeaway for this article would be to never give up hope, even when things seem unwinnable, provided your deck has four of every card and there's a tutor in your hand.

57. Trivia & Puzzles, Vol. 3

The art puzzle in the beginning was a great idea, frankly, in addition to letting me flex my creative writing muscles. The takeaway for this article spoils one of the puzzles, so I'll hide it behind a black bar, and you can highlight it if you want to. Did you know the artwork for Gaea's Liege had a bunch of black dots in the corner? It's true! WotC has said themselves it was an error they didn't have the technology to fix back in 1993, which means they just didn't try hard enough because I fixed it myself using MS Paint.

Yeah! MS Paint! All you have to do is zoom in, copy a circular area near the dot, then duplicate it on top of the dot. You could tell the difference if you're really scouring the pixels up close, but not when the whole thing is shrunk to less than 2.5 inches wide.

58. 4x of Every Card Puzzles, Vol. 2

This article has a lesson as old as time, which is not to cast Mana Leak when your opponent has 999,999,996 mana floating.

59. Trivia & Puzzles, vol. 4

The takeaway for this puzzle is that Ben-Ben, Akki Hermit is wearing a darn octopus on his head!!!

What is with that, seriously!!!


Eldrazi Displacer

60. Vintage Eldrazi Taxes Primer

Ah, my brief foray into vintage. I was missing vintage cube and figured this would be the next best thing. I was wrong, but it was still fun. The takeaway is that with Moxen costing less than $3 each, there has never been a better time to buy into the format. Give it a try! Unless you'd rather spend the $30,000 per deck needed to play in paper. (Click "online" in the top right for a quick comparison. Watch $30,000 shrink to $200.)

60. 4x of Every Card Puzzles, vol. 3

Always remember that Word of Command, although seemingly nonfunctional, can in fact accomplish something if you also have Ivory Mask in play.

That deck sounds pretty bad, though, and even then you have to rely on your opponent's hand lining up right. I suppose you don't need to remember it.

61. Trivia & Puzzles, "5" edition

This has my favorite bit of fiction I've written for this site. I recommend it to everyone (don't skip the endings in the Solutions section). AND the five-letter words puzzle was really cool. Basically the takeaway is you should just read this article. Not a lot of people did!!

62. The Freshest Trivia & Puzzles

Although prestidigitation would be the perfect name for a Magic card, it has still never been used. Get on it, WotC! I know Mark Rosewater keeps a thesaurus on his desk. I'm sure it's come up. Both of its definitions have been card names FWIW.

63. What's Next for Vintage Cube?

There's still room for the Best Format to be even better. I give a whole article's worth of recommendations, but my top ones are add Jokulhaups, Flash, Pox, Ritual of Subdual, Tocatli Honor Guard, Niv-Mizzet Reborn, and Fire Covenant; and take out Progenitus, Reveillark, Field of Ruin, Scrapheap Scrounger, Legion's Landing, and 2-3 of the Swords of __ and __.

WotC, I do not seek recompense for my contributions. Only compliance.

 Jokulhaups  Ritual of Subdual  Fire Covenant

Here's to 63 more! Or something.