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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Jun 17 2021 12:00pm
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I recently built a 1990s-themed cube for MtGO, during which I repeatedly noticed something: a lot of cards I wanted to include still aren't on MtGO!

Indeed, there exist about 700 black-bordered cards yet to become Digital Objects (depending on how you count), and while few if any have ramifications for serious constructed or limited players, what about casual players? What about collectors? What about commander enthusiasts or custom cube creators? We want these janky old cards! Not to mention all the multiplayer friendly cards from the Conspiracy sets.

Let's break down the list and the issues surrounding it. Beginning with 

Distribution

OK, we want these cards programmed and released, cool, but how do we make it happen?

The four Masters Edition sets did most of the heavy lifting for reprinting the game's early sets. But with their focus on limited viability, I don't think a Master's Ed 5 is on the horizon to fill in the gaps. Most of the remaining cards are too low in power level and too awkward mechanically to contribute to a healthy draft environment. What other options have we?

    Field_of_Dreams

The most obvious is to offer them as one-of treasure chest promos, as WotC did with Field of Dreams and Cemetery Gate. The fact that Aspect of Wolf's promo fetches $4 is proof of the demand for such a product. If Aspect of Wolf gets $4, who knows what people would pay for Ærathi Berserker? Okay, probably the same 14 cents they pay for Cemetery Gate, but that's not nothing. Consider that rares from regular sets often go for 2 cents.

The main issue with this option is there's a limit to how many times you can repeat it. I don't think the community at large wants 700 mostly unplayable cards flooding the treasure chest pool.

Another option is to slip a few into retail sets, as they did with Blessing in M14. This of course has several obstacles, such as finding a good fit for the limited environment, having the flavor match the set's, having the power level and color pie match modern design, and having the rules be templatable in an intuitive way. Camouflage doesn't have great odds of appearing in Standard, for instance. And it may be a long while before Cao Ren, Wei Commander (a real-life historical figure) makes sense in Dominaria.

A third option is to make something comparable to the Secret Lair drops—nonrandom packs of singles that aren't meant to be drafted. You just pay (say) $15 to get 40 preselected cards not previously online. The success of Secret Lairs proves this model is viable, and I know there's a demand for these old cards. Nostalgia is strong. Speaking of which, let's discuss

The Art

   

A large part of these old cards' appeal is the nostalgic 90s art. If someone wants to own a Delif's Cube, it's not because they need the regeneration. It's to bask in that vintage Mark Tedin painting looking crisp in that old frame. And yet, time and time again, old reprints are given new art. Why? Based on the comments I see every time a Vintage Cube goes up, I gather most people don't know the answer: it's because pre-Mirage artwork is under a different contract.

The gist of it is, before WotC predicted how massively successful MtG would be, they paid artists based on percentages of sales rather than a flat rate. This caused those original years' artists to earn way, way above the industry standard. And any time one of those pictures is reused, WotC has to pay the artist an amount far beyond what a new commission would cost. The old paintings are owned by their artists, not by WotC.

Obviously, reprinting these paintings CAN be done, as is proven by sets like Master's Edition which do exactly that—but it's likely not in WotC's best financial interests to do so every time. This explains why pre-Mirage cards in Vintage Cube never have their original paintings, even though the community would largely prefer it.

How to handle these promos, then? I believe they would sell better with their orignal art. But they would also cost more to release. Which side outweighs the other is best calculated by WotC, not me. 

Which Are Eligible?

I'll be the first to admit, as much as I want more old cards online, not all of them should be. Dexterity cards (like Chaos Orb) and ante cards (like Darkpact) don't make logistical sense, unless they were simply nonplayable collectible items. That isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. WotC already did that once, you know? Whether that's desirable as a regular practice is again debatable. But not even in Freeform games could these cards function, unlike Gleemox.

(Not to mention: even if we came up with some skill-based QTE to determine where Chaos Orb lands, I can imagine some people performing consistently enough on it to turn Chaos Orb into a 3 mana spell that destroys 4–8 lands every time. You've seen how close together the client stacks those! I doubt even most Old School devotees would want a spell of that power in their cardpool.)

   

Un-cards (like Hurloon Wrangler) are obviously a poor fit for a number of reasons. Or are they? Some could certainly exist as playable promos. No, we can't feasibly program Clam Session, but what about Checks and Balances? That would make a fine addition to casual commander games. What about Gerrymandering, Fowl Play, or Magical Hacker? Imagine how sweet Booster Tutor would be, from casual games to Vintage Cube.

As for cards that are too weak—these make up most of the list, but I argue that their weakness shouldn't be a deterrant. Squire was put into Time Spiral; why can't Devouring Deep be in a treasure chest?

Draft-mechanic cards from Conspiracy sets (like Æther Searcher): probably not. Maybe one day, but probably not.

Cards that were banned in 2020 for being racist: of the seven, only two are currently online. In the spirit of the ban, there's no reason to bring the other five on.

And a card that gets its own category, "cards that create subgames"... perhaps this is for the community to decide. 

The List

The left two columns are cards not currently online. The rightmost is my commentary on a select few.

No highlight: GOOD idea to bring online
Yellow: GREAT idea to bring online
Orange: BAD idea to bring online

Not listed are dexterity cards, ante cards, un- cards, or cards from the 2020 ban.

 

Abbey Matron
Abomination
Abu Ja'far
Abyssal Nightstalker
Adventurers' Guildhouse
Ærathi Berserker
Æther Searcher
Agent of Aquisitions

Aisling Leprechaun
Alaborn Grenadier
Alaborn Veteran
Alaborn Zealot
Aladdin's Lamp
Alert Shu Infantry
Ali Baba
Aliban's Tower
Ambush
An-Havva Constable
An-Havva Inn
An-Havva Township
Animus of Predation

Anti-Magic Aura
Apocalypse Chime
Apprentice Sorcerer
Arcane Savant
Archdemon of Paliano
Arenson's Aura

Armored Galleon
Army of Allah
Arrogant Vampire
Artifact Possession
Artifact Ward
Ashnod's Battle Gear
Assassin's Blade
Ayesha Tanaka
Aysen Abbey
Aysen Highway
Backdraft
Backfire

Baki's Curse
Ballot Broker
Balm of Restoration
Barbarian General
Barbarian Horde
Barbary Apes
Barbtooth Wurm
Bargain
Baton of Morale
Battering Ram
Bear Cub
Beast Walkers
Beasts of Bogardan
Besmirch

Bite of the Black Rose
Black Carriage
Black Mana Battery
Black Ward
Blazing Effigy
Blessed Wine
Blood of the Martyr
Bloodcurdling Scream
Blue Mana Battery
Blue Ward
Bog Rats
Border Guard
Borrowing the East Wind
Bottomless Vault
Brago's Representative
Brainwash
Brine Hag
Broken Dam
Brutal Nightstalker
Burning Cloak

Burning Fields
Burrowing
Caller of the Untamed
Camel
Camouflage
Canal Courier
Canal Dredger

Cao Ren, Wei Commander
Capital Punishment

Capricious Sorcerer
Castle Sengir
Cat Warriors
Cathedral of Serra
Cave People
Caverns of Despair

Celestial Prism
Chain Stasis
Champion's Victory
Chandler
Chaoslace
Charging Bandits
Chorus of Woe
Cleansing
Clergy of the Holy Nimbus
Cloak of Feathers
Cloud Pirates
Coastal Wizard
Cocoon
Cogwork Grin
der
Cogwork Librarian
Cogwork Spy
Cogwork Tracker

Command of Unsummoning
Conch Horn
Conservator
Control of the Court

Coral Reef
Corrupt Court Official
Council Guardian

Council of Advisors
Counterintelligence
Coveted Peacock

Craven Knight
Creature Bond
Crevasse
Crown of the Ages
Crown-Hunter Hireling

Cruel Fate
Cruel Tutor
Cunning Advisor
Cunning Giant
Curse Artifact
Cursed Land
Custodi Peacekeeper

Custodi Soulcaller

Dakmor Bat
Dakmor Scorpion
Dakmor Sorceress
Damping Field

Dark Maze
Dark Offering
Dark Sphere
Daughter of Autumn
Deadfall
Deal Broker

Deathlace
Deception
Deep Water
Deep Wood
Deep-Sea Serpent
Defiant Stand
Deja Vu
Delif's Cone
Delif's Cube
Deputized Protester
Desert Drake
Desert Nomads

Desert Sandstorm
Devoted Hero
Devouring Deep
Djinn of the Lamp
Draconian Cylix
Drafna's Restoration

Dread Charge
Dream Coat
Drudge Spell

Durkwood Boars
Dwarven Armorer
Dwarven Hold
Dwarven Lieutenant

Dwarven Pony
Dwarven Sea Clan
Dwarven Song
Dwarven Trader
Dwarven Warriors
Dwarven Weaponsmith
Earthbind
Elder Spawn
Electric Eel
El-Hajjaj
Elven Fortress
Elvish Scout
Emerald Dragonfly
Empty City Ruse
Enchanted Being
Energy Tap
Enraged Revolutionary

Equinox
Erosion
Eternal Flame

Eternal Warrior

Eunuchs' Intrigues
Evaporate
Extinguish
Eye Spy
False Mourning
False Orders

False Peace
Fang of the Pack

Farmstead
Farrelite Priest
Fasting
Feast of the Unicorn
Feedback
Feint
Festival
Festival of Trokin
Final Strike
Fire and Brimstone
Fire Bowman
Fire Snake
Flamewright

Flanking Troops
Fleet-Footed Monk
Floral Spuzzem
Folk of An-Havva
Forest Bear
Forethought Amulet
Forget
Fortified Area
Foxfire
Frankenstein's Monster
Frozen Shade
Fruition
Fyndhorn Brownie
Game of Chaos
Garbage Fire

Ghost Hounds
Giant Albatross
Giant Shark
Giant Slug
Giant Turtle
Glyph of Delusion
Glyph of Destruction

Glyph of Doom
Glyph of Life
Glyph of Reincarnation

Goblin Artisans
Goblin Flotilla
Goblin Hero
Goblin Kites
Goblin Racketeer

Goblin Rock Sled
Goblin War Cry
Golden Bear
Golgothian Sylex

Gosta Dirk
Grave Robbers
Gravity Sphere

Gray Ogre
Great Defender
Great Wall
Greater Werewolf
Green Mana Battery
Green Ward
Grenzo's Cutthroat
Grenzo's Rebuttal

Grenzo's Ruffians

Grudge Keeper

Guardian Angel
Hand of Death
Harmony of Nature
Haunting Wind
Hazduhr the Abbot
Headless Horseman
Headstone
Heart Wolf
Heaven's Gate
Hell Swarm
Helm of Chatzuk

Heroism
Hidden Path
Highland Giant
Hipparion
Hollow Trees
Holy Armor
Homarid
Homarid Shaman
Homarid Warrior
Hornet Cobra
Howling Fury
Huang Zhong, Shu General
Hurr Jackal
Hyperion Blacksmith
Icatian Infantry
Icatian Moneychanger
Icatian Skirmishers
Icatian Store
Ichneumon Druid
Ignition Team

Illusion of Choice

Illusionary Informant

Imperial Edict
Implements of Sacrifice
Imposing Visage
Independent Troops
Indestructible Aura
Infernal Medusa
Infinite Authority
Infinite Hourglass
Ingenious Thief
Initiates of the Ebon Hand
Inquisition
Irini Sengir
Ironclaw Curse
Ironroot Treefolk
Island Fish Jasconius
Jandor's Ring
Jeering Homunculus

Jinx
Johan
Joven
Joven's Tools
Jovial Evil
Justice

Kasimir the Lone Wolf
Keen-Eyed Archers
Keepers of the Faith
King Suleiman

King's Assassin
Kiss of Death
Knights of the Black Rose
Kongming's Contraptions
Koskun Falls
Koskun Keep
Kry Shield
Lady Sun
Lady Zhurong, Warrior Queen
Lance
Land Leeches
Land's Edge

Leovold's Operative
Library of Lat-Nam
Lieutenants of the Guard
Life Matrix
Lifeblood

Lifelace
Lifetap

Living Armor
Living Artifact
Lizard Warrior
Lord Magnus
Lore Seeker

Lost Soul
Lu Su, Wu Advisor
Lurker

Lurking Automaton
Lurking Nightstalker
Lynx
Ma Chao, Western Warrior
Magical Hack

Magnetic Mountain

Mammoth Harness
Marble Priest
Marchesa's Emissary
Marchesa's Infiltrator
Marchesa's Smuggler
Marsh Gas
Marsh Goblins
Marsh Viper
Marshaling the Troops
Master of the Hunt
Menagerie Liberator

Mercenary Knight
Merchant Ship
Merseine
Mesa Falcon
Messenger Jays

Metamorphosis

Mind Bomb
Mind Knives
Mind Ravel
Mind Warp
Minotaur Warrior
Miracle Worker
Mishra's War Machine
Moaning Spirit
Mobilize

Mold Demon
Mole Worms
Mons's Goblin Raiders
Moon Sprite
Morale
Mountain Bandit
Mountain Goat
Mountain Stronghold

Muck Rats
Murk Dwellers
Mystic Compass
Mystic Denial
Nafs Asp
Nameless Race
Natural Selection
Nature's Cloak
Necropolis
Nettling Imp

Niall Silvain
Nightstalker Engine
Noble Banneret

North Star
Norwood Archers
Norwood Riders
Norwood Warrior
Noxious Toad
Obsidian Giant
Ogre Arsonist
Ogre Berserker
Ogre Warrior
Omen
Orchard Elemental

Orcish Mine
Paliano Vanguard

Paliano, the High City

Pang Tong, "Young Phoenix"
Part Water
Pearled Unicorn
People of the Woods
Phyrexian Gremlins

Piety
Pikemen

Piracy
Pit Scorpion
Pixie Queen
Plague Rats
Plant Elemental

Plated Wurm
Poison Arrow
Power Leak
Power Surge
Powerleech
Predator's Howl

Preemptive Strike
Priest of Yawgmoth

Primordial Ooze
Prismatic Ward

Prophecy
Psionic Entity
Psychic Allergy
Puppet Master
Purelace
Pyramids
Pyretic Hunter

Quagmire
Quarum Trench Gnomes
Raging Bull
Raging Cougar
Raging River
Raiding Nightstalker
Raiding Party
Rally the Troops
Rapid Fire
Rashka the Slayer
Ravaging Horde
Razorclaw Bear
Red Mana Battery
Red Ward
Reef Pirates
Reflecting Mirror
Regal Behemoth

Regal Unicorn
Regicide

Relic Bind
Remove
Remove Enchantments
Renegade Troops
Renewal
Renewing Dawn

Renewing Touch
Repentant Blacksmith

Return of the Nightstalkers
Return to Battle
Revelation

Reverberation
Reverse Polarity
Riding Red Hare
Ring of Immortals
Riptide
Rocket Launcher
Root Spider
Rousing of Souls

Rowan Treefolk
Runesword
Rust
Rysorian Badger
Sacred Knight
Sacrifice
Sage's Knowledge
Salvage
Samite Alchemist
Sand Silos
Sandals of Abdallah
Savaen Elves
Scarwood Goblins
Scarwood Hag
Scorching Spear
Scorching Winds
Sea Kings' Blessing
Sea Troll
Seafarer's Quay

Season of the Witch

Seeker
Segovian Leviathan
Selvala's Charge
Selvala's Enforcer

Sengir Bats
Sentinel
Serpent Assassin
Serra Inquisitors
Serra Paladin
Sewers of Estark
Shahrazad

Shelkin Brownie
Shimian Night Stalker
Shu Defender
Shu Elite Infantry
Shu Farmer
Shu Foot Soldiers
Shu Grain Caravan
Silhouette
Sima Yi, Wei Field Marshal
Simulacrum
Siren's Call
Sisters of the Flame

Skeletal Crocodile
Skeletal Snake
Sleight of Mind

Smuggler Captain

Soldevi Sage

Soraya the Falconer

Sorceress Queen

Sorcerous Sight
Soul Barrier
Spectral Cloak
Spectral Grasp

Spire Phantasm

Spirit Shield
Spiritual Guardian
Spiritual Sanctuary
Split Decision

Spring of Eternal Peace
Spy Kit

Standing Stones
Starlit Angel
Steadfastness
Steam Frigate
Stern Marshal
Stone Catapult
Straw Soldiers
Subdue
Sunglasses of Urza
Svyelunite Priest
Sylvan Paradise
Sylvan Yeti

Talas Air Ship
Talas Explorer
Talas Merchant
Talas Scout
Talas Warrior
Tangle Kelp
Taoist Hermit
Taoist Mystic
Tarpan
Taunt
Taunting Challenge
Teleport
Temple Elder
Temporary Truce
The Brute
Thelonite Monk
Thelon's Chant
Thelon's Curse
Thoughtlace
Thrull Wizard
Thundering Wurm

Tidal Flats
Tidal Influence
Timber Wolves

Tolaria

Touch of Brilliance
Touch of Darkness
Touch of Death
Tourach's Chant
Tourach's Gate
Tower of Coireall
Town Sentry
Trade Caravan
Trained Cheetah
Trained Jackal
Transmutation
Treetop Defense
Trokin High Guard
Truce
Tunnel

Typhoon
Undertow
Undying Beast
Unholy Citadel

Updraft
Ur-Drago
Urza's Avenger
Valorous Charge
Vampiric Feast
Vampiric Touch
Veldrane of Sengir
Venarian Gold
Venom

Vertigo
Virtuous Charge
Visions
Vodalian Mage
Vodalian Soldiers
Vodalian War Machine
Volatile Chimera

Volcanic Eruption

Volunteer Militia
Walking Dead
Wall of Brambles
Wall of Caltrops
Wall of Dust
Wall of Earth

Wall of Granite
Wall of Heat

Wall of Ice
Wall of Opposition
Wall of Putrid Flesh
Wall of Shadows

Wall of Tombstones
Wall of Vapor
Wall of Water

Wand of Ith
War Elephant
Warrior's Charge
Warrior's Oath
Warrior's Stand
Water Wurm
Wei Ambush Force
Wei Assassins
Wei Scout
Whippoorwill
Whispergear Sneak

White Mana Battery
White Ward
Wielding the Green Dragon
Willow Dryad
Willow Faerie
Wind Sail
Windseeker Centaur
Wings of the Guard

Winter Sky
Wizards' School
Wolverine Pack
Woodvine Elemental

Word of Binding
Worms of the Earth
Wu Admiral
Wu Infantry
Wu Light Cavalry
Wu Scout
Wu Spy
Xun Yu, Wei Advisor
Yellow Scarves Cavalry
Yellow Scarves General
Yellow Scarves Troops
Yuan Shao, the Indecisive
Yuan Shao's Infantry
Zelyon Sword
Zephyr Falcon
Zhang He, Wei General
Zhang Liao, Hero of Hefei
Zhao Zilong, Tiger General
Zhou Yu, Chief Commander
Zhuge Jin, Wu Strategist
Zodiac Dog
Zodiac Goat
Zodiac Horse
Zodiac Ox
Zodiac Pig
Zodiac Rabbit
Zodiac Rat
Zodiac Snake
Zodiac Tiger
Zuo Ci, the Mocking Sage 

First up I can recommend cards that are unique mechanically. I don't know of any other cards that do quite what Backfire, Forget, or Drafna's Restoration do. Perhaps these aren't very good, but I've noticed something over the years. Unique effects randomly become good when the right card is printed years later. We all know the Cinderella tale of Illusions of Grandeur becoming an overnight star when Donate was printed. How much better does Forget look when (Hullbreacher) is in play? How good would Drafna's Restoration become if the next set had a card that revealed the top X cards of your library and put all artifacts onto the battlefield? King Suleiman hasn't been so hot over the last 25 years... but we can all imagine a metagame in which he's a bomb. Maybe one day!

  

Nettling Imp and Siren's Call might look similar to Alluring Siren and Grand Melee, but there's a huge difference: the clause about destroying creatures who aren't able to attack. This turns every Twiddle into Murder, every Icy Manipulator into Visara the Dreadful.

  Alluring Siren

Related to that: cards that are unique in their color. Gravity Sphere may not be the only card to make all creatures lose flying (see Mystic Decree), but it's the only card in red. Chaosphere is not quite the same.

  

Phyrexian Gremlins is far from the best artifact removal in Magic, but it's near the top tier for mono black decks. In formats like commander that restrict your color options, this would absolutely see fringe play.

Revelation is worse than Telepathy... but it's green!

  Telepathy

Sorceress Queen is identical to Serendib Sorcerer... but it's black! These things matter.

Potential commanders. You could argue Ayesha Tanaka is a little overcosted for its power level. I would argue that's the point. Commander players love a good challenge, and they love playing with obscure underpowered cards. (Even I will admit that Gosta Dirk may be too underpowered, though.)

  

Voting cards. We already have the voting mechanic, with Council's Judgment and Coercive Portal. Why not finish the thought, with cards like Grudge Keeper and Illusion of Choice? Illusion of Choice is a mini-Mindslaver for only one mana... it could lead to some of the rare instances of Carnage winning the vote!

  

Redundancy. I don't think we need Arenson's Aura when Teferi's Care exists (what deck would want 8?). But I can easily imagine a combo deck that would want 8 copies of Mobilize and Vitalize.

(Side note about Mobilize: I was stunned while cultivating the list of offline cards just how many have art by Rebecca Guay. There is definitely a demand for that alone, regardless of what the cards do. I mean look at these!!)

  

Wall cards. WotC decided at some point to stop caring about walls, even though they were a heavy focus in the first few sets. Well! That doesn't mean we want to stop playing with Ali Baba. There are niche formats where Tunnel is the perfect sideboard option (like my above '90s cube, for instance).

  

And that says nothing about the walls themselves! I wanted to make defensive red a viable option in my cube, but was severely limited due to the lack of Wall of Dust, Wall of Earth, and Wall of Heat. Why?

Three cards make a huge difference in a cube. Imagine how differently green ramp would play out in Vintage Cube without Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Gaea's Cradle, and Natural Order. (Also, I know it's not a wall, but can I just say how much I wanted Sisters of the Flame in my cube? Not currently an option, MORE'S THE PITY.)

Banding effects, like Baton of Morale and Mountain Stronghold: there are players who want these. Not many of us, but we're here.

  

Golgothian Sylex, well it might not be able to stop a Strip Mine or a Hurkyl's Recall, and it might be too slow to matter against Mishra's Workshop, but what about uh... Yawgmoth Demon or Shapeshifter?

OK we could probably do without Golgothian Sylex. It's not quite as relevant as City in a Bottle. But it least can destroy Mishra's Factory, so it's more relevant than Apocalypse Chime!

  

Multiplayer mechanics. We already have goad online, thanks to (Agitator Ant). But commander players aren't allowed to run 4x Agitator Ant. They need to supplement 1x Agitator Ant with Goblin Racketeer and Jeering Homunculus.

Joke cards. There is some novelty in reading the text boxes of Merchant Ship, Fasting, Truce, Winter's Sky, and Deep Water and marveling at how wildly unplayable they are. They're as funny as Wood Elemental but much less known. Wood Elemental was reprinted in ME4 solely for the lulz; let's do the same for these cards and expose them to a new audience!

  

  

  Wood Elemental

Thanks for reading, and consider drafting my '90s cube!