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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Nov 21 2011 4:39am
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Last week, I argued that the pre-Mirage sets should be printed online.  As justification, I highlighted a bunch of cards from the oldest four expansions (Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark) that are absent from MtGO despite being desirable for... at least some players, if not the competitive ones.

Today I'll be doing the same thing, but with expansions 5 through 8: Fallen Empires, Homelands, Ice Age, and Alliances.  It so happens that the first two sets I'll be discussing are generally regarded as the worst sets in Magic's history, but once we can make it through those we have some good sets to look at.

Here goes!

Fallen Empires

Homarid Shaman

This card isn't good, I'm not saying that.

I'm just saying that there are REALLY not a lot of remotely passable cards in Fallen Empires that aren't already online, so I have to take what I can get.

I mean have you seen Icatian Moneychanger??  Did you read the last line of rules text on Svyelunite Priest??  Or the second half of Tidal Flats??  Or the entire package that is Tidal Influence??

This set's horrible!  It even has a blue Squire!

How are these in the same set as Hymn to Tourach?  How inconsistent can you be!


Thrull Wizard

I guess if you activate the ability enough times, it... could....

I don't know how much longer I can review Fallen Empires cards.


Elven Fortress



Thelonite Monk



Balm of Restoration

I mean, it's almost as good as Healing Salve for only triple the cost....


Delif's Cone

Alright, nevermind.  We can skip this set online.  Just print the other 7 sets, WotC.


Problems with Fallen Empires




Soraya the Falconer

I actually kind of like Soraya!

I was confused by her back in the day, since there were like, two cards she affected, but she's better now.  Now she affects all birds, which of course there are a ton of.

At 3 mana for a 2/2 who pumps them +1/+1, she's certainly playable, if not broken.  She's a better deal than Adaptive Automaton, if you use the second ability even a single time.


Drudge Spell

Totally!  I'll get an army of Skeletons while... optimizing my Shrouded Lore, I guess?

Don't forget that Skeletons have become a supported tribe since this card was originally printed.  But a hosed tribe, too, so play at your own risk.


Greater Werewolf

Speaking of supported tribes!!  This card's now a werewolf, not a lycanthrope, and you know what Innistrad did for werewolves.

Did you know this card hasn't been reprinted since Fifth Edition?  Ooh, just imagine how slick that artwork must have looked in a white border.

If you're interested in playing a weaker version of Thicket Basilisk, this is certainly your guy.


Sengir Bats

This card established a tried and true method for pleasing players: take a beloved creature, make it cost 2 less, and then give it –3/–2!

For instance, you could take Juggernaut, lower his cost to 2, and then make him a 2/1 who has to attack every turn.

Nessian Courser would become G for an 0/1.  Aren't those big improvements over the originals?  And unlike Sengir Vampire, they don't even have an ability that relies on combat damage to work.

Sengir Bats will NEVER become 2/3.  Not without a Bad Moon, they won't.


Dwarven Sea Clan

Combo with Spreading Seas.  Stronger than Prodigal Pyromancer.  Is two boats.

Two boats that, combined, are as strong as a squirrel in combat.  What an image....


An-Havva Contsable

At a glance, he looks worse than Scion of the Wild.


He can be better.  If he's the only creature in play.  It may not be your first strategy in that sort of a deck, but it could come up every once in a while.


Willow Faerie

This could be the missing piece that puts this tribe over the edge!

Problems with Homelands

Too easily hated out by Apocalypse Chime.


Ice Age


Illusionary Presence

A powerful ability kept in check by a cumulative upkeep.  Isn't that the whole point of the mechanic?

Against most decks, this is several turns' worth of headache. Against a monocolored deck (which aren't uncommon in the casual room!), this is often similar to a Time Stretch.

As said, it does have a steep penalty, which would prevent you from feeling guilty about playing it.



With or without a full Ice Age reprint, there are a lot of cards with cumulative upkeep already on MtGO!  Snowfall, however jankily, would help you pay for them.

To save you some reading time, each snow-covered island now produces UUU usable towards cumulative upkeeps.  You can sustain your stuff almost indefinitely, even with Snowfall's own upkeep factored in.


Soul Barrier

Frankly, I'm surprised this wasn't already in a Master's Edition.

You're either gaining tempo or dealing damage, both of which are great.  Combine it with all of that bounce blue has and you can get even more advantage.


Oath of Lim-Dûl

I don't think anyone would argue that this card is good.

But it can be fun!  High-risk, high-reward.  It's like the original Lich, except it works off mana instead of life.  Which of those is easier to produce depends on your deck, but there are certainly ways to build around this wacky, terrible card.

Packing some copies of Darkness might be a good place to start.


Pestilence Rats

Read it carefully; it doesn't work the way Plague Rats or Relentless Rats does.  Those count only copies of themselves.  These count any rats.

So although you really need three or more rats in play before these guys are worth your time, there are certainly ways of making that happen.  As Marrow-Gnawer illustrates, it's possible to make a rat tribal deck.  Plague of Vermin can grease the wheels.

There is a downside though.  If you read the card even more carefully, you'll notice it only counts other rats.  So casting one by itself will be an 0/3.  At least it has higher defense than Swarm of Rats, I guess?



There are tons of combos for this card.  And they're all bad, but that's what being a Johnny is about!

I will absolutely cast Rathi Trapper on turn two, this on turn three, and then tap the enchanted creature every turn for the rest of the game.

Your mana or your life, pal!


Spoils of Evil

What utility!

Part Seething Song and part Renewed Faith.  It takes some setting up, of course, but so much as a single Mesmeric Orb in play will make this card powering out some huge spells while keeping you alive.


Spoils of War

Even if X is "only" 4 or 5, it's a very efficient deal.  The kind of deal not even green gets.

The only problem with this card is that X has to be equal to the number of creatures and artifacts in the opponent's graveyard.  Not "less than or equal to," but equal to.  If they have 11 qualifying cards in the yard, you need to cough up 12 mana to cast this.

But "this is the fun part!" said some Goblin who was printed 12 years later only to be played by nobody.


Brand of Ill Omen

How cool!

What tension!

Can I afford the upkeep?  Will the creature die on its own?

Is it worth preventing more creatures from coming into play when one's already out there?

Whatever the answers, this card is at best unreliable and at worst completely useless.  But still.  There's always the dream of dropping it on an early, lone defender — the kind of defender who's too big to chump block — and then keeping it around for 7 or 8 turns more.  (Which would still hardly guarantee a win, but it would at least create an unusual game state.)


Chaos Lord

When it comes to paper Magic, this card should never be played, ever, under any circumstances, EVER.  Nobody wants to count every permanent every turn.  If you cast this in paper Magic, you will get punched, and rightfully so.

But online Magic isn't paper Magic!  Online, a computer can count everything for you, and display a convenient counter in the corner of Chaos Lord's artwork.  It couldn't be hard to program.

Plus, read the Oracle wording.  From a trivia (and humor) perspective — isn't it kind of cool that this guy has haste every turn except the one he enters the battlefield?


Chaos Moon

This one too!

It can become yet another Gauntlet of Might.  And when the tedium of the counting is removed, the "subgame" it creates of managing your resources can be a fun one.

Sacrifice a land mid-combat to turn on the switch and give your guys a fast +2/+2!


Mountain Goat

Once again, I'm surprised it's not already online.

You can look it up though — of the three times it's been reprinted (5th ed, Portal, and 6th ed), all are paper-only sets.

This would be a fine common to have running around online.  Its stark, stoic artwork makes it VASTLY preferable to such losers as Dwarven Grunt and Goblin Mountaineer.

Just watch out for Goatnapper.


Tor Giant

Lots of Ice Age era flavor text speakers were given Time Spiral cards.  Jaya Ballard, Task Mage and the afore-mentioned Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician are among the more famous examples.

So why didn't Toothlicker Harj ever get the distinction!  WotC, whether you print Ice Age or not, you can still right this terrible wrong by giving the toothlicker his own card.

You can use the flavor text on that card to explain whether he licks his own teeth or other people's.



It's a nice enough combat trick!

I'm trying to figure out the artwork.  Do I have vertigo, and I'm looking up at that guy in the artwork?

Does he have vertigo, which is making him fall down the room?

Was he flying a moment earlier?

Was I?

Was Drew Tucker ever told that this card makes a creature lose flying?


Hot Springs

It's playable.  Turn any land into an Oasis.

Speaking of Oasis....

An oasis is a cool place in the middle of a hot place, which prevents damage to a creature.

A hot spring is a hot place in the middle of a cool place, and it does the exact same thing.  They're opposites, and they do the same thing!

Innnnteresting.  Perhaps this explains why Wall of Fire does the same thing as Wall of Water.


Pale Bears

Lovisa, you procrastinator.  Your daughter's already 16!  Stop waffling and just pick a name for her!


Ghostly Flame


How are you going to print TWO references to this card and not the card itself?  Ghostflame Sliver is great and Ghostfire is great too, but come on!  I'm trying to make my whole army colorless here!

So what if I still can't target creatures with protection from red, and so what if I'm still susceptible to Blue Elemental Blast?  I want to get around those Circles of Protection that everyone's always using!


Aegis of the Meek

Arcum Dagsson's hair blew in the gentle wind as the sunlight caressed his face.  "With this marvel," he boldly intoned as he gave his aegis to a fellow soldier, "even the weak have a fighting chance!"  His troops burst into applause at the newfound hope the sword gave them.  The soldier held it up to the light and felt its power run through him.  He felt himself rise from a mere 1/1 all the way to a mighty 2/3.  Then he was gored by a Polar Kraken.

(Wizards, if you're hiring flavor text writers, let me know.)

(Or novelists.)

(...Or people who know that the word "aegis" means "shield," and not "sword.")


Amulet of Quoz

I'm against all ante cards, as I think everyone is, but this is just such an interesting design.

If you get all the way up to 6 mana, you get to decide the entire game with a coin toss.

And, remind me... if you want entire competition based around a single coin flip, why are you playing Magic in the first place?  I think the googly-eyed nimrod portrayed on the amulet is supposed to be a caricature of anyone who puts this card in their deck.


Arcum's Weathervane


This is how you get maximum value out of your Snowblind.


Crown of the Ages

It's overcosted.  A lot.  But a repeatable Enchantment Alteration has a lot of uses!

If it's an Oakenform type of enchantment, you could play some combat tricks.

If it's a Pacifism type, you can "upgrade" the target as your opponent casts bigger guys.

Notice the wording — you can even swap contol of the auras your opponent casts!



This card genuinely is decent!

If you can play a new land every turn, it becomes impossible for your opponent to win by attacking.  Which for a lot of decks means it's impossible to win, period.

I posted a similarly principled Constant Mists deck a while ago.  Now you can recreate that idea without even dipping into green!  (Or red, for Glacial Crevasses.)


Halls of Mist

It at least buys you some time.

Until you stop paying the upkeep, you can only be attacked every other turn.  And if you're playing with fogs, each one upgrades into a Tangle.

It affects your creatures, too, but I'll assume you can build the deck around that.

Problems with Ice Age

Now that Coldsnap made snow-covered lands popular again... there are no problems with Ice Age!



Sworn Defender

This person must have had their fingers crossed when they swore, because they aren't a defender at all.

You know, thinking about this card and Sentinel makes me wonder if it's not time for a modern-day power-level upgrade.  Instead of a creature who automatically becomes big enough to survive but not kill somebody, how about a creature who becomes big enough to survive and kill somebody?

Just make it a mythic and it could be printed in the next set.  They turned Phyrexian Negator into Phyrexian Obliterator.  And Juzám Djinn into... Phyrexian Obliterator.  They could print my idea too.


Unlikely Alliance

Fun to try: photoshop this card's art onto Proposal.

A whole lot less romantic all of a sudden, isn't it!  ("Richard, what are you trying to say about Lily??")

Come to think of it, an even better gag would be swapping Ebon Praetor's art onto Proposal.  Hoooo boy.  You can decide which character represents which person.


Awesome Presence

Less reliable than a Cloak of Mists, but cheaper as well!

I would put it on a Dimir Cutpurse.  Sure I would.


Soldier of Fortune

Here's another card that's better online than on paper!

On paper, your opponent gets annoyed at you real fast.  All that shuffling is tedious.  Online, the computer does it for you!

Whether you're running a Cosi's Trickster / Psychic Surgery / Psychogenic Probe deck, or just getting rid of those two Brainstorm rejects, this card can help.

A+++ would play 4 GILGIC


Veteran's Voice


Put it on a creature with vigilance.  Or activate it while you block.  When this came out, tapped creatures didn't deal damage, but now they do!  Veteran's Voice leaps forward in power ratings.

It's like Unholy Strength on a different guy every turn.  Your opponent's combat math will be devastated.  Also I miss Andi Rusu art.  So stylized.



We have so many fogs online.

So many fogs.

So how come we can't have this cool multicolored one that gets stronger in your GR deck?

Cast it on the attack off Radha, Heir to Keld mana!

Cast it on defense as your hapless opponent walks into your Wall of Razors!


Lim-Dûl's Paladin

I did a quadruple-take when I realized this wasn't already online.


Who wouldn't want to pay Masticore casting cost and upkeep cost to get a fragile body that sometimes deals 4 damage to the opponent and sometimes becomes big when blocked and can't do much of anything on defense and always brings the game to a grinding halt when you cast it so your confused opponent can take a minute to read and parse the 2pt paragraphs of superfluous text??

Nobody, that's who.



I forced this card in a lot of decks back in the day, and I've reached a conclusion.

  • It's really good if you and the opponent both have large armies of 1/1 tokens.
  • It's really bad in every other conceivable gamestate.

But I don't care.  I'm going to stretch my Erhnam avatar deck into three colors just so I can use this and pray for an opponent with an Erhnam avatar as well.


Scarab of the Unseen

..............combo with the Galvanic Arc cycle, I guess?


Soldevi Sentry

I wouldn't shoehorn him into any random deck.  But if you've got one of those decks that wants the opponent to draw cards, he could be good early defense/stall.

We already have cards like Sibilant Spirit and Shah of Naar Isle, and (pretty soon) Indentured Djinn.  This could be a good addition.

(As to why you would want that, think about cards like Underworld Dreams, Black Vise, and Psychic Possession.)


Sheltered Valley

It has uses!

...In theory!

Problems with Alliances

Opening a Phantasmal Sphere in the rare slot could cause Wizards' headquarters to get bombed.


Aaaanndd... end of series!  There's about 80 cards I pulled as wanting to see online.  Some would delight casual players, and some would just be conversation pieces.  But either way, it seems like a worthy endeavor.

Admit it, Wizards.  After the Masques block finishes coming out, won't you kind of miss printing old sets?


I actually laughed at your by protocol_7 at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 05:31
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I actually laughed at your comments on Homelands expansion and Fallen Empires.

The obvious problem is that drafting these sets won't really work. Let's see how Masques turn out.

I was always kind of hoping by Westane at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 10:58
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I was always kind of hoping they'd just... start over. Got straight from Masque into Invasion Block packs!

Also, regardless of how bad the limited may be, we need Alliances.. or rather... I need to have access to Force of Will at uncommon XD

Oh that would really hurt by protocol_7 at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 12:07
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Oh that would really hurt those hoarders.

Mountain Goat by goat314 at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 12:33
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Not having Mountain Goat online is awful. I die a little bit inside when I think about it. Good series though, there's definitely some nostalgia value for someone like me that started playing with: Ice Age, Fallen Empires, and Homelands (and kept playing even!)

I guess we didn't know better by GrandAdmiral at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 13:07
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My first stint at Magic also game during the Fallen Empires, Ice Age, Homelands time. The cards might be terrible looking through today's lens, but they were fun back then. Of course, I'm not sure anyone in my group ever drafted. You just opened the packs, threw them into your collection, and started building decks.

What!??! No mention of by Calavera at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 14:51
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What!??! No mention of Earthbind? That card had some nice artwork :)
Is original art bloodlust online yet?

original art blood lust is in by GainsBanding at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 21:11
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original art blood lust is in ME3

I second Earthbind.

Also Natural Selection.

The more full sets released by greyes3 at Mon, 11/21/2011 - 14:54
greyes3's picture

The more full sets released online the better. I love playing Vintage/Classic Workshop, and it annoys me that we don't have a functional form of City in a Bottle online, seeing as it's excellent in the Dredge matchup.

It took 7 years for someone by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 02/24/2018 - 14:30
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It took 7 years for someone to say it, but: the Vertigo art depicts a key shot from Hitchcock's Vertigo.