Another year has come and gone, and once again Wizards has gone about printing their special brand of cardboard cocaine. And we, the consumer-addicts, have depleted our wallets in vain attempt to snort as much as we can up our noses (not literally of course, but free junk rare for anyone who sends in photos of themselves trying).
2012 marks a year of holistic victory for Wizards of the Coast, and features some of the best expansions of the last five years.
But as far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t quite such a victory for the individual card. The year was more marked by blatantly stupid creatures (Thragtusk, Griselbrand) rather than cards I actually liked. There were no stand-outs that instantly immortalized themselves on my ‘Favorite Cards of All Time’ list. No Hornet Queens, Wurmcoil Engines or Comet Storms.
But that’s not to say there weren’t cards that gave it a pretty good shot.
On with the show!
But this card has a special quality that only a few cards in Magic have: it’s hilarious. No, not what the card does (that’s Confusion in the Ranks hilarious), but rather the card itself.
For me Magic has always been played in a way where you say the name of the card as you play it.
When a Lhurgoyf hit the table I’d say ‘Lhurgoyf’. When I dropped a Gruul Signet I’d say ‘Signet’. When something attacked me I’d ‘Terminate it’, ‘Path it’, ‘Bolt it’, or ‘Doom Blade it’. Unless it was a 20-point mutlikicked Comet Storm, I’d rarely have any cause to yell over anything.
But for the first time ever in Magic history, I got a chance to yell something really cool.
Picture the following scenario:
OPPONENT: ‘I attack you with Nicol Bolas’
ME (loud battle cry): ‘EATEN BY SPIDERS!!’
(Follow this up with a comic vision of Nicol Bolas being eaten by spiders.)
Now I don’t know about you, but for me the card is practically a scene straight out of a black comedy. It’s perfect for one of those supporting characters who only appears for the sake of dying in a humorous way. Picture this:
[Elizabeth and Winston sit in a grand dining hall, eating their meal.]
ELIZABETH: Wasn’t Lord Dunlop meant to join us for dinner tonight?
WINSTON: Yes, but he was eaten by spiders
[Cut to Lord Dunlop being eaten by spiders. Then cut back to Elizabeth and Winston.]
ELIZABETH: Oh. How very tragic.
[Elizabeth and Winston continue their meal.]
See what I mean???
When one appears on the other side of the table, opponents make no hesitation in ramming it painfully up your ass.
But let’s face it, whenever you get one, you don’t hesitate in ramming in painfully up your opponent’s ass either.
For a while, all this ramming was happening excruciatingly often in Standard. The worst were ‘Angel Wars’, when decks packing anywhere between two to four Angels each faced off against each other. The results were games that completely stagnated as every Angel would angel another Angel getting back an Angel that got angeled earlier and you get the point. Really, with the amount of Angels flapping about this card qualifies as possibly the most prolific sado-masochistic sex toy ever invented.
And that’s what I love about it. The sheer unadulterated pain it can immediately cause, coupled with the potential to draw out that agony for as long as possible. (Honestly I’ve never been arrested for sex crimes.)
But ultimately, I can’t rate this creature any higher on this list.
Fact is I began to get pretty sick of Angels pretty quickly. There were just too many of them and Angel Wars got far too annoying to go through again and again. I’ve got more self respect than to value repeated ass-ramming any higher.
The last time Rakdos popped up he was all about smashing things (just to be clear SMASHING THINGS IS AWESOME), but he didn’t like being played with.
He was like one of those wild reckless guys that drives his car really fast and bangs all the women you wish you could; the kind you only invite to your party because they’re just so cool and the good times naturally follow them.
But then he punches holes in your walls, vomits on your couch, porks your girlfriend, and spends most of the night microwaving your DVDs. It might have turned out to be possibly the best party you’ve ever thrown, but was he really worth inviting?
This time it’s different.
Of course Rakdos is still badass. He continues to drive fast, bang lots of bitches and yell ‘Fuck the police!’ at every opportunity. But he’s become more considerate. He knows if you invite him to your party, he shouldn’t trash your place. Instead, if you show your party’s a good one, he’ll bring all his awesomely cool friends instead. And they won’t trash your place either. Just everything else.
There goes the neighborhood!
‘Converted mana cost four’ seems to be a magic slot for Wizards when it comes to designing efficient fatties geared towards serious tournament players. And just like your new girlfriend, that magic slot comes with a long history.
It can all be traced back to two cards- Juzam Djinn and Erhnam Djinn. Arabian Nights was an experiment in creating creatures with high power/toughness and low mana costs, offset by some drawback. The experiment proved a roaring success and led to hundreds of imitators over the years, including icons such as Blastoderm and Phyrexian Negator.
Deadbridge Goliath happens to be latest incarnation of this line, which can be ever so hazily traced back to Erhnam Djinn. As power levels have increased, it now seems we can get 5/5’s without drawbacks for only four mana. It’s everything the original Erhnam ever wanted to be.
Sure, it’s not a card the average person would hop about with glee over, but any serious midrange player cannot deny its efficiency. It’s all about slamming face at low affordable prices.
What’s more its only ability- Scavenge- is just all upside. Late game a dead bug doubles up as an Increasing Savagery (which almost made this list). So theoretically Deadbridge Goliath provides two huge beatsticks in one card.
And did I mention the low affordable price? What’s not to love?
I have posters of him in my room, and stickers of him all over my schoolbooks and locker. I gaze at him dreamily all the time and religiously buy all his singles/albums. I queued up for concert tickets for over…
No, wait, I’m confusing him with One Direction. Never mind.
But I really do love Niv-Mizzet. It’s all to do with his new look.
I can’t lie, I always was a bit of Niv fan. But I can’t say I was truly in love with him until now.
Niv-‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not A Combo Piece!’-Mizzet actually feels like a legendary dragon now. He flies, he fights, he gets his hands dirty, and he still draws cards and hurls fire. There’s no incentive to just have him sitting around anymore. He’s now interactive and functions like a real creature. And that’s exactly what he needed: a badass in-game presence that wouldn’t cop a Doom Blade as soon as it appeared. He’s manned up and shown us he can go to town just like every other dragon worth his salt.
Of course you can technically build your own Dracogenius by slapping Curiosity on a Shivan Hellkite, but it would be lacking in that vital star quality only Niv-Mizzet has. The personality, the charisma, the melodious singing voice…
….Shit. One Direction again.
Yes, and it’s even one I’ve affectionately nicknamed ‘Thumper’ because he’s so good at his job.
He also reminds me of that rabbit in ‘Bambi’.
Sort of. Not really. Forget I ever said that.
What I really love about Thumper is that he comes with two tickets to Value Town. Sure, he borderline sucks without a friend to play with, but after you’ve introduced him to your social circle he’ll be sure to magically click with someone. From there on it’s a party Rakdos could be proud of.
3GG gets you an 8/8 and a serious pump for an existing minion of yours. That’s a total of 12 points of fat for only five mana. Unheard of!
As a result, Thumper made it into every green deck I created post-Avacyn. He became best friends with Wurmcoil Engine, Vorapede, Hound of Griselbrand and Bellowing Tanglewurm. And just like several questionable films involving a higher than average ratio of male actors, my merry friends presented my opponents with more meat than they could swallow.
It didn’t end there, and Thumper ended up forming close bonds with lots of other associates. Honestly, if Magic cards had Facebook pages, Thumper would get banned for having too many friends.
Everyone needs a bestie, and it seems like everyone wants Thumper. Except that dude on the other side of the table.
As soon as it got spoiled I jumped straight on eBay and preordered a playset. I still haven’t received it (never order from THIS GUY).
But Utvara Hellkite has all the hallmarks of card I would deliriously love. It’s a big fat dragon that makes all your other big fat dragons pump out more big fat dragons. With synergies I spent many sleepless nights drooling over. IMAGINE!… Going ultimate with Sarkhan the Mad! The disgusting joys of Dragon Broodmother! And don’t even get me started on Warstorm Surge!
Not to mention the dragon token it creates looks so adorably derp. If I really was a magic-spinning planeswalker and one of those popped up, I wouldn’t trust it to do anything greater than fly into a church steeple. But big dumb slobbering children just add to Mommy’s charm.
Despite all this and being a dragon fanatic to boot, there is a fatal flaw that would’ve stopped this guy from ever being No. 1. And that is that it’s too breakable in the right strategy. Used right, it’s exactly the kind of card that some Timmy/Johnny player could rip a casual playgroup in half with.
Actually I’m exactly that kind of player.
Once again another plan for world domination ruined by a guy who thinks he can run a card shop.
The card is practically a statement on society, where you can be awesome at what you do, but nobody wants you because there happens to be someone fractionally better.
Despite its best efforts it’s forever clogging up someone’s trade folder living on unemployment benefits, desperately hoping someone notices its C.V.
- Skills: Eating people
- Personality: Savage, voracious
- Accomplishments: Came back from the dead once
- Education: Eated the teacher
‘Yes, yes… ‘says the interviewer. ‘Very good. But do you come with 5 life?’
(Vorapede kind of just sits there)
‘Do you leave a 3/3 behind when you die?’
Vorapede lights up. ‘No, I come back as a 6/5!’
Vorapede just blubbers and goes back to his unemployment shelter.
I want to say for the record, I love you Vorapede. You were my favorite beatstick of the year. It took me a while to love you, but when I found you I didn’t turn back.
It’s just a shame you appeared in a time when the 5-drop slot for green was crowded for quality. And the whole Undying thing got severely picked on. It was just bad circumstances. In a parallel universe, maybe perhaps you were the best thing to ever happen to green. But sadly that isn’t our universe.
I want you to know I saw you for what you were worth and played four copies not out of sympathy, but out of love. I’ll never forget you.
For starters, it’s not a big dumb mallet used to sledgehammer foes into submission. Most of the time I never even attack with it. I just let it sit back, relax, and swig down cognac with the old Niv-Mizzet.
I randomly cracked one in a booster and thought I’d stuff it into my ramp deck as Card #61 just to see what it would do. I have been in love with it ever since, even getting to the point where I was packing a full playset in my sideboard.
Let’s face it- 90% of the time it’s simply a 7/7 trampling removal magnet. But that other 10% of the time it is God. Funny to mention it but there are really decks out there that simply can’t deal with it.
You want to play Elderscale Wurm against any primarily aggressive deck. Aggro decks usually run more threats than removal, and sometimes what they pack isn’t equipped to deal with creatures of that size. Often you can lure the removal out by playing other threats as bait, provoking hilarious moments like ‘Gee I’m glad I saved that Selesnya Charm for that… OH SHIT!”
Once the Wurm hits all you have to do is be careful about how you attack or block and you’re in an invincible position. All the opponent can do is desperately hope to draw removal while you build up a winning board position. Supposing they don’t have a way to remove it, the game is yours.
I have won all but one game in which I resolved it. And I resolved it in a lot of games.
It gets my award for the most underrated fatty of the year.
So what takes out the top position on my list of Favorite Cards of 2012, winning out over all the juiciness above? It might surprise you…
Yes, I really love this card.
Part of it is the fact it’s a Werewolf. Werewolves were the spice on the cake* in Innistrad, and of all of them this one is my favorite. It’s powerful and flavorful and has a unique ability.
(* Spice on a cake- don’t ever ask me to cook)
Another part of it is the babe in Mike Sass’s artwork. Right now would be a great time to whip out some crass sexual comparison, but unfortunately I exhausted myself earlier. All I can say is ‘she’s pretty’ and ‘I wouldn’t mind sitting next to her on the bus’.
Really, who doesn’t like eye candy in their favorite game?
But the biggest reason as to why this card gets Number One is because of what I did with it. (No, nothing at all to do with the above paragraph!)
Just like last year’s Number One, I feel like I pioneered its use in my favorite format- Legacy.
Getting a bit bored of Natural Order, I switched to playing Dragon Stompy. I found the tense all-or-nothing play style barrels of fun. At the same time, I really liked Werewolves, and just wanted to muck about with them.
Dragon Stompy plays cards that severely hinder an opponent’s ability to cast spells and uses cheap, destructive beaters to win quickly. Werewolves are cheap creatures that turn into destructive beaters if players don’t cast any spells.
It was then everything clicked and Werewolf Stompy was born.
Although this idea wasn’t unique to me- several others had stumbled across it too- I pushed the idea on various forums and found it took wing with other Dragon Stompy players. For a while the Werewolf variant was all the rage in that small niche of the Legacy world.
So once again I found myself feeling like I’d actively contributed something to the evolution of Magic the Gathering. And no matter how small that contribution is, it’s still a pretty special feeling.
As for Mondronen Shaman itself, I tested pretty much every decent mono-red Werewolf, and I found this one was the one I liked the best in the 4-drop slot. It is a giant extended middle finger against a small subset of decks, and a pretty devastating first-turn play (City of Traitors > Chrome Mox > Simian Spirit Guide) against Storm-based combo. You can simply pass your second turn to have it transform during your opponent’s second upkeep. Then it’s Chain of Vapor or Game Over.
(Yes you could just drop two Lotus Petals or something to flip it back, but you still wouldn’t be able to go off safely until my next upkeep. And you’re forgetting the psychological aspect. When Tovolar’s Magehunter appears people go into panic mode, and people turn into idiots in panic mode. It never gets boring).
Combo-centric meta uses aside though, I still had great effect with Mondronen Shaman against many other decks. It’s not going to win any prizes for ‘best creature’, but it sure gets a Certificate of Appreciation. I just had too much fun watching opponents frown and squirm whenever it hit the table. And that’s worth more than any Top 8 placing.
(Unless the prizes are dual lands).
THAT’S IT THEN
So that wraps up another year folks.
For those looking to see what went down last year, please check out the Top 10 Cards of 2011 here.
I hope you enjoyed this year as much as I did, and I’d be interested in seeing your Top 10 lists as well. Drop them in the comments section below or over on the Facebook page!