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The Comboist Manifesto Volume I, Article 16: Comprehensive Retrospective Set Review of First & Second Edition Part 6
By Stephen Bahl
Phantasmal Forces

3U

Creature — Illusion

Flying

At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice Phantasmal Forces unless you pay U.

4/1


Well, it's not the worst creature in the set, and it doesn't have a crippling upkeep cost like Demonic Hordes, but it's still mediocre at best. I can understand the reasoning that a 4/1 flying creature for only 3U could be too good a deal at the time, but attaching and upkeep is a pretty big deterrent against anyone wanting to play this card. There are other creatures that don't tie my mana up indefinitely, and I'd prefer to use one of those instead.


Two-Headed Giant of Foriys

4R

Creature — Giant

Two-Headed Giant of Foriys can block an additional creature.

4/4


I've shown you some bad creatures, so now here's a good one. In fact, Two-Headed Giant of Foriys was the first card inducted into the CPA's Casual Card Hall of Fame, so you know it has to be good. It's just cool, and it has relevant ability while being efficient enough to actually respect. Nothing too amazing, but the large size, the blocking utility, the affordable mana cost, and the splashability (only one colored mana requirement) all combined make the two-headed giant a good card, even by today's standards. I once saw someone say something like, “If it were printed now, it would be an uncommon.” That seems pretty accurate.


Farmstead

WWW

Enchantment — Aura

Enchant land

Enchanted land has "At the beginning of your upkeep, you may pay WW. If you do, you gain 1 life."


This was the first card inducted into the CPA's Casual Card Hall of Shame. The card doesn't actively hurt the player using it, but it's probably the most extremely overcosted card to provide such a minor effect that has ever been printed. It's no wonder the CPA chose it as the worst card in the original core set. I own an Alpha copy of Farmstead, but as far as I know, this is totally unrelated to the Hall of Shame. I don't know if Farmstead is actually the worst card in the original core set. One could make arguments for other cards, but it sure is baffling just how much of a price tag a pittance of life gain was originally assessed to be worth.


Copy Artifact

1U

Enchantment

You may have Copy Artifact enter the battlefield as a copy of any artifact on the battlefield, except it's an enchantment in addition to its other types.


If this copied an artifact creature, it was an artifact, an enchantment, and a creature all at the same time, long before any other cards were enchantment artifacts or enchantment creatures. Copy Artifact on a Time Vault would have been pretty good back in 1993. The main point of interest for the card was copying artifact creatures like Juggernaut, but I hardly saw it used at all and never really thought much of it until the day I met it in a casual tournament. My opponent had a deck filled with countermagic, card-drawing spells, and mana-producing artifacts. He'd drop Copy Artifact, to get a second Thran Dynamo, then do it again, on top of the Mana Vaults and Sol Rings he also had. My deck actually had more countermagic, but he drew more of his, so his deck destroyed me. And that's what I always remember about Copy Artifact. As far as I know, the deck was his original idea. I've never seen anything else like it before or since.


Sacrifice

B

Instant

As an additional cost to cast Sacrifice, sacrifice a creature.

Add to your mana pool an amount of B equal to the sacrificed creature's converted mana cost.


This is an OK card, but I've hardly ever seen anyone use it. Culling the Weak is better most of the time, and Burnt Offering is a strictly superior reprint, although the advantage that it has is irrelevant in many decks. I've used Burnt Offering myself in decks in the past, but I can't remember ever using Sacrifice in its place, although I could have if I'd wanted to. Culling the Weak is still usually better than either.


If Sacrifice is used on an Academy Rector, which is used to fetch Yawgmoth's Bargain, only one more mana is required in order to play Skirge Familiar, which can then be used to make even more mana and probably win the game. I did it with Burnt Offering, but whatever.


Sea Serpent

5U

Creature — Serpent

Sea Serpent can't attack unless defending player controls an Island.

When you control no Islands, sacrifice Sea Serpent.

5/5


Remember landhome? No? It was originally two separate abilities (one that makes it so it can't attack unless the defending player has the appropriate land, and the other that makes it die if its controller doesn't have the appropriate land). Then it was given a keyword with the Fifth Edition rules changes, only to have the keyword taken away later, which is probably for the best, because landhome sucks. Almost all creatures have landhome abilities suck, and Sea Serpent sure is one of them. Planar Chaos an otherwise nice set, which had colorshifted reprints of old cards, for some reason has Bog Serpent, a black, swamphome version of Sea Serpent. That card, like this one, sucks.


Pirate Ship

4U

Creature — Human Pirate

Pirate Ship can't attack unless defending player controls an Island.

T: Pirate Ship deals 1 damage to target creature or player.

When you control no Islands, sacrifice Pirate Ship.

4/3


Pirate Ship's saving grace is its activated ability. The card is still an overcosted piece of crap with landhome, but at least it's not at bad as Sea Serpent.


Prodigal Sorcerer

2U

Creature — Human Wizard

T: Prodigal Sorcerer deals 1 damage to target creature or player.

1/1


Prodigal Sorcerer is a classic. One of the old Magic: the Gathering novels is even named after the card. You know you've made it big when you have your own book! Prodigal Sorcerer also inspired other creatures to be prodigal too. There's Zuran Spellcaster, Suq'Ata Firewalker, Capricious Sorcerer, Rootwater Hunter, Apprentice Sorcerer, Thornwind Faeries, Wu Longbowman, and other, usually larger, variations on the concept in blue. Eventually, Wizards of the Coast decided that creatures with activated direct damage were more of a red thing. But Prodigal Sorcerer is the original. The card does have utility and isn't overly bad. Prodigal Sorcerer was already kind of mediocre, being a 1/1 for three mana. As creatures have become more efficient, this card has only gotten worse by comparison.


Shatter

1R

Instant

Destroy target artifact.


I've never used Shatter in any of my decks. I probably have a few dozen copies of the card, but I've never actually used them. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, Shatter is only good against decks relying on artifacts, and some opponents don't, in which case it's a dead card. Secondly, even though Shatter has been a core set staple, there have been many superior variations on it to choose from. I could use Detonate, Shatterstorm, Pillage, Primitive Justice, Builder's Bane, Shattering Pulse, Meltdown, Scrap, Rack and Ruin, Crash, Overload, Dismantle, Echoing Ruin, Shattering Spree, Fury Charm, Smash, Smash to Smithereens, Ancient Grudge, Smelt, Rakdos Charm, Hull Breach, or Wear // Tear. So yeah, there's not much reason to use plain old Shatter.


Jump

U

Instant

Target creature gains flying until end of turn.


Another obsolete card. Completely inferior to Sapphire Charm, Leap, Defy Gravity, Trickery Charm, and Vault Skyward. It's also outclassed by other cards that cost a bit more, but also do more. Also, there are plenty of enchantments that can give creatures flying for more than just one turn...


Flight

U

Enchantment — Aura

Enchant creature

Enchanted creature has flying.


While Flight isn't as outclassed as Jump, there have been a couple of strictly superior versions printed, starting with Shimmering Wings in Tempest. Using card slots on auras to give non-flying creatures flying isn't generally an effective strategy, though.


Mesa Pegasus

1W

Creature — Pegasus

Flying; banding.

1/1


Helm of Chatzuk

1

Artifact

1, T: Target creature gains banding until end of turn.


I didn't say anything about it for Benalish Hero, so I'd better do so now. The main point of interest with these banding cards is that few players actually know and remember how banding works. It's pretty easy to forget, as banding is no longer an important part of the game in any major format, and wasn't heavily used even when it was in core sets. Do you remember how banding works? If not, here, I have you covered...


702.21. Banding


702.21a Banding is a static ability that modifies the rules for combat.


702.21b "Bands with other" is a special form of banding. If an effect causes a permanent to lose banding, the permanent loses all "bands with other" abilities as well.


702.21c As a player declares attackers, he or she may declare that one or more attacking creatures with banding and up to one attacking creature without banding (even if it has "bands with other") are all in a "band." He or she may also declare that one or more attacking [quality] creatures with "bands with other [quality]" and any number of other attacking [quality] creatures are all in a band. A player may declare as many attacking bands as he or she wants, but each creature may be a member of only one of them. (Defending players can’t declare bands but may use banding in a different way; see rule 702.21j.)


702.21d All creatures in an attacking band must attack the same player or planeswalker.


702.21e Once an attacking band has been announced, it lasts for the rest of combat, even if something later removes banding or "bands with other" from one or more of the creatures in the band.


702.21f An attacking creature that’s removed from combat is also removed from the band it was in.


702.21g Banding doesn’t cause attacking creatures to share abilities, nor does it remove any abilities. The attacking creatures in a band are separate permanents.


702.21h If an attacking creature becomes blocked by a creature, each other creature in the same band as the attacking creature becomes blocked by that same blocking creature.

Example: A player attacks with a band consisting of a creature with flying and a creature with swampwalk. The defending player, who controls a Swamp, can block the flying creature if able. If he or she does, then the creature with swampwalk will also become blocked by the blocking creature(s).


702.21i If one member of a band would become blocked due to an effect, the entire band becomes blocked.


702.21j During the combat damage step, if an attacking creature is being blocked by a creature with banding, or by both a [quality] creature with "bands with other [quality]" and another [quality] creature, the defending player (rather than the active player) chooses how the attacking creature’s damage is assigned. That player can divide that creature’s combat damage as he or she chooses among any number of creatures blocking it. This is an exception to the procedure described in rule 510.1c.


702.21k During the combat damage step, if a blocking creature is blocking a creature with banding, or both a [quality] creature with "bands with other [quality]" and another [quality] creature, the active player (rather than the defending player) chooses how the blocking creature’s damage is assigned. That player can divide that creature’s combat damage as he or she chooses among any number of creatures it’s blocking. This is an exception to the procedure described in rule 510.1d.


702.21m Multiple instances of banding on the same creature are redundant. Multiple instances of "bands with other" of the same kind on the same creature are redundant.


Gauntlet of Might

4

Artifact

Red creatures get +1/+1.

Whenever a Mountain is tapped for mana, its controller adds R to his or her mana pool.


Gauntlet of Might was on the original restricted list, which seems pretty weird, but could probably be attributed to the small cardpool and poorly developed deckbuilding methods available in 1994. Gauntlet of Might would provide red decks with a considerable advantage against decks of other colors, under those conditions. Gauntlet of Might is one of those old cards that provides powerful effects, but which no one actually uses anymore. Gauntlet of Might was even kicked out of the core set for being too powerful, replaced with Jandor's Ring, because Wizards of the Coast apparently hated everyone. I've had a copy of Gauntlet of Might (from Unlimited, of course) for years, but I've never done anything with it, because really, there are better cards out there. Both effects are obviously great, and the mana acceleration one is potentially amazing, but apparently four mana is just too much.


For a rare that didn't remain in the core set for Revised, Gauntlet of Might does seem unusually attractive to casual players, who mostly don't have access to the card. Maybe it's just me, but I've noticed a lot of casual players who wished they could put Gauntlet of Might into their decks. If this thing had been reprinted, it would be hugely popular.


Resurrection

2WW

Sorcery

Return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield.


As I've mentioned before, I first got into Magic in June of 1997, with Portal. That set had a whole lot of bad cards, but it also had a few that were actually better than the cards that had come before, including Breath of Life. Because of this, when I discovered Resurrection a little later, I thought it was odd: the card was a more color-intensive version of one I'd already been using! As I became more experienced, I learned that strictly better and strictly worse reprints of older cards were very typical in this game, but it's not something that would be obvious to a new player.


Resurrection isn't really that bad, but at four mana, most white decks have other, better spells that they can cast. I haven't seen it used much, and of course Breath of Life is better suited to multicolored decks.


Basalt Monolith

3

Artifact

Basalt Monolith doesn't untap during your untap step.

T: Add 3 to your mana pool.

3: Untap Basalt Monolith


Perhaps because it was printed alongside more powerful mana-producing artifacts, Basalt Monolith has never received much recognition. It's actually a fine card. By itself, Basalt Monolith gives bursts of mana, but needs to be recharged. It gets better in combos, though. The most obvious is a combo with Power Artifact, which produces infinite mana. Later, Basalt Monolith gained a different sort of combo, with Mesmeric Orb, dumping one's library into one's graveyard. As I've pointed out in previous articles in The Comboist Manifesto, there are particular configurations of cards that can translate this into a win. The Mesmeric Orb + Basalt Monolith combo is not the cheapest way to do this, but it isn't dependent on any colored mana and it doesn't rely on creatures to set anything up, which are points in its favor. Another infinite combo is to use Wake Thrasher, which won't kill on its own if there are blockers, but can easily do so otherwise. Basalt Monolith can also provide considerable, albeit finite, mana acceleration with cards like Voltaic Key.


In some situations, Basalt Monolith is outclassed by a later version, Grim Monolith. The original can still be useful, though, especially in combos.


Keldon Warlord

2RR

Creature — Human Barbarian

Keldon Warlord's power and toughness are each equal to the number of non-Wall creatures you control.

*/*


Keldon Warlord never made it into any of my decks, but the card seems inordinately popular in casual Magic. People especially like to play it with token-generators and such. I don't think it's particularly good, but apparently some people do. That's not to say I think the card sucks. I guess it's on the positive side of mediocre.


Giant Spider

3G

Creature — Spider

Reach

2/4


It's easy for me to forget about Giant Spider. I confess that I probably wouldn't have remembered the specific numbers involved in the card off the top of my head, just that it's a spider and that it has reach. For players who have played a lot of limited formats or built a lot of decks with core set cards, Giant Spider would be more familiar: it has appeared in every core set with the exception of the 2013 core set, which is a record. Counting expansions, it's not the most reprinted card ever, but for core sets specifically, Giant Spider was the last card (other than basic lands), from the original core set, after all other cards had skipped at least one core set, to be dropped in a later core set, and, with its return in the 2014 core set, the card that has the most core set appearances (other than basic lands). I'm not going to use it in a constructed deck or anything, but hey, at least it has that distinction. Spiderman (who is the entire editorial staff of the CPA) may or may not have used Giant Spider in his tribal spiders deck during one of the CPA tribal multiplayer games. You have to ask him: I killed everyone before he had a chance to play it. Oops.


Siren's Call

U

Instant

Cast Siren's Call only during an opponent's turn, before attackers are declared.

Creatures the active player controls attack this turn if able.

At the beginning of the next end step, destroy all non-Wall creatures that player controls that didn't attack this turn. Ignore this effect for each creature the player didn't control continuously since the beginning of the turn.


I actually saw players use this card, way back when I was in high school. I don't remember exactly what they were doing, but it occurs to me that even though Siren's Call isn't amazing, it's actually not that bad either. There have been similar “force creatures to attack” cards, but Siren's Call is unusual in that it can also be used to destroy creatures. Even if all it did was force creatures to attack, that could be useful for some decks. But with cards that can tap opposing creatures or otherwise prevent them from attacking, Siren's Call can be used as a removal spell too.

Read More Articles by Stephen Bahl!

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