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The Comboist Manifesto Volume I, Article 18: Comprehensive Set Review of First & Second Edition, Part 8
By Stephen Bahl
Creature Bond
1U
Enchantment — Aura
Enchant creature
When enchanted creature dies, Creature Bond deals damage equal to that creature's toughness to the creature's controller.

Feedback
2U
Enchantment — Aura
Enchant enchantment
At the beginning of the upkeep of enchanted enchantment's controller, Feedback deals 1 damage to that player.

Psychic Venom
1U
Enchantment — Aura
Enchant land
Whenever enchanted land becomes tapped, Psychic Venom deals 2 damage to that land's controller.

Psionic Blast is a simple blue burn direct damage spell, but blue also had other damage-dealing effects from the beginning. These three enchantments worked to punish players over time, something that is, at least in principle, appropriate for control decks. Creature Bond suffered from being too situational (it required a high-toughness creature to die in order for there to be any real payoff). Feedback was slow and needed an opponent's enchantment in order to function. Psychic Venom, being the most reliable, remained in the core set longer than the other two. But even Psychic Venom wasn't particularly good. As these cards fell into obscurity and the game evolved, blue damage continued to be generally mediocre.

Warp Artifact
BB
Enchantment — Aura
Enchant artifact
At the beginning of the upkeep of enchanted artifact's controller, Warp Artifact deals 1 damage to that player.

Blue got Feedback and black got Warp Artifact. This became part of a larger trend: black can't deal with enchantments. Artifacts, though, it can apparently warp. Costing one mana less, Warp Artifact is maybe just a bit better than Feedback, but it's still completely mediocre.

Dragon Whelp
2RR
Creature — Dragon
Flying
R: Dragon Whelp gets +1/+0 until end of turn. If this ability has been activated four or more times this turn, sacrifice Dragon Whelp at the beginning of the next end step.
2/3

Everyone always seemed to like Dragon Whelp. I was never clear on exactly why that was, other than maybe that it's a baby and therefore cute or something. Shivan Dragon is clearly better. Still, as a medium-sized red flier, Dragon Whelp is really not that bad. But what you were really wondering about was that flavor text. Admit it! Well, here you go...

“If I, like Solomon,
could have my wish—
my wish...O to be a dragon,
a symbol of the power of Heaven—of silkworm
size or immense; at times invisible.
Felicitous phenomenon!”

I don't think it's a very good poem. But I suppose that it does fit the card. Kind of. If Dragon Whelp turns out to have been a woman that spontaneously turned into a dragon, anyway.

Living Artifact
G
Enchantment — Aura
Enchant artifact
Whenever you're dealt damage, put that many vitality counters on Living Artifact.
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may remove a vitality counter from Living Artifact. If you do, you gain 1 life.

In high school, I once faced an opponent who put Living Artifact on a Sun Droplet. He was able to grind the game to a standstill and pressure me while constantly healing, but I eventually broke through all that. I don't think I've ever used Living Artifact myself, and I don't claim to have a lot of respect for the card: half the time I get it confused with Animate Artifact, just because of the name. But I'll always remember that Living Artifact can, over enough time, provide a considerable advantage. As life gain goes, there are better options, especially in green. Still, this is a possibly viable card for casual gameplay.

Raise Dead
B
Sorcery
Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.

As recursion goes, Raise Dead is a classic. It was, for a long time, a core set staple. It inspired other black cards relying on the same concept. While Animate Dead and its spiritual successors have more potential, Raise Dead and other black cards that return dead creatures to one's hand tend to be cheap and to have no drawbacks attached. There's nothing in particular wrong about Raise Dead. It's just so bland. As a combo player, I'm interested in discarding big, expensive creatures or in sneaking them into my graveyard directly from my library with a spell, and then cheating them into play with something like Animate Dead. Raise Dead can't do anything like that.

Verduran Enchantress
1GG
Creature — Human Druid
Whenever you cast an enchantment spell, you may draw a card.

I probably have a lot more experience with Verduran Enchantress than most casual players. Early on, I was intrigued by the prospect of a green card-drawing engine fueled by enchantments. I built multiple casual decks that used the card. I tested Enchantress decks for Legacy and I'm still a fan of the concept, although I don't currently have any enchantress-based decks. Ultimately, Verduran Enchantress is outclassed by her cheaper, sleeker little sister, Argothian Enchantress. Sadly, even the more resilient takes on Verduran Enchantress (such as Enchantress's Presence and the aforementioned Argothian Enchantress) have fallen by the wayside, being too slow to compete as combo decks and too engine-oriented to exist as anything else. I'd hoped that the Theros block, with its emphasis on enchantments, would give Enchantress decks some new tools, but it didn't really work that way.

Royal Assassin
1BB
Creature — Human Assassin
T: Destroy target tapped creature.
1/1

It's been a core set staple, an inspiration for later cards, and generally an icon. You'll attack me with your big dragon? Well, I have my Royal Assassin kill it. Because of summoning sickness, this card gives opponents a warning and an opportunity to avoid card disadvantage: they know not to tap their creatures until they can deal with Royal Assassin. As a 1/1, it dies to anything. But all that was probably part of the appeal.

Nettling Imp
2B
Creature — Imp
T: Choose target non-Wall creature the active player has controlled continuously since the beginning of the turn. That creature attacks this turn if able. If it doesn't, destroy it at the beginning of the next end step. Activate this ability only during an opponent's turn, before attackers are declared.
1/1

Well, it has a combo with Royal Assassin, at least against creatures that don't have vigilance or some form of protection against these cards. Like Siren's Call, Nettling Imp can be used to destroy creatures if one can first tap those creatures during an opponent's turn, before combat. If only there were some way to do that...

Twiddle
U
Instant
You may tap or untap target artifact, creature, or land.

There are myriad combos involving Twiddle, and most of them are pretty inconsequential because it's a one-use spell. I remember seeing Twiddle and Dream's Grip chained together on some broken mana-producer (probably Tolarian Academy) in preparation for Mind's Desire, back when Mind's Desire was something people could still use. Back in the day, this might have been one of the cards that caused Time Vault to experience death by errata. Twiddle was retired from the core set due to the concern that it confused early players (because they might think that untapping a creature would remove it from combat or whatever). It was reintroduced into the core set and eventually left again after Eighth Edition, although by that point it had already been made obsolete with the printing of other, slightly better takes on the same concept (such as Dream's Grip).

And don't you dare make jokes about Twiddling some guy's Bone Flute. I expected better from you.

False Orders
R
Instant
Cast False Orders only during the declare blockers step.
Remove target creature defending player controls from combat. Creatures it was blocking that had become blocked by only that creature this combat become unblocked. You may have it block an attacking creature of your choice.

Because it was cut from the core set early on, False Orders is a pretty obscure card. While it's not impressive, it's a pretty reasonable combat trick by today's standards. If a card like False Orders were printed in a new set, it would see use in limited formats and maybe even make it into some Standard decks, but probably not. But when a card was retired from the game at the same time as Black Lotus an Ancestral Recall, it looks even worse by comparison. False Orders was replaced by Kird Ape anyway, which is a much better card.

Blaze of Glory
W
Instant
Cast Blaze of Glory only during combat before blockers are declared.
Target creature defending player controls can block any number of creatures this turn. It blocks each attacking creature this turn if able.

Blaze of Glory was cut from the core set for being too confusing. It seems thematically appropriate enough, though. It enables a creature to go out in a blaze of glory! Much like False Orders, this was a cheap, perfectly acceptable combat trick that was cut from the core set early on, and therefore relegated to obscurity.

Living Lands
3G
Enchantment
All Forests are 1/1 creatures that are still lands.

Wizards of the Coast recently spoiled the new Nissa. She's almost impressive enough for me to want to use forests. She untaps forests. She turns forests into creatures. She finds forests and then turns them into creatures. It's all very cool. Living Lands was the original, but admit that I've never really bothered with it. I could have included Living Lands in a deck at some point, but I just never really wanted to. Living Plane also costs four and affects all lands, not just forests, which is easier exploit. And although it's slightly more expensive, I prefer Nature's Revolt. For players who insist on keeping land-animation confined to forests, Life and Limb has more potential.

Kormus Bell
4
Artifact
All Swamps are 1/1 black creatures that are still lands.

Originally, Kormus Bell made swamps into colorless creatures. For some reason, Fourth Edition changed this and had the swamps become black. Wizards of the Coast later issued an erratum to change the wording back to colorless, but then switched to black again as part of the policy of using the most recently printed versions of cards to guide Oracle texts. While this card is superficially very similar to Living Lands, the fact that it's a colorless artifact is a potentially important difference. The main use I remember for this card was in nonblack decks. Players used to drop this and then use Pyroclasm or some other universal creature damage/destruction spell to wipe out the manabases of black decks.

Power Sink
XU
Instant
Counter target spell unless its controller pays X. If he or she doesn't, that player taps all lands with mana abilities he or she controls and empties his or her mana pool.

Spell Blast
XU
Instant
Counter target spell with converted mana cost X.

Also known as “not Counterspell.” Fine, I made that up just now. But it fits! That these cards aren't as good as Counterspell shouldn't be too damning: the core set now employs Cancel as a replacement for Counterspell, because the original is just too cost-effective. Whatever. Some of us got used to having the real deal and we don't want to settle for less. Notably, Power Sink became weaker following the Sixth Edition rules changes, when all interrupts became instants. Originally, players could not respond to Power Sink with instants, but only with other interrupts. So it was slightly less bad than it is now. Spell Blast has always been crap, though.

Read More Articles by Stephen Bahl!

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