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The Comboist Manifesto: I Have No Memory: Part 2
By Stephen Bahl
This is the second in a five-part series wherein I talk too much about my favorite card from each Magic set (out of the ones that introduced new cards) in chronological order.

Urza’s Saga

Citanul Hierophants: This was, at one point, another of those “I own every card” sets. There really aren’t that many. I’m a collector, but collecting complete sets wasn’t something I focused on. Pretty sure I had all of Fallen Empires, Ice Age, Homelands, Chronicles, Unglued, and Urza’s Saga. But some of my Urza’s Saga cards might have been misplaced or traded away. I’ll investigate that some day. This set had plenty of strong cards and I used just about all of them, including Yawgmoth’s Will and Tolarian Academy. And by that, I mean especially Yawgmoth’s Will and Tolarian Academy. I’m worried that I’m a bad person. Well, I figured there’d be some good card in the set that I never used. But this is harder than I thought. I originally listed Copper Gnomes, thinking, “Oh cool, I didn’t play with those guys and they look really good.” Then while typing this it dawned on me that Copper Gnomes were in Al0ysiusHWWW’s monobrown “IKEA” deck (originally named “Plastic furniture that you have to put together yourself” or something like that, but we shortened it at some point). I played that deck all the time. Copper Gnomes weren’t in it the whole time, but I guess I used them to fetch Colossus of Sardia or Null Brooch or Mishra’s Helix. But I never used Citanul Hierophants, and that does strike me as a glaring omission? Who doesn’t want every creature to have the Llanowar Elves ability? With token generators, that kind of ability could be great fun. For me, that is. Not for my opponents.

Urza’s Legacy

Pyromancy: I remember seeing this right after Urza’s Legacy came out. Loved the card. Didn’t acquire a copy at the time and never went on to use it. I probably still don’t even own one and I don’t know what I’d do with it these days even if I did. I’ve never seen a Pyromancy deck and I don’t know what one would look like. But the dream of pitching Draco to this and smacking the opponent for 16 damage is tantalizing.

Portal Three Kingdoms

Riding the Dilu Horse: Like almost everyone else, I do not own very many cards from Portal Three Kingdoms. I bought a couple of these just because they look like they have so much potential. This might be the epitome of Portal-set weirdness. They weren’t using enchantments in Portal sets, but they did have “until end of turn” buffs on sorceries. For some reason, they didn’t make this one temporary. They didn’t use counters either, so it doesn’t put +1/+1 counters on the creature, it just gives it +2/+2 permanently. And then because P3K used Horsemanship in place of Flying and no other set has the mechanic, the creature targeted by this spell gains a permanent kind of pseudo-unblockability. Bizarre as all this is, the effect is reasonably mana-efficient for what it does, and I imagine that it would pair nicely with Infect creatures and/or Berserk.

Urza’s Destiny

Storage Matrix: Urza’s Destiny is one of my favorite sets. It gets kind of overlooked due to the block it’s in. Urza’s Saga has the most broken cards and Urza’s Legacy gets the really efficient stuff. But Urza’s Destiny is just cool. And other than Yawgmoth’s Bargain, which is now unrestricted in Vintage anyway, it doesn’t really have overtly broken cards, just some strong utility like Metalworker, Academy Rector, Treachery, Powder Keg, Gamekeeper, and Donate. There’s a lot in this set worth playing and I’ve used almost all of it. Storage Matrix seems like a card that would be right up my alley. I’ve always been a fan of Winter Orb + Icy Manipulator. While Storage Matrix isn’t so exactly controllable as Winter Orb, it seems like something I’d play with. Some opponents might get away with always choosing lands, while others with lots of artifact creatures could choose artifacts. But I’d like to try it out at some point.

Starter

Goblin Settler: This is one bad set and it’s tough to find anything of interest here. I’ve gotten plenty of use out of Grim Tutor, which would seem to be the main highlight of the set. So I’m going to cheat a little. I bought a playset of Goblin Settler. It’s a card that I intend to use in the future. When I started this article, I had not ever used the card. But I’ve already put a copy into a Goblins deck I’m building for the Canadian Highlander format. By the time that this article is finalized and published, it seems extremely likely that I’ll have played with Goblin Settler. But I’m letting myself use the card because I can’t find a suitable backup for this trash set (almost all of the good cards are reprints) and also because “Stuff I haven’t used yet but would like to use” is sort of the concept here, and it is my sincere hope that some of the other entries in this list will soon follow the example of Goblin Settler and appear in my Magic decks.

Mercadian Masques

Rishadan Brigand: I was pretty active when this set came out. It also came out right around the time that Al0ysiusHWWW started buying cards, so we were experimenting a lot, even with what might constitute the dregs of the set. If I didn’t experiment with anything, it’d be a rare I just never owned. Well, I actually played quite a bit with the pirates from this set, but never owned a copy of Rishadan Brigand. The card was suggested in my early days at the CPA when I was looking at concepts for a better Black Vise deck. I even used the smaller pirates with Black Vise. But not the Brigand. Maybe I can work it into the same deck as Talas Warrior?

Nemesis

Lin-Sivvi, Defiant Hero: This one was easy. Lin-Sivvi was insanely popular when Nemesis was in Standard. The card single-handedly broke the rebels deck. I didn’t own a copy. I saw the deck in action, but never played it myself. I wanted to, though. Every time the subject came up, I had the thought, “I should try to build some sort of casual rebels deck.” But then I don’t act on it and I forget about it for a while, until the subject comes up again. Unless I get especially active in casual 60-card constructed gameplay again, and I’d need more of a regular playgroup with similar interests for that, I’ll probably never use Lin-Sivvi. But if an opportunity to make it work comes up, yeah, I’ll jump at the chance.

Prophecy

Searing Wind: Mark Rosewater brought it up before I ever noticed myself, but Prophecy does get a bit too much of a bad rap. Yes, the set is underpowered in the grand scheme of things, but it contributed plenty in the context of Masques Block. It went over poorly with most players, but part of that was because it was a “Spike” set. The theme of land-usage and manipulation of lands and mana as resources created an environment that rewarded players who could capitalize on efficiency and optimizing their resources, balancing tempo and card advantage, etc. Not much to offer a combo enthusiast. And I’ve tried. The best cards I never really tried out are a couple of the “Wind” cycle. Searing Wind fits nicely with my passion for direct damage spells. While my old favorite, Kaervek’s Torch, is far more practical, I can see some potential niches for something like Searing Wind. I vaguely remember playing around with Urza’s Rage somewhat, and that one came out not long after Searing Wind. The fact that Searing Wind seems like such a strong spell to use with any kind of card that cheats instants out without paying mana for them makes it a bit perplexing that I’ve never even played the card in my Apprentice-testing. Silly me.

Invasion

Hanna, Ship’s Navigator: Another set I played with a great deal. I think this was actually the first set for which I ever played a Limited format. So there aren’t many interesting cards I never used here, but I think I found my favorite out of that exclusive club. Do you like recurring cards? I like recurring cards. I used to be pretty enthusiastic about the card Second Chance. But I’m guessing that I took my Second Chance deck apart before Invasion was released. Or perhaps I still had the deck, but never even saw Hanna, Ship’s Navigator at the time. She’d be perfect for such a deck. The most obvious application would be a Mindslaver lock, and I’m a bit surprised I never saw anyone try that in a casual game. Everyone loves Mindslaver. These days, Hanna seems to be pretty popular in the Commander format. But I probably don’t own a copy and if I do, I still haven’t played with it.

Planeshift

Deadapult: Almost immediately after I looked up the set list for Planeshift, I saw Deadapult and knew it would be the card I’d pick. I wanted to use the card as soon as I first saw it. I either pulled it in a booster pack shortly after the set came out or I saw it after a friend pulled one. Cool art, awesome flavor text, a tribal mechanic, and a reasonably efficient package overall. I immediately had plans for Deadapult and proceeded to never, ever build a zombie deck with any red cards in it. Oops.

Apocalypse

Legacy Weapon: This is the CPA. I think that if you’re a casual player and you don’t feel any kind of glimmer of inner joy when you see a card with all five colored mana symbols on the same line, you’re probably just dead inside or something. You monster. I think this is one card where the creation of “exile” as a zone slightly detracts from the experience. “Removed from the game” is just more definitive. More forceful. One of the players in my high school playgroup got this thing going in a multiplayer game. I can’t remember where he got all the mana, but it was cool to watch. “Activate Legacy Weapon. Zap! That card is removed from the game. Zap! Removed from the game. Zap! All of your stuff is removed from the game. It’s gone now. You’re not getting it back.” I can’t get around to playing with every cool card, but I am a bit disappointed that I never played this one.

Odyssey

Skeletal Scrying: When this card was popular, I was playing Necropotence all the time. Compared to Necropotence, Skeletal Scrying seemed weak. I later realized that “compared to Necropotence” might really not be the appropriate frame of reference for analyzing Magic cards. In hindsight, Skeletal Scrying is pretty good. My suspicion is that inexperienced tend to undervalue it because they see three different costs on a draw spell and find that to be excessive, while experienced player tend to overvalue it because they see an efficient, instant-speed card-drawing spell with costs that can easily be mitigated. Yes, sometimes you can really afford to pay lots of life. Sometimes you have plenty of cards in your graveyard to fuel Skeletal Scrying. Sometimes you have lots of mana available. But those conditions don’t always line up. In the current landscape of hyper-efficient tempo found in so many formats, Skeletal Scrying is probably just a bit too slow. But it’s a fine card, really. And I wish I’d experimented with it myself, if only to better appreciate the subtleties.

Torment

Shade’s Form: I opened Frozen Shade in a Fifth Edition booster pack when I was new to Magic, and I’ve been a fan of the “Shade” concept ever since. Frozen Shade quickly became outclassed. I’ve used Looming Shade, Dungeon Shade, Hoar Shade, Nakaya Shade, Cinder Shade, Whispering Shade, Nantuko Shade, and (my personal favorite) Darkling Stalker. I’m also a huge fan of False Demise, especially in combination with some other old favorites of mine, like Rootwater Matriarch and Iridescent Drake. A card that combines False Demise and the Shade ability in one package? Seems like a perfect fit for me. And it’s a common. I’ve got to be honest with this one: I don’t know the sets in Odyssey Block very well. I was engaging in my “No cards after Prophecy” practice shortly after Odyssey came out and it lasted until some time in 2004. I don’t own very many cards from Torment and I’ve mostly only played with the really famous, really powerful bombs from the set. The reason I never played Shade’s Form is simply that I didn’t notice its existence until I started this article. “What cool stuff in Torment,” I asked myself, “have I not played with?” I looked at the set list and was amazed that Shade’s Form was a real common that I didn’t even remember seeing. Oops.

Judgment

Firecat Blitz: I’ve seen Firecat Blitz in action and it’s an impressive card. I’m not embarrassed for never having cast one myself. I did note my relative lack of experience with the cards in Odyssey Block. But I find it to be a cool card and a shoe-in for my favorite card I’ve never played from this set.

Onslaught

False Cure: I’m not into lifegain hosers. That’s not my style. I always kind of disliked Stigma Lasher. I make exceptions for cards that hose lifegain while also doing something else practical, like Sulfuric Vortex. Anyway, I do like cards that give opponents life as a cost. Stuff like Skyshroud Cutter or Grove of the Burnwillows. Always liked those cards. False Cure is a neat trick to employ with that sort of card. If it had come out in Mercadian Masques, I’d probably have built a deck around it. But Onslaught came out during my “not playing with new cards” phase. And the card isn’t quite powerful enough that I was motivated to use it later. I’ve been keeping it in mind as a potential concept for a casual deck.

Legions

Scion of Darkness: I had to throw Thing From the Deep onto this list for personal historical reasons, but expensive, beefy creatures aren’t normally the cards I think of as being the ones I regret missing out on. Scion of Darkness is another exception. I saw it used effectively in my high school playgroup after Legions came out. But I was really impressed with it when I saw BigBlue combine it with Sneak Attack and Sword of Light and Shadow. The card fits with my proclivity for taking other people’s stuff. It’s probably the strongest card from the set I’ve never played anyway, even if I didn’t appreciate its cool ability.

Scourge

Decree of Silence: Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t going to be a Storm card from this set. I’ve played them all. Even Scattershot. The set includes some other gems too. I’ve always liked the Decree cycle of cards, but I only ever actually used the white one, the black one, and the red one. I’d have thought that with all the Academy Rector decks I built, I’d have used Decree of Silence at some point, but I tried to remember it and came up with nothing. This is one of the frustrating ones. I kept thinking that I should look for a different card from Scourge, that Decree of Silence is so powerful and so familiar that I simply must have used it at some point. But if I did, it’s strange that I wouldn’t remember it at all. Oh well. I will use it at some point. Relatively recently, it gained a powerful combo with the Solemnity from Hour of Devastation, a card that didn’t make this list, but could have been a runner-up if I’d bothered to do those.

Mirrodin

Krark’s Thumb: For tournament players, Mirrodin was a set filled with broken artifacts and artifact-based cards. But many casual players were drawn to the two new toys for coin-flipping decks: Krark’s Thumb and Fiery Gambit. One of the best players at my high school built a Chance Encounter deck. I observed Krark’s Thumb to be deceptively good. A lot of the coin-flipping cards are themselves undervalued because players shy away from high variance. Krark’s Thumb probably isn’t the strongest Mirrodin card that I never played with, but it is the one I find the most interesting.

Darksteel

Eater of Days: Al0ysiusHWWW was a Phyrexian Dreadnought enthusiast, and I picked that up from him. Eater of Days isn’t quite as extreme as Phyrexian Dreadnought, but it serves a similar role. If you can find some way around its EtB ability, you’ve got a huge, powerful creature for a very low mana cost. Back when Stiflenought was a successful Legacy deck, Eater of Days wasn’t quite efficient enough for it. But I’d like to try it out in a casual deck.

Fifth Dawn

Eon Hub: In the year 2000, long before this set came out, I made up a homemade Magic card that let you skip your upkeep phase/step. When Eon Hub was announced, I was excited that my dream was coming true. I had all of these elaborate plans to build a deck exploiting Eon Hub. It was my favorite card in the set. I think the revelation of Eon Hub might have been the factor that finally broke me away from refusing to use post-Prophecy cards. Because Eon Hub was so cool and if I only played with old cards, I could never get that sweep upkeep-skipping effect. I was broke and couldn’t just go out and buy Eon Hub at the time, but I had plans for it in the future. I can hardly believe that it’s been almost 14 years and I still haven’t actually used Eon Hub in a deck. It just seems like that can’t be right.

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