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The Comboist Manifesto: He Always Finishes What He Started
By Stephen Bahl
Back in 2008, I started a Magic blog with my friend Nick (former CPA member Al0ysiusHWWW). The exact impetus for this is lost to history. Uh, I think it was pretty popular to start a blog back then or something? Really, I’m not sure. It was called “Type Fun.” The main theme seemed to be a crude attempt by us to innovate and catalog our favorite concepts in casual Magic. A worthy goal, but a doomed venture.

Longtime readers of my articles might remember that Nick talked me into changing the blog to be about our competitive Legacy endeavors and I chose to archive most of our coherent content here at the CPA before he could purge that casual junk from his shiny new Legacy blog. And so “Type Fun” became “Team Monster Island’s Legacy Blog.” Of course, in a fashion truly characteristic of us, Nick was too lazy to actually clean the blog up like he planned and I think he didn’t even delete any posts at all. But I thought he was going to, so I saved them here.

Team Monster Island didn’t really go far. We actually did pretty well when we did bother to attend local tournaments, but actually getting us to drag ourselves to a game store was a rare occurrence. Most of the space on the blog wound up being occupied by a project I’d started before the departure from “Type Fun.” Back then, for whatever reason, I was enamored with lists. Uh, I guess more than I am now, I mean? What’s that, my previous Comboist Manifesto article was a five-part list? Shut up. Look, I have nothing against lists, but I think I took them too seriously in those days. So I got two collaborative list projects started on the blog. One of them was going to be a list of our top artifacts, which would primarily be compiled by Nick with some input from me. The other was going to be a list of our top enchantments, primarily compiled by me with some input from Nick. The artifact list didn’t make it far. But I persisted with the enchantment list.

What was the nature of the list? It was to be our top 200 (yes, two-hundred) enchantments in Magic’s history, as ranked by an informal consensus between the two of us (mostly me). We decided to rank enchantments based on a combination of our perception of their proven power/utility in gameplay and, more importantly, by a “cool factor” of how much we enjoyed playing them. The “cool factor” was supposed to be more important than the “power factor” but all of the enchantments near the top of the list were ones that were known tournament staples at some point. I also did some initial filtering that determined what was eligible for the top 200. I ruled out cards that were too similar to each other, usually favoring the most powerful or interesting example and, failing a real distinction there, favoring the older card. So Propaganda made the list but Ghostly Prison, a white reprint of Propaganda, did not. Seismic Assault made the list, but Land’s Edge, a card I’d used a lot, was very similar and not quite as useful, so it wasn’t included. Cards that were too specific as hosers without any other meaningful application were ruled out: I noted that Gloom was an enchantment I’d used a lot and been fond of, but that I didn’t want to clog the list up with a bunch of “punish X” cards.

I can’t remember the details by now, but looking back, I think there was some filtering, perhaps by Nick, which I didn’t document. Knowing me, I’d have wanted Seal of Fire on the list. I am guessing that when I was trying to narrow it down to 200 cards, Nick talked me into cutting some enchantments that I was really just using as sorceries anyway. But we weren't really consistent with that. Seal of Fire is the obvious one, but that might also have included Defense of the Heart, Gaea’s Touch, and Serenity. Although I have no record of it, I remember enough to know that those cards were ones I looked at, and since they didn’t make the cut, that’s probably the reason. Also, Repercussion was a card we’d used a lot and for some reason I absolutely cannot remember, it didn’t make the list. I have a feeling that it was a deliberate cut, but I’m stuck on why it wouldn’t be included.

So, in early-to-mid-2009, I wrote a series of 50 blog posts, giving each of our top 200 enchantments a paragraph summary. This is kind of like how I did a list of my favorite card I haven’t technically played with for each set. Don’t worry: I won’t put all of those paragraphs in this article! They’re still on the blog. But there’s this thing…

Um, I, well, I didn’t exactly...I never finished the list, dammit! I had it all planned out. I wrote 49 blog posts, going through our top 200 enchantments in order from 200 to 11. Then I went back and wrote part 50, a list of 7 cards I forgot. With one exception, these were accidental omissions that I noticed only after I had a neat 200-card list and it was going to be too much work to fix it, so I made note of them for later, anticipating that I could do “honorable mentions” or whatever. One of them was a relatively recent card at the time and I just hadn’t known about it when I compiled the initial list. But over the months as I was working on those posts, I came to appreciate the card and wanted to make note of it. And then I prepared to finish the project off by writing 10 more posts, each one dedicated to one of the top 10. I had the post for #10 almost done and through some calamitous error, Blogger ate my post. It had been a substantial amount of work and I was crestfallen, so I took a break. My decision to take a break turned out to be a death sentence for the blog.

Well, this just won’t do! We need our top 10. I won’t do an entire long-form article for each card, but I’ll at least give them the paragraphs they’ve been waiting for all these years. But first, the rest of the list. As should be obvious, this is not how I’d rank them now, in 2018. But these were the enchantments we settled on in early 2009.

“The Forgotten” (cards I went back and did a post on after I’d already done posts for 200 through 11). In no particular order:
-Wheel of Sun and Moon
-Mana Echoes
-Karmic Justice
-Sulfuric Vortex
-Grave Pact
-Tombstone Stairwell

And now, the main list, in order:
200: Spellshock
199: Rhystic Deluge
198: Veiled Crocodile
197: Wild Research
196: Lightning Rift
195: Mythic Proportions
194: Equipoise
193: Propaganda
192: Mortal Combat
191: Carnival of Souls
190: Rhystic Study
189: Story Circle
188: Mystic Remora
187: Living Lands
186: Ancestral Mask
185: Limited Resources
184: Hecatomb
183: Endless Scream
182: Trade Routes
181: Blood Moon
180: Back to Basics
179: Chains of Mephistopheles
178: Spirit Link
177: No Rest for the Wicked
176: Charisma
175: Overburden
174: Soul Link
173: Hermetic Study
172: Elemental Augury
171: Battle of Wits
170: Breeding Pit
169: False Demise
168: Inviolability
167: Death Pits of Rath
166: Cowardice
165: Flickering Ward
164: Island Sanctuary
163: Compulsion
162: Eladamri’s Vineyard
161: Copy Enchantment
160: Eye of the Storm
159: Dueling Grounds
158: Dark Suspicions
157: Concordant Crossroads
156: Words of War
155: Shifting Sky
154: Power Surge
153: Moat
152: Despondency
151: Chance Encounter
150: Words of Worship
149: Pure Reflection
148: Parallax Nexus
147: Lurking Jackals
146: Ivory Mask
145: Engineered Plague
144: City of Solitude
143: Lurking Evil
142: March of the Machines
141: Rolling Stones
140: Contamination
139: Bad Moon
138: Manabarbs
137: Celestial Dawn
136: Control Magic
135: Kismet
134: Drop of Honey
133: Call of the Wild
132: Aura of Silence
131: Words of Wind
130: Fatal Ground
129: Furnace of Rath
128: Recycle
127: Overgrown Estate
126: Divine Sacrament
125: Confiscate
124: Unnatural Selection
123: Nature’s Revolt
122: Celestial Convergence
121: Armadillo Cloak
120: Transcendence
119: Browse
118: Coastal Piracy
117: Seal of Strength
116: Living Plane
115: Equilibrium
114: Crusade
113: Empyrial Armor
112: Kudzu
111: Fires of Yavimaya
110: Pursuit of Knowledge
109: Astral Slide
108: Freed from the Real
107: Night Soil
106: Briar Shield
105: Forsaken Wastes
104: Centaur Glade
103: Warped Devotion
102: Guilty Conscience
101: Planar Void
100: The Abyss
99: Parallax Tide
98: Humility
97: Words of Wilding
96: Oath of Ghouls
95: Haunted Crossroads
94: Leyline of the Void
93: Parallax Wave
92: Decree of Silence
91: Abundance
90: Oversold Cemetery
89: Upwelling
88: Pariah
87: Worship
86: Sarcomancy
85: Sterling Grove
84: Bridge from Below
83: Call to the Grave
82: Dovescape
81: Form of the Dragon
80: Seal of Cleansing
79: Sylvan Library
78: Mists of Stagnation
77: Phyrexian Tyranny
76: Conspiracy
75: Doubling Season
74: Day of the Dragons
73: Yawgmoth’s Agenda
72: Epic Struggle
71: Sneak Attack
70: Copy Artifact
69: Oblivion Ring
68: Sleeper’s Robe
67: Power Artifact
66: Pemmin’s Aura
65: Barren Glory
64: Pestilence
63: Mana Flare
62: Energy Field
61: Saproling Cluster
60: Dragon Breath
59: Divine Intervention
58: Goblin Bomb
57: Treachery
56: Intruder Alarm
55: Solitary Confinement
54: Overgrowth
53: Artificer’s Intuition
52: Quicksilver Dagger
51: Test of Endurance
50: Goblin Bombardment
49: Awakening
48: Squirrel Nest
47: Aggravated Assault
46: Greater Good
45: Megrim
44: Runed Halo
43: Mirari’s Wake
42: Fecundity
41: Stasis
40: Bitterblossom
39: Zur’s Weirding
38: Opalescence
37: Opposition
36: Cadaverous Bloom
35: Manabond
34: Arcane Laboratory
33: Helix Pinnacle
32: Future Sight
31: Squandered Resources
30: Curiosity
29: Seismic Assault
28: Animate Dead
27: Food Chain
26: Exploration
25: Parallel Thoughts
24: Pandemonium
23: Attunement
22: Enchantress’s Presence
21: Counterbalance
20: Lich
19: Illusions of Grandeur
18: Enduring Renewal
17: Mind Over Matter
16: Standstill
15: Rancor
14: Earthcraft
13: Dream Halls
12: Pattern of Rebirth
11: Saproling Burst

So that was where the blog stopped. Amusingly, without really trying to, I left a breadcrumb trail of clues that allowed me to reconstruct the composition of the top 10. Almost, anyway. Not that it really matters, but I know that before the project went on permanent hiatus, the ranking for 1,2,3 and 4 were as I’m listing them here, and I know the order between 6, 8, and 10, as well as knowing that the placement for 10 is right (because I actually wrote a blog post about it and then that blog post vanished). 5 and 9 were in there somewhere, but I might have their exact rankings wrong. But this is as good as we’re going to get. And so, nine years too late, I present my/our top 10 enchantments…

10: Aluren
Like creatures but tired of paying mana for them? Aluren is a unique card with the potential to appeal to combo freaks like myself and creature-lovers too. This card is surprisingly versatile. I had a whole post worked out (like I said, it got eaten) and it was rather long. But that was 2009 and in the years since then, Aluren has gained tons of options. In tournaments, this enchantment has repeatedly seen success in combo decks that are mostly creature-based, so they have both a board presence and the looming threat of an instant kill. In my experience, Aluren-based decks have a consistent track record of being fun for everyone who has actually played one. Unfortunately, they tend to be color-intensive, which means needing an expensive manabase, and they tend to rely on rare cards that either lack broad utility for other types of decks, are very expensive, or both. But for those who do, one way or another, get the Aluren experience, it’s a real treat. One of the greatest build-around enchantments ever.

9: Pernicious Deed
As a note on this card, it was a real go-to answer for Nick throughout almost all of his Magic career. It’s a big enough deal in its own right that I probably would have had it in contention for a top 10 spot even without Nick, but I suspect that I might have botched the ranking on this one and that it may have originally been higher up the list due to Nick’s contribution when we discussed rankings. He loved this card. I was surely planning to have him write the blog post on this one, once the time came. All that being said, I had my fair share of Deed-playing too. At first, I was more interested in Nevinyrral’s Disk and Powder keg, but even I came to accept that Pernicious Deed is probably the best “reset button” in Magic. It’s the perfect combination of potency and versatility.

8: Nether Void
This is an old favorite of mine and acknowledging that it has mostly fallen by the wayside is hard for me. “Taxing” effects like this were moved away from black and have become associated with artifacts and white cards. In the years since our Top 200 Enchantments list went on hiatus, cards like Lodestone Golem, Phyrexian Revoker, Sanctum Prelate, and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben have been printed. Nether Void is a classic, but perhaps the new tools are stronger for the job. The glory days of being able to drop a Nether Void onto the board and then blow up the the opponent’s lands so much that the opponent is virtually locked out of the game, well those are practically gone now. And now that Nether Void costs nearly $1,000 for one card, it would seem to be the end of the line for the card. I hadn’t factored financial considerations into this list before, as far as I can remember, but dammit, this is kind of depressing. All that being said, the effect is very, very strong and this remains a powerhouse for a black control deck, assuming you can actually get your hands on one anymore.

7: Recurring Nightmare
Not that it would be possible to conduct such a survey, but if I were to ask people who were playing Magic back in 1998 to identify their favorite cards, Recurring Nightmare would probably be one of the most popular responses. Perhaps more than any other card on this list, Recurring Nightmare is consistently fun and powerful. Most famous for Standard “Rec-Sur” decks, it would go on to get banned in Standard due to an infinite combo with Great Whale. I don’t know whether the potential for infinite combos should be counted for the enchantment or against it when it comes to talking about it for casual play, but in either case, the card has demonstrated tons of other uses. There’s the original synergy with Survival of the Fittest (tutor for creatures, discard them to tutor for sacrificial fodder, use Recurring Nightmare to get back the creatures you actually want), or there are loops to exploit triggered abilities on creatures. I used to do this with Yosei, the Morning Star. There are other options. Tons of them. So many options. Ultimately, there’s probably some “best” application for Recurring Nightmare. But really, I’m not even sure what it is.

6: Oath of Druids
Two mana to cheat out a creature from your library. Getting something big without paying for it has never been more efficient and probably never will be again. Oath of Druids has a long, storied history in tournament Magic. Thanks to Vintage, where the card is perfectly legal and is quite successful, that story is ongoing. I used to play with and against casual Oath decks, but they were all heavily inspired by the tournament versions. Oath of Druids does some interesting things to gameplay, and the nuances of whether it’s being played in a control deck or a dedicated combo deck, whether it’s being played with man-lands, whether it’s being played with cards that create tokens for opponents, whether the creatures in the deck are reasonably castable without Oath, how many creatures are used and which ones, whether spells are to be cast from the graveyard, etc. all come together to inform the playstyle. If I were doing a list like this again, I don’t know whether I’d want to penalize Oath’s ranking because it’s so oppressively strong that it makes games unfun for opponents or to rank it even higher because of its demonstrable staying power in so many different environments. For Oath-haters, I’ll note that the card is a unique enabler in Vintage tournament play that counteracts the oppressive nature of some other archetypes. Perhaps not every casual setting is an appropriate place to be using such a card, but that could be said for a lot of the other enchantments we ranked highly.

5: Fastbond
I don’t know if Fastbond is the most broken enchantment ever, but a lot of people would probably say that it is and I’d be hard-pressed to argue with them. Fastbond is so utterly divergent from similar cards that help break the one-land-per-turn rule that there’s hardly much point in comparison. Fun? Well, I had a lot of fun with it in my own casual decks, so I’d say so! Of course, it’s also fair to point out that the card is overpowered, whether it’s used in a combo engine or just as a general accelerant. I guess I didn’t note this for anything back in 2009, but it’s conceivable that in a different version of this list, something more “family friendly” or whatever, cards like Fastbond would not appear because they’d be considered game-ruiners for being too powerful. I was thinking more of my own usage of the card and of course it served me well.

4: Yawgmoth's Bargain
At the time I compiled the original list, Bargain was still restricted in Vintage and was still feared as blatantly overpowered everywhere. My assessment is a bit tempered now, as there exists an environment in which Bargain has proven to be safe, while still admittedly potent. It used to be the default enchantment to cheat out, in cases where cheating enchantments out was done, as there wasn’t really any better combo enabler when it came to pairings like Academy Rector. But now, we have Omniscience, which didn’t exist in 2009. Still, at six mana and with a powerful, game-ending effect in a deck built to exploit it, Bargain occupies a spot where it’s reasonably comfortable to either cheat it out or to simply use mana ramp and hardcast it. I put it near the top of the list and that’s probably, in part, my bias as a combo player. Yawgmoth’s Bargain is the epitome of a combo player’s enchantment. On the other hand, when it comes to enchantments of that sort, Bargain is about as good as it gets. It’s not merely a combo player’s enchantment: it’s the combo player’s enchantment.

3: Land Tax
Our goal was not to stack the top 10 with the most powerful enchantments, but I’m sure that looking at the list, there’s a high concentration of brokenness toward the top. Depending on one’s history and knowledge, Land Tax might either be thought of as part of that pattern or as an outlier, a relatively tame card thrown into a list of overpowered stuff. In my own analysis, even back in 2009, I’d probably settle for a kind of middle ground. It’s the Tale of Three Land Taxes! Experienced 1990’s players might remember the card as being banned in multiple formats for being a massive, repeatable card advantage engine and a one-drop to boot. Newer players, especially newer Legacy players, might remember it as banned list chaff that was unbanned in 2012 and then didn’t do anything. Casual players who actually used the card in the interim see a bit of both. The card is indeed potent, but it relies on synergies with other cards to do anything and it takes time for those synergies to pay off. I haven’t seen Land Tax used in years, but I consider it a fun card to play with and not really oppressive to be playing against.

2: Necropotence
My personal favorite. And on that point, I’m in good company! Or perhaps bad company, depending on your perspective. Historically, this was probably the most beloved and most despised enchantment of all time. Necropotence is a powerful engine that works in multiple archetypes. It’s been imitated (Necrologia), emulated (Yawgmoths’ Bargain), and inspired categories of deckbuilding that would go on to live out their own lives in its shadow (Suicide Black, Monoblack Control, Trix). I don’t know whether Necropotence will ever really get a significant niche in Magic again, but the experience of playing Necro decks was one thing that kept me playing Magic at times when I was thinking of quitting the game altogether. After all, I'm not going to find the Necropotence of Magic: the Gathering in some other game. This is where it's at, for better or worse.

1: Survival of the Fittest
How could the the #1 spot be anything else? Only Survival could rival Necropotence for spawning so many different decks. You need green mana and you need creatures. That’s about it. Rec-Sur, Countersliver, Survival Elves, RGSA, Tradewind Survival, Full English Breakfast, U/G Madness, Welder Survival, Goyf Survival, Saffi Survival, Ooze Combo, Apple Jacks, Vengevival. Combo? Control? Aggro-control? Aggro-combo? Control-combo? There are so many options to choose from as long as you have creatures and green mana. So many of the enchantments that rank highly on our list are green, but SotF is in a league of its own. For that matter, this list has more than its fair share of cards from Exodus, which was apparently a very good set for enchantments. But when it comes to fun enchantments, to powerful enchantments, to the combination of those two, this one is special. Nick even convinced me to place it above Necropotence, something I probably wouldn’t have done on my own. But that’s probably right. Necropotence is infamous for being overpowered. Survival is really a fair card that tends to make meaningful contributions to any format it’s in. Powerful without being overpowered. Fun without being jank. In 2009 I was going to say that this was the coolest enchantment ever created in Magic. It’s 2018 and I’d still say that.

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Read More Articles by Stephen Bahl!

 - Wednesday (July 18. 2018)
 - Thursday (May 17, 2018)
 - Tuesday (Aprl. 24, 2018
 - Monday (Apr. 16, 2018)
 - Friday (Apr. 6, 2018)
 - Wednesday (Apr. 4, 2018)
 - Monday (Apr. 2, 2018)
 - Friday (Mar. 23, 2018)
 - Thursday (Feb. 15, 2018)
 - Thursday (Jan 25, 2018)

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