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Attention to Detail #6 - Days Gone By
by Jordan Kronick
December 23, 2005

Welcome to my year-end extravaganza. It’s been a short year for me, here at Pojo. To make up for that, I’m going to take a crack at some of the cards that happened before my time. One of my favorite duties here is writing up Card of the Day reviews for you every week. And when I take a look back at the Card of the Day archive, I notice all these great cards that I’ll never get a chance to review – until today! For the next two weeks I’ll be covering some of the highlights from the first 10 months of Card of the Day for 2005. The old saying goes that hindsight is 20/20, and sometimes taking a look back at the up and coming cards in Magic will give us better insight towards the kind of things that can come out of nowhere and make a big splash. So here we go – way back in January, the crew took a look at some of the important pieces of White Weenie.

Leonin Skyhunter (reviewed January 5th)

When the simple little skyhunter first appeared in the skies over Mirrodin, many hailed the immediate return of white weenie to the Standard environment. That wasn’t to be, but fortunately our little feline friend got a chance to get in on the action anyway. Although the huge combos of Mirrodin prevented White Weenie from stepping strongly into the spotlight, the Skyhunter came back to us for another couple years with its inclusion in 9th edition. When the archetype was reevaluated, suddenly we were in business. For the first time in a long time, the pieces are in place and White Weenie is in the running in Standard. Sure, it’s dipped into red for some help from the Boros Legion, but the Skyhunter remains an important part of the mix.

Constructed Rating – 3.6
Casual Rating – 3.5
Limited Rating – 3.6

Sakura Tribe Elder (reviewed January 10th)

Most of the really great commons in Magic go through a short period of evaluation before they are deemed to be “incredible”. I think that period of time was about 10 seconds for Sakura-Tribe Elder. Even in the face of the powerhouse cards of Mirrodin block, STE is a standout for all of Kamigawa. Since Kamigawa was released, the Elder has appeared in nearly every green deck that has made an appearance in Standard or Kamigawa block, and has even shown up in larger formats. Although mostly used as an accelerator and a chump blocker, the STE is huge even in limited where such things are often of less use. The slower limited format that the block provided us with was perfect for this Rampant Growth with legs to shine. If I had a vote, I’d say this should be included in 10th Edition. I’ll be sad to see it go.

Constructed Rating – 3.8
Casual Rating – 4.0
Limited Rating - 3.4

Psychatog (reviewed January 17th)

I couldn’t pass up the chance to talk about Dr. Teeth. Since he first appeared in Odyssey, this has been used to great success in every legal format. It is often referred to as the “best creature ever printed”, beating out even the incredible Morphling. When we first got our hands on the Odyssey spoiler, it was hard to imagine that this little Atog could possibly oust Superman, but the impossible has happened. Psychatog has gone on to dominate Standard, Odyssey Block, Extended and even Legacy. In fact, the only time when ‘Tog isn’t an auto-include is in limited, were blue-black was often underpowered during Odyssey. Even so, there were so many great tog-enabling cards in Odyssey block that the draft decks often seemed constructed, when they had Teeth. It seems like every time a new card comes out that mentions the graveyard, Tog gets a little bit more powerful. Dredge was the final needle on the haystack, and Tog’s dominance of extended has never been more visible. The only reason I give it such a low casual rating is that many players are so familiar with it’s dominance of constructed formats that it has been deemed “not casual”.

Constructed Rating – 4.7
Casual Rating – 3.0
Limited Rating – 3.8

Toshiro Umezawa (reviewed January 26th)

I knew what was going to happen when I first saw Toshi. He’s aggressive and has a useful ability, but I could tell from the start that he was going to be overshadowed. The same thing happens when I see a new land destruction spell. I smile, knowing that it’s a great card, but sigh because I know it will never get to shine. Toshi got a little time to shine in Kamigawa limited, where he could turn some decently good decks into really powerful ones, but he remained fragile and very much a combo card. There’s always a bright side to this kind of card, however – and that’s the casual formats. Strong but not overpowered cards with clever abilities are always at their best when given a slower format and a larger pool of cards. Outside of Standard or even Extended, the number of fun instants that Toshi can make use of goes up dramatically, and provides tons of fun options. And he looks pretty cool, too.

Constructed Rating – 2.3
Casual Rating – 3.9
Limited Rating – 3.1

Blazing Shoal (reviewed February 1st)

It’s not my favorite Shoal. It’s not the most popular Shoal. In fact, it’s seen barely any play at all. But for a brief shining moment, it was a popular card. Whenever a new card comes out and is shown to be part of a first turn kill, there is always a quick rush of interest. In almost every case, this interest dies away as it is proven just how unlikely it is for the deck to work, but the legend remains. It’s not entirely useless in limited, where it is a slightly more expensive Enrage, most of the time. Not a bomb. Not a huge tournament card. Not even terribly cool looking (as much as I love fish). It still gets to stand in line with very few other cards which are involved in first turn kills of the modern era. Blazing Shoal, we hardly knew ye.

Constructed Rating – 2.0
Casual Rating – 2.3
Limited Rating – 2.6

Ninja of the Deep Hours (reviewed February 14th)

Ink-Eyes may be the most powerful. Higure may be the most fun. But the Deep Hours have proven to be the most popular. This ninja is a throwback to the old days of Ophidian, with a big bucket of advantages over the old snake. Ninjutsu seems clumsy on some of the ninjas, but here it is perfect. Ninja of the Deep Hours can set up a quick threat of card advantage that some decks will have trouble dealing with. In limited especially, managing a turn 2 attacking Ninja of the Deep Hours can quickly unbalance the game. With just a little removal, you can outpace your opponent and get a head start on the damage race. I’m sure we’ll never see ninjas enter into the core set, and we may never see them show up in another expansion, but if there’s ever a chance then this is the one I want to see come back.

Constructed Rating – 2.8
Casual Rating – 3.1
Limited Rating – 3.3

Threads of Disloyalty (reviewed February 25th)

This is a good place to make mention of one of the biggest rules changes of 2005 – the invention of Auras. In almost every case, the change of Enchant Creature to Aura was unnoticed. However, it did have an effect on Auras with more specific enchanting restrictions. Cards like Threads of Disloyalty cannot be fetched using cards that search for ‘Enchant Creature’ Auras due to their further restrictions. Small price to pay for cleaning up some rules. And it turns out that Threads of Disloyalty came through it’s unintentional powering down as one of the best Auras in the block. Threads has proven itself a staple of Mono Blue Control in the post-Mirrodin era.

Constructed Rating – 3.0
Casual Rating – 2.9
Limited Rating – 2.6

Kira, Great Glass Spinner (reviewed March 10th)

When I saw the other glass cards on the Betrayers spoiler, my first reaction was “I wish there was another card that granted that ability”. And then there was! I love Kira. She (or he? It?) is a reasonably costed flier with a game changing ability. I’ve seen Kira dominate many limited games over the course of Kamigawa block. One of the more popular draft archetypes in CBS drafting was the removal-filled red/black deck. It’s fast and extremely potent. Kira was often the lynchpin that allowed blue decks to compete here. In addition to the aggressive blue flying decks that saw success in Kamigawa limited, Kira was a great addition to the Dampen Thought decks that showed up throughout the block. Kira remains one of my favorite cards to come out of Kamigawa.

Constructed Rating – 2.8
Casual Rating – 3.1
Limited Rating – 3.5

Imperial Seal (reviewed March 18th)

When Portal: Three Kingdoms was admitted into Vintage formats, a quick search of the new cards showed this mock-tutor to be the number one contender for Restriction. While it was not restricted immediately, the value skyrocketed. P3K was not a widely available or popular set, and few people had these or ever expected to find tournament use for them. In fact, many tournament players didn’t buy the set because they felt it would never be truly useful. So the value went crazy. It’s settled a bit, now but is still higher than anyone ever expected a Portal card to be. As far as it’s actual usefulness, Imperial Seal is only slightly worse than it’s other form, Vampiric Tutor. Quick tutoring ability has always been in demand in Vintage formats, after all. I won’t be able to give this a limited rating, though I can imagine some very high numbers. However, the chance of this ever being used in a limited format are so minimal that I don’t see a reason to include it.

Constructed Rating – 4.0
Casual Rating – 3.6
Limited Rating – n/a

Gift of Estates (reviewed March 24th)

When I saw the list of new inclusions to 9th edition, I have to admit that this one stumped me. My knowledge of Portals sets was more than nothing, but far short of complete. When I looked this up and saw what we were being given, I was quite happy. I was a huge fan of Land Tax back in the day, even though I knew it was broken beyond recognition. When all I had to use was Tithe, I was still happy. It was a long time before white saw that aspect of it’s color pie return, and it returned in force. As great as pulling 3 Plains out of your deck seemed, it was nothing compared to the revelation at the first view of the Ravnica dual lands. Gift of Estates can be used to fetch three lands that are part plains. As the rest of the dual lands appear over the next 6 months or so, Gift of Estates will become even better. Big formats like Prismatic and 5-Color thrive on land searching cards, and this is going to be one of the staples for a long time thanks to Ravnica.

Constructed Rating – 3.4
Casual Rating – 3.5
Limited Rating – 3.4

Pyrite Spellbomb (reviewed March 30th)

I wanted to make specific mention of Pyrite Spellbomb due to it’s inclusion in one of the new big decks in Magic Online. With the recent release of Mirage to the online world, Lion’s Eye Diamond combo decks have come on strong to the field. And in the Auriok Salvagers deck, this is the kill. Pyrite Spellbomb was one of two shock variants printed in Mirrodin (the other being Electrostatic Bolt). It served so many small coglike purposes throughout the life of that block, that it was often overlooked. It’s a cantrip. It’s removal. It’s a 1-drop artifact (so important once 5th Dawn arrived). Pyrite Spellbomb allowed crazy combo decks to go off and it allowed mono red decks to finally kill protection from red creatures. So many things to so many decks. It’s a building block and not a huge player, but I think Pyrite Spellbomb will be fondly remembered for a long time to come.

Constructed Rating – 3.2
Casual Rating – 3.6
Limited Rating – 3.7

Rishadan Port (reviewed April 5th)

One of my most prolific periods of Standard tournament play was during the period of time where Mercadian Masques block was included in Standard. Masques was the first set to be released when I returned to the game after a couple years away, and when I saw the cards I was a bit disappointed. After hearing so many stories of Urza’s block (the power of which had brought me back to the game), I was disappointed in the junk this set gave me. And then I saw the card that was right up my alley. Rishadan Port, often regarded as the most hated card in all of Mercadian Masques (overshadowed for that title in the whole block only by Lin Sivvi), is right up my alley. It’s so annoying! It’s uncounterable contol! It provides mana! It slices, it dices! I garnered a reputation for playing this cutthroat card, and won a lot with it. I was sad to see it go, but happy that I could finally get back to playing “fun” cards. Those of you who missed out on Masques in Standard probably shouldn’t regret it.

Constructed Rating – 4.0
Casual Rating – 1.9
Limited Rating – 2.2

Scroll Rack (reviewed April 11th)

Here’s one of those cards I missed out on during my two years away from the game. When I first saw it, I knew there was something incredible going on with it but didn’t know what exactly. And then I heard about some of the tricks being done with it, and my jaw dropped. Scroll Rack seems like a huge mistake now, but like a lot of cards it took a little time to process. Heck, even Oath of Druids wasn’t an immediate smash. One of my favorite Scroll Rack powered decks is the mono white Type 1 deck that utilized this with Land Tax to get incredible card advantage and eventually with the game however it wanted. It’s the kind of card I wish I could have gotten in on the ground floor with. Unfortunately, by the time I got my hands on it, it had already been scoured for possibilities and was far too popular for my tastes. I have had a chance to use it in Rath Cycle limited, which is my favorite limited format, and let me tell you – it shines there, just as much.

Constructed Rating – 3.9
Casual Rating – 3.6
Limited Rating – 3.8

Sunglasses of Urza (reviewed April 19th)

One of the other cards reviewed on this week in April was Umezawa’s Jitte. While any Magic writer these days could fill page after page with thoughts about Jitte, I won’t. What can I say? It’s broken. So instead, I chose to talk about one of the least broken cards in the history of Magic – Sunglasses of Urza. There’s a term that members of Magic R&D often use known as “top down design”. Obviously this is a case of that. This kind of card is thought of as a flavorful concept first and given abilities that match the concept later. One of the things that amuses me most about Sunglasses of Urza is that it proves that Red/White was one of the first promoted color combinations. This flies in the face of the recently touted statistics that show Red/White to be the least popular of all the color combinations. I guess it needed all the help it could get. It’s a terrible card, and you don’t need me to tell you that, but this is a nice reminder of an earlier time in Magic history. And proof that not all of Urza’s creations were amazing.

Constructed Rating – 0.1
Casual Rating – 0.9
Limited Rating – 0.1

Seal of Fire (reviewed April 26th)

I’ve got a scoop for some of the readers with this one. Thanks to the incredible rumor mill over at MtGSalvation, Seal of Fire has been shown to be a part of the upcoming Guildpact set (though not accompanied by the other Seals). So how good is this old favorite that we’ll soon see again? It’s great. It’s a sorcer-speed Shock for the most part. But it has some big advantages. First of all, it can be thrown out early to show your opponent that you have a threat. This can sometimes cause them to hold back stronger threats in the hope that you’ll use your seal on a lesser creature. Secondly, it can be thrown out early to save your mana for use on later turns. Thirdly, Enchantments are often a lot easier to find ways of returning to your hand than Instants or Sorcery. Dowsing Shaman from Ravnica comes to mind. I’ll be happy to see the Seal’s return.

Constructed Rating – 3.6
Casual Rating – 3.6
Limited Rating – 3.7

Sorrow’s Path (reviewed May 6th)

I couldn’t pass up this chance to review what is generally thought of as the single worst Magic card ever printed. Even worse than One With Nothing. Let this be a warning to young Magic players – when you look for old gems in the past sets, remember that for every huge overpowered bomb we got, we got one of these (or more than one). I also want to take this time to state that I don’t in fact think this is the worst card ever printed. That title goes to Pale Moon. If anyone would care to argue the point, I’m always happy to provide discussion.

Constructed Rating – 0.0
Casual Rating – 0.1
Limited Rating – 0.0

Balance (reviewed May 12th)

So we go from one of the worst ever to one of the best ever. I was one of the people who always recognized the incredible potential of this card. And when I heard that cards were being taken out for Revised, I assumed Balance would get cut. But it didn’t. So we had more time to show the world just how incredible this card is. Then 4th Edition was announced. We knew we’d lose some powerful options. The list came down and we were shocked – Balance was still around! I think that Balance deserves the title of Card that Got Way Too Much Time. Look at some of the other cards that were cut when Revised was printed – Camouflage, Cyclopean Tomb, Dwarven Demolition Team! Balance is Wrath of God, Mind Twist and Armageddon all wrapped into one package for two mana. Were this to be included for consideration in a current set, I’m sure Development would laugh it out of town. The one happy thing about Balance’s long reign in the core set is that it is easy to get them, now. 4th Edition Balances are cheap, and casual players who want a taste of the true power of Alpha have this at their fingertips. I do love Dwarven Demolition Team, though.

Constructed Rating – 4.9
Casual Rating – 4.8
Limited Rating – 4.8

Yukora, the Prisoner (reviewed May 17th)

Something hit me when I first saw Yukora. This card looked familiar. And then I realized what it was – Juzam! My old friend, Juzam Djinn! Back when card values first started to cross into the hundreds of dollars, Juzam was one of the top cards. With Dark Rituals and moxes prevalent, but quick combo decks still waiting in the wings, incredibly fast black beatdown (especially with Necropotence) raged across Type 1. I didn’t realize at the time just how important a piece that puzzle that Dark Ritual, moxen and Black Lotus were. Yukora made hardly a splash in the constructed formats at it’s release, though it did have a small showing in the mono black pre-Ravnica decks. I’m afraid that may be as far as we ever see The Prisoner get, even if he is better than Juzam. And he just might be.

Constructed Rating – 3.1
Casual Rating – 3.2
Limited Rating – 2.9

Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant (reviewed May 24th)

I had the same reaction to Sasaya as I did to Toshiro. Here’s another cool card that will never get a day to shine on the big stage. Actually, that was my opinion of all five of the Ascendant cards from Saviors. And, with the brief exception of Erayo in Two-Headed Giant before it was banned, that assessment has been correct. Neat combo creatures that are also fragile shine in the casual formats and just about nowhere else. Sasaya especially was overshadowed, as there are much easier to accomplish ways to generate mana in a green deck than this. It’s a shame. Maybe some day I’ll find a really clever way to make this work, or maybe I’ll just bury it alongside my Razor Pendulums and Null Chambers.

Constructed Rating – 2.2
Casual Rating 2.7
Limited Rating – 2.6

That does it for this week. Come back next week when I’ll wrap up the year with June through October in Card of the Day. Until then, have a great holiday weekend.
 

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