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Pojo's Magic The Gathering
Card of the Day

Daily Since November 2001!

Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Image from Wizards.com

Top 10 Cards of 2013

#3 -
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
- Theros

Reviewed December 31, 2013

Constructed: 3.70
Casual: 3.90
Limited: 4.30
Multiplayer: 3.95

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale:
1 being the worst.  3 - average.  5 is the highest rating

Click here to see all of our 
Card of the Day Reviews 

David Fanany

Player since 1995

Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Maybe it's the fact that I started playing Magic with the Fourth Edition, where Drain Life was a powerful sorcery that came out of nowhere but only hit once (although it usually only needed to connect once), but I've never quite gotten used to the repeatable or global variants. That's really what you have to consider the Gray Merchant, considering how easy it is to make a black deck where no creature stays in play or in the graveyard. I suspect that's exactly what a lot of readers have been waiting for, and there may well never be a better example than this. Skull Collector Control just became the most powerful archetype at a lot of casual tables.
Although I must say, it's nice to see a common card representing in the Top Ten in an era of powerful mythics.
Constructed: 4/5
Casual: 4/5
Limited: 4/5
Multiplayer: 4/5


Welcome back readers todays card of the day is a powerful theros card that has single handedly made mono black worth the effort. Such a powerful ability allows you to close out games and maintain your life total. In standard mono black devotion has become a powerful strategy and and a attractive option due to this card. In other competitive formats this card is a bit slow but more tools for monoblack exist making it a possible contender, however the reality is this creature is slow outside of standard. In multiplayed and casual play this card is simply a beast. Combining well with blink strategies this card hits each opponent and and can easily provide an obscene amount of life and eliminate multiple opponents. In limited its a solid card to draft around and provides a powerful incentive to go mono colored. Overall a powerful card that has made single color black decks a threat to tangle with and has changed the landscape of standard.
Constructed: 4.0
Casual: 4.0
Limited: 3.5
Multiplayer: 4.5

Michael "Maikeruu" Pierno

The number three card of the year is Gray Merchant of Asphodel which is a five mana 2/4 Black zombie that life drains each opponent equal to your devotion when it enters play. This is a surprisingly effective card, particularly in Multiplayer, as even by itself it is a four life point swing attached to moderately high toughness creature with a well supported type. While the mana cost is a little high, and oddly would be one of the few situations where additional colored mana symbols instead of colorless would be beneficial, this is easily supported in mono-Black and a viable centerpiece to build a deck around. With cards like Rescue from the Underworld and Black permanents with two or more mana symbols this can either outright win games or cause a very large swing in life points. Overall this has the potential to be a serious force in Casual and Multiplayer formats, but the higher mana cost and heavy benefit from other creatures in play may keep it from the higher tiers of competitive settings.
In Limited this is an extremely powerful common that is easily overlooked and can dominate a tournament when supported in a mono-Black design. Multiple copies are possible as it is likely to be passed by anyone not playing Black and alongside Rescue from the Underworld or March of the Returned can shift nearly any game heavily into your favor.
This can be a first pick in Booster, though a Black rare or removal will often take priority, in a smaller pod it can be taken second or even third in a pack. In Sealed running mono-Black is more difficult, which weakens this, though focusing on Black permanents with support from another color retains the strength and even in a divided deck this can often trigger for a solid life drain.
Constructed: 4.0
Casual: 4.5
Limited: 4.5
Multiplayer: 4.5

Skid Rambo

Gray Merchant of Ashphodel is just a lowly common card from Theros. You may be wondering how a common made it to number 3 on our Top Ten list. Answering that question will be hard, but I will try. First, you should play with Gray Merchant of Asphodel a few times before you make a hasty judgment. For me, Gray Merchant of Asphodel has averaged 4-7 points of life gain/loss each time that I played it in Standard. Most players should know that a 14 point swing is a huge game changer. Throwing Gray Merchant into a group game is almost unfair because Gray Merchant hits each opponent. Remember the black mythic dragon named Kokusho the Evening Star? Well, Gray Merchant of Asphodel costs less and does damage as soon as it enters the game and that is always good. Gray Merchant of Asphodel can easily dominate a limited event or become a superb finisher in a casual zombie deck!
Constructed: 4
Casual: 4.5
Limited: 5
Multiplayer: 5

BMoor Gray Merchant of Asphodel

I recommended the Gray Merchant on my Top 10 list based off of his strength in Limited, but I honestly wasn't expecting him to be so high on the list. Monocolor strategies don't typically work so well in Limited, but monoblack is possible in Theros based pretty much entirely on this guy. If you can grab every last Merchant you see, enough solid black cards, and some ways to recur a Merchant like March of the Returned or Pharika's Mender, you can win based entirely off of Merchant drain. The other devotion to black common, Disciple of Phenax, is also worth running, and this also puts you in a position to run as much black removal as you can, as removal is sparse and unreliable in Theros.
I'm honestly not quite sure if Gray Merchant has the teeth to make it in any other format. It's five mana for a 2/4 with an ETB ability. Maybe if you combo'd it with something like Progenitor Mimic, or were running a Flicker-based deck it would work, but as it stands it's just not enough for the more methodically-built decks outside Limited. Sure, you could slot it pretty easily into a casual Zombie deck and be happy with it, but it just won't do what it does in Limited for you.

Constructed- 2
Casual- 2.5
Limited- 4.5
Multiplayer- 1.75

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