With Gatecrash come and gone and another trip to the plane of Ravnica wrapped up, multicolor cards are prevalent in the Cube discussions of late. Serious card evaluation and play/cut recommendations are all well and good, but today I’d like to take a moment to look at some of the more disappointing products to come out of WotC. These are cards that could have been printed in a form that would see them becoming Cube staples and fell short, or perhaps took up the slot in the set that could have produced such a card. I’ve tried to avoid a whole class of cards that are interesting or powerful and would be playable save for that one extra mana tacked on, as this category’s denizens are numerous.
First up we have an Invitational card (r.i.p.). Augermage made brief waves when he was first revealed, but mostly by nature of being one of the long awaited player submitted cards. However, the end result was a far cry from the card Terry Soh had envisioned.
Oh, what could have been! This guy could be sitting pretty in most Black sections as an Aggro gem second only to Dark Confidant, but instead we have another middling contender in the deep pool of Rakdos cards.
I can certainly understand trepidation in the printing of such an efficient disruptor with a decent body, and it’s no surprise to anyone to see Wizards lean on tapping as a cost or adding mana. These tendencies are particularly grating in this case, though, because they go directly against the wishes of Soh himself, who specifically wanted an aggro two drop that had a shot at seeing Constructed play. The addition of an extra mana could have been overcome if the rewards were right, the addition of another color certainly could have still produced a playable card, and even the tapping activation could have been worked around.
So instead of paying two life to activate its ability (giving us Putrid Leech-like decisions to make), or costing a Red and a Black but having Haste to offset the need to tap for activations, we got the version with all three elements clumsily tossed on.
I remember waiting for Dissension spoilers to roll in, and thinking “oh boy, I hope Azorius has an instant speed Wrath!”. I was prepared to pay five – perhaps even six – mana for an effect firmly affixed at four, purely because I thought it was a simple elegant design that could create interactive game decisions. Instead, we got Swift Silence.
Supreme Verdict is certainly a step up from Swift Silence, but again, we missed out. We got a halfhearted check on Snapcaster Mage, while Detention Sphere got the push in terms of power and flexibility. I may have been overly optimistic to hope for the instant wrath back in the days of old Ravnica, but it’s sad to see WotC continue to let the power of creatures outpace that of spells year after year.
Lightning Helix quickly came to be a defining card of Boros, and I think expectations were high for the return to Ravnica to deliver more iconic cards like Helix and Electrolyze. Instead, we got the laziest possible option; a virtually identical function on a much worse card. They were apparently so desperate to capture the essence of what people expect from Boros that this isn’t even the only time in the set they blatantly go back to the well.
Here’s a card with several factors working for it. It’s got a badass name, good art, and great flavor. This was a mythic that had people excited at first to see what this thing could do. But there’s something missing from this card and it’s glaringly obvious. Any number of options could have turned this guy into the spiritual successor to the rules nerfed Grave-Shell Scarab, but instead he’s just a turd out there.
WotC said they wanted to do a “Top Down Design” card this time around for You Make the Card, and had the community first vote on a piece of art to use, then create a card around it. The art chosen is fine, and the Blink theme was certainly fertile ground to work with. However, at four mana and with such an awkward and disjoint function attached, this card was doomed from the start. Had this card been done right, we may not even be calling them Blink effects to this day, as Vanish would have predated Blink and perhaps established a precedent of “Vanish” effects.
Stripping the hand outright while presenting a threat is certainly an intriguing prospect to a Blightning type of aggro deck. The effect can even be strong enough that Mindslicer saw play for a time. Even pitching your own hand is an interesting drawback to be worked around in its own right. If this guy had been anywhere near a playable mana cost he might be competing for space with things like Olivia Voldaren, perhaps even tearing it up with Blood Scrivener, but we got the version that costs six mana and still dies to a Char.
R&D talks a big game about color alignment and balance, but when you look at the color pie territory as it is functionally printed some Colors and Guilds are clearly missing out. (AHEMREDCARDSCAUGH)
Blue and Red technically love to get in on spell copying action, and it’s a shared point of interest between the two. The history of cards that actually accomplish this with any reasonable efficiency is painfully slim, though, and hasn’t been cheap or relevant since perhaps as far back as the first printing of Twincast. Cloven casting was a chance to use multicolor requirements to try to push this aspect of the colors’ identities into respectability. Sadly for Izzet fans everywhere, three extra mana seems to have inexplicably been tacked onto a card that already had a restriction and multiple color requirements. In a world where the relative power of spells is staggeringly low, this excessive cost is baffling.
I hate to bring up another card that suffers mostly from mana cost, but this card could have been a dead ringer for both flavor and function in Gruul. At four or perhaps even five mana there may have been significant interest in this card, and it may have pushed for playtime the like of which Huntmaster of the Fells is seeing. Fight is a reasonable mechanic, and an increasingly relevant one in the new creature-centric dynamics of the game, and this could have been the card to personify it. Unfortunately, Ulvenwald Tracker will have to hold that distinction a while longer.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our look at what could have been, and I hope you enjoy our other [Top 8] Articles to come, as well as plenty of other great Cube content right here on riptidelab.com.