10 Red Mythics Under $20

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

Finding budget rares is fun, and finding budget mythics is even more exciting. These red mythics are one that you might not be aware are powerful and budget friendly. This list includes some seriously interesting and seriously heavy hitting cards. These budget beauties are a perfect match for kitchen table Commander players slinging spells and scarfing Cheetos!

1.    Indomitable Creativity

Yes, I know it is sorcery speed replacement/removal, but it’s actually far more flexible. I love how you can use Indomitable Creativity to upcycle your useless artifacts or token creatures into the more powerful and useful ones you have in your deck. Just think about all those extra treasure or blood tokens you might be producing. Now imagine them becoming all those other powerful cards in your deck for only one mana each. Yes, this card has the potential to make you indomitable in a game, and it gives you a chaos warp effect as well. Being able to also eliminate pesky problematic cards and upcycle your own with a single spell is really powerful. So, what are you waiting for? Pick up this creative card and get your indomitable groove on!

2. Malignus

So, this little beauty is approaching his 10 year anniversary and is still only about 5 bucks. Malignus can easily be the biggest creature on just about any battlefield turns 5-10. I’m amazed that such a powerful creature is still so cheap. It’s only been printed in one set, nearly a decade ago, and it’s incredibly powerful. Though, its recent addition to “The List” has helped keep it in the better budget zone. It scales with your opponent’s highest life total, and cracks for a ridiculous amount of damage that can’t be prevented. Using this to attack people with lower life totals is brutal. Combining Malignus with sneaky cards like Rogue’s passage can lead to some games getting closed out in short order. Also, it’s pretty sweet when you can triple up Malignus’s damage with something like Fiery Emancipation—just saying.

3. Hero of Oxid Ridge

Here’s another mythic rare with only one printing and a decade under its belt. Hero of Oxid Ridge is still cheaper than most rares. Crazy, right? If it were a goblin, then it would be commanding a seriously high price tag, but it doesn’t have to be a goblin to benefit goblin decks. It helps boost the team with a nasty little Battle Cry ability that grants the rest of the attacking team +1/+0 until end of turn. However, when you manage to combine this with multiple attack phases, then you are able to get the pump effect for each time Hero of Oxid Ridge attacks. That’s a bellow we all like to benefit from. The incidental anti-chump blockers clause actually comes up more often than you might think. Granting evasion to your swarm and pumping them to crash straight past those pesky eldrazi, elf, goblin, saproling, or even vampire tokens can make for a very rewarding play—while using a budget mythic no less.

4. Dragon Whisperer

It’s easy to argue that Dragon Whisperer is only good when you are already ahead. However, in Commander, you aren’t necessarily ahead if you have 8 power on the board. Being able to crank out lots of flying dragons does mean that you will be ahead and very quickly. This is a vastly underrated card, and as a result it’s a powerful red mythic that has a super budget price tag. You had me at dragon, Mr. Whisperer.

5. Furyborn Hellkite

I’d pay 7 mana for a 12/12 flier, how about you? Would you pay about $3 for the card in question? If your answer to both of these questions is a yes, then you need to grab yourself a copy of this budget mythic! It’s only ever seen print once, in M12, and that makes yet another decade old mythic that comes in under our budget umbrella.

6. Moonveil Dragon

I promise the rest of the list has nothing to do with dragons. Moonveil Dragon is a great card for any decks that have swarms of tokens. Whether you have kobolds, goblins, or dragon tokens you can pump them all up to ridiculous proportions. Moonveil Dragon allows you to have both an end game threat and effect all in one big mythical dragon body. Moonveil Dragon is the type of budget mythic that gets me excited to stretch my dollars.

7. Subterranean Tremors

Subterranean Tremors is for those times when you just have to blow up all the groundlings and their cute little toys. This is a card that scales as the game goes on. You can play it early to wipe out someone off to fast start with tokens or some other elvish nonsense. Mid-game you can need only five mana to pull off an extremely powerful play. For five mana you blow up all artifacts and wipe out all non-fliers with toughness four or less. Top-decking this late-game, when we have extra mana, gives us the ability to blow up everything with toughness seven or less while also netting us a big fat 8/8 lizard to beat face with! Also of note, this is another mythic rare with only one printing to its name. I’m guessing we will see this in a precon before long, but for now it’s plenty cheap enough to justify picking it up.

8. Wolf of Devil’s Breach

I think a few of us out there may have forgotten about this little reanimation enabler. Wolf of Devil’s Breach is a five mana 5/5 that allows us to drop reanimation targets into our graveyard for two mana. It also allows us to slam people for massive damage for only two mana. Most of your reanimation targets are higher mana value cards, like Baleful Force and Avatar of Woe, that you want to cheat into play. Why not crank out extra damage with the Wolf before reanimating big threats like them with your other fun spells? Grave Upheaval anyone?

9. Port Razer

Now, I know that Port Razer is a newer card, and that maybe some people haven’t forgotten about it, but it’s a seriously powerful budget mythic. Maybe it is because Port Razer is an orc pirate, but this card is more powerful than its price tag would have you believe. Being able to chip in damage on a weaker opponent whose shields are down and then untap afterwards is very powerful. You don’t actually have to attack during that second attack phase, thus giving your creatures pseudo vigilance. It’s a little like they were all Eternal Warrior(s).

10. Bonfire of the Damned

I like to plan as much as any blue mage. However, Bonfire of the Damned is such a huge late game top deck, especially when paying the miracle cost, that I’m willing to eschew planned strategy for impulsive power. Bonfire of the Damned has blasted me and my army to pieces. Being on the receiving end of this spell can be crushing; you go from large army, good board position, and safe life total, to a wrecked and vulnerable mess. This is quite the beating, and can often be pitched with other impulsive filtering spells in red if you ever draw it too early or find it at the wrong time. This is an under-played and under-used mythic that will crush your opponents all while barely denting your wallet.

Red is an interesting color and I found that it has many parallels with blue. These enemy colors both had a striking similarity in the makeup of mythics under $20. They have nearly the same number of budget mythics. Interestingly, both colors have budget mythic tribes—blue has sphinxes and red has dragons. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many beefy dragons that are very playable—Scourge of the Throne comes to mind. A few managed to make the list, but I’d like to offer a look into a couple more that you could use to fill out a mon-red dragons build with either Inferno of Stars Mount or Illharg, the Raze-Boar as the masters of these beasts. Consider that Bogardan Hellkite, perhaps the cheapest mythic in existence, can be jammed alongside the likes of fellow hellkites like Hellkite Courser, Hellkite Tyrant, Thundermaw Hellkite, and honorary hellkite Stormbreath Dragon, for well under a $100 is the type of mythical budget I love to buy into. Heck, swooping in with these fiery beasts is more fun than beating face with bouncing beebles. Perhaps there’s a budget big red dragons deck in your future, because I’m totally building one right now. Anyway, until next time, may your budget and the cards be ever in your favor!

10 Blue Commander Cards Under $20 

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

You might be tempted to spend $100 or more on a single card to get a big impact mythic for your Commander deck. I’d like to help you find a way to stretch that $100-200 you might budget for one or two cards into buying several high impact but budget friendly blue Commander cards. Sure, that Force of Will is flashy, but there are other mythics that are much cheaper and can make just as big an impact in a game. I’m here to tell you about 10 different blue mythics that are under $20, make a big impact, and offer more excitement for your Commander games.

1.    Frost Titan

When I started doing my research for this article I was shocked to find that old frosty the snowman here is ultra-budget. Even the most expensive version of this card is well under $20 (the fancy secret lair version in foil is closer to $5). I wouldn’t have considered this card something people might not know about, except that it hasn’t seen a real reprinting since 2014. Frost Titan has a solid ETB effect by tapping other creatures down, and having the now key-worded “Ward 2” is a really solid deal for around a buck. A mythic this powerful at such a cheap price is so worth picking up to seriously impact any game time and time again. Tapping down your opponent’s creatures with tap abilities is so good, and having it be a repeatable effect while crashing in with a 6/6 is super strong. It sometimes functions like a creature with evasion, as it removes potential blockers with its attack trigger.

2.    Cast Through Time

Blue is the color for spells, and Cast Through Time lets us double up on each one we cast. This enchantment seems clunky, but where else are we going to sling spells like this except in Commander? Using this to double up your spells can help you close a game in short order. Combining this with cards like relearn and time warp is just dirty, so go for it! If you’re playing blue, and you’ve got plenty of spells in your deck, then you need to try jamming this budget mythic sometime soon. It’s so satisfying to rebound silly spells like Crush of Tentacles, Expropriate, or even the next card on this list.

3.    Clone Legion

Speaking of big clunky spells—clone legion is a ton of fun. This can completely change the look of a game whenever you cast it. Suddenly, you have everything you already had on board, plus every creature the best opponent’s board has as well. This is a huge game changer, and when you do cast this thing it’s extremely gratifying. It last saw print in 2017, and I’m willing to bet that quite a few of you out there have forgotten how much fun this card can be. It’s not grossly unfair—you pay lots of mana for it, and it is only as good as your opponent’s board. The power of it really shines when your opponents have cards with amazing “enters the battlefield” effects that allow you to grind out your supreme value.

4.    Arcanis the Omnipotent

Arcanis the Omnipotent is ancestral recall on a stick! Arcanis the Omnipotent, sadly, is often under-rated by today’s player base. People see a card that costs six mana and think that it having a 3/4 body makes it somehow not good enough. Yes, I suppose power creep has spoiled plenty out there, but this legendary wizard, who hails from the pre-modern set titled Onslaught, is actually amazing. You can scoop him back up for four mana whenever he’s threatened by some targeted or mass removal spell. Honestly, tapping him to draw three cards is really the draw here. Untapping with Arcanis in play is gross. I have rarely seen the player that does this lose the game. If Arcanis the Omnipotent gets multiple activations, then it’s usually a foregone conclusion that his controller is going to win the game. Arcanis might be the most budget repeatable card draw spell ever printed. I know he’s always been a rare, but his latest printing was as a mythical face card to those Speed vs. Cunning duel decks, so I’m counting him as a mythic.  

5.     Beguiler of Wills

I recently picked up four of these for less than $4. That seems incredibly cheap to me. Stealing people’s stuff is always good, and stealing more and more stuff is just grossly good. Again, I think people see 1/1 and think five mana is too much to pay. This steal effect doesn’t end when Beguiler of Wills dies or leaves play or untaps or anything else. This is permanent creature theft. Once you successfully activate this you are able to steal their creature “for-ev-ver”. All those utility creatures and other role-players in people’s decks are suddenly easy pickings for you to permanently make your own. If you happen to already be creating a large amount of tokens or other weak creatures in your blue deck (drakes?), then you need to be jamming this yesterday. Feel free to run Homarid Spawning Bed and Scornful Egotist in your deck as well to catch em’—, er steal them all.

6.    Day’s Undoing

This budget Time Twister is still good outside Obeka, Brute Chronologist decks. Being able to wheel for three mana, even when it ends your turn, should not be underestimated. When you are playing blue it isn’t like you want to play spells during your main phase anyway. A true blue deck has lots of instants and flashy spells in it. Days Undoing is a chance for you to refill your hand and if you happen to punish everyone else with a flashed in Notion Thief, then it’s not such a bad play for seven mana, right? Overall, Days Undoing is actually a card that’s fallen off most people’s radars, but has plenty of applications in most blue decks, and has a gigantic impact on any game. Considering this mythic was printed only once in 2015 it’s surprising that it is still under $10. This is especially surprising when it can have such a large impact on any given game.

7.    Echo of Eons

Perhaps you were wondering why I wasn’t talking about Echo of Eons while I was discussing Day’s Undoing. That’s because it’s next up on the list. Echo of Eons is perhaps even better than Day’s Undoing. This is the type of card that fits all the slots from our previous one, so I won’t belabor my points anymore. This one has the added benefit of flashback along with its actual cost. This offers even more flexibility, so it can be even better: cost flexibility, discardability, multiple castings, and it can be recurred (provided it isn’t flashed back). Overall, it’s almost strictly better than Day’s Undoing.

8.    Kiega, the Tide Star

I keep expecting power creep to print a strictly better Kiega, the Tide Star, and thankfully that hasn’t happened. This is another ultra budget blue mythic that hasn’t seen print since it’s Iconic Masters printing in 2017. It dates back to Champions of Kamigawa, and it was a house when it was first printed. Granted, most Commander players think of Kiega’s mean older brother Kokusho, but Kiega is just such an awesome dragon. Kiega is a decent body at 5/5, and a nightmare for people to try and remove. If you add a sacrifice outlet to your deck in the form of High Market or even Victimize, then you have a chance to really blow people out in any game. I also hear it is fun to clone Keiga, the Tide Star (just not quite as fun since the Legend rule changed to only blowing up one of them). Having a 5/5 that threatens to not only block someone’s ace of a creature, but also steal that creature after chump blocking is a really powerful move. Kiega, the Tide Star works well on both offense and defense, and that’s the type of stunning impact I’m looking for in my budget mythics.

9.    Lighthouse Chronologist

“Extra! Extra! Take all the turns!” Lighthouse Chronologist is close to the $20 cut-off mark, but it also hasn’t been printed since its original printing in Rise of the Eldrazi in 2010. That’s a mythic with over ten years of supply and demand working for it, and nothing else against it. Lighthouse Chronologist is a lightning rod for removal. If you ever get to resolve it, then it’s likely that you’ll get to take all the turns! Seriously, pumping seven mana into this might seem bad, until you suddenly get an absurd number of draws, untap steps, and oh heck, just extra turns.

10.  Quicksilver Gargantuan

Yes, there are other cards with similar effects for less mana, but they don’t supersize your copy. I know that you can play with Clone or Sakashima’s Protégé or Spark Double, but why not go over-the-top with Quicksilver Gargantuan? Slamming down a 7/7 copy of someone else’s Baleful Strix, Grand Abolisher, Scute Swarm, or even Aurelia, the Warleader is the type of impactful play I dream about from a budget mythic that comes in under $1. Oftentimes, you are stuck with no decent cloning targets, but even small bodied creatures are decent targets for this oversized shapeshifter. I mean, a 7/7 flier that taps for any color mana is a lot scarier than a 0/1 flier that taps for any color—sorry Birds of Paradise. Quicksilver Gargantuan can take you from stalemate to checkmate.

Wrap up.

I’d like to take this time to mention a few others that I couldn’t quite fit into this list. As I was reviewing the cards to write this piece I kept stumbling upon mythical Sphinxes. I’m totally building a Sphinx Commander deck, and it’s going to be chock full of the mythics in this list, and many more actual Sphinxes that are mythics. Mythical, and rare for that matter, sphinxes are super budget buys! Seriously, here’s a list of some powerhouse Sphinxes that are pretty darn cheap: Sphinx of Enlightenment, Sphinx Ambassador, Sphinx of the Final Word, Sphinx of the Second Sun, and even the deck’s future commander Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign. I’m looking forward to building this quizzically quirky tribal Commander deck, and I’m be sure to share it with all of you once I iron out all the details. Until then, may your budget and the cards be ever in your favor! 

10 Black Commander Cards Under $20 You Should Be Playing

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

You might be tempted to spend $100 or more on a single card to get a big impact mythic for your Commander deck. I’d like to help you find a way to stretch that $100-200 you might budget for one or two cards into buying several high impact but budget friendly black Commander cards. The problem is that you can play several games before you get a chance to actually play your new pricey mythic. I’m here to tell you about 10 different mythics and rares that are under $20, make a huge impact, and offer you more excitement during your Commander games. So, here’s 10 cheap black cards with a big impact you should be playing in Commander.

1.    Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

It seems like people have forgotten that you can play this deck in a non-ninja deck. Ninjisu works with any unblocked creature—rogue, ninja, beast, illusion, or even a saproling token. It doesn’t  matter that the token is exiled when it is returned to your hand, because the cost is paid, and Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni is going to steal you something good. This card deserves a price tag over $20 for its artwork alone. When you factor in the sneakiness and impact Ink-Eyes can have on a game, then you clearly have a card that’s undervalued by far too many players. 

2.    Shadowborn Demon

Having demons with downsides used to be normal—like the class act that is Lord of the Pit. Now, we expect a mythic rare, demon or not, to be all upside. Where’s the fun in that? Well, Shadowborn Demon lets you have your fun, but also keeps it bloody good while you slaughter one of your opponent’s creatures and enjoy immunity yourself because of the creatures you’ve already sacrificed. You can always sacrifice the demon to itself, so if you’re desperate you can slaughter your own shadowy demon.

3.    Stunning Reversal

Now, you may be of the camp that says if you’re not trying to win, then you are losing. You may believe cards like Stunning Reversal do nothing, because you think that momentarily avoiding a loss is not a path to victory. Sorry—not sorry—that’s just wrong. Stunning Reversal is perfectly named; you don’t die and you get to snag seven extra cards at instant speed for only four mana. That’s incredibly powerful. This Battlebond Mythic deserves one of the spicy slots in your black decks, and can even be the sort of thing that enables some truly crazy comebacks and is disturbingly good when you’re running cards like Eternity Vessel. A player might plan to knock you off along with everyone else, but thanks to Stunning Reversal, now they still have to wreckon with you and your fully loaded crack back (which is fueled by seven extra cards).

4.    Haunting Voyage

Haunting Voyage makes me feel a bit awkward even mentioning that it’s not only under $20, but under $5!? How is it that a one-sided Patriarch’s Bidding is still this cheap? Yes, I know Patriarch’s Bidding got a reprint and it’s cheaper than ever, but did I mention this is one-sided? Also, Haunting Voyage can be foretold. Foretell is a powerful mechanic as it lets you save your spells in a discard immune zone to cast when it’s most convenient for you. How powerful and impactful is this card? More than $5 worth of impact, and it definitely deserves consideration in your to-buy list.

5.     Erebos, God of the Dead

I played with Erebos, God of the Dead back in Standard, of all places, and found it to be deceptively powerful there. However, that’s a way smaller card pool than Commander. Still, any card that wins me games in another format is something I’m sure to try out in my favorite format—Commander. I have never been disappointed with this card. Having an enchantment that allows you to draw a card for two mana and keep everyone else from gaining life is super powerful. Having it become an indestructible attacker/blocker is also pretty solid as well. It does become more susceptible to removal once it’s a creature, so be aware that there’s times you actually prefer not to raise your devotion if possible. Did I mention that Erebos allows you to draw lots of extra cards, and doesn’t shut off your own ways to gain life? Oh, I did…well, let’s move on!

6.    Demon of Dark Schemes

Demon of Dark Schemes is similar to Questing Beast in that they have a ridiculous amount of rules text. That’s about all they have in common, as Demon of Dark Schemes is a serious budget buy. This thing flys, kills off small swarms, fuels it’s own energy driven ability, and reanimates any creature you want! Seriously, why is a card that is beastly like Massacre Wurm, but also sneaky like Ink-Eyes or Beacon of Unrest so affordable? I have no idea why. Perhaps people think that because it needs energy to reanimate that it doesn’t just kill small swarms without an effort at all? This is the type of card I bought four of for under $3, and I’ve never been sorry I did. Seriously, try this Massacre Wurm alternative out sometime, and you might be amazed at how fun it can be.

7.    Calculating Lich

In a world of Zombies, I’m astonished this card is still so cheap. This is another card that’s probably flying under people’s radars. Rot Hulk spiked early on in this latest Innistrad set; I wasn’t surprised as it’s a Game Day promo card that’s never seen any other printings. It has a powerful effect for Commander, and that also makes it worth more. Of course, this all applies to Calculating Lich as well. The lich really helps add up the damage on your opponents rather quickly, and that can lead to you closing out games much faster than anyone may have anticipated. This is one card whose price is worth calculating.  

8.    Worst Fears

Super power effect—check!

Super high mana cost—check!

Makes people salty?—double check!!

Worst Fears is the type of card that can really get under someone’s skin, but that’s just because you’re borrowing their skin for a bit. Honestly, for this much mana no one should be complaining that you’re stealing their next turn from them. Yet, there are some ways to go about casting this for a lot less than the actual cost—Counterlash, Magus of the Mind, Mind’s Desire, Scholar of the Lost Trove, Sins of the Past, and Spelltwine all come to mind. Making someone else realize their worst fears is even better when you double it up with something extra evil like Counterlash or Spelltwine. Granted, you do need a discard outlet to get Worst Fears into the yard, but that’s a small concession when building with the color that specializes in discard effects.

9.     Tree of Perdition

While Tree of Perdition isn’t quite as powerful as Sorin Markov, it’s does a reasonable impression. Look, it doesn’t have haste (unless you’ve got Anger in the graveyard), but it is a serious threat to anyone on the table. It doesn’t actually sacrifice itself to use its ability either. It becomes a giant blocker and instantly cripples an opponent as well. If you manage to blink it with an Ephemerate or Momentary Blink before your turn, then you can go ahead and cripple an additional player as well. You can also just give someone else life by stealing one person’s and then giving it to another. This is something that will often be a removal magnet, but also has the potential to allow you some serious shenanigans in many different decks. Also, did I mention how nicely this combos with Triskaidekaphobia? Yes, that dream could happen. Plus, you’re playing black, so you’ll be able to recur from the graveyard and maybe find another opponent to fall victim to the Tree of Perdition and Triskaidekaphobia’s nasty combination.

10. Vampire Nocturnus & Bloodlord of Vaasgoth

Now, I know these cards really only work with Vampire decks, but seriously, why not discuss them with Crimson Vow on the Horizon? Vampire Nocturnus gives such a strong boost to your team of Vampires (itself included). Yes, it doesn’t work all the time, but when it is working it is incredibly strong. I love seeing people re-read this card and then frown as they see your top card is black. It’s devastating to realize that the combat math just got much more serious, and it’s deadly serious once they read those last three words, “…and have flying.” Seems fair. Meanwhile, Bloodlord of Vaasgoth super charges your team as they come into play. Dealing damage with the bloodsuckers and then dropping pumped up versions of smaller vampires is brutal. It will suck the fight from your opponents and leave them empty husks. Just watch out of for Tsabo’s Decree!

Wrap up.

Black can be a brutal, sneaky, viscous color to play, and I love that about it. If you’re into doing dastardly deeds with your swamps, then these cards are for you. They aren’t nearly as expensive as some of the more pricey black mythics like Liliana of the Veil or Mekaeus, the Unhallowed, yet they can impact games arguably in even more powerful ways. It’s nice to see that there are plenty of budget options available. I really tried to give you the cards that most people aren’t really aware of here, and this is by no means an exhaustive list of cheap mythics—there’s more, but you probably already know about them. I’ve discovered 120+ mythics that fit this basic budget criteria. Not all of those cards have as big an impact, but they are mythical, so they do have big special effects. I hope this list of cards leads to you finding your darkest desires, and in so doing guarantying that the cards will be ever in your favor.

10 Green Commander Cards Under $20 You Should Be Playing

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

You might be tempted to spend $100 or more on a single card to get a big impact mythic for your Commander deck. The problem is that you can play several games before you get a chance to actually play your new pricey mythic. I’m here to tell you about 20 different mythics and rares that are under $20, make a huge impact, and add variety to your Commander games. For the price of one pricey mythic you can pick up five of these cards, so let’s discuss the ten cheap mythics you should be playing in Commander.

1.    Bramble Sovereign

This card is just ridiculous. It came out in Battlebond, a set designed to be played in limited as a two-headed giant match-up, so it happens to custom made for multiplayer formats, like Commander. This can make for some hilarious plays in order to bring down the table’s biggest threat. Giving your opponent an extra Avenger of Zendikar, Verderous Gearhulk, Worldspine Wurm, or even a pair of Craterhoof Behemoths for a mere two mana can really turn a game on its head. Allowing someone to double up their ETB triggers off cards like Duplicant or Archon of Cruelty can quickly cut the current archenemy out of the lead. Perhaps you may even strike a double deal with their Sphinx of Enlightenment? I can’t wait to use this card more often. I just slotted it into my EDH cube, because it is a card we all need to  see in play more often.

2.    Kalonian Hydra

Let’s be honest about counters in green decks; they’re there more often than not.I am so surprised Kalonian Hydra hasn’t flown past the $20 mark. It is so powerful in so many green decks. Doubling up +1/+1 counters is crazy on a single creature, but doubling up all the counters on every attack is insanity—and I love it. Jam this in any deck that’s running a counters theme and you won’t be disappointed. This is like having a repeatable Doubling Season on the board (Doubling Season–way more than $20).

3.    Natural Order

Natural Order shouldn’t be under $20, and I don’t think it will stay that way for very long. It has commanded a price over that for quite some time. It just got reprinted as part of the mystical archive, and snagging copies of that version for under $20 is an excellent deal. Granted, this most recent printing is the only one under $20 which is a good sign that this card isn’t going to be dropping in price any time soon. Natural Order allows you to cheat the best green creature from your deck into play at instant speed. It’s like a mini Tooth and Nail, but it’s only four mana. It has always been powerful in 1 vs. 1 matchups, and it’s still amazing in multiplayer. There are so many green combo pieces and game-ending creatures you can cheat into play that this old beauty is still one of the flashiest cards around. If you happen to use it to get yourself a Verdant Force, then you win the nostalgia bonus round my friend.

4.    Unbound Flourishing

This is more a niche pick-up for decks with “X spells”. However, this is absolutely amazing in those decks. I think it’s unlikely you aren’t already playing it in a counters matter deck, but if you aren’t, then it’s time for you to jam one of these into your deck and truly make it a next-level monstrosity (bonus points for playing and activating Hydra Broodmaster with Unbound Flourishing in play).

5.     Thrun, the Last Troll

So, most of the cards on this list are closer to the $20 mark, but Thrun, the Last Troll is under $5. I can’t even believe that I can write that. This card has been reprinted only once, in the Mystery Boosters set. Otherwise, it’s only been printed once, and that was in Mirrodin Besieged—10 years ago! That’s crazy. This card is overdue for a price spike. It could get reprinted in a Commander Precon., but I doubt it. If it does, then it’ll drop quite a bit, and likely be a bulk mythic forever. Yet, if it doesn’t, and people start realizing how powerful this card truly is, then I expect they’ll be snapping up every copy of it under $10 in short order. This is a fantastically cheap buy at the moment. Having a four mana threat that can block incredible well and dodge targeted removal is still solid in the Commander format…ten years later! Feel free to announce playing it by busting out your best baritone singing voice, “Thrun, da-da-dun-The Last Troll!”

6.    Avatar of Growth

Avatar of Growth is a card that initially escaped my radar. It’s a game day promo from 2018, so it’s about three years old now, and it’s actually under $10. This is the kind of card that plays fantastically well in multiplayer, and especially well against your friends that look down their noses at basic lands. This is a great way to punish those dual, fetch, shock, triome wielding opponents and reward everyone else living on a more frugal budget. I can easily see this being a powerful three drop in an average Commander game that then ramps up the rest of the table as well as yourself. I think it might even find a spot in my EDH Cube, because this is the sort of Battlebond-esque fun I like to see in friendly games of Commander.

7.    Shaman of the Forgotten Ways

Speaking of forgotten buys, this card is probably appropriately named at this point. It’s hasn’t been printed since 2015, and I doubt it sees that much play in your local groups. However, it is a fantastically powerful way to obliterate people’s life totals and then swing in for an easy kill. If they’ve left themselves with one blocker or just one creature in play, then they’re basically dead on board. A control player that runs a creature light deck can find themselves dead in very short order. Voltron players? Yeah, they’ll be terrified of this thing. You get to swing in with two 1/1’s and knock them out. That’s some sweet budget player removal right there.

8.    Nullhide Ferox

Now I know you’re looking at me like I’m crazy for mentioning this bulk mythic. It’s one of the cheapest mythics to never see a reprint. It’s also a 6/6 Hexproof for four mana. Granted, it has a rough downside: you can’t cast non-creature spells. However, for only two mana you can turn that ability off until end of turn. Well, anyone can, but hear me out before you write this thing off. It’s a 6/6 for a mere four mana. It’s no Argothian Wurm (also worth considering), but the trample isn’t that huge of a loss when you consider that it dodges all targeted removal unless that person decides to pay an extra two mana to remove it. If you’re running a more aggressive deck or perhaps using Ruric Thar as your Commander, then you really should consider jamming this impactful beater for the monetary equivalent of two gumballs. Unlike most Hexproof creatures, this one begs for and allows for table interaction. It’s hard for people to feel salty about your Hexproof creature when it isn’t really hexproof, but more like “Ward 2”,except not as good. Remember, this is a budget list. 

9.     Primeval Bounty

Primeval Bounty seems like a slow and perhaps over-costed value engine. However, it really doesn’t take much to rev this engine into overdrive. It’s relatively easy to cast after doing some accelerating and then immediately drop a land to gain three life. This card doesn’t make you an immediate target either (like, say, Doubling Season might). Yes, six mana for three life is terrible. However, if you happen to cast another spell off that, like Snakeskin Veil, you suddenly have a creature with four +1/+1 counters on it that got to dodge a removal spell at the same time. It really just gives every spell and land you play an additional trigger (like adding on a free kicker bonus). Now, every creature nets you an additional 3/3 while each spell pumps up a creature with additional counters, and every land drop pads your life total. Overall, it is a valuable little card that can get rapidly out of hand in any deck that’s running synergies with counters, beasts, life gain, or even a beast tribal deck! Krosan Warchief loves seeing this card, and so do all your other beasts that you call forth from the Contested Cliffs.  

10. Seasons Past

Don’t pass on this Seasons Past card. It appears to be an over-costed regrowth, but once you’ve played it late game you won’t ever look at it the same way. Unlike Praetor’s Counsel, which I think more than a few people jam, this one slips under deck builder’s radars as the restriction seems overly prohibitive. I emphasize “seems” here because once you start looking at your actual mana curves, you come to find that you actually end up with a variety of different casting costs in the yard in the mid-to-late game. The ability to bring back any type of spell is the coolest part of this card. It doesn’t restrict by card types, so everything that costs different amounts is up for grabs. Don’t forget that lands have a mana value (converted mana cost) of zero and can be snapped up with this card along with all your other goodies.

I hope I brought a few cheap mythics into consideration for you. Plenty of people hunt down the same old green cards like The Great Henge, Craterhoof Behemoth, and Sylvan Library. Instead of gunning for a run-of-the-mill style card, perhaps you could consider jamming a few of these affordable cards (for less than the price of any of those mentioned above). The impact these budget cards make is pretty solid, and for the price—it’s really hard to do better. Until next time, may your bank account and the cards be ever in your favor!

Should Hullbreacher Have Been Banned!?

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

This is an older article that didn’t find it’s way here quite on time…so here it is now.

Hullbreacher is banned in Commander. If you haven’t read the official announcement yet, then here it is below:

Hullbreacher is BANNED.


Hullbreacher has been a problem card since its release. Its ostensible defensive use against extra card draw has been dwarfed by offensively combining it with mass-draw effects to easily strip players hands while accelerating the controller. That play pattern isn’t something we want prevalent in casual play (see the Leovold ban), and we have seen a lot of evidence that it is too tempting even there, as it combines with wheels and other popular casual staples. The case against the card was overwhelming. 

There remain a few similar cards that are still permitted, notably Notion Thief and Narset, Parter of Veils. The additional hoops required (an additional color pip for Notion Thief, and sorcery speed for Narset) appear to be keeping them to the appropriate level of play, though we’ll continue to keep an eye on them.

Now, is this something we all should have seen coming? Perhaps. If you have ever played this card in a Commander game, then perhaps you know what I’m about to mention. It can be a devastating card in the right builds. The most brutally effective use of it that I had the pleasure of experiencing was having someone cast it in response to his own Windfall. I don’t think Windfall can really be quite the definitive windfall for the caster as when it has been used in tandem with Hullbreacher. That is just brutal. The game is effectively over at this point. The windfall of mana and cards you reap while your opponent’s resources have been drained is pretty much a guarantee that the game is over. There’s a few reason why people might say it didn’t need to be banned, but those are wrong. Let’s explore the faulty thinking behind this, and embrace a world where we all get equal access to treasure and resources (well, some decks are more equal than others).

It dies to removal. Yes, it does die to removal. It is cast at instant speed, so you had better have an instant removal spell at the exact moment it is cast. If you don’t, then it’s already doing what it needs to do. Hullbreacher is the type of card that could be sacrificed at end of turn, even the end of the phase really, and it would still be ban worthy. The effect is just overwhelmingly powerful when combined with the right cards. Putting the entire table at the burden of having instant removal available as early as turn 4 or 5 is brutal. Basically, if an opponent doesn’t answer it immediately, then the game is effectively over. The caster draws 7 cards, makes 21-28 extra mana (on average), and then can cast all the rest of those 7 cards that were just drawn. That’s pretty gross. What’s worse is that no one else has any answers for those fresh 7 cards. It’s very similar to casting Omniscience with a City of Solitude out. It is usually just GGs at this point. What hoops do you need to do this, why just play one color and it all works just fine. Seems too simple to let it run rampant.

Wait, what about casting it in response to other people’s unfair card draw? Isn’t this card meant as a reaction to people’s aggressive card drawing strategies? Oh, alas, if only it were so with all cards designed with such good intentions. If you only played it in decks that used it defensively, then perhaps this ban would never happen. However, it’s really the combination of this with spells like Windfall, Wheel of Fortune, Magus of the Wheel, Wheel of Fate, Wheel of Misfortune, Dark Deal, Incendiary Command, Jace’s Archivist, Khorvath’s Fury, Memory Jar, Memory Jar, Magus of the Jar, Reforge the Soul, and Whispering Madness. Phew, that’s quite a few of them, but not nearly everything that works grossly well with it. The truth is that people are inherently evil, and the temptation to wheel with Hullbreacher is irresistible. Seriously, why wouldn’t you just crush everyone at the table with one fell swoop, er wheel? You could also just cast another card like Prosperity with all your mana you just acquired, post wheel, and proceed to draw even more cards and create even more mana. Seems like a surefire way to crush everyone. It really is very similar to Skull Clamp. It was “fixed” last minute in design to give the creature +1/-1. The -1 was the tweak that would make it fairer. The thought was this would make the equipment less powerful. However, making it so you can kill off your own creatures for profit is really what Skull Clamp became known for. It enabled affinity decks to run wild. Of course it was more than just that card that kept affinity at the top for so long, but Skull Clamp was and still is an amazingly powerful draw engine because of the -1 clause. Of course if your opponent plays Hullbreacher, then your Skull Clamp is just garbage.

It isn’t that bad losing to Hullbreacher. Hey, I get this argument, as it was basically my perspective. I don’t mind losing to an over-powered card every now and then. I’ve lost plenty of games to Craterhoof Behemoth, Goblin Trenches, Smokestack, and I’ve won plenty of games off the back of nasty cards like Portcullis. These cards are rough. Playing games where you lose to them over and over is exhausting. When you go to a local game store and each pod has a Hullbreacher in it, then it starts getting old really quickly. The idea that is was banned while Notion Thief was not seems pretty clear to me. Notion Thief requires two different mana types, an additional mana, and most importantly doesn’t enable you to cast more spells. Sure, Notion Thief gives you more cards, but Hullbreacher allows you to cast the cards in your hand with ease. This comes back to how having lots of mana in Commander is sometimes better than having lots of cards in hand. Oftentimes, playing just three or four cards in a single turn is enough to break a game open or simply win outright. Having enough mana to do that is the hardest part, but Hullbreacher gives us that. It gives people this while denying them the resources they need to catch up to that. This resource trading is actually stronger than the strict trade of cards for no cards. It might seem close, but once you realize that you only need to draw 5 extra cards to really be in a position of absolute power, then you realize that extra mana is far more valuable.

Ultimately, the rules committee got his one right. It’s pretty clear that Hullbreacher needs to go. Now, if you are upset that it got banned, then start running Narset and Notion Theif in those decks. They’re not nearly as good as Hullbreacher, but that’s why they’re still around. However, I’d suggest that you completely substitute out your Hullbreacher with a much more fun merfolk named Rootwater Thief. You’re still stealing from people, but it just feels a bit more fair and lot more fun. Happy games my friends, and may the cards be ever in your favor!

Hey, if you made it this far, then thank you. I thought I had this scheduled to post in a timely fashion, but apparently not? Anyway, as a bonus, I have recently tried to incorporate this card into my EDH Cube, but it just lacks in overall power and effect when it isn’t being used in more powerful environment. I guess it really is a matter of all cards and the card pool combined. Ultimately, because the rest of the cards that interact so poorly, or perfectly depending how you see it, with Hullbreacher bring more happiness than Hullbreacher on its own–it’s still a solid ban choice.

Stranger Choices for Stranger Things Secret Lair

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

So, I’m in a weird place, and I don’t think I’m alone on this. This Stranger Things Secret Lair is just strange. I’m not incensed or riled up over, but oddly concerned. To be things in context, I didn’t care all that much back when The Walking Dead was getting a secret lair. Likewise, I don’t care that Stranger Things is getting one either. I recall everyone getting all bent out of shape over the “mechanically unique cards” that Walking Dead would bring. It was an uproar that was, like most Magic community uproars, mostly loud complainers making smoke over things the rest of us didn’t much worry about. Or, maybe it did matter? I’m not 100% sure. Well, Wizards listened and they have promised to print these “mechanically unique cards” in the Stranger Things Secret Lair with new names that are otherwise mechanically the same. I guess that fine with me. I don’t mind, but I see a couple issues with doing this, so let’s get into it.

When The Walking Dead secret lair came out I wasn’t horrified by the concept. I didn’t really mind it. This was also very close to the same time that the Godzilla skinned cards came out. I distinctly remember many people screaming about how that Godzilla treatment was the way to go, and that this Walking Dead thing was an utter disgrace. I didn’t feel quite as strongly about it, but I see a clear point there. Having a “skin” on the card that also makes it functionally the same as the Magic name for it allows people to feel like they can play the same thing, but also have access to a premium version. That’s pretty cool. I personally loved the Godzilla cards—I’ve seen all the movies…yes, even that one…twice! I personally figured Wizards was throwing everything at the wall and seeing what stuck. Well, The Walking Dead cards stuck in everyone’s craw, and that’s about it. Meanwhile, the Godzilla cards seemed to a perfect blend of an original non-magic intellectual property being represented by a Magic card. One would think this should lead to a series of events with future Secret Lairs. Basically, future secret lairs would most likely adopt the skin method. Well, logic has failed to worm its way into the most secret of lairs yet again.

Let’s look at the fix. The Stranger Things cards will be printed as Magic-verse cards as well. The Magic versions will have different names, and so one might think that these cards are just like the Godzilla cards. The title bar treatment is not going to happen, so it won’t be seen as easily in front of you either. This seems like a clear miss. However, I have another issue with whole thing. They say you can play up to copies of these card in a normal deck, but these aren’t built for competitive play. Now that we have seen the actual cards I have to wonder why on earth these aren’t receiving a special treatment akin to the Godzilla skinned cards.

The plan is to have these Magic versions show up on “The List” reprints to help people gain access to them, but how does that exactly fix this issue? From my understanding this is all going to fix the issue of people getting mechanically unique cards from an exclusive Secret Lair Drop by making them an extremely rare drop in very few packs? Huh, interesting choice…apparently printing another card, with a new name, but the same abilities will allow for this to all be smoothed over in several months when the actual set that these cards are releasing in is printed and distributed. Well, I can wait like others, so I guess it’s not horrible. However, it’s just not great. I honestly expected better from Wizards. I really think it’s the best game ever made, and I am surprised when gaffs like this are made twice.

Furthermore, how does it work if we have two legends with different names that are mechanically identical, have friends forever, and somehow enact the legendary rule!? There have been tweaks to the legend rules in the past, but I’m fairly certain that this literally breaks the legend rule. It doesn’t set up a state that ignores it like Mirror Gallery, but instead makes the rule void. I’m curious to see if this issue is somehow going to be addressed, but when I look at the templates of these cards I don’t see how there’s literally enough space to address this issue. I hope that I’m wrong, and that there will somehow be a clear way to show these as being obvious duplicates of the Stranger Things versions. I just wish I didn’t have to hope.

When I think about this future solution I am surprised, again, that cards that are geared towards Commander players and collectors will be duplicated later on. The duplication with alternative names and functionally identical parts is something that I imagine collectors and tournament players having no issues with. In the case of collectors they get what they want, and tournament players, by nature, are familiar with many of the nuisances associated with the rules. Casual players, which are most Commander crowds, tend to rely on reading the cards and interpreting them based on their knowledge of the rules. Talk about being slapped in the face for knowing rules, but being denied the ability to intelligently affect said rules. This is akin to damage stacking with Morphling, using counters on Time Vault, or even pinning up your cards whenever someone plays a Chaos Orb. Hopefully, this is all for naught as Wizards has a clever, as yet unseen, trick to fix this without confusing rules additions and such. Hopefully, my faith in their ability to make the greatest products is rewarded…hopefully.

When I look at the cards as they are now, and I consider that they are actually pretty neat, then I can’t help but wonder why Eleven, the Mage can’t be BFF’s with the Magic version of itself. I can totally see people doing something like this as we can certainly include copies of cards like Master of the Pearl Trident and Lord of Atlantis in the same deck. Granted, those are not legendary, but when we consider planeswalkers—we can run multiple Nicol Bolas planeswalkers as long as they have different names. So, again, names matter. Names matter for Magic as a fundamental rules concept, and those names matter a ton for flavor concepts as well. The Ultimate Nightmare of Wizards of the Coast Customer Service may actually be coming true—cards that have names that break the rules of the game. I hate to be so doomy and gloomy, because I’m usually such a company man. Seriously, I hope this shakes out well in the end, and until then, may the cards be ever in your favor my friends forever!

Buying Tips from a Cardboard Crack Addict: Watch out for Inked MTG Cards!

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

I have an addiction to making myself ridiculous projects. My buying a card-a-day for 365 days straight is just one more testament to this crazy cardboard-crack addiction. I’ve been buying cards for ¾ of the year! I would like to share a new update with you. This is a pretty wild story, so be prepared. I traded in a slew of uncommons, commons, and bulk rares for some pretty expensive cards. I wrote about that here, but today I’d like to tell you about a SNAFU that occurred during this process.

I ordered an All Hallow’s Eve. I used my store credit to purchase it, so it wouldn’t cost me any real cash. This is a beautiful thing, and I recommend anyone repurpose their bulk for gemstones whenever possible. Finding an All Hallow’s Eve in my collection is way cooler than owning 8 extra copies of various staples and other temporarily inflated items. This type of collection shifting is always worth the time (well, mostly…40+ hours is a bit rough I’ll admit). Yet, when you are able to trade up it’s generally a great idea. So, I traded up to an All Hallow’s Eve, and anxiously awaited its arrival in the mail.

I purchased it from a very large online retailer. The card was supposed to be lightly played. It arrived and looked just that—lightly played. Then, I looked a little more closely and what I discovered made my stomach drop into my gut. But, before I get to that, let me tell you a cool little story about visiting my L.G.S.

I was looking in the case, and the owner was behind the counter opening some cards he had bought for his personal collection off Ebay. He pulled the card out, Smokestack, and says, “Man, I love when people cheat like this.” I was immediately drawn into asking what he was talking about because his tone was seriously sarcastic. He was annoyed, but also smiled as he passed the card to me. Take a look at my near mint Smokestack I just bought for my NM Urza’s Saga set. I held the card, looked it over front and back, and felt that is was in fact a genuine Magic card. It felt like one, didn’t look counterfeit in any way I could see, and so I said, “I don’t see the issue.” He asked me to hold it up to the light, and I did. I still didn’t see it. Then he pointed out to me that it was inked on the borders. It was hard to see at first. He explained to me that people take a sharpie or other black permanent marker touch the spot and then smear it with a wet cloth or whatever. It cuts the sheen down from the marker and leaves a barely perceptible black edge. Apparently, this is something people do. They also will sand the edge of the card slightly in order to hide any bleed-through that might occur on the very edge of the card.  That was sick and sad and disturbing. I wasn’t surprised. I was seriously glad I had learned about that particularly unsavory trick.

Now, back to the All Hallow’s Eve I ordered. It was inked. It was inked in multiple areas. The corners on the front and back had been inked and you could even see a bit of the bleed-through on one of the edges. I was sick to my stomach looking at that. I had a $380 card that was now considered damaged. I had no idea how the store was going to react. Would they believe me? Would they give me a hard time? Did they even have another one in stock to replace what I ordered? Would they even consider that the card they sent me is the one that was marked? How could I prove I wasn’t swapping it out with some other copy like the scammer that obviously sold them the inked card in the first place. I was mad, nervous, and really upset.

I contacted their customer service, and I was being communicated with immediately. They asked me to send pictures of the card and that their grading team would assess if what I was saying was true or not and move forward from there. I wasn’t being called into question. I wasn’t treated like a scammer, and I was actually treated as I deserved to be. I was happily surprised. I sent the pictures in, and they got back to me that it was in fact inked and said they were sending a replacement out that day. They also sent me a postage paid envelope to return the inked card in. I was relieved and wondered exactly what my replacement version would look like. I hoped it wouldn’t be another debacle.

I waited to mail the original back, because I wanted to compare it to the new one. I just wanted to see if what my inked card appeared to be would be similar to the condition of the one that was on its way. When I opened the replacement it was in even better condition than what the inked one appeared to be. I was very happy. I was even happier that it was clearly a real card that wasn’t marked in any way. It was a complete and total relief. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed being able to mail the original back and leave all that behind me. I was going to try and forget about this, but after telling a few of my friends about it I realized that everyone should know about this. It’s not enough that I got my order straightened out or that I am now much more trusting of a particular larger retailer. It’s not about my single experience or my satisfaction. People need to know that inked cards are out there and can be hard to spot.

I’m including the pictures of the card that I sent away. I think it is important to note how this may look. It is a subtle thing that isn’t easily seen. You really need to shine a light on it and look at it in the glare to tell what’s going on. We, as a community, need to be aware of this type of marking. Ultimately, I feel that the best place to buy your singles is your L.G.S., because you can both look a card over and check for these types of discrepancies. I appreciated the perfect customer service from the online retailer. I was pleased with the overall outcome, but I was nervous. I did have doubts, and I’m happy to say that they were unfounded. I could have precluded this from happening by visiting my L.G.S. and buying this marquee card there, but I did not. I essentially traded for this card, and I’m happy to report that I was able to trade back the bad version. In the end, I walked away with a card I wanted. The end result was positive, but ultimately, the safest place to deal with cards like this is in-person. This way we are able to both assess exactly what kind of deal is occurring at the moment. This could be mitigated through the use of pictures, but this type of inking doesn’t necessarily show up when you have a traditional straight-on picture. You have to have the corners in the glare, and that’s when it’s clearly noticeable. I’ll certainly be more leery of buying cards like this from places like Ebay or TCG player.

So, a long story short. You can buy cards online from big retailers and they will likely honor your complaints about inking. It’s a dirty thing, but the more we all know about it, then the less likely anyone is to get away with it. I’m not a stickler for condition on my cards, but I’ll take whitening on the edges of my cards to sharpied over black borders. It just feels dishonest to me, and I’m not a fan of dishonesty in any form. Until next time, may the ink and your cards be ever in your favor!

The Dragon Cycles of Magic: the Gathering

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

Let’s talk about dragons. Namely, the top dragon cycles in the game of Magic: the Gathering. Now, Magic has over 20,000 unique cards in its catalogue, but most people will be shocked to hear that there are only 244 creatures with the creature type “dragon”. As a long time player, I’m from generation X, I used to get super excited for new dragons. Shivan Dragon was the gold standard for flying beat down for years. It was the original iconic Magic dragon. However, nothing is more exciting than seeing a set that brings you a whole cycle of dragons! When I talk about cycles I’m talking about a set of 5 cards that are all part of a design group, like the cycle of Commands, or cycle of Ultimatums, or the cycle of “Seal of Blank” enchantments! I’d like to take the time to discuss all of the top Commander/EDH dragon cycles available in Magic today.

Dragon Whelp and Nalathni Dragon were the only options for quite some time. Legends introduced the namesake EDH dragons that this Commander format was built on. Those were awesome and paved the way for dragons moving forward. Yet, when Mirage introduced a cycle of non-legendary dragons with Catacomb dragon, Mist dragon, Canopy dragon, Pearl dragon, Volcanic Dragon, and Teeka’s dragon, dragon lovers were excited. The Mirage dragon cycle is perhaps the weakest of the bunch, but it introduced mono-colored dragons in other colors. Even for the time, the dragons were really only playable as fun singletons in odd ball multiplayer decks. I managed to live the Catacomb Dragon dream and fearlessly attack into Sengir Vampires, Serra Angeles, and Mahamoti Djinns. Though I’m pretty sure I still lost quite a few of those games. It wasn’t as exciting as you might think, because it could still fall victim to Swords to Plowshares, and was a full turn slower than the other top 4/4 fliers in town. Canopy Dragon was a sad patch for green decks to try to answer all these nasty fliers, but the four toughness made it pretty weak. Mist Dragon is neat, but when Rainbow Efreet exists it’s hard to justify running the Mist Dragon. Yes, even when you’re going for a dragon sub-theme. It’s just fairly weak. Though, I did watch someone cast Hurricane and make Mist Dragon lose flying in response, and then fly over the surviving ground troops—it lived and all our fliers died.

Invasion brought back an old approach to dragons. This is when it was clear that legendary dragon cycles could be thing. Rith, the Awakener was a beast to deal with, and Dromar the Banisher bounced plenty of people’s permanents during those late 90’s and early 2000’s. Treva was never all that exciting, Darigaaz was fun, and Crosis was no Bolas. It was neat to see that each of these legendary dragons seemed semi-connected (at least by their colors) to the original elder dragon legends. Odyssey block only had a few, but then Onslaught block had a dragon sub-theme, and dragon tribal decks were now a thing you could actually do. Cards like Kilnmouth Dragon, Imperial Hellkite, and Bladewing the Risen begged you to go dragon tribal. Bladewing’s Thrall, Dragonspeaker Shaman, Belbe’s Portal, and the ubiquitous Urza’s Incubator all helped to solidify this as a solid multiplayer strategy. Today, we have even more enablers, and so playing dragon tribal isn’t a stretch at all. Heck, cutting yourself down to just the dragons you want to play can be difficult.

The modern era of Magic brought with it new borders and a new cycle of legendary dragons. The Mirage cycle introduced mono-colored cycles, and Invasion brought back legendary cycles. Kamigawa dragons combined both concepts to bring us a cycle of legendary mono-colored dragons. Each dragon had a death trigger, and that was a refreshing and fun new way to experience dragons in each color. This was the first time we saw mono-colored legendary dragons for each color, and it was very well received (though, I hear, the block itself was not…yet perhaps we are destined to return). I loved the Kamigawa block for all of its legendary creatures, ridiculous story line, and fun quirky mechanics like bushido and splice onto arcane. Overall, the dragons were definitely the stars. Yosei is amazing for locking people down, and no one really wants to kill your Keiga for that matter. Meanwhile Ryusei is decent enough to run, and Jugan is the lucky dragon (except if you’re playing it). The most terrifying at an EDH table is definitely big floppy himself Kokusho the Evening Star. Heck, Kokusho was banned from EDH for quite some time. That tells you all you really need to know about how powerful that card has been.

The next cycle of dragons to come into Magic would be in the Time Spiral block. This set brought us more legendary dragons in the same vein as Invasion block. Teneb the Harvester and friends are all solid stats for their era. They are 6 mana 6/6 fliers with activated abilities that trigger upon doing damage to an opponent. These dragons punish your opponents severely. You not only get to smack them for 6 points of damage, but then you go ahead and tap a mere three mana and ramp up the punishment even more. Their abilities are good, but they didn’t help mitigate the loss of them like the Kamigawa dragons did. Now, keep in mind that the original elder dragons were printed in 1994, and by the time 2007 rolled around we only had 3 more cycles of legendary dragons. That is about one cycle of legendary dragons every four years.

It wouldn’t be until eight years later in 2015 that we would get truly spoiled with dragons. Khans Block with Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir were the most exciting dragon themed sets ever. The only thing close to it is the Ur-Dragon 2017 Commander deck. It’s probably one of the most fun precons I’ve purchased. Anyway, the Khans block brought us all sorts of dragon cycles! The initial dragon cycles we got in Fate Reforged included a two colored dragon legends. This was the first time we got a cycle of dual colored legendary dragons. Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind has the honor of being the first dual colored legendary dragon. These dragons offered you mega rewards for playing with more dragons. Atarka, the World Render can be a Savage Beating in combat. Dromoka, the Eternal is frightening when you have a doubling season in play. Silimgar, the Drifting Death wiped out other people’s tokens armies. Ojutai, Soul of Winter is just cruel in multiplayer, and Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury can enable very large attack phases (downright disturbing with enough dragons). Additionally, Fate Reforged gave us an uncommon dragon cycle as well. Wardscale Dragon, Mindscour Dragon, Noxious Dragon, Shockmaw Dragon, and Destructor Dragon are all six mana 4/4 fliers, so they aren’t super exciting. The do all have a little ability tagged onto them, so they are often better than the cycle from Mirage. Overall, Fate Reforged did a great job adding to the pile of dragons we could shuffle up.

Dragons of Tarkir was the best dragon set ever. There were six cycles of dragons. Yes, I said six cycles. Up to this set there was a grand total of seven dragon cycles in the history of Magic. This set alone nearly doubled the total of dragon cycles. The dragons are all very tribal oriented, and work really well together. The dragonlords are clearly the best ones in the set, but the two rare cycles are also solid, and the two uncommons cycles are decent as well. I’m counting the monument cycle as a dragon cycle because they turn into dragons. The weakest were the dragons with Megamorph. They were all six mana 3/3 fliers with abilities appropriate for each color. They’re fine filler, but they aren’t anything you want to jam in every dragon deck ever. The other cycle of uncommon dragons were much more powerful as 4/4 two-color fliers for six mana. Savage Ventmaw is very powerful, and Ruthless Deathfang lets you tighten your claws around your opponent’s wormy little neck. If you ever find a way to clone an Enduring Scalelord with Dack’s Duplicate you can live a beautiful dream. Meanwhile, the rare regent cycle has some pretty powerful effects lurking in there. The cards are all costed fairly well, and I can see cases for playing any of these in any dragon deck that can run them. The other rare cycle offers up very interesting options. The Boltwing Marauder seems incredibly good in some sort of storm style tokens deck. The others offer unique abilities as well, and most of them are arguably playable if you have ways to maximize their abilities. Overall, this was an amazing dragon set.

I didn’t forget to discuss the dragon lords, but instead felt they deserve some of their own space. These were the second time in history that Magic came back to Elder Dragons! These were only the second instance of elder dragons existing in Magic. This was so exciting. Dragonlord Dromoka shuts down certain deck styles all by itself—that just awesome. Dragonlord Ojutai is incredibly difficult for your opponents to deal with, and I’m not sure anyone is playing this card without a way to give it vigilance, right? Dragonlord Silumgar is just about everything I want from a blue/black elder dragon—deathtouch, flying, and steals people’s stuff—perfect. Dragonlord Atarka is a ridiculous card to resolve and if it happens to be your commander, then people have to watch out for you one-shotting them off a couple sneaky pump spells. Meanwhile, Dragonlord Kolaghan does have a useless ability for EDH, but that is easily mitigated by the other amazing ability to give all your creatures haster…heck Kolaghan has haste too. These dragons definitely deserved the moniker of Elder Dragons.

We would only need to wait two years for the Commander Precon to release in 2017, so that brought many new toys for dragon decks. Then, in 2018, M19 released with a whole new cycle of dragons that revisited and updated the original elder dragon legends. This was super fun. I played at this prerelease and my buddy, Donovan, opened up Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. I was so excited for him. These are all very fun dragons to run in your decks, and I’m not sure that any of them are anything short of super fun. Their abilities and casting costs all offer up something different. This is the type of fun we want and need from our legendary dragons. Also, Bolas flipped into a planeswalker—that’s just awesome.

Interestingly enough it was just this year 2021 that we got more elder dragon legends. These are similar to the Khans elder dragons in that they are dual colored and not tri-colored like the original elder dragon legends were both times they were envisioned. This cycle of dragons all offer very unique abilities and ask you to build around them as commanders. They don’t really feel like cards you jam in the 99, but when you are running The Ur-Dragon, then I guess you can jam whatever draconic beasts you want.

The most recent set (as of this writing) is Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. We got spoiled in this set as well, because we got two cycles of dragons in one set. A set of mythic legendary mono-colored dragons, and set of uncommon mono-colored dragons. Oh, and Tiamat—the dragon god. The uncommon cycle centers on each chromatic colored dragon in Magic (black, white, red, blue, and green). This is similar to the uncommon sets we’ve seen before, and each one has an interesting comes into play effect that ties into its D&D roots rather nicely. Green dragons breath poison gas, so Green Dragon’s ability makes perfect sense. The stars of this set were fun cards like Old Gnawbone and Inferno of the Star Mounts. Icingdeath is a solidly costed dragon, and Ebondeath Dracolich is definitely a flavorful and fun design. Overall, these were excellent adds to the legendary dragons cycles.

I’m excited to see what else rolls along for dragon cycles. According to the past, it seems like we can count on an elder dragon or legendary dragon cycle every few years. So, we may have to wait awhile for more elder dragons to join the fray, but they’ll be worth the wait. I suspect that it might not even be as long as one might think, just looking back over the yearly releases. The rate that products are being pushed out to us seems to suggest that we may not need to wait years between dragon cycles, more like a few months. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but I do love dragons. Until next time, may the cards be ever in your favor.

How I Traded Commons and Uncommons for a Time Vault

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

I’d like to share a wild trade-in story with you today. Having played this game for so long, and acquiring cards as a collector for over two decades I have some neat stories, but this one literally just happened to me, and it’s a great one. I want to tell you about it, because it wasn’t my own idea. One of my best buddies, Andrew, told me he had recently traded in a ton of uncommons to a larger online dealer for about $1,000 in store credit. I was initially shocked, but once he told me about the prices of some the uncommons that are in high demand and low print runs it all clicked into place. I decided I’d do something similar. My goal was to comb through all of my old foil commons and uncommons to see if I could get off to a good enough start to justify combing through the rest of my stuff for more. Since I’m writing this article, and you know I ended up at least with a Time Vault, then you know I found enough foils to justify the search. Once I realized I had enough value in foils that I had literally pulled out of a box in my basement (I keep my cards I play with or hope to play with upstairs), I knew it was time to start the process in earnest. I’d like to detail how I did this for you, because you might be surprised how much unused value you have laying around waiting to be turned into that dual land you keep eyeing in your LGS’s case, or maybe that amazing foil Commander you just can’t afford.

Build a Spreadsheet

I’m not a numbers guy. I really tend to stink at math, and my wife will tease me with basic math facts in the mornings. I routinely get them wrong, and I wish it was just because I’m slow to wake. I suspect I’m also rusty with my math. However, I know how to use Excel or google sheets to help me fill in my mathematical gaps. Honestly, you don’t need a ton of knowledge. Just setting up simple sums and percentage columns is more than enough to help you determine where you can get your best deal. I opted not to use my L.G.S. this time, because they didn’t have a Time Vault. So, before I get into the deep and dark corners of this crazy experiment, let suggest that you try trading in your stuff at your local store for the card or cards you want. It is significantly less stressful and time intensive. But, let me help you find a way to get what you want if your local doesn’t have it.

Determine Values and Costs

When setting up the spreadsheet it is important to have columns dedicated to the stores you are looking to trade your cards into. I made column for the card names, store names, and percentage difference between what they offered. I figured I would see what cards each store was offering the most credit for, and then I would go ahead and pull out what I had in extras. I always like to keep at least two of a card in reserve, but if you’re a die-hard Commander/EDH player, then you only need one. I used the store’s searchable buylist to determine the most expensive commons and uncommons from each set. I then wrote down what cards I thought I had from those sets, and entered them into the spreadsheet. I proceeded to then look up what competing stores were offering as well. I managed to narrow it down to two different stores that would be worth trading my cards into. Basically, they had the Time Vault I wanted. They also had other cards I wanted as well, but more on that later.

Once you have the cards you think you own and the cards you feel OK about trading in, then you just keep plugging in what the stores are willing to offer you for them. Once you have the prices all determined, the next step is compare those prices by setting up a simple division formula. It will give you positive and negative percentages, so this may seem odd or even un-useful.  It’s actually perfect. The next thing you want to do is determine what cards you actually want to trade in your stuff for. Compare those prices between the stores in exactly the same way. I found that the cards I wanted to buy were about anywhere from 5% -55% more expensive at another store. Store A would give me less credit, but they also charged less for the cards I wanted. Store B would give me more credit, but also charged more for their cards. Now is the time for me to take a little detour. We will come back to explaining how this percentage in price differential actually matters, but for now, let’s take a quick detour into store credit land.

Do comparison shopping

Usually, a store will give you more for your cards when you ask for store credit. Basically, it’s going to cost them nothing to increase their inventory by accepting your trade-in. That’s good for the store. Additionally, it means they are also going to move some of their stock through you, but buylist items are usually things the store needs, because there is actual demand for those cards. They also aren’t giving you the full “value” of your cards at retail price, so they are still coming out on top. Meanwhile, if you want to get more cards with your cards, then you also win using this method! The store credit bonuses are what made me bite. It can be as much as a 30% increase in what is offered. So, this is not an article about selling cards for cash. If you know me, then you’re not surprised. I would rather spend more money on Magic, then sell my cards and have less Magic to go around.

Know the Values and the Costs

This brings me back to the spreadsheet. While setting it up you need to account for the differential in credit offered, and weigh it against the differential in prices of cards. I found that Store B generally offered 33% or more credit for the cards. I also found that if I traded in cards that got me 33% or more, and I found cards from Store B that were below a 33% increase in price from Store A, then I suddenly had even more credit. I was able to stretch my store credit to the maximum. So here’s the thing. Once you figure out the credit differences and compare them to price differences you can actually stretch your credit to the maximum. This was important for me, because I was trying to make what is basically an impossible trade: “Hey random player, will you take a pile of my uncommons and commons for that amazing, unique, reserved list, Vintage deck worthy rare?” Other player, “….”


I mean I have never traded someone a pile of what is to me, worthless extras, for an incredible powerful and expensive card. No player would ever make such an awful trade. A finance player—like a big store—can see a way to grind immediate value from such a transaction. Those places can make money off a horrific trade. Think about it. This would be a trade that if any of us traded away our Time Vault or Tundra for a pile of commons and uncommons (none of which are reserved list items mind you), I don’t think any of our friends would be impressed. We’d be the laughing stock of the trading circuit.

Yet, that’s exactly what stores will do for you. You can turn those unwanted binder fodder cards into a crown jewel of your collection. You can totally play with amazing cards by leveraging the value that’s hiding in your collection boxes. Building a simple spreadsheet is fun. No, seriously, it was fun to build and watch the trade-in value just keep creeping up as I entered more and more cards. The autosum formula is fun. The percentage formulas are easy enough to create, and you can easily drag your formulas across many cells. This means you actually don’t have to retype them or anything. You can reap the benefits of your trade in experiment to the maximum by doing this. Trust me, even if you’re not a numbers person, you are going to love what this will do for you. Also, it is information that will help you make your best decision moving forward.

The Grading

Now, once you have the prices determined you may be able to simply go with one store. You might even be able to take your spreadsheet to your LGS and see if they can cut you a similar deal. Seriously, they just might do it. The hidden benefit of doing all this work is that you have invested the annoying amount of time (for me it was 20+ hours and I traded in a little over 200 cards) to determine approximate values. This is good. When determining the values you need to be very aware of the grading guidelines. If you think the card may be good enough to be NM, it’s not. If you think its maybe LP or HP at the worst, then it’s HP. You need to be hyper critical of what grades you may get back from the stores. I say this so that you can curb your expectations. If you go in thinking that all your items are Gem Mint, and you believe you’re getting $1,000 credit…well you are going to be disappointed. I curbed my expectations, but Store A still downgraded a few cards lower than I ever would have. I was a little surprised, but in the end it wasn’t worth having them mail it all back to me. –This is yet another cool benefit when you are bale to deal with your L.G.S., because you don’t have to mail it or ask for it back, because you just push it into your keep pile— So, I took a little bit of a hit on some of the grades, but I was still pleased with what I was able to garner enough for the Time Vault plus another $1500 in credit.

Mail Tips

When you go to mail your cards away—again something you don’t need to worry about when dealing locally—you should insure it. That’s not cheap. I mailed two separate packages and it cost me $75 to mail them both with insurance enough to cover the amount I hoped to get back. I couldn’t risk the cards getting destroyed in the mail, and just suddenly being out all that time, effort, and goal setting! So, be aware that is also a hidden cost of this type of transaction. It would have cost me less to mail them all to one store, but because I was going to get way more than $35 in value by splitting it into two transactions it was worth it for me to mail away to two different stores. In the future I’ll probably just eat the “loss” or mitigate it by trading additional cards in to cover the cost. Also, when it comes time to buy your cards from these stores with your store credit be aware of what they charge to ship you cards. Some stores offer deals on shipping, but others do not. This is another benefit of being able to trade at your L.G.S., because there’s zero postage to worry about!

Now, that covers using spreadsheets to get the best trade in value versus price you will be paying for cards. We covered the hidden mailing costs with insurance and tracking and even buying. Oh, and we also mentioned a bit about the time you need to spend to doing this. It took me a long time to comb through thousands of commons and uncommons. My stuff is organized by my system for deck building, so it took me a little longer to find the exact cards to trade in, but trading away cards to stores is not something I do regularly, so I didn’t mind that my organization system wasn’t streamlined for this activity. I actually prefer my organization system, which is based around brewing your own decks, and you can find that article here. I managed to do acquire a Time Vault by trading primarily commons and uncommons. I did trade in some rares in order to beef up my trade in amount, but going through those took almost no time as they were in binders and had been for quite some time. My point is your unused commons and uncommons can be traded for amazing and powerful cards.

Overall, the cards I traded away were all cards that I was not using and did not plan on using anytime in the future, so the likelihood I will regret this colossal trade-in is pretty close to zero percent. The rares I traded in were cards that have either been reprinted once or are in sore need of a reprint sometime soon (Commander popular and only printed in a low print-run recent set). I’m betting that several of those rares show up as The List reprints or find themselves in future Commander precons. Additionally, I hedged my bets and kept a minimum of two copies for myself. I recommend you do that as well, because righting wrongs can take a while, and you can read all about that here.

I hope my experience will help those of you out there thinking about trading cards in to your local gaming store or even one of those online stores that is quite a ways from you. I highly recommend you set up a simple spreadsheet to keep track of your data and compare trade-in values. The prices places charge for the cards you want is also very valuable information that you can compile in the spreadsheet as well. Once you’ve put together the numbers you can crunch them and find your best route to value. Overall, I’m extremely pleased that I’m turning 40+hours, $75, and bunch of my unplayed extras into a Time Vault, Rohgahh of Ker Keep, Vaevictus Asmodi, All Hallow’s Eve, Gaea’s Avenger, Raging River, Blaze of Glory, Gate to Phyrexia, Spinal Villain, Survival of the Fittest, Infernal Tribute, and a few others. Those cards are going to see a ton of play in my decks and my cubes. If you do plan on doing this, then I suggest you take a day off work, sit down and bang it out in a one day. That way you can hit the price values as they are and make your case to your local store or finalize the online buylist order immediately. That way you won’t lose value when your cards get reprinted (like I did with my Rings of Brighthearth) and you won’t have prices jump to much like I did on All Hallow’s Eve (it jumped $35 overnight when it was in my cart). Be smart, be organized, and get it done quickly to save yourself sleep, time, and money. Until next time, may the cards—and their trade-in values—be ever in your favor. 

Xira Arien’s Bug Problem

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

Flavor matters. Magic has pretty amazing opportunities to advance flavor between casting costs, art, abilities, and the aptly named flavor text.  When I think of Elder Dragon Legends (and EDH for that matter) I like to envision monstrous creatures of vast wisdom that are descending from on high to crush their foes. When I look at cards like the 55 original legends I can’t help but feel they’re fitting representations from their art, to their abilities, to their stats. When Magic reprinted the original Elder Dragaons in modern styles and forms in M20 it was great to see the cycle return. The cards were flavorful and fitting. I’m spoiled; I expect my Magic flavor to be deep and fitting in all ways. I have been finishing my original 55 legends cycle recently, and I stumbled across one of my old favorites—Xira Arien. The original reads pretty swell: Flying (the picture gives her wings) and the ability to tap her and some mana to make any target player draw a card. She’s a cool Jund style commander option. Drawing cards isn’t something Jund is regularly known for. Yet, there’s a huge problem with Xira Arien. She is an epic flavor fail. Let’s analyze the card to figure it out together why this card is such an flavor flop.

Step 1: Casting Cost Flavors

We’ll take this card apart from top to bottom—literally. Xira Arien’s casting cost is only 3 mana. That’s not even awful by today’s standards for a 1/2 flyer that has an activated ability. Granted, I’m not convinced she’d warrant any rarity higher than uncommon in today’s sets, but still she’s printable. I’m not convinced we can say the same for cards like Axelrod Gunnarson or Gosta Dirk. I think the casting cost seems appropriate given the rest of the card’s layout from the art on down to the power and toughness.

Step 2: Artistic Flavors

Now, the art is by a classic Magic the Gathering artist: Melissa Benson. She’s the one responsible for Shivan Dragon, Nightmare, Lord of Atlantis, Altar of Bone, Halfdane, and Ichneumon Druid to name a few. So, is there anything wrong with the art? Absolutely not. The art is amazing. The flavor text reads, “A regular guest at the Royal Masquerade, Arien is the envy of the Court. She appears in a new costume every hour.” Huh, I guess that means she’s part of the royal court in-crowd. She also must have an army of tailors on hand to provide her with new outfits all the time. Those costume wings look pretty sick. I bet they flap and everything. I guess it makes sense, as she can spend mana to get resources, and perhaps those resources also gain her something other abilities like flying. So, I’m guessing those wings are just part of the outfit. The delightfully detailed insect costume she’s sporting is surely a prime example as to why all those at court envy her rotating outfits. Considering she also can draw us new cards every turn, then we have to consider that the card drawing is also a way for her to reflect a constant and ever changing wardrobe. Our resources shift as does hers. That’s a flavorful card indeed! Well, that wraps things up I guess. There is no issue surrounding Xira Arien when we examine the entire card and how it fits within the contexts of its own flavors. It’s a card that is truly flavorfully designed. We have a legend that flies, uses magic, draws cards in a political manner, is linked with courtly appearances, and clearly has amazing taste in costumes. No problem with this legendary creature whatsoever!

Step 3: The Rub

Oh, wait a moment, I started this article by saying we had an issue with Xira Arien. I actually said it was a huge flavor punt…hmmm. I’m not usually wrong—I mean I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken. So, what’s going on with Xira Arien? The answer lies in a little thing that happened years ago—The Grand Creature Type Update. To summarize that event—Magic retconned all older cards that lacked creature types. This was in anticipation of Lorwyn’s release—a heavily tribal-based set. You can look up on Gatherer what every card’s creature type(s) are, and know exactly what you’re playing with. When you look at that Dakkon Blackblade, thanks to Gatherer, you now know you are holding a Legendary human warrior in your hands. When you look at Ramirez DePietro you know you have a legendary human pirate ready to swashbuckler his way into infamy as a legendary future Ghost of himself (Ghost of Ramirez DePietro is a spirit pirate). These all fit pretty well. The creature type update was, for the most part, a grand success!

And yet…

Xira Arien has two creature types. She’s a wizard, and that seems fitting. She employs magic to create political card draw. That fits fine. I guess noble would’ve fit just fine as well, but I’m not certain that type existed in 2007 when the grand creature type update occurred. I know you’ve been waiting for the punt, so here it is…Xira Arien is listed as an insect wizard. An insect. Rrrrreally…like a bug? She’s supposed to be a bug? The flavor text doesn’t indicate she’s a bug. The casting costs might suggest she’s a Jund bug in a rug, but I’m not buying that those colors couldn’t produce a mage that draws cards. More on that later. But, she’s an insect wizard. Again, an insect. I just want to take a moment to peruse the insects that you may or may not be familiar with in Magic. Thanks to the Magic of time travel I just read through all 186 insect card results. Nothing remotely resembles Xira Arien. Why not? Well, let’s examine why not.

Readily known and clearly buggy insects include cards like Acridian, Broodhatch Nantuko, Docent of Perfection, Fog of Gnats, Robber Fly, Wasp of the Bitter End, and even the new legendary Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp. None of those cards, or any of them I didn’t mention, leave any doubt that you’re looking at an insect.

It wasn’t until 2013 when Xira Arien had another insect join her on the list of Insect Wizards. It was Beetleform Mage. This creature, incidentally, was a human-insect-wizard. That card is a flavor score because it makes sense. The flavor text, casting cost, and art all gel together and the result is a Magic card that feels, well, flavorful. Xira Arien, really an amazing card, has been convoluted by this creature type update. Her true nature has been called into question, and I just can’t imagine she’d be happy about it.

Step 4: Wardrobe Woes


How utterly unimaginative would her costume be if she didn’t manage to hide her wings? Heck, it’s not even a costume worth envying at all if she’s actually an insect. She looks like a bug, probably talks like one in that mask, and if those wings aren’t some fancy gossamer crochet with nano technological fibers, then I’m not a human myself. She may look, walk, and talk like a bug, but if she’s a bug, then how on Dominaria did she even get through the door to the latest Masquerade? I mean Romeo at least put a half mask on to get into the Capulet’s masquerade ball. Xira isn’t making much of an effort here if she’s actually an insect. This is about the equivalent of me slapping a name tag that says “My name is Mike” on my shirt and passing it off as my Halloween outfit. I’m not exaggerating. This card is most definitely not supposed to be depicting an insect. It’s an heiress, noble, or other political entity that also happens to be a wizard. Calling a creature an insect because they wear the guise of one is absurd. By this measure, all dragons should also be creature type lizard. They look like lizards, so they must be lizards.

Step 5: Original Intent?

Now, you might try to tell me that when the card was originally designed it was intended to be an insect. OK, but 13 years went by, and last time I looked at that card, as a whole, I registered her as a human noble wizard. A human wizard at the least, but if we’re going for a full flavor win, then I’m placing her in the nobility. Now, thanks to the wonders of Wikipedia, I read some summaries of her characters (yes, apparently there are two versions of her) as they appeared in the novels. Her first appearance has her as a clear human. This makes sense. The second appearance has her as an insect. Now, I’m not pointing fingers at interpretations…wait, yes I am…that’s all wrong. The first one got it right, and the second one glossed over the flavor text and just assumed she was an insect. This might make for a fun character for the book, but that character is not the one on my card. The Xira Arien on my card is not an assassin. She’s not an insect, and she’s definitely wearing a costume. So, I guess the real question here is how to get Wizards of the Coast to rectify this oversight. I would love to have Xira Arien as the commander of my “Custom Costumes and Courts” deck, but how can I do that when she is apparently wearing the lamest costume around?

The Last Step: Final Thoughts

Xira Arien is a beautifully crafted and deliciously odd old school card. Her ability doesn’t seem to fit the colors as we see them today, and her flying, art, and flavor text are at odds with her modern retconned creature type. This all makes for a card that is truly fascinating to behold. I distinctly remember opening a Chronicles version of this card in pack I got for Christmas. It made me want to build a Jund deck. I played Xira Arien in my first game with that deck, and I drew quite a few cards using her ability. Heck, I even used Eternal Warrior and Maze of Ith in order to double up activations! Yes, that’s how slowly old multiplayer games once moved. That beautifully clunky combo was a site, but wouldn’t it be great to see Xira Arien’s, but it is nowhere near as necessary as restoring her humanity.

Do you agree with me about Xira? Should we petition WOTC to change her creature type? Are there other creatures from Magic’s past that got the wrong creature types? Do you need help in your own crusade for creature type updates? Let me know in the comments below! Also, no matter your creature type, may the cards be ever in your favor!