Top Ten Random Cards: Round 4

Hello folks, and welcome back to another edition of Random Cards. The goal in this series is to randomly choose ten cards from Gatherer and then look at them, discuss where I might have played them, and more. In each of the three previous articles I’ve hit random cards like vanilla creatures, cards like Grim Lavamancer or Sea Drake. There are a lot of cool cards we hit, and then we spend some time unpacking the randomness! Are you interested in peering underneath the hood? Let’s take a look!

10. Zhalfirin Knight

Zhalfirin Knight

I think folks that played back then often forget just how good flanking could be. It was pretty saucy, and the Flanking Knights were good additions to a lot of decks. Cards from this era, like Jolrael’s Centaur, Suq’Ata Lancer, Fallen Askari and Zhalfirin Crusader were heavily played in winning decks. I ran Fallen Askari in decks that won Standard tournaments. I would use cards like the above Zhalfirin Knight as the way to win Knight on Knight combat, as most were small 2/2s for 3 mana, and your first strike one would beat most of the others. It and Burning Shield Askari were the two that could get first strike. It was way better than Femeref Knight’s potential vigilance or Burning Shield Askari’s menace. I’d see Cadaverous Knight, Shadow Rider, Mtenda Herder, and the super flanker get played heavily. Knight of the Mists was a great answer too, and I am still fond of Teferi’s Honor Guard.

The first iteration of flanking was pretty good. Telim’Tor and Sidar Jabari give it two thumbs up!

9. Jungle Hollow

Jungle Hollow

The life-gain lands are an awesome mega-cycle. To this day, they are one of my favorite go-to ways of getting mana, including the Refuges like Akoum Refuge. I find them particularly compelling in 20 life formats, where two or three of these can make a big difference later. They are also great as a cheap cycle fiscally to commit to, and I run them in Budget Commander and other builds all day long. Here’s to Jungle Hollow and friends!

8. Impulsive Maneuvers

Impulsive Maneuvers

There was a time when Red had a ton of coin-flip cards to illustrate its connection to chaos. This is one of those cards. Now some of those cards were really good! You had some control over the chaos, like they were added effects. This, on the other hand, was not good. It sucks. I saw it get played with a few coin-flip support cards like Krark’s Thumb and Chance Encounter a few times, but never that much. Some folks just love the chaos. I played it myself once in a deck someone else built and was never impressed, but you could run other cards like Confusion in the Ranks much more ably.

7. Transcendent Master

Transcendent Master

Ah yes. The card I nicknamed Transcendent Disappointment. This thing looks good, right? A 3/3 for 3 mana up front is fine. Spend some leveling and you’ll be 6/6 lifelink soon, with the promise of a 9/9 indestructble lifelink Avatar of smash-ery. It looks so appealing. I could never get it to work in Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy, though. I gave it more than two years, and it never really impressed me. Maybe it will impress you? Perhaps in a deck that make more mana you can make it work? It’s a good mana sink to get a nasty dork on the far end after all.

6. Fylgja

Fylgja

Score! That is going to be my favorite random flip ever. I don’t think we are ever bettering it! That’s right, Fylgja! It’s a spirit in Norse Myth that accompanies someone on their journey. Read more about it here.

In the meantime, we got an Aura, rather than a creature, which seems an odd version of the concept. Now, Edward Beard, Jr. has got to be upset that his awesome art would up on....this.

Now, Fylgja was broken on Gatherer for more than a decade. Here is a copy and paste on that from Kelley Digges. Check it out here for more.

Q: What's the deal with Fylgja? The printed card has a mana cost of {W}, and the mana symbol on the card is the "old" white mana symbol even though all the other cards in the Ice Age set feature the "modern" white mana symbol. Further, in Gatherer (as of 1/4/07), the Fylgja image shows up with a mana cost of {1}{W}{W} (using "modern" mana symbols), even though the clearly correct casting cost of {W} is displayed in the Oracle and Printed Text info boxes to the right! What is the story behind these very weird errors?
--Dave, Urbana, IL

A: From Kelly Digges, Magic Editor:

Dave,
Ideally a question like this would be answered by someone who was there, but in this case the events in question took place over a decade ago, and nobody who was there is available. Senior Magic Editor Del Laugel hooked me up with some truly ancient email messages and card files, and I took these primary sources and my two semesters as a history major and set to work piecing together what happened.

I quickly discovered that Fylgja was not the only card in Ice Age to be printed with the "old" white mana symbol; Prismatic Ward shares that honor. However, all electronic images, even the printed images in the old Magic Encyclopedias show them with the new mana costs. This is despite the fact that, according to sources that provide collectors' info, neither of these cards were ever physically printed with the new mana symbol. And until recently (we'll get there), every image of Fylgja bore the wrong cost, again despite the fact that no physical card was ever printed that way. So how did this happen? Settle in, kids, 'cause I am about to tell you more about Fylgja than you ever wanted to know.

According to a spreadsheet dated January 1, 1995, eleven Ice Age cards were selected for magazine preview cards. In those days, magazine previews were physical promo cards that had to be typeset before the rest of the set in order to get to the magazines. There are only two white cards on the list of previews: Fylgja and Prismatic Ward.

According to an email message dated January 30, 1995, the magazine previews couldn't be typeset with the new white mana symbol (the reasons are unclear; perhaps it simply wasn't ready yet). The "unhappy decision" was made print Fylgja and Prismatic Ward in the set with the old mana symbols. Having all the printed copies of a given card match was viewed as more important than consistency within the set.

Okay, so that explains the old mana symbols, but how did the electronic images get the new mana symbols? And how did Fylgja wind up with the wrong mana cost?

Though most of the design card files are grouped together in large documents, Fylgja appears alone in an undated card file at a cost of 1WW, which seems to have been its original mana cost. Perhaps it was left out of a larger file?

An email message dated January 3, 1995 contains comments on a large number of Ice Age cards, and the entry for Fylgja reads: "Weren't we chopping the casting cost of this one?" It would seem they did just that: Fylgja was printed at a cost of . And there the story might have ended....

When the Magic Encyclopedia was put together, however, the original printer files were either not available or not usable, and the cards were retypeset from card files and printed straight to the Encyclopedia working file. Not only did this mean that Fylgja and Prismatic Ward wound up in the Encyclopedia with the new mana symbols, but apparently the typesetters had the wrong Fylgja file - perhaps the file I have with only Fylgja in it? - with the original mana cost.

When Gatherer was programmed, the Encyclopedia was the best compendium of card images available, and it was reasonably (and necessarily) assumed that the Encyclopedia card images were correct. The mana symbol isn't really distinguishable at that resolution (though it's easy to see in the Encyclopedia itself), but the wrong mana cost on Fylgja has always been quite evident to the tiny subset of people who actually look up Fylgja on Gatherer. And that's where things stood for many years...

But this bizarre story has a happy ending! Overhearing Del and me discussing this question, editor Mike Mikaelian created a new image of Fylgja with the correct mana cost by seamlessly pasting in the upper right corner of an Ice Age card that costs . Granted, it's the new mana symbol rather than the old, but at that resolution it's pretty hard to tell. I sent that image to the Gatherer team, and they plugged it in.

And that's the story of how, after more than a decade with the wrong mana cost everywhere but on the actual card, Fylgja finally got fixed.

Wow Fylgja. Oh, and hey, maybe you could use Doubling Season to give the enchanted creature a full 8 counters to use to prevent damage to it or something else very flavorful and fun?

5. Elvish Champion

Elvish Champion

Hi! I’m Elvish Champion! I was (finally) printed back in Invasion as a direct evocation of cards like Goblin King and Lord of Atlantis! I give all of the pretty Elves forestwalk and I inspire them to become a lot better! Now sure, I do this for all Elves out there, not just your own. But that’s okay, because Elves like me! They really, really like me! And everyone plays with them all the time, all over the happy little valley. I know you want to get your Elf on too, right? Right! So toss me into your next Elf-deck and let’s get to fighting and chanting glory to the Forests!

4. Academy Ruins

Academy Ruins

I don’t want to cheat this list and project, and skip past a card precisely everyone plays and doesn’t go under any radars. But here we are. I’d rate this along with Volrath’s Stronghold as one of the most powerful multiplayer lands of all time. From Mindslaver to Etched Champion and Armillary Sphere, it works well with cracked artifacts.

Wouldn’t it have been a cool opportunity to have this as an Amonkhet Masterpiece for the Hour of Devastation packs? All you would have had to have done is somewhere name one of the places where people learn Trials as an Academy, and then you could have Masterpieced this on flavor.

3. Familiar’s Ruse

Familiar's Ruse

I pulled countermagic mostly out of Equinaut, my Commander deck with a ton of creatures and engines, like self-bouncing and triggers. For the most part, I haven’t missed it. But sometimes I miss the hard counters that are noncreatures. I ran this hard for more than three years, and it worked, but I eventually went elsewhere. One of my goals was to rely only on creature based counters, like Mystic Snake, Draining Whelk, and Spell Queller. I really need another one or two to make it work, but there are times when that’s all the lockdown you need.

Still, the Ruse was a great, cheap, option, able to drop for just two mana in a deck that was very sensitive to mana. I still enjoy the card, and it works well in other decks, and I run it in Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy all day long.

2. Soul Link

Soul Link

This card got a lot of play for years post-release. Note that you can use this to put on one of your creatures like Spirit Link to gain life, or as a useful blocker to keep folks from attacking and giving you two chances at life gain instead of one, or to put on an opposing creature to keep it from swinging your way.

“I attack you with this Spiritmonger that you Soul Link’ed.”

“All right, no blocks”

“Take 6 damage.”

“All right, and I gain 6 life.”

So, you can kind of neuter people. But in multiplayer, they’ll often just attack elsewhere instead, and you both don’t get hit, and you gain life to boot. And this works wonders in a shell with some damage-based removal too, like Pestilence or Earthquake, as you can gain some life back.

It’s a great card that time forgot, and frankly, I forgot about this card too. And I can’t tell you the last time happened to a true force like this at the kitchen table. So, let’s all do a favor and give Soul Link another day in the sun, and see just how good it feels to Soul Link an opposing Commander, especially an opposing big one that is meant to swing and get in quick Commander kills like Thromok the Insatiable, Zurgo Helmsmasher, and Ruhan of the Fomori.

And what’s my #1 card?

1. Reclamation Sage

Reclamation Sage

Note that the more times a card is printed, the more likely you are to get a Gatherer random event. And today we got three commonly seen cards, Reclamation Sage, Academy Ruins, and Elvish Champion. This card was the final replacement for Acidic Slime in core sets. It immediately got a home in a lot of decks, including my own Equinaut, Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy, and a lot more. Don’t forget about how awesome this Elf Shaman is, because you want answers that matter at the kitchen table, and this is a great answer, as well as a problem for the next person to solve. It’s a little smaller then Uktabi Orangutan, but a little more versatile with the enchantment option, and that makes all the difference. Are you ready to break some stuff?

All right, folks, and there we go! I hope that you enjoyed our next edition of the random Top Ten this week. What’s next? What will Top Ten Random Cards 5 bring? No clue!


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