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From Alpha to Legends: Top 10 Creative Cards March 24, 2012

Posted by James in : all, random , trackback

Back when I first started playing Magic, it was less about winning and more about throwing “fun” and “wacky” cards in your deck. And for less competitive players, EDH (Commander) or cube could both still be good places for that. A lot of the most fun cards are “design failures” insofar as they are quite bad, but they are also “design achievements” insofar as great ideas were thought of.

I realize that Magic is now nearly 20 years old and few people know about the older cards and how crazy the game started out. In this piece I want to discuss 10 creative cards that were very unique and “fun” yet are not competitive. The following criteria must be met to make my list:

  1. The card must be old. (Made between Alpha and Legends.)
  2. The card must be unique. No knock-offs with the same ability allowed unless it’s from an un-set. (e.g. Two-Headed Dragon was based on Two-Headed Giant.)
  3. The card was never reprinted (after Legends was printed). (e.g. Aladdin’s Lamp was reprinted in Revised.)
  4. The card must be creative.
  5. The card must be fun.
  6. The card must not be competitive. (e.g. Timetwister was creative and fun, but it’s competitive.)

Honorable Mention: Island of Wak Wak

island of wak wak

Island of Wak Wak taps to reduce a flying creature’s power to 0. It was made back when lands could be like free Artifacts. This card is is similar to Maze of Ith except it can only be used against creatures with flying and it can be used during combat. (Your creature can still kill the flying creature.)

This card is simple and creative. Nothing has reduced a flying creature’s power to 0 since, but it is not the most unique or creative card on this list. There have been other cards that reduced a creature’s power to 0.

10. Arboria

arboria

Arboria works on all players. (That’s what “enchant worlds do.) It says that players can’t be attacked as long as they didn’t play anything during their last turn.

Arboria has always been great with instants, but now it’s also good with creatures that have flash. (Tefari comes to mind.)

Arboria is unique and elegant concept, but nothing like it was ever made again.

9. Telekinesis

telekinesis

Telekinesis taps a creature, prevents all damage dealt by that creature, and prevents it from untapping for the next two turns! Telekinesis requires players to remember the game state in a highly unusual and unique way. It’s a fun, flavorful, and unique card; and we haven’t seen anything like it ever again.

Of course, there are some cards that were probably inspired by Telekinesis, such as Sleep. Even so, Telekinesis is much more interesting and creative overall.

8. Reincarnation

reincarnation

Reincarnation lets you reanimate a creature as long as another one of your creatures dies. Reincarnation was a great card to use for games when your big and small creatures are likely to get killed.

Reincarnation is flavorful and unique with a simple and elegant concept, and we’ve never seen anything quite like it ever again.

7. Guardian Beast

guardian beast

When Guardian Beast is untapped, it protects your artifacts in almost every way imaginable. They can’t be destroyed, stolen, or enchanted. Nothing has ever protected our artifacts this well ever again. Guardian Beast used to be one of the most famous Magic cards and it is very creative. Even so, some cards could be considered to be knock-offs in that they can be used to protect your artifacts.

6. Shehrazad

shahrazad shehrazad

Shahrazad’s new text is much more simple:

Players play a MAGIC subgame, using their libraries as their decks. Each player who doesn’t win the subgame loses half his or her life, rounded up.

This can be a fun card, but it can also be incredibly annoying. It is so incredibly creative and unique, that it deserves to be mentioned. It can be so annoying, that I give it 7th place on this list. (If I was only grading on creativity, then it would get first place.)

Enter the Dungeon was inspired by Shahrazad, but it was from an unset.

5. Raging River

raging river

Raging River has the following text:

Whenever one or more creatures you control attack, each defending player divides all creatures without flying he or she controls into a “left” pile and a “right” pile. Then, for each attacking creature you control, choose “left” or “right.” That creature can’t be blocked this combat except by creatures with flying and creatures in a pile with the chosen label.

This was and still is one of the most complicated cards ever made. Even so, it was one of the most creative and “fun” cards. This was made back when cards were made (a) with some idea in mind, (b) for flavor reasons, and (c) even if they are very complicated. Fun complicated cards are no longer made just because there’s some fun flavorful idea in mind.

4. False Orders

false orders

False Orders says that you decide if or how a creature blocks, and it can be used to make an attacker fully unblocked. It’s a simple idea and it’s a lot of fun, but nothing like this has been made ever again.

3. Camouflage

camouflage

Camouflage basically says that the opponent has to block your creatures at random. You shuffle them up and attack with them face-down. Due to new rules involving morphs, the text on the card was changed to the following:

This turn, instead of declaring blockers, each defending player chooses any number of creatures he or she controls and divides them into a number of piles equal to the number of attacking creatures for whom that player is the defending player. Creatures he or she controls that can block additional creatures may likewise be put into additional piles. Assign each pile to a different one of those attacking creatures at random. Each creature in a pile that can block the creature that pile is assigned to does so.

Camouflage’s ability is interesting, the concept is simple, and it could be helpful. It was unique and nothing like it has ever been made again.

2. Word of Command

word of command

Word of Command says you can make an opponent cast a spell of your choice from his or her hand. It’s that simple despite how complicated the current text is:

Look at target opponent’s hand and choose a card from it. You control that player until Word of Command finishes resolving. The player plays that card if able. While doing so, the player can activate mana abilities only if they’re from lands he or she controls and only if mana they produce is spent to activate other mana abilities of lands he or she controls and/or play that card. If the chosen card is cast as a spell, you control the player while that spell is resolving.

The concept is simple, it’s a creative, and it has a potentially powerful effect. Nothing like this has ever been made again.

Even so, Word of Command needs Split Second very badly. The opponent is likely to play instants in response. That not only keeps you from casting the instant from his or her hand, but the player is also likely to tap out and ruin the spell entirely.

1. Lich

lich

Lich says the following:

  1. You have 0 life.
  2. You don’t lose the game from life loss.
  3. If you would lose life, sacrifice that many permanents instead.
  4. If you would gain life, draw that many cards instead.

Lich was competitive back when control decks lacked access to Necropotence and wanted to draw dozens of bonus cards from Ivory Tower. It was great as long as you could counter and destroy everything the opponent does.

Lich was not a simple concept, but it was a lot of fun. It changed how the game works and could be quite powerful. We haven’t got another card quite like it since it was originally rinted.

Lich’s Tomb was sort of a knock-off, but it was missing the whole point of playing the card (it wasn’t a combo with life gain).

Update: I added Telekinesis to the list. Not sure why that card slipped my mind.

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