First, these are not the strongest and the most efficient cards. Sometimes they are very good, but often times they are just cards I like for various flavor and synergy reasons, but mostly they bring fond memories of whatever. Some are more or less unplayable today, but that doesn’t matter.
I would also like to note that there’s a huge gap in my Magic history, so I might not be familiar with all the cards from around ’99 to 2012, even though I do know many of them from different sources, such as Commander, Modern Masters and various retrospective products.
While making this list, I did notice I don’t like color equally. Actually, I knew this, but now I noticed the bias is much stronger than I expected.
8. Erhnam Djinn
One of my favorite strategies back in the days was getting a good threat on the table and then using Armageddon to keep my opponent from matching my board position (known as Erhnamgeddon decks, if you want to do a little research). Of course, there was a huge problem here, because there wasn’t a good three-drop. With both Llanowar Elves and Fyndhorn Elves available to us, that would have been great, but instead we had to make due with this.
I’ve always had a weak spot for creatures with weird drawbacks. In this case, its kind of unique, but also very easy to circumvent. After all, there were the GW painlands (Brushland) with which to cast this thing, and I also tended to clear all the lands away each game.
Landwalk is a weird ability and I’m glad they don’t use it anymore. It did last quite a long time, though.
One of the things I like is punishing big plays. You play something big, I make you pay for it. You play Magmatic Force, now I have five. Guess who wins that? If you didn’t play your fatty, you would never have been in this situation. Of course, this goes against what many consider the spirit of EDH, but if your thinking is that its within the spirit of EDH to play a huge game winning monster, it must be within its spirit to play five.
6. Pain Seer
Closely related to Dark Confidant, but there’s a difference. Whereas with Bob you make one decision to play and then you deal with the consequences (if he lives), but with this guy you can both combo out and use the ability a number of times (not usually a good idea, but been there in Draft), or you can make more decisions with him. He’s definitely lower power-level and often hard to use, but I like the guy and I’m continually trying to find ways to use him in Standard.
In a way this is a stand-in for a number of cards with hard to measure value, that I like to tinker with. There are some problems with the flavor (because her revenue generation model doesn’t seem very robust), but for playability reasons, I can live with that.
I play this any time I can in EDH, but I never seem to draw her. She isn’t going to win me any games on her own, but she isn’t reason enough to win. She’s slow and pretty awkward a method of gaining card advantage, which is exactly why I like her.
They’ve been trying to find a good spot for counterspells for a very long time. The original (Counterspell) was too powerful, while the current generic Cancel is not strong enough. Its a difficult balance. This one is definitely in the ‘little too strong’ camp and while I don’t generally like those cards, this does have a certain sense of balance, when the ‘victim’ gets card advantage. You never use this just because you can. You always save this for the most critical moment possible… but its still sort of reconcialatory.
Which is totally different from how we used it in Type 2 (now Standard) back in the day, where its was used pretty much the same way Remand is today. It was more about tempo than anything else.
3. Notion Thief
This is about the same theme as Rite of Replication above. It punishes big plays. However, I like this more, because it can backfire. Thief is greedy is hell and isn’t going to stop taking those cards. It’s not a ‘may’.
1. Erg Raiders
Here’s a story. I was in a tournament in late ’95. It was a small local affair, but large by the standards of those days. It was in a very small town an hour’s drive away from our home town. I was playing a black/white weenie deck with lots of two drops and removal.
My first opponent was a sort of local hero. He was the big guy in town because he had a full set of Shivan Dragons, the biggest and most sought-after creature at the time. These were the days before easy access to cards through the Internet, so it was hard to get those.
So, early on I play an Erg Raiders. He’s reaction? He laughed. What was my little 2/3 going to do against his majestic 5/5 flier? As you can probably guess from the story so far, that 2/3 went all the way. He was playing 20 lands in his 60 card deck stocked with five and six drops and couldn’t really answer that lowly creature.
So, it might not be the biggest creature around and it might not be the most efficient creature around, but it was very good. How ever, its my favorite, because I have such fond memories of it. That tournament wasn’t even the only notable time I used it. I used in my first tournament ever at RopeCon 1995.
It was an ‘everyman’ tournament. Its a rallying term in Finland meaning there’s a preset cash amount and if anyone wants to pay that for you car (or deck) after the race (or the tournament) you have to sell. The amount was either 100 or 150 marks, or 16 or 25 euros. Not much, but workable. I played a monoblack deck with plenty of good cards. Necropotence wasn’t widely recognized yet, but I thought it might have potential and played one in my deck. And of course, there was a set of Raiders in it.
The most memorable thing from that tournament was my first round. After getting paired, a lot of people began to hover around me and my opponent. I won and found out later that I had just beaten the reigning Finnish national champion in my first ever tournament match. It was single-elimination (swiss wasn’t really used yet), so I didn’t get to play more than three rounds, which was enough for 5th-8th place.
So, for this, Erg Raiders is my favorite card of all time. And I don’t even own one anymore. Maybe I should get a couple. Like an original Arabian Knights one. They can’t be that expensive.