We're excited to continue Coast to Coast Casual (CCC), a blog series written by East2West, published on MTG Cardsmith.
Howdy folks and happy November! On this, the month of caring and sharing feels with your friends and family, I wanted to take some time to talk about my favorite designs. (Both official and unofficial). I've spent the last few weeks trawling my cards as well as the pages of Cardsmith for a total of nine lesser known cards that really inspire me in my own design space. I'm glad to present to you dear reader, my nine favorite lesser known designs in Magic.
First up let's start with the five cards printed by Wizards themselves before moving on to the four taken from the site.
This often overlooked and hated on Mythic was the centerpiece of a draft deck I made that, despite going 2-2, is one of my favorite draft decks ever. The goal was to use Mirror-Mad Phantasm to dump as much of your deck into the grave as possible, then use Archangel's Light to gain a massive amount of life to stall out the game. This plan only came to fruition once, and it was beautiful. Archangel's Light is, objectively, a terrible card. It costs 8 and unless you jump through a lot of hoops, the life it gains you will be pretty easily taken away. The reason it's here is because it's a great example of a tinker card, a total Johnny's paradise. These are the kind of cards I like to make cards that dare you to build around them in crazy and new ways! When most people look at Archangel's Light they see a totally worthless mana sink. When I look at it, I see 60+ life.
Cosi's Trickster may be the second most known card on this list. For those of you unfamiliar with it please take a second to just absorb what the card says. Done? Cool. So Cosi's Trickster is exactly the kind of cards that spark my fire. It cares about a part of the game that next to other cards really care about. There are really only 40ish cards that interact with shuffling outside of searching libraries and shuffling things into them. Of those 40 cards there really aren't any others that do quite what Cosi's Trickster does. The card as a whole represents what seems to me like an archetype that Wizards decided to never really finish. We see cards like Psychic Surgery and Psychogenic Probe that would support a shuffles type deck, yet it never really came together. I love Cosi's Trickster because it looks you dead in the eye and says "Do it, build what was never meant to happen." And damn if that isn't cool!
Hunger of the Nim
This card represents something important to the crafting of a card, ambiguity of effects. What I mean by that is, looking at Hunger of the Nim, it doesn't seem like a black card. It pumps a creature, that's mainly a green effect. Then it cares about artifacts, that's a blue or red thing. It's effect doesn't match the conventional ideas of the color, yet it fits perfectly for a couple reasons. A card like Lightning Helix combines white and red to do something that is normally black, Hunger of the Nim is kind of the opposite. It takes something that black does on occasion, pumping, and combines it with something that isn't strictly nonblack, artifacts matter. This creates an effect that's very unique yet not out of place. Nowadays, I think Hunger of the Nim could be shifted into red very easily but it still remains a great example of how to bend colors without breaking them.
Remember I was just talking about cards that bend colors? Well how about a kill spell in red. Dark Temper is so unexpected, I've gotten so many surprise kills with this in EDH. Imagine playing Rakdos and having all your black mana tapped, your opponent thinks it's safe to swing in. Suddenly you tap three mana and boom, their big beater just got vanquished. If you play any commander that involves black permanents and red mana I cannot recommend this card enough. The design here is so original, there's not really anything else like it. Cards like this keep your opponents guessing and the game as a whole interesting.
Color pie? Never heard of her. Seedtime spits in the face of everything you hold dear as a magic player. Ever wanted to cast Time Walk in a mono green commander deck? Well now you can! Seedtime has everything I love about Dark Temper but cranked all the way to eleven. In multiplayer formats it's common to be countering spells, cantripping, or casting any number of blue instant effects on others turns. Seedtime lets you have a super interesting counterplay in a color that, unless they expect you to have the card, doesn't really have tricky effects like this. Seedtime is another amazing example of how to break the color pie in interesting ways that don't make the game any less fun or interesting. Seedtime is a gem I think every smith out there can look too as an inspiration.
The criteria I followed when picking the cards from Cardsmith is that they had to have less than five favorites. Some of my favorite designs on the site are cards that have well over 20 or even 40 favorites, that means we're all pretty much aware of them at this point. Instead of showing off cards you'd all be familiar with, I want to take this time to present for you cards that I think are just as interesting but don't get quite the love they deserve.
Let's start off with a small entree. White Witch of the Black Forest is a legendary creature created by LadyBlackJack, a smith who only ever made 11 cards and who hasn't created anything since almost a year ago. At first glance WWBF isn't anything revolutionary, it's basically Kykar, Wind's Fury with some slightly different effects. However, I want to point out. WWBF was made on November 28th of 2018. Core Set 2020, the set Kykar was printed in, came out in July of 2019. On top of this WWBF's second and third abilities are, to me, as interesting if not more interesting than Kykar's. I would love to print out a WWBF and sleeve up an Esper Crowslinger/Aristocrats deck. (I don't know if the crow tokens would be errata'd to bird but really either way I'm happy.) So please, so the WWBF some well deserved love.
This card is so flavorful and so perfectly green! The mechanic Upturn creates a very interesting economy with this card's cost. If you were to activate the Upturn ability the turn you play this, you'd get the colorless mana you spent to play Tune of Ages back, making this effectively a Giant Growth. However it's the choice to save it that makes me love this card. Something that Magic players love is choice and Tune of Ages gives you one of the most interesting choices I've seen on a card. It lets you do so much yet doesn't feel broken. It's a wonderful example of how to give a player choices without making an inherently complicated or broken card.
This card is like a sort of proto-Gingerbrute. Snatching Youth does something elegantly that it's very easy to screw up and that's complicating the rules. Magic's rules are complicated, making new categories and mechanics can sometimes serve to just make everything harder to understand and slow down play. Snatching youth however, makes a new category that's so easy to remember. When you think "What keyword mechanics would be considered fast?" haste, first strike, and double strike are the first that come to mind. The card itself too doesn't abuse it's abilities and even has reminder text for what constitutes a fast creature. There's not really anything here that isn't a great example of how to make a complicated new category/mechanic without confusing the player.
I wish they would actually print Behead. Planeswalkers are a pain the butt to remove and play against and having redundancy for Dreadbore/Hero's Downfall in decks would be a welcome addition. The reason I love Behead is because it's simple, it doesn't feel a need to fill it's text box. It's straight to the point, realistic, and something that player's would rejoice to see printed. There's not much else to say on the matter, Behead is a great reference on how to make a simple and believable design.
That's all for this month, if you have any lesser known cards (Printed or smithed) that inspire you let me know in the comments below. You can fine me on twitter @East2Westmtg. And as always this has been East2west with CCC, I'll see you guys on the battlefield.