Tis the season for year-end lists, Falalalalalalalala.
In this year end season, everyone is making lists about what they liked (or didn’t) about the year. And while there were lots not to like about 2016 I want to focus on the positive.
Today, I’m presenting my top five cards of 2016. Not necessarily the most powerful or most flavorful (though those do make an appearance) but the cards that I think did something particularly special from a design perspective.
5. Overwhelming Denial
Let’s be honest- you forgot this card existed, didn’t you?
The surge mechanic was one that I think wizards had the right idea printing but lacked something in the implementation. This card is no exception. And uncounterable counterspell for UU is pretty spectacular, however costing 2UU when it’s the first spell of the turn kind of kills it.
Without going full magic nerd, uncounterable counter spells are best when you are targeting your opponent’s spells rather than your own (since your opponent can just re-counter the original spell). Having the cost reduced after you cast a spell means that control decks (the decks that most want an uncounterable answer) which tend to be more reactive are mostly going to cast this for 4. For other decks who are not as concerned about the uncountable clause 2UU is too expensive for this effect and most can’t reliably make it cheap when they need to. This leaves it the sole purview of U/R spells decks which are built to operate with cheap spells at instant speed.
That said, why is it on this list? Because in this case, the idea trumps implementation. The idea of having a counterspell that costs two situationally is a good one and I hope Wizards tries again soon.
4. Declaration in Stone
Investigate was a mechanic that played super well in a number of different ways. D-stone presented the mechanic is a unique fashion.
Declaration tickles my fancy because it harkens back to some of the best white removal spells- Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares- in that it both exiles a creature and gives your opponent something for their loss. In this case, for each nontoken creature they get a clue that can let them draw a card. It is also very capable against token strategies.
This is all to say that using investigate in this way is a master class in how unconditional white removal tends to work, which I appreciate.
3. Key to the city
Kaladesh had quite a few fun cards. There are a number of things I could have put in this spot- Vehicles were interesting, fabricate was a neat idea, panharmonicon is super fun (especially in commander) and the modules are sweet.
My favorite is key for a number of reasons, but mainly due to the realization that pretty much any deck that can find space for it should. It allows aggro decks to slip in damage past board stalls and gives slower decks a colorless source of card selection (rummage on a delay) for a reasonable mana cost. This was all before they revealed the quicksmith twins, which I look forwards to using this with in Aether Revolt (tap to draw a card, pay two while untapping to draw a card).
Key really does exactly what it’s name suggests - it opens the door to plays that would otherwise be inaccessible, and does it all with class.
2. Emrakrul, the Promised End
The fact that she is wreaking face in standard is what keeps Emrakul from ending this list.
I plan to do a more thorough article on big mamma Em when ween it leaves standard (because it deserves it), but there are two aspects I want to highlight quickly. The first is the “control your opponent’s turn, they get an extra turn” which manages simultaneously to be a callback to the time manipulation of previous printings, completely in tune with the flavor of the set, and completely bonkers. The second is the cost reduction mechanic which (while it ended up working a little too well) was probably necessary as this was the first eldrazi titan printed into a set that did not have an inherent ramp strategy. Considering she was intended to be without her little brothers (and the ramp BFZ brought) for six months in standard, this clause was unfortunately necessary.
This card is completely busted, but it’s busted in allot of interesting ways.
1. Ash Barrens
No, this is not a troll. My favorite card of the year is a common from the commander supplemental. With all the cards printed to get excited over why this one? Because this card just works.
I debated in my head for hours about whether this card was strictly better than evolving wilds/terramorphic expanse and ended up on the “mostly better” side. Barrens had the advantage of being a colorless, untapped land in the late game once you are out of basics or have found your colors. Before that it’s efficient colorless fixing at common.
And that’s basically the crux of it: this card feels both like an amazing amendment to 3-4 color mana bases and perfectly printed at common. It is so simple I have to check to make sure it was a new card, yet so effective that I fell in love immediately. And it is my favorite card printed in 2016.
That’s it for me. Farewell until 2017!
Author: Robert Trublood