Top 5: Decks that should’ve never existed

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The history of Magic is full of missteps in design, development and other areas that has broken the game in half, on occasion. Sometimes, Wizards prints way too powerful cards that degenerate and centralize a metagame, sometimes the rules committee screws up, and sometimes players with low self-esteem gather to make a format unfun for everyone. No matter the source of the mistake or the deck, this is my list of decks that should have never existed.

arcboundravager.hq5: Ravager Affinity (Standard, 2004): It’s no secret that whenever Wizards tries to print a free mechanic, it tends to break the standard format at the time. Affinity was no different, and apparently, playing a bunch of 2/2:s and 4/4:s for 0 was pretty good in Standard. The deck broke the format completely with the release of Darksteel in January of 2004, which brought its namesake, Arcbound Ravager, along with Skullclamp, one of the most broken pieces of equipment ever. The deck was obviously too powerful, and Skullclamp was soon banned from Standard, but it took another round of banning which included all the artifact lands and Disciple of the Vault for the deck to be neutered completely. A funny story in the midst of all this travesty is that Mirrodin, the set that introduced the eponymous world and the “artifact matters” theme was long-awaited and much anticipated, so it sold rather well. Darksteel then came along like a thug and through Ravager Affinity’s dominance of the Standard format, made lots of people quit the game. Thus, Mirrodin held the record for most sold set for a really long time, even though the block itself must be considered a failure by many accounts.

Stephen Gnedovic wrote about the deck on StarCityGames.com and the article is both funny and informative. The second list from the top is the bog standard version of the bane of Standard in 2004.

secondsunrise.hq4: Eggs (Modern, 2013): Modern is a shitty format, and on its inception, proved to be broken beyond belief. They had to do a huge round of bannings right before the first Modern PT, PT Philadelphia in 2011, but they still did a new round of bannings right after the PT, powerhouses which the format could not handle – like Green Sun’s Zenith and Blazing Shoal. Yeah, the format is a joke. However, being an “eternal” format, i.e. non-rotating, means that the Modern card pool is huge, and without stuff like Force of Will and Wasteland to keep the worst of the stuff in check, some decks are free to run rampant, which Eggs did in 2013. Eggs as a deck is actually a lot older than the Modern format, it started off as a joke deck using the Odyssey eggs (i.e. Mossfire Egg and frieds) to generate mana, card-drawing and storm count with Helm of Awakening. The deck is an even bigger joke than Modern, meaning it found a place in the Modern format around 2013, but with some better artifacts like Lotus Bloom, Chromatic Sphere, Chromatic Star etc. The deck casts these artifacs during the first few turns, then generates a ton of mana by cracking them all in the same turn, casting Second Sunrise or Faith’s Reward to do it all again, draw a bunch of cards, and proceed to kill with a single Pyrite Spellbomb. In case you couldn’t tell, these combos took a long time to play out, meaning these decks frequently went to time, delaying tournaments for everyone there. A joke of a deck in a joke of a format, but it shouldn’t be allowed there – and indeed, Second Sunrise is now banned from Modern.

necropotence.hq#3: Necro (Standard, 1996): Necropotence is a really good card, there’s nobody denying that. There were people denying that in 1995, however, when Ice Age was released, featuring arguably one of the best enchantments ever printed. Famously, the Inquest magazine called it one of the worst cards in the set in its Ice Age set review. Then again, the same magazine labeled Balduvian Horde as the best card in Alliances, according to this article. Hilariously misleading magazines aside, Necropotence is a force to be reckoned with, and it has been in all format it has ever been legal in. It ushered in a period of Magic (the summer of 1996 to be precise) labelled “the black summer” because of how obviously overpowered the Necropotence decks were and how utterly dominating they were in Standard at the time. Standard was, basically, Necropotence and a bunch of decks designed to beat Necropotence – Turbo-Stasis and other examples of how to have fun with your friends and a card game.

Even more hilariously, Mark Rosewater tried to “fix” Necropotence and balance it in the form of Yawgmoth’s Bargain, which too proved to be way too powerful and had to be banned in several formats, including Extended and Legacy, as well as restricting it in Vintage. Today, the card remains banned in EDH and Legacy.

Paying one life for one card is awesome, it was in 1996, and it is still awesome to this day. The Necropotence decks of the black summer proved it over and over, but the card itself was never actually banned from Standard play, strangely enough.

flash.hq#2: Hulk Flash (Legacy, 2007): In May of 2007, the DCI made a number of erratas to existing errata of cards, that effectively made them function closer to the printed text rather than the errata. One of the cards to be effected by this was Mirage’s Flash. Previously, the card’s function in that it put the creature into play no matter what was considered dangerous with cards like Academy Rector and the card was erratad to not put the creature into play, but to the graveyard directly from the hand. A few years later, the DCI decided to revert back to the original text, and this meant that Flash now put the creature into play. This was right before Grand Prix: Columbus in 2007 and the deck based around Flash and Protean Hulk was the talk of the tournament, and eventually won it all. Flash had to be banned shortly after the tournament, and the deck itself was really only legal in May of 2007.

A version of the deck was played in Vintage as well for some time until the deck’s namesake, along with Gush and Merchant Scroll were restricted. These days, even though Flash remains restricted, the card is in theory playable in the format, but Vintage has a lot of things you could do instead of playing Flash that’s way more effective, and the deck is more or less completely competitively unviable.

tolarianacademy.hq#1: Academy (Standard, 1998-1999): The Urza block is, as admitted by Mark Rosewater in his podcast, a complete failure from a development perspective. The block broke the game even worse than Mirrodin would do a few years later, and drove tons of people from the game. This period in the history of the game is known as “combo winter” where most of the stuff hit the fan. The outrage from the player base led to massive bannings in Standard, and though the block is cramped full of broken cards – Yawgmoth’s Will, Tinker, Memory Jar, Time Spiral to name just a fraction, but one of the cards that has had the highest impact of the game of them all has to be Tolarian Academy.

Academy as a deck is an extremely fast and stable combo deck that generates huge amounts of mana through mana artifacts and the namesake card. The mana is recycled through the “free” spells of the Urza block that nets you even more mana, since you get to untap Tolarian Academy, and then the deck finishes off the opponent with a huge Stroke of Genius. Tommi Hovi, Finnish hall of famer, played the deck at PT Rome in Extended all the way to the trophy. The deck is as busted as can be, considering its dominance in both Standard and Extended, and even to this day, Tolarian Academy is a Vintage staple, despite the fact that it is restricted. It’s banned everywhere else, go figure.

What do you think of the list? Any decks I missed? Leave a comment below!

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6 Comments

  1. psykopatmullvad

     /  November 23, 2014

    I guess all of these are worse than Survival of the Fittest in Legacy, right?
    I think that deck deserves at least a honorable mentions.
    Not 100% sure it fits the list, but it was EVERYWHERE and I disliked it.

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    Reply
    • Yeah, the UG Vengevine-Survival could possibly fit into the list as well. I never saw it that much around here, nor did I lose too much to the GW Retainers version either, so it didn’t bother me that much.

      It did have stunningly good percentages against the field, though.

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      Reply
  2. Grim Lavamancer

     /  November 25, 2014

    I’d like to nominate any kind of deck that is based on the storm mechanic. But especially the trice damned Tendrils of Agony (oh, how I loathe that card!). Fortunately wizards realized their mistakes quickly, printed chalice of the void in the next set and named their list on how unlikely a mechanic is to come back the “storm scale” . But damn! Tendrils and his friends used to make the game really unfunny to play, just thinking about it makes me want to pay R, remove two cards from my graveyard and just go nuts.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • The thing is that, since Storm requires a critical amount of cards in hand to “go off”, it’s easier to deal with than for example HulkFlash. Even if Storm can and will go off on turn 1 occasionally, even non-blue decks will usually get a chance to interact meaningfully with the Storm deck.

      I do see your point, though.

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      • Grim Lavamancer

         /  November 25, 2014

        Quite so, quite so. With the storm decks it wasn’t so much that it was one specific card that made the game boring to play, it was that the mechanic brings out (what is in my opinion) the worst part of the game, that is having to wait while your opponent takes endless turns that either ends with them exhausting their resources or killing you, more or less without you getting to interact with it at all. But then again, I was completely brutalized by Storm for years back when I was playing vintage, so I’m a bit biased.

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      • Eggs was like that, only it took half an hour and delayed the entire tournament. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

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