8/7/2013 LI: "Top 20 Limited Cards"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Limited Information, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.
Jitte was basically an instant win in Kamigawa block Limited (playable artifact removal was fairly rare - Hearth Kami and some usually kept in the Sideboard Naturalize variants were about it), but since you picked a lot of "commons that went up in value and turned out surprisingly good," my nod for Kamigawa block would surely be the ninjas, especially Okiba-Gang Shinobi.  The conventional wisdom originally was "it's okaaaaay in Limited, I guess, 5th pick or so," with Ninja of the Deep Hours usually acknowledged as a 2nd pick or so, but they turned out to be a much bigger beating than expected, with Deep Hours going to 1st pick & Okiba Gang going to 1st-2nd pick.  Makes blocking much trickier, and eating an Okiba Gang to the face early could basically be game over, and certainly cause a player to want to keep back spare blockers.
The bouncelands in Rav are probably it, but the signets were just as good.
Timespiral block I was also a big fan of suspend, especially Errant Ephemeron.
Good shadow creatures and Might Sliver could also win games.
Previous blocks I havent drafted enough and more recent ones have solid cards listed.
I'll admit, I didn't play a ton of OLS draft.  But I think Sparksmith deserves the slot for that block.  Good for the same reason Rift was good, but dominated the feel of the format more since it was common. Also: Timberwatch Elf, though since it was "only" free, repeatable pump and not removal removal, maybe less of a big deal.
There's no doubt that Drana was the best of the best in RoE, but for a common, [CARD]Dawnglare Invoker[/CARD] was tough to beat. For starters, you could always get to eight mana if you wanted to, and in a draft environment all about big smashy creatures, dawnglare shut all of that down.

Other honroable mentions:
[CARD]Loxodon Warhammer[/CARD] and [CARD]Sword of Fire and Ice[/CARD](covered by Bonesplitter in the article)
[CARD]Rolling Thunder[/CARD]
[CARD]Overrun[/CARD]
[CARD]Mind Control[/CARD] (environment-dependent)
[CARD]Phyrexian Processor[/CARD]
[CARD]Sparksmith[/CARD]

Oh, and I like the includion of Looter. Whenever I draft with newer players, I see this thing wheeling. A great hidden value card is much better than it looks. It's almost certainly not one of the top 20 cards that help you win the game, but it is a top 20 skill-tester, which is a different kind of "best limited card."
I'll admit, I didn't play a ton of OLS draft.  But I think Sparksmith deserves the slot for that block.  Good for the same reason Rift was good, but dominated the feel of the format more since it was common. Also: Timberwatch Elf, though since it was "only" free, repeatable pump and not removal removal, maybe less of a big deal.



I think it shifted - Sparksmith was the best in Onslaught, but once Legions came into play, Timberwatch was the best by a good chunk in ONS/LEG drafts; it was much better than Sparksmith; the Smith came with real, built-in restrictions on its usage, but Timberwatch actively encouraged you to play as many elves as you could and then just dominated the combat step.  I would probably say Timberwatch > Lightning Rift > Sparksmith (personal playstyle), but for an example of a 'build around me' card Rift is excellent.  (Also, Mistform Wall + Lavamancer's Skill.  Urrrgh.)

I thankfully didn't have to play against too many Baneslayers in limited (thank you Mythic rarity!), but I might just put Meloku as 'most broken 5-mana limited creature behind Drana', with a slim case to be made for Razormane Masticore in 10th Edition ('X', not M10).
So we're talking about a format that defined by the commons and uncommons, yet 1/4 of the "top cards" of all time are rare/mythic? That just doesn't make any sense to me. Really as much as i enjoy Marshal's work and respect his opinions, this should have focused more on the cards that defined their formats, without any of the stupid rare+ bombs (with [dis]hororable mentions for Pack Rat and the Titan cycle). To be perfectly honest, I think this article should have been written by someone that's been playing since Ice Age/Mirage, which, to my knowledge, were the first sets that had sanctioned limited play and were designed with limited in mind.

The bias that Marshal's relatively short time as a player introduces is really evident, all of the older cards are at the bottom of the list, and Merfolk Looter is listed as an M12 card, when it's been just as good in every limited environment it's been in since Exodus.
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The bias that Marshal's relatively short time as a player introduces is really evident, all of the older cards are at the bottom of the list, and Merfolk Looter is listed as an M12 card, when it's been just as good in every limited environment it's been in since Exodus.



Uhhh, the older cards are at the bottom of the list because the list is in reverse-chronological order.  (Which I admit could have been made clearer in the article, since it looks like a power ranking - but any power ranking would certainly have Jitte #1, and Marsh makes that fairly clear in the article.)
 
I think the list is biased toward more recent sets which is somewhat of a shame. I also think there were 2 cards in Mirrodin that would be picked over Bonesplitter - Grab the Reins and Spikeshot Goblin. Grab the reins in particular just did pretty much everything, winning from behind, closing out games, a 2 for 1, a great combat trick, and more. The goblin if left on the board would just wreck everything.
 

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Enjoyed the list, although I would have loved to see just a top 20 common/uncommons, rather than the top card from the past 20 limited environments. It would be interesting to just see what sets had just the best limited cards.
I agree with others that this list was a little weird, since sometimes he picked good commons/uncommons and other times he picked the bomb rares/mythics. It would be better to stick to one or the other. I think the best commons/uncommons would be a lot more interesting.

I disagree that Spider Spawning was the most powerful card in Innistrad limited. If you drafted the nuts Gnaw to the Bone/Spider Spawning deck then sure, it was really good, but that was a pretty fragile strategy that needed a lot to go right in the draft for it to work. The reason it was so powerful at first was because a lot of people didn't know about it, so the one person drafting it could get all of the cards they needed for the deck. Once it became known, however, it became a lot weaker. On the other hand, Devil's Play, Olivia Voldaren, and Bloodline Keeper were all absurd and could quickly and easily win games all by themselves. They also became even more bonkers if there was any sort of support for them. In other words, Spider Spawning ranged from bad to absurd with the right deck, and those other cards ranged from absurd to even more absurd with the right deck. I think Invisible Stalker + Butcher's Cleaver deserves an honorable mention as well.
I didn't think anything outside of standard was limitted
I wonder why Urza's block draft wasn't mentioned because [C]Pestilence[/C] was not only the best card in Urza's Saga for draft, but also the stuff of legend for years to come like [C]Umezawa's Jitte[/C] or [C]Pack Rat[/C].
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If I would add anything to this list, it would be Jace, Memory Adept and Sword of Vengeance. In limited, this Jace's +0 ability is his ultimate ability. All you have to do is protect him for one turn to put the game out of reach. I've won several games with him alone. But Sword of Vengeance was even better. It created insane board states. You could attack without fear and still have a powerful blocker because of the vigilance. So you couldn't really out race it. Chump block? Nope! Not with the trample. If I knew my opponent had it in his deck, I would play no fewer than 2 artifact destruction spells to deal with it because I knew it was just that devastating.
Before drana there was flameblast dragon. I guess it has something to do with the cards that were played around it so maybe drana was slightly more unbalanced than flameblast dragon, however, I think it was pretty close. If drana was 8th flameblast dragon should have made the top 20 (although I don't know if drana necessarily deserved 8th).

Edit: (because I know people are going to comment on this post) to say that I realize drana has a slightly better ability and costs 1 less mana but in terms of limited power levels I think they were pretty close to equal differing environments included. 
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It wasn't just a list of the most powerful cards.  If we were doing a list of the most powerful limited cards from each block you'd have:


RTR:  Pack Rat
M13:  Big Jace
Avacyn;  close call between Bonfire, Wolfir Silverheart, and Deadeye Navigator.  Probably bonfire though.
Innistrad:  Olivia/ Bloodline Keeper
M12:  Titans
Scars Block:  Elesh Norn (although there were so many ridiculous bombs that it didn't matter that Elesh was slightly better than Contagion Engine or Sunblast Angel or whatever.)
M11:  Titans
Rise:  Drana
Zendikar: Comet Storm
M10:  Baneslayer
Alara: Martial Coup or Elspheth
Shadowmoor:  Oona
Lorwyn:  Profane Command
Time Spiral:  Stormbind probably.
Ravnica:  Glare of Subdual
Kamigawa: Jitte




Some of those, like Alara and Zendikar are debatable.  Others, like Ravnica, Kamigawa, and the Core sets, are not.
 
Before drana there was flameblast dragon. I guess it has something to do with the cards that were played around it so maybe drana was slightly more unbalanced than flameblast dragon, however, I think it was pretty close. If drana was 8th flameblast dragon should have made the top 20 (although I don't know if drana necessarily deserved 8th).

Edit: (because I know people are going to comment on this post) to say that I realize drana has a slightly better ability and costs 1 less mana but in terms of limited power levels I think they were pretty close to equal differing environments included. 




Flameblast was insane, but wasn't quite as good as Drana.
I will say that Loxodon Warhammer was way, way better than Bonesplitter in Mirrodin Block.  I guess it was uncommon while Bonesplitter was common, but I'm not even sure that Bonesplitter was the best common in that draft format.

Also, I will confirm that Jitte was just sick in Kamigawa block.  At the Betrayers prerelease I went to, the two people who had a Jitte in their pools ended up getting first and second place.  The one time I opened it in a draft I got first place quite easily.  It warped deck construction so badly -- I was running basically a vanilla 1/1 for B in my draft deck for no other reason than that it could hold a Jitte.  Not only did it completely dominate the board, it was also pretty much impossible to remove.  I don't know if there was a single artifact destruction spell in Betrayers, or even the entire Kamigawa block.  There certainly wasn't a playable one.
I will say that Loxodon Warhammer was way, way better than Bonesplitter in Mirrodin Block.  I guess it was uncommon while Bonesplitter was common, but I'm not even sure that Bonesplitter was the best common in that draft format.

Also, I will confirm that Jitte was just sick in Kamigawa block. 



Loxodon Warhammer was insane.  However, don't forget Skullclamp.

And I agree that seeing Jitte hit play on the other sidewas enough for me to concede most of the time.  Even more than Drana or Baneslayer. 

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It wasn't just a list of the most powerful cards.  If we were doing a list of the most powerful limited cards from each block you'd have:

M12:  Titans

Some of those, like Alara and Zendikar are debatable.  Others, like Ravnica, Kamigawa, and the Core sets, are not.
 


Were the titans really more of a bomb than JMA? I didn't play M12 limited much, but it seems like he'd be just as good there.
Flameblast Dragon is better than Drana. She targets creatures only. The dragon may target creatures or players. Also, the X on Drana is limited by a creature's power AND costs one more mana than the dragon's ability. The X on the dragon is only limited by mana available. Drana costs one mana less, but I'd rather have the 5/5 body.

Until WotC makes a better three-drop, Vampire Nighthawk should go into every black deck that it is legal for. Three mana for a 3 defense creature with lifelink AND deathtouch is AMAZING.

Some folks mentioned a top 20 list of commons/uncommons. I'd like to see that. Flame Slash and Lightning Bolt are no-brainers. Puncture Blast is an effective answer for Kitchen Finks and other creatures with regeneration.



I wonder why Urza's block draft wasn't mentioned because [C]Pestilence[/C] was not only the best card in Urza's Saga for draft, but also the stuff of legend for years to come like [C]Umezawa's Jitte[/C] or [C]Pack Rat[/C].



Yeah without Pestilence and Kaervek's Torch/Empyrial Armor this list is just stupid.
I will say that Loxodon Warhammer was way, way better than Bonesplitter in Mirrodin Block.  I guess it was uncommon while Bonesplitter was common, but I'm not even sure that Bonesplitter was the best common in that draft format.

Also, I will confirm that Jitte was just sick in Kamigawa block. 



Loxodon Warhammer was insane.  However, don't forget Skullclamp.



QFT. Being uncommon in contrast to Jitte, no other card warped any modern Limited format more than the Clamp.
Something like Bola or Longbow seems like a far better choice for md5 than bonesplitter or skullclamp. In addition to being commons that were actually really good (as opposed to the mediocre bonesplitter), they were both sleeper cards to some extent, and cards that people strongly associate with the format. Zvi picking Bola over Fireball was certainly one of the most talked about picks made in the format.

The uncommon/rare bomb equipments (skullclamp, sofi, warhammer) to some extent just feel like stupid bombs as opposed to being something representative of the format like the really good common equipment. I certainly never felt like skullclamp warped the limited format, since it really didn't change how people built or played decks (except in games where it actually showed up). People were already running artifact removal, trinket mage comboed with like 90% of the set, etc. without skullclamp being in the format.

Its hard to say really, since this list isn't really consistent in what its listing. 1/3rd is random bombs, 1/3rd is good/archetype defining commons, 1/3rd are marshall's pet cards (like having looter as the card that represents m12, the set it was probably the worst in, as opposed to m10, where it was a format defining common seems very strange). The list suffers from having no clear goal, a list of the best cards in every format is inherently boring, since it would just be a list of dragons and cards with really powerful effects on non-creature card types (glare, jitte, power matrix, flame fussilade, ect.), and Marshall probably isn't the right person to do a list of something like commons that represent the format.

On a completely unrelated note, it is a shame how much Jitte has dominated the conversation about Kamigawa limited. Its one of the most interesting limited formats ever, and so much of the "modern" perspective on it is dominated by "Jitte was good." Its like if all people ever mentioned about rise limited was Drana and Dawnglare invoker, which thankfully seems to be confined to these forums. This is obvious the most pointless thing ever to complain about, since there are other very good reasons why it will basically never show up in a nix packs rotation online, but it does bother me. The format deserves more respect than it gets from the community.
I certainly never felt like skullclamp warped the limited format, since it really didn't change how people built or played decks (except in games where it actually showed up).


True, but it was a card that nobody ever passed in draft. That's enough warpage for me.