Dig Through Time — Time Spiral
Maybe you've noticed a theme in my last two columns. First we did Future Sight. Then we visited Planar Chaos. Hm, is this a pattern? Yes, we've been doing Time Spiral block in reverse, and that means that today we're going to the past to visit the set that kicked off this crazy block. In addition to bringing back flashback, Time Spiral introduced us to the temporal keywords suspend, split second, and, the previously unkeyworded, flash. Everyone knows about Jhoira of the Ghitu, and Delay, but what else lies hidden in this set from 2006? You may notice that I had to stretch a bit. I bent the rules slightly, so today we're going to look at cards that see play in about 500 decks or less, but should see play in more.
Spiraling Into Control
Children of Korlis is a twist on the classic fog that sees play in 514 decks. Combined with cards like Alhammarret's Archive and Rhox Faithmender, Children of Korlis can actually gain you double the life lost in a given turn. But beware commander damage! You can still die to 21 damage from a voltron, or sufficiently big, commander. This card makes the life cost on cards like Bond of Agony, Fire Covenant, Toxic Deluge, and Treasonous Ogre basically free, and arbitrarily large, up to the amount of life you have to start with.
Mason Brantley did a fantastic breakdown of why Selenia, Dark Angel plays this card the most at 103 decks. Children of Korlis can help Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim recover from a big hit. Oloro, Ageless Ascetic decks are usually obsessed with lifegain, and can pull some fun tricks with Children of Korlis. Any commander with swingy life plays should be able to find some use for Children of Korlis.
Editor's Note: The Children play very well with Aetherflux Reservoir. A dedicated lifegain deck can easily get to 50 life, one-shot an opponent with the Reservoir, sacrifice said Children to regain that 50 life, and shoot another poor unfortunate soul. If Alhammarret's Archive is out...well, you do the maths.
Gaze of Justice is another one-mana white removal spell that sees play in 73 decks. Yes, it's a sorcery. Yes, you have to tap three untapped white creatures you control to cast it. But a worse Swords to Plowshares is still Swords to Plowshares. Gaze doesn't give your opponents any life like StP, it doesn't give them a land like Path to Exile, and it does have flashback, unlike either of those more popular cards. The extra cost can even be helpful if you run cards like Order of Whiteclay. If you're looking for a cheap backup to your mono-white removal package, this card may be worth checking out.
Kemba, Kha Regent, who poops out cat creature tokens, plays this card the most at five decks. Other commanders are pretty good at making lots of tokens to fuel spells like this; commanders like Darien, King of Kjeldor, and Rhys the Redeemed. Tolsimir Wolfblood makes up two of the creatures you need for this card with just him and his Voja token. Any white deck with a weenie and/or token swarm theme could run this card effectively, incurring minimal downside from the added cost.
Pentarch Paladin is a color-hosing removal engine that sees play in 394 decks. Five mana is pretty expensive for a 3/3 body, but check out that activated ability! This is one of those cards your opponents will never see coming, and can wreck a meta full of mono-color decks. Running this in a deck with lots of flicker effects like Conjurer's Closet, in conjunction with a haste-like enabler like Thousand-Year Elixir, can yield a really efficient piece of hate tech. Enchantments, creatures, planeswalkers, colored artifacts, Dryad Arbors...even without a flicker package, this guy is going to make your scariest opponent's game miserable.
Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, who turns all of your opponents' stuff white, plays this card the most at 95 decks. Tails and Paladin basically make a mono-white Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim. Brago, King Eternal and Roon of the Hidden Realm can both flicker this card, allowing you to select a different color. Heliod, God of the Sun and Derevi, Empyrial Tactician give Pentarch Paladin vigilance and pseudo-vigilance respectively, allowing it to attack and then hit a problem permanent. On a personal note, definitely pick this up if you have friends who run mono-green stax decks in your meta.
Seeing play in 510 decks, Wipe Away features split second, one of the best mechanics ever printed in Magic. Split Second basically means that, outside of some very particular corner cases (like mana abilities, or morph), folks cannot respond to this spell. No tapping, sacrificing, or paying life. Nothing. Nada. Many players are familiar with Krosan Grip which sees play in 19,837 decks recorded by EDHREC and Sudden Spoiling which sees play in 5,458 decks. Many will not be familiar with this card, though. Wipe Away offers a little more versatility in its removal than Krosan Grip since you can bounce anything with it. Of course, the removal is temporary, but if you're bouncing an opponent's permanent on a different opponent's turn, or at a time when they can't play it again immediately, then you probably don't care that you haven't destroyed it. This card has saved me from cards like Nevinyrral's Disk on many occasions.
The instant and sorcery-slinging Talrand, Sky Summoner plays this card the most at 50 decks. Talrand has been out significantly longer than Baral, Chief of Compliance, who only plays this card in seven decks, but perhaps the gap will close over time. Commanders that can't deal with enchantments due to a lack green or white such as Niv-Mizzet the Firemind, Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge, or Lazav, Dimir Mastermind can all shore up their weakness with this universal (did I mention yet that it hits utility lands??), temporary spot removal.
Another great card with removal card with split second, Sudden Death, sees play in 492 decks. This hits several relevant creatures, and again, stops your opponents from pulling shenanigans in response to the spell. They don't get to sacrifice it for value or activate its abilities. They can't use Eight-and-a-Half-Tails or Mother of Runes to give it protection. They can't blink it with Mistmeadow Witch or Eldrazi Displacer. If it has power four or less, regardless of indestructibility, it's D-E-A-D, dead.
Toshiro Umezawa, who loves spot removal, plays this card the most at 45 decks. I run this in my voltron Korlash, Heir to Blackblade deck, which blows up anything that could get in its way. Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed tends to have some parallels to Toshiro Umezawa, and can likewise recur this card from the graveyard. If you're looking for a solid companion to Hero's Downfall and Murder in your removal package, Sudden Death may be it.
Fortune Thief is (almost) a mono-red Platinum Angel that sees play in 286 decks. Admittedly, the effect is bizarre in mono-red, but how good is this, and why is no one playing it?? Attack with abandon, leaving your defenses down! Play all the symmetrical burn spells! Run Manabarbs, Burning Earth and the Painlands all in the same deck, you madman, you! Nothing can hit you for enough damage to kill you as long as this 0/1 human rogue remains on the board (about that, running a bit of protection in a deck that relies on Fortune Thief will go a long way).
Heartless Hidetsugu, who hits all players for massive amounts of damage, plays this card the most at 101 decks. Neheb, the Eternal plays tons of symmetrical burn, runs a protection package to keep himself alive (but doesn't mind sharing), and usually runs Heartless Hidetsugu to boot. Fortune Thief would be a fine addition to these Neheb decks. Mogis, God of Slaughter, who usually runs a heavy punisher package, should probably also make room for this card. Since its ability is a replacement effect it can get you around tricky cards like Sulfuric Vortex and Forsaken Wastes (but not Havoc Festival, or other lifeloss effects) which show up in many Mogis decks.
Seeing play in 212 decks, Greenseeker is a card that turns your early game clunkers into smooth land drops. One trick you can pull with Crucible of Worlds or Ramunap Excavator is to discard a land (basic or nonbasic) to Greenseeker, tutor up a basic land, and then play your discarded land from the graveyard. I've been on the spellshaper hype train since I covered Mercadian Masques all the way back in February, but I don't think I've ever mentioned how good they are with Illusionist's Bracers. Double up on all your spell shaping and get two basic lands for the price of one!
Unsurprisingly, The Gitrog Monster, who likes his land cards in the graveyard, on the battlefield, in your hand, and probably even in the absolutely-removed-from-the-freaking-game-forever zone, plays this card the most at 39 decks. Landfall commanders like Omnath, Locus of Rage, Mina and Denn Wildborn and Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis should snap up Greenseeker to keep their land shenanigans nice and consistent. Other commanders that care about lands like Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant especially, will turn their junk cards into basic forests all day long.
Thunder Totem sees play in 172 decks and is part of a cycle of mana rocks that animate themselves. White, in particular, needs a way of ramping to keep up with its opponents. Once you build your Sol Ring, Coldsteel Heart, Marble Diamond, and other cheap mana rocks into your deck, you start to look at three-CMC+ mana rocks. You might be tempted, but avoid embarrassing yourself by playing Manalith in your mono-white deck. Play something that can turn into a 2/2 flying, first striking spirit.
Odric, Lunarch Marshal, who shares abilities across your whole team, plays this card the most at 14 decks. Spirit-tribal decks like Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens and Ghost Council of Orzhova welcome a mana rock that can swell the tribal numbers. Hokori, Dust Drinker likes cards that double as mana and creatures, while Mageta the Lion will take anything that can survive his board wipes.
Another member of this cycle, Foriysian Totem, see play in 143 decks. This card requires a bit more of an investment to animate, but turning into a 4/4 trampler is not bad by any means. A 4/4 trampler that can double block in a pinch is even better.
Ashling the Pilgrim, who uses this as fuel for her ability, and as a beater that survives her explosions, plays this card the most at seven decks. Bosh, Iron Golem, Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer, and Daretti, Scrap Savant both like to play with artifacts, creatures, and reanimation, making Foriysian Totem a perfect fit. If trample tribal is your thing, maybe open a slot up in your Stonebrow, Krosan Hero deck.
The last member of this cycle that we're going to talk about today, Weatherseed Totem, sees play in 110 decks. Now, green doesn't really need any help ramping ahead of the opposition, but being able to turn it into a 5/3 with trample that Regrowths itself is a pretty sweet benefit. The fact that green ramps so well in other ways is actually one of the reasons to play this card. The amount of mana you have to sink into its animation ability, or into recasting it if it was killed, is offset by your ability to play cards like Rampant Growth and Explosive Vegetation, something the other artifacts in this cycle can't do in mono-color.
Sapling of Colfenor Treefolk tribal plays this card the most at 46 decks. This card is another one for Stonebrow, Krosan Hero trample tribal.
I took some feedback from last week, and, instead of trying to cram a bunch of cards from today's article into a half-baked deck, I've have decided to feature one of my own paper decks that runs one of the cards I highlighted today. Kruphix, God of Horizons- We're Going to be Friends "group hug." This is a control deck that never takes any action except to draw everyone cards, ramp everyone lands, stop people from attacking you, and stop people from winning the game. It ends up winning like a mill deck most of the time, though Bane of Progress can finish out a game if my opponents are aggressive, and I'm done giving hugs. I run Wipe Away in this deck, and a few other cards that I've talked about from Time Spiral block as a whole. I hope you enjoy, and, though I always have a set in the back of my mind, feel free to shoot me suggestions for both underappreciated cards and sets to talk about in upcoming articles. See you in two weeks!