Ranking Every Battlecruiser Card (8 CMC+) with EDHREC – Part 29: Clash of the Titans
(Kozilek, Butcher of Truth | Art by Michael Komarck)
Our Time Will Soon be at an End!
Every time I reach the penultimate article for any of my ranking series (in this case, ranking every card in the format that costs 8+ mana based on how many decks they appear in on EDHREC), I'm always a little sad. I enjoy writing about all these cards, and going in depth on niche magic topic that I haven't given much thought to before. It's hard not to feel nostalgic for times past. Remember when we were thrashing Akron Legionnaire? Remember when I didn't realize Soulscour hits lands? Remember when Reaper King was a baffling magic card that I couldn't believe actually exists? Good times.
Alas, the future waits for no one, so we're gonna have to wrap this up eventually. Let's make our way towards the goal.
20: Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger: 21,862 Decks
(547 Decks as a Commander, 21,315 Decks in the 99)
17: Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre: 24,810 Decks
(148 Decks as a Commander, 24,662 Decks in the 99)
Readers, I feel conflicted about the Eldrazi titans, and this first stop with Ulamog and New-lamog seems as good a time as any to talk about it.
As I'm doing this write-up, I hear my inner Timmy saying, "How can you not love the Eldrazi titans? They're the biggest creatures in all of Magic! They're in a league of coolness entirely of their own. When they came out in 2013, there was really nothing like them, and even now, Eldrazi hold their own space in Magic as these massive Cthulhu-style creatures. These massive colorless baddies smash people's faces and they have so much synergy with everything from Kruphix, God of Horizons to Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded. They do everything you want to do in EDH. How can they not be the best creatures to play?"
Then my inner Spike chimes in and says, "That's all nonsense. The Titans do absolutely nothing unique that you cannot get from another card. Want a big colorless creature? Void Winnower, Artisan of Kozilek and Triplicate Titan will probably do more for you. Want a game-winning threat to ramp into? Terastodon, Soul of Emancipation, and Apex Devastator have much better triggers than the Eldrazi, and Impervious Greatwurm, Worldspine Wurm, Malignus and Serra Avatar are all much better attackers. Wanna cheat a creature into play? Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Vilis, Broker of Blood, and Blightsteel Colossus have just as much if not more game-ending power. You yourself, writing this article, have never actually played one of the Titans because their price tags are exorbitant. You can't say the Eldrazi deserve unique cred, because not only are utterly replaceable, they're also not as good a threat as other cards in EDH."
So those two voices are arguing back and forth in my head, and I think both kinda have a point. I maintain there's really nothing like the main Titans when it comes to reputation and ethos, but if you don’t want to drop $60 purely on that ethos, there’re so many other cards that do what these do. Both Ulamogs will always have a place in our format, but you do not feel bad about not having them.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Spike really wanted me to go full contrarian and give this an overplayed, but I stand by Timmy's idolizing. These really are a special type of design.
19: Darksteel Forge: 22,550 Decks
Y’know, the fact that artifacts get a card like Darksteel Forge is unfair. My creature decks have to leave up mana for cards like like Asceticism, my enchantment decks have to settle with a clunky Privileged Position, but artifact decks get to play Darksteel Forge and basically freeroll a card that protects their entire board and protects itself. Why do the artifact players get all the fun stuff? Where's my ability to combo kill people with my engines while opponents sit and watch, Wizards?
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: At least we all have Avacyn (or we would if she wasn’t $70).
18: Razaketh, the Foulblooded: 24,257 Decks
(113 Decks as a Commander, 24,144 Decks in the 99)
Someone more well-versed in cEDH than I am could probably extol the virtues of Razaketh in the format. I know he’s the prime thing to Reanimate, and he’s a one-card combo with himself that searches out a win with just one or two tutors, but how much of that is a boon or a bust for cEDH, I couldn't really tell you.
In non-competitive EDH, he’s whatever. He lends himself to winning the game as soon as you cast him, but that’s fine. Mikaeus already kinda filled that slot as a must-kill threat that wins the game with a loaf of bread. Razaketh is way better, but he’s not doing anything new.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: If you want him to be busted, it’s trivially easy to make that happen, but I just blinked Docksided for the 18th time, so I think Razaketh is fine.
16: Blightsteel Colossus: 25,416 Decks
Given my distain for cards that are "the best thing to do when you've accomplished X," I probably shouldn't be okay with Blightsteel Colossus, but I actually kinda like this thing!
Perhaps it’s because the reward it grants you actually synergizes with the deck, as opposed to being anathema to it. Something like Enter the Infinite doesn't really have any dynamic gameplay, and plays out the same way every time in every deck that plays it. Blightsteel, though? I’ve been wrecked by Blightsteel in a myriad of ways: hard-cast in an artifact deck to slowly kill people with it overtime; blitzed out in a Purphoros deck as a big threat you need to survive against for just one turn; hasted out with Xenagod as a way to push through a clogged board state; I've even seen it used as a Transmogrify target in a deck that contained no other creatures! The set dressing meaningfully changes how this card fits into your gameplan, rather than something like Cabal Coffers, where the play lines starts to become monotonous after a while.
Perhaps I’m okay with Blightsteel because it's a combat win condition in a format where those tend to be lacking. You don’t necessarily lose right away when Blightsteel is put into play. If you don’t have the Swords to Plowshares for it, it’s very, very bad, but even two toughness in front of Blightsteel buys you a turn to find your own path to victory. When the alternatives are often durdly combo decks that win in a flash, or massive board states that become unmanageable six turns before they actually kill you, the aggression of a Blightsteel Colossus is honestly refreshing.
Maybe "like" is the wrong word for how I feel about this card. I think I respect Blightsteel. The card is a payoff for doing things I like seeing done. For twelve mana, the ability to one-shot an opponent, regardless of life total or board state, is a meaningful trade-off, especially since it has to wait for summoning sickness to wear off. No kibitzing about stale gameplay here!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I certainly missed the bus on getting one when it got cheaper from being reprinted in the OG Double Masters, but them’s the breaks of being a broke college student!
15: Utvara Hellkite: 25,467 Decks
Ah, I remember when Utvara Hellkite was a $1.50 card in 2013-2015 because it was an eight-mana Dragon that required other Dragons for it to be good. Clearly, this was just an EDH card for casual battlecruiser tribal decks, so no one was going out of their way to try and play it...
...and then Dragons became the most popular tribe in all of Magic, and it turns out a lot of people wanted Utvara Hellkite for their sick Dragon tribal brews. The price tag is a punishment for the hubris of those for insulting my flying friends in 2015, and yes, I'm still bitter about it. (Though I would still like a reprint of this card, WotC, please and thank you.)
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Do you need Utvara Hellkite to win in Dragons? No, but it does what Dragon decks want to do: it makes a massive board of flyers that K.O. people in the most extravagant way. Really, that's all I desire in life.
14: Kozilek, Butcher of Truth: 26,398 Decks
(469 Decks as a Commander, 25,929 Decks in the 99)
I already wrote a novel on why the Eldrazi might not be the most powerful threats in the format, but here comes the twist in the third act! The Eldrazi do have one thing going for them that no other creatures have: that very last line of text. See, Wizards of the Coast didn’t want people Reanimating these Eldrazi on turn two or three, so they added the shuffle line of text to get around that. This is a cute idea, one they've used before on cards like Darksteel Colossus, but they tweaked it to be more powerful on the Eldrazi. Kozilek, Butcher of Truth shuffles your entire graveyard into your library, which turns this 'downside' text into a definite upside. As long as you have a way to get the Eldrazi out of your hand, you will always have a way to shuffle your graveyard back into your deck.
While shuffling your graveyard back into your library might not sound like a premium effect, and that quality alone certainly isn't covering the bulk of Kozilek's play, it's actually an ability that a lot of decks make excellent work out of. Any deck that draws a ton of cards like Kruphix and Locust God will sometimes enjoy a library reset. Any deck that can make a powerful-but-not-unlimited board state, like Selvala and Karametra, or any deck with Eye of Ugin, or Fauna Shaman in the 99, or, Heliod forbid, any deck that can loop the dang card, for instance with infinite mills or draw-discard effects, absolutely adores this Eldrazi. I don't even wanna touch on what Gitrog is doing with Kozilek, but it's wild.
The point is, having a free, uncounterable, reusable way to reshuffle all your used cards is a uniquely powerful effect, and Kozilek and Ulamog are the only ways to do it. On the rare chance that you want to cast one of these, Kozilek drawing four cards tends to do more than the exile on Ulamog, which gives Kozilek a real weird niche in our format.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Yes, despite the big flashy text, Kozliek is the most efficient Gaea's Blessing they've ever printed, which might be the most powerful thing he can do in EDH.
13: End-Raze Forerunners: 27,611 Decks
I kinda can’t believe it took them six years to make a version of Craterhoof Behemoth that non-high-rollers can actually play, but I’m glad they finally printed End-Raze Forerunners. There are times when Forerunners won’t win you the game off of the buff, but with games of EDH getting faster and decks less prepared to take five or ten over the course of a game, Forerunners will almost always get the job done just as well as a Craterhoof.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: It’s doing exactly what it needs to.
12: Artisan of Kozilek: 28,339 Decks
See, there’s a reason that Artisan of Kozilek is the most played Eldrazi in the format, and it’s because you get all the fun of an Eldrazi for a fraction of the price. Artisan may not have as big an Annihlator number as the big Titans, nor quite as big a stats boost, but it hits that same “Oooh” vibe that you get from casting them. You feel incredible when you cast an Artisan of Kozilek and get back some massive monster with the trigger, and get two big threats for the price of one. I love this thing, and it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg to acquire it.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: If this isn’t in the Top 10 soon, I will be upset.
11: Ghalta, Primal Hunger: 29,473 Decks
(1,488 Decks as a Commander, 27,985 Decks in the 99)
I’ve referenced Avatar of Fury quite a few times over the course of this series as a big cheap creature that was not built for EDH. Ghalta, Primal Hunger is very much in that same vein. It’s pretty easy for this to be a two-to-four-mana 12/12 most of the time, which sounds bonkers, but as with Avatar of Fury, not every deck is going to want that. If you have synergy with the big creature like in Selvala, Heart of the Wilds, or if you want to play a stompy deck like Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma, then yes, you want Ghatla. If you’re more value-oriented, or don’t want to win through attacking over multiple turns, Ghalta is a big goober that doesn’t do very much.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Yes, the 12/12 for two mana is overplayed. Welcome to Commander. Please grab your complimentary Cultivate, and say hello to Chulane on your way in.
You're Gonna Hear Me Rooooaaar!
Well, next week, I suppose it's time to pack this all in. Next week, we'll be looking at the Top 10 Battlecruiser cards! Until then, let me know what you think about this batch of cards! Any cool uses for the Eldrazi? Do you have salt for Blightsteel Colossus? Let me know in the comments! Until next week where it all ends!