Ranking Every Battlecruiser Card (8 CMC+) with EDHREC – Part 1: How to Make a Bad Magic Card
(Excruciator | Art by Paulo Parente)
It's Time to Be Ten Years Old Again!
If you played EDH in the early-mid 2010s, you probably heard the term "Battlecruiser Magic." Back then, whenever an expensive, do-nothing card saw print, somebody would usually say something like, "It'll be good in Commander," and they'd probably be right! There was a time when Commander was primarily about Garza Zol, Plague Queen staring down Empyrial Archangel while a Sphinx-Bone Wand went off in the corner. It was the format of big, splashy, powerful-but-not-immediately-game-winning board states, hence the name "Battlecruiser Magic".
I think most people are pretty far out from that world now. The format can still be that for you, but the average Commander deck plays very few expensive cards anymore, and the curve only gets lower. Where did the Battlecruiser cards go? Are they truly incompatible with the format, or have they ever truly left at all? Let's find out! Let's rank every 8+ CMC card in Magic - AKA, the Battlecruiser cards!
And I'm Also Here!
Hi! I’m Joseph. I'm bad at introductions. I rank things. Many things. Too many things. Actually maybe not enough things. However, my stubbornness and love of data knows no bounds, so in my quest to talk about every Magic card ever, I'm going to walk through all 326 Magic cards that cost 8 mana or more.
Someone might say the other things I've ranked have all been pretty clear - lands, planeswalkers, etc - but that there doesn't appear to be a common thread linking all cards with 8+ CMC together, and that's somewhat true. However, despite the increased speed of the format, Commander is still the format where you play what you want, and that's most evident in the fact that you can still realistically play an eight-mana card in EDH, without immediately dying before you're ever able to cast it. There's an interesting niche that these uber-expensive cards fill in the format that they don't fill as well in more competitive formats, so looking at them together makes a lot of sense. We'll see a little bit of what Commander players like to do when given the ability to do very silly things! I think we'll learn a lot, and also see a lot of pretty janky cards too, and that sounds like a great time to me!
But First, Bureaucracy!
- As stated above, this series is going to rank every card with 8 CMC or more. I'm taking that to be as vanilla as you can get, so no X spells, no spells with alternate casting costs of 8 CMC+, and no cards with Fuse or Aftermath. None of those really fit the spirit of the list. We're talking inherently big splashy cards with no cheating on the mana cost! (There'll be some exceptions even to this, as you'll see, but we'll get as close as possible.)
- Each card is ranked based on how many decks they are in on EDHREC. All thoughts about the cards are my own, but I have no say on where a card ends up on this list.
- Cards from Un-sets, or other cards not legal in Commander, are excluded. Cards from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, Innistrad: Crimson Vow, or any future sets released after this article will also be excluded, as they haven’t had enough time to be put into decks.
- For legendary creatures, their ranking will be based off the number of decks they helm as a commander plus the number of decks where they appear in the 99.
- Finally, for each card, I’ll give my opinion on whether it’s overplayed, underplayed, or just right. If you disagree, post your own opinion in the comments!
Alright, rules are dumb and lame. We need the beef. There're 326 cards to get through! We're starting with the worst things you can spend eight mana on in Commander. Let's go!
326: Akron Legionnaire: 11 Decks
Ah! I missed this feeling. I missed the absolute dregs of Magic card society.
I’m kinda surprised Akron Legionnaire never made it into the MTG hall of infamy. You know, alongside cards like Razor Boomerang that gain this reputation for being one of the worst cards ever. I would have expected the same kinda infamy. Not because Akron Legionnaire is actually is the worst card ever from a power level perspective; even a creature like Wood Elemental seems much worse than this, but I fully maintain that the worst card ever can’t be a creature, since a creature can attack and block. You can technically play Legionnaire in a deck with only artifact creatures and then you just get an eight-mana 8/4, which is bad, but not like Defensive Stance bad.
No, Akron Legionnaire should be on the list of infamously bad Magic cards because seriously, look how dumb this card is! The Legionnaire creature type got errata'd out of existence, so the card got changed to say, “Except for Akron Legionnaire and artifact creatures, you can’t attack." That's just... incredible, frankly. Why the heck is that the restriction? It’s not “other creatures can’t attack.” It’s not “other non-white creatures can’t attack,” or anything else that might make some flavorful sense. It’s specifically "you can attack with artifact creatures, and then also this, for some reason". Oh, but you can block with whatever, though! That is a special type of terrible. It's not just that you're paying eight mana for an 8/4 with downside. It's that you're paying eight mana for an 8/4 with the weirdest downside that it could be given.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: I kinda wanna play it in Zedruu just for the lols.
325: Petradon: 17 Decks
How dare you all besmirch the beloved name of Petradon. This was my childhood Craw Wurm. I threw this is every red deck I had. Sure, I almost never cast Petradon because, y’know, it cost eight, and when I did cast it, it normally just died to Doom Blade, but gosh dang it, this card has so much text! It blows up two lands, it's a 5/6, and it has Firebreathing?!? How can you not love this?
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: It's okay, Petradon. I still love you. When Nightmare tribal gets a red commander, you will have your day!
324: Dichotomancy: 19 Decks
You do not know how much I’ve wanted a card not to have the "nonland" clause more than Dichotomancy. Imagine if you could get basic lands off this, and you play this against a mono-green deck. You'd take, like, ten Forests off this card! It'd be the funniest ramp card ever, but alas! It cannot get lands, and thus this card does basically nothing in the format unless you’re against the Relentless Rats deck. Sigh.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Someone Rule Zero this card! Sharpie out the 'nonland' clause and I will let you take all my Forests.
323: Titanic Bulvox: 20 Decks
321: Towering Baloth: 23 Decks
I was gonna complain that Titanic Bulvox was just worse than Towering Baloth since at least the Baloth doesn't die to two Grizzly Bears like Bulvok does, but then I saw that Bulvox has trample. If you're gonna Morph one of these, it’s a lot better to flip up the thing with trample and get a minor 'gotcha' on your opponent. Then again, Baloth is more likely to survive the combat, so... let me know in the comments which card is better. This is clearly the most important thing we can be doing with our time right now.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I'm seeing a lot of mono-green Morph cards on both these cards' pages. There’re 40 cards that meet that description, so there you go! We have a new deck archetype.
322: Charging Binox: 21 Decks
Okay, we’ll see a lot more of Assist on the list later on much better cards, so I won’t talk about this now. What I will talk about is that I thought Charging Binox was a Dinosaur, and I was gonna be like, “Well, this can’t be the worst thing in Gishath, Sun’s Avatar,” but it’s not a Dinosaur. It’s a Beast. Why would they do this to me?
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: It’s not even in the Beast tribal decks.
320: Slipstream Serpent: 26 Decks
Ah! You see, Slipstream Serpent is cute because you play it as a Morph, then attack with it, then flip it face-up and get around the “can’t attack unless defending player controls an island” clause! You can pay three mana, and then six mana, to attack once with a vanilla 6/6… if you control an Island when you do so. Dang it!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: It was so close!
319: Deep Spawn: 27 Decks
318: Thing From the Deep: 28 Decks
These are classics! Before we got big Leviathans that were just big, and, y’know, good, blue got a bunch of massive sea creatures with terrible downsides, like Deep Spawn and Thing from the Deep. They don't look like much now, but these were the biggest bois in the yee-olden days of Magic's history. It's very difficult to imagine now, but the raw stats of a 9/9 for nine was a huge deal back in the day. The flavor and 'wow factor' of these is ultimately how we got the Stormtide Leviathans of the world, so I can’t hate these things. I have to respect them a little bit, and if you’re building around sea monsters in Commander, I feel like you should play at least one of these for the nerd cred.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: If I was gonna judge these on playability, Deep Spawn is surprisingly good. The 'downside' of milling yourself is actually an upside, and the hexproof ability itself is awful, but it's better than just letting it get killed. Thing from the Deep is much closer to the level of terrible I expected.
317: Xanthic Statue: 28 Decks
Eight-mana vanilla 8/8? No! Eight-mana do-nothing artifact with an ability to pay more mana for it to become a vanilla 8/8? Yes. Good. Perfect. Best card.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Maybe you can play this in Diaochan, Artful Beauty as a dork that can’t be chosen with Diaochan’s ability?
316: Excruciator: 31 Decks
Gosh, the art on Excruciator absolutely carries it. The card text and name sell this unstoppable force of nature, and that 'Terminator II meets Dark Souls' vibe on the art really sells that here.
I want to like Excruciator as a whole more than I actually do. It's unique! There are very few other cards that preemptively prevent damage prevention, and therefore very few things that do what Excruciator does. The issue is... what do you do with it? You can play Excruciator to negate commonly played 'prevent damage' cards, like Glacial Chasm and Constant Mists, but that’s probably not enough on its own. You can play this in your own Fog decks as a creature that still deals damage on the block, and that’s cute, but I kinda want something more. You can play it with Bubble Matrix or Ebony Horse to make this an invincible attacker, but... mehhhhhh. I mean, I like the possibilities here, but it costs eight mana. Eight. It's just barely scraping into the "Just Right" rank here, based purely on originality. Certainly can’t give it an Underplayed.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I need something more positive after that downer write-up. Hey, while I was looking at “prevent damage cards”, I came across Radiant Kavu! Y’all ever seen this? Just make Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow decks cry.
316 (Tie): Blessed Wind: 31 Decks
Here’s a cycle you’ve probably never heard of: the Wind cycle! The reason you’ve never heard of it is because it's from Prophecy, and this is absolutely the cycle that Prophecy would have. This is what you got with nine mana back in 1999, after Urza's Saga broke everything and the Masque block was just trying to get everyone to play fair Magic again. "Hey everyone! Magic isn't all busted Time Spiral + Tolarian Academy combo decks! Look! You can spend nine mana to gain 12 life! Doesn't that sound fun? Please stop decking opponents with Stroke of Genius!"
Would it be bad if, after all that, I told you I really like Blessed Wind? Not for what they expected it to do; I'm sure when they made Blessed Wind that they wanted you to target yourself and go back up to 20 life. That was bad at the time, and it’s bad now, and it’s extra super duper bad in Commander when you start at 40 and stay there until you get hit for 78 and die on the spot. I don’t feel the need to talk about that much.
No, let’s talk about how this is basically just the -2 on Sorin Markov, but worse. That sounds like a bad thing, but frankly, I'm super into it. The minus on Sorin was a bane of the format for a very long time, and can still strike fear into the heart of most opponents. Blessed Wind being a worse version of that is still probably worth it in some decks. It might not be the “most optimal” way to win the game, but it’s funny and you can totally get people in ways few other cards can. Do we have any Mana Tithe fans in the crowd? This card can have that same feeling of no one ever expecting it, and then you get to watch as the card makes their plans utterly dissolve. I feel like we need more people on this train.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: You can even run this for the one-in-a-million change that you'll need to target yourself with it to gain life. That feels like an achievement!
I Now Request "Blessed Earth" and "Blessed Fire"
Well, that's enough of the dregs of Magic card society. Next week, we'll probably start squeezing in a few more cards per article, but I had a surprising amount to say about the worst here. Are you into janking people out with Blessed Wind? Do you have a soft spot for Deep Spawn and friends? Let me know in the comments. Until next week!