Too-Specific Top 10 - Bitterblossoms

(Bitterblossom | Art by Jesper Ejsing)

Trickling Tokens

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Determined Iteration is the only enchantment with mana value less than three that triggers every turn to Populate?)

So hey! A new enchantment came out recently, and its design looks familiar.

And then there were three.

Bitterblossom has been a staple of any black deck looking for a few bodies to sacrifice since the first days of EDH. At two mana for a token every turn, it was already worth the price of admission before you ever even found out that the tokens had flying. That somewhat explains the huge step back taken when we got our second version of this effect: Dreadhorde Invasion. You still get the single body every turn, if you can manage to get rid of it from the turn before, but otherwise it just gets bigger. While notably worse for Aristocrats, it's always been a lot easier to get a hold of a copy of this card than it has been to get a copy of Bitterblossom, meaning that Dreadhorde Invasion still sees significant play in Aristocrats decks despite probably being more of a niche +1/+1 counters or Zombie card.

Meanwhile, this third version, despite still being notably worse than Bitterblossom, has another thing going for it: it's white.

Sure, the tokens can't block, and they don't have flying. If anything, people will be more likely to block them than not, given that they have Toxic 1. Does any of that really matter, though? Bitterblossom isn't played for aggro purposes, it's played to have cheap bodies to throw away on a whim. There's no question that it's more of a needs case in black than it is in white, but I would suggest that even Orzhov decks that have a place for Bitterblossom probably also have a place for Skrelv's Hive. To say nothing of the lifelink rider, you're happy just to have another cheap tokens outlet.

In fact, let's do a quick look at other two-drop token-producing cards:

Top 10 Two-Mana Recurring Creature Token-Makers

  1. Young Pyromancer
  2. Bitterblossom
  3. Ominous Seas
  4. Dreadhorde Invasion
  5. Loyal Apprentice
  6. Luminarch Ascension
  7. Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia
  8. Blade of Selves
  9. [REDACTED] (On the actual list)
  10. Dawn of Hope

As you can see, the pickings are slim when it comes to two-mana token-generators. In fact, most of this list I wouldn't even consider to be truly two mana. Luminarch Ascension doesn't even turn on until you've been unspoiled by the table for four turns, and then requires a two-mana investment for each token. Blade of Selves has a four-mana equip cost, and requires that you have a creature to equip it to that might just die in its first combat, not to mention that you have to be able to utilize the tokens during the combat step. Dawn of Hope is the worst of all, costing four mana per token and not really being a token card at all, instead being played for its (frankly terrible) gain life trigger.

If you do find yourself in red, then there are solid choices in Young Pyromancer or Loyal Apprentice, but both require a bit of a build-around. Young Pyromancer is a spellslinger card, and Loyal Apprentice is probably only worth playing if you've got a cheap commander that's likely to stick around despite you making hasty flying Thopters every turn, a high bar.

In other words, this is an incomplete list, for several reasons.

Top 10 Cheap Triggered Enchantment Token-Generators

First off, there's no reason to restrict ourselves to two mana specifically. Bitterblossom is the high watermark, there's no doubt, but that's no reason to not look at even cheaper options. They must actually be cheaper options, however; there's no room for any of this "paying two to then pay four more" nonsense if you're trying to just get some tokens down on the board every turn. With that in mind, let's eliminate a lot of the costs in general and require the token-making effect to be a triggered ability. After all, every activated ability has a cost of some sort! Finally, in maybe my most controversial decision, they must be enchantments.

Why? Enchantments are the most difficult to remove permanent type in Magic: the Gathering. In my humble opinion, the order is as follows:

Permanents Ranked by Difficulty of Removing Them

  1. Enchantments
  2. Lands
  3. Planeswalkers
  4. Artifacts
  5. Creatures

Every deck will play creature removal, even if it's just in the form of other creatures. They're incidentally destroyed by board wipes all the time, destroy themselves via combat for the greater good, and have a plethora of options for removal across the color pie. There may be controversy in this list, but it isn't at creature.

Artifacts, on the other hand, are similar to enchantments. They can't be destroyed by damage, and are color restricted in their removal options, with black barely having the ability to remove artifacts at all, and blue mostly only being able to bounce them. All of that matters a bit less these days, however, simply because artifacts have taken over the entirety of Commander. From cheap mana rocks to Treasure to Thopters to Constructs, there is every reason in the world out there in EDH right now to be packing artifact removal. Heck, there's so much artifact removal out there that decks are playing Liquimetal Torque to be able to have their artifact removal double as creature and permanent removal!

Planeswalkers are a different animal. Yes, there's The Elderspell and various other removal options, but it's rare that anyone plays them unless they're stapled to another effect. You can throw all of that out the window, however, because you don't actually need dedicated planeswalker spells. Combat damage will more than suffice, to the extent that many articles have been written about how planeswalkers are secretly life gain spells.

It was once considered a bit of a jerk move to be destroying others lands in Commander, but there are only so many Glacial Chasms, Cabal Coffers, and Field of the Deads you can put up with before you start fighting back with a Creeping Mold or two. There's no need to actually spend a card slot on removing others lands, however! While Wasteland and its ilk used to be an expensive proposition, there are now half a dozen land options that cost under a dollar and can remove opposing nonbasics. Throw in a few decent spell options that hit other stuff too, and you've got a whole slew of options that can get rid of those pesky lands these days.

Almost every enchantment removal effect that sees play has another type of removal tacked onto it, and for good reason: enchantments just aren't that popular. The top card in all of EDH is Sol Ring, at 1,680,561 inclusions. The next best type is instant, with Swords to Plowshares seeing play in 520,412 decks. Then comes sorcery with Cultivate at 450,526, after which we do see our first enchantment in the form of Rhystic Study with 296,808 inclusions. The first creature, Eternal Witness, doesn't follow far behind at 242,484, with the first planeswalker (Narset, Parter of Veils at 84,057) not showing up in the Top 100 cards at all.

There is a quick drop-off after the might of Rhystic Study, however. Smothering Tithe does beat out all of the creatures in addition to Study, but the next best enchantment doesn't happen until Mystic Remora at 177,239, well behind the whole slew of green ramp creatures. We then quickly dive under 100,000, where creatures keep going strong for a long time, not to mention the much more ubiquitous artifacts and lands.

Which is the reason that people aren't playing dedicated enchantment removal like they are for creatures, lands, and artifacts: There just aren't enough for it to be worth it. Poor Light of Hope has been pushed to the far extreme of what a common can be capable of, and most of its 4,620 inclusions are still for decks looking to abuse the +1/+1 counter. Compare that to Swords to Plowshares, a fellow one-mana instant that removes only one card type and has a drawback. The math is clear, enchantments just aren't prevalent enough to be worried about except as a tacked-on afterthought on flexible removal spells.

Which is precisely why we want our token-maker to be an enchantment like Bitterblossom: because there will be all sorts of removal and board wipes flying around for Young Pyromancer or Jadar. There won't be for our innocuous little enchantment that will survive the coming apocalypse.

Criteria: Enchantments that cost less than three mana which can create creature tokens with a triggered ability which does not require mana. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Griffin Aerie

(6,764 Inclusions, 1% of 890,966 Decks)

I'm not blown away by Griffin Aerie, but if you're in a lifegain deck, three life is not a high bar. Combine that with a 2/2 flier being an extremely relevant body in large numbers, and this should honestly probably be seeing more play given the sheer number of lifegain decks.

9. Hidden Stockpile

(7,664 Inclusions, 2% of 451,227 Decks)

In most cases, Revolt isn't the easiest intervening-if clause to trigger. Hidden Stockpile is not most cases. Supplying both tokens and a sacrifice outlet for them that ultimately results in more tokens, Hidden Stockpile might be one of the best Aristocrats cards ever printed. Supplying two legs of the three-legged Aristocrats stool of creature supply, sacrifice outlet, and payoff is good enough, but the fact that it also lets you scry to find the last leg just puts this over the top.

8. Ghoulish Procession

(8,682 Inclusions, 1% of 909,977 Decks)

Speaking of providing two of the three legs of the Aristocrats strategy, here's your creature supply and a payoff in the form of Ghoulish Procession! I'd still say Hidden Stockpile is a much better card, but color restrictions being what they are it's not surprising to see Procession eke out the number eight slot by a thousand inclusions. The "nontoken" portion of things is a bit of a bummer, as is the "only once each turn" rider. Still, you're going to kill or have your creatures killed often, so there's no doubt that this will make some Zombies on the regular.

7. The Birth of Meletis

(9,236 Inclusions, 1% of 895,826 Decks)

The Birth of Meletis, on the other hand, will not be making you creatures on the regular. Even if you're running a Blink strategy, the best possible schedule you're looking at here is getting an 0/4 every other turn. Still, I'm a fan of the card, even if it doesn't quite fit the bill of flooding the table with tokens. Getting a card in hand and a creature on the board is a pretty good deal, after all.

Just keep in mind that The Birth of Meletis is not the only game in town at two mana offering exactly that deal.

6. Ranger Class

(9,757 Inclusions, 1% of 852,308 Decks)

Another single token stapled to a Saga of sorts, Ranger Class also makes an excellent blink target if you're in the rare and elusive Selesnya Blink deck. More likely, however, you're probably just playing a creature deck, looking to spend the full eight mana to get a token, a permanently ever-increasing buff, and the ability to cast creatures off the top of your deck. All of which is the more impressive portion of this card, not the Grizzly Bears you start with.

5. Prowess of the Fair

(11,420 Inclusions, 1% of 1,036,939 Decks)

With no "triggers only once a turn" rider, Prowess of the Fair should be putting Ghoulish Procession to shame. The only problem is, there's an Elf rider instead! Still, there's no question that if you're in the Elf deck, this is going to be pumping out Elves for when you inevitably get board wiped, not to mention making you blockers and a second wave for your alpha strikes with Elvish Warmaster.

4. Legion's Landing

(18,058 Inclusions, 2% of 890,966 Decks)

I'm not gonna lie to you, I'm one of the biggest fans out there of Legion's Landing. It aggros, it lifegains, it ramps, it blinks, and it tokens. If there's more that you could ask of a one-mana enchantment, I'm not sure what it is.

3. Waste Not

(22,899 Inclusions, 2% of 1,036,939 Decks)

To be honest, I'm surprised to see Waste Not on a list above the much more generically excellent Legion's Landing. Don't get me wrong, this fan-built enchantment is one of the best discard cards ever printed. Discard and wheel decks also just aren't that prevalent, however, which really goes to show you how much of an auto-include this thing is. If you are in the discard deck, this is going to make you dozens of tokens, but what really makes it great is that those tokens are maybe the worst trigger on the card.

2. Dreadhorde Invasion

(33,134 Inclusions, 3% of 1,036,939 Decks)

Which just leaves our actual Bitterblossoms. I'm not surprised to see them at the top of the list, and you shouldn't be either. Dreadhorde Invasion might be the worst of maybe all three of the options, with Skrelv's Hive already starting the long climb up the ladder, but even as the worst option it's still pretty great. Whether you're the +1/+1 counter deck or just an Aristocrats deck on a budget, a token or a counter every turn is a great deal. What really might keep this above Skrelv's Hive in the long run is the fact that Zombie decks will have 6/6 tokens laying around even without Amass. They aren't gonna say no to one more, though!

1. Bitterblossom

(36,924 Inclusions, 4% of 1,036,939 Decks)

The Queen remains the Queen. As I previously stated, it's unlikely that we'll ever see anything printed that's more efficient than Bitterblossom. Two mana for a steady stream of 1/1 fliers is just the best rate that will ever be allowed. What will be interesting to see, however, is the niches that get played with that will chip away at Bitterblossom's lead at the top of this list. Zombie decks, +1/+1 counter decks, Poison decks, and lifegain decks appear to be just the beginning, and there's no denying that this is a fun design space to mess about in.

Honorable Mentions

While Squirrel Sanctuary does technically meet our criteria, I must admit I was glad it didn't quite make the list so I didn't have to explain things. With that said, the rate is still great, whether you're in the market for the Squirrels themselves or just to rack up as many Enchantress triggers as you can.

Determined Iteration is clunky in its own way, on the other hand. Red is not exactly known for being the color of tokens, so Populate is already a bridge too far for many a red deck. To then have the token sacrifice itself at the beginning of the end step can be a rough second sentence to experience once you've already jumped through the hoops of finding an Elemental token big enough to want to copy. If you're going off with Brudiclad or making 8/8s on the regular, though, then this two-mana wonder is right up your alley.

If you're really looking for a Bitterblossom outside of Bitterblossom's colors and/or price range, then might I suggest looking outside the box and considering an Improbable Alliance? It's going to require some build-around, but there's no question that the right Izzet deck can draw cards on the regular, and if you do happen to make infinite mana you've got a mana sink right there!

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

It's always interesting to see where card hype goes during spoiler season, but there hasn't really been much hype as of yet for Skrelv's Hive, so I have to put everyone's opinion on the line before we start seeing copies in person.

Finally, what is your favorite cheap token-maker? Is it an enchantment? Have you been dying to tell me about Sticky Fingers this whole time and have instead been frustrated that I was only considering creature tokens?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the table made entirely out of milk crates. Bring your playmats, or there's gonna be issues.

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.

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