Too-Specific Top 10 - Borderline Revisited

(Arcane Signet | Art by Dan Frazier)

Something New, Something Old

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 Diamond Lion is the only newly old-bordered creature that can add three mana of any color?)

A year and a half ago, I mulled over the newfangled tech of being able to print old-bordered cards in new sets, and between Secret Lairs and backward-looking sets like The Brothers' War, we've gotten more newly old-bordered cards than ever before. With that in mind, a revisit would appear to be in order, especially since the old list was topped by Solemn Simulacrum, and I predicted that it wouldn't be in short order. Let's see if I was right, shall we?

Top 10 (New) Old-Bordered Cards

I'm not gonna lie, I peeked at the list, and the results made me immediately want one change:

Top 10 Newly Old-Bordered Lands

  1. Command Tower
  2. Exotic Orchard
  3. Reliquary Tower
  4. Evolving Wilds
  5. Myriad Landscape
  6. Terramorphic Expanse
  7. Bojuka Bog
  8. Path of Ancestry
  9. Misty Rainforest
  10. Marsh Flats

Last time through, there were only three lands that made the top ten: Bojuka Bog, Fabled Passage, and Misty Rainforest. This time through, with all the much more common lands having newly acquired old borders, more than half of the top ten would have been lands. Combine that with the fact that I'm not crazy about how colorless nonbasics look in old border, and I just went ahead and shoved them all out.

Criteria: Nonland cards printed in paper with an old border since 2019. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Thought Vessel

(266,418 Inclusions, 14% of 1,901,637 Decks)

There are a ton of two mana rocks out there in Commander right now, and most of them are just... boring.

Top 10 Two-Mana Mana Rocks

  1. Arcane Signet
  2. Mind Stone
  3. Fellwar Stone
  4. Thought Vessel
  5. Dimir Signet
  6. Izzet Signet
  7. Orzhov Signet
  8. Azorius Signet
  9. Boros Signet
  10. Talisman of Dominance

Most two-mana rocks do only one thing: add mana. Honestly, that's probably how it should be, given just how good the rate is. There are, however, a couple at the top with a bit of additional functionality in the guise of Mind Stone and Thought Vessel, joined by a few at the bottom as well:

Top 10 Worst Two-Mana Mana Rocks

  1. Planar Atlas
  2. Obsidian Obelisk
  3. Sphere of the Suns
  4. Fractured Powerstone
  5. Guardian Idol
  6. Pillar of Origins
  7. Ebony Fly
  8. Orb of Dragonkind
  9. Moss Diamond
  10. Star Compass

In addition to Thought Vessel and Mind Stone, Ebony Fly and Guardian Idol provide some creature options, Orb of Dragonkind gives Dragon decks some card draw, and Fractured Powerstone gives groups playing Planeshift a much-needed way to roll the Planar Die. Lastly, I don't expect Planar Atlas to stick around the bottom of this list, as it's currently the only two-mana mana rock in existence that can stack the top of your deck.

Outside of that, it's pretty much just about efficiency and color fixing in the realm of two-mana rocks, and seeing former staple Star Compass on the list of the worst of them tells you about how that's going.

So when I say that I love Thought Vessel, it's not just because I'm some goober putting Reliquary Tower in all of my decks. It's because Thought Vessel actually makes you have to make a decision during deckbuilding instead of providing yet another slot that's prebuilt for you unless you're making a decision to play slower than 90% of the average meta.

9. Farseek

(282,861 Inclusions, 32% of 877,068 Decks)

While it may still be lagging 40,000 inclusions behind Rampant Growth, Farseek continues to be the second-most popular green ramp spell despite not really being playable in mono-green. Its ability to fetch dual lands and Triomes with basic land types makes it an extremely important cog in multicolor decks, which it turns out there are way more of than mono-color ones!

8. Blasphemous Act

(285,601 Inclusions, 31% of 908,092 Decks)

Leaving ramp behind for a moment, Blasphemous Act provides its own by cost reduction itself for each creature on the battlefield! Hands down the best red board wipe, you have to really dig deep to find a reason to not be playing it, although I would suggest spellslinger decks take a look at Reckless Endeavor. It doesn't cost one mana on the front end, like Blasphemous Act often does, but it does often pay for itself or even ramp you on the back end.

7. Chaos Warp

(295,461 Inclusions, 32% of 912,333 Decks)

Speaking of the best of red, next is the red removal spell that the color pie says shouldn't exist! Chaos Warp is at once both an amazingly flexible and efficient removal spell and also a blast of a Polymorph mini-game, and if you've never been around for someone trying to flip a land into something that could save the game for them, it's a heck of a moment when it works!

6. Path to Exile

(299,616 Inclusions, 35% of 845,177 Decks)

Widely regarded as the second-best white removal spell, I'd actually like to posit that Path to Exile should be #1. The reason has nothing to do with removal, however. Instead, it's because Path to Exile is also one of the best ramp spells in the game when utilized as such. Taking a Soldier token and making it into a land is an amazing deal for one mana, if only you can complete the mental value gymnastics it takes to not hold a great removal spell in your hand.

5. Solemn Simulacrum

(312,350 Inclusions, 17% of 1,901,637 Decks)

Our previous #1 contender has dropped to #5, and I personally am surprised it didn't fall even farther. Solemn Simulacrum is still a great value engine, but he's been pushed out in nearly every color by worse effects for less mana. In white, a lot of players would rather lay down a Knight of the White Orchid or Loyal Warhound for two mana than spend four to get a land guaranteed. There aren't a lot of creature ramp options in blue, but there is a cycle of Wizards that can fetch cheap spells like High Tide, or mana rocks at every value. Black has the best enters/dies triggered creatures in the entire format, often stacking together Stitcher's Supplier or Undead Butler with the likes of a sacrifice outlet that can ramp as well. In red, Dockside Extortionist will get you more mana for cheaper in the short term, while Professional Face-Breaker will do so in the long term while also giving you access to more cards with its sacrifice ability. Finally, green has never had a need for Sad Robot in the first place, with cheaper ramp options across the board and an ever-increasing penchant for draw in the color.

In short, nothing but momentum is really keeping Solemn Simulacrum around, and especially as it stops being reprinted in precons, I suspect that we're going to see a steady decline as more and more decks replace it with a cheaper option (that is also probably more interesting from a hipster perspective). I think we'll all love the robot for a long time to come, but I also expect it to be more in the way we fondly remember Uktabi Orangutan before long.

4. Commander's Sphere

(328,967 Inclusions, 17% of 1,901,637Decks)

All that said, I'm glad the wake of brutal efficiency hasn't yet pushed out Commander's Sphere. Sure, as a mana rock it's too slow compared to the horde of two-mana options, but it also kinda cycles itself for more or less the going rate of a typical Cycling card. That by itself isn't enough to slow yourself down a turn in most builds, most likely, but the fact that it's the most easily recurrable type of card.

3. Beast Within

(371,237 Inclusions, 42% of 877,068 Decks)

Just to check in, the more color-corrected version of this effect is 170,000 inclusions behind the original, so Beast Within still reigns supreme no matter the border. I appreciate that, ever since this staple of a flexible removal spell was copied over to white, there's now a choice to be made, at least in the least popular color combination there is.

2. Swiftfoot Boots

(507,678 Inclusions, 27% of 1,901,637 Decks)

I've never liked the term "auto-include", and I'm here to tell you today: 27% of all decks is too many decks for Swiftfoot Boots. You may think that this is part of an argument for the superiority of Lightning Greaves, but it's not. To zoom out a bit, there is an argument that can be made for not including Sol Ring, the most popular card in all of EDH, in a small number of decks, and the argument is that the Ring only makes colorless mana. Therefore, if you're in five-color, or a heavy Landfall deck, or you're playing a deck that is mostly made up of colored pips, like a Shadowborn Apostles brew, it's at least an argument that you can make with a straight face. It's probably still wrong, but people can at least catch your drift and may not call you a hipster outright.

The argument for Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves isn't nearly that complex: they're just not that great in a vast majority of Commander decks. Essentially, if there's not good reason to need a hasty creatures (outside of red, where there are much better options) and you're not playing a mobile dartboard for a commander, then there's probably something better and more interesting you can be doing with this card slot.

There may be a day where a quarter of all commanders are kill-on-sight, but I don't think we're there yet. But for those of you playing Etali, Primal Storm, carry on.

1. Arcane Signet

(1,235,154 Inclusions, 65% of 1,901,637 Decks)

I didn't think I'd ever seen any card with over a million inclusions, and that seems like a big deal. Looking at the Top Cards page, it still is a really big deal, so much so that I can't even make you a top three, much less a top ten!

Arcane Signet is currently the second most-played card in all of EDH, lagging behind Sol Ring by about 350,000 inclusions. What's even more impressive is how far ahead it is of card #3, Swords to Plowshares, which is only played in 492,334.

In other words, not only is having a million inclusions a big deal, but even with the absolute ballooning of total decks we're seeing in Commander right now, it's unlikely that we'll see any more cards with this distinction for quite some time.

Honorable Mentions

I casually mentioned The Brothers' War dumping a ton of new old-bordered cards into the mix, but honestly, I don't think most people really understand the scope. The Brothers' War Retro Artifacts (BRR) printed 63 cards in old-border, all of them with two different versions: the original artwork, and a "schematic" version that shows a drafted prototype (and comes with some fresh new flavor text, too). As such, it would be a shame not to go over which you're most likely to already be using that might have an available bling upgrade:

Top 10 The Brothers' War Retro Artifacts

  1. Swiftfoot Boots
  2. Chromatic Lantern
  3. Ashnod's Altar
  4. Burnished Hart
  5. Aetherflux Reservoir
  6. Blackblade Reforged
  7. Gilded Lotus
  8. Foundry Inspector
  9. Altar of Dementia
  10. Mox Amber

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?

With every new set it seems like we're getting a new border gimmick, so it has to be asked:

Finally, what's your favorite old-bordered card? Did it come that way originally, or has it been newly reprinted with manufactured nostalgia?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the particle board table textured to look like ancient rich mahogany.

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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