Too-Specific Top 10 - Borderline

(Solemn Simulacrum | Art by Greg Staples)

Something Old, Something New

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 Shriekmaw is the only creature with Fear to be reprinted in old border?)

Modern Horizons 2 and the latest Secret Lair Drops continued the trend of including "retro framed" cards in booster packs that began in the original Modern Horizons, and I, for one, couldn't be more into this nostalgia bait. Only, have they been doing a good job with what cards they're reprinting into old border?

Top 10 (New) Old-Bordered Cards

Old border reprints aren't just a way to bling out or match your deck, they're also largely reprints. Luckily, what you want out of both the nostalgia/style goal and the reprint goal is pretty much the same: cards that are in high demand. Or, put another way, cards that see a lot of play. So, the question is, which of these epic flexes is in the most demand?

Criteria: Cards printed in paper with an old border, within the last two years. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Ponder

(59,088 Inclusions, 20% of 293,761 Decks)

Ponder isn't the best cantrip. Although to my surprise, when it comes to EDH, it is the second most played despite only being a sorcery. Maybe that shouldn't be such a surprise, however. Ponder and the #1 option, Brainstorm, are the only two one-mana Commander-legal cantrips that let you consider three cards at once. The best you can do otherwise is essentially scry two or loot two. Unless you want instant speed, that is, in which case you're going to have to settle for scrying one and drawing. Regardless of what your or my personal favorite blue cantrip is, however, the masses have deemed it #2, and I see no real reason to object to that placement. One thing is for sure: if you're going with a deck that wants to play one cantrip in EDH, chances are it's going to want to play several of them, and the chances that Ponder will end up on that list are pretty high, no matter what border you play it in.

9. Misty Rainforest

(61,371 Inclusions, 11% of 564,962 Decks)

I had originally assumed that our #9 card was the most popular of the fetch lands, but it turns out that just only the enemy-colored fetches have been printed in old border so far. Which actually is a good thing for the purposes of this list, because looking at the options, Misty Rainforest isn't the most popular fetch land, it's the sixth most popular behind all of the allied-color fetches. That means that, barring some extremely high-play old border reprints, when Wizards does get around to finishing the retro frame cycle, this top ten will be almost entirely made up of fetch lands. For now, however, Misty Rainforest reigns supreme with a 4000-point lead over Verdant Catacombs. As for the fetches themselves, I don't personally have much to say that's not going to end up in a rant about people optimizing for the sake of optimizing, so let's move on!

8. Reclamation Sage

(61,609 Inclusions, 22% of 276,897 Decks)

Unlike its lesser cousin of a staple, Loaming Shaman, Reclamation Sage was given the "uncommon replacement that plays better in some decks" treatment rather than the "mythic replacement that actually replaces all instances of said card provided you have the $20 bill to buy it" treatment, so luckily this retro frame hasn't been immediately rendered worthless. Which is great, because everyone's favorite removal on a stick looks really good with the old border treatment, so hopefully we get to use it for a few years before it gets the Uktabi Orangutan treatment that it embodies.

7. Fabled Passage

(61,808 Inclusions, 12% of 509,868 Decks)

If you haven't seen this old border version of Fabled Passage yet, you might poke your head into your local game store and buy a Commander deck and a couple booster packs. That is, of course, unless you prefer your FNM Evolving Wilds foil. Setting the strictly better than, pay-for-play nature of Fabled Passage aside, however, it is really good to see it getting reprinted so aggressively. Even if these special print foils end up being curled, there will still be folks buying them as both singles or as part of the Local Game Store incentive, which will only make it a more obtainable card. I mean, not as obtainable as, say, the two different commons it aggressively replaced that have been printed in dozens of sets... but more obtainable.

6. Path to Exile

(78,086 Inclusions, 30% of 257,868 Decks)

Good news! White players can now play both of their standard removal options in old border! Path to Exile has long been thought of as the premier backup to Swords to Plowshares, but I'm not so sure. It's true, giving your opponent a land is likely to be much more impactful than giving them some life. But that doesn't really take into account that, in a token deck, Path to Exile is maybe the best ramp card available in the color? I dunno, I just think that if there was a green instant that cost one mana and said "sacrifice a creature: search for a basic land and put it onto the battlefield", that that card would see play. Regardless, it's kind of a moot point, because if you have the money, then there is absolutely no reason why you'd be playing only Swords to Plowshares or Path to Exile as opposed to both of them. Then again, there is this underplayed, ten-cent spell called Valorous Stance that I personally tend to include before either, so....

5. Eternal Witness

(82,282 Inclusions, 30% of 276,897 Decks)

There are many who say that the typical deck should be playing Regrowth rather than Eternal Witness. And those people are right! If all you're needing is the ability to get a card back from the graveyard, why not do it for cheaper? If, on the other hand, you're focused on creature beatdown, recursion, or blinking, then Eternal Witness is a great option (although you might consider the newly printed Timeless Witness as the new option #1 if you're in the recursion deck). What I'm trying to say is, we'll probably be seeing this Shaman on top ten lists for a long time coming, but we probably shouldn't be. It's an excellent example of staple homogenization run rampant, with folks including it just because others are, without looking into whether there might be options that fit their deck better.

4. Bojuka Bog

(87,313 Inclusions, 30% of 292,614 Decks)

I live by the mantra "slow down and smell the taplands", and as such I've always been a huge fan of Bojuka Bog. Are there other options that can come in untapped and get rid of graveyards at instant speed? Sure. Have you been in any number of games where the player playing the Bog essentially flips a coin to see which two non-relevant cards they exile? Absolutely. But none of that changes the fact that Bojuka Bog makes mana and can absolutely save your bacon against the local Meren or Muldrotha deck. I've never been a fan of the "auto-include" term, and I think it leads to a lot of people making poor deck-building decisions like we previously discussed with Eternal Witness. But let me put it this way: I currently have seven different EDH decks which play black. Of those, five of them play Bojuka Bog. It's a solid effect that a lot of decks want, and the cost of inclusion is as low as it gets.

3. Farseek

(90,825 Inclusions, 33% of 276,897 Decks)

While Farseek is still just 3,000 inclusions short of overtaking the quintessential two-mana ramp spell, Rampant Growth, 33% of possible decks is nonetheless impressive, especially when you consider that it doesn't do anything in mono-greeen decks. Being able to go fetch a dual, shock land, or a Mystic Sanctuary (for blinking or bouncing later) is a heck of an advantage, however, so I wouldn't be shocked to see this one day overtake the original. Still, if I can be honest, I hope that it never does. As much as there are a lot of decks out there that absolutely need the mana flexibility Farseek provides, there are just as many playing it because it's the optimal choice. And if there's anything that EDH could use less of in these days of constantly being pushed into higher and higher power levels, it's optimizing for the sake of optimizing.

2. Beast Within

(99,045 Inclusions, 36% of 276,897 Decks)

Speaking of optimizing for the sake of optimizing, Beast Within! This is the epitome of a spell that gets penciled in as soon as you decide you're playing green, and I totally get why. Being able to remove any permanent at instant speed is something you only used to be able to do in Orzhov, and the amount of times a random 3/3 has been relevant in a game of Commander is minuscule. In short, Beast Within is the best green removal spell available, and is on the list of best removal spells ever created. If you find yourself saying that you have to make room for a copy of it, might I push back on that a bit? After all, no one wants to see a collection of staples across the table. They came to see your deck, and it's okay to make room for it.

1. Solemn Simulacrum

(103,711 Inclusions, 18% of 564,962 Decks)

Our #1 pick is a face everyone is familiar with, and I'm glad that the face of Jens Thorén's invitational card was the choice when it came to putting Solemn Simulacrum in old border. With that said, I must admit that I was surprised to still see Solemn Simulacrum at the top of our list, and as such feel that I must mention that it might not be there for much longer. As much as Sad Robot is a value machine, it's kind of getting to the point where it's not efficient enough for what it does. Even in white, four mana to ramp and draw a card is just not really cutting it any longer, not to mention how much better options you can get for cheaper in black and green. While it still shines in decks that can repeatedly recur it, Solemn Simulacrum is getting to the point of becoming a niche card for that strategy, rather than the ubiquitous staple we've always known it to be.

Or at least, that's what I had assumed from looking around and discussing the card in my local playgroups. Apparently there's still some more discussions to be had with the general populace about what their decks are wanting at four mana, however, before we start to see significant enough drops in the numbers over a two-year span.

Honorable Mentions

I'm sure many wondered what the overall best cads in old frame were, so wonder no more!

Top 10 Old-Bordered Cards

  1. Sol Ring
  2. Swords to Plowshares
  3. Counterspell
  4. Solemn Simulacrum
  5. Mind Stone
  6. Beast Within
  7. Rampant Growth
  8. Farseek
  9. Demonic Tutor
  10. Temple of the False God

It's also worth mentioning that while it didn't actually affect this list, just below our Top 10 lies each and every one of the new Signets dropped in the newest Secret Lair, so to honor that, here's the rest of the Top 25:

Top 25 (New) Old-Bordered Cards

11. Elvish Mystic
12. Verdant Catacombs
13. Marsh Flats
14. Scalding Tarn
15. Prismatic Vista
16. Izzet Signet
17. Arid Mesa
18. Dimir Signet
19. Orzhov Signet
20. Generous Gift
21. Boros Signet
22. Rakdos Signet
23. Vandalblast
24. Azorius Signet
25. Nature's Claim

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?

And finally, what cards would you like to see get the old border treatment next? Are you planning on getting the Signet Secret Lair? Or are you just happy that you're seeing premium reprints lower the costs of cards you love?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the old metal-ringed folding table that weighs 75 pounds!

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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