Too-Specific Top 10 - Full Impulse
(Outpost Siege | Art by Daarken)
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 Valakut Exploration is the only Landfall card that can technically allow you to play another land?)
Impulsive draw is not exactly new to Magic: The Gathering. The first example of being able to exile a card from the top of your library to later cast it was Elkin Bottle, soon followed by Three Wishes. It only appeared on three more cards, Aerial Caravan, Ornate Kanzashi, and Knacksaw Clique, before then switching up its color pie assignment a bit with Brilliant Ultimatum easing into black before going full Hellcarver Demon.
Guildpact brought the first partially red version of impulsive draw outside of the not-really-impulsive-draw Elkin Lair to the game with Nivix, Aerie of the Firemind. This was quickly followed in Theros block with Prophetic Flamespeaker, however, which then opened the floodgates with subsequent printings of Act on Impulse, Narset, Enlightened Master, Outpost Siege, Commune with Lava, Ire Shaman, and Abbot of Keral Keep. Of all of those options, though, Outpost Siege was the only one that allowed for easily repeatable "card draw", and as such rapidly rocketed up decklists everywhere as a sort of red Phyrexian Arena. Lately, however, there have been all sorts of different takes on this exact effect, which really raises the question: is Outpost Siege still the best option?
Top 10 Outpost Sieges
Looking through all the new options that have been printed, the first thing that grabbed me was how many of these new impulsive options have been on creatures. This is fine, but also doesn't really feel like an Outpost Siege, does it? If you're trying to put down a means to gain card advantage over a long period of time, you don't usually want to take the chance of putting the source of that long-term card advantage on a fragile body. After all, if you're going to go that route, you might be better off taking the Sign in Blood of the Phyrexian Arena discussion and going with Light up the Stage. You certainly wouldn't be wrong to do so.
For our purposes, however, I went ahead and decided to group the one-time effects like Light Up the Stage and Act on Impulse together with the creatures. After all, you generally feel lucky to get off a single attack with Etali, Primal Storm! This ends up working rather nicely across the board, with the only weird corner case being Birgi, God of Storytelling, or more specifically her horn. Luckily, this ends up being a moot point, as Birgi currently sits at #11 on the list, so for now at least she can be ignored (although I can attest that she's quite good, so don't expect that to last forever!) Still, those are some impressive numbers, already landing Birgi in the top ten of creatures that do impulsive draw!
Top 10 Impulsive Draw Creatures
- Etali, Primal Storm
- Grenzo, Havoc Raiser
- Tectonic Giant
- Dark-Dweller Oracle
- Stromkirk Occultist
- Syr Carah, the Bold
- Robber of the Rich
- Prophetic Flamespeaker
- Birgi, God of Storytelling
- Magmatic Channeler
More importantly, our brief history lesson on impulsive draw showed us that types of this effect have been printed all throughout the color pie, in lots of various ways. Including other colors that already draw better than red in the discussion doesn't really help us get to the bottom of whether Outpost Siege is still the cream of the crop, however, so I think it would be better to eliminate them as well. Which just leaves clearly spelling out what we consider impulsive draw to be, and we can get on with it!
Criteria: Mono-red, non-creature permanents that repeatedly allow you to exile one or more cards from the top of a library to play or cast either immediately, by the end of the current turn, or the end of your next turn. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.
10. Furious Rise
(1,007 Inclusions, 1% of 152,068 Decks)
If general use is what you're looking for, then look no further than Furious Rise. It's not a slam-dunk in every deck, but if you are playing some bigger creatures, or even if your commander is just on the larger side, then it'll be a consistent source of card advantage that is actually faster than Phyrexian Arena for the same mana. While I certainly don't think it's the best Outpost Siege available, it is nonetheless a solid choice for a large subset of decks, and it should be seeing more play than it currently is. In fact, if you're running a more generic Gruul deck that isn't heavily tokens, then I would heartily endorse replacing your Outpost Siege with this new option, especially if your commander turns it on.
9. Chandra, Pyromaster
(1,444 Inclusions, 1% of 228,044 Decks)
Then again, if you're looking for the ability to aggro through some big creatures, you could do worse than paying an extra mana for the option to either "draw" some cards or eliminate blockers while incidentally chipping away at life totals. Chandra, Pyromaster fits this bill nicely, even if she doesn't really protect herself very well. My heartiest endorsement here may be that she's a very ignorable planeswalker, however. There's something to be said for silently exiling a few cards or pinging a few things until suddenly the table wonders how in the world she got to the seven loyalty that has you casting three copies of Insult for the win.
8. Vance's Blasting Cannons
(2,219 Inclusions, 1% of 227,165 Decks)
7. Chandra, Fire Artisan
(3,051 Inclusions, 1% of 217,102 Decks)
Chandra, Fire Artisan does one thing, and one thing only... besides that other thing she does. To be more specific, for the same amount of mana as an Outpost Siege, you can immediately begin "drawing" cards the turn you cast her. Even better, if the table leaves her alone, then you'll be exiling a full grip in no time. Even if they don't, however, then she'll still be pinging them the whole way down! In other words, if you have any Proliferate or Group Slug tendencies in your deck, then I would suggest giving this Chandra a try over the more typical upkeep choice.
6. Valakut Exploration
(3,593 Inclusions, 6% of 62,702 Decks)
If you want to talk about immediately rocketing up the charts, however, then may I introduce you to Valakut Exploration? Already in six percent of the red decks that have been created or altered since its printing in Zendikar Rising, Valakut Exploration is an absolute monster in any kind of lands matter deck, and it's still solid even outside of the strategy. While it can be a bit clunky if you don't have the ability to play multiple lands, the consolation prize of pinging each opponent for not playing the card you exiled still feels pretty good. Combine that with the fact that it only costs the three mana to begin with, and I would predict that we'll see the numbers on this option continue to grow. While I don't know if it will end up in the number one slot on this list a year or two from now, I do think it will eventually overtake Outpost Siege itself given the popularity of the Landfall strategy, and I do think it will end up in at least the top three.
5. Possibility Storm
(3,785 Inclusions, 2% of 228,044 Decks)
I struggled a lot while working on this list with whether to cleverly edit out Possibility Storm. You'll note that it does technically meet our criteria, but it also wouldn't have been that hard to tweak things a bit so that it would have been eliminated from consideration. I decided not to do that because the more I looked at it, the more it did feel like it fit the letter of the law for a reason. Not just any deck should be using Possibility Storm, but the ones that can use it to absolutely great effect, and get a ton of advantage out of it. Most of the time that's more a mana advantage than a card advantage situation, at least on your side of the board. Much like you often have to do in white, however, finding the card advantage of Possibility Storm means looking at things from a much broader view. In short, if your opponents can't really do the things that they were planning on doing, while you have stacked your deck or built the whole thing around burn spells and the like, then you are casting relevant spells and your opponents are not. If that's not card advantage, then I don't know what is!
P.S.: Bonus points for those fellow brewers out there using this in your Rat Colony and Persistent Petitioners decks. You are truly fellow degenerates.
4. Stolen Strategy
(4,889 Inclusions, 2% of 228,044 Decks)
I also considered doing some criteria work to eliminate cards like Stolen Strategy that only allow you to play your opponents' cards, rather than your own. While they are card advantage, they don't really allow you to plan around your own strategy, which has always rubbed me the wrong way. Ultimately, that's why I decided to leave Stolen Strategy on the list, as I didn't want my personal bias to get in the way, especially given just how popular a card it is. That doesn't mean I can't express how overrated a card I feel it is, however! Five mana for an enchantment that doesn't do anything until your next upkeep, then only allows you to cast spells that your deck isn't built around (without the option to play lands) just... has never seemed great. I understand that folks look at it as "drawing" three cards a turn, which does sound like it's worth the cost of admission. Still, the number of times I've seen someone tap out to plop this down on a middle-game turn where you really should be playing threats, only to have it incidentally destroyed before they ever use it have been bad enough, but what really shocks me is how often I see it flip three irrelevant cards. Two lands and a spell you just don't want to play is just a really easy flip, only those aren't the flips we remember so much as the big plays. There is something to be said for those memorable moments, though!
3. Chandra, Torch of Defiance
(8,892 Inclusions, 4% of 228,044 Decks)
Alas, my number one Outpost Siege sits merely at number three in the actual rankings. I had always assumed once Chandra, Torch of Defiance dropped in price a little we would see a huge spike in play, but here we are with a previously $40 card sitting around $5, and really still about the same number of inclusions. With that in mind, then, let me try to convince you. Unlike a lot of the other impulsive draw engines, Chandra can immediately draw you a card on cast instead of having to wait for your next upkeep. If you don't have the mana for that at the moment, she can instead use her other +1 to get you back half of the mana you used to cast her, kill a relevant creature with her -3, or just use her exile ability anyhow and deal two to the table. Really, the only downsides are her being slightly more fragile as a planeswalker than enchantments would be, and the fact that you can't play lands with her exile ability so you just have to settle for the two damage with some of your flips. For all that flexibility, though, those seem like some pretty manageable downsides from where I'm sitting!
2. Outpost Siege
(10,215 Inclusions, 4% of 228,044 Decks)
I'm sure some of you more experienced red players have been ticking through these final rankings, mentally eliminating cards as you go, wondering if Outpost Siege really is still the best. I've more than given away that I don't think it is anymore at this point, but it turns out that it isn't anyhow! I do think I'm too hard on Outpost Siege at times, though. Sure, it's four mana and doesn't do anything until your next upkeep if you choose the impulsive draw option that it's best known for... but it also has a great Impact Tremors ability that is extremely relevant in go-wide or combo decks, and still more than enough to close out the late game even in decks that aren't built around it. That shouldn't mean that it's the auto-include in red decks that it was at one time anymore, however. If you're just looking to exile and play a few cards in your average red deck, then you're probably much better served with the likes of Light Up the Stage or by looking at your existing synergies and choosing one of the other options on this list that may fit your strategy a little better. If you do look at what your deck is doing and that equation comes out the other end still choosing Outpost Siege, though, there's certainly nothing wrong with that. It may be overplayed, but it got that way for a reason!
1. Sunbird's Invocation
(11,065 Inclusions, 5% of 227,165 Decks)
While I could off on a similar diatribe to Outpost Siege when it comes to our number one pick, Sunbird's Invocation, I really don't want to. Sure, it's slower than a lot of tables are these days at six mana, but even in those places where it might be too little too late, it can still crank out some crazy turns that lead to memorable moments. Combine that with the decks where six-mana plays don't necessarily have to win you the game immediately, and this thing can be a roulette wheel strapped to a machine gun. I don't know what that metaphor means exactly, but I feel it still expresses exactly how I feel when I get to untap with a Sunbird's Invocation and an even halfway decent grip. And if you haven't experienced that, you absolutely should.
While not technically an impulsive draw card, I feel like I'd be doing a disservice if I didn't mention this other type of less-impulsive draw that we're started to see crop up every once in a while. "Exile a card, you may play that card as long as you control this card" is a slight improvement over the existing ability, and something I'd definitely like to see explored more. That, and I just love Lukka, so y'all gotta suffer through me mentioning him at every opportunity.
Does it make any sense that I don't like Stolen Strategy, but will absolutely go to bat for the straight shenanigans that result out of Chaos Wand when you do actually find the time to sink seven mana into it? No. But I stand by my flawed logic, and can give you a heartfelt speech about spell-slinging wands if you so desire.
I pulled four(!) prerelease-stamped Oracle's Vaults when Amonkhet came out, and as such have always tried to find excuses to play them. For a while, they were poor excuses, but honestly the more I've played with this card the more I've fallen in love with it. Sure, you pay a lot of mana to get to the point where you're casting spells for free, but then you're doing it on command, and if you have untapping effects...
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, how do you feel about the options we're seeing for more cards in red, be they wheels, rummage, or impulsive draw? Do you think that red is officially "fixed" in Commander now, or that it's even one of the better colors?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the Outpost table, all by itself in the back corner of the store.