Too-Specific Top 10 - Instead...

(Hullbreacher | Art by Sidarth Chaturvedi)

Breaching the Subject

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 Island Sanctuary is the only card that allows you to skip a draw to put up a Moat?)

With the banning of Hullbreacher, there's been a lot of discussion. Overall, the sentiment has been largely positive, but there are some stalwarts out there missing a crucial combo piece or just a powerful effect. Still, we've talked this to death already, so I vote that instead we move on and look at similar effects!

Top 10 Draw Replacement Effects

Hullbreacher's Treasure ability is what's called a Replacement Effect. The rules on this can get rather complicated, so I'll leave that to the judges among us, but essentially, a replacement effect says "if you would do X, do Y instead".

In the case of our top ten this week, we want to find the specific replacement effects that replace our draws with another effect. As is the case with Alms Collector and Thought Reflection, that could be just drawing more cards, or, as is the case with Chains of Mephistopheles or Words of Wilding, it could replace the draw with a different effect entirely. Regardless, now that we have a little bit better of an understanding of what these draw replacement effects are, let's see what the best of them are (whether we can still play them or not)!

Criteria: Cards that replace your draw with another effect ("If you would draw a card, instead do... something else"), unless that card draw is replaced with the exact same effect with an additional effect on top (lookin' at you, Finale of Revelation). As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Stinkweed Imp

(8,926 Inclusions, 3% of 300,389 Decks)

Dredge is a mechanic originally created during the same set Stinkweed Imp came out in, Ravnica: City of Guilds. It was the first mechanic ever assigned to the Golgari guild, and the mill attached to it was thought to be a drawback. Competitive formats disproved this theory almost immediately, Dredging back Golgari Grave-Trolls and Moldervine Cloaks (among some other cards on this list) like they were going out of style. Far from being a disadvantage, Dredge was often a direct boon to a deck's strategy, allowing you to rapidly fill the graveyard to use as a second hand, so much so that often the best Dredge card was considered to be whatever milled the highest number of cards no matter what the card actually did. In Commander, however, it would appear that we would like to actually play the cards that we are milling to get back every once in a while. With that being the case, Stinkweed Imp's flying and "deathtouch" allows for not only a lot of mill, but also makes for a great blocker that can keep coming back every turn. And, after all, "'draw' five, divert Angels & Dragons elsewhere" seems worth three mana a turn to me.

9. Dakmor Salvage

(10,780 Inclusions, 4% of 300,345 Decks)

If you'd rather get your draw-based mill in a package that doesn't cost you any mana, however, then there's always Dakmor Salvage! Contractually, however, I am required to mention The Gitrog Monster anytime this card is brought up. The details of the contract are a bit fuzzy, however, as is the general understanding of this combo among the general populace, so I'm actually going to hand that particular explanation over to the Commander Spellbook.

Suffice it to say, however, that if you get a Salvage in your hand or graveyard with The Gitrog Monster in play during your end step, you're going to mill and draw a lot of cards. In the same vein, if you're in green and black and an opponent sees a Dakmor Salvage, don't be surprised if they start targeting you hardcore under the assumption that you're going to drop a Gitrog and proceed to win the game.

8. Underrealm Lich

(10,941 Inclusions, 8% of 144,681 Decks)

Unlike our resident Dredge cards, I was actually surprised to see Underrealm Lich on this list. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent card, allowing you to look at three cards every time you draw and even put one of them into the graveyard as part of your extra "hand" in addition to drawing your normal draw. The only problem is, you have to do that. Every single time you draw a card. Starting on the reasonable side of things, that doesn't seem so bad. You play a Phyrexian Arena, and the next turn you look at the top three, make decisions, and then look at the top three and make decisions again. Heck, if you really want to abuse it, you can even lay down a Sylvan Library and replace the Library's draw with this effect, making it so you can just keep all three cards you select without having to pay the eight life to do so! But then halfway through a game someone plays a boardwipe while you have a Midnight Reaper in play, and you suddenly realize that you're going to have to look through 30 cards three at a time. The turn after that, the Nekusar deck apologizes before they cast a wheel, saying that they know it's gonna take forever, but it's the only way their deck can try to win the game. 20 minutes and 17 three-part decisions later, it finally gets back to your turn, and you look at the top three once more, realizing that you're going to have to do it again on your Phyrexian Arena trigger.

Suffice it to say, no matter how quickly you're looking at cards and putting them into piles, Underrealm Lich is the kind of card that is going to have opponents spending their time either staring at you or staring at their phones. So if you're not into that in your typical pod, then maybe we should work on pulling the numbers of this card down a bit?

7. Teferi's Ageless Insight

(12,389 Inclusions, 7% of 182,934 Decks)

Blue decks have a bit of a reputation for drawing cards outside of their draw step, and if that's true of your particular brew then you've probably looked at a copy of Teferi's Ageless Insight before. Getting double the cards on all your extracurricular draws is an effect that adds up quickly, and it's not uncommon to get your payoff immediately if you have extra mana or draw effects already on the board. Suffice it to say, if this card isn't dealt with immediately, it's the kind of thing that is sure to win you a game on sheer value accrued.

6. Alhammarret's Archive

(14,835 Inclusions, 3% of 580,016 Decks)

So how would you like to have the exact same effect, in any color, with a bit of life gain doubling stapled on the side? I know I would, and so would about 3% of all decks, it would appear. Sure, a lot of those are life gain decks, as those are the third most popular decks in Commander right now, but honestly, I would imagine that a lot of these inclusions don't even care about the first half of this card. They're just looking to go full Xzibit and add some card draw to their card draw so they can draw some more.

And honestly, I'm kind of here for it, as I imagine many of you are as well.

5. Life from the Loam

(17,619 Inclusions, 6% of 284,571 Decks)

If you'd rather get three cards in your hand every turn while getting three more into your graveyard, however, then might I introduce you to Life from the Loam? Sure, it won't work in just any deck, but if you're into lands or self-mill, then it will probably work in yours! My favorite use, however? Cycling through Triomes and then getting them right back to cycle them again! Or even better for you Gruul decks out there, try it out with Tectonic Reformation!

4. Hullbreacher

(21,792 Inclusions, 17% of 131,626 Decks)

In just the week between the banning of Hullbreacher and this article being written, Hullbreacher has already been overtaken, falling from the number three slot to the number four slot. In the week it will take for this article to be published, it's very possible that it won't be number four anymore, either. And honestly, I personally think that decline is good for the health of the format. Even when played fairly, Hullbreacher is still a vicious Stax card that warps an entire game around itself, and leads to feel-bads for entire tables. When played in conjunction with wheel effects, it puts entire tables into top-deck mode in a fashion we don't see for anything outside of mass land destruction. And it does all that at instant speed, usually immediately paying for itself as a free spell the second it hits the battlefield, if not creating even more mana than you put in. In essence, it is one of the most powerful and alienating cards that has ever been printed, and while I sympathize with those who spent their hard earned money getting a copy they now can't use or resell, I also applaud the Rules Committee's decision to remove a problematic card quickly before even more damage could be done to playgroups and pocketbooks.

3. Notion Thief

(22,092 Inclusions, 14% of 153,510 Decks)

And besides, if you're looking for similar but more fair effects, there are still more than a few! Here's the current run-down:

Notion Thief is one extra mana, gives you cards instead of Treasure, and requires an additional color. That said, it's already overtaken Hullbreacher for a reason: it's still very, very good. If it weren't for the extra color requirement, I would imagine that it would already be surpassing Narset, Parter of Veils' play numbers due to its instant speed. Likewise, Alms Collector is a bit more pricey at four mana, but will likely be seeing a huge boon as more and more decks realize that it's well worth the cost and can still surprise. Spirit of the Labyrinth, Zur's Weirding, and Breathstealer's Crypt are more symmetrical Stax pieces you have to build around than Hullbreacher replacements, but that's exactly the reason that Hullbreacher was banned as an asymmetrical Stax piece. Finally, Plagiarize is a bit more clunky as a four-mana instant that can only punish a single player, but if you're the deck that is constantly holding up mana for counters and instant-speed interaction, then I really do think you should be giving this card a shot to see how often you can find a player about to draw six or seven cards. The results might surprise you.

And finally, if you're just looking for a creature that comes down and makes some Treasure, might I suggest this long and lengthy list of other "Pirate" options that are both legal and won't get you hated out of a game?

2. Laboratory Maniac

(25,089 Inclusions, 8% of 300,152 Decks)

If you really are looking for a table to roll their eyes and groan at you as you sprint toward victory, however, then you'd be hard-pressed to find a better non-fish means of doing so than Laboratory Maniac. It may be lazy and unimaginative, but there's no question that Lab Man's alternate victory condition is effective. Still though, maybe next time you're looking for a combo win, reach a couple cards deeper and surprise the table with something they haven't seen before?

1. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries

(27,428 Inclusions, 9% of 300,152 Decks)

...Or of course, you could double down. That's always an option.

Honorable Mentions

Given my obvious Hipster bias against Lab Man wins, I really did struggle when creating this week's top ten before ultimately deciding to include the full gamut of draw replacement effects. To no one's surprise, this means that I went through quite a few lists, and whenever I do that I like to give folks a glimpse of the alternate futures. Unfortunately, this week many of those alternate futures looked essentially the same, so instead of my normal top tens I decided to expand things out a bit.

Top 15 Draw Replacement Effects That Don't "Win the Game"

  1. Notion Thief
  2. Hullbreacher
  3. Life from the Loam
  4. Alhammarret's Archive
  5. Teferi's Ageless Insight
  6. Underrealm Lich
  7. Dakmor Salvage
  8. Stinkweed Imp
  9. Abundance
  10. Golgari Grave-Troll
  11. Alms Collector
  12. Tezzeret, Artifice Master
  13. Golgari Thug
  14. Fblthp, the Lost
  15. Shenanigans

Top 15 Draw Replacement Effects (That Don't Just Draw More Cards)

  1. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
  2. Laboratory Maniac
  3. Hullbreacher
  4. Life from the Loam
  5. Underrealm Lich
  6. Dakmor Salvage
  7. Stinkweed Imp
  8. Abundance
  9. Golgari Grave-Troll
  10. Golgari Thug
  11. Shenanigans
  12. Island Sanctuary
  13. Archmage Ascension
  14. Words of Waste
  15. Precognitive Perception

Top 15 Non-Dredge Draw Replacement Effects

  1. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
  2. Laboratory Maniac
  3. Hullbreacher
  4. Notion Thief
  5. Alhammarret's Archive
  6. Teferi's Ageless Insight
  7. Underrealm Lich
  8. Abundance
  9. Alms Collector
  10. Tezzeret, Artifice Master
  11. Fblthp, the Lost
  12. Visions of Beyond
  13. Kumena's Awakening
  14. Thought Reflection
  15. Island Sanctuary

Top 15 Non-Draw, Non-Dredge Draw Replacement Effects

  1. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
  2. Laboratory Maniac
  3. Hullbreacher
  4. Underrealm Lich
  5. Abundance
  6. Island Sanctuary
  7. Archmage Ascension
  8. Words of Waste
  9. Words of Wind
  10. Chains of Mephistopheles, question mark?
  11. Zur's Weirding
  12. Words of Wilding
  13. Unpredictable Cyclone
  14. Uba Mask
  15. Possessed Portal

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?

I'm gonna regret this, I just know it:

Finally, what is your favorite draw replacement effect, and where are you playing it? Were you playing Hullbreacher prior to the ban? Are you still playing it? Why or why not?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the countertop we had to quickly relocate our game in progress to after we were asked to set the table for dinner.

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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