Too-Specific Top 10 - (Last) Year in Review
(Liquimetal Torque | Art by Brian Snoddy)
No, the One Before That
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 Replicating Ring is the only colorless card from 2021 that makes named tokens?)
Being the top of the new year (or as close to it as my publishing schedule can get), it is once again time to look back at the year before, and then go back to the year before that, because we still don't have the data for 2022!
Top 10 Cards of 2022 (So Far)
- Boseiju, Who Endures
- Otawara, Soaring City
- An Offer You Can't Refuse
- Takenuma, Abandoned Mire
- Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire
- Professional Face-Breaker
- Black Market Connections
- Secluded Courtyard
- Raffine's Tower
While there is little doubt that the Channel lands from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty will feature on this list when we get to it in the wee hours of 2023, it's hard not to notice that every card on this list (with the exception of Black Market Connections) is from either Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty or Streets of New Capenna. There's nothing from Jumpstart 2022, Transformers, The Brothers' War, Warhammer 40,000 Commander decks, Unfinity, Dominaria United, or even the actual Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate, as opposed to its commander precons.
In other words, let's leave 2022 to 2023, and pull a last year again to go back to last year.
Top 10 Cards of 2021
- Esper Sentinel
- Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth
- Urza's Saga
- Dauthi Voidwalker
- Storm-Kiln Artist
- Deadly Dispute
- Archmage Emeritus
- Toski, Bearer of Secrets
- Shipwreck Marsh
Alright, there's the list! Fun article, huh?
Kidding aside, this list actually gives me a bit of pause. You see, every year I've done this year-in-review article for the new year, I've brandished it with giant pictures of the likes of Arcane Signet and Jeweled Lotus with huge red "NO" signs on them. My reasoning for doing such is that usually, the simple "these are the most played cards of 2021" list is extremely boring, having exactly the cards you'd expect on it. Not only that, but the reason those cards are so expected is that they're extraordinarily expensive.
At the time of release, Arcane Signet, a card everyone knew was eventually going to go down to $1-$2, was going for $20-$30. Jeweled Lotus was going for over $100. Urza's Saga was arguably 2021's must-play expensive colorless card (though I would dispute that title). Even better, this list has quite a few relatively cheap options on it, with the average cost of the whole list being $8.90 despite Urza's Saga and Esper Sentinel. Compare that to 2019's $12 average (even with a much cheaper Arcane Signet) and 2020's whopping $29 average (Fierce Guardianship is a hell of a drug), and 2021's average cost seems downright paltry.
So why not really lean into it, and find out the top cards you can use on a budget?
Top 10 Budget Cards of 2021
Usually we set the budget at $5 for these articles, but again, we're leaning in this year. As such:
Criteria: Cards initially printed in 2021 that cost less than $1. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.
Alright, let's do it!
10. Timeless Witness
(34,114 Inclusions, 4% of 793,951 Decks)
Eternal Witness it is not, but if you don't have blink or Reanimate shenanigans already in your deck, Timeless Witness is worth a look. Of course, if you don't have blink or reanimate shenanigans in your deck, you might be better off just playing Regrowth or Bala Ged Recovery instead of either Witness, but I digress. Timeless Witness is a fine backup to the original, with a solid option to bring it back as a 4/4 in the late game and get you a two-for-one.
9. Rimewood Falls
(35,219 Inclusions, 9% of 414,215 Decks)
The Kaldheim snow duals have been a blessing from Pauper on up. Being able to snag them with either a fetch or a Scrying Sheets has given them exactly the kind of flexibility that makes a land worth playing despite coming into play tapped.
(35,552 Inclusions, 4% of 796,749 Decks)
Even more rare than snow cards being printed into Modern sets, one-mana cantrips have become a category all their own. Not wanting to return to the days of Draw-Go being viable with cheap, efficient instants, Wizards has been hesitant to give us superior card selection in a one-mana package even at sorcery speed, much less instant speed. An exception was made with Consider, which allows you to Surveil 1 before drawing a card, which of course got me wondering: now that we have over a year of data on it, how has Consider stacked up with the other more famous cantrip options available in EDH?
Top 10 One-Mana Blue Cantrips
- Gitaxian Probe
- Serum Visions
- Thought Scour
- Slip Through Space
- Careful Study
I'm a bit surprised to see mostly sorcery options at the top here. Don't get me wrong, they absolutely give you more bang for your buck, but they also drain a ton of flexibility out of the card by making you use them during your main phase. Opt has three times the inclusions of Consider, which surprises me, since having a card in your graveyard is generally much more useful than having one at the bottom of your deck. I'm more than willing to say Consider is still being heavily underrated.
(44,397 Inclusions, 5% of 916,287 Decks)
If I'm honest, I don't get Ravenform. For one mana cheaper, you could get access to a bounce spell that hits any permanent or a bounce spell that hits any permanent and could potentially draw you a card. For two mana cheaper, you can get straight-up creature removal with the exact same effect of giving the opponent a creature. You can do all those things at instant speed, so why are people paying three mana to deal with a creature or artifact when they could already be doing the same thing for less with more upside? Chaos Warp or Beast Within this is not, no matter how much it may look like it.
6. Reflections of Littjara
(46,957 Inclusions, 5% of 916,287 Decks)
Reflections of Littjara feels a bit expensive at five mana, but I understand this card's placement completely. Taking a turn off to untap and then terrorize an entire table with twice the horde of Zombies, Dragons, Slivers, Pirates, Spirits, or Merfolk feels good enough, but when you manage to put together a bunch of creatures that just break the game when they arrive in multiples, it's not hard to justify the expense.
5. Goblin Anarchomancer
(47,720 Inclusions, 13% of 367,107 Decks)
It's rare to get a card in the modern age that just says "you probably want to play this if you're in the colors" at common, but Goblin Anarchomancer is just that. Two mana for a 2/2 that ramps you would be good enough, but a cost reduction in two colors is just asking for Storm decks to go nuts. If anything, 13% of Gruul decks feels a little light for this Goblin Shaman.
(53,311 Inclusions, 6% of 890,869 Decks)
Everything I said about Ravenform I feel about Resculpt as well, except this one is a mana cheaper and castable at instant speed. Tack on exile instead of destruction or bounce, and the flexibility justifies its placement into decks over older staples like Blink of an Eye or Rapid Hybridization. While it's not a slam-dunk inclusion over any of those classic options, it provides exactly what you're looking for in new cards during deck construction: an interesting option that might fit the niche of your deck a bit better.
3. Rockfall Vale
(61,990 Inclusions, 18% of 342,795 Decks)
To be clear, Rockfall Vale is the only "Slow Land" that made it under the $1 mark, with most now being closer to the $5-10 range. Still, it's hard to complain about another option for a cheap dual that can enter the battlefield untapped. As much as I personally wish the format could slow down a bit and smell the taplands, there's no doubt that the community at large is willing to pay the $100-$1000 it takes to make a more perfect mana base for their decks, and the more options we have to diminish that ridiculous number and still keep up with the Joneses, the better.
2. Liquimetal Torque
(72,815 Inclusions, 4% of 1,729,529 Decks)
Even with weekly reminders posted several times in every article and on each individual card, some readers still sometimes miss that these Top Tens are based off of EDHREC score, not my own personal opinion. So, to be clear, in my personal opinion, Liquimetal Torque should absolutely be #1 on this list. A two-mana rock with a flexible and significant upside is nothing to scoff at, and 72,000 inclusions is just scratching the surface. While I wouldn't go so far as calling it an auto-include, the fact is there're a significant number of decks that want this. Whether you're just looking for as much cheap ramp as possible, you have artifact removal in your deck, or you have actual synergies with artifacts, Liquimetal Torque is an easy include that can seamlessly make a huge swathe of decks better.
1. Ornithopter of Paradise
(73,844 Inclusions, 4% of 1,718,301 Decks)
Ornithopter of Paradise, on the other hand, is a two-mana mana dork. Yes, it flies, and yes, it makes mana of any color, but that's hardly anything to write home about when Birds of Paradise exists. To be clear, I'm not calling this a bad card. There are any number of reasons that nongreen decks would want to play this, and it will even outshine more typical two-mana mana rocks if your deck has an aggro component.
With that said, the majority of decks are not aggro decks, so the numbers here are a bit puzzling to me. Its EDHREC page tells a story of aggro decks and artifact creature decks, and that makes sense, but the other numbers don't add up. Like, 500 inclusions in Donal, Herald of Wings decks makes sense, as does 1,000 in Alibou, Ancient Witness and 3,000 in Winota, Joiner of Forces. Add up the entire page of this card's most popular commanders, however, and that only accounts for 12,556 inclusions out of its 73,844 total. This means that, much like Manalith before it, Ornithopter of Paradise isn't being used because it fits a specific niche very well, it's being included as a catchall for a wide swathe of decks, in a fashion that appears to be rather lazy and undeserving. In short, it fits the category of ramp, and it's likely that players have one sitting in their collection. This isn't a bad thing, but I wouldn't call it a ringing endorsement, either.
Still, it is better than Manalith, so we're making progress!
What's a year in review without taking a look at what's actually come out
this last year? Here are the top three cards from every set we saw in 2021!
Strixhaven: School of Mages
Modern Horizons 2
Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms
Innistrad: Midnight Hunt
Innistrad: Crimson Vow
In what was new at the time, but is now the norm, each of the Standard-legal sets also came with a set of Commander precons, including probably the final namesake Commander product, which was set in the Strixhaven universe.
Kaldheim Commander Decks
Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Commander Decks
Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Commander Decks
Innistrad: Crimson Vow Commander Decks
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?
2021 stemmed the bleeding somewhat as far as "must-include" type of cards, at least keeping them mostly to individual colors and a Modern Horizons set. With that said, I wouldn't call the problem solved as of yet, so heading into 2023, what's your opinion on the general state of too-powerful cards and power creep?
Finally, what's your favorite card from 2021? From 2022? What about your favorite budget staple from the last couple years?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the midnight New Years draft!