Too-Specific Top 10 - Oldy and Not A Goody

Alpha Status

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 Personal Incarnation is a modern-day white staple?)

Back in the summer of 2019, I wrote one of my first top ten lists here on the site, Top 10 Commander Flops, and it remains one of my favorite lists to date. The basic idea was to find which of the cards originally printed in the Commander precons were played the least. It's still the only "Top 10 Worst" list that we've ever done here on Too-Specific Top 10, and I've always wanted to revisit it in a more broad way.

The only question is... where to start?

Top 10 (26) Worst Cards From Alpha

Well, that settles that, then. Now, if I can just get Mr. Megill to handle the other 249 expansion symbols...

Criteria: Cards originally printed in Alpha that are legal in the Commander format. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score, only this time we'll be going by lowest scores!

10. Stone Giant

(12 Inclusions)

Going into this I was certain that it would be nothing but drawbacks and Vanilla creatures, but here before my eyes, in only 12 decks, lies a decent body with what could be called an upside! Stone Giant feels like several newer Giants that we've gotten that Fling creatures at opponents, only apparently this particular large man never learned to aim. Instead, this 3/4 for four can throw a creature up in the air for a moment, giving it a glorious moment of aerial combat before it all comes crashing down.

Which, if I'm honest, isn't great. But it's also a Giant with upside that can give creatures flying in a tribe that only has six aerial blockers. And if you get really hard up for more of this effect, there's always the 3/3 for four version in Lowland Oaf!

9. Feedback, Granite Gargoyle, Obsianus Golem, Scathe Zombies, & Sedge Troll

(11 Inclusions)

In another first for Too-Specific Top 10, we have a tie! And it's actually a five-way split! Well, don't get too excited, because we've got a lot more to go as we scrape the bottom of the barrel. Coming in with just barely more inclusions than the ninth place they're tying for, we have two overpriced Vanilla creatures, a Gargoyle with defensive Firebreathing, a Rakdos regenerate Troll that would go on to inspire a Rakdos regenerate Sliver, and an Aura that would actually be a bit of off-color fun if it were priced a little more aggressively. Of the bunch, the only one that I wouldn't be surprised to see a bit more play out of is definitely Sedge Troll, which should at least be a bit of a tribal inclusion in a tribe that only has 41 Trolls to choose from. As for the rest, what can I say except that they're very deserving of this particular ninth-place honor.

8. Hill Giant, Power Leak, Roc of Kher Ridges, & Wanderlust

(10 Inclusions)

You know what's an injustice? Hill Giant became the household name, while Roc of Kher Ridges became nothing, despite being a much better card. If you're going to pay four mana, wouldn't you want the 3/3 flier as opposed to just the vanilla 3/3? All in all, though, both of these cards are just a little bit less interesting than their enchantment companion, Power Leak. While it's since been outpowered, it's reasonable to assume that this once popular spell was the inspiration for the likes of Enchanter's Bane, Aura Flux, and Quiet Disrepair, not to mention the just-mentioned Feedback. There's even the simplified version of the spell in Power Taint, which tried to get past the critique of "well, what if my opponent doesn't have an enchantment?" by slapping Cycling on to Power Leak and calling it a day. All of which reverses things a bit when it comes to which is the best of these eighth-worst cards, because there are all sorts of better options for both Power Leak and Hill Giant. Roc of Kher Ridges, on the other hand, is one of only 10 different Rocs in the game. Sure, the creature type has been coopted under the larger Bird name, but there are some purists out there, I guarantee it.

7. Guardian Angel & Warp Artifact

(9 Inclusions)

It turns out that what's even less popular than Power Leak, despite being a more rare effect, however, is Warp Artifact. Black wasn't able to destroy artifacts even in the long long ago, but it did maintain this small portion of the color pie in the early days with the likes of Artifact Possession, Curse Artifact, and Haunting Wind. Of the two versions of the effect, I do like the punishing aspect of losing life whenever an artifact uses an activated ability more than the "lose a life every upkeep" side of things. Once again, however, the other versions of this card are slightly better if you're looking for this effect, especially Haunting Wind.

Guardian Angel is in much the same bucket, only in much worse fashion. For the same kind of cost, you could be reflecting damage dealt to any permanent you control with Divine Deflection, or not paying X at all and just preventing damage to everything with a Teferi's Protection or a Gideon's Sacrifice.

6. Ironclaw Orcs & Water Elemental

(8 Inclusions)

If you thought Roc of Kher Ridges got shafted, it's got nothin' on Water Elemental. The red version printed in the same set, Fire Elemental, is in 105 decks and is routinely reprinted in Core Set after Core Set. Air Elemental gets a similar treatment. Water Elemental, on the other hand, hasn't been seen in paper since Starter 1999, of the same year. Even the power and toughness swapped version that's been reprinted even less, Earth Elemental, is in 17 decks, and it doesn't even have an overtly sexual Melissa Benson artwork. The world of bottom-of-the-barrel Elementals is a strange place.

It's easy to understand, on the other hand, why Ironclaw Orcs hasn't lasted as a staple in any format. Red used to be one of the worst colors for efficient creatures, which is why a 2/2 for two with a slight downside was playable in Limited and the like. These days, however, red has joined the world of 2/1s for one with upside with the printing of Falkenrath Gorger, to say nothing of what you can get for a whole two mana.

5. Chaoslace, Deathlace, Farmstead, & Gray Ogre

(7 Inclusions)

And so begins the smothering overabundance of Old Lace!

Alpha had a full cycle of Sleight of Mind cards in each color, not to mention Sleight of Mind, itself, in addition to Thoughtlace. And so we have the subgame within our game: what is the worst color of lace? Red and black come in fifth on our list, alongside the Hill Giant "how big is this vanilla creature?" compatriot Gray Ogre. Even more confusing than who would want to play a three-mana 2/2 or a couple of spells that make one other spell the same color you're playing, however, is the mere existence of Farmstead. Is there more evidence in the world that white started at a handicap than the fact that this was considered not only a playable card, but one deserving of being a rare? Or is this merely the original bad rare, before we even got the explanation for why such cards must exist?

4. Scavenging Ghoul & Weakness

(5 Inclusions)

Okay, I get not wanting to play a four-mana 2/2, even if it gives you a side project and the possibility of regeneration. But could I stand up for my main man Weakness for a second, here? Sure, it's strictly worse than Dead Weight, but there are still 311 different enchantment decks that play that as a low-cost trigger-producer, so why not one more?

Coming back full circle, though... Is Scavenging Ghoul a sleeper card for some sort of future Weird Counter Tribal commander that doesn't care what kind of counters are out there, just that there's a lot of them?

3. Conservator & Purelace

(4 Inclusions)

If you thought Rod of Ruin didn't cut the mustard anymore, might I introduce Conservator? A total of seven mana put in before you even get to prevent any damage, and then it's only two? To you? Truly deserving of our third place.

In a more celabratory fashion, however, we now know that white isn't the worst! Purelace is living proof that all of white's problems are solved in EDH!

2. Phantasmal Forces, Tunnel, & Two-Headed Giant of Foriys

(3 Inclusions)

To be honest, I'm rather dismayed by all of our second-worst finishers. Phantasmal Forces is a bit tragic, as a 4/1 flier for four is something that would be more than playable in today's Limited, even if the upkeep cost seems like a bit much. Tunnel is overly specific, but it is also a one-mana removal spell that could also be a one-time sac outlet of sorts. Finally, Two-Headed Giant of Foriys is an actually playable Giant, except that it costs $100. Are any of these cards good? Absolutely not. But they're certainly not the same level of unfathomably bad that the rest of this list has been.

1. Lifelace

(1 Inclusion)

And there we have it, the worst lace! I can't fathom why you'd be playing pretty much any of these in any color but blue, but one person at least did find a reason to be doing so. So, let's take a look at the only deck in the EDHREC database playing Lifelace!

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Not gonna lie, finding a five-color Mind Bend Color Hate Tribal Enchantress deck out of this? 100% worth it. This thing is a spicy pile of Jank, make no mistake.

Honorable Mentions

I don't know if it's correct or not, but I like to think that readers that are diligent enough to not just scroll through and look at the pictures of a top ten list in the same way I do when it comes to "Top 10 College Football Quarterback Prospects" and the like have come to appreciate the bonus top ten lists that often populate the Honorable Mentions section. So instead of rambling on about how Thoughtlace was the only lace card to miss our top ten due to perhaps a tad overzealous Mind Bend Tribal players, let's instead look at the worst cards from Alpha... A tad more specifically.

Top 10 Worst Artifacts From Alpha (That We Haven't Already Talked About)

  1. Clockwork Beast
  2. Wooden Sphere
  3. Cyclopean Tomb
  4. Ivory Cup
  5. Iron Star
  6. Jade Statue
  7. Crystal Rod
  8. Disrupting Scepter
  9. Celestial Prism
  10. Illusionary Mask

Remember when the Command Zone made Quicksilver Fountain expensive overnight? Why hasn't that happened with Cyclopean Tomb?

Top 10 Worst Creatures From Alpha (That We Haven't Already Talked About)

  1. Clockwork Beast & Personal Incarnation
  2. Sea Serpent
  3. Uthden Troll
  4. Earth Elemental, Force of Nature, & Phantom Monster
  5. Ironroot Treefolk
  6. Bog Wraith
  7. Samite Healer
  8. Dwarven Demolition Team
  9. Plague Rats & War Mammoth
  10. Hurloon Minotaur & Thicket Basilisk

Whew, managed to get the amazing Kev Brockschmidt art for Personal Incarnation into the article. Was a bit worried there for a minute.

Top 10 Worst Enchantments From Alpha (That We Haven't Already Talked About)

  1. Lance & Living Artifact
  2. Creature Bond
  3. Holy Armor
  4. Conversion
  5. Web
  6. Animate Artifact
  7. Earthbind
  8. Cursed Land
  9. Psychic Venom
  10. Burrowing

Given how popular Psychic Venom and Icy Manipulator was back in the day, I'm surprised no one is trying to force that strategy. Now there's a Derevi deck I'd love to play against.

Top 10 Worst Instants From Alpha (That We Haven't Already Talked About)

  1. Jump
  2. Natural Selection
  3. Camouflage
  4. Blaze of Glory
  5. Siren's Call
  6. Healing Salve
  7. False Orders
  8. Word of Command
  9. Simulacrum
  10. Reverse Damage

Hey, Forced Combat decks? Siren's Call is actually pretty dang good.

Top 10 Worst Interrupts From Alpha (That We Haven't Already Talked About)

  1. Thoughtlace
  2. Magical Hack
  3. Spell Blast
  4. Sleight of Mind
  5. Sacrifice
  6. Blue Elemental Blast
  7. Power Sink
  8. Fork
  9. Dark Ritual
  10. Counterspell

Y'all thought I'd forgotten about Thoughtlace, didn't you? More importantly, no, there's not a better interrupt than Counterspell, this is just literally every interrupt that was printed in Alpha. If you're thinking "Wait, what about Red Elemental Blast?", well so am I, because it's an instant and not an interrupt like Blue Elemental Blast. Why? I have no idea.

Top 10 Worst Lands From Alpha (That We Haven't Already Talked About Or That Aren't Basic Lands Because We Don't Rank Those)

  1. Plateau
  2. Taiga
  3. Badlands
  4. Scrubland
  5. Savannah
  6. Tundra
  7. Bayou
  8. Underground Sea
  9. Tropical Island

So... this is easily the best "Worst" top ten ever, even without having a full ten cards, right? For those wondering, Volcanic Island (and Circle of Protection: Black) were accidentally omitted from the original Alpha print run, and actually weren't printed until Beta. It would otherwise be number six on this list, right behind (ahead?) of Tundra.

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 the ever more optimized field of Commander, I get the feeling that the art of Jank and "bad" decks is falling by the wayside. Which makes me wonder...

And finally, what is your favorite old bad card? Is it from Alpha, or a bit newer? Would you like more worst of articles?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the old, metal folding table that routinely injures people who try to fold or unfold it.

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.