Too-Specific Top 10 - Pipers

(Elvish Piper | Art by Scott Fischer)

Piping Hot

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 Braids, Conjurer Adept is the only creature that lets every player put a creature down during their upkeep?)

Innistrad: Crimson Vow brought us a new take on an old familiar face:

While Howlpack Piper costs a bit more to activate than Elvish Piper, it's also got some significant upside for Wolf and Werewolf decks, along with a flip side that will grab you more creatures to put into play with it.

But here's the thing: Elvish Piper has always been seen as a bit of a Timmy/Tammy card, costing four to then sit around for a turn, waiting to die before it even got to do any cheating of mana costs. Are people actually playing this effect in EDH?

Let's find out!

Top 10 Elvish Pipers

Of course, if we're only looking into Elvish Piper itself, the answer is easy to find by visiting its EDHREC page, where we can see that it shows up in 5,771 decks. That's nice, but let's dream a little bit bigger, shall we?

Criteria: Creatures with an ability that allows for only generic creatures (not based on a tribe, but colors are okay) to be put onto the battlefield from your hand. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

Some of you may have immediately thought of a bunch of very playable cards when I brought up the "Top Ten Cards That Put Creatures Onto the Battlefield from Your Hand" idea.

Being noncreatures, these versions of the Elvish Piper effect are much harder to remove or counteract, which makes them better in most circumstances. So, before we did anything, I wanted to restrict our search to just creatures, as they're the much less 'determined' version of "is this good?" Even among creatures, however, there were a lot of corner cases that really stretched the limit of what constitutes an Elvish Piper effect. First off, the tribal consideration:

The first of these I ran into while whittling down this search was Kaalia of the Vast, which immediately had me thinking that tribal should be included in the criteria for "Elvish Piper Effects". However, I then ran into Warren Instigator, and immediately felt the opposite. At its heart, Elvish Piper cares about cheating the mana costs of huge creatures. That's why it's always been called a Timmy/Tammy card, but that's also an entirely different strategy than putting down two cheap Goblins so that you can use your mana to cast three more cheap Goblins. Moreover, being able to put down any creature seems important to the mystique of Piping, so by the time I saw Incandescent Soulstoke and Iwamori of the Open Fist, this was no longer really a decision.

Iwamori of the Open Fist brought up another category that was easy to weed out: Hunted Wumpus and Tempting Wurm effects. Piping isn't about helping your opponents, it's about helping yourself! Similarly, while Zara, Renegade Recruiter does help you, it also relies on your opponents having creatures in hand, which doesn't really fit the allure of "I can put anything I want into play" that has brought so many to Elvish Piper over the years. This thought really boiled things down for me, negating the Ninjutsu mechanic as well on the grounds of it being limited to just the creature it was printed on.

This just leaves one of my favorite cards of all time: Braids, Conjurer Adept. Braids represents an entirely different category of card which allows you to put various permanents onto the battlefield, rather than just creatures. While these do fit the greed profile inherent to Elvish Piper, it also muddies things a bit much for my liking. As a result, I decided to only allow creatures that were specifically and exclusively calling your own other creatures to the battlefield.

10. Norwood Priestess

(148 Inclusions, 0% of 363,555 Decks)

...Which, as it turns out, is a very specific skillset, so much so that there are only 13 of them in the history of Magic, and some of them are kind of odd. That said, Norwood Priestess is the original Elvish Piper, printed in Portal: Second Age a full year before Elvish Piper's initial printing in Urza's Destiny. Additionally, it's cheaper to activate than Piper is, although it does have an odd restriction only Portal could think was "simpler" in that it only allows you to activate the ability before you declare attackers, during your turn. Complex simplicity aside, the thing that's really keeping this from seeing play is the fact that it was never reprinted, and currently costs over a $100, despite not being on the Reserved List.

As for those other three contenders I mentioned that didn't make the cut? Sure, why not:

There's also our new contender, Howlpack Piper, which will undoubtedly be near the top of this list soon, and the Unglued version of this effect that also predates Piper: Timmy, Power Gamer.

9. Aetherplasm

(227 Inclusions, 0% of 379,426 Decks)

My favorite Wall aside, triggered abilities that rely upon blocking are always a bit tenuous. Attackers can see them coming, and will often avoid the whole situation. Even if they don't, they still get to approach the interaction on their own terms (flash aside, anyhow). Aetherplasm does do a good job of making things hard to plan around, given that it won't actually be the creature doing the blocking when all is said and done. Still, the surprise factor is limited to what you have in hand, not to mention the very real possibility that the creature you put into play might not survive the interaction. All in all, it's not too surprising to see this one as low as it is, despite just how cool it is to think about resolving its ability.

8. Swift Warkite

(298 Inclusions, 0% of 174,656 Decks)

I know, I know, didn't I just reject Warren Instigator on the possibility of it only putting small creatures into play, yet here comes Swift Warkite cheating in small creatures? What can I say, you can't filter them all out. It's pretty cool to pseudo-Dash out another creature upon entering the battlefield, though, even if you'd like this Dragon to be a bit more efficiently costed (which is pretty much the critique for the entire Dragons of Tarkir set, honestly).

7. Mindwrack Liege

(353 Inclusions, 0% of 177,367 Decks)

If you're looking for another inefficient option to get creatures into play, look no further than another six-mana 4/4, Mindwrack Liege! The cost is big, but it does make up for its woeful stats a bit by pumping up all your Izzet creatures, along with allowing you to put them into play at instant speed for four mana, which is why I'm a bit shocked to not see this a bit higher up the list. Sure, most Izzet decks are more concerned with slinging spells than cranking out creatures, but there's no shortage of Wizard tribal out there, nor expensive Wizards that would be catastrophic at instant speed.

Top 10 Izzet Wizards with Mana Value Greater Than 3 That Don't Already Have Flash

  1. Archaeomancer
  2. Talrand, Sky Summoner
  3. Niv-Mizzet, Parun
  4. Archmage Emeritus
  5. Glen Elendra Archmage
  6. Murmuring Mystic
  7. Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
  8. Archetype of Imagination
  9. Dragon Mage
  10. Arcanis the Omnipotent

So give this one a try, folks! You might be pleasantly surprised, if you ever manage to get it into play.

6. Briarbridge Patrol

(918 Inclusions, 0% of 363,555 Decks)

"Sengir Vampire for Clues" isn't something I thought we'd be seeing on this list, but here we are! Honestly, there's a reason that this one only sees play in the Clue decks, and that probably won't ever change. Now, if only we could make it put Marionette Master into play before you sacrifice the Clues....

5. Champion of Rhonas

(1295 Inclusions, 0% of 363,555 Decks)

Gruul 'big creature aggro' is a definite archetype, and Champion of Rhonas fits right into it, as evidenced by its EDHREC page. With that said, it's still plenty risky at four mana for a 3/3 that might not ever actually pay off. Still, there are worse things than drawing out a removal spell.

4. Myojin of Life's Web

(Helms 29 Decks, Rank #1219; 1876 Inclusions, 1% of 363,555 Decks)

The Myojins are a weird web of expectation and reality. I think the Divinity counter system actually works quite well, and it's very difficult to abuse any of them without paying the full mana to do so. This probably explains why the green Myojin is the most popular of all of them, as green is the color most likely to have eight mana at the ready. Then again, unlike the "ultimates" of other Myojins, such as Myojin of Seeing Winds, if you have all the mana in the world, Myojin of Life's Web feels like it would be better as just about any other creature, because you'd still probably be able to cast most of your hand already anyway.

With that said, if you're running a Jodah, Archmage Eternal deck, then I can see several situations where you might be able to drop this on turn five and then put down three Eldrazi and a Praetor, which doesn't sound too bad. Also, if you've ever seen anyone pull off a Myojin in a Proliferate deck, then you know that's a fun enough outcome that it's worth striving for.

3. Elvish Piper

(5771 Inclusions, 2% of 363,555 Decks)

The original!

There's a reason the ability from Timmy, Power Gamer was immediately slapped on to Elvish Piper, and for the most part, that characterization has been correct over the years. However... is that actually true in EDH? In this format, where we cheat crazy things into play all the time, does Piper draw that much attention to itself? Should we be playing more Elvish Piper in EDH?

Maybe, but if that's true, then we also have the new Howlpack Piper competing with it, which means we have to ask whether we should be playing more Pipers, plural, so I suppose this is a very musical dilemma.

2. Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded

(Helms 947 Decks, Rank #237; 6,869 Inclusions, 2% of 342,466 Decks)

Sneak Attack may have been omitted from this list, but its shout-out remains! Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded may be considered the worse of the two Purphoroses, but cheating creatures into play and giving them all haste is a lethal combination. Sure, you can do both things for less mana with other cards, but having them both in one package is nothing to scoff at.

1. Ilharg, the Raze-Boar

(Helms 356 Decks, Rank #498; 10,222 Inclusions, 3% of 362,251 Decks)

However, if you're looking for the best Sneak Attack in the command zone, it's hard to make an argument against Ilharg, the Raze-Boar. As a 6/6 trampler for five, it lives through most early attacks and brings a companion along that you can still cast later if need be. Give it some unblockability, or multiple combat steps, and you have a real recipe for destruction. As for the huge target on its flaming razorback, if its commander tax gets too pricey, then you can just throw it down a few cards in your library to promptly return for more. What's not to like?

Honorable Mentions

Speaking of Sneak Attack, just how far up the list would it be if we allowed noncreatures on our list?

Top 10 Cards that Put Creatures onto the Battlefield

  1. Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
  2. Tooth and Nail
  3. Court of Bounty
  4. Sneak Attack
  5. Purphoros, the Bronze-Blooded
  6. Quicksilver Amulet
  7. Elvish Piper
  8. Nissa of Shadowed Boughs
  9. Braids, Conjurer Adept
  10. Garruk, Caller of Beasts

Spot #4! That's actually lower than I'd expected, although I'm sure the $15 price tag has something to do with that. I also couldn't help but notice Braids, Conjurer Adept on this list, so of course we need to look at the stuff that can put permanents onto the battlefield as well!

Top 10 Cards That Can Put A Creature or Permanent onto the Battlefield

  1. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
  2. Kodama of the East Tree
  3. Flood of Tears
  4. Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
  5. Tooth and Nail
  6. Court of Bounty
  7. Sneak Attack
  8. Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded
  9. Quicksilver Amulet
  10. The Ur-Dragon

Finally, let's see if we can't get Braids a bit closer to the top by looking at just the creatures that can put permanents onto the battlefield.

Top 10 Creatures That Can Put A Creature or Permanent onto the Battlefield

  1. Kodama of the East Tree
  2. Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
  3. Purphoros, the Bronze-Blooded
  4. The Ur-Dragon
  5. Elvish Piper
  6. Braids, Conjurer Adept
  7. Myojin of Life's Web
  8. Minn, Wily Illusionist
  9. Champion of Rhonas
  10. Briarbridge Patrol

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 mentioned that we'd come back to the whole "Is Elvish Piper Howlpack Piper good, actually?" discussion, so...

Finally, have you ever been a fan of Elvish Piper? Did you grow out of it, or is it a card that you've always come back to? Do you think it's gotten a bad rap over the years, especially when it comes to EDH?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the outdoor table that is suddenly being surrounded by Squirrels.

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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