Too-Specific Top 10 - Singular Subtypes
(Gingerbrute | Art by Vincent Proce)
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 Sanctum of Shattered Heights is the only Shrine that can make you discard a card?)
Having been around for the original Kamigawa block, it's hard for me not to get all nostalgic about it every time I see a new Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty spoiler. With that said, it wasn't until today I realized that the Kamigawa block was the first block to introduce two nonstandard, noncreature subtypes to the game: Shrine and Arcane.
This feat was actually first pulled off by Mirrodin, which introduced both Equipment and Locus to the game. Although of course, if you include subtypes that are now considered evergreen, then technically the first set to do this was Alpha, which introduced the subtypes Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, Forest, and Aura (although the actual "Basic Land - Plains" and "Enchantment - Aura" templating wouldn't come until much later). If this seems like a flimsy means to discount Mirrodin to make Kamigawa seem more special, it's because that's exactly what this is.
These sets are not alone, however! Other blocks pulling off this 'two non-evergreen subtypes' feat are Throne of Eldraine, with Adventures and Food, and technically Antiquities, which introduced multiple subtypes with the various pieces of Urzatron, also doing so before Kamigawa. Mostly due to early templating and designers not realizing what they were doing rules-wise, Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Tower have the land types "Urza's Mine", "Urza's Power-Plant", and "Urza's Tower". This was poked fun at with the printing of Urza's Saga, a land saga that has the subtypes "Urza's Saga", but otherwise has had very little effect on the game (which is, of course, the reason I'm also not counting this set, once again to prop up one of my favorite blocks of all time).
Introducing two subtypes in one set is rare, but even with an average rate of 'less than one new subtype' per set, we've managed quite the list so far in Magic. Sourced from the ever-useful MTG Wiki, we have: Adventure, Aura, Arcane, Blood, Cartouche, Class, Clue, Contraption, Curse, Desert, Equipment, Food, Forest, Fortification, Gate, Gold, Island, Lair, Lesson, Locus, Mine, Mountain, Plains, Power-Plant, Rune, Saga, Shrine, Shard, Swamp, Tower, Trap, Treasure, Urza's, and Vehicle. That's not even counting planeswalkers, each of which have their own unique subtype (with the exception of The Wandering Emperor, which was specifically printed without one to keep The Wanderer's mystique alive).
That's quite the list! So, which are the most popular?
Top 10 (Non-evergreen) Subtypes
The answer, of course, is the basic lands. Discounting those, the answer, of course, is Auras and Equipment. Discounting those, the answer, of course, is...
...You know what? We should lay down some ground rules.
Criteria: Nonland cards that have a non-evergreen subtype. Since "evergreen subtypes" are not explicitly stated, we will be counting Auras, Equipment, Sagas, Vehicles, and Basic Lands as evergreen subtypes, with all others besides planeswalkers qualifying. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.
10. Sanctum of Stone Fangs
(8,016 Inclusions, 2% of 438,843 Decks)
For now at least, the most popular of the Shrines is Magic 2021's Sanctum of Stone Fangs, letting you drain opponents for the number of Shrines you control each turn, including the one you cast it if you do so before combat.
It's not all M21 Shrines, however. While Sanctum of Fruitful Harvest has the #2 Shrine spot, #3 and #4 are original Hondens of the Seeing Winds and Night's Reach varieties. The real question is, will any of the new Shrines from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty make the top? I'm a bit dubious on some of them, but if one was going to get there, my money would be on Go-Shintai of Hidden Cruelty.
(8,392 Inclusions, 1% of 965,617 Decks)
Some people bristled at the cutesy nature of the Throne of Eldraine trailer, and those people are wrong.
You see, not only was the Throne of Eldraine trailer amazing, it's also the reason that we got Gingerbrute. Or maybe it was the other way around. Regardless, at the end of the day, both the trailer and Gingerbrute exist, and I feel like I've failed for not giving thanks for that every Thanksgiving. Thank you, Gingerbrute. Thank you.
8. Curse of Disturbance
(8,515 Inclusions, 2% of 495,488 Decks)
As enthusiastic as I am about sprinting gingerbread men with pseudo-unblockable, our #8 here forces me to make a confession: I'm not really that into Curses. I get the appeal, but I just find that most of them are both not that good and also tend to create more feel-bads than the good-natured fun they're reported to create. Sure, laying down a Curse of Disturbance isn't going to knock anyone out of the game, but it very well might take the small scrap of threat assessment that most players still contain and throw it to the wayside, causing table strife. Combine that with the Curses that actually do have a big enough impact to just nerf a player for an entire game, like Overwhelming Splendor, and I personally think that Curses are not quite as light-hearted as they were intended to be.
Besides, if you're looking for a cheap Zombie token-generator these days, you're not starving for choice. Cryptbreaker can get you a steady stream and a payoff all on one card, Jadar is bad Bitterblossom (meaning he's still absolutely stellar), and Zombie Infestation with a Dark Prophecy effect can just win games.
7. Druid Class
(8,524 Inclusions, 3% of 256,223 Decks)
Like most of the Classes, Druid Class is shooting up the EDHREC rankings, to the point that when I held this article for a week for set reviews, it jumped from 'not even in the Top 10' to #7! And why wouldn't it? For two mana, you get a Landfall lifegain engine that you can then pay mana into the very next turn to get an Exploration as well! Sure, the mana doesn't work out to be that efficient, but when you're talking about in-demand effects like this, does it really matter if they're a bit more expensive when they all appear on the same card?
6. Wizard Class
(11,524 Inclusions, 4% of 269,275 Decks)
It turns out Druid Class is not top of the Class! That spot belongs toWizard Class! None of its abilities wow me, but I do kind of get the reasoning here, and totally agree with it. Classes provide an easy mana sink, and it's great to see that people are discovering just how good that can be. Maybe it's just because I lived through Scourge Limited and can tell you why both Scornful Egotist and Flamewave Invoker are good, actually, but the argument I'll actually invoke here is that activated abilities save cards in hand. All too often, we're playing cards into board wipes when we should be putting three more mana into that Mobilization, daring that opponent to Wrath so we can play out our whole hand on the rebound. So as much as Wizard Class isn't the cheapest or free-est "you have no maximum hand size" effect out there, it does give you a useful mana sink when someone plops down that Nevinyrral's Disk that prevents people from wanting to cast permanents from their hand. The general feeling that the Classes provide is something every deck could use more of, whether it cares about +1/+1 counters or not.
5. Desperate Ritual
(12,314 Inclusions, 3% of 464,296 Decks)
While I'll be the first to lament that we didn't get an 'Arcane' Precon, it's probably better that we didn't, and I can continue to be the hipster recommending to every brewer that they "really should try out a Skyfire Kirin deck, it's a rewarding challenge". If you do take up that gauntlet, Desperate Ritual is going to be a house for you, being a cheap, mana-positive spell that you can Splice onto things, but even if you aren't doing Arcane shenanigans, there's no doubt that Desperate Ritual will ramp you a little and add one to that Storm count, which is more than enough for your average Izzet build.
4. Beanstalk Giant
(13,611 Inclusions, 3% of 462,556 Decks)
Sit down, little one, and let me tell you about a time in the distant past. Back then, you see, there was no Return of the Wildspeaker, no The Great Henge. No Beast Whisperer, Garruk's Uprising, Rishkar's Expertise, or Toski, Bearer of Secrets. Yes, I'm afraid there was a time when green wasn't that good at drawing cards, and with Greater Good and Sylvan Library costing an arm and a leg, the staples for drawing cards were instead creatures with additional abilities, things like Krosan Tusker and Yavimaya Elder, which technically only cantripped, but actually "drew" you two or three cards when you really thought about it.
And now? Well, now, no one plays them, because they're not "ramp". But Beanstalk Giant is, which is why I'm here to tell you to stop playing Beanstalk Giant and start playing Krosan Tusker again. You have no shortage of great ramp options in green, but you don't have instant-speed Divinations that can then be recurred from your graveyard for a big beefy body when you need it. I know, you're a lands deck, but that's exactly why I know you have a Burgeoning on the field, and you don't actually need to "ramp".
3. Curse of Opulence
(20,079 Inclusions, 4% of 464,296 Decks)
Hey, you know how I said I wasn't that big a fan of Curses? Yeah, I'm a hypocrite. I play Curse of Opulence in every non-budget mono-red and Boros deck I own. For one mana, it's just a ton of ramp that pays off (if you remember the trigger), and convincing other players to put send their early chip damage someplace else is hugely beneficial.
That said, can we get a few more reprints there, Wizards? This thing's supposed to be an uncommon, and $12 is getting to be a bit steep!
2. Murderous Rider
(23,325 Inclusions, 5% of 495,488 Decks)
A 2/3 lifelinker for three isn't anything to write home about. For the same price, you can get Vampire Nighthawk and tack on two other keywords. However, the real reason folks are playing Murderous Rider is because of the instant tacked onto it. Playing a Hero's Downfall and then getting a 2/3 lifelinker in reserve? That's upside any deck can get behind.
1. Kodama's Reach
(162,567 Inclusions, 35% of 462,556 Decks)
Kodama's Reach may not have Cultivate numbers, but given that it will trigger Kodama of the South Tree, maybe it should!
In all seriousness, Kodama's Reach is a fine second copy of an effect that gives you both ramp and card advantage. Some people may have moved entirely on to two-mana ramp these days, but if you're in the lands deck or you're playing a bit slower, Cultivate and Kodama's Reach are both great options that will keep lands coming on to the battlefield through the long haul. "Gotta go fast" is a mantra that's overtaken the format, but even in that environment, there's something to be said for getting two cards for one extra mana. People do play Skullclamp in high-power games, after all.
In all honesty, I feel like I was a bit hasty tacking on the par-for-the-course "nonland" rider in our criteria this week. There was a Gates problem, to be sure, but that could have just as easily been overcome by lumping all the Gates together, as I often do. So, as a consolation prize, here's the Top Ten for lands:
Top 10 Nonbasic Land Subtypes
- Scavenger Grounds
- Urza's Saga
- The Gates
- Gateway Plaza (Yes, yes, I know, also a Gate)
- Urzatron (Urza's Power Plant, Urza's Mine, & Urza's Tower)
- The Cycling Deserts (Fervent, Mindful, True, Indomitable, & Glorified)
- Survivors' Encampment
- Endless Sands
- The Sac Deserts (Ramunap Ruins, Ifnir Deadlands, Ipnu Rivulet, Hashep Oasis, & Shefet Dunes)
Well, it took some work, but we managed to get the OG Desert in there! Also notable is that the Urza lands are a lot more popular than I thought, and I'm not just talking about the auto-include of Urza's Saga in high-powered decks right next to your Ancient Tomb. Urzatron sees play in around 12,000 decks, and honestly, with the printing of Kura, the Boundless Sky, that number is only going to go up (more on that next week, and we'll sneak in some Locuses too!).
As for the nonland honorable mentions that didn't quite make our main list, there's a glut of Classes and Curses right there on the edge (lookin' at you, Cleric Class and Curse of Fool's Wisdom), but as my appearance on CUT! foreshadows, I apparently have a weak spot for Adventures!
First off, if you're going to be considering Murderous Rider, you should absolutely be doing the same for Brazen Borrower, because after all, removal with a body on it is always a good thing. Speaking of which, why aren't more folks playing Giant Killer? Sure, the tap ability feels pretty Limited (see what I did there?), but it in combination with Radiant's Judgment, that's a lot of versatility when it comes to your removal package. It's not like the huge threats to the board aren't usually attached to big creatures. Finally, Foulmire Knight is the opposite of the other Adventure cards, where you're much more likely to just play the creature rather than bother with the overpriced card draw. With that said, a 1/1 deathtouch is always useful, and there will also be times in the late game where you'll just want to flit it away for a card, only you'll still have the option to put down a 1/1 blocker that will make that alpha strike all the less likely. What's not to like?
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?
A topic we managed to avoid entirely this week that's nonetheless related to our subject matter is Treasure. Of late, Treasure have become the most popular new mechanic in Magic, probably qualifying for evergreen status (luckily, this didn't come up in our Top Ten at all, since Mimic didn't really catch on).
With that said, not everyone is on the Treasure train that long ago pulled from the station, and with controversial cards like Dockside Extortionist, Smothering Tithe, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, and Hullbreacher leading the discussion, it's not hard to see why. Still, for every powerhouse card like Pitiless Plunderer, Storm-Kiln Artist, and Revel in Riches that result in 30 Treasure tokens getting thrown onto the board, there are 10 fair cards like Plundering Barbarian, Pirate's Prize, Prosperous Innkeeper, and Bucknard's Everfull Purse.
So, the question is, are Treasures the problem, or is this the fault of the designers who keep on pushing the mechanic straight past 'fair' to 'unbelievably broken'?
Finally, what's your favorite subtype in Magic? Did it get highlighted here today, or do you hate me forever? It's Locuses, isn't it? I knew it. Look, Wizards, let me level with you, the Locus crowd is out of control. For your own safety and that of the game, you need to print more of them. Yeah, we know it'll be broken, but what's a third one cost, really? How much could it really hurt?
Oh, and while we're at it, how about some more Lairs?
Let us know in the comments (yeah, I'm talking to you, Wizards), and we'll see you at the table that is technically four classroom desks pulled together.