Too-Specific Top 10 – So Lonely and Sadly Alone

(On Thin Ice | Art by Lucas Graciano)

One and Done

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 Tsabo Tavoc is somehow the only card with Protection from legends? How on earth is that actually true? Well, it’s not, because it was errata’d to be Protection from legendary creatures, for… reasons.)

As you might imagine, I’m sitting on quite the list of future ideas for top ten lists, a list that is ever-expanding. Somewhere halfway down it for six months or so now has been an idea our Copy Editor here at EDHREC (yes, the one currently wondering if he should be editing this horrid sentence), @cmdrjackmtg, simply titled “Top Ten Mechanics That Only Appear on One Card”. Well, a few weeks ago when I did Top Ten Manaliths with some egging on from our other resident list-maker Mr. Megill, Jack couldn’t help but mention that his idea had been on my books quite a bit longer.

So, I leapt right in and did some other stuff that was loosely related to Strixhaven spoilers, then got an Outpost Seige rant off my chest, and then just as I was about to forget about the whole thing, I saw the Time Spiral Remastered spoiler for Dryad Arbor, which had me remembering Slivercycling from Future Sight, and BAM! I was right back in it. Let’s do this!


Top 10 Single-Use Keywords

So, I got to researching, and found an immediate problem. There’s actually only five keyworded mechanics that are technically the only examples of themselves, and it turns out that neither Slivercycling or Wizardcycling are among them, given that they’re just variants on Cycling (although all five examples are from the same set as Tribalcycling, Future Sight).

Top 5 “For Real” Single-Use Keywords

  1. Transfigure, featured on Fleshwrither: 709 Inclusions
  2. Frenzy, featured on Frenzy Sliver: 361 Inclusions
  3. Fortify, featured on Darksteel Garrison: 318 Inclusions
  4. Absorb, featured on Lymph Sliver: 251 Inclusions
  5. Aura Swap, featured on Arcanum Wings: 207 Inclusions

So of course, coming to this first hurdle, I immediately gave up and moved on to the next idea on the list. If I wanted to do the hard work, I wouldn’t be making top ten lists, right? I did take the time to advise Jack of the failure of his entire idea, however, and I guess he took it kind of personally, because he then went ahead and told me that I had misunderstood the whole premise, I was stupid, and spent two days researching the whole list of actual single-use mechanics himself. (Editor’s note: the vast majority of the work was completed in an hour, I just got lazy on things like “bands with *” and “protection from such-and-such CMC”, but then I had some time to kill the next day, so I wrapped up the list.)

Well, what can you do when your editor does two days’ an hour and change worth of your job but press on, make a top ten list out of it, and then turn the whole thing in a day late and a thousand words over budget?

Criteria: Cards that feature a keyword mechanic whose full, specific version has only ever been used on a Magic card a total of one time. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Protection From Each of Your Opponents (Cliffside Rescuer)

(817 Inclusions, 0% of 180,712 Decks)

Just under half of the complete list of single-use keywords is a variant on protection, but perhaps none have as total a protection as what Cliffside Rescuer can provide. Even if you leave the list and find the likes of Progenitus and Hexdrinker‘s Protection from everything, Cliffside Rescuer‘s ability is actually even better, as you can still cast protective spells on the affected permanent to give it… indestructible, I guess? That’s about the only thing it doesn’t already have, if we’re honest. Although a Giant Growth wouldn’t be totally out of the question.

9. Protection From Each Converted Mana Cost Other Than the Chosen Number (Haktos the Unscarred)

(Helms 256 Decks, Rank #425; 833 Inclusions, 1% of 75,747 Decks)

That said, if you’re looking for a close shave at third-best in the protection game, there is Achilles himself: Haktos the Unscarred. Still, even if there are more surefire options, having his Achilles heel be a number chosen at random is just the kind of chaos that makes him a beloved choice among Commander players. Combine that with the fact that he’s just straight-up beefy, both in power and in artwork, and it’s really no surprise that Boros decks are trying this guy out despite the difficult mana cost.

8. Gravestorm (Bitter Ordeal)

(1,097 Inclusions, 0% of 240,932 Decks)

Okay, I get why we can’t have some (okay, most) of the crazy things that came out of Future Sight, but why hasn’t Gravestorm been slapped into a set yet? Sure, Storm is literally the mechanic they used to name the list of mechanics that are never coming back to Magic, but this just looks like a blast to play with! As for the card itself, Bitter Ordeal is the exact kind of effect I’ve always felt should be played more at the higher power levels. If your combo deck only has two or three solid ways to win, it pretty much scoops to a Jester’s Cap, right? (But no, seriously, artifact decks: play Jester’s Cap. You’ll thank me.)

7. Slivercycling (Homing Sliver)

(2,168 Inclusions, 1% of 227,165 Decks)

Have you ever played against a Sliver deck, thought you had things under control, and then had them just play one Sliver and you’re suddenly losing again? All too often for me, that Sliver has been Homing Sliver. Just as you spent the last of your removal making sure that Sliver Overlord costs an unruly 11 mana, here comes a three-cost Sliver that can do the same thing for the same mana. And oh, look, there’s a Harmonic Sliver now. And a Cloudshredder Sliver. Oh, and look, there’s a Crystalline Sliver. Just lay down the Sliver Legion so we can scoop, Gary.

6. Protection From Each Color Not in Your Commander’s Color Identity (Commander’s Plate)

6. Equip Commander (Commander’s Plate)

(2,525 Inclusions, 3% of 83,988 Decks)

In a first that may indeed live up to the theme of this article by being the only time this will probably ever happen here on Too-Specific Top 10, we have somehow come up with a convoluted enough criteria that we have a card tied for sixth… with itself! Both the “Equip commander” and “Protection from each color not in your commander’s color identity” mechanics appear only on Commander’s Plate, and then they threw in +3/+3 just to make sure you were happy!

In all seriousness, though, Commander’s Plate was aggressively costed and scaled to help mono-color and Voltron decks, and it has done just that in the short time that it’s been seeing play. As anyone that’s had to deal with a beefy creature wielding a dual-edged sword can tell you, having a creature get even bigger with built-in evasion and protection is absolutely back-breaking, even if you don’t get to untap, burn, destroy, or draw various things. That creature being your commander that only has to deal 21 combat damage is just so much the better.

5. Wizardcycling (Vedalken Æthermage)

(2,762 Inclusions, 1% of 244,595 Decks)

When this list was being compiled for me, I did expect both Wizardcycling and Slivercycling to be on it, but I definitely expected Slivers to be the more popular of the two. Perhaps I should’ve had my editor look into this for me as well (editor’s note: not my job), as there have been quite a few Wizard Tribal commanders printed of late. Azami, Lady of Scrolls was the original option for Wizards, but beyond that, Inalla has been around for over three years now, with Adeliz, Naru Meha, and Naban hitting that figure right on the dot. Most recently, Kaza, Roil Chaser took big spellslinger and made it affordable, so long as you’ve got a horde of Wizards to go with your X spells. I like to think that what really pushes Vedalken Aethermage‘s numbers over Homing Sliver‘s, however, is that the former Man-o-Wars the latter back to hand when the former enters the battlefield.

4. Protection from Demons (Baneslayer Angel)

(3,077 Inclusions, 1% of 213,524 Decks)

If you want to talk about cards I didn’t think would appear on the single mechanic list or this top ten list, however, then let’s talk about Baneslayer Angel. Now, don’t get me wrong, I get the nostalgia. Baneslayer Angel ruled Standard with an iron fist in the same vein as creatures like Siege Rhino, Morphling, and Blastoderm. However, just being an efficient threat that protects itself has never really been enough in EDH, and if we’re being honest, Baneslayer Angel doesn’t even really do that second part. Protection from Demons and Protection from Dragons will come up every once in a while in gameplay, to be sure, but it’s not going to stop your over-the-top win con from getting Murdered by various spot removals or board wipes.

What I hadn’t thought about was keyword soup. What was already a thriving archetype under Odric, Lunarch Marshal has exploded since the printing of Akroma, Vision of Ixidor allowed you to add a color, with a slight smattering of Kwende, Pride of Femeref First Strike Tribal that I just find to be quite endearing. Combine that with your normal Angel tribal decks, and the numbers add up quickly.

(PS: If you’re wondering what other cards have Protection from Dragons, it turns out that dragon hunting has been a respected profession in MTG since Invasion‘s Dragonstalker, with Dragon Hunter continuing the tradition in Dragons of Tarkir.)

3. Commander Ninjutsu (Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow)

(Helms 4,174 Decks, Rank #5; 974 Inclusions, 1% of 128,242 Decks)

If you weren’t expecting the overall #5 commander to show up on this list, then I don’t know what to tell you. Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow has proved to be not only powerful but also entertaining to both play and to play against, and really appears to be in the top echelons of popularity for the long haul. As for Commander Ninjitsu, it’s a mechanic that always felt like it should have been possible anyhow, and was even being house-ruled with commanders like Higure, the Still Wind and Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni for years before R&D threw us a bone and just put it in print. Which we certainly thank them for. Although… did Yuriko really have to have opponents lose life when she draws you cards?

2. Protection from Colorless (Giver of Runes)

(6,196 Inclusions, 3% of 195,915 Decks)

The prodigal daughter of the classic powerhouse that is Mother of Runes, Giver of Runes ups the ante by allowing for Protection from Colorless in addition to the option for protection from any color you choose. The trade-off of not being able to protect herself is extremely relevant, however, so most often you’re still seeing these two runic Clerics run side-by-side, rather than the daughter taking over Mom’s turf. I have been pleasantly surprised by how often the colorless choice has been relevant, however. I’ve even gotten to ask an opponent if they were sure they wanted to do that before saving my commander from a Bosh, Iron Golem Fling, which is just good, old-fashioned snark.

1. Equip Legendary Creature (Blackblade Reforged)

(41,480 Inclusions, 21% of 201,750 Decks)

Our #1 mechanic isn’t an exciting one, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that before long we’ll be seeing this ability again. In fact, I had to double- and triple-check that Equip legendary creature wasn’t already a thing, and it’s no wonder why. Long before Dominaria, all sorts of sets played around in this space with the likes of Hero’s Blade, Champion’s Helm, and Tenza, Godo’s Maul.

As much as they flirted with the idea, however, it wasn’t until the Blackblade fell into Gideon’s hands that the actual Equip legendary creature ability was created, and for now this easy means to double or triple a legend’s power and toughness remains at the top of the pile when it comes to keywords we’ve only ever seen once.


Honorable Mentions

With that said, there are a lot of cards on the list that has so kindly been provided to me, and I would be remiss if I didn’t revel in a few of them.

Keen-eyed readers might have noticed a few mechanics bolded in the original spreadsheet, and that’s because I noticed that they both came from the same card that hadn’t made the top ten, Kitsune Riftwalker. For those not aware, Spirits and Arcane spells played a huge part in the Kamigawa block, with both being allowed to be used over and over again with the Splice and Soulshift mechanics. That meant that in Limited this little 2/1 for three mana actually held its own quite well, often acting as your main damage-dealer or lifesaver if a game got bogged down. Unfortunately, for EDH purposes, it’s not really holding that kind of water anymore. At least, not until I really get the hype train rolling for more Skyfire Kirin decks, anyhow.

Arcanum Wings actually came up on Shivam Bhatt’s Casual Magic show last week in a very lengthy interview with Gavin Verhey, where Shivam’s enthusiasm for the card in his Enchantress deck had him begging for a revisit to the Aura Swap mechanic. Gavin’s response was that “Aura Swap was kind of broken”, and… he’s not wrong. If you’re an enchantment player and you haven’t seen this in action before, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot, no matter how innocent-looking it may be.

Speaking of enchantments, these one-mana removal Auras are not going to alter the landscape of the average deck, nor are they going to blow copies of Swords to Plowshares out of decklists to the great beyond… but both On Thin Ice and Chained to the Rocks are solid, and should be considered heavily if you have any sort of Aura and enchantment synergies. All too often, we have an innate impulse to just chuck staples into our decks, but stuff like this is exactly the kind of weird alternative that creates unique gameplay for both you and opponents that we should all be looking out for a bit more in our decklists.

I don’t have any words on this card, other than look at this card! Master of the Hunt is hilarious, and I dare anyone to play it (and apparently 39 decks are!).


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 my crack research team! (Editor’s note: find me on Twitter @cmdrjackmtg if you have any questions on how I Frankensteined this list together.)


What Do You Think?

In all seriousness, thank you to my editor for this list. I hope it means a lot to him, because I actually had a blast putting it together from all the hard work he did. Thanks, Jack. (Editor’s note: it did! Thank you, good sir!)

Now, on to the poll, where we’ll ignore your data completely and focus on the five-piece list I came up with!

Finally, what was your favorite single-use mechanic from this massive list? Which of these do you think will see another printing soon?

Let us know in the comments, and we’ll see you at the three-legged table that’s been artfully hand-carved to look like a snowflake.

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.