Too-Specific Top 10 - Tenception
(Zaffai, Thunder Conductor | Art by Dmitry Burmak)
Ten is the Loneliest Number...
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 Aladdin's Lamp is the only ten-mana noncreature artifact?)
Strixhaven (and Commander 2021) spoiler season has been absolutely nuts, and if you're anything like me you probably have a list of about 30 cards you're eyeballing, a third of which go in decks you told yourself you were going to stop upgrading, and that doesn't even get into the new legendaries that have you wanting to brew up something entirely new!
For me, that new and exciting legendary is Zaffai, Thunder Conductor. What was shocking to me, in looking through the full spoilers for both "sets", was that there was not one instant or sorcery that met Zaffai's 10-mana trigger condition out of the box. Sure, there were a few X spells that could conceivably get there, like Crackle with Power and Muse Vortex, and there was even a reprint of Apex of Power in Zaffai's deck, but there wasn't even one new 10-mana-or-greater spell, which was a real shame, given that Zaffai is the face of the Prismari deck.
Still, even if we didn't get a new toy to try to cast for free while dealing 10 damage at random, we can alleviate the letdown somewhat by looking at all the existing options that are already out there, right?
Top 10 Spells with Mana Value 10 or More
Criteria: Instants and sorceries with a mana value that would equal ten or greater as they were on the stack. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.
I know, I know. I wanted to go with just the spells in Izzet colors, too, but there just weren't enough, unfortunately. Even looking at the entirety of WUBRG, there are actually only a total of 15 cards with a mana value of 10 or greater, two of which wouldn't even trigger Zaffai because they're split cards that would have the converted mana cost of just the half you cast while they were on the stack. As for Izzet-/Prismari-specific stuff, there were exactly 9 in the color identity, all but two of which will be in our top 10. So with that in mind, let's see what all of them are! (Be sure to check the Honorable Mentions for the five cards that didn't make the cut!)
10. Eternal Dominion
(465 Inclusions, 0% of 253,337 Decks)
I can count the total number of times that I've even thought about the Epic spells on my fingers and toes, and yet somehow here on Too-Specific Top 10, I've managed to feature them on two lists in a row. That said, Eternal Dominion didn't technically make the cut last time through, as it was the Top 10 Non-Izzet Copy Spells, so we're in good shape. As for the card itself, Eternal Dominion is not only the most expensive, but also arguably the most powerful of the five Epic spells, which does seem to track. In a perfect world, more expensive spells should be more powerful, after all. That said, it's not always a slam-dunk to be your only spell for the rest of the game, as it does rely on your opponents' decks being full of arbitrarily good things to tutor up every turn, which you then can't protect because you're not able to cast spells. The other big drawback here is that it can definitely be one of those cards that looks fun in theory, but in practice just takes forever to resolve every turn. While I haven't been playing the card for long, I can say that a bit of kindly table talk and politics can solve this issue, but if you've got a full friend group that would rather take the Spikey approach of giving you no information and instead making you look through their decks for 10 minutes, then this can be a bit of a drag.
Then again, they kind of deserve you wasting their time at that point, right?
9. Blinkmoth Infusion
(544 Inclusions, 0% of 253,337 Decks)
By far the most powerful effects when it comes to Zaffai are going to be these technically expensive spells that are in reality only going to cost you two mana on a good day. Still, Blinkmoth Infusion isn't a slam-dunk in just any Zaffai deck, as it's going to require an absolutely immense number of artifacts in what is supposed to be a spellslinger deck. With that said, whether you're looking at a Zaffai spellslinger deck or just your run-of-the-mill artifact build, something that has happened in a big way in the last couple years that wasn't around during original Mirrodin is the influx of Servo, Thopter, and Treasure tokens all over everywhere.
While you might need the likes of an Inspiring Statuary to really make a Blinkmoth Infusion ridiculous with Treasure specifically, there are nonetheless some great options for a spellslinger deck to acquire epic amounts of Treasure without even having to resort to $50 Goblin Pirates, from Brass's Bounty to Pirate's Pillage to the brand new epic Izzet X spell Culmination of Studies. As for Servos and Thopters, untapping them at instant speed could be a real game-changer even if you don't have a bunch of big mana rocks to go along with them, and there are some small-scale spell options for getting them in ones in twos, along with the big swings you can get with the likes of Saheeli, Sublime Artificer and Sai, Master Thopterist.
Still, at the end of the day, to really abuse Blinkmoth Infusion, you either need to have a way to repeatedly return it to your hand after you've cast it, or just a bunch of Worn Powerstone-type rocks that can make it into a huge ritual. Otherwise, it's at best a combat trick, which is still rather underwhelming no matter what deck you're playing.
8. Curse of the Cabal
(907 Inclusions, 0% of 249,837 Decks)
I'm not gonna lie, the idea of hanging the impending doom of Curse of the Cabal really appeals to me. The problem is... it's just not worth it. If you're looking to have an effect that can have players sacrificing permanents on the regular for four mana, then there are a bunch of better options that will have everyone sacrificing more things more often.
When and if we ever revisit Suspend, it would be great to see a more competitive version of Curse of the Cabal, but at this point it's not worth to cast at either ten mana, where the effect just doesn't do enough, or at four mana, where it's just going to have someone sacrifice a token every other rounding of the table, with the best case scenario being that people just lose track of it and you get to surprise the Archenemy.
7. Apex of Power
(1,504 Inclusions, 1% of 235,504 Decks)
I'm not gonna lie, I assumed Apex of Power would be way higher on this list. Finding out that only 1% of red decks are playing this powerhouse of a card in a world where red can absolutely get to 10 mana without even breaking a sweat is just... a bit shocking. Sure, with free casts on the back of Etali, Primal Storm and the like, where you won't get the ten mana but will get a horde of stuff you can cast, it can just be situationally okay. But red has some good ways of making this happen: if you manage to rack up 10 mana with Treasures, or use a Mana Geyser, the Nehebs, Jeska's Will, Battle Hymn, Treasonous Ogre, and there's even Runaway Steam-Kin, just to name a few.
My point is, people should take another look at Apex of Power. Sure, it's easier to just throw all that mana at an infinite combo or a Jaya's Immolating Inferno/Crackle with Power, but if EDH is still the format of fun for you, then Apex of Power is absolutely the more fun way to go.
6. Decree of Annihilation
(2,001 Inclusions, 1% of 235,504 Decks)
Well, you won't get a Zaffai trigger from Cycling Decree of Annihilation, so there's not much to be said on that side of things. After all, you're gonna want your lands to keep on casting spells, not to mention the full cast of Decree would kill Zaffai and your free Elemental.
So, with that in mind, let me once again remind the Mass Land Destruction fans of the world out there that MLD doesn't hurt Ramp decks, it helps them, and if you ever do manage to normalize it in the majority of EDH, the Ramp decks will play more of it than any other archetype combined. And as for you people still playing this in the Cycling decks of the world, you absolutely do not qualify under the category of "Armageddon to immediately win the game", and yes, those people you like to call your friends across the table are absolutely resenting you for wasting their entire afternoon as everyone plays draw-go for two hours.
But yeah, blah blah blah "our meta likes this" caveat, and what have you.
5. Primal Surge
(2,293 Inclusions, 1% of 201,750 Decks)
If you've never built a Primal Surge meme deck, I really suggest it. Playing with the arbitrary restriction of all permanents can be a ton of fun, and the turn where you put your whole deck on the table is an absolute blast. Just be sure that you do have at least one other non-permanent in the deck, or a means to actually win the turn you flip the whole deck over, otherwise you probably just lose on your next draw step.
4. Storm Herd
(3,415 Inclusions, 2% of 221,090 Decks)
From the dregs of the 10-mana barrel, we finally have gotten up past the rim and are starting to soar through the sky with 40 or so Pegasii! Storm Herd is the epitome of an expensive spell that essentially says "you win the game" on it, and that's really exactly how things should be. With that said, whether someone can deal with a ludicrous number of winged horses coming down onto the table or not, it's always a good smile to plop them down anyhow, and doing so makes you the immediate center of attention in one way or another. And if that's not what 10-mana spells are about, well then, wait until you see what's next.
3. Time Stretch
(3,624 Inclusions, 1% of 253,337 Decks)
If you're looking for another way to pretty much win the game, but also for it to take 45 minutes to do so by playing Solitaire, then there's Time Stretch!
Okay, okay, there's lots of cards on this list that will take a long time to resolve, as 10-mana spells are naturally complex, and there're lots of ways you can win with three straight turns without it taking up a lot of everyone's time.
So when I run into a deck that actually does that, I'll think about changing my opinion on Time Stretch. Maybe.
2. Enter the Infinite
(3,810 Inclusions, 2% of 253,337 Decks)
Enter the Infinite essentially just says "draw your library", which is the kind of nonsense I can get behind in a 12-mana card. It does exactly what expensive cards should do: ensure that, one way or another, the game will be over extremely soon, at least for you if not everyone else. The fact that the entire table gets a turn to try to do something about it while you untap just means you're playing fair Magic, which is something I appreciate as well. Unless of course you've cast this for free by stacking your deck or the like, in which case, enjoy your Thassa's Oracle win, I suppose! Games do gotta end, after all.
1. Temporal Trespass
(6,497 Inclusions, 3% of 253,337 Decks)
If you are into the extra turn thing, I hope that you are being cognizant of others time while doing so and that you're aware of Temporal Trespass already. Three blue mana to take an extra turn is the best rate you're going to see outside of the Power Nine, and the exile clause makes this one of the fairest extra turn spells out there. Combine the two, and I think I fully endorse this in Zaffai, Thunder Conductor decks of all power levels as an easy way to both get the full trigger and untap to do it all again. Just make sure it doesn't become a habit, you Battlecruiser and Mid-power-level brewers out there!
As previously mentioned our entire pool was only 15 cards deep this time around, and as such, here are the rest of them!
11. Dead Drop
13. Volcanic Salvo
Okay, that's just the last three that technically met our criteria. Of those three, Soulscour and Volcanic Salvo are pretty uninspiring for ten-plus mana. Dead Drop, on the other hand, seems like it would be absolute fire in a Syr Konrad, the Grim deck. Sure, you're having to remove a bunch of your own graveyard, but you're definitely self-milling at that point anyhow and it'll be a whole bunch of damage to the table no matter what when all is said and done.
There were also the two Aftermath cards that combine to have a mana value of 10 or more, but that don't actually have that value while on the stack. Most people who have played against their fair share of spellslinger decks are probably familiar with Commit//Memory at this point. The inclusions reflect that, as it would have actually taken #1 overall on this list if it had been allowed to compete, with 8,691 inclusions. The other non-contender was Rags//Riches, which is decidedly underwhelming on first cast, and then actually fairly powerful once in your graveyard, if a bit pricey. It would have made the list at 1,434 inclusions, taking ninth place.
Rags would have been sixth at 1,434, Commit would have been first at 8,691.
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 really just can't get over the fact that people don't like Apex of Power, and I rarely get to poll on individual cards, so:
And finally, what is your favorite way-too-expensive spell? Are you thinking of brewing or using Zaffai in the 99?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you for the ultimate game of Emperor at that monstrosity of a table you always see rich folk sitting at the extreme ends of in the movies.
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