Too-Specific Top 10 - Ten's Place
(Aladdin's Lamp | Art by Mark Tedin)
It's All About the Hamiltons, Baby
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 was the first ten-mana spell ever printed?)
I've always been a fan of round numbers, which may have something to do with why I now run a weekly top ten article series. It also wasn't much of a leap to apply that to the all-important number of twenty when 2020 rolled around. Much as I loved exploring cards that mentioned the number twenty in some fashion, however, it also felt a bit... unelegant. The word twenty, the number 20, searching for actual 20/20s when there weren't enough of them to actually make a list... It was all very broad.
So let's fix that by lopping half of it off, shall we?
Top 10 Non-Eldrazi Ten-Mana Spells
I know, I know, it was inevitable that we'd do a top ten of something to do with ten. I couldn't help but throw in an additional stipulation, however, when I saw the majority of the top 10 ten-mana spells out there. Not only have I not been much of a fan of Eldrazi and the twenty dollar price tags that seem to come with them, but they're also just a bit boring in general, even before they make up half of a top ten list. So, for those that are interested, here's the Top Five Ten-Mana Eldrazi:
- Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
- Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
- Kozilek, the Great Distortion
- Desolation Twin
- Decimator of the Provinces
Spawnsire of Ulamog is the only remaining one to not make the list, but the very fact that three Eldrazi would make the top four of our top ten list was enough reason for me to remove them. It's not like we don't know that the various Kozileks and Ulamogs of the world are excellent magic cards, after all.
So now the question is: What remaining ten-mana cards are the most played when you eliminate the between-bound monsters of the multiverse?
Criteria: Cards which have a converted mana cost of exactly ten and do not include cards with the type "Eldrazi". As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.
10. Impervious Greatwurm
(1,470 Inclusions, 1% of 171,204 Decks)
There is certainly a lot that can be discussed about Impervious Greatwurm that has very little to do with its actual playability. On the positive side, you have some of the best flavor text in the game:
The ultimate answer to intrigue and subtlety.
And then on the more negative side, you have its history as a foil-only, playable card that was only obtainable by purchasing an entire box of War of the Spark, provided your local gaming store hadn't run out of them by the time you tried to do so.
As for the actual play of the card, there's a bit less to cover. It's a ten-mana 16/16 with Indestructible that you can pay a bit less for if you have some creatures to tap into it. While I certainly wouldn't call that unusable, it is a bit niche. If you do happen to play a deck with a lot of creatures that has a means to give a 16/16 evasion or use it to draw 16 cards, however, then what do you have to lose?
9. Decree of Annihilation
(2,010 Inclusions, 1% of 167,366 decks)
Despite coming in lucky number 13th place in the race to be the card that makes people the saltiest upon seeing it played, Decree of Annihilation still manages to pull over 2,000 inclusions, good enough for ninth place. Whether you're using it as an Armageddon or a Jokulhaups, however, it's going to cost you some mana.
Perhaps that explains, then, why about a third of its inclusions come from Jhoira of the Ghitu decks looking to sidestep mana costs entirely. In similar fashion, 32% of the newly printed Gavi, Nest Warden Cycling decks are including a copy of Decree of Annihilation, further proving that there is no such thing as common decency when it comes to people brewing online. If you were looking to move the bar even lower, however, then you'll be happy to know that more than a quarter of the Zo-Zu the Punisher decks in the world also found a spot for this expensive piece of mass land destruction.
Now, don't get me wrong, I am all for metas making their own decisions about what is and isn't allowed, and recognizing that the social contract cuts all ways at all power levels. Where I do question whether or not that's all working as intended, however, is when I see numbers like this. A Zo-Zu the Punisher deck playing this card means that they intend for the game to go into a long slog of hoping people draw lands to play after they've had them all wiped, specifically so they can get Shocked for it. As for Gavi, it's a card you can cycle for free that will have a massive effect and probably also make you a cute 2/2 token. Last I checked, however, a couple 2/2 tokens were not enough to win a game of Commander, not even with the majority of people's mana removed. In other words, people are planning to play a long, drawn out game where no one else can play Magic when they're including this, which is fine and all if everyone agrees to it... I just find myself doubting that with the size of numbers we're talking about here that that's the case. Here's hoping I'm wrong, though!
8. Deep-Sea Kraken
(2,275 Inclusions, 1% of 184,960 Decks)
Another favorite of Jhoira of the Ghitu decks, along with more big sea monster decks than you can shake a stick at, Deep-Sea Kraken is a slightly more expensive version of Tidal Kraken that also allows for you to Suspend it earlier in the game at a steep mana discount. The disadvantages are there as well, however, as Deep-Sea Kraken does cost two more mana if you have to hard-cast it, and the Suspend "shortcut" starts with a counter of nine turns. Luckily, your opponents can help you out a bit by removing time counters from Deep-Sea Kraken whenever they cast spells. That may not seem like it would add up that quick, but those of us who have dabbled with the power of Forgotten Ancient know that in a game of Commander, nine spells happening over three of our opponent's turns is not at all out of the realm of reality. As much as it pains me to be the one to go here, however, there is still the question of whether this particular kraken is good enough in much of today's EDH meta. An unblockable 6/6 is sexy and all, but not having any effects stapled to it really does hurt this particular sea monster. For those tables that come down to combat damage often, it's probably good enough most of the time. I'm just not sure that that's how the "average" meta looks right now.
Which brings me to my next question: is that a good thing?
7. Primal Surge
(2,427 Inclusions, 1% of 171,204 decks)
I had a lot of pain in making cuts and stopping myself from playing great additions when I was doing a deck for each of the card types in Magic with Umori, the Collector a few weeks back. There was no card higher on that list than Primal Surge. If you really lean into a theme of playing a significant amount of a permanent type, or even just going all permanent tribal with Muldrotha, the Gravetide, you can flip over the majority of your deck with this beauty of a ten-mana card. Similarly, if you're looking for an easy Thassa's Oracle win that still requires you to jump through gigantic hoops, Primal Surge is your card.
As for the current norm when it comes to this particular card, Nikya of the Old Ways' penchant for creatures and doubling of mana has Primal Surge featured in 31% of her builds. That said, if you want to be a bit more inclusive about your permanents, Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire lets you broaden out your horizons a little bit.
(Helms 588 Decks, #187; 2,002 Inclusions, 7% of 27,637 Decks)
In the last three years, there has been printing after printing of excellent five color commanders, starting with Ramos, Dragon Engine and The Ur-Dragon itself from Commander 2017, then followed with Jodah, Archmage Eternal out of Dominaria, Najeela, the Blade-Blossom out of Battlebond, Niv-Mizzet Reborn from War of the Spark, Morophon, the Boundless, Sisay, Weatherlight Captain, and The First Sliver in Modern Horizons, Golos, Tireless Pilgrim in Magic 2020, Kenrith, the Returned King as a box topper for Throne of Eldraine, and Jegantha, the Wellspring as either a commander or Companion from the latest set of Ikoria.
In case there was any doubt about the power level of these new commanders, three of them have helmed Competitive EDH decks featuring Food Chain, each being usurped by a more powerful version within a year. The rush to print new and better five color legends for the new flagship format of the Magic: The Gathering brand has been fast and strong.
Prior to 2017, however, there was only a total of fourteen five color commanders in all of Magic's history, four of which were slivers, four more of which were tied to another specific tribe. That left only Cromat, Karona, False God, Child of Alara, O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami, and Progenitus as the five color "Good Stuff" commander options, and it's probably debatable whether Karona fits that definition. Still, we're into lists here at Too-Specific Top 10, so I would be remiss if I didn't rate these older, more general five color legends by their current popularity as commanders on EDHREC:
- Child of Alara (#15 in five color, 694 decks)
- Progenitus (#16, 588 decks)
- Karona, the False God (#18, 536 decks)
- O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami (#19, 521 decks)
- Cromat (#22, 224 decks)
While it's certainly not competing with the Golos, Tireless Pilgrims and Jodah, Archmage Eternals of the world, Progenitus is still one of the most popular commanders prior to the recent quantity of power creep. What's more interesting, however, is where Progenitus still sits among inclusions, despite the powerful new five color creatures that have been printed over the last three years. It currently sits as the fourth most popular five color creature, and if you've ever played against it it's probably not hard to see why. "Protection from everything" is perhaps the most frustrating ability to ever be printed on a creature, and that's before you have to deal with a 10/10 body and a shuffle clause. While I don't doubt that more and more powerful five color legends will continue to be printed for a long time, I also wouldn't be surprised to find that Progenitus was still seeing play five years from now, even if its not helming decks anymore.
5. Storm Herd
(2,828 Inclusions, 2% of 161,137 decks)
I'm a bit of a Pegasus enthusiast (scroll down to the bottom for what I think might be the only Pegasus Tribal Lands Matter deck list in existence), and as such I think it's safe for me to declare that Storm Herd is the most powerful pegasus card in existence. Despite that, it's actual inclusions are interestingly all over the map. By percentage, the commander to play it the most is Atalya, Samite Master.
Given that there's only fifteen Atalya decks in existence, however, that's not really very informative. By sheer numbers, Sevinne, the Chronoclasm decks represent the "Precon Effect" well here, as Storm Herd was included in that particular Commander 2019 deck. Sure, you might get to find a way to flash it back to make a total of 120 tokens over a couple of turns, but more likely you're going to realize that you're in Jeskai and don't have access to ten mana. Not sure it's worth the slot, is all. For the most inclusions total category, however, you have to go down the overpowered well a bit and find Narset, Enlightened Master. While there are other decks that can benefit from forty or more flying friends (Lookin' at you, Linden, the Steadfast Queen), it can be difficult to get to the ten mana required, especially in mono-white. Narset eliminates that problem by avoiding the mana cost entirely, instead hoping to reveal it off the top and get a free cavalcade of winged horses.
4. Ancient Stone Idol
(2,914 Inclusions, 1% of 321,256 Decks)
Speaking of avoiding mana costs, this trap-on-a-stick is often cast entirely free against go-wide decks, and is also a great means to get a huge token repeatedly for those Golgari recursion decks. Maybe the best thing about Ancient Stone Idol, however, is that creatures don't actually have to be attacking you in order to get your cost reduction. There has been many a time I've slapped this down as Jimmy swung all out at Tina, only to have the entire table pick it up and read it as I told them to carry on, nothing to see over here.
I did want to take a moment to point out that it looks as if this card is missing from attacks matter decks, however. While not a huge archetype, it is one that's getting more and more support lately, and a 12/12 with trample that can block as a combat trick and then swing in for a bunch of damage while replacing itself after the inevitable board wipe is... a pretty great piece of tech that appears to be being underutilized.
3. Time Stretch
(3,751 Inclusions, 2% of 184,960 Decks)
If you're talking about expensive spells, it's only a matter of time before you end up at an extra turns card. With that said, Time Stretch is one of the most powerful out there, with maybe only Expropriate being more of a back-breaker. Regardless, taking an extra turn is one of the most powerful things you can do in magic, so it doesn't feel like too much of a stretch to say that taking two in a row is at least twice as good.
Time Stretch may also be one of the main reasons for the hatred of both Jhoira of the Ghitu and Narset, Enlightened Master, as they both can cheat out expensive spells early, which usually translates to spells like Time Stretch and Expropriate, with maybe a few Jokulhaups thrown in for fun. Time Stretch is actually even higher on the salt list than Decree of Annihilation, coming in at number eight overall. It turns out that people may not be huge fans of watching other people play solitaire while they're supposed to be a part of the game.
2. Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
(Helms 128 Decks, #489; 6,616 Inclusions, 4% of 184,960 Decks)
While much lower on The Salt List, our number two and number one cards also both make an appearance. Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur is a great answer to the question of what you can cast for ten mana that will probably inevitably win you the game, although the way it goes about it is one that tends to make your opponents less than excited. Much like playing against a Brago, King Eternal deck, a resolved Jin-Gitaxias often means sitting through a storm of card advantage while you can do little about it, but with no actual end to the game in sight. Nothing makes players more upset about a powerful card that creates a massive resource imbalance than someone then dragging that obvious advantage out for three hours.
(9,936 Inclusions, 5% of 184,960 Decks)
Have you ever been spit-balling about an engine or a combo with a friend, and heard the sentence "Yeah, but what do you go get?" Without hesitation, I would bet five dollars that Omniscience came up in that conversation. This ten-mana spell is the epitome of what every expensive spell should be: Upon resolution, it should more or less win you the game. Provided you have any hand or board state at all, chances are it will hold up to that scrutiny and then some.
"Okay, now that it's in play, I'll go ahead and Return to Nature Omniscience."
"Hang on, you don't have priority yet. Let me go ahead and cast a Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. Do you have a response to the cast trigger, or do I draw four cards?"
"Well, I guess I'll cast Return to Nature now, then?"
"Makes sense. I'mma go ahead and Fact or Fiction in response, though, could you split these cards into some piles? Okay cool, I'll take the one with the Counterspell in it."
Total, there are only 34 ten-mana cards in Magic. Of those, only 32 are Commander-legal, and only 26 of those lack the word "Eldrazi" on them. That means that our top ten covered almost half of the available options, so rather than go over the next few as we usually do, it seems like squeezing in yet another top ten list into this article is a better use of time:
Top 10 Worst Ten-Mana Cards
- Aladdin's Lamp
- Krosan Cloudscraper
- Dead Drop
- Eternal Dominion
- Dragon Tyrant
- Myojin of Infinite Rage
- Greater Gargadon
While not all of these are the worst cards in magic, and some are actually even playable, they also aren't begging for inclusion in a Jhoira, Jodah, or Narset big spells deck.
Storm Herd came up, which gave me an excuse to gush about my love of Pegasii, and studies show that articles with decklists get more clicks, so... Here's my Pegasus Tribal decklist that also has a Lands Matter theme despite being mono-white!
Pegasii!View on Archidekt
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
It's not what you'd call strong, but it is a whole lot of fun, as is sliding in various random Pegasus as they're printed, one by one. It's actually gotten to the point now where I kind of hope we don't get an actual Pegasus Tribal commander, as it would probably mean having to give up the weird janky work-arounds it currently takes to make these flying horses into more than just a random pile of white cards.
What Do You Think?
When I started this list, I did not expect restricting things to just those cards that cost ten mana would result in as much salt as it has. Which really makes me wonder whether our salt list may be skewing perceptions a bit.
And finally, what's your favorite ten-mana spell? Do you have great memories of actually getting an Aladdin's Lamp into play, or are you just a sucker for resolving an Apex of Power?
Let us know in the comments, and we’ll see you at the ten tables set up in the back of your Local Gaming Store... As soon as it's safe to do so.