Too-Specific Top 10 - The Islands

(High Tide | Art by Anson Maddocks)

Counting Blue Cards

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 Last Stand is the only five-color spell that can draw you cards or force you to discard them?)

The fifth straight week of basic land coverage brings us to everyone's favorite Counterspell supplier. As is the new tradition here on Too-Specific Top 10, we held the best card for last, only in this case it's the best card in all of Magic: the Island!

Top 10 Cards That Care About Islands

All right, it's actually cards that care about Islands, but you get the idea. We're going to be keeping the criteria this week fairly simple, although we do want to maintain the spirit of this list and make sure that the card cares about how many Islands you're playing, rather than just rudimentary checks of "are you playing this free blue spell for free without actually playing blue?"

Don't get me wrong, I love Foil as much as the next guy, but it has the Island rider for the exact same reason that Force of Will does.

Criteria: Nonland cards that either count or specify "all Islands", require the sacrifice of multiple Islands, have an effect requiring control or discarding of more than one Island, or otherwise trigger when an Island is tapped or enters the battlefield. As is tradition, all results are ordered by how many decks they are included in on EDHREC.

10. Quicksilver Fountain

Straight out of "whoops, looks like the price doubled" fame, it's Quicksilver Fountain, coming in at number ten on our list! This three-mana artifact seems quirky at first, but beware when you see it: not everyone is sporting this bad boy for innocent purposes. Taking a stroll through its EDHREC page, you'll note that there are a couple well-known Stax commanders that run this card, and believe me, it's intentional.

9. Guardian of Tazeem

It just goes to show that I haven't played much mono-blue, because I was actually totally unaware of this thing. Tapping a creature every time you play a land already seems good enough to sneak through some aggro, but the real threat here is that when the lands you play are Islands, you can also ensure those creatures can't attack you back! It's also worth noting that while ramp may be harder to come by in blue, there are more than a couple dual lands that are technically Islands that may make this worthy of inclusion in a two-color lands matter deck... maybe Tatyova, Benthic Druid?

8. Vedalken Shackles

Vedalken Shackles being a repeatable Control Magic seems pretty good all on its own. However, I wanted to point out that you can also make this effect a tad bit unfair. While tapping it and then untapping it with a Voltaic Key effect won't get you multiple creatures, you can instead copy the activated ability with something like Rings of Brighthearth to get two creatures. Or if you'd like to be really unfair, you might take a look at that "control" rider in the wording of Conjurer's Closet....

7. Walk the Aeons

Is one extra turn not enough for you? From my experience with people playing extra turns spells, it seems like you might not be alone. That said, if you'd rather not go through the rigamarole of stacking counters on a Lighthouse Chronologist and then breaking out the Strionic Resonator, maybe you could just sacrifice a few Islands to keep the party going?

6. Gush

Would you like to draw four cards for no mana? Then has Gush got a deal for you!

All right, it's not quite that cut and dry, but even the deal of drawing two new cards for the low low price of returning two Islands to your hand is pretty darn good, especially if you have a means to discard those Islands for value or to put them back onto the battlefield quickly for Landfall shenanigans. Drawing those cards and returning those Islands at instant speed is often more useful than it sounds! I've even seen opponents tap two Islands, return them, and draw into a game-saving Counterspell, which is about as hype as it gets.

5. Scourge of Fleets

These days, we hear over and over again that if you're going to play a card that costs more than six mana, it should probably win you the game. Well, in mono-blue, Scourge of Fleets is often doing just that! Bouncing all of the creatures on your opponents' boards is nice, but add in the fact that this is stapled onto a creature as an enter-the-battlefield effect, and you might find that this is more than a little repeatable as well. Even if you're not deep into blink effects, how about returning it to your hand and replaying it for free every turn in a Braids, Conjurer Adept deck?

4. Engulf the Shore

If you can't abuse an enter-the-battlefield ability and don't want to have to pay the seven mana for our last entry, then there is a cheaper option. At four mana for a symmetrical version of Scourge of Fleets's ability, Engulf the Shore might have already been good enough. When you add in that it's at instant speed, it easily beats out the Kraken in decks that don't care about blinking or recurring creatures. While most decks might prefer a more permanent board wipe such as Wrath of God, instant-speed mass removal is hard to come by. Mono-blue decks having access to mass creature bounce at only four mana makes this too hard to pass up for a lot of decks.

3. Stormtide Leviathan

Looking for a target for that Choke? All right, that might be a bit extreme for those of us not playing Stax, but maybe you'll be happy with just making it so that no one can attack you. Or maybe you'd like that and the ability to attack for eight unblockable damage every turn as well?

2. Carpet of Flowers

The first 'hate card' to make the actual top 10 of a "cares about [basic land type]" list, Carpet of Flowers is also the first in the top three of any of the lists to be not of the same color as the mana produced by the basic land it cares about. (Was that convoluted? Good!) All that said, it's not hard to see how this little enchantment made it this high up on the list. Even in a color as good at ramp as green, paying one mana to get free mana every turn is as good a deal as you're likely to get. Sure, there's the small chance you'll sit down at a table of four and no one will be playing blue, but when was the last time that happened?

1. High Tide

Even before Storm was a thing, High Tide had already been fueling combo decks for years. In the late game of your average EDH table, it's a Dark Ritual on steroids, allowing for ludicrous amounts of mana whenever you need it. There is so much respect for High Tide from Wizards of the Coast R&D that it's never been reprinted in a full set despite not being on the Reserved List. It's not only no surprise to see this at the top of the list, but if we went back and did a full list of all the cards from the last five articles, I would fully expect it to be a the top of that one, as well.

Honorable Mentions

Before creating this list, there were two cards I was not only sure would be on it, but that I thought would be near the top. Those were Flow of Ideas and Thwart, which would have been number 11 and 12 on the list, respectively. The would-be number 13 is Fathom Seer, a card I had actually forgotten about, but with all of the new Morph decks we've been seeing of late from Commander 2019's Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer, I'm now actually surprised that it wasn't a bit higher up.

And as we know, I personally have a great deal of love for the hate, so I would be remiss if I didn't look down to the prospective number 14 and 15 and give Choke and Boil a shout-out.

What Do You Think?

Now that we're done with all five basic land types, what do you think of them? Is "cares about [basic land type]" an archetype you enjoy, or do you feel it's too narrow and simplistic?

Finally, what cards did I miss? What are you throwing in with your pile of Islands that's really making things tick (I mean, besides Midnight Clock)?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the overflow table on the kitchen Island.

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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