Too-Specific Top 10 - There Are Some Who Call Me... Tim?
[Insert Minor Explosions Here]
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 Gelectrode is the only Weird pinger?)
Being the proud owner of a Samut, Voice of Dissent pingers deck, I've had the topic of pingers on the back burner for quite some time now. With the sad news of Terry Jones's passing, however, I got to thinking of Monty Python and decided that now was as good a time as any. We're missing one of the good ones, may he rest in peace.
And while he may have been reacting from behind a liftable helmet screen rather than cuing pyrotechnics during the infamous "Tim" scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, we was also one of the masterminds behind it. Finding the hilarity and the truth behind Tim the Enchanter was something that came from his vision. After all, if you could make explosions anywhere and anytime you wanted, wouldn't you be doing it all the time? You may not want to answer that, for legal reasons... Regardless of how you lie to yourself about it, however, the idea was ubiquitous enough that it eventually became part of the history of Magic.
Given both their abilities for wanton destruction seemingly at will, Prodigal Sorcerer was nicknamed "Tim" almost immediately after his Alpha printing. And it's not hard to see why: being able to "summon fire without flint or tinder" is a powerful thing, even when translated to the interior confines of a fantasy card game.
So sit back, think of your favorite Monty Python sketch, and let's find out who the best "Tims" in EDH are.
Top 10 Pingers
First, however, we're going to have to classify what a "pinger" is. Sure, it's a euphemism for a card that can deal damage, but lots of cards can deal damage and aren't considered pingers. No one would accuse Earthquake of being a pinger, for instance. Pestilence, however, might fit some people's definitions. Being able to pump in a single mana at a time to chip away at things does feel a bit like it fits the spirit of "ping". Being widespread and affecting the whole board doesn't quite seem to fit, however, nor does Pestilence/Pyrohemia being an enchantment and not a creature. Being able to stack multiples of the ability twenty times in a row doesn't really seem to fit the "ping" description, either.
So with that in mind, let's go ahead and restrict our search to creatures who deal small amounts of damage at will, but not necessarily repeatedly in a turn. That should get us pretty close to our namesake, while still providing some competition. That just leaves the issue of what the creatures can damage. While it's intuitive to say Elves of Deep Shadow isn't a pinger, what about Zhur-Taa Druid? Stuffy Doll?
While I'm tempted to declare flatly here that a pinger must be able to damage creatures specifically to be considered a pinger, I think the dividing line is more that it can deal damage at will to things that oppose it. That might be players, planeswalkers, or creatures, or any combination of them, so long as that doesn't include you. So under that definition, Elves of Deep Shadow doesn't qualify, but Zhur-Taa Druid does, as does Stuffy Doll, with a little imagination included. So, with that settled, let's take a look at our criteria:
Criteria: Creatures that tap to deal 1 damage to a creature, planeswalker, or player that isn't you, either directly or indirectly through an ability that triggers off of said tap effect. As is tradition, all results are ordered by how many decks they are included in on EDHREC.
10. Spear Spewer
While Spear Spewer only technically qualifies for our criteria, it's a favorite of Group Slug decks everywhere. It can block the early creatures you'll see in a game of EDH while continuously pumping out a stream of symmetrical life loss for the table at large all the way up until the first board wipe. Just make sure you stay ahead in that life total race...
9. Lobber Crew
The more expensive casting cost of Lobber Crew over Spear Spewer might dissuade some, but it is one-sided and repeatable. That superiority seems like it's more than worth the extra two mana, especially when it comes to four- and five- color decks that'll constantly be casting multicolored spells by design. And then there's Niv-Mizzet Reborn, where this thing shines so brightly it's almost kill on sight.
8. Nettle Drone
Hey look, it's the card I just talked about, only it cares about colorless now!
...This inherently makes it better, however, as colorless spells are by definition easier to cast than multicolored ones. There might be a slight trade-off as multicolored spells are also more powerful by definition, but I'm doubtful that the difference is as pronounced as Wizards would like it to be. Artifacts are the number one deck theme on EDHREC, and this easily slides into any of those decks that can play red and doesn't have an average converted mana cost of five+.
7. Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh has always been a niche mono-red favorite, but she got a major boost this year with the printing of Torbran, Thane of Red Fell. The presence of that glorious beard causes her to automatically flip to her planeswalker form with a simple activation, usually removing a problem creature along the way. Before that, despite all the wanna-be rules lawyers attempts at saying that Chandra planeswalker cards count towards the total (they don't), you had to find a way to attack with Chandra and then untap her to get a decent chance at a flip. Although the flavorful way to do it is to just cast Chandra's Ignition, obviously.
6. Stuffy Doll
Did I carefully tweak the criteria of this week's list just to ensure that Stuffy Doll would appear on it? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe go stick yourself.
Stuffy Doll has been a fan-favorite ever since its initial printing in Time Spiral. While it can be a bit pricey at five mana, and often a little too niche for Commander due to only affecting a single player rather than all opponents, I know that I still see it around tables quite often. It may be wrong to pay five mana for a 0/1 who will only deal one damage a turn on its own, but that doesn't mean it doesn't feel right.
If you're looking to be a bit more strategic about it, however, then Stuffy Doll can easily act as a damage-doubler, and is a great blocker in its own right. Playing an Earthquake for ten is usually good enough on its own, but for the player its actually dealing twenty to, it can be downright game-ending. As for things like Star of Extinction, Blasphemous Act, and Nomads en-Kor... Well, translating creature damage in those kind of amounts into player damage isn't a bad deal, either.
For those of you newly salivating over this card, beware that once Stuffy Doll finishes off the player it chose upon entering the battlefield, it will no longer have anywhere to funnel its damage to. Unless of course you can find a way to blink it and choose a new player to test your voodoo out on...
5. Zhur-Taa Druid
While a lot of people would rather have a mana rock like Mind Stone that's harder to destroy and can replace itself, or Talisman of Impulse which can actually fix your mana rather than requiring it, Zhur-Taa Druid is still a very viable option for more aggressive decks that still want to ramp. It will never compete with the sheer efficiency of Llanowar Elves, but for a little more mana you can spend every turn ramping and whittling down your opponents' life total, and that's not nothing.
4. Goblin Sharpshooter
Speaking of efficiency, have you ever seen a table slowly realize how bad a Basilisk Collar being attached to a Goblin Sharpshooter is for them? How about Curiosity, hopefully with the help of a horde of tokens and a sac outlet? Or how about one of my favorite cards to watch people read slowly, Willbreaker?
While these aren't the kind of game-ending combos you'll see in high-powered EDH games featuring things like Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Persist creatures (or just Devoted Druid so you can fetch both parts of the combo with an Uncage the Menagerie), these are exactly the kind of Jenny/Johnny shenanigans that have a lot of brewers grinning from ear to ear when they actually get to pull them off. Goblin Sharpshooter is an excellent example of how sometimes the goal doesn't need to be to go infinite... Sometimes just going a lot is more than enough.
While Gelectrode might look a bit cooler and be a bit more flexible, the shaved-off mana cost of Thermo-Alchemist wins in a landslide when it comes to popularity. The fact that it can also hit each opponent every time it taps helps as well... But the real thing putting this guy over Electrostatic Field is that he can tap for damage every turn whether or not you play any spells.
One thing, though... What possessed them to make the guy actively operating some kind of alchemical-steampunk-mech-suit into a shaman?
True colorless mana is hard to come by in a lot of decks. Six mana is a lot of mana. Combine the two, and you really start to ask questions like "should I really be playing this creature that Seedborn Muse's itself on every players turn and lets me choose between pinging, Detaining, or drawing a card every time it does so?" Obviously the answer for many is yes, but that doesn't make the hurdle any less daunting.
Make no mistake, however: once you get Endbringer in play, it is an extremely relevant and annoying powerhouse that will make each opponent's turn a nightmare.
1. Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
There will be many that will fault this criteria for not including every version of "deals 1 damage" cards as pingers. I realize that not everyone will agree with me that the will and intent displayed by a tap symbol is a necessary part of the Tim experience, and to those people I offer this consolation prize of first place. While there are three versions of Niv-Mizzet that all do one damage with an ability, only the original, Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, made the cut. Luckily, he did so by being the most popular pinger in the Commander format, and it wasn't close. Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind appears in 6,166 decks, nearly double that of Endbringer, and is actually included in a shocking TEN PERCENT of all Izzet decks. Dracogenius, indeed.
As I mentioned, I know that my decision to only include tapping Tims will draw some ire, and as such have decided to shout out a few other options that may fit the broader definition.
While Masticore has fallen out of favor in the ever-evolving world of efficient threats, it was once a threat that warped Standard around itself and warranted inclusion as a staple in a shocking percentage of early EDH decks. While it did not have the staying power, our other two shout-outs of Walking Ballista and Triskelion definitely do. Both creatures are walking combo-enablers, but even beyond those high-powered inclusions Walking Ballista stands on its own feet as just a solid creature that synergizes with many a strategy. So much so that if it had qualified, it actually would have been number one on this list.
Okay, this list should actually go Niv-Mizzet, Parun, Syr Konrad, the Grim, and Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius, but haven't we fed that Dragon's ego enough? Apparently not, as the Izzet Parun is actually still one of the top Commanders in EDH even over a year after his printing. As of the writing of this article, Niv-Mizzet, Parun is the number eleven commander for the past two years, the number fourteen for the last month, and the number fifteen for the past week. Those are crazy good numbers given how long he's been out. Add to that that he also would have been number one on this list if he'd qualified...
All that said, I was actually more sad about eliminating Syr Konrad, the Grim from contention. If you haven't yet seen this card in play, then you are missing out on a crazy whirlwind of triggers and graveyard shenanigans. He even punishes people for getting rid of your graveyard! How in the world I thought this guy wouldn't be worth the five mana when he was spoiled is beyond me, and I am ashamed.
As for Slimefoot, the Stowaway, while he's fallen off of the Top Commander list, he's still helming over a thousand decks here on EDHREC. We wanted a Saproling commander for years, and he's fit the bill and then some for fans of the creature type. Sure, he only qualifies as a "pinger" because of a shortsighted and weird phase where Wizards wanted to transfer black to damage instead of life loss, but still... He deserves this shout-out, and we're happy to be talking about him no matter the context.
- Vindictive Vampire
- Fate Unraveler
- Rampaging Ferocidon
- Firebrand Archer
- Electrostatic Field
- Forerunner of the Empire
- Raging Swordtooth
- Mayhem Devil
- Thundermaw Hellkite
There are so many of these creatures that trigger for damage each time something commonplace happens in a game that it would be impossible to capture them all. These are in order of their EDHREC deck inclusions, and I've barely scratched the surface, which is ultimately why I decided for including tap abilities in the main criteria for the Pingers list. Most of these creatures don't feel like true pingers, whereas our main list I'm actually quite happy with. I should also note that I omitted the cards that did meet the criteria here as well as Legends in general, as it would have been a lot of repetition. It's worth noting that both Nekusar the Mindrazer and Judith the Scourge Diva would have made an appearance here, however.
Whenever I mention a deck and don't post the decklist, there are inevitably people asking for it, so here is my Samut, Voice of Dissent Pingers build that was unfortunately stolen along with much of my collection this week. Whether or not I ever see the original again, I hope the ideas it has, at least, get your brewing sense tingling. For me, no matter what cards I have available, that will always be what I love about EDH. So keep your cards close, take them out of your vehicles at night, and above all, make sure you're using them for what they were intended for: Fun.
Tap, Untap, Untap, UntapView on Archidekt
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What Do You Think?
There's a large contingent of EDH players that like to approach games in a slower, more plodding fashion. This often involves whittling down life totals in small pieces over time, rather than doing it all at once with big swings or huge combos. This is all well and fine when done well, but can also be dragged out endlessly if not handled correctly or if it encounters complicated board states. With that in mind, how do you feel about the "Whittle" method?
And finally, what do you think qualifies as a "Pinger"? Do you see the resemblance between Tim the Enchanter and Prodigal Sorcerer, as many claim to? What's your favorite pinger combo?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the table that looks nice. And isn't too expensive. Next to the other table, only slightly higher, so you get the two level effect with a little path running down the middle...