“Bob,” aka Dark Confidant, has been the poster child for overpriced cards in the Modern format almost since the day Modern format became a thing. I’ve taken Bob to task before for being too overrated. But the fact remains, a 2-drop dude that draws you cards is still a necessary evil in some decks. Outside of Modern – and you’re not going to believe this – there’s even some people deranged enough to run Bob in Commander!
So here, I thought I’d post an exhaustive list of the top eight budget versions of Dark Confidant. Not all of these mimic Bob; in fact, we’re going to explore cards that are possibly better than Bob in some circumstances. This is for budget players of every stripe, or those who want a nearly Bob-like effect, even as copies five through eight of Bob in the same deck.
For our criterion, our budget Bobs MUST BE creatures costing two mana or less.
Cryptbreaker is a recent print from Eldritch Moon that caused some minor buzz when it came out. Nobody is recommending it for Modern, but it’s found a home or two in Commander zombie tribal decks. However, with Gravecrawler, Geralf’s Messenger, and Prized Amalgam already seeing play in Modern, Cryptbreaker could be a sleeper card just waiting for its day to shine. In the meantime, it’s at least a zombie’s answer to Azami, Lady of Scrolls in EDH.
#2: Dakra Mystic
Dakra Mystic is actually a card which baffles me as to why it hasn’t seen Modern play already. Lantern Control is already a deck in Modern. Dakra Mystic not only lets you start drawing cards a turn earlier than Bob, it also lets you control your opponent’s topdeck as well, which is the whole basis for Lantern Control. You activate her to have each player reveal the top card, then you decide whether you both draw or mill. Obviously you can exploit this to make the decision to draw when you’re getting gas and your opponent isn’t, or to discard opponent bombs you can’t deal with. Even if you’re both drawing cards every turn, she’s a Howling Mine on a body which you can turn off whenever you’d like. What does a one-drop merfolk have to do to get some attention around here?
#3: Asylum Visitor
This is one of the straightforward budget Bob replacements, and in fact I think it could blow Bob away if you build it in the right deck. In the first place, it rewards going hellbent, and that’s what an aggro deck is doing anyway. It draws cards when it counts, in the late game. It activates on each player’s upkeep, so if you’re both hellbent you draw two additional cards per turn. It only taxes you one life per card drawn. And for heaven’s sake, it’s even a 3/1 when Bob’s a 2/1! Oh wait; it also has a madness feature! The more you read this card, the more handy stuff you never noticed. What if your opponent deliberately sandbags cards to avoid letting you draw? That’s card advantage too; if you’re encouraging your opponent not to use cards in hand, that lets you control the pace.
#4: Blood Scrivener
Blood Scrivener is exactly half an Asylum Visitor for half the reasons. While it only triggers once on your turn and only if you’re hellbent, that’s still the best time to draw cards faster. Otherwise, this is just completely obsolete because of Asylum Visitor now. But it’s a budget Bob, so here it goes.
#5: Disciple of Deceit
For heaven’s sake, am I hallucinating this card? Why is it nobody but me has ever seemed to be aware it exists? From the lackluster Journey into Nyx set, this 2-drop scowling Dimir rogue gives every card in your deck transmute. All you have to do is untap her – a mechanic far more breakable now than in the Theros days. It’s a free tutor in Modern. On a 2-mana 1/3. The ceiling for playable cards in Modern maxes out at about 3.5 CMC, so there’s no downside to limiting by CMC. Is tutoring on a body better than draw on a body?
#6: Kami of the Crescent Moon
This is the great egalitarian Bob. The obvious downside is that you’re allowing card draw on both sides, so this isn’t any kind of Bob at all. Unless you build your deck around this effect, which basically means playing Turbo-Fog.
#7: Pain Seer
Pain Seer is the other straightforward budget Bob. She does almost exactly what Bob does, but just a turn slower and she has to attack – or at least untap – in order to do it. Keep in mind that paying a convoke cost or tapping to crew a vehicle also activates inspired abilities. In addition, it’s a 2/2 instead of a 2/1. That hardly counts against a Lightning Bolt (which Bob dies to anyway) but it can make the difference in combat.
#8: Sygg, River Cutthroat
Hey, what does your deck do? How does it win? It deals damage to the opponent, you say? Well, can you do 3 damage in one turn once in awhile? You know, with a Bolt or a Bump in the Night? Since Modern is absolutely lousy with fast aggro and burn decks that try to kill you in three turns, where is Sygg’s credit? He triggers on each turn, so if you attacked with 3 power on your turn then Bolt at the opponent’s end-step, that’s two extra cards per turn. If your deck is dealing damage fast, then you want more gas, right?
More than anything, I aim this list to point out the tunnel-vision of Modern’s meta. Nobody out there is even trying to brew decks. Several of these cards enable whole new strategies all on their own, and none of them have gotten a second glance since they were printed. Yet since they were printed, we’ve gotten whole new mechanics and sets coming out that could finally wake up one of these sleepers to their real potential.
Brewing in Modern is a complete myth; everybody will tell you that it’s all been tested and tried and failed, yet nobody does anything but watch the tournament results and netdeck. The speed at which new cards come out has doubled in recent years, and yet we get one Saffron Olive per generation and even he’s treated like a joke in the community. All somebody has to do is open their minds to the whole purpose of a collectible trading card game and actually try to make their own deck that plays how they want to play.
Dear reader, why can’t that someone be you?