It’s time to shake some nerd rage out of you quiet readers out there, so this time let’s talk about some overrated Magic cards. These abilities, aspects, or effects may be good in small doses, but tend to get over-valued to a fault. So bring your torch and pitchfork, because we cordially invite you to a banquet of your favorite sacred cows.
For a while when Theros block came out, everybody lost their minds over scry. Suddenly, everything had to scry. The same kind of people who screamed like an outraged howler monkey at you for daring to run Orzhov Guildgate over Godless Shrine insisted that you had to run 4x Temple of Silence in your Mono-Black Devotion deck – without needing a stick of blue mana anywhere in the deck – because it was just that damn good. No, actually, it’s not that good. “Scry 2” usually means “look at your top two cards, sigh in disgust, and put them back down.” It takes a while to realize that running cards that actually do something means not having to scry so much.
#2: Deck thinning
Right on the heels of the scrylands fanatics are the people who build RDW Burn in Modern using 4 mountains, 4 Arid Mesas, 4 Scalding Tarns, and 4 Wooded Foothills. Not only does this give you a chance to show off how you’re made out of money even though you’re playing Lightning Bolt, it’s a way to drag out an otherwise fast turn into an agonizing ordeal of shuffling and marking off life totals. But please, don’t let me spoil it for you: this guy proved that deck thinning is a myth. And once again, fans of a game which hinges on probability math prove to be overwhelmingly bad at it.
In non-Standard formats, the fastest way to get flicked into my bulk-trades binder is to be Vanilla beef, no matter how wonderfully costed. Let me put it this way: I tried Ghoultree in my graveyard-milling, reanimating, EDH deck and still cut it, even though I could routinely cast it for one green mana. I expect more of my creatures these days. It had better draw me a card or burn my opponent or make them sacrifice an enchantment when it enters the battlefield, or at least have a useful activated ability, or it’s simply not fit to serve in My Beloved Corps. We all expect more these days. Every year there’s fewer and fewer big beef dudes, and more creatures that buff your team, draw you cards, and burn your opponent the turn they land.
Every block, WOTC figures out a new way to make a set of below-curve creatures with a special hoop to jump through in order to make it the same creature you would have gotten if you’d just played an on-curve one. Theros had heroic, Return to Ravnica had unleash, and Modern Masters 2015 has reminded us that bloodthist was once a thing. Mind you, it doesn’t breath fire or make your opponent discard or anything when you trigger it. Oh no, it just becomes a mildly larger side of beef. But of all the triggers, only bloodthist requires you to specifically stay in win-more mode. If you’re already doing damage, you’re already ahead, and then the creature won’t make as much difference. If you’re not triggering bloodthirst, the lack of a trigger puts you further behind. That’s just what we needed. Like a dog that barks ferociously at the mailman but cowers and hides from an actual burglar.
Deathtouch is the definition of a trap ability. It sounds good in a vacuum, and your dreams of victory last right up until you see what your opponent is playing. And then you remember all the things that hose deathtouch in creature-to-creature combat: First strike. Double strike. Indestructible. Unblockable. Evasion. Protection. Deathtouch by itself is just about due for retirement, right beside horsemanship and flanking.
This is the part where we really tick off the blue players. Granted, cards like Snap in mono-U Delver decks in Pauper format are all kinds of awesome. But notice something funny about Pauper: It’s a format virtually devoid of impressive enter-the-battlefield effects. The rest of the time, bounce just means “your opponent will be delighted to get a second Lightning Helix worth of value out of that Siege Rhino.” It says something about removal when you’d rather use it yourself to recast Snapcaster Mage than actually flip your opponent’s creature. Tempo just isn’t a strategy these days.