Here’s a set for your pet cards, dangit. Kamigawa was rich with flavour, but it was also spending a much smaller budget of power cards, which meant that even the cards that were powerful or good were doing it in ways orthogonal to one another – you either got overdosed on unnecessary virtue (like Snakes) or effects that never really had a home (like Dosan). It’s also cycle happy which means even the cards in it that are kinda Just Okay tend to be seen as part of a cycle, so they’re less forgotten, less pet.
This one is one of the first times I really regretted my one-card-per set rule (which I’m obviously skirting by having all these other honourable mentions along the way). But the big fight here is between three flip cards – Budoka Gardener, Nezumi Graverobber, and my bae, the Nezumi Shortfang.
I’m so sad these card types are unsupported now. Wizards is right about their problems but it sucks that poor red has nothing for this entire mechanic. Oh, you can make a case for Homura, but if you’re in red and dropping six mana creatures, you could be just dropping dragons themselves.
The flip cards I love represent beautiful utility creatures that become the kind of late-game threats I like. They all fulfill their quest feel, with Budoka Gardener growing a mighty forest, the Graverobber emptying all the tombs, and Nezumi Shortfang successfully stripping away every last secret you have, and they all transform into respectable cards you want when the game is different – a resurrection machine, a groundstall breaker, and Stabwhisker.
Nezumi Shortfang is a fine card even if it never flips. Curtailing your opponent’s options end of turn, discouraging them from running low on cards in hand, that’s good, and when he flips he becomes a 3/3 that also deals 3 in the upkeep – which really, is kind of like a ball lightning, a comparison Mike Flores once made that’s stayed with me.
Jam Stabwhisker in your black creature value decks, you won’t be disappointed. Worst case scenario you’ll usually activate it with a removal spell on the stack, getting two cards for your creature.
Normally, I try to avoid just naming cards I played a lot in standard, and name instead cards that lasted and became staple to me in other formats. If that was the case the most obvious pick here is Ninja of the Deep Hours, a card that’s vintage playable (I know, holy heck). Without that pajama-clad ophidian, though, there’s another card that I would have originally limited to ‘just’ Standard –
Until I realise I had played it in every single format since it left Standard. I played this card in Extended and I played it in Legacy and then I played it in 5 colour magic, then I played it in Modern and now in 1v1 Commander. This card is amazingly present in my list of old decks.
Hello, old friend.Tallowisp is a rare example of a Kamigawa Spiritcraft card that’s gotten better over time. First things first, there are just more, better Enchant Creature auras around, and they do a variety of things, including Cycling (Sigil of the Nayan Gods), Card Draw (Flight of Fancy), theft (Enslave). Second, there are more spirits that do a lot of different things going around. Just look up ‘Spirit’ or ‘Enchant Creature’ in gatherer and you’ll find a lot of good things that trigger and enable a voltron strategy. You can use Tallowisp to get you card advantage, removal, or improve threats, and all for a fairly interesting deckbuilding restriction. I’ve played UW Snow Dad, BW Ghost Dad, BW Ghost Dad 2, GW Armadillo Wisp, and even dabbled in using Tallowisp alongside red’s cantrip auras. Alas, it can’t go get Chained to the Rocks the way it can get Gelid Shackles, but it’s a really great card!
I so liked Kuon, Ogre Ascendant and his cycle I wrote fanfiction about them, a type of thing that Starcity Games did not exactly take a shine to. But I still really care about the story of those five monks I see in my mind. Utility creatures like Sakura-Tribe Scout and Ghost-Lit Stalker (a backbreaker against control decks of the time), both stand in my memory, too.
Still, the card I keep coming back to when I want to see if it works yet is Skull Collector:
Skull Collector kind of had a deck at the time – there’s a lock with it and Chittering Rats provided you can limit your opponent’s options and strand them with an unplayable board state, and it was a lock that gave you a 3/3 beatstick to work with. Alas, there was also, shortly after this, a rotation, and that brought with it Last Gasp, which neatly kiboshed anything the Skull Collector wanted to do (and also made a mockery of regeneration, as the removal of the day was wont to do).
Still, all the collector needs to be good is a value deck that can form around it – creatures with enter-the-battlefield effects, creatures with haste, creatures that cost 1-3 mana, they’re all good to work with the Collector, and black tends to get creatures that work like this. I once used it alongside Bone Shredder, and that worked really nice until Extended cycled Urza’s block away.
Skull Collector is part of a cycle, but it’s the only member of its cycle that sits nicely: Stampeding Seerow doesn’t protect itself, the Oni is too expensive and closes out games on its own, the wizard is just kind of faff (outside of a cute trick combo with Azami), and the white one is too expensive to make it worth it, and doesn’t close out the game very fast on its own anyway.
Skull Collector is a sweet little card you can put in any black deck you have that has some want for value. It can win fights, it can brawl with creatures its own cost and even a bit higher, and it lets you reload creature cards. It’s a great card and I wish I had a home for it.