One aspect of spoiler season I love is that there are hundreds of cards and none of their futures are yet written. Nobody has played these cards in a tournament, and it’s anybody’s guess as to which ones have a bright future and which are bound for bulk bins.
#MTGRNA has tons of cards I’m excited to play. So many, in fact, that it seems unlikely that they will all pan out as Constructed staples. BO1 has opened up more space for cards to serve a role, but inevitably some cards will flop.
The relationship between initial hype and eventual fizzle led me to today’s topic: the 10 most infamous flops from previous Ravnica sets. Expect a fun stroll down nostalgia lane, but it’s also a deeper look at why we misevaluate cards and how you can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
Not All of Ravnica is Golden
Ravnica is one of my favorite planes in Magic (second only to Dominaria). It’s always a treat to Return to the place where the mana fixing is abundant and the spells are made of gold!
With that being said, there have been several notorious duds. Well, perhaps notorious is an overstatement since most of these spells ended up being forgettable. Hopefully, you didn’t get suckered in by too many cards on this list, but if you did, at least it makes a good story.
#10. Progenitor Mimic – Dragon’s Maze
Dragon’s Maze was a straightforward set and it had way more hidden gems than let downs. The set had fewer opportunities to stake a claim to fool’s gold than others.
It can at least copy a card that does not suck? I guess?
I thought this card had serious applications. I had visions of producing Thragtusk and Acidic Slime tokens. In reality, it got countered or stolen by Olivia. Is there any metric by which this was a better 6-drop than Aetherling?
Why it flopped: Progenitor Mimic was a “bad something else.” In this case, Aetherling.
#9. Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind – Guildpact
Niv-Mizzet is another personal one. Right down to the flavor text, this card spoke to an aspect of playing Magic that I enjoy. It may be the “best” card on my list since it had some success in Commander paired with Ophidian Eye.
As far as Constructed results, let’s say I spent a lot of time hooked on U/R Snow control decks…
“Say hello to my little friend!”
I had a problem.
Why it flopped: Let me count the ways… it lacked support and did not fit into the established Izzet decks, Magnivore, or Tron. There were lots of great removal spells (Putrefy and Mortify). Also, Remand.
#8. Lyzolda, the Blood Witch – Dissension
Lyzolda rightfully got a lot of hype. Even after a decade of significant power creep I would windmill slam this card in a Draft.
In fact, it was even more powerful in its day because combat damage still used the stack, which potentially turned creatures into 3-for-1s. Not to mention, you could use the ability to sacrifice creatures to keep an opponent from getting Jitte counters.
Why it flopped: Context! The “hellbent” mechanic was terrible, which meant the card didn’t get a lot of solid support. A mechanic that provides marginal upside for running yourself out of options? No thanks. The card did have applications against Jitte but ultimately R/B was not the best Jitte deck and 1-toughness creatures were a big “no-no.”
#7. Armada Wurm – Return to Ravnica
I’ll confess—I speculated on this card and that store credit is dust in the wind.
“Open a can of wurms.”
Why it flopped: Context. I can do this or I can play Thragtusk. Also, once Lifebane Zombie became a thing there was basically zero reason to try to make this dream happen. Despite power creep, I think this card would have made a bigger impact in current Standard than it did in RTR.
#6. Plague Boiler – Ravnica
Sickly, feeble tech.
The similarities are purely cosmetic: Golgari sweepers. In practice, Boiler is slow, mana intensive, and doesn’t immediately impact the board in most situations. Slow and clunky are not hallmarks of great cards.
Why it flopped: Plague Boiler fell into the trap of being “the new X.” In this case, Pernicious Deed. People remembered how much success they had playing Deed and wanted to replicate it with a similar card. The problem was that this card was many levels worse.
#5. Duskmantle Seer – Gatecrash
A lot of people paid $10+ for Duskmantle Seers that never panned out.
I seer potential.
It’s a very good rate for what you get. A 4/4 flyer that gives you a Dark Confidant flip was pushed. It hits hard, blocks well, and draws cards! How do I lose?
Why it flopped: Context. It didn’t have a good deck to go into in a golden age of really busted decks. If a strong card didn’t have a great deck it was unplayable. Thragtusk Jund, Mono-Blue, Sphinx’s Rev, Pack Rat, Aristocrats, Birthing Pod, Twin, and Mono-Red are all examples of decks that floated around in this era. Would you want to tap out for a 4/4 on 4 against any of those decks? Neither did anybody else.
#4. Lotleth Troll – Return to Ravnica
If you are a regular reader of my content you know that I’ve got a crush on Lotleth Troll. It’s my white whale. The card is so cool and has great stats.
“It’s only good ‘in your head, in your head, zombie… zombie…’”
I’m stubborn about certain things and one of them is this card. I just cannot believe it is as bad as its lot-leth in life suggests. I feel like Tim describing the killer rabbit when I talk about it:
“He’s got huge, sharp– eh– he can leap about– look at the bones!”
Seriously, look at the stats, typing, and potential for enabling graveyard strategies! How is this card so bad!?
Why it flopped: 100% variance. The card is amazing but everybody who plays it can get unlucky every single time.
3. Rakdos Augermage – Dissension
People paid a lot of money for the privilege of playing with one of the most overhyped cards I’ve ever seen.
“Great flavor. Playing with this card makes me want to drill my own brain out.”
The card is so bad. I don’t even know what else to say. You pay 3 mana and wait a turn. Then you tap it. You discard a card of their choice. They discard a card of your choice. Sorcery speed.
I remember thinking to myself as I shuffled my Niv-Mizzet deck: “These people have no idea how to evaluate cards.”
Why it flopped: Because it was bad.
#2. Dimir Cutpurse – Ravnica
I’ve got a soft spot for Cutpurse. I played it at the first Pro Tour I ever qualified for. I somehow failed to make Day 2. Variance.
I randomly qualified by winning an Extended PTQ and played zero Standard at the time (I almost conceded for the box in the finals). One of my friends built me a brew (I specified I wanted to play Cutpurse). I playtested zero games. Basically, I wanted to go to the beach and trade for Japanese foils.
What a time to be alive!
With that being said, Cutpurse looked like it would be an outstanding Constructed card. I mean, Ophidian was a format defining staple and Cutpurse is strictly better. It has a discard ability and it deals damage.
Why it flopped: Magic changes. I talked about Plague Boiler as a weak Pernicious Deed reprint. Dimir Cutpurse, on the other hand, is a better Ophidian (which was a great card!). Protecting a 3-mana 2/2 and trying to play draw-go was not what the game or the format was about. Shadowmage Infiltrator wasn’t good, so I’m not sure what led people to believe Cutpurse would be different.
#1. Gideon, Champion of Justice – Gatecrash
When it comes to the biggest flops of all time, Gideon, Champion of Justice is like LeBron James and Sidney Crosby rolled into one. If you are thinking that I’m just jealous those players are not on a Detroit team, then you would be correct.
I was lucky enough to crack a foil Gideon at the Gatecrash prerelease and could not wait to sell it. It was $75 of pure hype. Gideon was not a card I had much interest in but people really seemed to be excited about it at the time.
What’s in a name?
You play it. It does nothing. It gets attacked to death.
Why did it flop: It flopped because it stunk. The better question is: why was it so hyped? A combination of factors: Jace, Architect of Thought blew up in value upon release and chase ‘walkers had big price tags at the time. The previous Gideon was also insanely good. I think people just assumed that it had to be good. What a recipe for a flop!
I skipped Guilds flops. While there are some that started hot and have faded there is still time for them to leave their mark. Are there any GRN or RNA cards you believe will end their careers as all-time Ravnica duds? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Also, if there are any Ravnica cards you believe deserve to be added to the list that I’ve overlooked or forgotten, I’d love to hear about it.
Ravnica is great, but for every DRS, Sphinx’s Rev, or Bob there are cards that looked appealing but quickly dropped off. With that being said, I clearly have not learned my lesson from today’s cautionary tale, because all I want to do is build Hydroid Krasis decks for MTGA! I hope the card is as good as I think it is, because otherwise it’s going to be a long year.