o where do we begin? The beginning of course!
The first really legitimate victory for a hybrid mana cost belongs to Katsu Mori and his Selesnya Guildmages. Of the first crop of hybrid mana cards, Selesnya Guildmage was the first, and I think ended up in first position, ultimately, as well.
Selesnya Guildmage was a one-man army. It was the kind of card you could peel in a topdeck situation, after a Wrath of God or two had been spent, and could go on to dominate a control player like a Warrior Princess Defiant Hero of old stuffed up your sleeve. If not for the next great hybrid card from the first crop, I'd say that Selesnya Guildmage was the best of the transformative hybrids, too. Who can forget how Billy Moreno sidestepped the "my dad is bigger than your dad" wars of Honolulu, when one man would go Loxodon Hierarch, the next would go Rumbling Slum, and the next after that would slam down Hunted Wumpus (all while the Ghost Council players rubbed their oily hands together like hungry flies before a rotting husk of left-out watermelon)? Billy actually downgraded his main deck offense a little so that he could flip Zoo into Glare of Subdual, then tapped everybody, tapped Hierarch, tapped Rumbling Slum (ha!), tapped Wumpus (ha ha!), even ended up tapping Ghost Council on his way to the virtual Top 8 in the last round.
Of the Ravnica block hybrid mana cards, Selesnya Guildmage was taps... err... tops.
Of course you'll have your dissenters. Each and every one would vote for the so-called Cap'n Tickles, Giant Solifuge.
won the next
Pro Tour, in the hands of Price is Right human pinball and lovable lush Mark Herberholz. Transformation advocates will quickly point out that in the same Top 8, Osyp Lebedowicz snuck the Solifuges into the sideboard of his blue-red UrzaTron control deck, which wasn't even green.
Yes, yes, Giant Solifuge was good—very good—and more than once, but spotty main deck positioning and a very real toughness liability when played in the abstract kept it from skittering into that top spot. Good show, though; good shows.
As for the rest, here's how I have them:
#3. Debtors' Knell
This was a rough pick. Dovescape was quite solid this year in the Extended fighting, an important Lego in the plastic palace that was built around Enduring Ideal. However that is more or less all Dovescape has ever been. Debtors' Knell has been a minority inclusion in Solar Flare, the top end of many a ponderous attrition deck, and has even played a little Ideal itself.
Most of the rest of the first crop of hybrid cards, by this writer's accounting anyway, were Guildmages. Five, Rakdos Guildmage; Six, Azorius Guildmage; Seven, Gleancrawler (Yes! Really! Wait for it...); Eight, Shadow of Doubt; Nine, Simic Guildmage; Ten, Gruul Guildmage.
People love a Top 10 list.
Hybrid mana was exciting when it first appeared, but as you can see (go back and scour Ravnica on Gatherer yourself if you don't believe me), the actual tournament bombs thinned quickly. Rakdos Guildmage was a legitimate monster, did some damage. Azorius Guildmage peppered very good sideboards hither and thither. Gleancrawler was the source of more than one good story, playing out of supposed position, utilizing that unique special ability in unexpected ways to create unexpected value. Shadow of Doubt was never, in practice, as good as it seemed like it should have been in a world full of Sakura-Tribe Elders, Gifts Ungiven, etc., and so on.
Fast forward a few years, there is no shortage of monster hybrid cards.
Yes, people love a Top 10 list.
For Ravnica, it was hard to find ten cards that were really worth talking about. One or two or four, for sure! Ten was harder. For Shadowmoor, it was impossible to even cut to ten!
In no particular order (save alphabet):
Demigod of Revenge
There is a reason this card was spoiled so early. It sparked so many conversations, so many heated rules disputes. The fact is, Demigod of Revenge is just a flat-out awesome finisher. It is better built for Extended than Rorix Bladewing ever was—red or black big cheats—and has a secondary ability that is just dumbfounding.
Demigod of Revenge is the young Shaquille O'Neal of Shadowmoor. This card is a card that will just come out and crack backboards and hang above the metagame, legs dangling / swinging, with every lesser slice of cardboard, every yellow-striped pretender Magician terrified of what will happen when it drops down and touches table.
Demigod of Revenge is perfectly packaged for a fast offense with Seething Song, but has a built-in final phase of the game, where it acts like a hellbent Demonfire for 5, 10, or even 15 damage.
And it is probably a hell of a blue-black card, too.
This card is not sexy. Yet sexy does not always lead us to the path to victory. Speaking of three-mana black (more or less) enchantments, as there ever been an uglier deck than Dennis Bentley's black-red Necropotence deck from U.S. Nationals 1996?
City of Brass in Necropotence... It's just disgusting. Three copies of Necropotence only. No way to get rid of Necropotence once you're stuck with it. Twelve years later I still don't understand that sideboard. No Pyroblasts to speak of despite a Top 8 painted blue with anti-Necropotence Stasis decks... Did I mention City of Brass yet?
Yet... This ugly, hideous, cumbersome, and utterly versatile deck won the U.S. National Championships through a Top 4 littered with then-top theorist George Baxter and a pair of eventual Pro Tour winners in Mike Long and Matt Place (mana-stifling anti-Necropotence decks all around), main deck Dystopia and all.
So... Everlasting Torment. It doesn't actually finish off the opponent the way Sulfuric Vortex did... but then again, it doesn't demand the use of a separate Flaring Pain, either. It will be interesting to see how this child of Forsaken Wastes and the aforementioned Vortex fits into wider formats with more options at that mana point, but in Standard I just don't see how a Spark Elemental deck can compete with a sideboarded Kitchen Finks without it.
This card is just all around awesome, hell on Faeries at the same time that it is big problems for Kithkin, Goblin tokens, whatever, on the ground. Unlike many powerful red and green global effects, Firespout doesn't hurt you, which is basically exactly what you want in a defensive spell. That combined with an extra point of damage makes the cost very palatable for those capable of producing both colors of mana.
You'll have to wait the better part of a year to see this card really clean house, but when you do, it will be murder and a new lease on life at the same time. Extended, you might be looking at the next Ancient Grudge-level sideboard spell. Live through the early Arcbound Ravager, fight through the snap-click Dovescape, and you have a mess and more, and a tremendous, multidimensional profit on your hands.
If possible, I now think more highly of this card than I did when I wrote the preview article a few weeks ago.
I now believe that Fulminator Mage will be more of a black card in practice, whereas I wrote the preview based largely on Red Deck speculation. A lot of pundits think of Fulminator Mage as either a limited Stone Rain (mediocre or worse on three) or a Grey Ogre (Constructed unplayable at three)... but when laced together in the right format, this card could be the centerpiece of a tournament spoiler, if not winner.
This card is destined to be hands-down one of the most heavily played sideboard cards in recent memory. It basically does to blue what blue does to everyone else, except more cheaply.
This card is destined to be hands-down one of the most heavily played sideboard cards in recent memory. Um... too? Scouting reports from some sectors have Kitchen Finks as main deck playable. It's Loxodon Hierarch (for one less)! It has persist! Persist is powerful! All true. I still don't see this main deck unless the format as a whole shifts to Red Burn or some other similarly beatable beatdown, except that Kitchen Finks is (kind of) in the same colors as Momentary Blink, which makes the persist all the more devastating when it is devastating.
I'm not sure Murderous Radcap is actually better than the legendary Flametongue Kavu, which wiped once-dominant finishers like Blinding Angel right off the metagame map, but it can split damage between multiple targets (by dying and returning), is a more fearless blocker once it is in play, and can go straight to the face when there is no creature in play... so maybe it is.
Murderous Redcap is yet another synergistic weapon that, like often middling cards such as Mogg War Marshal or Keldon Marauders, can be positioned alongside Greater Gargadon to devastating aggregate effect. Like fellow standout Kitchen Finks, it has persist. It can be played without a single red mana. It is a Goblin... and an Assassin!
Oona, Queen of the Fae
Oona is flying right around the Demigod of Revenge from where I'm sitting. Pat Chapin actually made fun of me last week. He liked the persist guys; I liked the big guys. "I like Flametongue Kavu and Loxodon Hierarch," he said. "... You can't really think that every great card is another Rorix or Akroma, can you?" To me, Oona is like Meloku's engine riding around in Keiga's chassis. What more could you want from a giant blue creature? She hits like a Dragon, challenges the attack, and takes notes while she recruits the second string. Oona is offense, defense, information, and speed all in one.
Oversoul of Dusk
Is Oversoul of Dusk the realization of everything Jamie Wakefield ever lobbied for? It's green! He liked green-white as well. It's absolutely huge, a 5/5 for five mana, cheaper than a Dragon for Dragon-sized stats. Well, it doesn't trample. Does it have to? Very little can realistically block it, certainly not a Bitterblossom token. It cannot be stolen by Sower of Temptation, nor smothered by Shriekmaw. This creature seems very good.
Once upon a time there was a whole school of decks based on "untouchable" creatures. In the Dallas Juniors, numerous players went for "untouchable" strategies based around creatures that could not be targeted by spells or effects (a fair number "cheated" and included Wildfire Emissary, who could not be targeted by Swords to Plowshares). Oversoul of Dusk could be the anchor to a modern "untouchable" Standard deck. To begin with, Troll Ascetic is many times better than Jolrael's Centaur. If the 1996 Juniors could cheat with the Plow-proof Emissary, why can't a modern Magician go with the infinitely more impressive Chameleon Colossus? Quagnoth?
Or, you could just lay the Oversoul down in a generally good green deck, not part of any particular team other than winning squad.
Swans of Bryn Argoll
While a creature with the Swans' stats would probably make the grade in some formats, the reason this has actually hit the short list is a particular combination of cards. In case you haven't heard of it, the combo is Seismic Assault + Swans of Bryn Argoll (it works best if you have a Dakmor Salvage in your hand). Just discard a land (your Salvage) to damage your Bird Spirit. That damage is prevented; draw two; with the Salvage, you can always draw a land and net simultaneously; without the Salvage, you can presumably dig to the Salvage. Therefore the three together allow you to draw your own deck... With all those cards, it should be easy to kill the opponent with Seismic Assault.
BDM has a theory that R&D has peppered Shadowmoor with answers for Counterbalance. He initially cited Flame Javelin, the Char the costs six, but really only costs three, to his argument (difficult to counter with Counterbalance), but quickly incorporated Vexing Shusher. Vexing Shusher is going to have an amazing career. It will go in beatdown decks. It will go in combo decks. Either inclusion will prove memorable, quick, and frustrating.
This creature is just all kinds of awesome. Combining the popular Sand Golem with the competitive body of Loxodon Hierarch, Wilt-Leaf Liege threatens to prove a point... Just how big can Kitchen Finks get? What about the second time around?
Wilt-Leaf Liege might be so good that it re-writes how Elf decks get made in Standard, gravitating away from the removal of black to the sheer ferocity of the white combination. The cool thing about Wilt-Leaf Liege is that despite its color commitment, you are not committed to green, or white, or anything. I don't really see it being played off-color, but no matter what, this is a fair Dodecapod.
So, hybrid mana... Still exciting, more exciting than ever. The new cards in Shadowmoor are phenomenally quick, powerful, and strategically frustrating. I can't wait, either.