Too Rare or Not Too Rare, That is the Question

Alas poor Darksteel, I knew him Horatio...

As we begin the second block with the Mythic Rarity included into the game of Magic, it’s time to take a look and see how’s it been so far and how’s it going into Zendikar block. It’s been a source of controversy and a source of tension between developers and players.

MaRo first announced the Mythic rarity June 02, 2008. What most players remember is this quote:

This now leads us to the next question: How are cards split between rare and mythic rare? Or more to the point, what kind of cards are going to become mythic rares? We want the flavor of mythic rare to be something that feels very special and unique. Generally speaking we expect that to mean cards like Planeswalkers, most legends, and epic-feeling creatures and spells. They will not just be a list of each set’s most powerful tournament-level cards.

And from Aaron Forsythe’s Twitter account in the past few weeks here:

My definition of mythic rare: cards that are jaw-dropping to some part of the audience.

And here:

The mythic definition should be broad, not “planeswalkers + cards that aren’t very good.”

By taking these two definitions (Epic-feeling creatures/spells, non-staples/most powerful tournament, jaw-dropping), let’s take a look back at what’s been printed so far and how they fair to these definitions. But to make one more definition of our own: What is a staple card? Cards that are staples can be used in a variety of decks, not a very narrow deck that is very good. Staple cards include: Cryptic Command, Tarmogoyf, Bitterblossom, Reflecting Pool. Non-staple cards are Mistblind Clique, Doran the Siege Tower, Arcbound Ravager.

Shards of Alara

Besides the Planeswalkers (which are accepted as Mythic rarity) the only card that has seen some tournament play has been Rafiq of the Many. As the first set with Mythics, this was going to be our first look as players of how Mythics are going to play out. There are some over-costed bombs (Prince of Thralls), but nothing that makes players feel threatened by this new rarity.


One Planeswalker, but most of the other cards don’t feel “Epic.” Progenitus feels mythic but most don’t (Mirror-Sigil Sargeant? Thornling, a Green Morphling that was going to get hosed with M10 rules?) While Coflux (the card) is powerful but not cost efficient enough to see serious play. Some of the cards would make sense at Rare, they don’t feel as a stretch as Mythic. The rarity is called into question as why Wizards is doing this.

Alara Reborn

Now the Mythic rarity gets some identity. There’s one card that looked like it was going to be $20 but never reached it (Jenara, Asura of War), but most of the cards seemed powerful and epic (Maelstrom Nexus, Lord of Extintion, Sen Triplets) which was what the Mythic Rarity was supposed to be. Everyone has happy that Malestrom Pulse wasn’t mythic as it would then be called a “Money grab.”

Magic 2010

The obvious planeswalkers here, and a few reprints that make sense at Mythic rarity (Darksteel Colossus, Plantinum Angel and Time Warp (Getting to take a turn without drawbacks? Mythic). Now, a few of the new cards are borderline at Mythic (Master of the Wild Hunt?), but there’s one card that people think about with M10 Mythics: Baneslayer Angel. But is Baneslayer Angel a bad Mythic card?

At the moment, it’s currently being played in various decks and seen as a finisher (creature to finish the game like Psychatog and Meloku the Clouded Mirror). But, it’s seen as a control finisher and doesn’t see play in combo and aggro decks (but maybe mono-White aggro). Out of 50 Mythics (15 for Shards and M10 and 10 for Conflux and Reborn), only one non-reprint has been valued over $20. So, while Baneslayer is a tournament viable card, it isn’t a card that every deck has to have (a non-staple). While there have been gripes that it was a mistake to print this at Mythic, I don’t think so.

I'm a Mythic! Wait a minute, what?
I’m a Mythic! Wait a minute, what?


Out of the cards spoiled, several non-planeswalkers look like their tournament playable: Felidar Sovereign, Goblin Instigator, Lotus Cobra, Mindbreak Trap (in Older Formats), and Ob Nixilis the Fallen. From those, there seems to be three candidates to break more than $10: Goblin Instigator, Lotus Cobra and Mindbreak Trap.

Before I get into what I think about these, let me get to the tweets that I received about this whole Mythic thing. I asked for player’s opinions, and got it. Not to throw gas onto the fire, no Lotus Cobra discussion. Here’s what they said:

Warren Instigator should NOT be Mythic. See: – @mtgsalivanth

I think that Mythic Rarity should be reserved for legendary creatures and planeswalkers only as they are beings of myth/lore – @Mindmage

It seems WotC can’t make their minds up on whether some cards are mythic for flavour or power reasons. Sends confusing signals. – @DeckConstruct (It’s ok for that spelling of “flavor,” he’s British)

I guess nowadays money-rares are mythics. There’s no flavor involved in the decision anymore. Just the desire to sell boosters. – @TheMiseDotCom

Mythics should feel epic and world-important. Warren Instigator doesn’t do that for me. – @two_eyes

My thought: If they are going to make 2-mana mythics like LC and WI, they might as well make them legendary. – @norbert88

Besides #Lotuscobra? #Baneslayerangel >< – @baconhax

We’ve all heard the “Wizards is a business trying to make money” argument so I’m not going to re-hash that here. Wizards is still in the infancy of what that Mythic mechanic is going to be. Remember when they first introduced equipment? There was some play about how to deal with this new thing (and something really broken *Cough* Skullclamp/Jitte *Cough*) But since then there have been powerful equipments but nothing really insane. Once Wizards fits into the comfortable slot with this new rarity I think we’ll get more “Mythic” type cards.

Mtgsalivanth has argued that Warren Instigator shouldn’t be Mythic. It’s not staple card (It’s only going to be used in mostly Extended and Legacy Goblin decks) so that’s the only thing it’s got going for it to be in the Mythic rarity (It’s not legendary, and not all that flavorful). Mindbreak Trap is also a card will see more play in Eternal formats, is also mythic. It exile all spells which is a powerful effect, so yes, it can be Mythic (sorry guys).

I wanted the Twitters not to give me their impression about Lotus Cobra. Most everyone I’ve run to on Twitter thinks it shouldn’t be Mythic. Sure, it’s a very good card and it does make jaws drop when people see it, but does it need to be more rare then rare? People are arguing it After Baneslayer, players are looking at Mythic as a money grab, when they did when the rarity was first announced. When Zendikar gets released, we’ll have two cards that push over $20; Baneslayer and Lotus Cobra.

2 out of 65 cards have a higher than Jackson value (For non-US readers, a Jackson is the face of the $20 bill). Foils of Mindbreak Trap will be much more valuable since Eternal love them shinnies and the price of regulars will drop, and only a subset of players will eat up Warren Instigator if it will see play along Goblin Lackey or if not at all. Of course I’m nor here to speculate prices (Quiet Speculation is), but it is one of the qualifiers of it being a staple card (the more popular and more play it sees, the higher the price.

Is Lotus Cobra a staple? Ask me again in a month and a half. It’s a good card, but it has to be one of those cards that has to work with other cards to be effective. All the mana in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t have anything to do with it.

I think at the moment that the Mythic rarity is doing just fine. In the beginning of this experiment it’s getting mixed results. People have complained that their not powerful enough, and when Wizards pushes it people complain. If they were really going for a money grab, Day of Judgment would be Mythic. Instead, it’s the release day promo, trying to get copies out there. Everyone calm down and breathe, it’s going to be alright.

Before I go, I want to post what one more tweeter sent me:

planeswalkers were supposed to be in Time Spiral [Block, Future Sight set] – were mythic rares? what the heck would that have done to Goyf? – @wrongwaygoback

I, um, a, that’s a topic for a different post.


9 thoughts on “Too Rare or Not Too Rare, That is the Question”

  1. /facepalm
    Changed. I’m so used to carrying around Benjamins and letting them keep the change that I forget who’s on what bill. I thought I knew it without looking it up. Sigh.

    Sure, Elspeth goes over $20 sometimes, I’ll give you that. I forgot that a planeswalker might go over that after Garruk.

  2. The argument, “if it was a money grab, Day of Judgment would be mythic” doesn’t work. They could make all tournament viable cards rare or mythic rare, which they pretty much did in Zendikar, but that is a bit over the top. A money grab doesn’t imply a black and white “let’s do everything possible to make this set worth millions” or “let’s not try to make money at all.” They can simply add more tournament level cards than usual in the mythic slot to make some more money.

    If Wizards decided to do something completely stupid to make money, like make Day of Judgment a mythic, that decision could easily backfire. People will get upset if the game gets too expensive to play and they will lose their audience.

    In fact, this has happened from the start. I have never been able to afford $20 cards, so I didn’t get my cursed scrolls and mox diamonds. The result was that I didn’t play much Magic for several years. The decision to play Standard is not an easy one to make and some people I know just stick to draft and sealed.

  3. Other than for flavor, the best use of Mythics I’ve noticed is further pushing cards out of a Limited pool that are either better played in other environments or too game breaking for Limited. Lotus Cobra has a lot of potential in Constructed, but in limited its generally a chump blocker.

    Mythic status doesn’t mean these cards are hard to get, it just returns some cards back to the scarcity all rares had in the larger sets of old (pre-2003) and increases the frequency of the janky bombs of limited (World Queller!) — or at least in my perfect view of the world, this would be truth.

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