Welcome back! We're finishing up Odyssey this week, leading into exploring the rest of the block for hidden gems. There's nothing like finding a dollar hiding in your junk rare box! Let's take a look at the remaining half of Odyssey!
Odyssey had a lot of bird themes to it that are still popular. The idea was that sentient birds, organized militaristically, formed a strong white tribe with some interesting legends. Kirtar was one of the first that we met; he's got a lot of cool things going for him. First, he's a cheap flier. He's also a legend, which is pretty neat in itself and relevant in EDH. Finally, he has a really good multiplayer ability that says “bother someone else!” He doesn't even have to hold back to block to make it work. He's moderately in-demand for EDH purposes.
Fun fact: Mirari was the first card to reference The Stack by name. Mirari is really, really cool. It sounds trite to write it, but it's true – for casual play, Mirari makes things way fun. Small, early spells get a big upgrade with the orb on the table. A Lightning Bolt knocks out two creatures, a Rampant Growth gets another land, and even bigger spells like Reap and Sow or Fact or Fiction get more intense.
Mirari was a critical card in Monoblack Control (MBC), which first seriously made an appearance with Odyssey. It was powered by Cabal Coffers and the deck ran a single Mirari to get with Diabolic Tutor. The Legendary artifact let a player double-up their Belbe, Corrupted Observer or Duress, and it effectively negated counterspells from the opponent. Mirari hasn't seen much play outside of that deck, but it did get played in the Mirari's Wake deck from ODY/ONS Standard. That deck used Mirari very creatively – it would cast Cunning Wish and then double it. The first copy would get Elephant Ambush and the second copy would get a used Cunning Wish (this was back when Wishes were much better). You'd cast that Ambush, then flash it back, copying all the time. You could Cunning Wish for it back again if you needed it, which let you access the Ambush infinitely (by looping Wishes into each other). Wake became the just-before-it-all-rotates best deck of the format, but more about Wake when we get to Judgement!
Mirari has been reprinted in FTV: Relics and it's been Timeshifted. That dropped its price from about $5 to where it is right now. With how fun Mirari is, and how iconic the card is, I'm surprised that Wizards hasn't made more of the intellectual property.
Mort is a ridiculous monster when it comes down later in the game. It counts all graveyards, which should hint to you how good it is in multiplayer. It can even escape a lot of removal, thanks to its regeneraton. It's not uncommon for this to hit as a 9/9 or bigger. It seems giant, undercosted monsters are par for the Lhurgoyf tribe!
There was a time when Nimble Mongoose was a true power uncommon. It could come down and evade any removal the opponent had. It could easily grow to 3/3 or larger and then get aggressive. The Goose saw a bit of play in Legacy, but since Threshold decks transformed into Counterbalance decks, they didn't have room for this animal. You see it pop up now and then, but its power has waned.
There may be better creatures, but none is more notorious than Psychatog. Some of our readers have never had to deal with Tog, so let me explain a little of it. A card in your hand is worth 1.5 damage, since you can remove the card that you pitched. If that card is a Deep Analysis, you even get some value. The raw conversion of cards to damage meant that all you had to do was cast spells and draw more cards. Fact or Fiction turns into a direct-damage spell. Against aggro decks, Tog was Magus of the Abyss, since you could consistently pump Tog to be bigger than the other guy's monsters.
In Standard, Tog comboed with Grave Upheaval to devastating effect, and here's how it worked. Tog would do its draw cards, kill dudes plan. When it started the turn with nine mana, it would float all of it, then cast Grave Upheaval and replay a land. Tog could then play its Psychatog and hold up a Force Spike to stop any opposing creatures. With seven cards in hand and a packed graveyard, Tog would typically kill the turn after. Grave Upheaval-Tog decks were mechanical in how consistent they were. You had to win before they made those nine land drops or else you would be unable to stop The Heave.
In Vintage, Psychatog was the basis for one of my favorite decks, Hulk Built to Smash (or, you know, Tog...). It was the first truly modern Vintage deck. You'd Mana Drain whatever the opponent did on the second or third turn, then Artificer's Intuition for Accumulated Knowledge (which is convenient, because the other copy may already be in hand). You'd draw three or seven cards, then drop Tog. Cunning Wish for Aerathi Berserker could get your Tog over anything in its path.
Psychatog has failed to make any impact on Legacy and it's been outclassed by Tarmogoyf, but for years on end, it was a terrifying deck to play against. Never before or since have we seen a card that so directly connects drawing cards with a straight-up kill. Since it's unplayed, Tog's price has dropped a lot since its height. It's still worth fishing out of bins, though.
Jon Finkel won the Invitational and designed this card. All the pros designed over-the-top card advantage monsters, and I'm surprised that Finkel made it to print like this. He'd often get paired with Tog in Standard and he fueled a lot of control decks. It's not seen a lot of play since Standard, but the Ophidian upgrade is beloved among players.
Though Deranged Hermit did a lot for squirrel-mania, Odyssey fed into it like nothing before. Squirrel Mob isn't exactly a spectacular creature – it doesn't even have trample. It needs another Squirrel to be a Trained Armodon. However, for the more-is-more crowd who love the little fuzzy mammals, having a 9/9 squirrel is superb.
$3.75 (can you believe that? I know!)
Thank goodness that this is an uncommon, otherwise it would be super-expensive, all because of the creature type it makes. Squirrel Nest saw legit play alongside Opposition, which is a pretty easy combo to figure out. If there were ever a card to dig out of your boxes, this is the one to check for. Players love to trade for this card and it's even pretty sharp in EDH, turning a land into a pseudo- Maze of Ith.
This is the unlikely power-uncommon in Odyssey, driven this high because of how good Merfolk is in Legacy. Here's my one-minute play tip: the best way to deal with Standstill if the opponent isn't pressuring you is to wait until they have a full hand and break it during their endstep. That way, the opponent only filters through cards, instead of getting an Ancestral Recall.
Pick through boxes for Standstill; look in friends' collections, scour stores, check for your extras. This thing is pricey indeed.
It's no Demonic Tutor, but Tainted Pact is an Instant. I like to view it as an Act on Impulse, unless you play Highlander formats – then it's an incredible Demonic Consultation. If you play it, I suggest splitting basic lands half-and-half with Snow-Covered copies to diminish the chances of whiffing on Pact.
Citadel gets a little bit of play in Canal Dredger, since it makes rainbow mana and doesn't go away like Gemstone Mine. Tapping it twice is a total bummer, but at least it makes colorless mana if you need it to.
Again with the giant Lhurgoyfs! Terravore tramples and munches everyone's land. It was part of a truly goofy Extended deck named CAL, which used Life from the Loam and Seismic Assault, along with the 'Vore, to make big monsters with a perpetuating card engine. It's moderately popular in Legacy, too. At one point, it hit $20, but now it's settled down... a little.
When it comes to big EDH spells, there's no bigger abuser than The Stretch. Adrix and Nev, Twincasters, Mirari, and Echo Mage love the card, but beware: Time Stretch targets. Punish that player with Shunt or Wild Ricochet!
Though I spoke at length about Grave Upheaval above with 'Tog, it's worth looking at a little more. 4UU is not a lot to pay for a universal Boomerang. Grave Upheaval has a lot in common with Balance because it looks fair, but you can build around it by floating mana, running artifact Signets, and more.
What a great combination of two great tribes! This card has a really simple design to it. Unlike most “growing” Vampire cards like Baron Sengir or Sengir Vampire, you might actually get to put more counters on this Dragon. Good design, for sure. I'll put it out there that pumping this guy up is probably irrelevant to actually winning, but it's too much fun to machine-gun your opponent's Saprolings and swing over with a huge beater.
This card typically sees play alongside something that gives you a little extra when you activate it. For example, it saw play in Benzo, a Reanimator deck that could also use Buried Alive to put three Squee, Goblin Nabob into the graveyard. Two free 2/2s per turn and a discard outlet for big beasties, to boot! The Enchantment also saw play in Standard with Grave Upheaval in a deck called UZI. You would Grave Upheaval and then discard the bounced cards to the Blowfly Infestationation, making a good attacking army. It was never as powerful as Tog, but it was often good enough on the back of Grave Upheaval. Zombie Infestation is casually popular for Zombie tribal decks, turning spare drawn lands into more undead shamblers.
Though Odyssey lacks many strong tournament cards, it has a lot of casual hits, including Squirrels. Next week, we'll get into Blitzwing, Cruel Tormentor // Blitzwing, Adaptive Assailant, a purposely designed set to be full of Black cards. I look forward to talking about Blitzwing, Cruel Tormentor // Blitzwing, Adaptive Assailant with you and what it means for set design, next week!