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Insider: Scouring Scourge

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Scourge, the last set in the Onslaught block, is known more for its spells than its creatures. While Scourge did push the limits on what monsters can do, it is notorious for unleashing the Storm mechanic on Magic, changing every set that it touched. Scourge also had a heavy Dragons theme, with cards like Day of the Dragons and Form of the Dragon. This made it a clear fan favorite, and though the aforementioned cards aren't worth anything, they're great fun and full of flavor. But we're not here for flavor, we're here for cash, so let's take a look at the cards in Scourge that are worth a bit of money!

Ambush Commander

Ambush Commander is the Elf answer to Siege-Gang Commander. It lacks a lot of the board impact of the Goblin, but it can amplify any elf effects that count the number of creatures. Look to Alpha Status in the same set or reach for Timberwatch Elves to see the benefit of making five or more Forests count as elves. Though it doesn't see play in competitive Legacy elves decks, the Ambush Commander is interesting enough to pop up in casual decks.

$1.25

Bladewing the Risen

Kai Budde played a Buried Alive deck at one point that would bin Rorix Bladewing, this card, and Bladewing's Thrall. A reanimation spell on The Risen and you'd have 13 power worth of guys the next turn; pretty strong for the time! Bladewing the Risen still gets a bit of attention because he's a dragon that can immediately impact the board; when he pulls something back, there might be no getting back from it. You can handle one dragon, but two is a different story...$2.50Brain FreezeThe Big Freeze is the main kill condition in a lot of Storm decks because it can be fetched with Merchant Scroll and Cunning Wish. It may seem like getting up to fifteen spells requires a lot of work, but with cards like High Tide and Time Spiral fueling the madness, this gets lethal pretty quickly. On top of that, because Brain Freeze is so cheap to cast, it's not that hard to cast two at about eight storm and win as well. This is an uncommon to dig up and hold on to, they trade very well.$2.00Call to the GraveThe Abyss this is not, but it may be better. Zombie decks are kind of hard to peg because they aren't all that aggressive, and you have to notice cards like Call to see that they should probably be grinding, attrition-based decks. Call to the Grave sits out indefinitely if you have but one Zombie in play, giving you a lot of power in casual games. On top of that, it's not an Enchant World like The Abyss is, so you can have two of them out at the same time! How sick! That this card holds much value is proof that Zombies are a fan-favorite tribe, and Call is good enough to show up in non-Zombie decks, too.$2.50Daru WarchiefDaru Warchief, at this point, is a known power uncommon – people are willing to pay far and above bulk rare prices for it. The Chief, however, was a great example of an early card that you would easily dismiss if nobody told you what it went for. The fact is that soldier decks are popular enough to warrant seeking out lords for them, and the Warchief is a decent lord. It's no Veteran Armorsmith, but it does give Holy Strength to each Soldier you make with your Mobilization. I remember several people being awed that the Warchief is worth anything, as if they, just then, realized that casual players have money and want thematic cards for their decks. Go through your boxes of Scourge and take a look for this guy; it's worth a glance.$2.00Dawn ElementalI only remember this being played in monowhite control decks, since its casting cost is... exacting. Dawn Elemental is sort of like Commander Eesha in that it effectively acts as a wall, directing damage from attackers onto other players in multiplayer formats. People also like to get cute with it by putting Pariah and the like on it. Four white mana, though, keeps it out of all but the most dedicated decks.$1.25Decree of JusticeThe Decrees took cycling benefits and brought them even further, presenting cards that you might not want to pay full cost for if you had the option. For example, you could blow up everything with Decree of Annihilation, but if you just wanted an Armageddon and a card to go with it, you could have that at a discount. Decree of Justice was similar because it offered two choices: you can dump ten mana into it in your main phase and get three angels (three angels!) or you could wait until the opponent's endstep and get seven soldiers, a card, and an uncounterable effect. Almost always, people chose the second option (unless Mirari's Wake was on the table...). DoJ is so good that people ran it in Vintage control decks, since it made a fine token producer and people, at that time, could win a Vintage game with just three Soldier tokens. Mana Draining into the thing is the bee's knees, by the way.$2.50Decree of PainSo we go from a tournament all-star, a solid white token maker that creates your variety of kill conditions, to a black Wrath effect that was so bad, so overcosted, that it wasn't played in Block. And that black spell costs more money than the white spell. Why? In Commander, hitting the mana required to hardcast Decree of Pain is as simple as having Gilded Lotus or a High Market active for awhile. When you fire it off, you draw twenty or more cards in some instances. Decree is light on the colored mana requirements – Cruel Ultimatum it is not – and gives you a solid chance of winning the game. Where most people cycled DoJ, most people hardcast this card. It's so powerful and easily-splashed that folks want it for their EDH stacks, which drives up the price.$3.25Dragon TyrantDragon Tyrant derives a lot of its value from being really, really cute with Sneak Attack and Through the Breach. That double strike damage adds up if you can make it firebreathe for a turn or two.$2.00Dragonspeaker Shaman
A lot of players have Dragon decks, and in them, they pack many different kinds of winged lizards. However, the central problem with a deck full of dragons is that you don't have much to do before turn 6. Dragonspeaker Shaman makes all those fatties come out to play much earlier in the game. Where you might have a dozen different dragons in a dozen different dragon decks, all of them play this red accelerator. The thought of having two out and landing Shivan Dragon for RR is exciting, after all.

$2.00

Dragonstorm

When it was printed, Dragonstorm looked like a bit of a joke. When are you going to cast this for more than one copy? Red at that time had no Rite of Flame, no Seething Song, no Desparate Ritual. The best Dragon to summon with it was Rorix Bladewing, and that guy is Legendary! Along came the aforementioned accelerators, along with Bogardan Hellkite and a reprinting in Time Spiral, and that pushed Dragonstorm all the way to the top. One now needed only three spells before the Dragonstorm to go lethal, so it was elementary to ramp the mana for it. Other players used Spinerock Knoll and burn spells to cast the expensive Storm spell, which resulted in four or more Dragons hitting the field and a lot of fire flying around.

$1.75

Eternal Dragon

I like the Dragon a lot, primarily because he can nab dual lands. He was part of some misguided monowhite Legacy control decks, but it has rightfully been sent to the casual field at this point. Later in the game, it just comes back over and over for the most expensive Ivory Gargoyle you could think of. Eternal Dragon is just a great example of a card that you want to cycle early on and actually cast when you have the resources.

$3.50

Forgotten Ancient

Many moons ago, Wizards ran some you-design-it card contests. This was the first to be made, and it has proved a fan favorite. Like Quirion Dryad, it grows with spells, but this grows a lot faster and it can make a lowly Birds of Paradise into a giant flying threat. Players also helped design Crucible of Worlds, but Vanish from Memory is roundly terrible, and I don't fault Wizards for taking a break from asking for fan contributions. The Ancient is eminently splashable, so he shows up in a lot of casual decks.

$1.75

Goblin Warchief

Goblins, as a modern competitive deck, is possible only because of this creature. It makes Goblin Matron a playable card and pushes Goblin Piledriver over the line on power level. It costs about as much as Daru Warchief, even though it's much more playable. I think the reason for this is that people know that the Warchief is worth money, so they are more likely to pull it out of boxes that they are looking through. Make sense?

$2.25

Raven Guild Master

Did you know this junk is worth money? People love their milling effects! Sure, I see the surprise of unmorphing it, but do you think someone will neglect to block it later?

Full disclosure, I have lost drafts to people pairing this with Crafty Pathmage.

$2.75

Sliver Overlord

Of all the Sliver legends, this is probably the best Commander. Paired with things that can change creature types, you can take opponents' creatures with it. It also usually wins in a fight against another Sliver EDH deck that doesn't have ready access to it. The Overlord got reprinted in the all-foil Slivers set, but that set sold poorly and there are not many copies of the reprint floating around. That makes Sliver Overlord still worth a pretty good deal.

$4.75

Stifle

Man, am I miffed that they haven't reprinted this card again. Stifle is a solid anti-fetchland card, though it's rare that you want to blow a Stifle on anything less. It also shuts down Storm triggers, which is highly relevant. That Stifle remains so expensive with having only a marginal playability in Legacy boggles me.

$10.75

Sulfuric Vortex

Red has few answers to lifegain and even fewer card drawing solutions. What do you do when the opponent stops that last bit of burn and stabilizes? Sulfuric Vortex has been a reliable answer, sort of a reverse Howling Mine that lets you draw a Shock every turn. It shows up in Zoo and Burn decks all over and really frustrates an opponent who hasn't planned for it.

$1.00

Tendrils of Agony

Tendrils is the banner Storm kill spell and revolutionized Vintage when it was printed. Previous combo decks like Academy relied on getting sixty or so blue mana and then casting Braingeyser (which was restricted!) to deck the opponent. This led to all sorts of goofy restricted cards like Hurkyl's Recall – can you believe that used to be considered too powerful? Now, all you had to do was make nine spells, which was easy to do when half of them were Dark Rituals and Yawgmoth's Will gave you double the castings. Will was powerful before Scourge, but the ability to Xerox your spell count was what made it ridiculous. Some decks, like the Standard deck called DNA, used Tendrils without any Black mana in the deck, just to cast it through the Mind's Desires. Tendrils is just that good.

$1.00

Undead Warchief

Like Soldiers, Zombies need a Warchief and this is the most aggressive one that they have. Zombies tend to cost more mana, too, so this is useful addition to their collection.

$1.75

Wirewood Symbiote

This little bug is the center of many near-infinite mana combos with Elf decks. It bounces Elves to make new bugs with Wirewood Hivemaster, it untaps your Priest of Titania to make more mana, and it keeps people back for blocking after an attack. It makes the deck hum and I'm grumpy about its existence because I kind of disrespect Legacy elf decks without cause.

$1.75

Xantid Swarm

As if Storm wasn't already a great way to beat decks with counters, Scourge gave Vintage a way to shut down all the counters that a combo deck could expect. They're often referred to as “bees,” leading to the aftereffect of a Swarm attack being called “covered in bees!,” a reference to an old Eddie Izzard joke. It's about all the humor you can muster when you're looking at a dead Force of Will and the opponent just resolved Yawgmoth's Bargain.

$1.50

Scourge might as well have been called Storm because that's been its long-lasting effect on the game. Just about none of the Storm spells were fun to play against because people could orient their decks to get the most out of the storm copies. Even getting nailed with five copies of Temporal Fissure was a total kick in the junk. What were your favorite cards from Scourge? What have you traded from the set recently? Post your response below!

Next week, we look at Mirrodin, a block that nearly killed Magic. Seriously.

Until then,

Doug Linn

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