Cardz of the Week: Colorless Card Drawing

I’m reversing the schedule this week because this article is done and the other one isn’t.  Deal widdit.

Is your deck having a hard time drawing cards?  For the most part, card drawing is limited to blue and black, with a little bit sprinkled here and there in other colors.  White in particular has a very difficult time drawing cards, and Red tends to have to discard as many cards as they draw (though that’s not necessarily a bad thing).  Well, there is help out there, but it can be hard to come by.  There aren’t a lot of card advantage cards with brown (or grey) borders, but here is a list of all of them I can find with my pearls of wisdom scattered throughout.  Enjoy!

A couple notes on rating: these ratings are not meant to be compared to the ratings in this article really.  Rather, they’re a rating of the best cards of this type rather than how good they are across the board in Commander.  Also note that I’m going to exclude most of the old sac-and-cantrip artifacts like Astrolabe and other cards that can do no better than replace themselves, like cycling lands.

The Spellbomb Cycle (e.g. AEther Spellbomb, Nihil Spellbomb) — While these cards do replace themselves at worst, they’re not really card advantage engines.  Some of them are just fine as cards (notably the two listed), but certainly don’t increase the ability of your deck to generate card advantage.  No Rating

Aladdin's Lamp
Have a little more baklava.

Aladdin’s Lamp — For a half-bazillion mana, you can draw an extra card per turn with the added benefit that you get to pick the best one from the top half-bazillion.  This card wouldn’t be too bad if the initial investment wasn’t 10 freakin’ mana.  1/5

Angelheart Vial — I’ve seen this used in some decks to good effect, particularly Ashling the Pilgrim.  If you’re the sort of deck that regularly expects to take damage, this card is probably just fine.  But it only takes getting beat once with a 5/5 to put enough counters on this to last a good long while.  Again, the ability is good but the initial investment of 5 mana is a pricey.  The life gain is probably not all that relevant unless you’re a deck that uses your life as a resource (i.e. Necropotence, etc.)  3/5

Anvil of Bogardan — My hatred for Howling Mine effects is near legendary, and this is no real exception, particularly because you’re giving everybody a Reliquary Tower effect on top of an extra card per turn.  Just because it’s a loot effect doesn’t mean it’s any better.  I could see this going in some deck that wants lots of stuff in its graveyard and needs card advantage — maybe something like Karador, Ghost Chieftain — but for the most part this card is pretty bad.  It comes out early, at least?  2/5

Arcane Spyglass — Commander is the format where the player with the most mana wins, most of the time.  Having to stall your mana curve is not something you want to be doing unless the payoff is really good.  It’s a sizeable initial investment on top of it all, just for the “luxury” of drawing 4 cards over 3 turns.  Bleh.  The one exception is if you’re Azusa, Lost but Seeking and you also have Crucible of Worlds out.  And then it’s actually fanstastic.  1.5/5

Bargaining Table — This is one of those wacky theme-y cards from Mercadian Masques that nobody plays with.  Because they suck.  That’s why nobody plays with them.  If you have to pay more than 2 for this effect, this card is strictly worse than other options on this list and should be left in the junk rare bin.  (I really hate unpredictability in my cards, if you haven’t noticed.)  1.5/5

Barrin’s Codex — Aw yeah.  So much theme goin’ on here.  See, what’s happening is Barrin is like learning stuff and then writing it down in this magical book, right?  And then when he needs the knowledge again, instead of just remembering it, he LIGHTS THE BOOK ON FIRE AND INHALES THE SMOKING KNOWLEDGE!  Or something.  This card is pretty stupid.  I’d love to let somebody get up to like 5 counters with this and then Krosan Grip it, and then drink their little bitch tears.  Eight mana and all the time spent doing fucking nothing is not worth it.  1/5

Bazaar of Baghdad
Just watch out for those WMDs, would ya?

Bazaar of Baghdad — This is a gold standard in Reanimate decks for obvious reasons.  Is it any good in Commander?  I’ve never seen anybody play one, but that’s probably because it costs a million dollars.  It is certainly good in the right deck.  It filters through a lot of your deck and fills the graveyard.  But, like Maze of Ith, I’m not crazy about lands that don’t tap for mana, because of the aforementioned importance of staying ahead of the mana development curve.  Hey, drop $250 and find out for yourself.  2.5/5

Book of Rass — I have to admit this card intrigues me a bit.  While 6 is a lot to spend at the outset, no really good options are around for much less than that.  This can be activated multiple times per turn, and is relatively cheap to do so — 2 and 2 life is not bad.  I’m trying to convince my buddy that plays mono-brown combo that he needs to run this card as he always has 48 mana and nothing to do.  Who cares about losing life if you draw into what wins you the game?  3.5/5

Bottled Cloister — This is another good option for mono-brown, since they have no instant-speed spells anyway (without the help of Vedalken Orrery, that is.)  Four colorless is a pretty good price if your deck can handle the trade off of not casting spells on your opponents’ turns.  The downside is getting Mind Twisted by Divine Offering, of course.  3/5

Candles of Leng — An initial investment of 2 is about as cheap as you can get out there, but setting aside 4 mana every turn to draw an extra card is an awful lot.  It should almost never whiff, but you do have to show the table whatever it was that you drew.  It’s not bad in theory but I’ve never seen it played for a reason.  It’s just not very good.  2.5/5

Carnage Altar">Carnage Altar — Token decks love this card for obvious reasons.  If you’re a token deck, you should definitely play this card.  If you’re not, you probably shouldn’t, but some tribal decks (e.g. mono white soldiers, Elves, etc.) can rock this to good effect.  Not bad in “steal your stuff” decks too.  3.5/5

 

Credit Voucher
There’s a joke somewhere in here about the American economy that explains why this card is bad. Just pretend I made it and it was hilarious, ok?

Credit Voucher">Credit Voucher — This is more of a filtering effect than a draw effect, I guess.  It’s also more of a bad effect than a good effect since it actually uses up a card.  I guess if you play at a table where mulligans are strictly enforced, this can smooth out your draws or something.  Oh man.  What am I even talking about at this point.  1.5/2

Culling Dais">Culling Dais — Straight up worse than Carnage Altar, how’s that?  The problem is that Carnage Altar allows you to spend a whole turn drawing extra cards.  You can’t do this here.  The effects look similar but the way Carnage Altar generally gets used means Culling Dais is just sort of awkward and bad.  Could still be played in “Steal your Stuff” decks, I guess.  I don’t like “build up then one-shot” type cards because they always seem to get blown up before you can get them to do what you want, although since tapping isn’t part of the draw effect that’s less likely here.  2.5/5

Dreamstone Hedron">Dreamstone Hedron — The more I play with this card and see it get played, the more I think it’s actually pretty good in this format.  Yeah, six is a lot, but it catapults you from the 6 level to 10 next turn assuming you hit your land drop.  That’s not insignificant, as big things happen at the 10-mark (cough Kozilek cough).  Yeah, Thran Dynamo is better strictly for acceleration, but with Hedron, if it becomes just excess mana or you need to dig for an answer, it has some scope that Dynamo doesn’t.  3.5/5

Emmessi Tome — Draw one, loot one for 9 mana the first time.  Yikes.  It digs faster than most cards on here but you just can’t afford to be spending 5 mana for net 1 card per turn in most cases.  Gets better in decks that use the graveyard.  Nowhere near as good as Bazaar of Baghdad.  Cool art, though.  2/5

Etched Oracle — Only draws you cards in 5-color decks or decks with lots of modular effects or graft, so doesn’t really count.  1/5

Farsight Mask
It’d be hard to see at all with this thing on your head, let alone see far. Looks like something worn to a Royal Wedding.

Farsight Mask — This is a fun damned if your opponent does, damned if your opponent doesn’t effect.  Great against horde / token / weenie decks, but pretty insignificant against a lot of deck styles.  This is a metagame call — a one time investment of 5 could end up being pretty good for a lot of players.  3/5

Font of Mythos — It’s like two Howling Mines in one, which makes it double crappy!  Put it in your stupid Hippo deck, you stupid hippie.  If you put this in a real deck you should be slapped so hard your mother feels it.  1/5

Fool’s Tome — I was so excited for hellbent to be make a comback in Return to Ravnica so I could make a hellbent deck centered around how awesome this card is.  Not.  It’s not even coming back apparently, so yeah.  1.5/5

Geth’s Grimoire — You won’t be reliably drawing cards off this unless you build your deck to make use of a bad strategy.  As far as I know, the right Commander doesn’t exist to make the Megrim deck, so this card will continue to clutter up junk boxes until that time.  If you’re one of those types who plays Wishboards, it could come in against your opponent’s Mageta the Lion powerhouse deck.  SNAP.  1/5

Grafted Skullcap — This slots right into my hellbent deck too!  This is ok in horde / burn decks, but generally bad.  2/5

Horn of Greed — This card can be incredibly powerful in the right deck, but its greatness is of course subject to your opponents usually getting an extra card per turn as well.  Note that it doesn’t trigger off Farseek-style effects — you have to play it from your hand.  It’s obviously awesome in Azusa, Lost but Seeking.  Pair it with Storm Cauldron for added fun. 3.5/5

Horn of Plenty — All your spells cantrip for 1 extra, but so do all your opponents’.  Is this good in Grand Arbiter Augustin IV stax decks?  Maybe.  Probably not.  2/5

Howling Mine
Almost as good as punching yourself in the dick!

Howling Mine — With his accent, when my boss says “hauling”, it sounds like “howling”, which is awesome and hilarious.  I hate this fucking card.  1/5

Ichor Wellspring — The only reason I put this card on this list is because it’s not technically just a cantrip, and I love technicalities.  Thanks, law school.  Maybe good in Trading Post / affinity decks, but those don’t exist in Commander, do they?  1.5/5

Illuminated Folio — Initial investment of 5 is pretty typical for cards like this, and the effect costing one is relatively cheap.  Doesn’t work in mono-brown, which is a downside, and really only works well in mono-color.  Pretty decent in mono-white and stuff.  2.5/5

Infiltration Lens — Hilarious on Goblin Grenadiers et al.  This card seems ok but not a lot of blocking tends to happen.  It’s pretty ok on Commanders since taking 3 Commander damage is always a questionable call, so this makes it a lose-lose.  Requires the right deck and the right situation, hence the low rating.  2/5

Jalum Tome — One of the cheapest abilities out there, but it loots rather than straight-up drawing cards.  Do you like stuff in your graveyard?  Awesome!  Play it.  Pretty great in mono-white with Land Tax.  Generally meh.  2.5/5

Jandor’s Ring — If this jeweled cock ring appears in your deck, please just leave.  Seriously, the door is over there.  Eight mana for THAT?!  0/5

Jayemdae Tome — The ol’ classic.  Also 8 mana.  This card, once pretty good in draw-go decks, has fallen quite a bit behind the power curve.  If you’re seriously hurting for draw effects in your deck, you can try it, but I’m betting you’ll find you never want to play it from your hand and you’ll rarely want to activate it.  When 8 mana gets you Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, it’s tough to justify drawing one card for the same price.  2.5/5

Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
20-years of subtle card design culminate in this.

Kozilek, Butcher of Truth — Surely I don’t need to explain why this card is good, do I?  This is a straight-up all-star.  Only 3 cards in Magic stop the draw effect (Stifle, Voidslime, and Trickbind).  10 mana for 4 cards is among the best ratios on this list, and on top of that you get a 12/12 Annihilator 4.  Wtf?  5/5

Liar’s Pendulum — This has one of the cheapest costs of anything on this list, but it comes attached to what amounts to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.  I’d find this tiring and unpredictable, but some people might like this card.  Maybe I should put it into my intentionally annoying Karona, False God deck.  2.5/5

Library of Alexandria — This card should be in every deck, period.  Oh wait, it’s banned.  Fuck/5

Mangara’s Tome — While this is not technically card advantage (it’s actually a net loss of one), it can improve your card quality noticeably.  Some people might love this card, some people might hate it, but it’s among the few of the only ways to tutor for any card in non-Black, and you get five.  Unfortunately subject to the “please blow me up! PLEEEEEASE!” syndrome.  2.5/5

Mask of Memory — Cheap to cast and cheap to equip, so you can probably toss it on early game weenies and draw cards before everybody has blockers.  Or strap it to various unblockable dudes.  Certainly not a bad card in a lot of decks out there.  3/5

Memory Jar — If you’ve never been crushed by the Jar, count yourself lucky.  The 7-cards for 5-mana is probably the best cost ratio in Magic excepting black spells that cost you a bunch of your life total (Ad Nauseam et al).  What seems like a symmetrical effect is always anything but, since it rarely if ever gets activated when it isn’t the owner’s turn.  Ship your hand, get a new 7, mill everybody for 7, and fill your graveyard too.  Then get your old stuff back.  Holy crap.  For five mana?!  It doesn’t go in every deck, but it’s so crushingly powerful I had to give it a 5.  5/5

Mercadian Atlas
“Hey, where are we?” STUPIDVILLE!

Mercadian Atlas — See Bargaining Table.  This is more Masques crap.  Really slow, super janky.  Bad.  1/5

Mikokoro, Center of the Sea — I know some guys who put this in every deck.  It’s pretty good and it can win you some friends in the political arena.  Unlike Bazaar, doesn’t set you back the mana development curve.  Pretty cheap to activate.  Awesome in Underworld Dreams.dec.  3.5/5

Mind Stone — Technically only replaces itself but accelerates too while it sticks around.  Pretty solid.  3.5/5

Mind’s Eye — Everybody loves this card but it doesn’t get a lot of play at my table.  I’m not sure why.  The problem is that it needs to stick around for a little while to make the initial investment worth it, and it tends to get blown up on sight (for good reason).  Colorless draw doesn’t get much better, though, especially if your meta doesn’t pack a lot of spot removal.  4.5/5

Mindless Automaton — Like Etched Oracle, if you can find a way to get more counters on this dude, he can draw you cards.  That’s not that easy to do, though.  2/5

Mindstorm Crown — Way too situational, with a drawback that makes it hurt when it’s not even doing anything.  Great.  1/5

Moonring Mirro
I want to break this. Can it be done?

Moonring Mirror — I want to try this card out.  I just need to find the right deck.  You double every draw and keep two hands on the go.  It’s weird, but it seems like it could be powerful in the right situation.  Maybe somebody should pack every Howling Mine effect they can find, rock this card, then beat me down with it.  3/5?  Maybe?

Omen Machine — This is a weird kind of card advantage in that it prevents your opponents’ draw effects from doing anything.  I guess.  Totally hate-fucks the game, so if that’s your thing, dig in.  Or figure out a way to abuse this and Scroll Rack for lots of good free stuff.  If you’re using effects that “put cards in your hand” (aka Necropotence), this card gets better.  1.5/5

Otherworld Atlas — I guess every card that’s an Atlas sucks.  This is slow, symmetrical, and bad.  If it built up each turn without having to tap it, it would find a home in Wrexial, the Risen Deep / Mesmeric OrbDreamborn Muse decks, but that’s not what it does, now is it?  1/5

Phyrexian Vault — Not as good as Carnage Altar, but better than Culling Dais.  3/5

Ring of Renewal — Just way too expensive.  1/5

Scarecrone — This guy replaces himself and has a little value-added.  Good dude in artifact creature decks, pretty bad elsewhere.  2/5

Scroll of Origins — I can’t see this being very good.  While it’s cheap to cast and cheap to activate, the condition isn’t one that seems harmonious with what we’re trying to do here.  Unless it’s your first and only non-land play, you’ll already have been drawing cards to get to over seven, so drawing cards is probably not a problem.  2/5

Scrying Glass — How awesome is this with Telepathy, Urza’s Glasses, or Zur’s Weirding?  Huh?  HUH?!  Pretty stupid.  1/5

Seer's Sundial
What time is it? Card advantage time! Here’s your host, Tim the Seerman Taylor!

Seer’s Sundial — Never topdeck a land again when you need something else.  Well, unless you just topdeck two lands, then you’re screwed.  But this card is quite good, especially in green decks that play more than one land per turn, or if you’re running a lot of fetches and Terramorphic Expanse-like cards.  CMC of 4 is reasonable and a trigger of two is practically cheap.  3.5/5

Serum Tank — I have been told that this card is a house in mono-brown.  At the same time, it’s only one less to play and one less to activate than Jayemdae Tome, with the added possibility that you whiff.  Seems ok, but also seems like there are better options.  3/5

Skullclamp — In the right deck, this card is a backbreaker.  If you’re playing any creatures at all you’ll probably do alright with this.  ‘Course, it doesn’t work on your Commander if you put him in the ‘Zone.  I don’t need to tell you how to use this.  4.5/5

Skyship Weatherlight — This suffers from the same “please blow me up!” syndrome as cards like Mangara’s Tome, but for a moderate investment per turn you get an extra card of decent quality.  If you can combine it with cards like Fountain Watch, Darksteel Forge, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, or Privileged Position, this can give you more gas than bad Mexican food.  3/5

Slate of Ancestry — This card seems a bit situational for my taste, but is quite good in the right deck in the right situation (tribal).  I want cards that are “always on”, but if throwing big haymakers is your style and your deck is the right sort for this, have at.  2/5

Solemn Simulacrum — The only time you don’t run this guy is if your deck has no basics.  Two cards, jump the curve, and get a 2/2 body for 4.  Smokin’ deal.  4.5/5

Sorcerer’s Strongbox — Pretty sweet in Krark’s Thumb.dec.  If you get it first try, it’s 3 cards for 6 mana.  Not bad.  If you don’t …  2.5/5

Staff of Nin
Surprisingly not bad.

Staff of Nin — A newcomer to the scene!  All things considered, compared to everything else on this list, this is one of the cheapest investments out there, plus you get a little added bonus of being able to kill the occasional utility dude and token.  And you ruin Rhys the Redeemed‘s day.  3.5/5

Sword of Fire and Ice — It’s a sword, so it’s good.  It’s not the best one, but it’s not the worst one.  This doesn’t really get included for card advantage, though, it gets included for being sick beats.  4/5

Teferi’s Puzzle Box — This doesn’t actually draw you any additional cards, but it does dig through your deck.  It also digs through your opponents’ decks.  This can either be good — aka hilarious — or bad, if it helps them find answers.  Generally the amount of bitching and moaning the goes on when this hits the board is worth it by itself.  Very good against control and combo.  Mediocre to bad against aggressive decks.  3/5

Temple Bell — I’m not sure if anybody plays this outside of the douches that run the Mind Over Matter combo.  I know I wouldn’t be giving my opponents cards unless it works into my grand plan somehow.  Maybe in my personal hell where I’m playing the deck that has Underworld Dreams, Chains of Mephistopheles, Font of Mythos and Howling Mine2.5/5

Temporal Aperture — While it doesn’t draw you any cards, it gets you a “free” card per turn.  That is, if you consider paying 5 for something getting it for free.  It’s random, and it’s weird, but it’s not a bad late-game reach card for mono-red and especially mono-brown.  It’s cheap to cast, at least.  Here’s a stupid combo for you.  March of the Machines, Intruder Alarm, Temporal Aperture, and enough artifact mana to pay the 5.  Go until you hit two lands!  2.5/5

Thran Tome — Interesting little card that works well in decks that use the graveyard.  It also has some very interesting political applications.  Tapping 5 mana to use it is a lot, on the other hand.  Testing required.  2.5/5

Tower of Fortunes — Would you spend 12 mana to draw 4 cards?  20 mana to draw 8 cards?  Me neither.  I don’t get why people like this card.  2/5

Trading Post — I see this being not too bad in Commander, honestly.  Goats block huge dudes.  Sometimes you need 4 life.  And the artifact / creature / draw card recursion has some very interesting outlets with cards like Myr Retriever, Junk Diver and so on.  Recurring Phyrexian Metamorph is not the worst thing ever, is it?  3/5

Urza’s Blueprints — This is great if you have that goblin from Time Spiral that makes echo costs 0 and whose name escapes me at present.  But man, 12 mana is a lot!  If you can cheat it in to play, maybe it’s alright, but it’s too rich for my blood.  2/5

Urza's Miter
Get a little God on your side.

Urza’s Miter — It’s a Pope Hat, so that’s awesome, but its applications are pretty limited.  How often are you going to be able to use this?  If it weren’t for the weird “can’t be sacrificed” clause, this card would be great.  Too bad for that, I guess.  2/5

Well of Discovery — Thanks to the M10 rules changes, this card got a lot better.  Just a shade worse than Staff of Nin in decks that don’t play any instants.  Pretty bad in decks that do.  2.5/5

Well of Knowledge — Let’s see.  Have this, March of the Machines, and Vanishing on this card.  Snap.  Awesome.  This could go well in combo decks that don’t give a crap what their opponents draw or how much, but in a format packed with powerful cards, I’m not crazy about giving my opponents the opportunity to fill their hands.  Especially stupid green ramp decks that play their whole hand then wait around to draw something useful.  Hey, I guess this card is pretty good in stupid green ramp decks too.  3/5

Well of Lost Dreams — That does it, I’m building a lifegain deck.  In the right deck this could be pretty sweet.  It’s bad in most, though.  2/5

Oh no!  Slippery Karst is coming out of my Smoldering CraterOr, how are cycling lands?  Some cycling lands are colorless, and we’re talking about card advantage, so I’m gonna slide this on in.  Cycling lands are good if (a) you don’t already have a bunch of enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands, and (b) your color requirements are not severe.  I wouldn’t recommend them in 3- or 5-color decks.  If you’re running any land recursion or cards that care about the number of cards in your graveyard, then they’re awesome — Crucible of Worlds and cycling lands is purty guhd.

Conclusion

I hope this has given the mono-white, brown, green, and red players out there some options for gas in the ol’ tank.  There’s some very good cards on this list as well as some truly shitty ones.  Once again, in addition to discovering some cards you might not have seen before, hopefully this has helped in building your card evaluation skills.  Until next time …

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