Necropotence | Illustration by Rafal Wechterowicz
Let’s get this out of the way: No, we aren’t focused on the “weird” creature type today. I checked the assignment, and it’s Magic’s weirdest cards. You’ve probably got a few that came straight to mind if you’ve been collecting for a while or buying cheap bulk cards at every opportunity. Couldn’t be me, I swear.
Magic cards can be weird for how they play on their own or weird for how they interact with others. We’re here to celebrate all the cards that make you laugh and cry, and especially the ones that make you reach for an aspirin.
Prepare for a smorgasbord of strange, a buffet of baffling, a platter of peculiar!
Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast
Weirdness is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s still good to establish some ground rules. Weird cards have rules text that players can find strange, weird, or otherwise unusual. Avid players come to expect certain things from Magic cards; you know what you get from certain colors or color combinations. Color pie breaks are a bit strange by nature, and some keywords and themes are expected from specific creature types (elves having mana abilities, for example). Other cards may not be inherently weird themselves but have strange interactions with other cards.
A good rule is that if you have to squint at the rules text, especially on a very old card, there’s a good chance there’s some shenanigans in there. Sometimes an errata or other change will clean up the Oracle text compared to the printed versions, but other times that’s not enough to make them less weird.
There are plenty of outdated mechanics that newer players could find weird, like playing for ante. Banding and bands with others are dead mechanics that are more confusing than weird. I personally find that anything with +1/+0 or -0/-1 counters is odd, and they aren’t the only weird counters that have been printed. The flip card designs from the original Kamigawa block are also pretty weird by today’s Magic standards, as are split cards. Should I count battles as weird because their front face exists on the battlefield sideways?
I’d also say that cards that let you bend the rules of the game are weird. They won’t all show up here, but the companion cards, unlimited hand size cards, and relentless cards are categories of anomalies all their own. Cards that give you alternate win conditions can also be weird, and you’ll see a few of those.
Cards from Un-sets are often designed as jokes, so they can get very weird. This could turn into a “best Un-set cards” list in a hurry, but I’ll make sure to only sprinkle in some choice favorites. I’m partially doing that so that this doesn’t turn into a mash-up of the worst and funniest cards in Magic.
Holiday Promos often include flavorful cards that have some kind of tie-in to the season they’re celebrating. I’m using Last-Minute Chopping as an example because it reminds me of the children I’ve adopted in Skyrim. Although they don’t steal my stuff when I forget to buy them presents.
Assquatch is a donkey lord with lots of half-stats. There’s some half-baked, half-cooked… half-something joke to be made here. It’s not the only card with halves in its power/toughness, but it’s certainly one of the funnier ones.
A card name that’s so long that it needs an alternate casting cost just to fit on the card. Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar started as a name that appeared in flavor text, but it finally got its own card in Modern Horizons 2.
I’m calling Barroom Brawl weird because of how variable its outcome can be. Every time it’s copied presents an opportunity to copy it again, which can quickly snowball into a depleted board. Once you’ve started a fight, you don’t necessarily control how it ends. Very true to reality, so I’m told.
#46. Left-Handed Magic Cards
I figured that I should shout out the cards from the Finally! Left-Handed Magic Cards Secret Lair. Not that left-handedness is weird. It’s just that seeing the mana value and power/toughness on the left of Left-Handed Sisay, Weatherlight Captain is weird. And seeing loyalty ability numbers on the right of Left-Handed Garruk, Caller of Beasts is weird.
Mandatory Maro reference is mandatory. The cameo is Hitchcockian, like Coppola in Apocalypse Now. Or Spielberg in Laser Cats 7.
Money makes the world go ‘round, or so they say. Conjured Currency can make its way around the board and make the game all kinds of weird.
The Oracle text removes the “Use counters” text from Quarum Trench Gnomes. Yay for gnome representation, while slowly turning your opponents’ Plains into Wastes is neat from a flavor perspective. But what the heck does “Use counters” mean?
On its face, Necropotence is just plain strange. Skipping your draw step is usually card disadvantage, but it lets you pay life to effectively slow-draw. It can also pair with Approach of the Second Sun to enable its win condition, or you can combo off with Vizkopa Guildmage and Tainted Sigil, among others.
#41. Art Matters
Acornelia, Fashionable Filcher gives you acorn counters for having squirrels in your art. Yes, Krosan Beast counts. And if we’re going to care about art, let’s really care. Let’s care about hats. Hello T.A.P.P.E.R., ol’ buddy, ol’ pal. Take it even deeper with something like Circle of Protection: Art that protects you from a specific artist.
I originally typed up a half-baked theory that was trying to cover all the dimensions of things that Un-set cards care about, and caring about the room you’re playing in was Dimension 8 (affecting other games in progress was Dimension 9, for what it’s worth). Just don’t play your Amped Up deck while you’re out having a picnic.
Stickers make me mad mostly for how they mess up my search results when looking up specific keywords or mechanics. Weird Angel Flame, for example, grants a heroic ability, but it can also grant protection from (checks notes) even mana values. And there are name stickers meant for cards like _____ _____ _____Trespasser. Groan.
Kudzu is like a land destruction plague that’s directed by the whims of the planeswalker (player) it last affected, while Spreading Algae is a cheaper cousin that returns to your hand. There are evil parts of me that totally love these.
Ashnod's Coupon lets you get a drink without getting up. Or without having to pipe up and ask someone. The ultimate shy guy play.
Acid Rain belongs to the “odd color pie choices” realm of weird cards. Today, you’d expect a blue spell to bounce lands rather than commit mass destruction. Blue hating green and getting rid of Forests sounds right though. But why is the rain in the artwork corroding a statue rather than something more, you know, green?
Word of Command is like when a toddler tries to “help” with whatever you’re doing and winds making a great big oopsie. One of the better and more efficient effects that lets you look at your opponent’s hand and do something about it, but it’s a weird amount of control to have on such a cheap card.
Battle of Wits is one of the weirder alternate win conditions available. Don’t ask me how you get there aside from actually sleeving up over 200 cards.
Which do you want? Everyone draws one, or a board-wide and player-wide ping? Winter Sky lets you flip a coin that an opposing player has to call in the air to get it. Coin flip cards just aren’t built the same these days. A more modern design would have a discard attached to that card draw.
I mean, maybe you’re running a deck that cares about creature deaths and are happy to summon something for just to have it die immediately. Otherwise, make sure to serenade your Force of Savagery with anthems.
Its base power and toughness are in the negatives, and that’s just plain weird. Spinal Parasite amps up the strangeness by removing two of its counters to remove counters from something else. You’re only getting two activations without proliferation and other +1/+1 counter effects. But hey, it’s legal card to play, so… maybe? Nah, maybe not.
Um. So. Why wouldn’t you just use Pyxis of Pandemonium as a slow-mill engine? I guess you’re going to run some creaturefall/landfall/artifactfall type effects to take advantage of this? Or maybe you just want a 1-mana artifact to sacrifice or animate. Look, I’m the Jank Champ ‘round these parts, but even I file this under “bulk rares that make no gosh darn sense.”
Flowstone Embrace… oof. It’s broken in the “this doesn’t work” sense. I’m stretching to find use cases. Fight spells, sure. A bunch of Twiddle and other creature/permanent untapping effects can work, especially if you can copy them. But it’s a +2/-2 change to power and toughness rather than a double positive. This slots into the “bad” part of “weird.”
Near-Death Experience gives you a hyper-specific win condition, and it got a reprint in From the Vault: Lore. That’s two flavors of weird right there. Your opponents have to make sure that they’re paying attention to the board, or else they might accidentally hand you a win when they thought they were about to kill you.
I was today years old when I learned that a Magic card made reference to a “mulligan.” Serum Powder is a normal mana rock at its core, but the mulligan text is interesting and odd, compared to most cards.
I’m getting caught up on the “stick” language. What types of adhesives are legal? Can I just stick my sleeved S.N.O.T.s together, or does it have to be a paper-to-paper bond? Regardless, S.N.O.T. is here to tell you that it’s hip to be square.
Tapping your opponents’ lands for mana is a fun way to break the rules of engagement. Piracy lets you plunder your opponents’ lands for a turn, and I just love that. The control player in your life probably has enough cheap counterspells to beat this no matter how much bait you cast first.
A number of early Magic sets included cards that specifically hated cards from their own or from other Magic sets. Golgothian Sylex, Apocalypse Chime, and City in a Bottle are some examples. Nowadays, something so meta would be relegated to Un-set designs, so these are more a time capsule than anything else.
It wouldn’t be a “weirdest” card list without including the weirdest weird. Geometric Weird is a Mystery Booster test card that cares about the stack. Lots of tracking involved with this one, which can be a turn-on or a turn-off depending on your play style.
We’ve already covered cards with “art matters” rules, including clothing in that same art. But what about the players’ clothing? Hurloon Wrangler is iconic for having inspired the Mark Rosewater ruling: “Taking off your pants is a special action.”
At least Ambiguity doesn’t count the counterspells that have countered counter cards. Or count the countertops on which the card has cumulatively been countered.
You know a few things to expect from elves, birds, and vampires, but did you ever anticipate a creature without a subtype? Nameless Race is just that, the total opposite of shapeshifters with changeling and cards like Mistform Ultimus.
The Pippin joke is just too obvious to make right now. I’ve been swamped in Lord of the Rings content and even my pun-happy self just… can’t. So yeah, Paradox Haze gives an enchanted player a second upkeep.
I just know that there’s some player out there who’s annoyed their playgroup by doing an impression of the Count from Sesame Street whenever Chaos Moon needs to check the permanent count. “One permanent! Two permanents! … Twenty-five permanents! Ah, ah, ah!”
Sheesh. Talk about a self-insert. Avatar of Me could cause games to stall just by trying to figure out which numbers and colors to assign. What do I do with grey or hazel eyes? And do you really want to go about comparing “men’s” or “women’s” shoe sizes? Because I used to find my Converse All-Stars in the “men’s” section as a 7.5, but it’s the exact same shoe as a 9.5 women’s according to the label on the box.
Making lands tap for mana that’s of a different color than intended is silly. It can shut down a mono-colored deck’s game entirely. Reality Twist only leaves Islands alone, allowing blue players to kick back and watch the chaos.
I started writing this entry at 11:11 and that’s just too uncanny. Wish lets you pull a card from outside the game, and it has a bunch of clones like Glittering Wish that do something similar. It gets weirder when you combine it with a sub-game card, because it lets you pull a card from the main game into the sub-game. My head hurts.
Cards that let you pull something from outside the game can be very silly, and Ring of Ma'rûf is no different. Unlike the Wishes, Ring of Ma'rûf replaces your next card draw if it’s before the end of the turn.
The ultimate “If I can’t win, nobody can” card. Divine Intervention is actually a little bit more interesting with all the proliferation we’ve been getting thanks to Mother’s invasion of the Multiverse throughout All Will Be One and March of the Machine. Sure, enchantment destruction exists, but I like the idea of making players use their proliferation effects to keep the game alive.
For once, you can skip the spoiler warning. This artifact is for players that love skipping to the end. Sundial of the Infinite’s activated ability skips straight to the cleanup step, exiling whatever’s on the stack, removing all creatures from combat, and otherwise disrupting “normal” gameplay.
I’m not even going to try to tell you how Raging River works. Just know that it’s the kind of card that makes people rage-quit, especially if you double its attack trigger. Also known as the alternate poster for How to Lose Friends & Alienate People.
#6. Ass Whuppin’
What’s more chaotic than mass destruction at your own table? Mass destruction at all tables. Ass Whuppin' is going to make you the scourge of the game store. And I salute you for it.
You can’t make a Scrambleverse without cracking a few eggs. And it’s not even an Un-card! Have fun becoming the most hated person at the table as everyone adjusts to their new, patchwork board states.
Goblin players, make this one make sense. The rulings on Goblin Game don’t offer much guidance. “Objects” seems to be defined as anything in reach, but there’s no time limit given for how long you’re hiding things. Do I have to hide them on my person like the goblin in the card art? Can I hide my opponent’s commander under the fridge, or maybe in the shredder? Questions abound.
Shahrazad is a nightmare of a card that forces everyone to start playing Magic as though they were in Inception. Or maybe there’s an onion joke to make. Regardless, this card is just plain weird. I mean, imagine running multiples and constantly forcing your opponents deeper into the sub-games.
#2. Exit Through the Grift Shop
As someone who wanted to grow up to be Bugs Bunny, I absolutely love the shenanigans that come with Exit Through the Grift Shop. Getting other players to bid on the chance to copy your card and gaining life and Treasures can leave opponents’ heads spinning.
How’s your dex stat? Chaos Orb is the perfect way to test that, asking you to flip it over the table from a minimum height. I’m curious to see what a heavily played version of this card looks like. Answer: rough around the edges.
Unlike most of what we talk about here, weird cards don’t have any specific payoffs or synergies, at least not from an overall gameplay perspective. You can get a lot of fun (or frustration) out of these cards, and there’s something to be said about dropping a card and saying, “Isn’t that weird?” in your best Goldmember impression.
But you know what? Alexander Clamilton is a weird card payoff. A lot of weird cards have a bunch of text, which Alexander calls being “wordy.” Playing lots of these weird, wordy cards allows you to scry more often and buff up your creatures. Have fun discussing whether you go by the Oracle or Printed text for this effect!
Exit Through the Grift Shop | Illustration by Chris Seaman
And that’s a wrap on weird cards! Whatever definition you use for “weird,” there are plenty of strange cards and interactions to be found in Magic’s card archives. Luckily, the worst offenders are banned, but many of the others make their way into games to varying degrees.
Which are your favorite weird cards in Magic? Which are your most hated? Are there any I’ve left behind? Let me know in the comments below or over on Discord!
Until next time, stay safe and stay hydrated! (Just make sure there’s nothing funky in the water….)Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: