Ranking Every Future Shifted Card from Future Sight – Part One
The future shifted cards from Future Sight are some of my favourite magic cards of all time. It may be crazy, but I’ve ranked all eighty-one of them from best to worst and I’m going to talk about every single one of them. This will be a four part series with the bottom twenty-one cards in this first part. You can expect some crazy mechanics. Some were harbingers for new mechanics, sets or design ideas whilst others are a glimpse into a future that will never happen. All of them are special in their own unique way and the future shifted frame is still one of my favourite card variations to this day.
#81 Mass of Ghouls
There are quite a few cycles amongst the future shifted cards and one that stands out immediately is the cycle of five vanilla creatures. This isn’t because they are amazing, but because they have no next box. This means far more of the card is covered in art which is great for people like me who love vanilla creatures.
The full art frame in future sight makes vanilla creatures look awesome, but sadly some of the vanilla creatures are still underwhelming. Mass of Ghouls is just a medium-sized zombie. The stat-line isn’t all that special, as it had already appeared on Frost Ogre in Betrayers of Kamigawa so it wasn’t breaking new ground for a vanilla creature. I will rate other vanilla creatures in the cycle much higher, but I can’t imagine ever playing this one. The one thing that makes Mass of Ghouls interesting is that it was the first future shifted card to get printed in a normal set as it then appeared in Tenth Edition which was the next set after Future Sight.
#80 Fomori Nomad
Next I have another disappointing vanilla creature at number eighty. Fomori Nomad is an almost exact duplicate of Obsidian Giant from the second Portal set in 1998. Such a weak vanilla creature is basically the opposite of what I think of when I think of the future of Magic. The only thing lifting this above Mass of Ghouls is that this gives us our first reference to the Fomori. The plane they live on, Ir, would feature in Planechase and Ruhan of the Fomori was an alternate commander in the first Commander decks. We haven’t seen much of the Fomori since, but I like that a simple vanilla creature like this can be out first glimpse of a whole new world.
#79 Phosphorescent Feast
Devotion is a very popular mechanic but it was inspired by the mechanic chroma which has far fewer fans. Phosphorescent Feast was our first look at chroma, and indeed when it was printed in Eventide the name chroma was added to the official rules text. It might have been our first hint at much more exciting things like the gods of Theros, but Phosphorescent Feast is a clunky card. A card that does nothing but gain life is situational, and for five mana you better gain a lot of life. Doing that with Phosphorescent Feast is so hard. You need to play cards that specifically have lots of green mana in their costs and then avoid playing them so they are in your hand when you cast the feast. Playing your spells is usually both more fun and more powerful than doing nothing with your cards, and life gain is a really bad payoff for this strategy so I have to say Phosphorescent Feast is one of the very worst future shifted cards.
#78 Death Rattle
Death Rattle is the first delve card in my rankings and delve is one of the most busted mechanics of all time. Power level is heavily influenced by the mana cost of a card, and cards that make themselves cheaper are always worth taking notice of. What makes delve an especially powerful cost reduction mechanic is that some cards naturally find their way into your graveyard such as instants and sorceries, it effortlessly synergises with some of the best cards in the game such as fetch-lands and it’s often not that hard to include cards that incidentally fill your graveyard if you have a reward as powerful as delve for doing so.
Delve first appeared here in future sight on three future shifted cards and Death Rattle is the most forgettable of them all. Black has so much good removal and there are so many Doom Blade variants, that Death Rattle is only notable if you get the cost down to single black mana. This makes it underwhelming or un-castable if you need to cast it earlier in the game. If Death Rattle was the only delve card in Future Sight I would have ranked it much higher, but it looks so lacklustre compared to the other delve spells that it doesn’t really add anything to the collection of future shifted cards.
#77 Ramosian Revivalist
Amongst all of the glorious chaos of Time Spiral block and the huge amount of mechanics, there are some themes that got fleshed out to support draft and tie the set together. Some were exciting such as slivers or madness, whilst others were less so. Rebels is one such theme that just doesn’t do it for me. Ramosian Revivalist is unplayable outside of a rebel deck, and frankly it isn’t even that exciting in a rebel deck. The rebel tribe are famous for being able to search each other up and playing one rebel would find you a second rebel that would find you a third and so on. I think the game-play is far too repetitive and very few rebels are interesting in their own right. What makes Ramosian Revivalist worthy of the future shifted frame is that it cares about rebel permanent cards instead of rebel creature cards which foreshadows the tribal card type. There are two cards that more explicitly reference the tribal card type which rank much higher on my list so I’m happy to leave Ramosian Revivalist languishing at the bottom of my ranking.
#76 Witch’s Mist
From a flavour perspective, artifacts and enchantments are very distinct. However from the point of view of a game designer, the two types are capable of doing very similar things. The one big dividing line is that artifacts can have tap abilities whilst enchantments can’t. Welcome to Future Sight were the rules don’t matter and we a bunch of enchantments that tap.
First up is Witch’s Mist which has nice art, the cool future sight frame and a tap-ability that is normally forbidden to enchantments. Otherwise this is a pretty ordinary card. A repeatable way to destroy creatures is obviously very powerful and this one has been balanced to make it fair but unexciting. Six mana is a lot to destroy a creature, and the condition of being dealt damage this turn will be really awkward sometimes. This card has yet to be reprinted and I’m not sure if it ever will see a reprint.
#75 Snake Cult Initiation
Poisonous is a keyword that appears on only two future shifted cards. It’s a mechanic that looks back to the time of Legends which introduced poison counters on a handful of cards but also looks forward to a time when poison would return as a fully fledged set mechanic. Poison did in fact return in Scars of Mirrodin but under the umbrella of infect. As well as giving out -1/-1 counters to creatures, infect also replaces the damage dealt whilst poisonous gives poison counters in addition to the damage. This makes infect interesting because it drives you to focus on winning through poison counters.
However Snake Cult Initiation will often not actually do anything. It takes four hits to kill a player from the poison damage on this card. If you those four hits are enough to kill the player, granting poisonous does nothing. If you only get three hits in and have no other sources of poison counters, the nine poison counters you generated are worthless. Playing a four mana aura is inherently risky so any four mana aura that’s playable would have helped kill your opponent before you hit them four times. Snake Cult Initiation is cool, but it’s too situational and too hard to make it worth running.
#74 Skizzik Surger
A six power haste creature is a nice top-end for a limited deck but the cost of six mana and sacrificing two lands is just not exciting. I get that the echo cost isn’t as bad as it first looks. If you hit your opponent for six they might be dead before you have to pay the echo cost. If they block the Surger might die before you have to sacrifice lands. You might have more lands than you need and sacrificing two lands isn’t a big deal. Still this card doesn’t interest me because of the fear of sacrificing lands. If this was a dragon or a dinosaur it might have more casual appeal, but as it is this is just a really forgettable six drop. This is the first of three cards whose echo costs don’t require mana, so this is an interesting idea that we will see better implementations of higher up my ranking.
I criticised Ramosian Revivalist for the repetitive play patterns that come from the rebel mechanic so I have to be consistent and give Fleshwrither a similar ranking. Like Ramosian Revivalist the Fleshwrither has an expensive ability but at least it isn’t restricted to a tribe with limited support. However it’s hard to think many four mana creatures that are worth paying seven mana for. I love the art on this card and I wish it was on a more useful creature.
#72 Blind Phantasm
We have our next vanilla creature in Blind Phantasm. Unlike the earlier two vanilla creatures this has a much less embarrassing stat-line and as shown by the fairy recent printings of Tolarian Scholar and Coral Commando could still see print today. In fact this was the first blue vanilla creature with this stat-line. I would happily put one in a casual spirit deck because I like the art and the frame. In fact I think the ethereal and mysterious ghost complements the frame really well. Of all the cards I’ve discussed so far, this is the first one that I would happily play so it ranks above those but it’s still pretty unexciting.
#71 Frenzy Sliver
Amongst the future shifted cards is a cycle of slivers. Slivers are a very popular tribe that share abilities with each other. In a normal set the list of mechanics in the set restricts the number of different designs you could include in the set, but not so in Future Sight. In this set the five future shifted slivers give abilities from the future that have never existed on creatures before. This is such a cool way to introduce mechanics whilst supporting an archetype as popular as slivers.
However I’m not a fan of frenzy or Frenzy Sliver. I think it’s telling that frenzy has never seen print since because it punishes a slow start so quickly. I think if frenzy was printed on a bunch of aggressive cards in a single set it would lead to a lot of non-games where the fast decks win before the game even gets going. If you try to balance for this you make the frenzy creatures otherwise underwhelming in combat with other creatures. Because Frenzy Sliver grants frenzy to other slivers this makes it much cooler. However if you have a number of unblocked slivers you are probably already winning. The extra damage from frenzy isn’t going to change the outcome of many games.
#70 Emblem of the Warmind
Emblem of the Warmind could have been printed in Alpha or any other set. There is nothing complicated about it and it doesn’t rely on any mechanic or theme that ties it to a particular plane. An enchantment that gives an ability to all your creatures is a quintessential enchantment. Making it an aura creates a vulnerability that other enchantments don’t have. This style of aura could have been a trick used by designers to make a powerful enchantment with a drawback but instead it’s a one-off idea that hasn’t seen use since. It’s weird that the designers of Future Sight could find such a simple design to represent the outlandish things that might be possible in the future and that it’s still a strange and unexplored idea fifteen years later. It only comes lower down on my rankings because being an aura hurts its power level and being so simple makes it less exciting that the other weird and wonderful things you can find in Future Sight.
#69 Virulent Sliver
The second of five future shifted slivers is also the second poisonous card. I didn’t like Snake Cult Initiation earlier because I didn’t like poisonous on a four mana aura. Putting poisonous on a one mana sliver is better but in a weird way. It’s a good sliver because a one mana sliver is always great for soaking up abilities from other slivers. It’s also a good poisonous card because poisonous on a one power creature kills your opponent in ten hits instead of twenty. But the marriage of these two things is awkward. If a sliver player hits their opponent ten times with poisonous slivers, they would surely already be dead from all the slivers buffing each other. It hard to imagine a deck that cares about this being a sliver AND cares about poisonous. But I would happily play this in either a poison or a sliver deck and I love the contrast between the green frame and the orange sliver.
A common theme amongst the cards I have already talked about is that they showcase a novel idea or mechanic but are upstaged by other future shifted cards with the same idea or mechanic. Whetwheel is one of three morph cards that transform into non-creature permanents. All morph cards are modal spells, but when the front side isn’t a creature it widens the gap between the modes which makes the modality more interesting and typically makes the modality more powerful as well. Having non-creature permanents that can be blockers when you are desperate for blockers as well as a part of your strategy is cool. These morphs can also blank a removal spell like Doom Blade by losing the creature typing at will which is also pretty neat.
I’m a fan of the others but Whetwheel is the one card in the trio that just isn’t as exciting to me. A morph deck isn’t going to care about milling its opponent and a mill deck won’t care about playing a morph. As much as I like morphs that transform into non-creature permanents I just don’t think Whetwheel has a home in any deck.
#67 Imperial Mask
Imperial Mask is just the pre-existing card Ivory Mask but for one more mana every player on your team gets a copy as well. The effect is useless unless your opponent(s) are reliant on spells that target you. So what makes this card special? Well it’s the first card in black border to reference teams. I think this is a pretty big deal because it teaches players about ways to play Magic they might never have thought about. Given how big magic is, and how popular co-operative table-top games are now, I’m actually a little surprised that playing as a team isn’t a bigger part of magic.
I think this is a really cool use of the future shifts to signal areas that magic could one day explore. In fact Magic did explore this with Battlebond that focused on the Two-Headed Giant format. However Imperial Mask grants a niche effect and the token copies are only generated in really niche ways to play the game. Even in Commander where players might naturally form alliances, this doesn’t copy itself because you aren’t officially teammates as defined in the rules. If teamplay ever becomes a thing in Magic, Imperial Mask would probably shoot up my rankings. I just don’t think the Magic community is interested in playing with teammates, so this card just doesn’t have an audience.
#66 Grave Scrabbler
Gravedigger is an iconic limited all-star. Grave Scrabbler is clearly a riff on Gravedigger which I love, and there are several situations where Grave Scrabbler is superior. Two mana instead of four mana is obviously fantastic and the fact that this can target cards in other people’s graveyards is actually pretty cool. It can counter a reanimation spell or help a teammate if you need it to. However Grave Scrabbler is unplayable unless you use the madness cost. I almost wish this card didn’t have a normal mana cost because four mana for a 2/2 is painfully bad. Having a card that is only playable in a deck when you discard it is cool, but this is just a fine utility creature. If this was a more exciting payoff for the risk of being unplayable I’d rank it much higher.
#65 Nacatl War-Pride
One of the interesting parts of the future shifted collection is looking at cards that weren’t reprinted even though it seemed like we had a perfect opportunity. Nacatl are cat people native to the plane of Alara. The War-Pride was our first look at the Nacatl and whilst we got more Nacatl when we visited Alara we didn’t see a Nacatl War-Pride reprint. This is surely because the triple green mana cost is completely at odds with the multi-colour themes of Alara block.
To be honest I’m not that sad that this card didn’t get a reprint. It does end the game pretty quickly and in a fairly novel way but it still feels like a normal Magic card. It’s just one of many expensive game ending green creatures. There are some cool combos you can do with effects that double tokens, effects that double triggers and even effects that end your turn can be great because you get to keep all the tokens. I’m sure plenty of people love the shenanigans you can get up to with Nacatl War-Pride but it doesn’t excite me as much as a lot of other cards in the set.
#64 Deepcavern Imp
The second echo card on my rankings is Deepcavern Imp. Like Skizzik Surger the imp is an experiment with alternative echo costs but I think this is a much better card than the Surger. A 2/2 flier for three mana is a solid body and adding haste makes it a solid common. Without a drawback this is Skyknight Legionnaire which is strong enough to be a gold card. The drawback is huge in a normal deck but there are plenty of archetypes like madness or reanimator that can turn the drawback into a synergistic part of their game-plan. Notably costing no mana on the turn you discard the card can be really strong for mechanics like madness that need you to spend mana after discarding the card.
Most echo cards feel like they are punishing you for playing them but Deepcavern Imp shows that echo can be exciting if the cost is something you can convert into an benefit. Having more varied costs makes the echo mechanic more interesting and creates opportunities for new decks that try to exploit the drawbacks. As a sign of the strength of this card we got a fairly similar card Rakdos Headliner in a very powerful set like Modern Horizons 2. Like the Nacatl War-Pride, this card feels pretty normal for a magic card, so I can’t rank it too highly but look out for more echo cards higher up the rankings.
#63 Goldmeadow Lookout
Goldmeadow Lookout is one of our first glimpses of the plane of Lorwyn. Kithkin are Magic’s first take on halflings which are a traditional staple of many fantasy settings. Where as halflings are often fun and cute creatures like the hobbits in Lord of the Rings, the kithkin on Lorwyn are darker and creepier than you would expect which has prevented them from being especially popular. Still I have to give the two future shifted kithkin cards credit for being our first look at a future plane.
Another futuristic aspect of Goldmeadow Lookout is a little subtler. This spellshaper is part of a cycle of spellshapers in Future Sight that create tokens that are actually real cards. For example Llanowar Mentor creates Llanowar Elves. Goldmeadow Lookout was the only card in the cycle to get the future shifted treatment because it’s the only card whose partner didn’t exist at the time. We only had to wait a few months for Goldmeadow Harrier to get printed in Lorwyn which now means Goldmeadow Lookout no longer stands out from the rest of the cycle for creating a card that doesn’t exist. If it created a copy of a card that still doesn’t exist I might rank it higher. I just think that is cooler than actually printing Goldmeadow Harrier. If they hadn’t printed it, it would be a card we speculate about rather than just being a random common from a bygone draft format.
#62 Mistmeadow Skulk
Back to back kithkin! Mistmeadow Skulk represents a trio of small novelties. Firstly, being a kithkin, hinted at the plane of Lorwyn. Secondly we have a completely novel form of protection. Thirdly we have lifelink. Lifelink has essentially been around since the beginning of the game since El-Hajjâj and Spirit Link were both printed in 1994. As a triggered ability this is technically different to lifelink, but of course becoming a keyword is still a significant milestone.
You might think that having three novel elements to the design would propel Mistmeadow Skulk up my rankings but I don’t find the card that interesting. It isn’t the only kithkin in the set, and lifelink appears on another future shifted card that appears much higher up my rankings. Finally the protection ability isn’t that fun or exciting. It makes the rogue a very annoying blocker but it’s still pretty lacklustre offensively. It is immune to removal spells with mana value three or more but that sort of removal spell is usually saved for bigger targets so that advantage isn’t as big as it first appears. Protection is used less and less often nowadays as it’s unfun to play against so I just can’t rank Mistmeadow Skulk too highly.
#61 Bloodshot Trainee
Bloodshot Trainee is our final card for today. I’ve put it above the last twenty cards because it’s the first future shifted card that I would consider worth building around. It’s a good payoff in limited that incentivises including more auras, equipment and +1/+1 counters in your deck. This makes it more interesting than many future shifted cards I would never play but I’ve still included it in the bottom quarter of my rankings. This is because it doesn’t do any of the weird and wonderful things I expect or hope for from a future shifted card.
If you do want more weird and wonderful future shifted cards, come back for part two where I look at the cards from sixty to forty-one. The cards only get better and better as we go up the rankings.