Magic’s Best Worst Card


Imagine, for a minute, that you have just started playing Magic.
You are at the forefront of your learning experience and, at this point, you have battled a few dozen times with friends on your dorm room floor.
You understand that you can play one land per turn, that creatures cannot attack the turn they come into play, and that your main goal in the game is to reduce your opponent’s life total from 20 to 0.
That number is very important to you.
Growing up watching football, you equate a bigger number with a higher likelihood of victory, and you see your life total as Magic’s version of keeping score.
Then, during your first draft, you see this card and you just about lose your mind.
You pick every Angel’s Mercy that passes by, jam 15 Plains into your deck, then swiftly and majestically annihilate all hope of coming even remotely close to winning any of your matches, finishing the tournament 0-3 and leaving the game store with your lifegain pride wrung out to dry.
We have all been here before.
It does not take long thereafter, though, to realize that Angel’s Mercy is a terrible Magic card.
There are almost zero redeeming qualities about it.
Your perception about your life total has shifted and never again will you highly value cards of its nature.
A couple of years later, you discover this card, and you lose your mind again.
One With Nothing is a conundrum to new players and experienced vets alike, and has a unique way of resurfacing every so often with the release of new combo pieces that it can help fuel.
Ask most players, and they’re quick to dismiss it as the worst card to see print. But unlike Angel’s Mercy, it’s a card that never really leaves the back of our minds, and somehow always has a very slight chance of being playable despite its self-destructive effect.
Today, I’d like to provide a foundation for its relevance to Magic and hopefully convince all of you to stop calling it terrible. It may be Magic’s worst card, but, in my eyes, it’s Magic’s best worst card.
Yeah, I’ll explain.
For one black mana, at instant speed, you get the privilege of discarding your entire hand.
At this point, you are one with nothing, and as per the flavor text, everything suddenly becomes possible.
What is overwhelmingly probable, however, is that you will simply lose the game.
Ask any new player who has finally grasped the concept of card advantage, and they will tell you this is a horrible card.
At the same time, they won’t understand why it was printed.
Because many newer players to the game are becoming adept at identifying the bad cards, but still struggle with understanding why they exist.
Often asked, even still today, is “can’t you just print good cards so that the cost of my booster pack isn’t for nothing when I open a completely unplayable rare?”
In the seminal article “When Cards Go Bad” written back in 2002, Rosewater responded to this complaint and outlined the seven reasons why R&D must create lackluster pieces of cardboard.
Almost all of these apply directly to One With Nothing, but inversely point to it as an example of a good card.
In other words, what should be the reasons that qualify this card as bad actually highlight its strengths.
For example, point #2 states “Different Cards Appeal to Different Players”; One With Nothing is undoubtedly a Johnny card, made for the mad scientists of our game who enjoy archiving gatherer in hopes of assembling the most unlikely of combos.
Point #3, “Diversity of Card Powers is Key to Discovery”, speaks to this card, too.
Understanding One With Nothing provides players a huge learning moment, reinforcing their understanding of card advantage while simultaneously enticing them to turn it on its head.
See, this ties directly to point #6: “People Like Finding Hidden Gems”: One With Nothing, by simply existing, demands players to build entire strategies around it.
It’s equivalent to developing “The Impossible Game”: if you tell people it’s impossible to beat, the first thing they will do is try to prove you wrong.
Most curious is point #7: “R&D is only human”. Unlike some ‘bad’ cards that slip under the radar, One With Nothing was far from an accident.
Brian Tinsman, Savior of Kamigawa’s lead designer, tried everything in his power to kill this card during development: “if this sees print as is,” he wrote in chat with the other developers, “I’m going to pound my forehead into a cement wall until I get a little scab”.
A little over a month later, Aaron Forsythe responded: “Print this bad boy”.
Contenders at Pro Tour Honolulu owe their thanks to Forsythe’s hubris.
One With Nothing, in all its glory, made its way into the sideboards of decks that season in order to combat the Owling Mine combo.
A build that utilized Howling Mine effects in conjunction with Ebony Owl Natsuke, the deck would kill opponents by stockpiling their hands full of cards.
The obvious logical response: discard your entire hand. Players have stated that casting One With Nothing once against Owling Mine would give you the best chance of winning late-game, and casting it twice would almost assure victory.
Because, for the effect it offers, One With Nothing is unmatched in the history of the game.
At instant speed, for one mana, it is the most efficient way to get rid of your hand.
Yes, it almost immediately activates Threshold. Yes, it’s a fantastic Madness outlet.
And yes, nothing gets you Hellbent, or Heckbent as it has become, faster than this.
In this regard, One With Nothing is an exceptional card.
As such, with the release of Shadows Over Innistrad, the card spiked higher than ever before: investors played into the hype surrounding the return of Madness and rode the profit train as players learned, yet again, that even if it is the best at what it does, it cannot be played at all.
Which is precisely why I love the card. I see it as one of the bravest designs to see print in over a decade. It explicitly says “I go against everything you value in this game”, and that level of bold is to be celebrated.
It is unabashedly counterintuitive: the card is not trying to hide a synergy or disguise itself as useful.
More than this, however, it is fundamentally Magic’s best worst card because it continues to challenge and deceive even the most advanced players.
There is no doubt in my mind that this card will be mentioned again, and again, with the release of future Magic sets. It is Magic’s version of the Impossible Game.
Ultimately, as Rosewater believes, it is not a useless card. Unplayable? Maybe. But far from terrible.
As he states, “the real wastes of cardboard aren’t the ones that get noticed or responses of any kind. . . They are the cards that no one remembers.”
Angel’s Grace, therefore, is a far worse card, as are all the other mediocre designs that sit lukewarmly in the middle of the road and draw no response or reaction whatsoever.
One With Nothing will never be such a card.
I’ll leave you with my favorite anecdotes that two of my Twitter followers pointed out to me.
One With Nothing presents maybe the most metal way to suicide on Turn 1 in Magic.
The perfect seven card hand looks like this: turn one Swamp into Dark Ritual into Dark Ritual, floating five black mana. Cast Tormod’s Crypt for free, then cast Demonic Consultation, which allows you to name a card and exile stuff from the top of your library until you hit that card.
The trick here is to name something that’s not in your deck: Borborygmos, for example, which causes you to remove the remainder of your library from the game.
Once this resolves, cast Sinkhole targeting your own Swamp, then One With Nothing to clear the last card from your hand.
Finally, crack Tormod’s Crypt on your graveyard, ending Turn One with no cards in hand, no cards in library, and no permanents in your graveyard or on board.
Pass the turn to your opponent with everything in exile.
Like I said up top, this card is one of the easiest ways to concede a game, so you may as well go out in haunting style.
Regardless of all these ideas, though, “stop trying to make [One With Nothing] happen; it’s not going to happen!”
Or wait . . .
Will it?
Alright, so that final anecdote right at the end there is by far my favorite thing I’ve heard in a week or two in terms of Magic.
That combo would be unbelievable to pull off—it’s the most metal suicide that this game can offer—so, thanks for sharing that with me, I appreciate that and I hope you enjoyed the anecdote.
Also, if you enjoyed the video—if you have any funny stories about One With Nothing or have any thoughts about it, let me know because I think it’s one of the weirdest and coolest cards in the age; which is why I spent so much time making a video on it, of course.
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Alright, guys, as always I will see you in a couple of weeks.
Cheers!

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