My friend once said there is no such thing as a useless Magic card. In fact, looking back in Magic’s history, with limited card pools, weird formats and lack of better options, many “bad” magic cards have found niche uses. There are many brewers and Johnny players out there who have tried to break some of the worst cards in Magic history but it is more interesting to see what are the worst Magic cards to actually see competitive play.
When talking about the worst cards in the history of Magic, One with Nothing is always up there. Everyone knows the importance of card advantage so why would anyone want to discard their hand, leaving you open to just about anything. Well it was used as a tech against Owling Mine deck which actually wanted you to have 7+ cards in your hand for cards like Ebony Owl Netsuke. Well if you don’t have cards in you hand, they can’t win right? To be honest, in hindsight this tech was a little suspect but you can refuel quickly with all their Howling Mines.
Back in the day, mana fixing ranged from Tundra to Adarkar Wastes to Wizard’s School. The tri color land cycle from the worst set in Magic, Homeland, is probably some of the weakest dual/ tri lands in the history. Looking back, the first Pro Tour was won by a U/W Control deck built and piloted by Michael Loconto. Magic was a different time then and many cards are honestly outclassed these days but right there is Wizard’s School as a one of in the mana base. Even back then, this card was horrible and even more curious is the fact that the deck didn’t play any black spells. So was there really no other dual lands in Standard back then? Maybe.. but the fact that Wizards force players to use at least 5 cards from Homeland card may be part of Loconto’s motivation.
Another bad mana fixer to see tournament play is Tarnished Citadel. A lightning bolt to your face each turn hurts. Yet it saw some play in Odyssey Block decks and even Legacy Dredge decks. Back then Wizards print few enemy color dual lands so Tarnished Citadel was one of few options if you chose to play a deck like U/G Madness (which won a Pro Tour). As for Legacy, Dredge deck are super fast so life total really don’t matter and they needed perfect mana so Tarnished Citadel was often the option after Gemstone Mine and City of Brass.
Merfolk of the Pearl Trident is a 1/1 for one, boring. Yet it found its way into one of the more dominant deck of its time Merfolk Opposition. Merfolk Opposition actually won a World Championship (piloted by Alex Borteh). If you look at the list it is actually play a lot of bad creatures but they were are all merfolks. The synergy between merfolks + Lord of Atlantis along with Opposition and Static Orb locked opponents out while putting on pressure is a very powerful combination.
Debtor’s Pulpit is an aura that gives a land the ability to tap target creature, all for the low price of 4W and if you want to use that ability the turn you play it you need an untap land so it effectively cost 6 mana. It is a powerful effect but it is one that is usually seen on an one or two mana creatures. It is basically barely playable in limited but yet Debtor’s Pulpit is sometimes (although admittedly rarely) seen as a one off sideboard card for U/W Control deck, most notably the deck Adrian Sullivan played in a Starcity Open. Why? It is one of the few ways to repeatedly stop an Aetherling (and sometimes Stormbreath Dragon) in Standard. Sure Pithing Needle can stop its abilities but Debtor’s Pulpit stop it completely.
I am sure I missed a lot of bad cards that found its way to competitive play especially from decks during the “early days”. Of course there are also bad cards like Lion’s Eye Diamond and Dark Depths to later become broken, dominant cards. So before you say a card sucks maybe there is a variable and/ or an angle you aren’t considering.