I promised 3 years ago to write an article about the Sensei's Divining Top. I never did. Not until now, that I've realised that it has gotten banned in Extended that I realised that I should really say something about this great card.
It took me a while to collect a playset of these - and when I did, it went into every combo deck I made after that. Why was that?
Sensei's Divining Top was great for finding combo pieces - and it had incredible synergy with shuffle effects - another thing common in combo decks. Why was shuffling good? Every time you shuffled, you'd get to look at fresh cards after a Sensei's Divining Top activation.
What shuffle effects am I talking about? Cards called tutors often end with a shuffle. Tutors are cards which allow the player to search their deck for a card - following that, a shuffling of the deck to prevent people from knowing what your next few draws contain - something the Top does handily.
What makes this worse? Extra Tops turn into cheap ways to draw - and combined with shuffle effects, you don't have to pay the cost of drawing the Top next turn.
Unfortunately, this is exactly why it got banned. It got everywhere and started slowing down everything. Tops and shuffling effects were everywhere - slowing down gameplay and disrupting the smooth flow of the game. They concluded that it was something that was damaging to both the game and the metagame - resulting in a seemingly innocuous card getting banned.
I'm unconcerned - it's not an overpowered card, and I only use it in combo decks. No one I play with is really gonna complain. After all, if I do use an Extended-legal tournament deck, it'd probably be a whole can of whoopass they won't want to play against anyway.
(No, I haven't begun playing Magic again. There was little appeal to me past the Planar Chaos set - which only appealed to me because of the colourshifted cards.)