Magic: the Gathering is a game best enjoyed with almost any number of people. When you play, you can end up facing a deck that is outright stronger than yours. This wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for the fact that sometimes, it’s because of one specific card. This one card can change the course of a game, or even end it. As avid Magic: the Gathering fans, we’d like to offer you to have a look at some of Magic’s most powerful cards…
… That aren’t banned!
Before we get into this though, we just wanted to say these aren’t factually the most powerful cards out there. These are some powerful game changers that we’ve either experienced or have knowledge about. There may be (definitely are) more powerful ones out there.
10) Ob Nixilis the Fallen
This card may be more powerful than we’re giving it credit for, but when you consider how easy it is to handle, we didn’t put it any higher. Ob Nixilis the Fallen is a 5 Converted Mana Cost (CMC) 6/6 demon who deals 3 damage and gets 3 +1/+1 counters placed on it when you play a land. Couple this with a card as simple as Evolving Wilds, which is a land that allows you to sacrifice it to search for a land and put that on the battlefield, there’s 6 damage and 6 1/1 counters immediately.
I know the power of this card; at a 6/6, he’s too big for a lot of basic red spells. Black has a few destroys and White has a few situational destroys. Blue can counter it and green can out-size it if they get it early. The real power of Ob is he doesn’t need to lift a finger. You can throw hexproof on him, sit back and just enjoy the absurd size he’ll ramp up to. Trust me, as I have him in my Landfall deck, pairing him with The Gitrog Monster and World Shaper, now THAT is brutality.
9) Battle of the Hydras
Green likes big monsters, green makes big monsters and makes big monsters bigger. It’s monsters like hydras that exemplify green’s ethos, you create a mass of land and fuel an unimaginable horror. Here are three of the biggest and scariest, vote for your favourite at the end:
Think twice about casting spells, especially in multiplayer games, because a Managorger gets out of hand quickly, especially when a red and/or blue deck is in play, and spells are being dropped on the field like it’s raining fire… and rain. It tramples, it costs three mana, and left to sit and stew unchallenged it is a nightmare.
Seems costly, but here’s another Hydra that takes very little effort to spiral out of control, especially with the vast mana output of your average green deck. A pair of Dictates of Karametra means every mana you tap doubles this beasty. Prepare to ask uncomfortable questions like “how many zeroes define a trillion” (it’s 24).
Finally, another costly one, but in terms of explosive growth, Broodmaster’s “Monstrous” ability takes a big monster, and as well as making it bigger, give it some big and scary friends. You can cheaply give yourself a 1/1, but put some backbone into that mana output and give yourself a pack of 8/8 nasties sitting alongside big momma 15/15. Then make ‘em trample.
It sounds pretty feeble to say that a Tarmogoyf can maximise at 8/9 assuming you’ve optimised its potential, and has no keywords that make it more daunting. It’s a 0/1 creature that grows for every card type in every graveyard, meaning it’ll average around a 3/4 (creatures, instants and sorceries are the most likely to end up in the graveyard) but it can grow with a little effort.
But it costs a mere 2 mana… for a creature that averages 3/4… Most “2 drops” are half that, less with a keyword, usually only 1/1 or thereabouts if they have a power of any interest, meaning an average ‘Goyf should cost twice what it does. Now throw the occasional enchantment or Giant Growth onto that horror and it’s an early game bomb that tips the scales heavily in your direction before the game is properly under way.
Previously relegated to the honourables list for being several cards instead of one, and in truth there aren’t many if any that are particularly powerful in their own right. With a few Slivers you have a cruel host that boost one another’s stats and adds keywords like Trample and Deathtouch. The bigger and nastier Slivers can be pulled from the library, make them indestructible, and make every one that comes into play steal something of your opponent’s.
They are the ultimate tribal synergy, lacking the restrictions of allies, more diverse than humans, and packing a punch more deadly than elves. And they simply don’t die… not in game, I mean historically speaking, Slivers just keep reappearing in new sets, these days it tends to be in Master’s sets, but there’s always new Core on the horizon.
6) Deathrite Shaman
Graveyards are a resource in the right hands, that is why the ability to exile cards became a growing necessity. Your undead minions can be returned to unlife, your expended spells are not as lost as they seem, and one short Delve can make an obscenely high cost disgustingly low. And the right card can also feed off the graveyards of others.
Have rid of a creature that you don’t want coming back, and use it to feed your life total. Be rid of that flashback or split card and deal some damage in the process, or just bolster your own resources by getting rid of land that wasn’t even yours. All of these abilities are tragically cheap, and the fact that the Shaman has to tap for it is its greatest limitation. But for the cost, it adds versatility and power in the early game that’s hard to rival.
Everybody loves mill decks right? What says fun quite like watching your entire library pour into your deck while your life remains relatively untouched? Oh boy, do you need to draw more cards to keep your immediate options open? Sure you don’t want to leave your cards in your library where they’re safe? Does writing an entire paragraph in rhetorical questions helping emphasize exactly how bad milling feels?
Traumatize in a mill deck is relatively high cost at five mana, but it very literally cuts your work in half, a single cast halves your opponent’s deck, meaning all those little cards like Mind Sculpts and Manic Scribe have gone from mild problems that have banished your favourites just tantalisingly out of reach (unless your a black deck, but your graveyard isn’t invulnerable), and worse yet, if you’re already under the influence of a Fraying Sanity then that Traumatize is suddenly as good as an instant-win.
4) Snapcaster Mage
Blue is a colour that wants to control the pace of a game. They want to make sure you don’t get your actions off the way you’d want. They may counter your cards, they may return cards to your hands, or outright take control of them. Blue loves to mess with you and watch you as you waste your mana. So then when Snapcaster Mage was introduced, blue players were completely at ease with their control game.
An expensive card to buy, Snapcaster Mage has a lot of power for quite cheap. At 3 mana, you get a 2/1 with Flash. 2/1 isn’t particularly exciting, but it’s the fact it has Flash that makes this so special. At any point, you can cast this and trigger its main ability. You choose an instant or sorcery card from within your graveyard and give it Flashback until the end of the turn. Your opponents rallied back up? Aetherspouts. Your opponents have a powerful card incoming? Cancel. You name it, you can get it if it’s already in your graveyard.
This creature is a great way to keep the magic flowing.
3) Lightning Bolt
The humble tool of red. The humble, painful tool. Let me explain something real quick; one mana can sometimes summon in a 2/2 creature… and a 3/3 at a push. Therefore, Lightning Bolt in turn 1 has a check against pretty much every creature that comes into play on turn one. However, some creatures that cost 4, 5, 6 mana only have 3 toughness. With one red mana, Lightning Bolt deals with them.
Naturally, Lightning Bolt doesn’t have to be cast on a creature. Indeed, players and Planeswalkers are equally doomed. However, it’s worth pointing out that when a Planeswalker is played, the player playing it technically gets priority so can use a Planeswalker ability as soon as it comes onto the field. Nevertheless, it’s still 3 damage which can be flung around with ease. Many creatures aren’t safe and 3 damage is more than a tenth of your life total in a one vs one game… On turn 1. For 1 mana.
Remember that Planeswalker rule, guys…
It’s easy to forget that for some decks, life is no mere countdown timer to death, but as much a resource as mana, creatures, library and the contents of one’s graveyard. Black decks in particular are masters at using every part of the animal, so do not easily dismiss Thoughtseize for digging a chunk out of your life. For a single mana you can pull a nasty tooth from your opponent’s hand.
Most cards of the ilk, like Duress or Divest limit your options to certain card types, meaning that while you can see that big horrible spell or creature that you’d really rather be elsewhere, you may not be able to do anything about it. Thoughtseize has a high price, but it’s still an early game advantage, slows the pace of progress for your opponent, and it’s not like you won’t be getting that life back any time soon.
1) Jace, the Mind Sculptor
… Remember that Planeswalker rule, guys?
This was the topic of some debate between Joel and I when we came up with this list. Once we realised the way that Planeswalker priority worked, we realised this already ridiculous card just topped the list. Oh and to make it better, this card was originally banned, but has since come out of the ban list on every format that it’s playable in. This is mostly due to a couple of blocks coming out with new ways to deal with Planeswalkers.
However, play cards from other sets and you limit your potential to deal with these nasty cards. Sure, you can counter them and sure, creatures can kill them, but let’s not pretend that makes Jace a push-over. With a base loyalty of 3 and with its first ability being a +2, it’s no wonder this guy can survive pretty well. However, if anyone gets to that -12, it’s definitely game over.
Remember that bit where I said “… That aren’t banned!”? I do too, so let’s talk about two fun examples of banned cards that are ridiculous. One of them is the undisputed king of power; the other isn’t a card, but it’s something we really do need to discuss, as it’s a well known part of Magic…
The undisputed most powerful card in all of Magic: the Gathering; the ability to get a lot for absolutely nothing. You get 3 mana of any one colour just by tapping this 0 mana artifact and sacrificing it. There’s a really easy way to describe how powerful this card is…
Remember earlier how we mentioned Lightning Bolt was 1 mana for 3 damage to any target? Imagine on turn 1 playing that card, converting all of the mana to red mana and then doing three of those in one hit. Oh, but then you may have played one mana that turn and you may potentially have your fourth Lightning Bolt in hand. That means, on turn 1, that’s theoretically possible to do 12 damage to your opponent, just because you had this card. Another 8 damage and you win in a one vs one game. Naturally this is an extremely unlikely scenario, but it’s not impossible.
The power of Black Lotus is insane. However, this card is outright banned across the board, with the exception of a Restricted status in Vintage.
Oh – And this card is rare and expensive as hell.
Emrakul the Aeons Torn
The power of Emrakul is legendary… And the only way for her to not be a threat anymore was for her to be banished to the moon.
Anyway, ignoring the actual implications behind the card, this cthulhu-esque creature is effectively the most powerful card of the Eldrazi. These otherworldly beings are absurd with their Annihilator keyword, allowing them to force you to remove permanents from your side of the field, just when they attack. This means that they’re removed before anything else happens, so you can’t even defend with something that’s about to evaporate.
Emrakul did come with a hefty cost at 15 CMC, but that’s not the end of her world. What made her truly terrifying was how easy it was to summon Eldrazi Spawns. Couple this with the powerful and versatile enchantment Doubling Season, Emrakul would have all of her Spawns sacrificed and she comes in, uncounterable. She gives her user an extra turn and she has protection from coloured spells. Basically, Emrakul is power.
However, we were going to add her to the main list, until we discovered she was banned from Commander. Following our own rules, we couldn’t have a card even this absurdly powerful in our main list, as it is banned in a format.
This is our End Phase, for we’ve checked out some of the most powerful cards in Magic: the Gathering. Whilst this list wasn’t grounded in factual evidence, a lot of the above is through our knowledge of the game. Yes, there are more powerful cards out there, such as the whole of the Power Nine, but these are real game-changers. Now, it’s time for you to change our game by voting for next week’s Top 10.
Another week has passed and hoo boy, am I ever exhausted? I think I’m tapped out. Perhaps I’ve spent all of my mana this turn. So tell me, what is your CMC and what are your favourite powerful cards in Magic: the Gathering? Perhaps you play a similar Trading Card Game which has equally absurd cards? Share your thoughts and comments below, or over on our Facebook and Twitter pages.