Everything is Magical – The Best Cards Ever
I know what you're thinking. What presumption! What absolute gall! "The Best Cards Ever?!" Who does this man think he is? But I must stop you right there. Allow me to explain.
Last week this site ended your week with the terribly depressing "Worst Cards Ever." I wanted to take this opportunity to neutralize the needless amounts of negativity still emanating from that article and it's author. Rest assured I am aware of the arbitrary nature of the task at hand. I will summon all of my magical prowess to bring you what are surely:
When judging the best cards ever there are many things to consider. The card must be useful in a large number of decks. The card must be useful in almost all circumstances within a game. The card must be extremely powerful on its own. The card must stand the test of time. The card must be fun to play. Some things we won't consider: The card cannot have been restricted or banned outright in any format. This includes Vintage, Legacy and MTGO's Classic formats. Sorry Demonic Tutor, Time Walk and Black Lotus but not being able to actually play with the card sure puts a hamper on the fun factor. Other "all time" lists engage in asinine debates over the P-9 cards and I'd much rather discuss usable cards. I will also ignore the card's rarity and age, the general popularity of the card and my own personal preferences for color, type and flavor. So without further ado...
#6 Fireblast - Championships have been decided with this card. This is red's Force of Will (banned). The option to pay zero mana for an instant is almost always a good thing but this isn't just any spell. You're not just countering someone else's spell or preventing damage. This has the potential actually kill your opponent for 0 mana. Collect 1 or 2 of these throughout the game and instantly win later on. The option to pay 6 isn't horrible either, all things considered. In any mono-red deck you're going to want some multiple of this card. Fireblast embodies the color of Red-- direct damage to an opponent without hesitation or constraints.
#5 Tarmogoyf - At first glance this just seems like a really good creature. Maybe even a great creature but certainly not one of the best cards of all time! What's great about Taramogoyf is that you can "set it and forget it" on turn two. Its like a Figure of Destiny that you don't have to continue paying for. It gets better after almost every game action. Nothing else is required of you. Any time you can put a potentially huge threat on the board at very little cost to yourself, its a great deal. You like combos? Just continue playing normally and chances are this creature will get better. Everything is a combo with this guy including your opponent's actions. Green's ability to put real threats on the board for less than 3 mana is extremely limited. Green's threats usually roll out when 5 or 6 mana are available. Giving green a huge threat on turn 2 is absolutely game changing. It's not just limited to green either. It only costs 1 green mana so this can compliment almost any color deck. As the most recently released card on the list, Tarmogoyf has yet to prove that it can stand the test of time. The way the card is worded (including "planeswalker" card type before a planeswalker card type existed), this card won't lose potency anytime soon.
#4 Hymn to Tourach - This is one of those "seal the game on turn 2" cards. Imagine taking your initial hand containing 3 lands. Your opponent has gone first. You take your turn and put out a single land, play nothing. Your opponent puts out a second land and plays HtT- you discard 2 cards at random. He grabs one of your lands and your only card with a mana cost under 4. Your next two draws are not lands. You have lost. Hymn to Tourach is bad enough on the second turn but its just as devastating on turn 3, 4 or 5. Cards- in-hand advantage is sometimes overlooked by even the more advanced players. I've seen tournaments where Pro players mulligan down to 4 or 5 cards trying to put together their crazy combo. Imagine going first and making them discard 2 of those. Game Over, man. Putting 4 copies of this card in a mono black deck gives you a chance to seal the game against any deck, no matter their strategy.
#3 Zuran Orb - The reason Black Lotus (banned) is the most expensive and generally considered the best card ever printed is because it is useful in every deck. I would contend that Zuran Orb could also be played in just as many decks as Black Lotus. With a 0 casting cost you can effectively double your life total over the course of a game. Most of the speedy eternal format decks out there are designed to do 20ish damage as fast as possible. About to die? Throw a +2 life gainer on the stack at almost no cost to you. Having at least 10 extra life in any normal game isn't just a stalling tactic. It's an assurance that you won't be going down until you've completely lost control of the game. Combo this card with Crucible of Worlds, Azura or any number of other legal cards for maximum effect. But the best thing about this card is that you needn't combine it with anything to reap it's benefits. This card's versatility and simplicity are what get it on this list of the best non-banned cards ever.
#2 Wrath of God - This card is probably the best "feeling" card in the game. The card title sings. The effect fits the card title. The caster feels like a God. What more could you ask for from a Magic card? Still legal after all these years, players continue to find ways to generate white mana in all of their decks in order to play this card. There are typically three popular types of decks in tournament play: The heavy control deck, the combo/storm deck and the ever popular "token rush". This is the most effective and one of the only ways to completely deal with an all out speed rush. The cornerstone of an entire color, Wrath of God is a must have playset for any serious MTG player.
#1 Counterspell - While the card itself is extremely powerful, the true impact of the card is in the countering mechanic itself. Blue would be a wasteland of weak flying creatures, draw cards and delay of game penalties if the counter wasn't there after the bounce. Blue is certainly "control heavy" but realistically the entire game of magic is about gaining "control" of the board. Whether through brute strength, dastardly deeds or projecting direct power; you win when you have control of the table. Counterspell defines control. It can effectively destroy an opponent's entire turn with just two left over mana. It's versatility is unmatched as it can completely negate any of the cards listed before it. Not only does counterspell single-handedly define an entire color of Magic the Gathering, it is useful in almost every circumstance, has stood the test of time and is extremely fun to play.
Bribery - Searching through your opponent's library on its own is worth paying 5 for. But grabbing any creature in that deck is absolutely unprecedented, particularly considering some of the creatures coming out these days. With a little mana acceleration you can have someone else's 10/10 protection from everything hydra out by turn 4. Be sure to take your time and examine the other cards in your opponent's deck. You not only can deduce what might be in their hand, they now keep no secrets from you for the rest of the game.
Lightning Bolt - Quite possibly the best burn card ever made. Fireblast only beats this card because of the surprise factor. The best cost to damage ratio in the game (without sacrificing mountains).
Birds of Paradise - While you won't win the game with this card alone it has certainly given green a distinct color changing advantage. One of, if not the best mana generating creatures available. Still legal after all these years.
So there you have it- The Best Cards Ever! Feel free to comment with your own lists and explanations.