Magic has been around for just over 30 years, and there are plenty of cards that absolutely broke the metagame on release. Most fell into obscurity as time passed and power creep caught up to them. Most.
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But there are lots of Magic: The Gathering cards that left an unforgettable mark on the history of the game. Cards so powerful that they’ve been banned from almost every format, are god-tier to this day and stood the test of time where others failed.
Today, I’m going to go over the 50 most powerful Magic cards to date and talk a bit about what makes them so strong. Let’s jump right in!
Delver of Secrets
First up is the infamous Delver of Secrets. Delver is one of the best and most aggressive creatures in the game, and a perfect candidate alongside Dragon’s Rage Channeler in aggressive Izzet decks.
This card’s power level relies on flipping it, which explains it’s mostly nonexistent impact on Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard.
When Golgari Grave-Troll is good, it is good. Dredge is one of the most powerful and one-sided mechanics in the game, and Grave-Troll is one of the best and most efficient ways not only to dredge cards, but also to win the game.
Cyclonic Rift has a negative reputation for a reason. A one-sided board wipe in Commander, it always either wins you the game or heavily delays it when it successfully resolves.
Teferi, Time Raveler
Teferi, Time Raveler, while certainly no Oko, Thief of Crowns, is one of the greatest 3-drop planeswalkers in the game. It outright shuts tempo decks that fail to answer it down and gives its controller incredible interaction capabilities through instant-speed sorceries.
What’s not to love?
Shock Lands (with fetches)
The shock lands provide some much-needed fixing in Magic without being tapped. But their real power comes from the fact that they have basic land types and can be fetched.
Fetch lands rule the world, and being able to fetch one of many different shock lands on turn 1 from a single fetch land provides unmatched mana fixing. After all, there’s no reason to have powerful cards if you can’t even cast them in the first place.
Esper Sentinel already made a lifelong impact on the Modern metagame since it was in Modern Horizons. It’s a great early creature, provides card advantage, and significantly throws your opponent off balance through the 1-mana tax.
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is nothing but a menace in the formats where it’s legal. It’s already a great creature on rate, and the ability to steal cards and generate extra mana in a format where cards are already so cheap is unreal.
Dig Through Time
Dig Through Time, while not quite Treasure Cruise, is still an incredible card advantage engine. Picking the best two out of seven is always a great deal. And for two mana no less.
Veil of Summer
Veil of Summer is what saved green from an eternity of suffering through endless counterspells. It’s the ultimate counter to counters, and it’s card neutral to boot.
Lightning Bolt is red’s magnum opus. It’s aggressive, it’s defensive, its efficient removal… It’s everything you want from a cheap red spell!
Swords to Plowshares
Swords to Plowshares is as efficient as exile removal gets. Gaining life isn’t always a great trade, but it’s infinitely better than giving your opponent a land like on Path to Exile and should be treated as such.
The fetch lands are what make the Magic world go round. Even the best cards are useless if you can’t cast them!
Treasure Cruise, despite being banned in faster formats, is still one of the best cards draw spells in the game. With the possibility to be on-par with Ancestral Recall if your graveyard is full enough, it’s cards like these that make me wonder what WotC was thinking.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Once the great terror of Modern, Jace, the Mind Sculptor has since fallen to the wayside as a sideboard card with a few copies being played here in there in Modern Azorius control decks.
This is still one of the most powerful planeswalkers in the game and can easily win a game on an equal board state if it goes uncontested.
Flusterstorm is the end-all be-all in counterspell or interaction battles. It duplicates itself a number of times equal to the storm count and is nearly impossible to counter if you have extra mana up.
Just don’t make the mistake of Flusterstorm’ing a Flusterstorm without doing the calculations based on your opponent’s mana!
Ponder, while not as powerful as Brainstorm at its highest potential, is a close runner up when it comes to the best cantrip in the game. It gives you the most card selection without a fetch land, which makes it an excellent turn 1 play where Brainstorm otherwise wouldn’t be cast at all.
Brainstorm is hands down the best cantrip in the game. It pairs well with fetch lands as a way to give you the ultimate card selection options, which any deck that can play Brainstorm is also playing.
It also hides cards you need to insulate from hand disruption, a niche but important benefit.
Wheel of Fortune
Wheel of Fortune, aside from having a namesake game show on TV, is one of the most powerful red cards in the game. It draws you seven fresh cards regardless of how many you or your opponent discarded, which makes it an incredibly strong card draw spell for aggressive decks.
Enlightened Tutor digs up any enchantment or artifact and throws it on top of your library at instant speed for just one white. It’s one of the most effective tutors in the game on par with Vampiric Tutor, and it adds incredibly consistency to white combo decks that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to without black.
Imperial Seal is only slightly worse than Vampiric Tutor, but the sorcery speed limitation to put a card on top is still important. This card’s cost really only comes from rarity and a demand in Commander for consistency, but it’s still super powerful.
Vampiric Tutor goes at instant speed. While it doesn’t go into your hand like Demonic Tutor, it costs just one black instead of two mana and can be cast on your opponent’s end step.
Mana Drain is the second-best counterspell in the game. Getting so much colorless mana for free, often more than you spent, feels so good.
It can be somewhat difficult to always find a place to spend that mana, but there isn’t much to complain about considering this is a strictly better version of Counterspell.
Tutors are one of the most powerful card types in the game. They’re basically worthless on their own. Their power comes from the ability to get crucial pieces of interaction when they’re needed most, which is invaluable in the right situations.
Bazaar of Baghdad
Bazaar of Baghdad is one of the most crucial components of any reanimator or graveyard-based deck. On top of providing a method for you to discard specific cards, you also get to draw new ones to essentially replace them. It’s card negative, but that doesn’t typically matter.
Serra’s Sanctum is without a doubt the weaker of the Urza’s Saga lands, but it’s powerful nonetheless. Enchantment decks are almost always Selesnya, and this white mana comes in handy considering most other powerful mana sources those decks have access to exclusively generate green mana.
Through the Breach
Through the Breach is sort of like Tinker. It’s a one-card combo that usually results in a concession from your opponent once it resolves.
Tinker is a supremely powerful one-card combo, and often the sole reason lots of decks exist. It can get ultra-powerful artifacts like Bolas’s Citadel or Sphinx of the Steel Wind into play as early as turn 1, which easily takes over any game they’re in that early.
Original Dual Lands (with fetches)
The original dual lands are already incredible. They’re dual lands with no downside and both basic land types.
But their power level comes from the fact that they can be paired with fetches for incredibly consistent mana fixing. They’re still great without fetches, but it’s really a two-card combo.
Power Artifact is one of the few two-card combo pieces in the game. It pairs well with cards like Grim Monolith to create infinite mana, and works with just about any artifact with an activated ability that doesn’t require it to tap.
Oko, Thief of Crowns
The infamous Oko, Thief of Crowns is banned in just about every format. Consider yourself lucky if you were fortunate enough to never have to face it on the battlefield. It’s banned for a reason, and it having a massive +2 and +1 doesn’t help.
Chains of Mephistopheles
Chains of Mephistopheles is one of the most annoying and potent stax effects in the game. You’ve probably never had to play against this card, and that’s because your Magic ancestors were forced to.
Intuition is one of the trickier but most rewarding blue cards in the game. It allows for consistent tutoring with the right combination of cards, most notably fetch lands and Mystic Sanctuary.
The second most powerful card in any storm deck, Yawgmoth’s Will allows for so much extra value to be extracted out of the cards you’ve already cast. It’s usually paired with card- and mana-positive cards in storm decks to allow you to quickly and easily raise the storm count for a kill.
Doomsday has one of the most on-theme names for what it does. It promotes a careful and unique deckbuilding style that revolves around combo’ing out your opponent through Thassa’s Oracle to win the game in a single turn.
Force of Will
Without question the most powerful counterspell effect, Force of Will provides incredible offensive and defensive potential for blue decks. While it can still be cast for five mana, you’re almost always pitching a second copy of the card or a less important blue card to cast this for free.
Just don’t forget about the one life!
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Lion’s Eye Diamond is one of the most powerful combo pieces in all of Magic. It’s basically a nerfed Black Lotus, and the downside of discarding your hand is practically an upside in the storm decks you’ll find it in.
While Time Vault is one of the more confusing cards to learn at first, it’s also one of the most powerful. From combo potential to straight up stax’ing your opponent out, there isn’t much this card can’t do.
Grim Monolith is one of the best when it comes to mana-positive artifacts. It’s positive by two mana much like Mana Crypt, but without the two-life downside.
It costs two mana to get online though, but it isn’t too far behind considering the combo potential with cards like Power Artifact.
Next up is Mana Crypt, a free two mana on a stick. You have to pay three lives if you lose the coinflip, which makes it a serious detriment in decks that can’t consistently win fast.
This is uniquely one of the few cards that’s incredibly powerful but also a downside in slower or less powerful decklists.
The decks that use Mishra’s Workshop are literally called “shop decks.” That’s all that needs to be said.
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is one of the most brutal and game-impacting stax effects of all time. It taxes each player one colorless mana for each creature they have and quickly force players to determine what creatures they control are worth keeping around.
The blue Wheel of Fortune, Timetwister is one of the lesser-known pieces of the Power 9. It’s mostly reserved as an infinite combo piece in certain builds, like Urza, Lord High Artificer Commander decks, but it’s still beyond powerful.
Library of Alexandria
Library of Alexandria is one of the most powerful control-based cards in the game. It supplies more consistent card draw than any other source or card in the game, and the downside of needing to always have seven cards in hand to activate it is incredibly easy to maintain. Especially when going second.
The Tolarian Academy of green, Gaea’s Cradle generates more mana than even some green decks know what to do with. It’s the ultimate land in elves and, it’s surprisingly still legal in Legacy!
It’s no secret that artifacts are one of the most powerful card types in Magic. Looking at any Vintage deck will tell you that.
Tolarian Academy just generates far too much mana to not be relevant. It allows you to cycle through many more cards and be much more developed than your opponent in the right deck.
Free mana is always good, especially when it sticks around permanently on a mana rock. I’ve ranked the Moxen in fifth place because they’re well deserving as some of the most powerful card. Sapphire is better than the others, but there are still some more powerful cards to come.
I don’t think Sol Ring gets nearly enough credit for being one of the greatest cards ever printed. It’s immediately mana positive with absolutely no downside, and it’s good to play on just about every single turn.
In fact, unless you’re really high on pips, it’s never a downside!
Taking an extra turn is one of the most immediately impactful things you can do in a game of Magic. Even just going first can determine so many matchups, and taking an extra turn is far stronger.
You’re almost always casting Time Walk if you’re playing a format where it’s legal.
I think Ancestral Recall is an obvious second-place choice. Going up two cards for just one mana is literally as good as it gets and at instant speed no less.
Black Lotus. ‘Nuff said.
That wraps up everything I’ve got for you today! I enjoyed taking this trip down memory lane and looking at some of the most powerful cards to date.
What did you think of my list? Are there any changes you’d make, or obvious omissions I should’ve included? I put a lot of thought into this list so I think I’ve got it down, but I’m open to suggestions.
Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!