Oh Magic – you so cray cray. You cray cray because you’re the longest going collectible card game and have tens of thousands of unique cards. And with great variety comes great brokenness. One of the cool things about card games is discovering a combination of cards that clearly shouldn’t exist or was at least not intended to exist. No matter how hard the WotC R&D team tries for these not to slip through the cracks they’ll never be able to completely foresee every possible combination as they make over 500 new cards each year.
Today we’re having a look at ten cards that fit that ‘broken’ category. This list isn’t necessarily about power level but more about how abusable the card is. And, of course, about how much fun the card is to play.
10 – Jeskai Ascendancy
This card is relatively new as it came out only last year but it’s been capturing the imagination of combo players all year long. Just weeks after it was released Modern players were already clamoring for a straight up ban as some early brews that featured Glittering Wish seemed unbeatable at first.
So why is this unassuming-looking enchantment getting all that attention? Well, for only three mana it does three really powerful things that synergise together very well. First of all, it untaps all your dudes. Ascendancy is best used in a deck with creatures that tap for powerful effects, and the one effect that’s proved to be most popular is mana generation (such as Birds of Paradise). Then, it lets you cycle through your deck. If you fill your deck with really cheap instants and sorceries, you’ve already made a practically infinite combo – cycling cards and untapping your mana dorks to make infinite mana. But then, it also pumps all your creatures. It’s the perfect trifecta.
Right now Jeskai Ascendancy is mostly played in Standard but I would keep an eye on this card. Whilst it’s considerably weaker than any other card on this list, with new cards released comes new possibilities. One day this card will make a splash in Modern again – mark my words.
9 – Birthing Pod
There are very few cards in Magic that get better and better as time goes by. It was a major player in Standard when it was released and quickly moved on to be a card that birthed multiple Tier 1 decks in Modern. It’s also amazingly cool.
Birthing Pod lets you abuse creatures that have “Enters the Battlefield” triggers by chaining the sacrifice and tutor triggers. With each new set we got more and more options for Birthing Pod decks. When WotC printed Mr. Siege Rhinoceros, Birthing Pod decks became so dominant that Wizards R&D decided to ban the card from Modern.
The most fun thing about Birthing Pod is that you have to think very carefully about what you’re going to include in your deck. It required skillful and technical play and a good understanding of the cards you were running and how they interacted with each other. Will Birthing Pod see the light of day again? Wizards is not likely to unban it in Modern, and whilst the card is too slow for Legacy, you never know how things might pan out in the future.
8 – Demonic Tutor
Where do you even begin with this card? Clearly this was printed back in the good ol’ days, when Wizards still didn’t quite know what they were doing. Two mana – find any card in your deck. If Birthing Pod is too slow for Legacy then this in comparison is just too outright broken (and banned across multiple formats as a consequence – hence only reaching a modest number 8 on this list).
Apart from making absolutely any combo deck way more consistent than it should be, it’s also a versatile tool. Need lands? You got one. Opponent has pesky creatures? Here’s some removal. Want to hold up a counter spell but haven’t got one in your hand? No worries. The amount of applications for Demonic Tutor is completely ridiculous. Clearly two mana for anything couldn’t last long.
Naturally, this will hit casual players’ tables quite often as they don’t have to restrict themselves to any formats and can pick up a white-bordered copy relatively cheap. But there are a couple of structured formats where you can get some tutoring on demonic style: Commander and Cube.
7 – Burning Wish
You thought looking through your deck and finding a card is great? How about looking through your entire collection? Except, that’s not actually how Burning Wish works.
For the longest time if you cast Burning Wish you could whip out your trades binder, have a good long think about what you wanted and eventually slap it down on the table. As cool as that sounds, it’s a real nightmare for any kind of tournament situation. It just takes time and is hard to enforce the term “a card I own” because it’s hard to define ownership. Just imagine your opponent casting Burning Wish and saying to his friend, “Hey Fred, can I have your Ancestral Recall?” He then looks at you with a wry smile and reaffirms the situation: “I own this card now.” Jeez…
In 2009 all the Wish cards were erratad and now the term “outside of the game” has come to mean in your sideboard for the purposes of sanctioned tournaments. Even though it’s significantly more restricted, it’s still an incredibly powerful card. Instead of having your win conditions in your deck, with Burning Wish you can keep them in your sideboard. Hence, you have a Demonic Tutor for Sorceries. And legal in Legacy. Oh boy.
6 – LED
No no! We’re not talking about light bulbs here (although, seriously, if your house isn’t wired up with LEDs yet, what are you waiting for? Those things are insanely cool!). The card in question is Lion’s Eye Diamond. I never knew that Lions have Diamonds in their eyes but apparently they do and apparently they generate three mana of any colour. Seems legit.
But seriously, the reason LED makes this list is because it is a perfect example of how a card can start out as junk, then become broken, then become junk again and then become broken again. When Lion’s Eye Diamond was released, there was nothing to do with it. Sure, it was a cool imitation of Black Lotus but there’s not much reason to get three mana if you’re not gonna have anything in your hand to cast.
However, Magic rules change often and the game now is only similar to the game people played twenty years ago. Even things you think are always going to stay the same are likely to change (see: the new mulligan rule introduced with Battle for Zendikar or a whole new basic land – i.e. sixth color spoiled from Oath of the Gatewatch).
Eventually, the rules changed in a way where you could announce the spell, but before paying mana you could sacrifice LED and use that mana to cast it. And then everyone was prying dem diamonds from dem Lion eyes so much that they had to restrict it in Vintage. Later the card was erratad to say you could no longer do that, but as more cards were released (such as Ad Nauseam and Faithless Looting) there was more and more reason to play it as it was still legal in Legacy. It also gets extra points for the super weird art.
5 – Dream Halls
Hahahhahahahha! OMG this stuff just keeps getting crazier. The further we go down this list the more often you’re just gonna stare at the screen going “you wot now mate?” Unless of course you’ve been playing Magic for donkeys years. In that case you know exactly what’s going on here.
Dream Halls comes from the very fine line of cards that say – I can cast anything I like. Whilst it’s certainly automatic card disadvantage, the reward for discarding a card has never been greater. The only thing that puts a stop on this bad boy is the fact that some of the largest meanest and baddest creatures in Magic’s history are in fact colorless and therefore cannot share a color with… well, anything.
Still, would I gladly discard a Brainstorm to cast Omnipotence or a Cabal Therapy to cast Grislebrand for no mana? Where’s the dotted line ’cause I’ve got a pen in my hand and I’m itching to sign. The only problem with Dream Halls is that it’s really weak to counter spells. Aside from that, the sky is the limit.
4 – Fastbond
These babies just keep getting crazier! Fastbond is ridonculous. Just think about the potential. It’s turn three. You have Fastbond in play and you’re on eighteen life. You play a Polluted Delta, crack it and find a land. Sure, you’ve just gone down to sixteen – no biggie. Now you play Crucible of Worlds and you can replay that Polluted Delta from your graveyard as many times as you like. Or, imagine instead of Polluted Delta you have a Strip Mine. Opponent’s lands? Gone forever.
Fastbond is not just uber-broken. It’s also pretty much banned everywhere you can think of. Commander? Nope. Legacy? Nada. Vintage? Ok, you can’t ban anything in Vintage but it is restricted.
That’s because playing all the lands you want is simply unfair and if you think that the cost of one life is any kind of penalty – look, it just isn’t. Even if it said “pay 2 life” it wouldn’t really be that big of a deal.
3 – Candelabra of Tawnos
There are many things that hide behind Candelabras but in this particular case it hides a very broken Magic card. As we’re hitting our Top 3, the prices of these cards also take a leap. If you want a copy of Candelabra of Tawnos, be prepared to shell out at least 300 bucks and upwards – depending on the condition of the card. On the surface, it looks like you can tap x mana to untap x mana. No big deal
Except that untapping a land isn’t just netting one mana. Lands produce various effects but most importantly, there are some that will make two (or sometimes even more) mana. And that means – loads and loads of mana. Whilst certainly not the only mana combo in existence – this one doesn’t even require that much set up. Just cast Candelabra, untap your lands and get all the things you want.
Candelabra is an artifact, which means it doesn’t have summoning sickness. That is one of the most important things about it. Just see Magus of the Candelabra which is a card with the same effect and the same CMC – but it’s a creature. And the card is virtually unplayable, unless of course you’re looking for a budget version for casual play purposes.
2 – Time Vault
If you thought Candelabra is expensive just look up the price for this baby. Depending on the set it’s from and the condition this could easily fetch a few grand. And there’s a reason for it. As long as you have anything, anything at all in play that untaps artifacts or permanents in general – that’s it. Game over man. Game over.
No other infinite combo is as cool as infinite turns. The one card that was originally used to untap Time Vault was Voltaic Key, but now there are plenty of other things that perform the same function. As such, Time Vault is included in most Vintage decks because, well, why not?
The sad part is that Time Vault is crazy expensive and also banned pretty much in every format so there are very few people who own it as there are very few reasons to own it. Regardless, it makes second place just because of how awesome infinite turns are.
1 – The Power Nine
Call it cheating but I think it’s perfectly OK to include a total of nine cards in a single spot. After all, the Power Nine are called so because they are the nine most powerful cards in Magic. Except I would argue that Timetwister is maybe less exciting than Time Vault and those two should probably be reclassified.
Either way, these cards are the most nuts you can have. The moxes are effectively free mana and the reason they are just completely and utterly ridonculous is because they make 99.9% decks better than they would ever be. Same for Black Lotus and same for Ancestral Recall. Three cards in exchange for one? Yes please. Three mana out of thin air? Somebody stop me.
If you’re into Magic, I don’t really need to explain why these are so good. Everyone knows it. So let’s put an end to this list right here. As with any of my lists, this top 10 is just my top ten. But I would love to hear yours. Leave a comment and let me know what cards you think should have made it into the top 10 or maybe which ones you think don’t deserve to be here.