All right, folks, it’s time! It’s time for the top twenty-five cards for multiplayer from the last twenty years of Magic. Today, we have the hit of hits, the broken of brokens, and the power of powers. These are the cards that move and shake and rattle and quake. These are the cards that win games and yield massive, board-altering power. They are the shakers and quakers, the makers and takers. They keep you alive through thick and thin, and they smash all your friends with heartache and sin.
(As a reminder, this list is not exclusive for Commander, but it does have a lot of synergy with that format.)
25. Anger – It’s quite ironic that one of the highest-charting creatures is doing so because of what it does when it is not in play. While resting comfortably in your ’yard, with a Mountain in your span of control, all of your creatures, for the rest of the game, have haste. You can’t disenchant it as you could a Fervor. All that would work is graveyard-into-library shuffling or exiling. (Or destroying all of your Mountains I suppose.) For the game, you get in extra hit after extra hit, piling on more and more damage that you would not have benefited from otherwise. How many haste-smashes will your creatures give you? What will be the cumulative effect of that on an entire game? 30 damage? 40? It is incredibly nasty.
24. Stuffy Doll – Our next card on today’s list is an old classic reprinted for the Standard masses. It brings a lot of power to the board on simple 0/1 body. First of all, the indestructible body keeps it alive through a lot of things. Plus, people rarely use removal against it that can handle it, preferring to save Dust to Dust cards for things that have a higher nastiness quotient. This card just taps for 1 damage to one set player turn after turn. But that’s not all. When someone attacks, block with this, and a player takes a good amount of pain. Damage-based removal, such as Pestilence and Earthquake become truly heart-rending. Stuffy Doll laughs at your normal ways of killing things.
23. Academy Rector – When you have a creature out like Academy Rector, it becomes hard to do things you might otherwise want to do. For example, if you are inclined to Damnation to clean up a table, someone is about to become very rich. Perhaps you want to attack, but the Rector is holding up the defense. What do you do if it attacks you and you have Wirewood Guardian to block? Do you take 1 damage or just kill it and let that person grab any enchantment from his deck and drop right into play? It creates rough situations and usually ends in searching up something vital. Luckily, it exiles itself on use, so it cannot be easily abused. Otherwise, it would be top-five material.
22. Solemn Simulacrum – You want land. You want to draw a card. You want a body that will wield Equipment and jump in the way of things. But most of all, you want this card to be colorless so you can play it in every single multiplayer deck that ever existed. Well guess what? That card exists.
Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots – These are the highest-charting Equipment pieces on our list. In particular, the Greaves is just nasty, but the Boots are strong, too. Haste is inordinately better in multiplayer than in regular Magic for countless reasons I have cited numerous times before. These basically give every creature you play haste. Oh, and they can’t be targeted either. Sorry about that. This helps to protect key creatures from removal while also giving any beater a free swing at an open board position. If a foe controls no threats but a Greaves, do you leave yourself open to attack a third player? Do you keep back a creature to block in case a Greaves-equipped pounder comes your way? It impacts the board by its very presence. Games are won with it.
20. The Good Tutors (Demonic Tutor et al.) – As I look at this list, I don’t see many cards that I think are contentious, but this may raise some suspicions because some have a real loathing for the good tutors. This includes all of the tutors that either fetch anything but lose a card (Vampiric Tutor, Imperial Seal) or grab one thing but puts it into your hand cheaply (Steelshaper's Gift, Buried Alive, Idyllic Tutor, Sylvan Scrying, etc.). But mainly, it’s the big ones—Demonic Tutor, Diabolic Tutor, Mystical Tutor, and the like. This list fetches the cards you need for any situation at hand, from a combo piece to the third part of the Urzatron to that perfect silver bullet. Whatever you have in your deck is at hand. (Some of these tutors, such as Steelshaper's Gift, are clearly worse than other cards that made the list earlier, but I wanted all good tutors in one spot—instead of like ten spots across the Top 100 with them. So yes, #57 Stoneforge Mystic is better, but you still get the point.)
19. Primeval Titan – Do you know how many creatures are in the Top 20? Three. This is the third strongest creature for multiplayer of all time. When you drop it, you immediately fetch two lands, and then each time you swing, you add another pair to your board. This creature was so ubiquitous that it was banned in Commander. The tricks and power it brings are unquestionable, and it easily hits this list. Yet, and three creatures are higher than this. What are they?
Rout – In the last article, we counted down the basic Wraths at #36 and the good Wraths at #26. Rout earns a special place for just one reason: instant speed. For an extra investment of 2 mana, you can make it an instant. That makes Rout the single best Wrath of God for all time. You can instant it up and Rout away an attacking army or push the button right before someone goes off with a creature-based combo. You can Rout away the blues and welcome the sunshine. I like to Rout at the end of someone’s turn and then untap and be the first to play creatures post-Wrath. Trust me; this is the best Wrath. (If you count this as an instant, it is the highest-charting instant.)
17. Academy Ruins – There are a lot of powerful artifacts in multiplayer. In just the first eight cards on this list alone, we saw four powerful artifacts. When you combine this with #49 Mindslaver, #67 Memory Jar, or even something as silly as a Panic Spellbomb, you have problems. Returning any artifact from the graveyard to the top of your library for a simple investment of 2 mana (plus tapping the Ruins) is heady stuff. The card advantage that is piled turn after turn is immense.
16. Vedalken Orrery and Leyline of Anticipation – As you can see from #18 Rout, simply taking a card that would have hit #36 on the list (Damnation) and give it flash for 3 more mana gives you have a card that rises massively in value. Doing that for every card in your hand is incredibly broken. That’s where the Orrery and the Leyline come in. Both take spells and turn them into instant surprises for no extra mana. When you can play any creature instantly to block an attacker, people stop attacking you. When you can play sorcery removal at the speed of Murder, people stop looking your way. Great stuff!
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir – I actually thought about not having these cards back to back on my list, but this is where it came out. Sorry! Just two creatures left . . . So anyway, where were we? Ah yes, flash equals good. In addition to that, Teferi is the original Phyrexian legendary creature. What do I mean? Well, take a look at #93 Sheoldred, Whispering One or #61 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. These hurt your foes in similar ways to helping you. Well, Teferi speeds up your stuff and slows down your enemies’ spells. Not only can you flash him out to play something else (surprise!), but you can lock down some cards altogether. Teferi wins games by forcing your foes to fight on your terms.
14. Fastbond and Exploration – Dropping lands is awesome. Playing those lands at a faster clip than normal is even awesomer (all made-up words are my own!). You can play these enchantments on turn one and immediately begin the harvest of quicker land play. The acceleration you give your deck is significant. From fueling big spells early to dropping mad lands all over the table after card-drawing spells, your deck becomes an engine of joy in a table of night.
13. Yawgmoth's Bargain (Necropotence) – Pay 1 life, draw one card. Repeat as you will. Say “ouch” to Congregate or Syphon Soul. Say “hello” to mass card-drawing. This is so good that multiple formats have banned it, and you can see why. It has two major disadvantages. First, someone can attack you by destroying your life, so get ready for the biggest rounds of Attack the Guy with the Broken Card you have ever seen. Second, it has both auto-counter and auto-kill status. Both are weak spots of the card, but other than that, if it’s not banned, you play it.
12. Decree of Pain and Plague Wind – Just so you know, these are the second-highest-charting mass-removal cards of any sort. We don’t have too many more to go, nor have I tucked away a Pestilence or Earthquake or Hurricane or anything higher up the roster. You can see why these two chart so highly. One destroys everything you don’t control. The other destroys everything but draws you a ton of cards for it (and can be cycled as an Infest). Both are massive, board-changing sweepers that are more than just a Rout or a Day of Judgment—or even a Living Death. If you have a Wrath that leaves your guys alone, I would put it here, too (Mass Calcify springs to mind).
Insurrection – No sorcery has single-handedly won more multiplayer games than Insurrection. You play it, you get everything, and you swing to win. You often kill two or more foes in one go, and their creatures die with them, so you cleaned out the board, too. (In fact, you should intentionally target those with creatures that will hurt you next time for death.) Insurrection. When I see someone tap three Mountains and five other lands, I fear what may be coming. It’s a great card, but it has two major weaknesses. The first is that it has little value on a creature-light board. The second is that it does nothing to improve your board position post-Insurrection. If people survive (from a high life total, a Fog effect, or whatever), they will be upset at you and be able to do something about it. (It’s also the highest-charting red card.)
But it’s not in the Top 10. So what is?
10. Tinker – This sorcery juuuuuusssssssssst made the Top 10. It was close with Insurrection back and forth for a bit there. Tinker charts because of all of the tutors around; it is the only one that does something simply and elegantly. Sacrifice an artifact, and search your library for any artifact and drop it right into play . . . for a humble 3 mana. It grabs the perfect card for the situation for a simple cost. Grab that Blightsteel Colossus on turn three or a powerful #67 Memory Jar that you have set up with #17 Academy Ruins or #70 Goblin Welder. You will fondly recall all of the bad times you had when someone grabbed something awful (Sundering Titan comes to mind unbidden).
9. Recurring Nightmare – You can see the sheer power of this easily. Just play it for 3 mana, sacrifice a creature, return this to your hand, and recur any creature from your graveyard. If you activate it as soon as it hit the board, it cannot be Disenchanted, just discarded or countered. 3 mana and a creature sacrifice for the best guy to come back is a real bargain. Repeating this ability over and over breaks games. From the abuse of enters-the-battlefield triggers to swapping a tiny fly for a giant fly-smasher, this is a card that dominates games.
Maze of Ith and Kor Haven – Maze of Ith is an auto-include in virtually every multiplayer deck. If you are lucky enough to own some copies, you have decks that are empowered by the Maze. We don’t even need to discuss it at length. Everybody knows how powerful this card is in multiplayer. You use it to keep yourself alive turn after turn after turn. It survives due to its land status. It is an amazing card. Kor Haven is also very strong for white decks. Sure, it taps for mana unlike the Maze, but it also needs mana to use, so it is not quite as good. Plus, it only works in decks that have the mana. No sense adding it to a mono-blue deck, for example. These two lands are incredible because they rarely are hit by the major land-destruction cards (such as Wasteland) but are every bit as powerful as some of the other nonbasics to worry about.
7. Yawgmoth's Will – Some have called this the most broken spell of all time. To be honest, it is the second-highest-charting sorcery, and that’s something. Banned in some formats and loved by others, this spell gives you a turn of awesome at the cost of a few exiled cards. You get a free land, you get a few cards from your graveyard, and at the end of the turn, you have gained four or five spells and/or lands for free off the Will. Good stuff! The one-turn injection of cool has begun. Now, in multiplayer, this is weaker than in duels, so it drops from Top 5 to #7. If you manage to set it up, you will win the game in one turn with the right cards and mana. It’s that impressive.
6. Avacyn, Angel of Hope – Say “hello” to the highest-charting creature of all time for multiplayer. Avacyn the Amazing. Avacyn the “Save my Team from Stuff Please, Thanks!” Avacyn the Broken. When she makes all of your stuff indestructible, she makes babies cry with joy. She rescues the puppy of love from the car of conversation. Avacyn does it all with one simply ability. She makes every permanent you have, even lands, indestructible. Answer her or you can’t answer anything else. No one can do the damage she can to a board position. She works in combo decks (can’t touch my pieces!) control decks (I have turned half of your cards in to meaningless crap!) or midrange aggro at the top of the mana curve (how will you handle my horde now!?). Avacyn breaks games in seconds.
She is the strongest creature ever printed for multiplayer. But she’s not Top 5.
Pernicious Deed – Are you our highest-charting enchantment? Shhh . . . Listen to the Deed talk. No, I am not, but I am awesome. I am the best sweeping removal card for multiplayer ever. I am the fifth-best card ever. I have been called the best card ever by major writers, such as Anthony Alongi. I am the Deed! Rar! The Deed keeps guys back because they don’t want to die. The Deed is among the best rattlesnakes of all time. The Deed smashes the board as you have need. The Deed will keep things alive above a certain cost if you can. The Deed sweeps not just creatures, but also enchantments and artifacts. The Deed rules all. It is undeniably powerful for every metagame you can imagine.
4. Sol Ring – Ha ha, gotcha! Who had Sol Ring in the Highest-Charting Artifact pool? I doubt it. But think about it. A first-turn Sol Ring is a two-turn acceleration with one card for any deck or any color of mana. Nothing else does that. There is a reason it is an auto-include in almost every Commander deck—notably that it’s amazing acceleration. No card in Magic is as quick or long-lasting as Sol Ring for mana acceleration. (Even Moxes are just by 1 mana, while Black Lotus is 3 but just for one turn, and Mana Vault is 3 but you spend 4 to untap it). This is a powerful shot of speed into any deck or situation, and it is a rare deck that does not benefit from it enough to include it.
And yet, despite all of that, it is not Top 3.
3. Balance – Ah yes, the daddy of them all. The most powerful sorcery of all time is this tool of restoration. This restores a sense of justice around the table. Johnny, have you been playing too many creatures? Well, Sally has just two, so let’s all sacrifice down to two as well. Steve. Have you been hoarding cards all game long? Well, Mike only has one, so let’s all discard down to one. And then my favorite. Suzy, have you been paying land acceleration all game? Well, Rachel here has only five lands, so let’s all sacrifice down to five lands as well. Balance brings people from their lofty clouds back to reality. But do you know what’s really crazy? This spell costs just 2 mana . . .
Survival of the Fittest – . . . As does this one. Survival of the Broken. Our highest-charting enchantment, green spell, and, let’s see . . . uh . . . nonland. Good job, Survival. You earn a gold star! You can spend whenever I want and discard a creature card to tutor my deck for any creature and put it right into my hand. I can find the right tool for the job while filling that graveyard with goodies. Everybody likes a freshly-stocked larder for the winter. The Survival can store away treats such as Vengevine or #60 Genesis. You can fetch creatures that are reanimation fodder, such as in-set pal #9 Recurring Nightmare. Perhaps you are setting up a giant #29 Living Death. Whatever your need, the Survival delivers an engine of sauce for very little cost.
Now let’s look at the top card. Drumroll please . . . Here is the Very Best Card for Multiplayer of All Time Ever.
1. Volrath's Stronghold – Ah me. This card is incredible. It does everything. I’ve talked about it at length before, but it returns your best dead creature to your library, it can be used to keep something from being exiled such as via a Withered Wretch, it can restock a library to keep you from dying, it puts cards on top prior to a shuffle, it feeds effects such as Call of the Wild, it helps you win a top-deck war, and it just rules all on its own. The cumulative card quality that it gives you will win game after game after game. This is suitably the most powerful multiplayer card of all time.
So, what did you think? Where do you agree or disagree? What’s missing? What should have been higher or lower? (Keeping in mind this is not exclusively a Commander list, but a general list.)
Anyway, that was an awesome project. I hope you enjoyed our little trek through the Top 100 cards of all time. If you haven’t yet, check out the whole series—every card is a winner.
P.S. Here was the last card I pulled out of the Top 100. I thought you might like to see a card that was on the list . . . and actually had a write up!
94. Syphon Mind – In multiplayer, you want to draw cards. You also want to slow down your foes. Discard is better because people tend to hold onto cards longer, but it’s also worse because you have to hit so many more cards to make the math of a discard spell worth it. The combination of card-drawing and discard this one spell packs is tremendous. In a simple four-player game, this is likely a six-to-one trade, filling up your hand while blasting foes. As you dial up the number of foes, this becomes increasingly amazing.