In the last twenty-plus years of Magic, we’ve seen a few serious hits for multiplayer. Some older cards have stood the test of time, and others are hitting their strides now. It’s always a little hard to tell just how powerful a card might be before playing it, and invariably, there are cards that play better than the look (Capricious Efreet, Black Cat) and those that play worse (Pristine Skywise).
So now that we have a year under our belts, what are the best cards from multiplayer from 2015?
(This article is also the finale of the three-part series starting from 2013 and moving through 2015, picking up where my Top 100 Cards of All Time series left off in early 2013.)
What sets were printed and in consideration?
- Magic Origins
- Commander (2015 Edition)
- Fate Reforged
- Dragons of Tarkir
- Battle for Zendikar
While all of the cards below are stronger, they are very different in power level, structure, and value at the table. But they are all top-quality stuff.
Many of the best cards from 2015 are Planeswalkers—either a pure ’Walker or a double-faced one from Magic Origins (like Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh). They all work wonders. In fact, of my top fifteen final cuts down, I had a full five that were iterations of various Planeswalkers (Ugin, Nissa, Ob Nixilis, Narset, and Liliana). But who makes the final ten? Let’s see!
10 — Mystic Confluence
Mystic Confluence is a powerful card that I thinks is played poorly at times. Look, I like drawing cards—especially at instant speed! There have been times I’ve been sitting on a Mystic Confluence at the end of a turn with the mana available, and rather than waiting for the perfect Mana Leak and double-card-draw moment, I just drew three and moved on. That’s the problem with Mystic Confluence. Folks are often waiting to have that perfect pants-down moment. But even if you do, you still are just getting three cards for one. Right? So be more aggressive with it. Bounce something, and draw cards to set someone back on tempo. Stop waiting for the perfect moment, draw some cards, and move on! And then you have the counter and bounce modes here for when you need them!
I think a lot of folks forgot how good Nissa plays at the kitchen table. She’s only been available for public consumption for a limited time, and yet, she seems to slide under the radar. She’s a typical 3-mana-fetch-a-land-upon-arrival entry for your decks. Her transform trigger is pretty easy to acquire, and then you get a free ’Walker. Then she gives you some free land-ramping, she can make a token, and she has an adequate ultimate late. She’s a great tool early and a powerful tool later, and her transform trigger can be done on the turn you play her—if you have the lands. I’ve drawn her, dropped her, grabbed a land, played it, transformed her, and used her +1 ability to reveal a land and drop it onto the battlefield, all in one turn before. She’s a great draw later on, as well as early, and she scales very well.
8 — Sunscorch Regent
Here’s the only card from Dragons of Tarkir to hit our Top 10 List. It’s certainly a fine card, and it’s worthy of selection here. It was the obvious hit from the set going in, and play has only shown just how powerful it can be. Here, let me break it down for you:
- Sunscorch Regent is a cheap, 5-mana, flying threat that can sail over some defenses.
- It grows over time as people cast spells. Since no one wants to turn the table into a Standstill, the Regent will grow in size and smash more quickly.
- You also gain small, but very appreciable, amounts of life from the various triggers.
- I’ve won more games with a Regent than any other card on this Top 10 list.
- It plays very well with counter-loving cards in Abzan or Bant. Doubling Season? Abzan Battle Priest? Ainok Bond-Kin? Corpsejack Menace? You get the idea!
The Regent rocks.
Which is better, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker or Ugin? Both cost 8 mana. Ugin gives you two loyalty while Lightning Bolting something useful, sweeping the board selectively, and having an ultimate that’s adequate for the cause. Nicol Bolas flat out destroys stuff while gaining you loyalty, stealing a creature, and having a strong ultimate as well. Nicol Bolas can steal or destroy any permanent. Ugin can Bolt smaller stuff, is a win con, and can exile multiple threats at once. Based on pure ability, in my experience, Nicol Bolas is a bit better. But you know what? That colorless cost makes Ugin have a sheer amount of flexibility that Nicol Bolas and others can’t touch. Ugin can give you burn for a mono-blue deck, exiling for a green one, and more. It fits green’s ramp and blue’s artifact love, and some of the Eldrazi enablers work on it since Ugin is colorless. Ugin works well in a lot of shells, and it can shore up a lot of needs.
It’s not just Modern or Standard adherents that are enjoying the Nalaars. They are seeing serious love at the kitchen table as well, where the pro-artifact shenanigans that they are so good at often have time to develop. Multiplayer Magic has always been a little slower than your average kitchen-table game. That’s okay! A lot of players who enjoy their decks’ synergetic interactions like that fact, and they build around it. And Pia and Kiran are stars in this world, bringing some Thopters to the party for treats, and then, if they are mistreated, they’ll destroy some party favors and do a little damage on their way out. They play right into what red likes to do with artifacts. Turn them into fireworks!
Phyrexian Arena. Murder. Both are quality cards for your various multiplayer needs. The first is one of the classic card engines of formats like Commander and other multiplayer standards. The life-loss is slow, and therefore surmountable, and the cards drawn over time can really mount up. As one of the best multiplayer versions of the classic cards-for-life-trade going back to cards like Necropotence and Greed, the Arena is a powerful card. But you sometimes don’t want to draw cards because your life is running low, and there are worries. Murder is among the best creature-removal spells of the Terror/Dark Banishing persuasion due to no limitations to what can be slain. And that brings us to the uber-powerful Ob Nixilis Reignited. If your life allows, you can activate it, gain some loyalty, and Phyrexian Arena. If the board requires it, you can instead lose some loyalty to Murder a creature. Either way, you have a strong card for folks to really drop and rock.
4 — Emeria Shepherd
I suggested this was the best card from its set for Casual Land. And yes, it’s expensive and a fragile creature that can be slain with any iterant Swords to Plowshares, Rend Flesh, or, shoot, even a Flame Slash. But you know something? It’s still strong. Did you play a land? You get a free creature brought back to your hand for later—pure card advantage! Was that land a Plains? Then the creature comes back to the battlefield like your best Resurrection, all ready to trigger your enters-the-battlefield fun time and get all caught up in attacking, blocking, and generally helping you win the game. That’s what the Shepherd does. She helps you win the game. The card advantage you gain, and the free bodies you harness, turn her into a powerful closer. Top 10 lists are for closers.
3 — Tragic Arrogance
Once you play with Tragic Arrogance a few times, you realize its sheer power is not limited to the typical Wrath of God variant that’d you play when, “Oh crap! I’m about to die!” Instead, you often play it in an Armageddon—I’m winning, so let me push the board to make my board position even stronger. Its power is subtle, and based on one key difference between this card and many before. You, as the caster of the spell, choose what stays. This is unlike Balance or other similar effects. You can let Ben keep his mana rock but lose that Mind's Eye. You can play it after dropping a big beater later in the game, sweep out the big stuff that challenges you, and then smash for game. It works with control to keep stuff back and with one-big-creature strategies like Tooth and Nail, reanimation, or Show and Tell. You can use it to dominate the board quite nicely. Tragic Arrogance is a powerful 5-mana package.
2 — Palace Siege
I sometimes feel like Cassandra. In Greek mythology, Cassandra is cursed so that she will always prophesy truth, but no one will believe. The Cassandra curse happens. I was Cassandra with Palace Siege. I was totally bullish on it from the beginning. Compare it to the already solid powerhouse Oversold Cemetery. Use the Khans ability on arrival. You always gain a free Raise Dead every upkeep. That’s quality card-draw, with no life-loss and no restrictions as with our Oversold friend. Nothing. And you know what? Despite the fact that few agreed with my assessment, it’s been a house. I’ve even Flickered it or bounced it and turned it into the Dragons clocks later to kill people. It’s exceptional. (Putting on my best Cassandra face . . . ) And it’s always going to be that way.
1 — Blade of Selves
Well, now we know. Before Commander (2015 Edition) was released, we had all sorts of ideas about the Blade of Selves and the sheer value it had in Commander specifically and multiplayer generally. But until it was released and we played a few games with it, we really didn’t know. Was this going to be another example of a card that teases us with more power than it actually reveals? And there was no mistake. Nope! And people are still using it to equip their commanders to generate enters-the-battlefield triggers, death triggers, hit triggers, damage, and everything else. From Solemn Simulacrum to Veteran Explorer (people, block the Veteran Explorer to ensure it dies so you ensure the death trigger) to Karmic Guide to Grave Titan to Reaper King, it’s all in play. I’ve seen someone use a simple Avalanche Riders to Armageddon one player. Cards like Aggravated Assault are downright nasty.
There are a lot of other great cards recently released that have proved their mettle. Let’s give a shout out to Scour from Existence, Thunderbreak Regent, Narset Transcendent, Liliana, Heretical Healer, and Dragonlord Silumgar.
One of the principles of this article is simple: Some cards play better than others. I ranked Dragonlord Silumgar as the second-best card from Dragons of Tarkir. And it’s still in that vicinity. But I rank other cards that hit number three or number four in their sets more highly. I’d bump up Damnable Pact and Commune with Lava heavily after playing with them, but I’d drop Pristine Skywise after giving it some quality table time.
So what do you think? What are the best multiplayer cards from last year? What did I miss?