Yes, that's right. I'm asking the age-old question: What are the best Magic cards of all time?
I know, I know. "It depends." It absolutely does depend on a lot of things. Format, game context, bias, and time period all play a huge role in any one person's answer. Serra Angel will always be a quality card, but she's been undeniably outclassed by a variety of today's creatures. Regrowth will always offer a powerful effect at a nice cost, but it really has little to no place in competitive Magic in 2016.
When I've casually asked friends, most can agree that cards such as Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall are safely near the top of the list, but it gets pretty blurry and individualized after that. There are no right or wrong answers. What exactly defines the "best cards?" Black Lotus is great on the first turn of the game, but it might not make for a great "top deck" later on in the game. Context is everything. Griselbrand is clearly a better card than Dark Confidant when it's on the battlefield, but that's, again, a completely contextual situation. Cost effectiveness is obviously important.
So, why am I even bringing this up? A few weeks ago, I stumbled onto my absolute favorite issue of InQuest. For those who don't know, InQuest was one of the premier gaming magazines of the '90s, along with Scrye, TopDeck, and Duelist. InQuest was my personal favorite, though, as it featured a degree of humor geared towards children (12-year-old me) that I felt each other magazine lacked. Each month, InQuest offered up-to-date information that was especially valuable in a pre-Internet world. In the aforementioned issue, the editors got together to rank the top 100 Magic cards of all time.
As I wrote before, context is everything. This issue came out in August 2000, a few months after Prophecy and a few months before Invasion. The magazine's list came with parameters, of course: "We weighed a card's sheer power, cost effectiveness, versatility, and what part it played in history to determine whether it was worthy of Magic's most exclusive club."
For TMD's enjoyment, I've scanned and uploaded each page of the wildly amusing article. It's just amazing. For older players, it'll bring back a lot of nice memories. For newer players, it'll open a window to Magic's past; a time when Hammer of Bogardan, Stroke of Genius, and Nekrataal were more highly regarded than Bazaar of Baghdad, Tinker, and Mishra's Workshop. It's hard for me to believe that I bought this magazine nearly 16 years ago.
What stands out to you as intriguing and/or absurd about their list? I think we can all agree that Black Lotus at #13 is peculiar at the very least. It's also so painfully '90s to have Time Spiral ranked as more powerful than both Black Lotus and Time Walk. Perhaps the most amusing moment, for me, is what the editors wrote for Mox Ruby. "The Ruby has been aiding red mages in their quest to kick blue ass for almost seven years. Makes you feel old, doesn't it?" Good lord.
Where would today's top tier cards roughly fall? Monastery Mentor; Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Dark Confidant; Lodestone Golem; Abrupt Decay; and Sensei's Divining Top come to mind.
With apologies to Demonic Tutor and Yawgmoth's Will, here's my casually-considered top 5 list:
- Black Lotus
- Ancestral Recall
- Tolarian Academy
- Force of Will
- Strip Mine
What would your list of the best Magic cards of all time look like? It's a difficult question to answer. It would be fun to see other members chime in with their own personal top 5 or top 10 list, along with the reasoning behind their decisions. With this being a Vintage forum, I assume that most lists will (appropriately) lean toward Vintage applications, but other formats and concepts are great, as well. Feel free to set your own parameters and guidelines; it's just for fun. Enjoy: