People often talk about “the best card” of a set. For me, the best card of a set has always been the most influential card in the grand scheme of Magic. What do I mean by this? My parameters for “influence” are as follows:
- Applications in multiple formats
- Defining a specific format
- Changing the way the game is played
In this article, I hope to refresh everyone’s memory on the cards that have had a huge impact on Magic recently, and how we can identify that type of card in the future. Lets dive in!
Here are the top 10 cards that have changed Magic that were printed in the last 3 years.
10. Become Immense
Khans of Tarkir block produced some of the most influential cards for Modern and eternal formats in years. Become Immense was a mainstay in Standard from the moment the card hit the tables. It was featured in decks such as Bant Heroic, one of the first powerful decks that emerged in Theros-Khans Standard. With the release of Become Immense, Modern Infect saw a surge in popularity, and with Owen Turtenwald and Jon Finkel piloting it to great finishes at Pro Tour Fate Reforged, Become Immense proved its dominance in formats outside of Standard. After the release of Fate Reforged and the printing of Temur Battle Rage, Become Immense became part of the two card combo that would terrorize players for the months Atarka Red dominated Standard.
9. Grim Flayer
Grim Flayer was an essential part of Delirium decks in Standard, and excelled for the entire time it was legal. It also sees play in Modern, and was part of the highly successful Jund Shadow deck that put up great results when Death’s Shadow started to become a powerful archetype. While it has recently fallen out of favor, the card is extremely powerful and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a resurgence from it fairly soon.
8. Fatal Push
Fatal Push was hailed as the best black removal spell ever when it was spoiled, and so far has not failed to meet expectations, seeing extensive play in Standard and a large amount of play in Modern. It is also played in Legacy, and the fact that it has made an appearance in all of these formats cements it as one of the best cards printed in the past few years.
In short, Collected Company defined the entire Standard Format for the summer of 2016. Aside from that, Company decks have been played heavily in Modern since Eldrazi Winter, and with the recent printing of Vizier of Remedies, the deck is only going to see more play. Its ability to be both mana and card advantageous makes it an ideal card for many existing strategies, as well as new ones that it’s bred.
6. Midrange Eldrazi
Speaking of Eldrazi Winter… These two cards not only broke the entire format with the help of a few more Eldrazi and Eye of Ugin, but are still being played, even after the Eye ban! Both Bant Eldrazi and Eldrazi Tron make use of these filthy monsters, and the tag-team has been tearing players hands apart and smashing in for insane amounts of damage ever since they were printed! The two Eldrazi are both individually fantastic, and I don’t think we will see the end of their reign anytime soon.
Kolaghan’s Command marks our shift from mild cards to full-on powerhouses. K-Command is an extremely versatile spell, and while it was largely ignored in Standard, it is a huge deal in Modern. It is currently played in the most popular deck, Grixis Shadow, and has slots in both Jund and Grixis Control, cementing it as one of the best new cards to hit Modern. It is also played in Leovold decks in Legacy, which officially makes it a multi-format all-star.
It would be an understatement to say that Leovold changed Legacy, because this card turned the format completely upside-down. It is fair to say that Leovold is currently shaping the format, and there is no visible end in sight to his reign.
It is extremely rare that we see a card from a new set make waves in Eternal formats, but Mentor didn’t just do it in Legacy, it made it in Vintage too! The entire Mentor strategy that has been one of the dominant Vintage strategies over the past few years was built off a 3 mana medium Standard card! In Legacy, the “best deck” for some time was Miracles, (R.I.P. Top, forever in our hearts (just kidding. good riddance!)) and Mentor was a mainstay in that deck as well. Overall, Monastery Mentor has had a huge impact on Magic as a whole, and I would not be surprised to see it break out in Modern in the next few years once the right supporting cards are printed.
Ah, what to say about Dig. Dig Through Time was played extensively in its time in Standard, and had just begun to make waves in Modern when it was banned. The card is absolutely busted in Eternal formats, and necessitated a ban in Legacy and a restriction in Vintage, an honor which a very small amount of cards hold, especially for cards printed so recently. Dig shaped not only its Standard format, but every single format it was legal in, cementing its place at number two on this list.
Before we get to number one, lets give shoutouts to some honorable mentions
While there isn’t much to say about Angler, it has cemented its place in Modern, and was played for some time in Legacy. In both Legacy and Modern, Angler was played in Delver strategies, which is pretty damn flavorful if you ask me. [Editor’s note: for those who didn’t get it like me: DELVEr. The card has Delve on it.]
Played in both Modern and Standard extensively (and somewhat in Legacy), this card didn’t do enough to break into the top 10, but is incredibly powerful and I enjoyed playing with it very much in Esper Dragons.
My second favorite card ever made, Jace was likely number 11 or 12 if I extended this list, but couldn’t really crack the top 10. While it did define Standard, it didn’t do enough in older formats to merit a slot in this list.
Apart from being in the top 5 coolest planeswalkers ever printed (fight me), Ugin also proved his power immediately at the 2015 World Championship, where he took over the finals in both Seth Manfield’s and Owen Turtenwald’s Abzan Control decks. From there, Ugin became a staple in Modern Tron decks, and has been putting up results ever since.
Tasigur, a card which now sees a ton of play in Modern Grixis Shadow and Grixis Control, it did not always see such high level play. The first time I remember playing Tasigur was in Esper Dragons, when people were still debating whether it would be good in Modern and other formats. Three years later, I can confidently say that the Golden Fang has made a lasting impact on Modern, and he definitely won’t be leaving anytime soon.
Liliana is super powerful, and is likely right on the brink of making the list, because of its dominance in Standard and its play in Modern, but is currently outclassed by what the other cards in this list have done in their history.
Brutality is great, but did not do enough in Standard for me to give it a place on the list.
Spirit needs to see some more Modern play before it earns a place in the top 10, as it simply did not have enough influence to merit a place on the list. It’s getting there, though!
Spell Queller needs to see a decent amount more Modern play before it can be considered for the top 10 list.
Kalitas has been played in Standard since its printing, though admittedly not as much as other cards in this list. Its powerful passive ability crushes graveyard-centric decks, and it has been played in Modern midrange strategies since it came out. It is the graveyard hate card of choice in some Abzan and Jund decks and can quickly get out of hand and win games single-handedly. The card is great, but just a little bit less than what I wanted to end up in the top 10.
Baral is great in Gifts Storm, but has done absolutely nothing in Standard, and so is barely a consideration for this list.
And now everyone, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Number one!
From the moment Cruise was spoiled, Magic players were divided, with some calling the card a glorified Jace’s Ingenuity, and others hailing it as the second coming of Ancestral Recall. With the way things went, it is safe to say that Recall is a much more comparable card to Treasure Cruise than anyone would have thought. While it didn’t see insane amounts of Standard play, the card blew Modern wide open. If you weren’t playing Treasure Cruise, you were either a skilled Pod player, or just making a bad deck choice.
The card was so good that Wizards had to ban Dig Through Time because they didn’t want to run the risk of another Cruise being legal in the format. The card was also banned in Legacy along with Dig, as with minimal effort, it was essentially just a 1 mana draw 3. The card also got a restricted in Vintage, along with its lifelong buddy Dig Through Time. The rate on Cruise is better than the one on Dig, and its achievements dwarf that of any card above number 2 on this list. Treasure Cruise is the best card printed in the past 3 years, and it isn’t particularly close.
Well, what did you think of my list? Let me know if you agree or would have changed anything! As always, I hope you enjoyed this Blast-from-the-past article, and have a great week!
See ya soon,
Looking for some draft practice of Magic’s newest limited format? Read this article from Jonah Gaynor where he runs through a draft he did on MtGO and talks about his picks and the shape of the format.
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