MTG: Top 10 Most Useful Cards

MTG: Top 10 Most Useful Cards

Taking a look at the most useful cards ever printed in MTG.

The most useful cards ever? Yep, that’s what these are. However, I don’t want to say that these cards are the best cards ever. These are cards that can really save your butt or speed up your game and aren’t impossible to find. Also, these cards are affordable. None cost over $10. Probably none over $5, unless it’s some special edition version. Without anymore discussion, here we go!

(All pictures came from

#10 Spirit Link & Vampiric Link

These cards are a great way to gain some life when you need it. They only cost one mana! Plus, these cards can be played both offensively and defensively. If you put these on your opponent’s creatures then when they deal damage to you it is then reversed by the life you gain. However, if your life goes to zero or below this won’t trigger. So watch out!

#9 Shock

This card has been around since Stronghold and has been in almost every red deck since then. Lightning Bolt almost replaced this card on the list, but since they are harder to get a hold of Shock took its place. This card is a good way to hit your opponent for quick damage or deal with a creature that you just can’t seem to destroy.

#8 Terror

Although Terror can’t destroy black or artifact creatures, it still is one of the most useful cards in MTG. This card has been around since Alpha! It’s an instant, it costs two mana, and it can seriously mess up your opponent. Sure there are cards like Terminate, Dark Banishing, etc., but this card is the original and is still in print! Can’t beat a classic.

#7 Counterspell

Counterspell is another card that has been around since the early days of MTG. One of the best feelings in MTG is your when your opponent taps all their land to play some huge creature or whatever and you just tap two islands and say, “Counter it.” This card has made more players tear out their hair than any other.

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Scott, posted this comment on Apr 24th, 2009

Is the theme cards with low mana costs? I guess I can see this. But Terminate is getting reprinted. The most useful card ever, in my mind.

Bob's your Uncle, posted this comment on Apr 30th, 2009

I’m going to forgo my normal trollisnness and actually go point to point, as you’re almost on to something here. Let’s start with the assessment that expensive cards aren’t useful. Wrong. I understand where you are coming from here, but I would recommend getting rid of this in your first look at deck building. First come up with the ideal situation (i.e. if you had access to as many copies of each card as you wanted), then adjust for your budget. That allows you to analyze what the function of each card is in your deck. For example, you might think Dark Ritual is a good substitute for Black Lotus in a Red/Black deck, until you realize that the Black Lotus was functioning more as a Red accelerator than Black. Maybe arcane ritual would be better? Making these kinds of judgments will really help increase the usefulness of every card in the deck.

Now, line by line.

Spirit/Vampiric Link: Good cards. I’m not sure if they really get this high on a constructed only list, but I know from experience that they can work wonders in Limited. Generally, they function much better as effective creature removal than as life gain, but nonetheless they are useful cards.

Shock: Great. I would put it higher, but I’m a mono-red sligh player at heart so I’m somewhat biased here. Naturally, Lightning Bolt is the clearly better spell, and they actually aren’t too hard to get. I’ve seen four for under $10.

Terror: Obviously a good card. Just remember that you CAN beat a classic. Shivian Dragon is a classic; that doesn’t mean that it is going to win you the PTQ.

Counterspell: Obviously. Put it higher. It is very likely the best card on you list, at least viewed through its use in top tier decks.

High Tide: I would put this one higher simply because of the insane combos that it allowed in its day. In many good decks, High Tide basically read “if your opponent does not have a counterspell or another completely awesome card in his/her hand, you win the game.”

Blaze: Usually only good with mana engines, there is no denying that Channel+Fireball was a dominant force in its day. Unfortunately, Alliances brought Force of Will and made that much more risky.

Wild Growth: Without a doubt a good mana accelerator, but not the best. I would recommend Crop Rotation to get a mass mana land (almost always Tolarian Academy) into play instead. Also bear in mind that when you play Wild Growth on your opening turn, your mana production is effectively a turn behind on your first turn, then a turn ahead the next turn. Not that this is absolutely killing to it, but is important to remember that it doesn’t immediately generate you mana on turn one. Nor does Birds, but you do have a creature.

Fog, et. al.: Ah, now we get to an interesting case. There is no denying that Fog can be a great “Gotcha” card, but in practice it hasn’t fully panned out. Yes, there is the case that you described, but mass creature armies staring each other down is the exception to Magic endgames, not the rule. Most of the time, Fog is simply delaying the inevitable. If the opponent can kill you this turn, chances are they can kill you the next turn as well. Extensive playtesting has shown that playing Fog to give yourself an extra turn to get the card(s) you need to win is less effective than replacing Fog with other cards that let you win now or tutor the cards you need to win.

Llanowar Elves: No question here, but you absolutely need to include Birds of Paradise as well.

Dark Ritual: Great card. Obviously not better than Black Lotus or the Moxen, but a good card.

Now, here’s the list I would give for the top 10 useful cards:

10. Timetwister
9. Candelabra of Tawnos
8. Mind Twist
7. Sol Ring
6. Moxen
5. Counterspell
4. Tolarian Academy
3. Force of Will
2. Ancestral Recall
1. Black Lotus

Bonus Best Card ever: Contract from Below

Drakdrium13, posted this comment on Apr 30th, 2009

I agree with you Bob’s Your Uncle. Those are definetly the top ten most useful cards (if you had all the cards in MTG). I’m really appreciate this comment.

I agree with you on the Lightning Bolt thing too. It’s much better and not too expensive. I only didn’t include it because Shock is more recent and much more accessible.

Also, the Soul/Vampiric Links are very debateable. I can see a couple of cards jumping into their place. However, in almost every list the number ten card is debatable. I see both sides of the argument here. I am 100% sure there is a card that is more deserving of #10, though I couldn’t think of one at the time.

I really appreciated your comment and critique. Thanks! Also, would you mind taking a look at my infinite combo articles? Those are ones where I could use some scrutiny on. The Blue/Green one definetly requires too many cards, but take a look at the Red/White one and the other two articles on general infinite combos. I look forward to your words of wisdom/advice, no matter how harsh they may be.

Puzzlefighter, posted this comment on May 5th, 2009

Bob, your commentary about Drakdium’s choices was indeed appreciated, so thank you for that. Your list on the other hand, was not.

The thing is, Bob, not many people can afford to just blow hundreds to thousands of dollars on the cards you mentioned. Imagine buying a play set of all those cards.

4x Black lotus – 6k or so
4x ancestral recall – 3k abouts
4x force of will – $120
4x tolarian academy – $100
4x any one mox – 2k minimum
4x sol ring – $400
4x candlabra – $200
4x timetwister – $1200

approximate cost for 32 cards…12k! Even quartering that to only one of each would still put it at 3k for 8 cards (and often times a lotus will run that on its own).

The only cards on your list that are reasonable for an MTG non-competitive player to buy are mind twist and counter spell because they rock and are relatively affordable. Except there is another thing about your list, many of your card choices are banned in several tournament styles, so the benefit to even having these cards at all is significantly lessened. Unless you are a collector or overflowing with money and simply like to have 3 minute games with your friends who never win and end up not wanting to play with you anymore, then you’re never going to get these cards.

The biggest issue I have with your list is that it really doesn’t offer any guidance to an individual wanting to play the game. All you’ve done is display what most MTG players already know and offer some flashy trivia to those who do not. Now kids who read this can say to their friends, “Hey man, I just saw that there was some card in MTGs past that totally OWNS and costs like $1000!!! Isn’t that insane? Too bad my mom will never buy me one, haha.”

Drakdium’s choices, while of course still controversial, are at least reasonable and offer people some insight as to why these cards might be useful in their decks.

Puzzlefighter, posted this comment on May 5th, 2009

I apologize for the weird ‘t that shows up. No idea why that occurred.

Bob's your Uncle, posted this comment on May 29th, 2009

Yo champ, those cards are restricted so a play set is one. You= n00b

Puzzlefighter, posted this comment on Jul 29th, 2009

Too bad that doesn’t address the core of my argument. Your list is a make believe wish list. It’s not practical for any person to have access to the majority of those cards. I already stated in the original posting that quartering the number of cards reduces the cost to only $3,000 for 8 cards. That’s just something people will not, even among MTG enthusiasts, pay. Bottom line, people want to be able to make a deck out of cards they can get and they can’t get the ones you mentioned without some very considerable investment.

Eric, posted this comment on Aug 4th, 2009

Puzzlefigher is correct”

“However, I don’t want to say that these cards are the best cards ever. These are cards that can really save your butt or speed up your game and aren’t impossible to find. Also, these cards are affordable. None cost over $10. Probably none over $5″

Useful and attainable was the criteria, not best and rare.

Joe, posted this comment on Jan 22nd, 2010

The most useful cards ever? Yep, that’s what these are. Bull crap! But even if you were just going for the most useful budget cards of all time this list falls flat.

Spirit link isn’t too good. If you’re looking for removal swords is better for the same mana cost. Really shock? How much harder is lightning bolt to find? Blaze is bad. I’ve never seen bubbling muck be good, def doesnt belong next to tide. Fog effects aren’t great when you can play swords or something to permanently remove a creature. Elves are good and all but ahead of counterspell? Not a chance. Dark ritual is fine.

Cards that would have been better here: hymn to tourach, duress, disenchant, wild mongrel, impulse, fireblast, swords to plowshares, disciple of the vault, trinket mage exhume

George, posted this comment on Jun 23rd, 2010

Thanks Drakdrium13. It’s always good to see these top lists. Those guys should make their ones and leave your opinion in peace.

jerney, posted this comment on Mar 15th, 2011


Did you seriously put Shock above Lightning bolt? And is counterspell SERIOUSLY on this list?

You sir, suck.

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