MtG: The Ten Most Powerful Cards in Standard

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Posted December 11, 2014 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Nerdy Bits

10. Ajani Steadfast

Ajani SteadfastCard Type: Planeswalker

Converted Mana Cost: 4

Rarity: Mythic Rare

Expansion: 2015 Core Set

Most Commonly Found In: White Weenies, Orzhov Midrange

It shocks me that Ajani Steadfast doesn’t see all that much play in Standard, as the card is a gem just waiting to be uncovered by a deck designer. It can turn one creature into a massive power house, smashing in for additional damage while still being able to block next turn and gaining life for you. The minus two ability is essentially a Phalanx Leader–except you don’t have to spend a single mana to target it. This ability also helps develop your board, perhaps allowing another Planeswalker to survive one of their minus abilities or cut the amount of turns required to reach their ultimate in half. Think of it this way: With Ajani’s -2, Elspeth can reach (and survive) her ultimate in two turns. That’s absolutely crazy! And in a bad situation, you can always fire off the ultimate, destroying the mana efficiency of creatures and burn spells alike, making you and other Planeswalkers much more resilient to opponent’s assaults.

This card has the potential to completely flip the tables.

9. Courser of Kruphix

CourserCard Type: Enchantment Creature – Centaur

Converted Mana Cost: 3

Rarity: Rare

Expansion: Born of the Gods

Most Commonly Found In: Abzan Midrange, Mono Green Devotion

P/T: 2/4

The power of Courser of Kruphix should be clear: Pretty much any card that allows you to play with the top card of the library revealed is a card that is both fun and ridiculously powerful. You have perfect information of your draws, and you can develop your board states and make plays based on this information. Sure, opponents will also know your draws, but there’s not much they can do to prevent them, unless they’re playing a mill strategy or happen to have an Ashiok on the battlefield.

On top of this, the Courser gives some very nice mana fixing, allowing you to play lands that you may not yet have in your hand. And it gives you a benefit for doing the most basic action in the game: playing lands. It basically has a landfall ability, and that’s awesome. Plus, it’s a 2/4 for three, meaning that it stops the assaults of most aggro decks, which is always a good thing.

8. Nighthowler

     NighthowlerCard Type: Enchantment Creature – Horror

Converted Mana Cost: 3

Rarity: Rare

Expansion: Theros

Most Commonly Found In: Mono-black, Sultai Delve

P/T: 0/0

Ah, an unassuming 0/0 for three mana. Seems like a complete rip off in terms of mana cost, no? Yet read the card and its true power becomes clear: Just through playing Magic, creatures are likely going to end up in graveyards on both sides of the table, especially when cards like Satyr Wayfinder exist to help put cards there. Nighthowler, if left unchecked, gets insanely big and can completely outmatch and run over any threat that comes in its way. Plus, it can be bestowed onto smaller creatures for only one additional mana–giving those creatures a buff that is just insane. This will also make both creatures less susceptible to removal. Your opponents can take out the base creature, but hey, they’ll be left with a fairly large Nighthowler on the battlefield that demands to be dealt with.

Nighthowler is a card that can win games all on his own, and it’s a crime that the card doesn’t get more play.

7. Siege Rhino

Siege RhinoCard Type: Creature – Rhino

Converted Mana Cost: 4

Rarity: Rare

Most Commonly Found in: Abzan Midrange, Abzan Aggro

P/T: 4/5

The only drawback of Siege Rhino is his mana restrictions. It’s hard to fit him into any deck that isn’t Abzan. Despite that, the card is still insanely powerful. A 4/5 for four is okay, but add Trample on top of that and you’ve already got a solid card on your hands. But wait, there’s more! Siege Rhino also drains opponents for three as soon as he hits the battlefield, increasing the clock on opponents and slowing down whatever clock they may have on you. Once you’ve brought the life totals closer to one another, the beat down process can truly begin. Siege Rhino can hit for four each turn, and after softening opponents up by simply entering the battlefield, he easily puts a short clock on opponents.

Plus, he makes a stellar blocker, as most threats will run right into him and either bounce off or just die.

6. Keranos, God of Storms

keraos, god of stormsCard Type: Legendary Enchantment Creature – God

Converted Mana Cost: 5

Rarity: Mythic Rare

Expansion: Journey Into Nyx

Most Commonly Found In: Jeskai Control

Keranos is, without question, the most powerful of the enemy colored Gods, perhaps even the most powerful of the fifteen card cycle of Gods from the Journey Into Nyx expansion. He’s a five mana 6/5 indestructible, and that is far from a bad trade off.

But let’s be realistic: Keranos is not on this list because of his creature stats. Those are, at the end of the day, largely irrelevant in terms of why this card is amazing. His triggered ability may seem to put you at a disadvantage–after all, your opponent will always know what card you’re drawing. But then again, why would anyone care about that drawback? Every turn, Keranos can do one of three things: He either draws you an extra card, potentially resulting in card advantage, deals three damage to a creature (which will likely destroy many creatures, especially against aggro), or deals three damage right to your opponent’s face. That is a very real clock.

5. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

  AshiokCard Type: Planeswalker

Converted Mana Cost: 3

Rarity: Myhtic Rare

Expansion: Theros

Most Commonly Found In: Dimir Control

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is probably one of the most under rated and under used cards in the format right now. S/He doesn’t actually appear in many decks, aside from occasionally popping up in a control list here and there, and that’s actually a problem. S/he provides a win condition all on his own, adding two loyalty counters to mill an opponent for three. The threat of mill is very real, especially with a lot of mid range and tempo decks floating around the metagame these days. Plus, in a pinch, s/he can be used to take your opponents’ creatures.

Playing against an Abzan deck with a ton of big threats? Great, you can take their best threat and put it on the board to be used against them, and you don’t have to take a turn off to do it. Even his/her ultimate (though somewhat underwhelming) is useful in some situations. Just getting rid of an opponent’s hand can be useful in some scenarios, and said ultimate can shut down some of the Golgari/Sultai decks that have been gaining popularity. All around, Ashiok is an extremely powerful card, and one that should get far more play than s/he does.

4. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

SarkhanCard Type: Planeswalker

Converted Mana Cost: 5

Rarity: Mythic Rare

Expansion: Khans of Tarkir

Most Commonly Found In: Mardu Midrange, Mardu Walkers, Jeskai Tempo

Starting Loyalty: 5

Sarkhan the Dragonspeaker is absolutely insane. He is, without a doubt, the best Sarkhan ever to be printed, at least in terms of power levels. I say that even in the face of my unconditional love for Sarkhan the Mad.

Anyways, as soon as Sarkhan hits the battlefield, he becomes a 4/4 hasty, flying, indestructible dragon. That’s easily four damage to an opponent’s face every single turn. Even if there’s a blocker out, you can take a turn off to use Serkhan’s powerful minus three ability, which is a mini Mizzium Mortars and takes out many threats. Plus, the emblem is absolutely crazy. Sure, you have to discard your hand, but drawing three cards per turn is definitely worth it. For most red decks, casting those three cards should not be difficult, and if they’re all lands, well, better in the graveyard than dead in the hand. The emblem won’t win games immediately, but given a few turns, it does work.

3. Mantis Rider

Mantis RiderCard Type: Creature – Human Monk

Converted Mana Cost: 3

Rarity: Rare

Expansion: Khans of Tarkir

Most Commonly Found In: Jeskai Tempo, Jeskai Aggro

P/T: 3/3

Speaking of insane cards, Mantis Rider is definitely one of the more ridiculous cards in the current standard environment. A 3/3 for three generally just whelming, but this one comes down and can fly over blockers on the same turn. Plus, when you pass the turn, Mantis Rider can still block whatever creatures players may have on the battlefield. Just one of these guys provides a very real clock (alone, your opponent only has about six turns to take it out), and if more than one hits the battlefield under your control, it becomes quite complicated for opponents to take back control of the game. This card has aggro written all over it, and it’s not a surprise that it’s seeing play all over Standard.

Any deck that can support these colors, even control decks, could benefit from running copies of Mantis Rider as a win condition.

2. Dig Through Time

Dig Through TimeCard Type: Instant

Converted Mana Cost: 8

Rarity: Rare

Expansion: Khans of Tarkir

Most Commonly Found In: Dimir Control, Jeskai Tempo, Sultai

Dig Through Time has been heralded as the next Sphinx’s Revelation. While I wouldn’t go that far, Dig Through Time is the next best thing, and certainly the best alternative in Standard.

It’s not so much about getting the most cards possible, it’s about card choice. Though you only get to keep two cards, you get to select those two from a possible pool of seven. The likelihood of drawing an answer with a Dig is, therefore, quite high. If you can go seven cards deep without finding an answer, you’re either a failure at shuffling or a failure at building decks that work. I like to think that those two qualities are not true of any Magic players, so firing off a Dig should give everyone the answers or threats they need.

Realistically, casting a Dig for eight mana is impractical. The best part about it is easily that you can delve it, and potentially pay as little as two mana for the card. At instant speed, that can be absolutely brutal. I’ve seen this cast on the stack, and then the caster finding a Dissolve to prevent a spell from resolving. It opens doors for some truly excellent plays.

1. Elspeth, The Sun’s Champion

ElspethCard Type: Planeswalker – Elspeth

Converted Mana Cost: 6

Rarity: Mythic Rare

Expansion: Theros

Most Commonly Found In: Any deck with white

Ever since Elspeth, Sun’s Champion hit the format around this time last year, she shook it up in a big way. Unlike most Planeswalkers, she not only has one, but two ways of defending herself once she hits the battlefield. As soon as she comes down, she can begin building up an army of 1/1 soldiers, which can be used to defend herself or to sneak in for a bit of damage here and there. Alternatively, she can blast any and all of the big monsters that are on the battlefield, leaving behind only small, easy-to-deal-with creatures.

As soon as the path is either clear or clogged with soldiers, Elspeth’s devastating ultimate comes into play, giving all the tokens (and any other creatures that may be on the battlefield) a significant buff along with excellent evasion. This ability will often win the game in just a couple of turns and is the reason that any white deck, barring some of the weenie builds, run her.

And then, of course, there are decks that splash white just to get her in the list, which just proves how powerful she is.


About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.