Awesome But Impractical: Magic: The Gathering

  • The entire purpose of the Commander/EDH format is to play a longer game in which a lot of these cards can be used more practically.
  • A lot of combos are like this: they'll win spectacularly, but only if you can play four different cards on the same turn that require three different colors and no counterspells from your opponent. Guess the odds on that actually happening.
  • Spawnsire of Ulamog's ability lets you play as many of the humongous Eldrazi cards as you want, right now, for no extra cost, and without even having to have them in your deck... if you can somehow get the whopping twenty mana it takes to activate it. It wouldn't be terrible, except that having all of your Eldrazi at once is almost always overkill—for just over half the mana cost as the Spawnsire of Ulamog, you could just cast Ulamog itself and skip the middleman.
  • The Elder Dragons (Arcades Sabboth, Chromium, Nicol Bolas, Palladia-Mors, and Vaevictis Asmadi), five cards with powerful stats and splashy effects but which were almost impossible to play thanks to their casting costs and which required a constant influx of mana every turn to keep them in play.
  • Any of the legends from Legends could be considered.
  • Magic's early card designers didn't appreciate that giving a big creature a high mana cost was already a drawback, hence why cards like the elder dragons, Polar Kraken, Leviathan and Marjhan have such hideous drawbacks in addition to their huge cost.
  • Much like the Elder Dragons, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. His +3 ability is to utterly destroy any non-creature card in the game (in addition to providing an obscene boost to his Loyalty total), and his ultimate effectively left your opponent topdecking with very little resources. The catch? You need 8 mana, 4 of which were split into three different colors. That's never been an unattainable feat, but the same block had Nicol Bolas' signature spell Cruel Ultimatum in the same colors for one less mana that would almost always win the game when it was cast; Nicol Bolas, while still a kitchen table favorite to this day, was left on the sidelines as all the competitive decks opted for the seven-mana sorcery instead.
  • Darksteel Reactor and Helix Pinnacle are big, flashy, nigh-unkillable instant-win spells, but most of the time, the game is already over long before they finish charging, and if it goes that long, you could probably win just as easily with any generic flying creature.
  • Most Instant-Win Condition cards end up being impractical. They range from suffering enough damage to reduce yourself to exactly 1 life to winning ten coin flips. While it's incredibly satisfying to use these spells and actually have them go off, and Battle of Wits has even seen some high-level tournament play, it's much more practical to use conventional means. In particular, most of these shenanigans requires you to do things that would have won you the game anyways, like pumping a creature to 20 power note . Attacking the opponent directly with a creature with 20 power usually means victory.
    • Also, most instant-win cards only activate if their condition is true at the start of your turn, which means your opponent usually has a full turn to either destroy the card, invalidate the condition or finish you off (unless you can somehow create the right condition at instant speed just before the end of their turn).
    • Battle of Wits has the unique disadvantage of giving away your main strategy before the game even starts. A deck four times as large as normal is a pretty big giveaway, and an opponent with the right cards can start planning right away. If you're exceptionally unlucky you could be onto Plan B before your first turn.
  • Triggering the ability of Door to Nothingness can be especially difficult. You have to have two mana of each of the five colors to trigger its ability, which is far from trivial to achieve. You also have to leave it sitting on the table for at least one full turn and hope it doesn't get destroyed. However, if you do succeed in this, the target player loses the game on the spot.
  • The Epic spells from Saviors of Kamigawa are five spells with awesome, flashy effects that repeat themselves every turn for the rest of the game after you cast them the first time. The drawback is that you can cast the Epic spell every turn, but nothing else—you can't cast any new spells. Enduring Ideal, the white one, did break out into the tournament scene for a short time, but the other four never caught on.
  • The card Chalice of Life/Chalice of Death can kill an opponent in four turns—assuming you can keep your life from going to zero AND keep the card on the field long enough to transform it, AND keep the opponent from gaining life, not to mention the fact that you have to wait for your life to get to THIRTY just to use it...
    • Thirty if you're playing using the default starting life total of twenty. The card itself states "ten more than your starting life total", so if you're playing a format where you start off with more that twenty life, i.e. Two-Headed Giant, Commander, Horde Magic, you're going to be at it for a while even if you've built a deck specifically around the Chalice.
  • The B. F. M. (Big Furry Monster) from the joke set Unglued: BBBBBBBBBBBBBBB is a huge cost, even for a 99/99; most games would be wrapping up by the time you got that kind of mana. Since each half is useless on its own, most reanimation spells don't work & Victimize is the only way to get it into play via the graveyard. It's not even clear if alternate costs like Fist of Suns would work, since it's unclear if each card is a separate spell & Wizards almost never issues errata for Un-sets.
  • Phage the Untouchable got a lot of attention when she first debuted due to her abilities, but she was such a hassle to use that she got the name Phage the Unplayable. Opponents will probably have much larger creatures by the time you have 3BBBB handy to play her & she doesn't have indestructible or trample, combos to get her into play from the graveyard or library are very complicated and easy to spot, and she's still vulnerable to counterspells, blocking, instant-kill spells, and so on.
    • And just to twist the knife further, should you somehow manage to get her into play, your opponent can still "blink" Phage (that is, exile her and then return her to the battlefield). The result? Her first ability will trigger, see that you didn't cast her from your hand, and kill you.
  • The Invasion block's 5-color theme resulted in a ton of these:
    • Draco was a 9/9 for 6 mana.....provided you were had all 5 basic land types in play. Since Domain checks for land types & not mana colors, the creature & artifact mana sources prevalent in the block couldn't help; you were also stuck with a nasty upkeep cost if you didn't have all 5 land types.
    • In the same vein, Apocalypse had Last Stand: Each of its 5 effects would have been great on its own, but putting them all on 1 WUBRG card note  results in a spell that really doesn't have a practical use: 5-color decks tend not to have too many of any 1 land typenote , so a 5-color spell whose power depends on how many of each basic land type you control is extremely difficult to cast, let alone effectively.
    • Invasion's cycle of three-colored legendary dragons. 6/6 for 6 was a good deal at the time & still is in Block Constructed, especially since they each had a powerful ability that triggered whenever they dealt combat damage, but the mana cost was 3CDE-even the set's strong multicolor theme couldn't make these viable.