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Game Breaker / Magic: The Gathering

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This card isn't legal. But it's hard to believe what it's parodying ever was.
August: Goblin Lackey, Entomb, and Frantic Search are banned in Extended. "What about Grim Monolith and Tinker?" asks a bystander. "Isn't Mirrodin supposed to be the all-artifact set?" "Meh," says R&D. "How bad could it be?" (...)
October: Pro Tour: Tinker is held in Tinker Orleans. Tinker Mindslaver Tinker, Rickard Osterberg, Tinker Tinker ban that f**king card Grim Monolith Tinker.
—- The Ferrett, 2003 in Review

Being the first trading card game, Magic: The Gathering has had a lot of Game Breakers.

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The most famous of these are the Power Nine, from Limited Edition, Magic's original game-breakers. Having been around since the start, these are the most famously broken cards; this is mainly due to having been created before it was totally figured out what was broken and what wasn't. These are banned in every format except Vintage, where they're restricted to one per deck.

    Power Nine 
  • Black Lotus is the Game-Breaker of Magic. It's considered the Holy Grail of Magic cards by the playerbase. There are, at last estimates, less than 23,000 of these cards in the world, leading (genuine) articles to sell for tens of thousands of dollars at a minimum: a 2019 selling went for $166,100 USD; a 2020 selling, which was autographed by the (now-deceased) artist, for $511,100. On top of being rare, it's on this page for a reason: it enables massive Sequence Breaking. One of the cardinal rules of Magic is that the amount of Mana you can access every turn only goes up by 1; the Black Lotus lets you power out something three turns early. That's bad enough on Turn 6; it basically wins you the game on Turn 1. There are millions of individual Magic decks on the planet right now, built to execute thousands of strategies; it has often been said that every single one of them would benefit from using Black Lotus.note  It's so powerful that Lotus Petal, a version that only gave one mana as opposed to three, is not allowed in Modern play. It's so powerful that Lion's-Eye Diamond, a version that requires you to discard your entire hand to use it, is not allowed in Modern play. It's so powerful that Lotus Bloom, a version that requires you to wait three turns before you use it, was a major component in a World Championship deck. The only well-balanced Lotus is Gilded Lotus from Mirrodin, later reprinted in Magic 2013 and Dominaria, and it's only balanced because its 5 mana casting cost keeps it from showing up in the first few turns; even then, if some deck figures out how to sneak it into play early — like using the notorious Tinker to allow the Gilded Lotus to instantly replace the earliest-played artifact — it could break the game like its predecessors. In general, Wizards of the Coast has more or less given up balancing Black Lotus (or, indeed, ALL cards that provide a one-time free mana boost) because the effect it has on the game is just that broken.
    • Lion's Eye Diamond is a particularly amusing example as it was an attempt to make a Junk Rare version of Black Lotus. While it initially succeeded, it had to be "restricted" ("You're only allowed to have 1 copy in your deck") in the Vintage format when people started adding it to decks where throwing away your hand is a good thing. For instance, Animate Dead decks can use the card's "drawback" to get creatures they want to revive into their graveyard, and madness cards and cards with flashback can be played directly. It can also set up cards in your graveyard for dredging, or for being recast using Yawgmoth's Will. It is actually incredibly broken in conjunction with Yawgmoth's Will: it can be used for 3 mana while Yawgmoth's Will is on the stack then after Yawgmoth's Will resolves, it can be replayed from your graveyard and sacrificed for ANOTHER three mana without having a hand to worry about discarding. In essence, Yawgmoth's Will + Lion's Eye Diamond can give three free mana and an entire graveyard to dump onto the table. Even without access to all the utterly broken cards in Vintage, it is still a force to be reckoned with in Legacy, where it shows up not-infrequently in combo decks alongside Infernal Tutor. Lion's Eye Diamond had to have errata inserted so that its ability could only be used as an instant. The original LED activated as a "Mana Ability," which happens at Ludicrous Speed and which opponents cannot respond to or prevent. After the errata, it occurs at "merely" Instant speed and uses The Stack, Magic's timing rules. This closes a Loophole Abuse where players could declare they were going to cast a spell, use the LED's Ludicrous-Speed ability in response to their own declaration of spellcasting, and not have to discard the spell-that's-in-the-process-of-being-cast because it is technically no longer in your hand. (If you try this now, the activation will go on The Stack, it resolves before you can use the mana to cast the spell you want, the spell is discarded; you attempt to cast it but can't because you discarded it; you cry a lot.)
      • Lion's Eye Diamond also has the distinction of being the first "fixed" Black Lotus to have its own fixed version, in the form of Diamond Lion from the set "Modern Horizons 2". This card attempts better balance by, first, making the card cost 2 to cast (immediately putting a damper on the amount of free mana you get), and second by making it a creature, meaning you can't immediately use it unless it has haste. Perhaps in compensation, the Diamond Lion has changed from an inanimate object to an actual creature that can attack and block for you.
    • They tried again to make a "balanced" Black Lotus with Lotus Vale, which required you to either sacrifice two untapped lands when it came into play or to sacrifice the Vale itself. Unfortunately, the card's original wording allowed Loophole Abuse where it could still be used, once, before it is sacrificed, requiring an errata to fix.
    • The most recent attempt, released in late 2020 in the "Commander Legends" set, is Jeweled Lotus, which is balanced via the addition of a rider: "Mana from this card can only be used to cast your Commander." Multi-colored Commanders are a big part of the format's strategynote , and the Jeweled Lotus has significantly less utility in casting such creatures; and you don't have a Commandernote  in any format besides, well, Commander, so this card is useless to the larger majority of decks. (Someone did determine some Loophole Abuse with Doubling Cube; mana created using this artifact loses the "Can only be used to cast your Commander" limitation; but this is basically the only situation in which the Jeweled Lotus can contribute to gameplay outside its intended format.) Within a month of the card's release, prices had stabilized at about $80: rather high for a piece of cardboard, to be sure, but not worth as much as a house.
  • The Moxen: Mox Emerald, Mox Jet, Mox Pearl, Mox Ruby, and Mox Sapphire. These are just like basic lands, except they're artifacts; this means you can play more than one per turn — once again breaking the "Only one more Mana per turn" rule. Much as with the Black Lotus, the benefits to early mana development make these powerful in nearly every deck of the appropriate colours.
    • Sol Ring, sometimes called the tenth member of the Power Nine, is another card from the days before they learned the folly of providing cheap cards that provided more mana than they actually cost, especially repeatable ones. Banned in every format but Vintage, and restricted there, it is hideously powerful, especially in artifact-centric decks. It actually is an even bigger boost to mana than the Moxen, and the only reason it isn't played more is because so many spells in Vintage cost almost no mana. In the decks which can use it effectively, though, it is hideously broken, doubly so if Voltaic Key, a common combo piece, is out as well, as it allows the Sol Ring to be used twice a turn.

      The only other format Sol Ring isn't banned in is Commander, where it's been reprinted in the preconstructed decks each year and become a staple in almost any deck. In a multiplayer format where Awesome, but Impractical gets thrown out of the window, the early mana advantage is crucial to establishing your board and getting ahead early. However, the nature of the format means you can't guarantee it'll turn up when you need it. The infamy of the card means anyone who does play it usually winds up becoming a target of the other players as well, and in the late game it may as well be a dead draw too. EDH has developed a Broken Base on whether it should be banned or not, in part due to how many decks it turns up in.
    • Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, and Grim Monolith are other examples of fast artifact mana which produce more mana than they cost, and Mana Crypt is as reusable as Sol Ring and gives an even larger initial boost. Mana Crypt and Mana Vault remain restricted in Vintage, though Grim Monolith is not. All of them are broken with Voltaic Key.
    • Chrome Mox and Mox Diamond have kept up the family tradition by being restricted in Vintage, though this has since been reversed, largely because the card disadvantage is significant, and in the case of Mox Diamond, the fact that you have to give up a land for it makes it much less degenerate in the sorts of decks that love to run tons of artifact mana instead of actual lands (namely, essentially every Vintage deck). Chrome Mox is currently banned in Modern.
    • The Mox jewels and Black Lotus' infamy was honored and spoofed with the tournament-illegal Unhinged set's Mox Lotus. It provides literally infinite mana, but is so mana-expensive that getting it into play without Tinker shenanigans is nearly impossible.
    • Magic Online parodied both the moxen and the Unhinged card Gleemax by giving us the promo card Gleemox, basically all 5 moxen in 1 card.
    • A powerful (though far more balanced) tribute to the Mox jewels came in the Scars of Mirrodin set, in the form of the Mox Opal. It can still be brutal in an artifact deck (especially one that uses "affinity for artifacts" as its gimmick, as those decks tend to immediately flood the battlefield with artifact lands and other 0-cost artifacts). Unfortunately, increasing power level of Modern meant fast mana was becoming more and more dangerous, and Opal ultimately got banned on January 13, 2020 to curb the power of Urza-based artifact decks.
    • Dominaria would then give us another Mox: the Mox Amber, which taps for one of any color among planeswalkers and legendary creatures you control (i.e. if you control a blue legendary, you can tap Mox Amber for blue mana, if you control a red planeswalker, you can tap Mox Amber for red, etc.). It's considerably more limited than the other moxen, but can be powerful when played in the right deck.
  • Timetwister may not seem very powerful, since it's symmetrical, but if it's the last card in your hand and your opponent's hand is full... you see where this is going. It's also the first card that conspired to make Lion's Eye Diamond useful.
    • Temporal Cascade, a card that can achieve the same effect as Timetwister, was released ten years later, and costs three times as much to get the same effect.
    • Much later, Time Reversal, cheaper than Temporal Cascade but more expensive than Time Twister, was printed, at a cost that's actually fairly reasonable. What makes the effect of these cards powerful is that you get 7 new cards, but so does your opponent, so it's not nearly as broken if you can't immediately take advantage of your new hand. It actually makes it kind of hard to find a perfect cost for the effect- too cheap, and you can overwhelm your opponent with your new cards before they get the chance to use theirs, but too expensive, and you won't be able to use any of your cards because you already spent so much mana.
    • Magic: Origins gives us Day's Undoing, which is basically Timetwister right down to the same mana cost, except that when played normally during your turn, it immediately ends your turn after you finish drawing, and ending the turn this way involves exiling Day's Undoing in a similar way as the aforementioned Time Reversal.
  • Ancestral Recall. Part of a cycle of "boons" in which you pay one mana to get three of something; the others were Giant Growth, Dark Ritual, Healing Salve and Lightning Bolt. Ancestral Recall was the only one to not be a common card, and the only one never reprinted. Drawing three cards for one mana is obscene, and when an attempt was made to print a less-broken version, it cost five mana instead and lacked some of the original's flexibility.
    • Brainstorm was supposed to be a "fixed" version of Ancestral Recall. It was hideously powerful and eventually got itself restricted in Vintage due to its sheer power; it doesn't help that it combos very well with fetchlands, which shuffle your deck (and thus shuffle away the cards you put back on top - this allowed it to effectively give card advantage by trading useless cards for useful ones, then shuffling them back into your deck).
    • Preordain is a "fixed" Brainstorm which managed to get itself banned from multiple formats for being too good at digging through your deck, even though it can't give card advantage. Interestingly it sees more action than Serum Visions, which has you Scry 2 after drawing a card.
    • Another "fixed" Brainstorm, Ponder, also managed to get itself banned from multiple formats. In one sense, it's weaker than Brainstorm in that it will only let you rearrange the top three cards of your library and draw one, whereas Brainstorm would let you take two or three of them and put two cards in your hand back on top of your library, but that's not always that big of a disadvantage, and Ponder also lets you shuffle your library if you don't like what the top three cards of it are.
    • The irony of all of these "fixed" Ancestral Recall is highlighted in Modern format where all of them have been banned except for the most nerfed version, Serum Visions. Even so, it manages to be one of the most popular cards of the format and goes into a wide variety of decks.
    • Fact or Fiction from Invasion was another attempt at fixing Ancestral Recall, and it was so powerful it was banned for 10 years: You have to put two cards into your graveyard, but you get access to the top 5 cards of your library in exchange & some control over which pile you get.
      • What really pushed Fact or Fiction over the edge was the mechanics introduced in Odyssey: Between Flashback & Threshold, putting cards in your graveyard could be advantageous, even to aggro decks (which usually can't afford to discard cards).
      • Fact or Fiction arguably turned the game into a Luck-Based Mission: If you misguessed your opponent's strategy, Fact or Fiction could give him or her the exact cards he or she needed, rather than create a serious dilemma.
    • In the Time Spiral set, the "Suspend" mechanic was used to create a cycle of new versions of extremely powerful cards in each color, each of which could only be cast by suspending them (normally, at least- they could also be cast by some other methods, such as Fist of Suns or the "Cascade" ability). The Time Spiral version of Ancestral Recall, Ancestral Vision, is basically the same as Ancestral Recall but makes you wait 4 turns to get your cards. And it was still banned in Modern for a long time.
    • In the Khans of Tarkir set, enter Treasure Cruise. It costs eight times as much as Ancestral Recall to get the same thing, but the "Delve" mechanic allows you to lower that by one mana for every card that you exiled from your graveyard while you cast it until you get down to the single blue mana required to cast it. With self-mill (easy to do with Dredge, see below), cheap one-mana spells, and fetchlands, this was trivial to achieve. It too was banned in Modern and Legacy, and restricted in Vintage.
      • Dig Through Time, also from Khans, was banned for similar reasons: Delve could reduce its cost to just 2 blue mana, and the ability to look through the top 7 cards of your library made it stronger than Serum Visions, Brainstorm, or Preordain. It also wound up banned in Modern and legacy, and restricted in Vintage.
    • Finally, the rest of the "boon" cycle that Ancestral Recall was a part of had balance issues of their own, with the exception of Giant Growth (+3/+3 to one creature until end of turn), which did manage to be balanced and has been reprinted many times ever since. While Healing Salve (heal or prevent three damage) was pretty weak and was quietly dropped, Dark Ritual is another variant on the theme of Black Lotus, turning one black mana into three - not nearly as broken as either Black Lotus or Ancestral Recall, but still powerful enough that it's been phased out of newer sets. Lightning Bolt, on the other hand, was an early lesson in how mana efficiency greatly affects a card's power level and the viability of other cards. Simply put, three damage for one mana at Instant speed is waaay too powerful, especially back when the game was new when the only non-Wall creatures that could survive it all cost at least four mana, putting you at a massive mana and tempo advantage most of the time. While it still sees reprints in Modern/Legacy-oriented sets due to the higher power level in those formats, it has largely been supplanted by Shock and similar cards in Standard, which remain mainstays in Red decks. To give more insight into Bolt's power, Strangle is a Sorcery that also can't hit players, and is still considered one of the best Red removal spells in Standard in years.
  • Time Walk is the cheapest way to take an extra turn; at one point, every "take an extra turn" card was banned at tournament level due to the huge number of degenerate card combos involving multiple or infinite turns. There's no surprise as to why many Extra Turn spells printed afterwards exile themselves during resolution so that the player can't recycle them, and have a much greater cost so that they're harder to exploit.
    • One of many, many combos with Time Walk was to put it at the bottom of your library with Soldevi Digger and then use Demonic Consultation to dig it back up. This cost your entire library, so required you to have everything in play you wanted in play, but by using the Digger each time Time Walk was cast you got to draw it at the start of the new turn, cast it for another turn, then use the Digger again...
    • An interesting story behind Time Walk: It was even more broken before it was actually printed. The text originally stated "Opponent loses next turn." Play testers interpreted this as literally losing the game on their next turn, and it was changed before release.

But there are far more. Bear in mind notes regarding bans and restrictions; Wizards have taken a far more liberal stance on these, and many cards that were once restricted or even banned entirely have had their rulings relaxed from their previous status. In addition, most card errata that radically change a card's function (eg those formerly in place for Great Whale and Time Vault) have been removed in favour of simply clarifying the rules actually on the card.

One might also wonder how so many of these breakers make it past playtesting. While it is true that each card is subjected to rigorous testing and revisions (in some cases hundreds of hours per card) prior to release, the simple fact is that the play design team is massively outnumbered by the millions of Magic players around the globe; particularly with the advent of digital platforms such as Magic Online and Magic Arena, these cards see more play on the day they're released than they did during their entire one to two year development cycle, and metagames are "solved" faster than ever. There's also the fact that the play design team simply doesn't have the time or resources to test every possible interaction in the game, of which there are nearly infinite such interactions and combos, and really only focus their efforts on making sure Standard remains balanced.


It's also important to note that Game-Breakers are relative: many Legacy and Vintage staples are breakers in a vacuum, but the power level in those formats is so high that they all become balanced. A card has to be powerful compared to a given format's average, or enable combos stronger than that format's average, to be on this page.

With over 20,000 unique cards as of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate, it should come as no surprise that there exists an almost incalculable number of interactions that can turn seemingly innocuous or underwhelming cards into potent engines of destruction. Note that a good number of the strongest combos listed below only require two specific cards that may or may not have a total color combination of 3 or fewer colors. Needing more parts or colors would instead push the combo towards Awesome, but Impractical or Cool, but Inefficient due to needing more setup and/or mana.

  • Probably the earliest broken combo in Magic was the combination of Channel and Fireball/Disintegrate, which allowed a first-turn kill to anyone who could get hold of one mana more than it took to cast the two spells. Legend has it an early tournament caused the modern limit of four non-land cards; both players had 20 copies of Channel, 20 copies of Fireball, and 20 copies of Black Lotus, with the match being eventually decided by one player failing to kill his opponent on the first turn. Channel was banned for a very long time, until it became clear the game had changed so much that paying 19 life to power a single easily-countered Sorcery was tantamount to suicide; as a testament to its ability to be used for other terrible things, it remains restricted to one copy per deck even in formats where it's legal.
    • This one was so well-known it was featured in a comic in the official magazine The Duelist.
  • The ability to untap permanents is a very powerful tool, as most cards with tap abilities are usually balanced around only being able to be used once per turn. The most potent untap interactions involve the ability to untap mana sources, especially sources that tap for more mana than what you pay for the untapping ability. It gets even more insane if that untap ability can be used multiple times a turn. Many such cards were present in the Rath and Urza block which is why the game is far from balanced then. There's little wonder why many untap abilities on more recent cards are also restricted with the tap symbol.
    • Myr Galvanizer can, for one colorless mana, untap all other Myrs you control. Some Myrs are capable of producing mana, so if you have 2 Myr Galvanizers and at least 2 of the Mana-Producing Myrs that generate one mana when tapped (or one Palladium Myr, which generates two colorless mana), then you can tap the Mana Myrs for 2 mana, pay 1 to tap one of the Galvanizers and untap them, tap them for two more Mana, tap the other Myr Galvanizer to untap the Mana Myrs again and the other Myr Galvanizer, and repeat to get as much mana as you want that those artifacts can produce.
    • The Shadowmoor Block introduced a number of cards that untap rather than tap as part of an activated ability cost. Sure, all of the abilities cost a bit of mana, and you have to get them tapped to use the ability, but tapping them isn't too difficult, especially if you use a card like Paradise Mantle or Utopia Vow to make the card in question continously tap for mana, effectively cheapening the cost of their ability and letting you repeat it as long as you have enough mana. This limitation was lowered a bit by Heartstone, and basically removed once Training Grounds appeared, which can reduce almost all of the untap cards' ability costs to 1 or 0, if you find a way to tap them for mana, thus allowing such things as infinite 1/1 tokens, infinite mana, or a +infinity power boost to all of your creatures. Or how about infinite counters? As long as you have at least one counter of any kind on something, you can use that to get as many of them as you want. This can also enable infinite mana and the like with cards such as Druids' Repository, or perhaps you'd like infinite turns instead (as long as you always have a way to put at least one counter back on)? And this also includes loyalty counters, so...why not get out a planeswalker and spam their ultimate ability every turn? These cards also combo very nicely with Quicksilver Dagger (which is powerful in itself for a card of common rarity), allowing you to repeatedly do damage, draw a card, and add counters/spawn tokens/buff your creatures for as long as you have mana. Put that enchantment on Pili-Pala with a Training Grounds out, and you have an infinite damage/card-drawing combo, pinging your opponents until either they all reach 0 life or you run out of cards to draw (if they don't counter the ability or prevent the damage).
    • Splinter Twin, combined with an untapping creature like Pestermite, Zealous Conscripts, or Deceiver Exarch, gives you infinite token creatures which each untap the original enchanted copy as they enter the battlefield. The tokens are all granted haste, which amounts to an instant kill as early as turn 4 once Splinter Twin resolves and the combo isn't interrupted. Splinter Twin decks were so popular that Splinter Twin itself got banned from Modern. While the deck could theoretically replicate the combo with Kiki-Jiki, the added Red mana requirement makes it a lot harder to execute, especially if a deck's trying to use 3 or more colors.
    • Ley Weaver taps to untap two lands. Maze of Ith taps to untap an attacking creature and prevents damage dealt to and by it. The combo here lies in a little-known ruling about combat. When a creature is assigned as an attacker, it is considered "attacking" until combat finishes, and Maze of Ith doesn't actually remove the creature from combat. So, after attacking with Ley Weaver, tap Maze of Ith to untap it, then tap Ley Weaver to untap both Maze of Ith and another land you control. Rinse and repeat until you have infinite mana to use for an instant-speed mid-combat mana sink, because any change in phases will empty the mana pool and put the combo to waste.
  • One infamous combo deck was called "Prosbloom," after the two cards that comprised it, Prosperity and Cadaverous Bloom. Rather than relying on creature combat, this deck was based around the "engine" created by these two cards; cards were discarded for mana from Cadaverous Bloom, which then fuelled a Prosperity; this pulled in more cards for the Bloom, with the eventual goal of creating a mega Drain Life for the killing blow. This totally altered the way the game was played.
    • Cadaverous Bloom also combos with Oath of Lim-Dûl in an earlier version of the various cycling exploits possible with Fluctuator. Don't like a card? Who cares, sling it out with the Bloom then pay the Oath to draw another.
  • Time Vault has been broken so many times and in so many ways that at one point the Gatherer text used to be a total rewrite of the card which made the ability put a counter on Time Vault which could only be removed by skipping a turn, so that untapping it didn't allow it to be used. The classic method of cheating around the "skip a turn to get a turn" mechanic was Twiddle, but the really evil combo was Animate Artifact / Instill Energy. This allowed Time Vault to be used again each time it created a turn and so made it so the other player could never take a turn at all, and this combo made it the first non-ante card to be banned at tournament level. These days you can do that with a single card, Voltaic Key.
    • Another combo was with the otherwise harmless-looking Flame Fusillade. Since at one point Time Vault's errata text allowed it to untap at any time, you could untap it as many times as you wanted, skipping future turns- but in between each untap, tapping it to deal one damage, giving you an easy infinite damage combo. It has since been errata'd to only allow you to untap it at the beginning of a turn, and you immediately skip your turn in that case.
  • Another early combo was based around the long-forgotten Kird Ape, and actually got three of the four cards in it banned or restricted for a very long time. The idea was to cast a Kird Ape with a forest in play (for a 2/3 creature), then give it Giant Growth for a 5/6, then use Berserk to make it 10/6, then Fork the Berserk to get a 20/6 game-winner for just 4 mana. Kird Ape was restricted in Legacy for a while, while Fork and Berserk were both on Vintage's restricted list. This was actually much less impressive than it sounded - while it cost very little mana, it required four (specific) cards, and none of them (apart from Kird Ape) are all that impressive on their own. The fact that the entire thing can be shut down by a single Terror or Swords to Plowshares (or Fog) doesn't help either. Berserk was restricted in 1994 (until 2003) and Fork in 1995 (until 2004), very early in the days of the banlist where some pretty weird stuff like Orcish Oriflamme and Rukh Egg were getting restrictednote , but Kird Ape's Extended ban was in 1997 when Wizards really should have known better.
  • Worldgorger Dragon ended up banned in several formats due to the way it interacted with enchantments like Necromancy, Animate Dead and Dance of the Dead. The general idea was to get the Dragon into a graveyard, then get it back into play with one of these enchantments; the Dragon would remove the Enchantment that bought it to life from the game as it came into play, killing itself and bringing back all your other permanents...untapped. Along with them, the enchantment would return, ready to target the Dragon again, and in response you tap the lands for mana. This could be repeated indefinitely, and would result in a draw unless it could be interrupted somehow. The simplest win condition for such decks was to channel the mana into a massive instant-speed spell like Ghitu Fire or Stroke of Genius, but later versions would graveyard a card like Ambassador Laquatus, Shivan Hellkite or Sliver Queen with an infinitely repeatable ability, then have the enchantment target it instead of the Dragon to break the loop. A third version was to use cards with powerful comes-into-play effects which triggered every time the cycle ran; one variant used Eternal Witness to endlessly recycle and use Ancestral Recall on the other player until they ran out of cards.
    • The interaction between Dragon and Animate Dead is also notorious for being one heck of a rules headache. Even though Dragon is no longer the dominant force it once was (although it still shows up and places from time to time) it's been suggested (although not proven) that it remains of the Legacy banned list because of the rules problems it creates. The combo has been called a "rules glitch" and when it was commonly played judges noted that they got inordinate amounts of rules questions regarding interactions with the combo. In addition, players tend to dislike playing against the deck because without a Bazaar of Baghdad in play or a win condition in hand or the graveyard casting a reanimate enchantment on Dragon ends the game in a draw because there is no way to break the loop. This is a common tactic employed by Dragon players in the face of defeat (Necromancy even let them do at instant speed so they could respond to lethal damage by forcing a draw) and so it was not too uncommon to see matches with Dragon decks go to 4, 5 or more rounds.
  • Some Eternal deck archetypes are built on quirky instawin combos; Painter / Grindstone comes to mind as one of the more prolific, mainly due to the satisfaction of milling someone's entire deck in one go. These cards are rarely banned on the grounds that getting the cards out is the real challenge of combo decks.
    • Another popular instawin combo has been broadly termed "Hulk Flash," which worked by comboing Protean Hulk and Flash to assemble a suite of game-winning creatures. Some variants of the deck could win on the opponent's upkeep of the first turn when going second using Gemstone Caverns and either Simian Spirit Guide or Elvish Spirit Guide to get the mana to cast Flash. There are a lot of sets of creatures that can be gotten with this that will give an insta-win if all come into play simultaneously- the version of the combo known as the "Vault Deck", for instance, uses 4 Disciple of the Vaults, 4 Phyrexian Marauders, and 4 Shifting Walls, since the Marauders and Walls come in with no counters and instantly die, each causing all 4 Disciples to go off for a total of 32 points of life loss, all on your opponent's first upkeep.
    • Dark Depths is one of those cards that combo players study intently to figure out how they can make them go off quickly, and for a long time they couldn't. But sure enough, with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to make Dark Depths produce mana and Vampire Hexmage to yank the counters off it, it's possible to have a 20/20 creature in play as early as turn 1 (using Fastbond), and turn 2 otherwise.
      • The Magic 2014 legend rules added a new way to cheat around Dark Depth's enormous cost with Thespian's Stage: When Thespian's Stage becomes a copy of Dark Depths, it will have no ice counters on it and the new legend rules allow you to remove the original Dark Depths while leaving the new one intact. The same thing can be accomplished by using Mirage Mirror's ability on Dark Depths.
      • And now we have Solemnity. As long as that enchantment is in play, you can just play the land, and it will enter without counters. Note how little Solemnity costs. Doable really fast with any mana acceleration. Even at turn 4, it's still pretty awesome.
  • There have always been a lot of possible infinite combos in the game.
    • The manual for the Mirage expansion even had an entry for "Loop, Continuous" in the index. This went as follows: "Loop, Continuous: See Ornithopter" -> "Ornithopter: See Fallen Angel" > "Fallen Angel: See Enduring Renewal" -> "Enduring Renewal: See Loop, Continuous." This is a trick using the 0-cost Ornithopter to pump Fallen Angel to be as big as the player likes, bouncing it back to the player's hand with Enduring Renewal each time it is sacrificed. The same joke was reprinted in the Fifth Edition manual.
    • Enduring Renewal itself should be singled out as one of the more infamous infinite combo enablers: any creature that costs 0 can be sacrificed and recycled endlessly, allowing Ornithopters to be used for all kinds of fun things like infinite mana generation with Ashnod's Altar, Krark-Clan Ironworks or Phyrexian Altar, or infinite damage with Goblin Bombardment (unsurprisingly, an Urza / Rath cycle card, and a combo which formed the centerpiece of a deck called Fruity Pebbles back in the day, the first of a series of cereal-themed deck names that also included the Trix deck) or Blasting Station. Wizards were actually legitimately worried about reprinting it in Time Spiral in 2006 because of its power, specifically worried about it being used in Standard to recycle Wild Cantor in order to build up the Storm count for a lethal Grapeshot, though this ultimately did not happen.
  • And it should be noted that that Website is more than a decade out of date, and plenty of new infinite combos have been made possible since then. Though Wizards has generally gotten better about not allowing them (or at least making them harder to pull off), there are still many decks built around exploting them. Some examples of infinite loops:
    • Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond basically have the opposite effects — Exquisite Blood heals you whenever one of your opponents takes damage, and Sanguine Bond damages your opponents whenever you get healed. Neither is terribly overpowered on their own, but when you have both at the same time, anything that triggers the effect of Exquisite Blood will cause Sanguine Bond's effect to trigger when Exquisite Blood's effect resolves, and vice versa, creating an infinite loop that instantly kills all of your opponents as soon as either you heal so much as one life or any of your opponents takes so much as one damage.
    • The Duskmantle Guildmage and Mindcrank combo. Duskmantle Guildmage makes your opponent lose life every time they mill cards from their deck, while Mindcrank makes them mill cards every time they lose life. For that matter, Duskmantle Guildmage's ability can make them lose life if a card goes to their graveyard from anywhere. Discarded a card? Combo goes off, they lose. Card on their field goes to the graveyard? Combo goes off, they lose. Even casting an instant or sorcery that doesn't destroy Mindcrank causes them to lose when that spell resolves! Mindcrank can also combo with Bloodchief Ascension although that requires you to get three required quest counters on Bloodchief Ascension. On the other hand, Bloodchief costs less, is an enchantment (and thus harder to remove), and once it gets the counters, the ability is always active instead of requiring 3 mana to activate.
    • Jeskai Ascendancy forms an instant-win combo too: With enough mana-producing creatures, noncreature spells add mana to your pool & can dig up your entire library; from there, spend the surplus mana on your win condition of choice.
    • Blowfly Infestation lets you place a new -1/-1 counter on another creature if a creature with said counter died. Nest of Scarabs creates a 1/1 Insect whenever you place a -1/-1 counter. So, by first killing a 1-toughness creature with a -1/-1 counter, you create a 1/1 Insect, and then get to place a new -1/-1 counter on that Insect. This lets you create a new 1/1 Insect and place a -1/-1 counter on it when the previous Insect dies, creating a loop until you choose to target something else. This is an infinite number of enter-the-battlefield and death triggers which can turn into lethal damage through outlets like Blood Artist or Impact Tremors.
  • Ink-Treader Nephilim copies any single-target spell cast on it onto each creature that spell could target. Parallels include Zada, Hedron Grinder and Mirrorwing Dragon, though they have other restrictions and copy the effects a little differently. It has a tight restriction of needing four different colors to cast, but when it lasts long enough to the next untap step, a deck built around it can do amazing things. Because a spell targeting Ink-Treader is copied en masse, a single counterspell will struggle to stop its havoc, since it won't be able to stop the copies unless that counterspell can hit everything on the stack.
    • It has ridiculous synergy with Wild Defiance, which gives your creatures a free +3/+3 whenever anything targets them — including the copies of spells created by Ink-Treader. Suddenly your entire board gets buffed for every little spell you cast.
    • An Ink-Treader deck will also make great value off single-target spells that read "draw a card", and suddenly, with a well-developed board, things like Slip Through Space draw a large number of cards for just one mana.
    • You can even use Nivmagus Elemental to exile the extra copies of spells you don't want, greatly buffing the Elemental while giving you control over what you want resolved. You can even play a removal spell, like Path to Exile, on your Ink-Treader, watch it radiate onto the rest of the board, and then exile the copies that are targeting your creatures, creating a one-sided boardwipe.
  • Once Ezuri, Claw of Progress hits 5 experience counters (a very easy feat to accomplish, since generating tokens en masse gives him an enormous amount of counters), he combos fantastically with Sage of Hours. Enter combat, place five +1/+1 counters on Sage using Ezuri's ability, remove them to take an extra turn, and repeat the process whenever you enter that turn's combat.
  • Felidar Guardian was banned in Standard for its interaction with Saheeli Rai, which became known as the "copy cat" combo. The premise is to use Saheeli to copy the Felidar Guardian, have the copy flicker her to reset her loyalty and let her use abilities again, then repeat until you have an infinite army of Felidar Guardians which can immediately crush your foes. While it takes three colors to execute, the combo can be used as early as turn 4 as early planeswalker removal is not a very common thing to see.

    Impactful Cards 
  • Perhaps the most powerful card-drawing card ever printed is Contract From Below. This references an old mechanic called "ante" where players set aside cards at the start of the game and the winner took them at the end, which was axed after falling foul of anti-gambling laws in some US states. The Contract is a ridiculous card; sure, you ante up an additional card and discard your hand (the latter of which could be beneficial in the right deck), but you get 7 cards for only one mana. Like all ante cards, it's illegal in all formats; even if this wasn't so, it's staggeringly overpowered and would likely still be banned.
  • Balance. In theory, this card balances out the playing field. In practice, it's Armageddon, Wrath of God and Mind Twist, all in one card. The trick to it is to ensure you have Artifact mana and damage sources (with the classic being multiple copies of The Rack), while your opponent does not; they're suddenly left with one card in hand and one land to cast it with. During "Necro-Summer," it was noted to be one of the only cards that the Necropotence decks had any trouble with, since with Balance they'd suddenly find their discard and land destruction had been playing right into their opponent's hands, while they had to throw away all the cards they'd paid for, leaving them with only painfully low life to show for it. A later ally to Balance decks was Zuran Orb, allowing the White player a clean way to throw away all his lands for profit before slapping Balance on the table.
    • The secret to Balance's power is simple: it controls the number of lands, creatures, and cards in hand, but has no effect on the number of artifacts or enchantments, so while it may clear the field of creatures, reduce the number of lands, and cause an opponent to lose their hand, if you have a large number of artifacts on the field that can deal damage, you win, since by the time your opponent can recover (barring an insanely lucky draw), it's game over. And all for two mana.
  • Fastbond. Remember why Moxen are good? This lets you play as many Lands as you can draw. Everything is now a Mox, all for one mana and a paltry single point of damage each. The combo that got Fastbond banned was with Storm Cauldron, which essentially turned Fastbond into Channel for coloured mana.
    • Not to mention its interaction with Gush, letting the Gushbond player generate mana and draw cards at the small cost of 2 life. Gush itself is a ridiculously broken card. It's been on and off the restricted list in Vintage multiple times (it's currently restricted meaning that only one copy of ot can be included in a deck) and it's been banned in Legacy since the banned lists were split. Fastbond isn't even legal in Legacy; Gush is banned purely on its own merits.
    • Another incredibly stupid thing it allows for is the reuse of saclands like Wasteland and Strip Mine in conjunction with Crucible of Worlds, turning it into a one-sided Armageddon.
    • Alternatively, Fastbond + Crucible of Worlds + Zuran Orb is a game-winner: Play a land, tap it for mana, sacrifice it to the Orb for 2 life, play it from the graveyard with Crucible, lose only 1 life to Fastbond. Repeat as needed.
    • There are other silly combos as well, such as playing Glacial Chasm which reduces all damage to zero (meaning you can play infinite lands per turn for free, which can lead to all sorts of shenanigans). This is mostly irrelevant though, simply because the only format in which it is legal to do (Vintage), there are too many decks which can kill you in other ways or get rid of the Glacial Chasm and kill you in a single turn before you can replay it, and playing that many lands makes you overly dependent on Fastbond.
    • This is also banned in Commander. For the reasons stated above.
      • Additionally, Fastbond is a crazy overpowered card but has two main drawbacks: first, it makes you lose life faster and may end up dead if you don't draw a big card to take advantage of all the insane mana. In Commander, you have 40 life and always start with a castable Commander. Meaning, opening with Fastbond in Commander equals you win. Of course, since the rules of the Commander format state that you can only have one copy of any card (besides basic lands) in your deck, and that your deck must be 100 cards or larger, opening with it in your hand is a trickier prospect than it sounds.
  • And, since it's been mentioned, Mind Twist itself. An obscenely undercosted discard spell, it was so loathed that it won a player poll of cards to be excluded from Fifth Edition by a substantial margin. It proved particularly unpleasant when pulled out early in the game using Dark Rituals and combined with one or more copies of The Rack. It was the third card to be banned outright in all tournaments for being overpowered (Time Vault and Channel being the first two), and the first to be banned entirely for what it could do by itself, rather than any combos including the card. Nowadays it is unrestricted in Vintage and is banned in Legacy. It occupies a rather strange place in terms of power level - in Vintage, there are better things to do with Dark Ritual than getting rid of three cards from your opponent's hand, but in legacy, an early game mind twist off of fast mana can completely ruin many decks. Hymn to Tourach is a slightly less unfair version - while it is still deeply unfair at two mana and can easily mana screw an opponent by making them discard two mana sources, it is not nearly as devastating in conjunction with fast mana, and can't wipe out their entire hand out of nowhere later on.
  • High Tide is a one-sided blue Mana Flare for just one mana. It's often combined with untapping effects to generate obscene amounts of mana. The classic is Palinchron; with the Islands now tapping for 14 blue mana instead of 7, it's easy to bounce the Palinchron in and out of play as many times as you want to, netting 3 blue Mana each time. Mike Flores described the original Extended High Tide deck as "the most hated deck in the history of tournament Magic, the poster child for Combo Winter."
    • After dominating Extended for a while High Tide decided it wanted to become the best combo deck in another format so it showed up in Legacy as Solidarity, a deck that ran on the same concepts but played only instants. Solidarity's time came and went and High Tide never really caught on in Vintage so Wizards give Legacy High Tide its most powerful weapon: Time Spiral. After a brief period of panic Mental Misstep stepped in and neutered it again. Then Misstep got banned and it was able to return. Candlebra of Tawnos (X, Tap: Untap X target lands) also combos beautifully with High Tide.
  • Dual lands, which have almost no disadvantage save for landwalk (indeed, since Landwalk isn't exactly a game-winner, their dual type is just as likely to work out as a benefit, for example the ones that count as Islands are all affected by High Tide even if they're used to produce their non-blue mana type). Wow, color doesn't exist anymore. Thankfully, more modern lands that can produce more than one type of mana have some drawback on them to balance them out (for most of them, they come into play tapped; if they're above Common, you can generally get them into play untapped if you meet certain conditions, such as having another type of basic land under your control or paying 2 life).
  • Another classic unbalanced land is Strip Mine, which is restricted in Vintage and banned almost everywhere else. Land destruction should be a little harder to come by than having a mana-producing non-Legendary Land on the table.
  • And on the theme of unbalanced Lands, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is a horribly nasty card to drop on any "weenie" deck built around cheap creatures.
  • And of course, one can't talk about unbalanced Lands without bringing up one of the most powerful methods of unbalancing Lands, the almighty Land Tax. Sometimes referred to as White's Ancestral Recall. An endless Tutor card for just 1 mana, it enables all kinds of weird multicolour decks, allowing any player with a way to get rid of Lands to draw four cards per turn instead of one (since the normal draw is not skipped), thin out their deck of Lands to get to their spells, and pull off all kinds of shenanigans with cards like Scroll Rack (the combo that got Land Tax banned: since Land Tax shuffles the deck, putting the lands on top after using Scroll Rack does not require you to see them again as it normally would) or Sylvan Library. And soon a little thing called Zuran Orb came along to give the Land Tax deck something to feed all those spare lands to for fun and profit. Land Tax has had its fair share of time on restricted and banned lists, though nowadays it is fully legal in every format it can be played in.
  • Black Vise was one of the earliest restricted cards; back in early Magic before the proliferation of one- and two-mana drops, if one of these came out on the first turn you'd consider yourself lucky to get away with six damage; with multiple Black Vises in play, you could easily be almost out of the game before it had really even started. Players would often have four on board just to give them a quick cast to get out from under an opponent's Vise. Restricting it, however, allowed other broken cards it had been keeping in check to come out, most infamously Necropotence, detailed below. The game has somewhat passed it by, though, at least in Vintage; despite being unrestricted, it doesn't see much play anymore, mostly because Vintage decks are too fast and too good at emptying their hands. It remains banned in Legacy.
    • One such card was its opposite, Ivory Tower. This became a staple of Necropotence decks, granting them life to draw more cards from the cards they'd paid life to draw. While it was at one point restricted in Vintage, as the game sped up the card became very weak, and now is unplayable in all formats in which it is legal. It was particularly potent in conjunction with Library of Alexandria.
  • Necropotence itself. On the surface, it looks pretty crappy: "Skip your draw step, and instead pay 1 life per card you want to draw." But once anyone actually played it, they realized just how valuable it is to be able to draw so much of your deck that you can basically get your hand on any card you need. It led to a period nicknamed "Necro-Summer" where almost every deck in tournament play was a Necrodeck or a deck specifically designed to beat "The Skull." It didn't help at all that under the old rules a player didn't die until the end of the phase even if their life dropped below zero, meaning Necro players could literally kill themselves digging up Drain Life and still finish with a positive life total, or simply use Mirror Universe to give their life total to their opponent. Attempts to depower the deck included bans of Dark Ritual, along with restricting popular Life sources Zuran Orb and Ivory Tower. Ultimately, the card itself was banned; since then it's been unbanned, perhaps most infamously being used to power Yawgmoth's Will / Dark Ritual decks during Combo Winter. A mighty card-drawing engine, Necropotence continues to turn up when a deck is designed around digging up the pieces of a combo quickly, and is still restricted to one copy per deck in tournaments.
    • Necro also powered the earlier versions of the Trix deck, which was based on using Donate to give an opponent Illusions of Grandeur, something combo players had been searching for a way to do more or less since Illusions came out. Illusions of Grandeur was supposed to be a time-stalling card that gives you a massive health boost but provokes an equally massive health loss when you become unable to sustain its steep upkeep cost. However, due to the way it works, losing control of Illusions does not cause the health loss, while being in control of it when it leaves the battlefield does, in other terms, Donating Illusions to your opponent gives you a permanent 20 health bonus while condemning the opponent to eventually lose 20 health. 20 health being the starting total in standard games, barring lifegain this is a One-Hit KO.
    • Necropotence later got an upgrade in the form of Yawgmoth's Bargain. Whereas Necro made you wait until your end step to get your cards, Bargain gave you the card instantly. Also, that pesky "exile anything you discard" line was gone too.
    • Necro-Impotence, the silver-bordered Unhinged parody of Necro, gives you double the cards for the same amount of life, only it also imposes a lock on your own permanents against untapping, and it does not skip your draw step. While not tournament legal due to its silver border, it is definitely twice as powerful as the original.
    • Necropotence is, probably, the single most influential Magic card ever printed, proving definitively the value of card drawing, and warping, not only the tournament Meta Game of the time, but the community's understanding of how the game itself works.
  • Illusionary Mask is a weird little card that allows players to sneak creatures into play: eventually it was realised that this avoids negative "comes into play" / "enters the battlefield" effects, with the upshot being the ability to sneak a Phyrexian Dreadnought onto the table for just 1 mana. The modern errata turns the card into a device for granting an odd variant of the Morph ability that turns the hidden card into a 2/2 creature, but under the original wording, the face-down card still had all its normal effects and abilities, meaning that the player could subject their opponent to the effects of a card they couldn't actually see. The sheer amount of depravity possible with such an ability in modern Magic (nevermind the potential for outright cheating, since the opponent only has your word for what the hidden card actually does) is probably the reason it no longer does this. Unfortunately, in this new form the game has rather passed it by, since Stifle and Torpor Orb do the same thing with comes-into-play effects without the rigmarole of casting cards face-down: it has the advantage over Stifle that it can bring multiple creatures into play (indeed, under modern rules it does not even tap when activated, which all Artifacts did when it came out). Over Torpor Orb, it only has the advantage of anonymity for the hidden cards, compared to Torpor Orb allowing the creatures to be played any way the player feels like, thus allowing, say, Phage the Untouchable to be reanimated from the graveyard without losing the game. And the advantage of the card text "You can summon a creature face down so opponent doesn't know what it is," which is one of the silliest phrases on a Magic card.
  • Phyrexian Dreadnought itself has had a few other nasty combos over the years due to its ridiculous ratio of power and toughness to converted mana cost, mostly involving effects that trigger when it enters play (Pandemonium being one of the stronger ones, dealing 12 damage for 5 mana or 24 for 6 if you have two of them): at one time it was errata'd so that if the sacrifices were not done it never triggered "comes into play" effects, but this has since been reverted. The Dreadnought is one of the cards that inspires "Johnny" players and has become progressively more powerful over the years, with using Stifle on its comes-into-play effect or casting it with Torpor Orb in play (allowing it to be thrown down on turn 1 with just a Swamp / Dark Ritual startup) being the most practical ways to get it into play these days, but there are plenty of other combos ranging from the creative (say, having a Renegade Doppleganger become a clone of it when it pops in briefly before being sacrificed, or comboing it with Reins of Power as a quick way of killing all of your opponent's creatures after having them beat your opponent up, costing just 1 mana and leaving you with a 12/12 trampler for your troubles) to the downright silly like using Sundial of the Infinite to clear its comes-into-play trigger off the stack before it can resolve. It helps that as an Artifact Creature, players can draw on broken cards from any colour to do silly things with it.
  • The Mirage block gave us Flash, described above in the Combos section, but powerful enough to be talked about in detail. The concept behind the card is simple: you can bring in a creature at any time, and pay its mana cost minus two colorless mana or sacrifice it. The idea was to get a creature in play at any time you choose. In practice, however, this never happens. Instead, the caster of Flash will get in a creature and deliberately avoid paying the mana cost to sacrifice it. And since many creatures have extremely powerful abilities when they enter or leave the battlefield (or heaven forbid, both), Flash is essentially a way to cheaply get those abilities out without paying for the creature's high mana costs. The most common combo, as mentioned above, is Protean Hulk, but any creature with a powerful enters/leaves the battlefield effect can wreak havoc on an opponent for the low cost of one and one blue. Flash is banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage. It was, however, legal in Commander for a very long time, much to the frustration of a lot of Commander players, as the Flash Hulk combo is key to a great many combo decks, and it doesn't help that both Flash and Protean Hulk are relatively inexpensive cards to obtain, making it easy to find creatures to create a combo with. Flash was finally banned in Commander in April of 2020, to the great rejoicing of Commander players.
  • Mind's Desire was restricted in Vintage and banned in Legacy before it was even tournament-legal. It was one of only two cards to get such a preemptive ban, the other being Memory Jar, owing to the number of disgustingly powerful things that can be done with as many free spells as you've played spells this turn; the typical play was to use Mind's Desire to build up the storm count further for a lethal Tendrils of Agony. This was the metagame in Standard when it came out.
    • 4UU might seem like a prohibitively high cost, especially since Mind's Desire must be played after many other spells to become a Game-Breaker (Yawgmoth's Bargain is the only other 6 converted mana cost card that gets used without being cheated into play), but with spells that cost nothing available, this problem is easily worked around.
    • Counterspells, normally the bane of combo decks, can't do much to stop Mind's Desire, since countering the original does nothing to counter the copies created with Storm. Stifle was released in the same set as Mind's Desire; it probably would have been an unused niche card if not for its ability to counter Storm.
    • Tendrils was also a game breaker on its own-a deck could use tutors, draw spells, Dark Rituals, or Yawgmoth's Bargain, plus any of the above-mentioned free cards, to get a large enough Storm count to kill an opponent in one shot. The infamous Long.Dec used the very cheap Duress to simultaneously build Storm, see their opponent's hand and selectively knock cards out of it, and there really didn't need to be even more reasons to use Duress.
    • Mark Rosewater, the game's lead designer, now has a habit of rating mechanics, from 1 to 10, on how likely they are to return to Standard. 1s are the evergreens (eg. Flying), while 10s are basically too broken to ever risk again. It's called the "Storm Scale" because Storm is the definitive 10.
  • While the Kamigawa block was otherwise fairly low-powered, it did have Gifts Ungiven. This extremely powerful tutor card essentially made your opponent pick how they were going to die; it was restricted in Vintage before January 19,2015, and is banned in several other formats.
    • There was also Umezawa's Jitte. Not quite as game-breaking as the likes of Skullclamp, but severely undercosted for its powerful abilities. Some commentors on the Gatherer website treat it as the "First Colourless Planeswalker" (an actual colorless planeswalker, Karn Liberated, was later printed). The Jitte is currently banned in Modern because of its terrifyingly powerful and flexible abilities.
    • Time Stop is a counterspell on steroids. When the card is played, whoever's turn it is suddenly has their turn end, right then and there. It prevents every other spell on the stack from resolving — even those with "can't be countered" effects — and also exiles any spells still on the stack, preventing recursion by graveyard-diving players. While fairly costly to cast, Time Stop is invaluable late-game for getting out of tricky situations. One well-played use of Time Stop can end up crippling your opponent by ending their strategy instantly and preventing them from retrying it.
    • Heartbeat of Spring is a green Mana Flare. Mana Flare always sucked, so they figured that printing it in the right color couldn't hurt anything. Turns out that Mana Flare just hadn't had the right environment. While a seemingly symmetrical effect, instead the card allowed for a very asymmetrical effect as it was only cast on the turn the player would win. A large amount of mana accelleration would be used, Heartbeat of Spring would come out, then a spell that untapped all your lands, followed by transmute cards like Drift of Phantasms, which could be used to tutor not only for Heartbeat of Spring, but also for Early Harvest to untap your lands, and Maga, Traitor to Mortals and similar win conditions that cost three mana base plus X, where X could easily be 20 or more, allowing for an instant kill. It generated a top tier combo deck, and neither Early Harvest nor Heartbeat of Spring have ever been reprinted, very likely as a direct result of its existence.
    • Sensei's Divining Top's subtle yet powerful draw-manipulation (pay 1 mana to see and rearrange the top 3 cards of your library; tap: draw a card and put the Top on the top of your library) is incredibly powerful in the non-Vintage formats, being an inexpensive draw-fixer that lets you control your future draws, even after deck-shuffling tutoring. Its ability to draw a card also gives it the ability to dodge hatred, as it can draw a card and jump on top of your library to evade targeted destruction. In many cases it effectively lets you extend your "hand" to include the top three cards of your library! Currently the Top is banned in Modern and Legacy, both because of its disproportionate power/utility to cost ratio and because it simply makes games take too long.
      • When it was legal in Legacy, the Top formed a nasty combo with Counterbalance: Activate its first ability in response to an opponent's spell, rearrange cards so that a card with the same converted mana cost is on-top, counter the spell-all for a total of just 1 mana.
      • Another Legacy deck that was focused around Sensei's Divining Top is the Miracles deck. Cards with the Miracle mechanic can be cast at a greatly reduced cost, but only if they're the first card you drew this turn. With the Top, you can keep a card with Miracle from being drawn until you can cast it; the typical win condition is Entreat the Angels.
    • Glimpse of Nature got itself banned in Modern too. Much like Skullclamp, Glimpse can easily refill a Zerg Rush player's hand to keep up momentum, or to help a player draw a key part of a combo. If combined with lots of cheap or free creatures and a card like Heritage Druid that can get you mana from those creatures the turn that they're played, you can just keep playing more creatures and drawing more cards and using the already-played creatures to get more mana to play more creatures to draw more cards...
    • Blazing Shoal got banned for its interaction with Infect: Using its alternate casting cost, a 9- or 10- mana creature would be fed to the Shoal to power up an unblockable creature, usually Blighted Agent, and win the game on the spot. Even without Infect, you can still essentially wipe out your opponent with pure damage in two hits from as early as turn two if your Shoal deck packs manlands like Blinkmoth Nexus or Inkmoth Nexus.
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor has the distinction of being the first of the planeswalker card type to be banned, and while still in Standard too, the format which is both the most heavily scrutinized for card interactions and the one in which they are most reluctant to ban cards. In April, one tournament saw every top 8 finisher running the maximum 4 copies of Jace, The Mind Sculptor. There were 32 copies of Jace and 32 copies of Preordain in the top 8 - something almost unheard of in Magic history. At the time of the ban Jace was selling for between $80 and $100, a shocking cost for a card in a set released so soon.
    • Jace also caused a rewriting of the Legendary rules on the basis that players were using other Jace Planeswalker cards to remove the Mind Sculptor version from the table.
    • In February 2018, Jace got unbanned, to the massive shock of the entire MTG community. Wizards' rationale for unbanning Jace was that there had been enough Power Creep in Modern since his banning that he, while still a powerful card, would no longer be a "game over, I win" card. So far, they've been proven right as Jace hasn't been anywhere near as dominant in Modern as he used to be many years ago.
  • From the same set as Jace, Stoneforge Mystic, a card that allows you to fetch any Equipment, then later put it into play for two mana rather than what it actually costs. It was "merely" good for awhile, but then a card called Sword of Feast and Famine came along to make it awesome, especially in combination with man lands and Squadron Hawk, all of which have evasion, making repeated equips more bearable. Then a card called Batterskull was released in the New Phyrexia set, giving the Stoneforge Mystic an even better equipment to put on the table (essentially casting an uncounterable 4/4 creature with vigilance and lifelink for 2 mana as early as the third turn- or even the second turn, if you were lucky enough to have in your opening hand a Stoneforge Mystic, a Plains, a Mox Opal, and two other zero-cost artifacts, and there were several decent ones at the time). This was also banned at the same time as Jace, the article explaining why commenting that the two were dominating tournament play to a degree possibly unprecedented in Magic history. Like its partner in crime Jace, Stoneforge Mystic would later be unbanned in Modern and has proven itself to be much fairer.
  • Griselbrand. He was not considered much of a thing in Standard, where eight mana is a pretty tall order (though he did show up in Standard decks from time to time). In Legacy, however, this guy is very powerful, being a Yawgmoth's Bargain attached to a 7/7 flier with lifelink. And once he resolves, the nature of the deck makes him hard to get rid of, as you have to beat not only your opponent's hand, but the top seven in their deck (though Sneak and Show's other creature, Emrakul, is even harder to kill). And with free counterspells like Force of Will commonplace in Legacy, that's difficult even with a counterspell of your own. Some even argue that he be banned for giving Sneak and Show too much consistency.
    • Moving out of Sneak and Show, he now enables Tin Fins, a black storm combo deck that can go off turn 1 pretty often and turn 3 at the absolute latest thanks to his synergy with Children of Korlis. Burn 14 life to draw 14 cards, play Children of Korlis, regain 14 life, burn that 14 to draw 14 more cards, play a second Children of Korlis and gain 28 life, draw out the rest of your deck and then storm Tendrils of Agony with practically your whole deck in hand.
    • He was banned in Commander, another game format where players have 40 life instead of 20... making his ability essentially free.
  • Innistrad managed to bring its own headache in Snapcaster Mage. Combined with ways to flicker it—which were more than a little profuse in Avacyn Restored—counterspells quickly became overly profuse on their own. Return to Ravnica is already filled with ways to contend with him...which are themselves so unnervingly powerful that players are already asking why Snapcaster wasn't just banned. The clincher is that he's not entirely R&D's fault—Pro Tour winners get a prize of designing a card of their own for a future set, and this is one of them.
  • One of those ways of dealing with Snapcaster Mage was Deathrite Shaman, which can exile instants and sorceries from any graveyard while damaging your opponents at the same time. And it also gets two other useful graveyard-exiling abilities, one for creatures that heals you life, and one for lands that gives you mana. Oh, and did we mention it also only costs one mana, that can be paid from either of two colors thanks to hybrid mana, and it's also a 1/2 creature? It's effectively a combination of Birds of Paradise and Grim Lavamancer (both of which are themselves considered pretty good cards) with a third ability to boot, and it's tougher to kill than either of those two cards. It has an amazing amount of utility and versatility in what it can do- it can mana-ramp, it can make your fetchlands even more useful by exiling them for mana after they're in the graveyard, it can hate on your opponent's graveyard to prevent them from reusing their cards with flashback or reanimation spells, it can deal damage, it can lifegain, and it's even an above-curve creature in black, being a 1/2 with no drawbacks for 1 mana. It's been referred to as the "first one-mana planeswalker", and many consider it to be the best one-mana creature ever printed. It was a fairly dominating force in every format it existed in, eventually being banned in Modern and Legacy. In Standard it was considerably weaker thanks to the lack of fetchlands, but it was still a very powerful card.
  • From the Commander 2013 set, we were given True-Name Nemesis, lovingly nicknamed Progenifish due to being able to No-Sell a player entirely. In the multiplayer style of Commander/EDH, he's not a big of a deal and encourages table politics and alliances. However, he's legal in Legacy and Vintage, where once he's on the battlefield he's pretty much there to stay barring someone being forced to sacrifice him or a board wipe. Due to his ability, just him alone will force the opponent to lose in 7 turns (the damage he does cannot be stopped at all, so he only needs to attack 7 times), however he also happens to be a blue merfolk; one of the most powerful tribal decks in Legacy (which happens to have 8 "lords" that can pump his strength and a slew of counterspells to avoid other shenanigans, meaning that more realistically the opponent only has about 3 turns to do something about him). He's the reason the Grixis Commander 2013 deck goes for almost triple the price of the others at most stores.
  • While less powerful than Necropotence or Yawgmoth's Bargain, Dark Confidant is still one of Black's best draw cards, providing a second draw step every turn in exchange for life. In formats like Vintage, where most spells cost 3 mana or less, the drawback is so small that it might as well not exist.
  • Tarmogoyf can easily become a 3/4 or even bigger for just 2 mana, and gets bigger if the opponent tries to kill or counter it. It also doubles as a great comeback from Wrath of God-type effects, since board clearing doesn't affect its size or cost & the opponent will still be struggling to rebuild his or her own board.
  • When they were originally printed in the Zendikar block, Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple were fairly reasonable cards. At the time, there weren't very many Colorless Eldrazi spells and all of them cost at least 7 mana; you could use them to ramp up to the huge Eldrazi spells and get them out a few turns earlier but they didn't do much early on in the game. But then when the game returned to the plane of Zendikar years later in Battle for Zendikar, it gave the Eldrazi Lands a lot of new toys to play with- the Devoid mechanic let Eldrazi spells be Colorless even while they had Colored Mana in their costs, meaning they could be affected by Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple, and there were many low-cost Eldrazi, allowing Eldrazi decks to become a force to be reckoned with in Modern, and then they got even better in Oath of the Gatewatch thanks to cards like Eldrazi Mimic (free to cast with Eye of Ugin out), Thought-Knot Seer (which could hose whatever answer your opponent might have for your plans before they ever got a chance to cast it), and Reality Smasher that could let a player easily flood the board with Eldrazi and win before his or her opponent can respond; it was not uncommon to see Eldrazi decks win on turn 3 (or even turn 2 with a perfect opening hand) in Modern if they got multiple free Eldrazi Mimics out on their first turn. Eldrazi Temple tapping for 2 mana every turn made it almost as good as a Sol Ring, and Eye of Ugin could sometimes effectively give even more of a mana advantage than that by casting lots of cheap or free spells very quickly. The complete dominance of Eldrazi decks in Modern got Eye of Ugin banned a few months after Oath of the Gatewatch was released; while it was legal, Eldrazi decks were an outright majority of top decks & 43% of all decks played at PT Atlanta 2016, one of the most lopsided Pro Tours in Magic history.
  • Primeval Titan is easily the strongest of all the Titans in its cycle. 4GG for a 6/6 trampler is already good efficiency, but on entry and attack it could put 2 lands from your library onto the battlefield tapped. Any land, not just basic. It was part of a combo in Modern using Summer Bloom and Amulet of Vigor — Amulet untaps normally-tapped lands Simic Growth Chamber, letting you use it for mana just before it bounces itself. With Summer Bloom's effect, you had a temporary burst of up to 6 mana on turn 2, dovetailing perfectly into Primeval Titan, which serves to pull out two more such lands that you use for immediate mana to further your board state. Primeval Titan on its own is already rather difficult to contest at an early stage of the game, and Primeval Titan with something else totaling 10 mana in value on turn 2 is just ridiculous. The combo initially got broken with the banning of Summer Bloom in Modern, but players still managed to make it work using several weaker cards in its place. In addition, Titan ended up banned in Commander, where cheating it out allowed the player to further their lead and make even more impactful plays before everyone could hope to catch up.
  • Siege Rhino: it's a Leatherback Baloth with Trample that activates Blood Tithe when it hits the battlefield for just 4 mana. Obviously undercosted and overpowered, but gets unfair really quickly when you start dropping multiples of it on your hapless opponent via clones, and ensuring it hits the battlefield as soon as possible via Bring to Light turns it into a Game Breaker. The abundance of mana-fixing in the Khans-Zendikar Standard format made it ridiculously easy to run a 4-color deck, and Siege Rhino found its way into basically any deck with the mana base to accommodate it.
  • Collected Company. The card advantage it offered is nasty, especially given that it was in Standard alongside a lot of cheap, powerful creatures, such as the five creatures that transformed into planeswalkers. Not to mention the tempo advantage (6 mana worth of creatures for 4 mana), and the fact that it’s instant speed, allowing you to cast it on your opponent's turn and/or leave open some mana for other powerful card you have. One use of casting it to summon creatures on your opponent's turn is that you can use it on your opponent's end step to pull out a werewolf that can only transform if no spells are cast during a turn (like this or this), and transform it immediately if your opponent didn't cast any spells during their turn, or transform it right after your next turn by not casting any spells yourself. One of its only weakness is that has a good degree of randomness and it doesn’t summon the aforementioned Siege Rhino. It also powered many decks that became top tier, notably many variations of G/W or Bant that combined Collected Company with powerful but cheap creatures like Sylvan Advocate and other useful green and white spells like Dromoka's Command and Rally the Ancestors. The Bant Collected Company deck only got more powerful in the Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad blocks, when it got lots more cheap hate cards to work with, like Reflector Mage and Thalia, Heretic Cathar. Bant Company made up more than 40% of the top decks in standard in Eldritch Moon, before Collected Company rotated out of the format with the release of Kaladesh, but the card still maintains its relevance in Modern where a vast majority of the creatures played qualify for its effect.
  • Emrakul, the Promised End. While a strong card with an otherwise reasonable cost reduction mechanic, and a very strong cast trigger, Emrakul didn't quite break Standard until the release of Kaladesh and one other card: Aetherworks Marvel. Emrakul and the Marvel resulted in players conceding often as early as turn 4 due to having their board state trashed by their opponent controlling them, and still having a 13/13 flying creature that's immune to instants left over. This proved to be enough of an issue that resulted in a change on how banlist announcements are handled AND the first Standard banning in over five years.
    • This wasn't enough, though. Without Emrakul, Temur Aetherworks decks simply used it to pull out the other big Eldrazi like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, which is an outright devastating move on turn 4. Players typically agreed that Aetherworks Marvel was very un-fun to play against due to polarizing outcomes. While they were initially hesitant to ban Aetherworks as they don't fancy destroying entire archetypes, the revelation that there is still a viable Temur Energy-based deck for Constructed pretty much gave Wizards the green light to ban Aetherworks Marvel.
  • Also banned from Standard in January 2017: Smuggler's Copter. It's cheap, completely generic flyer with a solid 3/3 body, has the low cost of Crew 1 meaning anything stronger than a Wall can man it, is largely immune to sorcery-speed creature removal, and offers a loot when it goes into combat, allowing for any deck to easily filter through their draws. There was no incentive to not run it, thus reducing the diversity of decks in Standard. Simply waiting for it to rotate will do no good with the new rotation schedule, so Wizards decided to simply ban it. The flexibility and power of Smuggler's Copter also proved it to be too strong for Pioneer, and it was banned from that format in December 2019.
  • Several cards were banned from Standard in January 2018 to shut down a reigning deck and curb a problematic one:
    • For the Temur Energy deck: Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner. Attune looks like a very humble spell worthy of its Common status, being a mere basic tutor that gives energy, but it offers great fixing and is the turn 1 Energy play, allowing the deck to be greedy with its mana base on top of setting up power plays for the next turn, like instantly powering Longtusk Cub to a 3/3. Rogue Refiner, akin to Attune, already has an excellent payout for its cost — a decent 3/2 body with card draw on top of energy attached — and all these upsides made it an autoinclude for the Energy deck which also caused most energy builds to appear very similar. Attune and Refiner both got the axe to force energy decks to diversify their builds.
    • For Ramunap Red: Ramunap Ruins and Rampaging Ferocidon. Ramunap Ruins turned out to be incredibly strong, functioning as an unstoppable 2 damage on the opponent for when games go long and synergizing exceptionally well with Sunscorched Desert that also does damage on entry. Rampaging Ferocidon was initially designed to counter the "Copy-Cat" combo before it got banned, and now that the combo is non-existent, Ferocidon went ahead to become one of Ramunap Red's strongest cards, effectively covering its weaknesses to wide boards and life gain. Banning Ramunap Ruins cuts off the deck's ability to close games, and banning Ferocidon opens up more avenues for countering the deck in general. Although it would be due to rotate in a month's time, Rampaging Ferocidon got unbanned from (most instances of) Standard in August 2019 to tame the prominent Field of the Dead deck.
  • Nexus of Fate is one of the most annoying "take an Extra Turn" spells to date. Though not as cheap as Time Walk, Nexus makes up for it in being an instant extra turn spell, which lets it fit nicely into a control deck's endgame as they can just slip it in an end step after spending time holding up counterspells and removal. On top of that, instead of exiling itself on resolution like other spells of its kind, Nexus shuffles itself into the library if it enters the graveyard from anywhere for any reason including resolution, meaning that it becomes repeatable, puts a player in an eternal loop of turns with no risk of decking out, and countering or discarding it won't take care of the problem permanently. This has led to some incredibly grindy turbo-fog decks showing up in Standard tournaments. To make things more complicated, while Nexus of Fate is Standard-legal, it can only be obtained as a buy-a-box promo, never in any booster packs, which leads to the card itself being needlessly expensive.
  • Ancient Stirrings and Faithless Looting are becoming more and more controversial in the Modern format. Both are 1-mana cards that add a lot of consistency to decks that shouldn't normally get it. Ancient Stirrings was initially designed as a way to fetch Eldrazi from its original set, until people started using it to add consistency and filtering to artifact-based decks, to the point most of the artifact-based decks in the current Modern format splash green just for the sake of adding Stirrings for the consistency boost. As for Looting, it's an absurd ally to graveyard-based decks such as Dredge and Vengevine, allowing them to shape their initial hands while setting up their graveyard, and it can even be flashed back if you brick later in the game.
    As an added point against them, both are borderline breaks in the color pie; green isn't supposed to interact favorably with artifacts except in artifact-based sets like Mirrodin and Kaladesh, and while red does get Discard and Draw effects, they're supposed to either discard before drawing or to choose the discarded cards randomly, to play up the "unpredictable" nature of the color. Either of those changes would make Looting way more tolerable. Eventually, after being part of many graveyard-based decks like Dredge, Hogaak and Arclight Phoenix, Faithless Looting would get banned from Modern in late August 2019.
  • Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer dropped in Modern Horizons II and quickly warped the Modern format around itself, giving the aforementioned Deathrite Shaman stiff competition as the best one-drop creature in the game. Being 2/1 already makes him ahead of the curve, but its abilities that make him truly broken; upon dealing damage, he creates a treasure token and allows you to cast the top card of your opponent's library. This grants you a very fast mana and card advantage right out of the gate, and with enough removal, you can ensure that Ragavan will always get in. He's such a powerful card that nearly every deck with red runs at least three Ragavans, if not the full four. He made an even more immediate impact in Legacy, where faster creatures and removal are in greater numbers. The only downside of Ragavan is, being a legendary creature, you can never have more than one on the battlefield without jumping through some hoops, but even with that restriction he can still give you a big head-start that it won't matter. Ragavan became so greatly sought after that he was $80 before Modern Horizons II even released, and his price has held in that area ever since.
  • Mana Drain. Essentially a copy of Counterspell, already regarded as one of the best counter cards ever made (to the point of being phased out in favor of Cancel), Mana Drain ups the ante by also providing a boost to mana equal to the CMC of whatever it just countered at the start of your next turn. To repeat: an effect that was already somewhat cheap is now actively paying you to use it. The sole potential downside of mana burn was nullified by the removal of the mechanic in 2010, and even when it did exist, a user needed little incentive to spend their new windfall. It should perhaps be needless to say that it's banned in Legacy (though it goes unrestricted in Vintage), and Mark Rosewater famously declared of the card that it wouldn't see a reprint "until all of R&D got hit by a bus." That said, it has been reprinted no less than three times in recent years.

    Rath and Urza block 
The Rath and Urza cycles had a huge number of problematic cards. The Urza Block ushered in a phase of tournament play called "Combo Winter," in which certain combo decks were so absurdly powerful that your options were to 1) play them yourself, and hope you got to go first, or 2) lose. It also has the distinction of having had more cards from it banned in tournaments than any other... and Urza's Saga was the only set to get the entire design team for the set called up to the CEO's office and yelled at.
  • Memory Jar was unique in being banned before it became tournament-legal; though it's an enormously depowered version of Contract From Below, drawing a new hand is still far, far too powerful an ability to have floating around in an environment full of other power cards.
    • What makes Memory Jar broken is that it's an artifact so it can be cast off be Mishra's Workshop, played in any deck and most importantly Tinkered for (just in case you couldn't draw any of your other 3 mana draw sevens). Time Reversal has the same casting cost as Memory Jar but is utter trash simply because it is not an artifact, though it also has the disadvantage that if you don't win that turn, your opponent gets to keep their new hand of seven cards. It also isn't quite as abusable in some other respects, such as not being able to be recast under Yawgmoth's Will quite as easily.
  • The above-mentioned Yawgmoth's Will is one of the most powerful cards ever printed: just get a lot of cards into your graveyard (something Black is good at), especially multiple copies of Dark Ritual, then drop the Will and you suddenly have obscene card advantage, usually enough to win the game outright. Restricting it, uniquely, doesn't really help, since it's rare a player will want to draw it early on before they've had a chance to fill up their graveyard. A particularly nasty Vintage deck called Long.Dec (scroll down) used Burning Wish to abuse a sideboarded copy; with a 60% first-turn kill rate, it was one of the most powerful decks in the format's history and duly got Burning Wish (and Lion's Eye Diamond, a card once thought completely useless) a place on the Restricted list alongside Yawgmoth's Will itself.
    • To give an idea of how broken Yawgmoth's Will is, a creature which gives the same effect to just one card, and only an instant or sorcery at that, is one of the most powerful cards in Modern & even sees Legacy and Vintagenote  play. Interestingly, Yawgmoth's Will is legal in Commander as well, but while it's still a very powerful card in that format, the singleton nature of the format and the fact that the card exiles anything that goes to the graveyard makes it less game breaking.
    • Yawgmoth's Will may in fact be the most broken card in Magic: in Vintage, one of only two formats in which it's legal (and there only as a singleton), it manages to warp the format enough that at least one article has been written calling for its outright banning. In Vintage. Again: there are people who wanted to ban a card from a format whose claim to fame is that it never bans card for being too powerful, for being too powerful for the rest of the format.
    • Rather comically, in an article on notes on the Urza block in Wizards' R&D database Aaron Forsythe discovered that R&D didn't think it had any implications outside Block Constructed, because they were comboing it with, of all things, Whetstone.
  • Yawgie got another broken card to his name, in the form of Yawgmoth's Bargain. This is turbo Necropotence, skipping that whole annoying part where you have to actually wait to get the cards. On the one hand, it's expensive. On the other hand, it's in the same block as Skirge Familiar, and there were other methods of cheating it into play like Show and Tell or using Flash on an Academy Rector and then failing to pay the reduced casting cost so the Rector immediately died and fetched the Bargain: the latter also had the advantage that a blue deck could use Yawgmoth's Bargain without bothering to have any Black mana sources. This did not end well; in fact, the Bargain was banned in the Extended format before it had even rotated into it, and the exemplar of the Standard deck, Zvi Bargain, is right up with Extended High Tide as one of the most hated decks of "combo winter." This was particularly true because playing the Bargain deck effectively required copious amounts of mental arithmetic, which translated to long periods of watching the wheels in your opponent's head turn while they worked out precisely how they were going to kill you in between slowly counting down their own life total with each draw. Rather strangely, it has, as of August 2017, become unrestricted in Vintage. This will almost certainly not last long.
    • There's a common joke that Yawgmoth's Bargain is "I'll take your common, useless Healing Salve and give you an out-of-print, rare, Vintage-restricted, game-breaking Ancestral Recall." Far worse was that the Ineffable comboed with "spellshaper" cards in the next block, meaning you essentially had "Pay 1 life: Do whatever the hell you want."
    • Mark Rosewater has referenced Yawgmoth's Bargain a couple times when talking about mistakes he made in card design and this taught him that that anything that will exchange 1 card for 1 life and is reasonably costed is going to be broken. Interestingly, in another article, he implied that they justified the card by reasoning that 6 mana was too expensive for it to be broken (in all fairness, six mana is a lot). He has also pointed out that the missing effects from Necropotence are because Bargain was not supposed to be a fixed Necro: instead, it was supposed to a non-crappy version of Greed. Well, mission certainly accomplished there.
    • "As an additional cost to cast Yawgmoth's Bargain, pay 19 life. Draw 19 cards." Of course you didn't have to stop at 19, since it was in the same block as Delusions of Mediocrity.
  • One of the best lands ever printed, Tolarian Academy. It's known for being the centerpiece to dozens of broken decks and infinite mana combos, including:
    • The Grim Monolith / Tolarian Academy / Voltaic Key combo.
    • The Tolarian Academy / Candelabra of Tawnos / Capsize combo. This is a little harder to see since the main rule isn't actually on Candelabra of Tawnos. Old Artifacts were always assumed to tap to use their abilities. With at least nine Artifacts in play, you tap the Academy for nine blue mana, use the Candelabra to untap the Academy (cost 1), then use Capsize (with Buyback, cost 6) to return the Candelabra to your hand, casting it again afterwards (cost 1). The board is now back to how it was, except you have one blue mana. Repeat until you have more mana than you know what to do with.
    • To put the Urza Block into perspective, in its heyday Blue players would cast Rewind to counter their own spells just to give them a way to untap their Academy.
  • Somewhat similar to Tolarian Academy, Gaea's Cradle. Now, remember there are lands that are creatures, mana source creatures, cards that make lots of token creatures, and Living Lands. So, this can work out as a zero-cost, one-way Mana Flare which also turns every creature into a Forest you don't need to tap.
    • In another example of silly power disparity within a cycle, after two of the best Legendary Lands ever printed (with many calling the Academy outright the best) the other three Lands in this cycle were the relatively good Serra's Sanctum (which found a home in Replenish decks), the ignored because Volrath's Stronghold was better Phyrexian Tower and the "oh, there was a red one too?" Shivan Gorge.
  • Grim Monolith itself is also broken when combined with Power Artifact, allowing it to untap for one less mana than is generated by tapping it. Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy can also cause Grim Monolith to produce more mana than is needed to untap it.
  • And Voltaic Key on its own is one of the more powerful combo enablers in Magic, with just 1 and a tap needed to do all kinds of degenerate things with cards like the above-mentioned Grim Monolith, Thran Dynamo and Mana Vault being popular for getting silly amounts of mana out on the quick, as well as even more degenerate combos with artifact creatures, multiple uses of tapping artifacts in the same turn, and cards with powerful does-not-untap effects like Time Vault. Its sheer versatility in allowing things that probably shouldn't be allowed have led to it being banned or restricted in several formats over the years, and it is currently still banned in Urza Block matches.
  • Earthcraft was originally going to be a reasonably ridiculous card worded "Creatures you control have: T: untap a target basic land." Unfortunately, someone decided this didn't read well, and so it became "Tap an untapped creature you control: untap a target basic land" and so essentially made creatures with summoning sickness tap for mana. This was sufficiently degenerate to get it banned, and it is still banned in Legacy.
    • For the time it was still somewhat reasonable, since it could only untap basic lands and creature token generators were cost heavy or required tapping. Then came Squirrel Nest, an enchant land that made squirrel tokens just by tapping the land. Then all hell broke loose with infinite squirrels that saw Earthcraft get banned in Extended and Lagacy.
  • Dream Halls is a powerful card which allows any coloured card to be played by simply discarding another. As Mark Rosewater later admitted, once it hits the table, you start playing a totally different game where Land and mana have nothing to do with whether or not you can cast the majority of spells in your deck. It was at it's most powerful when played with 'free' creatures like Great Whale; you could throw down a Great Whale and untap all your Lands, even though you hadn't actually tapped any lands to pay for it. Errata were issued quickly saying that such creatures could only untap lands if they came into play from your hand, though these have since been removed. Oh, and discarding a lot of cards, is that Yawgmoth's Will I hear? In addition, since it replaces mana cost rather than putting the card directly into play, it also avoids negative effects on cards that try to stop you dodging their casting costs like Phage the Untouchable. The years have been kind to Dream Halls, given you can now toss some no-name blue card to play ridiculous things like Enter the Infinite, Omniscience or Progenitus. With Painter's Servant it can even get around its usual inability to cast artifacts, and now basically reads: "Discard a card: Cast another card without paying its mana cost"
  • There's also Show and Tell, in case your degenerate Tolarian Academy deck hasn't given you enough mana to cast whatever the hell you like. One of the earliest uses was in Dream Halls decks to get around the latter's 5 CMC casting cost. It later helped to get Emrakul, The Aeons Torn banned in Commander.
  • Tinker. Combined tutoring with automatic casting, all for three mana and sacrificing an artifact. Since artifacts exist that cost nothing, as long as it was around it was impossible to balance any artifact with a high casting cost; all artifacts could be cast for three mana. Resulted in the so-called Pro Tour Tinker in 2003, where seven of the top eight decks had four copies of the spell. Currently banned in Legacy and Commander, and restricted in Vintage.
    • The card's original (pre-October 2004) wording had the player sacrifice an artifact as Tinker was cast. Since that wasn't considered an additional cost to the spell, a player with no artifacts to sacrifice could still cast Tinker.
    • Not to mention that Mirrodin Besieged "blessed" us with Blightsteel Colossus so now blue mages can win in one swing instead of two or, God forbid, three like the old, crappy robots of yore.
  • Recurring Nightmare, a repeatable way to put creatures from your graveyard into play, thanks to having zero-cost automatic buyback. Combos with, among others things, Great Whale; endlessly Recurring a pair of Great Whales (one in the graveyard and one in play, constantly swapping which is which) creates an infinite mana loop with more than three Lands in play. The killing blow from this deck was to shift Recurring Nightmare to a graveyarded Triskelion, which was then Recurred until it had shot the other player to death; if you have it deal the last hit to itself, Triskelion has the advantage of killing itself, allowing it to return anew.
  • Survival of the Fittest is a reusable, super cheap tutor which practically makes it broken by default. Once upon a time Vintage players feared a deck called German Tools 'N Tubbies or simply TNT that used Survival alongside Mishra's Workshop to do lots of hideously broken things. The deck would get Anger, Genesis, and Squee, Goblin Nabob into its graveyard in order to tutor up a hasty Goblin Welder who would procede to cheat Juggernauts into play (they were the Tubbies; Juggernauts were credible threats back in the day, surprisingly). Also, it played singleton creatures who did something specialized to help them swing matchups that otherwise might be not so hot.
    • And what can we do with the card we discarded to put a creature into our hand? Why, bring it to the battlefield with Recurring Nightmare of course. We tutor the comes into play creatures we need to deal with your opponent, then keep recurring them as often as needed with Recurring Nightmare. Then we finally recur that beatstick we sacrificed to survival of the fittest before, to mercy kill the opponent. Apart, they are powerful. Together, they were the best toolbox in the game, letting you get whatever creatures you wanted, and bringing them into play without needing to worry about their mana cost, no matter how high and what colors it used.
  • Oath of Druids is another "balancing" card, and another one that turned out to be hideously broken if a deck was built around it. Continuing the Balance tradition of being ridiculously cheap, it ruled tournaments in various forms for a long time prior to being variously banned and restricted; an Oath deck simply plays control while it digs up the Oath, then goes off almost instantly. A classic combination was for players to use Forbidden Orchard to give their opponent creatures, allowing them to bust out huge creatures from their own deck as early as turn 2. These days it's potentially even more powerful, since the Oath works out as paying 2 mana for huge creatures like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
    • Oath also continues the proud tradition of Ancestral Recall: namely, ridiculous power disparity within cycles. Oath of Druids was part of a cycle of Enchantments in Exodus that provided a each player a benefit during their upkeep provided they have less of a specific resource than their opponent. The rest range from "unplayable trash" to "I might have seen it in Block Constructed". Here's the rest of the cycle: Oath of Ghouls (black), Oath of Lieges (white), Oath of Mages (red) and Oath of Scholars (blue).
  • Cursed Scroll looks like a bluffing card, until you start emptying your hand before using it. When your opponent can only choose the one card you drew that turn, it works out as a colourless Shock. For a while, you could reasonably expect to see four of these in every top-level deck which didn't like holding cards.
  • Lotus Petal does exactly one third of what Black Lotus does, and still proved too powerful. Zvi Mowshowitz once defined a broken combo deck as one that would use Lotus Petal if it could.
  • And Stronghold got in on the act with a Mox, Mox Diamond. While not as powerful as its brothers in the Power Nine, it's still spent time on the restricted list.
  • Intuition is much like Kamigawa's Gifts Ungiven, save that you only get one card; however, it has the huge advantage that you can search for three copies of the same card with it and give your opponent no choice at all as to what you end up getting. It's also powerful in reanimation decks, since it can be used to make your opponent put big creatures into your graveyard.
  • Hermit Druid was killed off by bannings almost as soon as decks using it appeared; the general idea of "Angry Druid" decks was to have few or no basic lands, allowing the Druid to dump the entire library, filled with powerful creatures, into the graveyard. A reanimation spell would then be pulled back into the library with Krosan Reclaimation and used to pull Sutured Ghoul from the graveyard (usually picking up Dragon Breath along the way); the resulting trampling mega-Ghoul, typically powered by multiple Krosan Cloudscrapers, would generally easily win the game.
  • Masticore, an efficient creature that regenerates and most importantly gives your deck the ability to burn down creatures no matter what color you're playing.
    • In its heyday, it was played heavily in blue control decks as a finisher. At the time, blue control was referred to as "Draw-Go" because that's how its turns went - "I draw. Go." It had a ton of cards laying around to pitch to Masticore once it hit the table. And it could easily burn out a lot of the creatures that blue let through to the table early on in the game. When blue is doing most of the burning in your format, something's gone horribly wrong.
  • Windfall, similar to Timetwister in its ability to refill your hand while giving your opponent nothing. This was during "Combo Winter" when every competitive deck was built around some kind of turn 1-2 cheese; players commonly dumped an entire hand of broken mana accelerators onto the board on their first turn and then played Windfall, drawing up to 7 new cards. Worse, your opponent probably had a similar deck and hopefully went through several mulligans to assemble it, leaving them with a small but devastatingly powerful hand. It would suck if they just had to throw it and draw an equally small hand of random cards, wouldn't it?
  • Fluctuator. Cycling is a mechanic which allows you to discard a card in your hand to draw a new one, by paying the cycling cost. All cycling costs at the time were the same as the amount this card reduces them by. In other words, if you don't like your hand, just throw out cards and draw more until you do, all for nothing.
  • Time Spiral was broken for pretty much the same reasons as the original Timetwister. Of course, it's more expensive. But came out in the same format as Tolarian Academy. Oh, and because Tolarian Academy can be among the lands you untap, you can quite easily gain mana by casting it.
  • Mind Over Matter, one of the most versatile combo enablers in magic. Among many many others, see Tolarian Academy. Again.
    • The card has become somewhat of a bane in Elder Dragon Highlander format, as pairing it with Temple Bell, Otherwodl Atlas, or Jace's Archivist while having Ulamog the Infinite Gyre in your deck means that you can deck out all your opponents without decking yourself out. Pairing it with Azami, Lady of Scrolls creates an infinite draw mechanic immediately, while pairing it with Arcanis the Omnipotent gives you a net gain of 2 cards every time you tap and discard to untap; both combine with Laboratory Maniac to win you the game instantly. All these are made all the worse because Mind Over Matter also lets you untap LANDS, meaning you can dump excess cards to untap lands to add mana to pay for Counterspells; generally, once Mind Over Matter is on the field with one of the other Combo pieces out, it's all-but unstoppable except for Krosan Grip or Trickbind.
  • Sapphire Medallion. Because blue has such problems getting hold of mana in the Urza Block they needed a special card to make all their spells cheaper. Presumably the card letting you set your opponent's deck on fire wasn't powerful enough.
  • Metalworker, a hideously undercosted creature that dovetailed right into the "have loads of artifacts" Tolarian Academy decks to give them even more fast mana. These days it can produce infinite mana when combined with Voltaic Construct; all you need to do is have more than one Artifact in your hand.
  • Morphling, because creatures that can't do absolutely everything are so dull. Any two of its abilities would make it undercosted; with all five, there's little wonder how it earned the nickname "Superman." Morphling's silver-bordered sibling, Greater Morphling, dials up the size of its ability pool and does even more.
    • Pemmin's Aura can give any creature all of Morphling's abilities, for only 3 mana! You can even stick it on one of your opponent's creatures and use its +1/-1 effect to kill it! Amusingly, Pemmin's Aura is an anagram of "I am Superman," a reference to the nickname of the Morphling whose abilities it granted.
    • Morphling was even more powerful under the old rules when combat damage was on the stack (pre-Tenth Edition), because players with excessive amounts of mana could pump Morphling to 5/1, let the 5 damage go on the stack, then shift back to -1/7, effectively making it 5/7 that combat. The theoretical disadvantage of this is that it costs 14 mana, but considering this is the Urza Block and you're playing Blue, this will not be a problem. It didn't hurt that this was before Wizards had started power creeping most creatures, so a 3/3 for 5 mana with flying by itself wasn't far behind the curve to begin with.
  • If it's just big creatures you want, then Tinker for a Phyrexian Processor. The ability to put Minions into play for 4 mana no matter how big they are is powerful in itself, nevermind all the ways to make it activate more cheaply or use it multiple times in a single turn (hint: Voltaic Key). And once again, being in block with Delusions of Mediocrity didn't exactly help.
  • Replenish auto-casts every Enchantment in your graveyard for 4 mana. Bear in mind that Academy Rector costs the same, only gets one Enchantment into play, and has to die first, and is regarded as one of White's best cards. The Replenish deck would sit back loading the Graveyard with Enchantments using Attunement, then throw out expensive, powerful Enchantments like Parallax Wave, Opalescence and Seal of Clensing all at the same time, often also immediately getting it a giant mana boost from Serra's Sanctum. It was duly banned or restricted in every format.
  • Humility. There are cards that hose colours, cards that hose types, but only one hoses "creatures that do anything" to this scale. To add to the fun, if you can turn your opponent's lands into creatures they can't tap for mana anymore. Play it with Opalescence in play to make your opponent's head explode as they try in vain to figure out how the two cards interact with each other (just look at the errata on Humility - hey, you just lost D6 SAN and gained ten Cthulhu mythos. Congrats!). Depending on the order of casting, day of the week, phase of the moon, position of the five suns, and whether your human sacrifices have pleased benevolent Yawgmoth, Humility can actually end up removing its own effect and becoming a 4/4 creature.
  • Stroke of Genius is one of the most powerful card-drawing cards, to the point at one Pro Tour a player in a tournament match resigned after asking to read the card text. It was typically the killing card of any Urza-block blue deck; making the other player draw 54 cards being auto-lose. This was often preceded by the player using it to dig out most of their own library, a procedure perhaps inevitably called "stroking yourself."
  • Goblin Welder is a ridiculously cheap creature that has historically enabled players to do extremely degenerate things with powerful artifacts, particularly due to being in the same block as powerful graveyard-loaders like Intuition and Attunement (allowing Ornithopters to be turned into Phyrexian Colossi to your heart's content), and later having a highly unpleasant combo with Mindslaver during the artifact-heavy Mirrodin block. It didn't help that under the original wording, the artifact being exchanged did not have to be a legal target when the effect resolved, so players were able to do things like swap one Lotus Petal in play for another in the graveyard, then sacrifice the one in play in response and get the one in the graveyard and the mana. Gatherer and the 2014 Commander version have revised rules to at least limit the levels of nonsense possible with the Welder.
  • Duress might not be as broken as some of the others, but it handed Black one of their most versatile control cards: you get to see your opponent's entire hand and selectively knock out Instants, Sorceries and Artifacts, all for just one mana, allowing you to start ruining your opponent's carefully Mulligan'd hand as early as turn 1. It's basically a targeted mini Mind Twist with the added bonus of knowing exactly what your opponent is holding, and is guaranteed to at very least force them to waste a counterspell. Duress was a key element of the Long.Dec deck where in addition to all the nasty things it normally does, it was also used to build Storm.
  • Gilded Drake at a cost of only two mana is a cheap way of stealing opponent's creatures. If that opponent cheats a powerful creature into play, the Gilded Drake can easily trade itself for that powerful creature on the second turn. In particular, Gilded Drake can even be used to steal an opponent's Emrakul, who cannot be targeted by colored spells, since the drake is a colored permanent that switches places with Emrakul.

  • There's also the Mirrodin block, a very Artifact-heavy block with the ability to even have Artifact lands, the only cards that traditionally couldn't be Artifacts. So, your entire deck can consist of Artifacts (though this required some thought as the artifact lands were limited by the 4 of a kind rule). Setting aside the Affinity mechanic (cards that get cheaper the more of a certain type of card you have, and why yes there were cards with 'Affinity for Artifacts'), let's throw in Arcbound Ravager that gets tougher every time you get rid of an Artifact. Hell, while we're at it let's throw in Disciple of the Vault who deals a point of hard-to-redirect life loss (not damage) to your opponent every time Arcbound Ravager gets tougher. Now, remember that you can have up to four Disciples in play at once; this means the 55 cards in your deck that aren't Disciples or the Ravager can kill your opponent eleven times over and give you a 56/56 creature, and if that somehow dies, it allows you to make any other artifact creature in play a 57/57 creature thanks to the Modular mechanic letting you transfer +1/+1 counters over to other artifact creaturesnote  and your opponent loses four life just for doing that. As if that wasn't enough, you could also give the Ravager Cranial Plating so that any Artifacts you hadn't sacrificed to it (including the Cranial Plating and the Ravager itself) also made it stronger. The Artifact Lands, Arcbound Ravager, and Disciple of the Vault all ended up banned. Another card that rode on the Disciple's power is Shrapnel Blast, which could leverage the lifeloss trigger to make throwing explosive artifacts at your opponent (or their creatures) that much more effective (and from a practical standpoint, meant that you could instantly throw an artifact at your opponent's dome to win when you'd dealt 14 points of damage/lifeloss). Other artifacts which helped a great deal include the Welding Jar, which could potentially help you keep a vital artifact creature from being smote by Electrostatic Bolt, and the humble Ornithopter, which was indeed reprinted in Mirrodin Block, and could become a recipient of those delicious +1/+1 Modular-transferred counters so it could fly right over your opponent's ground defenses and smack them a good one. While the Ravager and the Disciple have been unbanned in Modern format, they remain banned in Mirrodin Block. Of the original six Artifact Lands of Mirrodin block, only the Darksteel Citadel has been unbanned for Modern, and all of them are still banned in Block Constructed format. The Ravager itself found a niche in the MUD decks of Vintage, leveraging the wealthy pool of artifact creatures (especially ones that synergize with all the +1/+1 counters being slung around) and the brute mana power of Mishra's Workshop to put fast, aggressive pressure on opponents while slowing them down with Prison Deck-style effects that delayed their actions significantly.
    • Before Ravager Affinity ruled the roost of the Mirrodin Constructed era, Broodstar 'Big Blue' Affinity gave players a taste of speed and power in a single package. This signature Big Blue can Fly over enemy defenses, and in addition to having its casting cost reduced by your artifacts, it also has an effective power/toughness equal to those artifacts, so you could potentially make it grow stupendously large. It is entirely possible to leverage Affinity For Artifacts to summon Broodstar for UU and get it at least at 8/8. Another powerful blue spell that synergized amazingly with all Affinity decks is Thoughtcast, which, with enough artifacts in play, could essentially become two-thirds of Ancestral Recall. Yes. Broodstar remains a favourite option for Blue-heavy artifact decks as a big, intimidating flier that can be summoned inexpensively. Another card that works well with the Broodstar, as well as any escorting creatures that come with it, is the Lightning Greaves, as Haste and Shroud are powerful keyworded abilities that make it that much harder to intefere with attackers popping straight out of your hand and into the battle lines.
    • Furnace Dragon quickly became a staple of Mono Red Control during Mirrodin Block. A big red dragon with Affinity for Artifacts in a metal-heavy format means that you could easily summon it for the low, low price of RRR, and the "drawback" that it exiles all artifacts if summoned the normal way can be reintepreted as a non-targeting, reanimation-proofed Shatterstorm effect. Since it exiles rather than destroys, it can bypass the Indestructible attribute introduced in Darksteel and safely get rid of artifacts without tripping the Disciple of the Vault's scary life-loss ability. Red-heavy variants of Affinity would end up sideboarding this dragon for use in certain Mirror Matches in Constructed during the season, and even some Tooth and Nail variants could sideboard it and scrounge up the required red mana to summon it manually after using the Tooth and Nail's signature effect to tutor the Dragon into hand. Outside of Mirrodin Block and the Type 2 Season of that era, this dragon is a powerful answer to many artifact-heavy opponents.
    • Mirrodin also gave Vintage players the extremely nasty Trinisphere, which could selectively slow down the lightning-fast plays Vintage is famous for, as it reflects the classical Artifact attribute of allowing its controller to disable its ability selectively by tapping or untapping it, possible with Twiddle, Jolt, an Icy Manipulator, or something that could use the tapping of artifacts as an activation cost for its ability. Some notable Legacy and Vintage Prison-style decks are specifically designed to use Trinisphere to help cripple combo decks and slow down everyone else.
    • Chalice of the Void and Engineered Explosives also see a fair amount of use in Legacy and Vintage as well, due to their flexible and powerful abilities which allow them to selectively hard-counter cards of a selectable Converted Mana Cost - where the Chalice actively counters them and prevents them from being cast, the Explosives will destroy any such cards that already in play and can also target token creatures if the X-value is set to 0, and yes, both of them are capable of stopping Moxen and Lotuses from being utilized effectively by opponents. As of late September 2015, the Chalice is restricted in Vintage: Casting it for 0 mana prevents the opponent from playing moxen or Black Lotus, which can put him or her too far behind to catch up.
    • Seemingly trying to cement Mirrodin as the next Urza / Rath block in power terms, there was also fast mana in the form of Chrome Mox, which had a visit to the restricted list in Vintage in 2004 and is currently banned in Modern.
    • Skullclamp. What's the problem that Zerg Rush decks often face? They run out of cards, and if that's not enough to kill their opponent they lose momentum. So they printed an extremely cheap equipment that lets you strengthen or kill your creatures and draw two cards every time it happens.This article explains that it was banned because it was sucking the entire format into a Skullclamp "black hole." The 'Clamp is currently banned in Block Constructed, Modern, and Legacy, which is a testament to its true might.
    • Æther Vial also saw a trip to the banlist; since it puts cards directly into play without requiring them to be cast, they can't be countered. Free, uncounterable creatures at Instant speed every turn proved irresistible to a great many decks. The Vial could even be used with Power Conduit to manipulate its charge counter stockpile on the quick. This artifact is banned in Mirrodin Block Constructed and was historically banned in the now-depreciated Extended constructed format due to its extreme low cost for power, and subsequent reprints saw this card Kicked Upstairs by being promoted from its original Uncommon rarity to Rare and Mythic Rare due to its ability.
      • Apart from giving you the ability to flash creatures into play on demand, the Vial also has incredible synergy with spells and abilities such as Unsummon effects and Comes-Into-Play abilities. Need a counterspell that's in the grave? Bounce your own Eternal Witness back into hand and flash her back out with the Vial to get another use of her Regrowth ability and retrieve that counterspell! One Mirrodin Block Constructed deck that utilized the Witness-Shard combination was later made more ridiculously effective when another player added the Vial to that deck to maximize its ability to abuse the multiple reusable spells and abilities that they could grant themselves. On the black side of things, a variant of that same Crystal Shard deck utilized Chittering Rats and Ravenous Rats instead, and combining the soft draw-denial ability of the Rats with the reusable unsummoning power of the Shard and then boosting the effects with the mana-free instant-speed Vial power made it possible to deny multiple card draws to an opponent and strip their hand of cards with reusable discard, effectively granting you a soft-lock victory where your rats slowly ate them alive while they were rendered unable to keep enough usable cards in hand. On top of all this, the Vial's paltry mana cost of (1) means that you can easily use the Trinket Mage to tutor it to hand if you somehow kept an opening hand without it.
      • And in Modern, Aether Vial is commonly abused with Merfolk. The deck runs a lot of 2-mana Merfolk, with several of them granting +1/+1 to other Merfolk you control, so it's not uncommon to see the deck flash in a nigh-unstoppable army that constantly buffs each other while dodging counterspells.
    • Platinum Angel can be broken in casual play: you cannot lose, and the opponent cannot win. It can be incredible for stopping low-end versions of certain kinds of combo decks short, particularly when combined with something like Shield of Kaldra or Lightning Greaves to stop your opponent destroying it. However, since any high-level deck will run a ton of fast Artifact hate and fast anti-creature spells like Swords to Plowshares or Thunderbolt that will kill it as soon as it hits the field, and likely have cards to force a player to sacrifice it even if its controller can give it Hexproof, Indestructible and / or Shroud (none of which prevent a card being sacrificed by the player controlling it), and Platinum Angel has a very high mana cost, it is not even regarded as even good at tournament level.
    • Isochron Scepter becomes a relentless terror that forces opponents to see your effective 2-mana Instants every turn. Fogs every turn! 1 guaranteed Counterspell every turn! Fire/Ice every turn! Flash every turn! Mana Drain! Silence! The potentials of this Imprinting artifact are limited only by format, strategy, and your wallet/imagination. A prison deck variant running the Scepter and Orim's Chant (Instant - W - Target Player can't play spells this turn. Kicker W - If kicked, creatures cannot attack this turn) was able to claw out a foothold for itself in the metagame, as 2W every turn to "Time Stop" your opponent could spell the end of them if they didn't have any way to stop you from doing that repeatedly.
      • Dramatic Reversal untaps all nonland permanents you control. It's also a cheap instant that can be imprinted on Isochron Scepter. With a nonland mana generator, like Thran Dynamo for instance, you can get infinite mana and infinite cast triggers easily.
    • Krark-clan Ironworks was deliberately designed by R&D to be a combo engine enabler. Paired with little creatures like the Myr Moonvessel and the Myr Retriever, some very degenerate combos can quickly be enabled. Used in conjunction with the aforementioned Artifact Lands, you can quickly build up enough mana to retrieve a finisher like the Goblin Charbelcher, which combos very nicely with the Myr Incubator that can help you purge the artifact lands from your library and give you more Myr Token creatures to feed to the Ironworks for more mana. For a time, Charbelcher actually became a completely disgustingly powerful combo deck archtype in Vintage (where you could run even fewer lands thanks to the 5 Moxen and the Black Lotus and the Lotus Petal), only held in check by spells like Force of Will and artifacts like the Null Rod. Myr Servitors also quickly become easy reusable fuel for the Ironworks in longer games.
      • Ironworks plus two Myr Retrievers, one in play and one in the graveyard, allows you to sacrifice one Retriever for 2 mana while getting the other Retriever back from the Graveyard, use the mana to play it, sacrifice that Retriever for mana to get the first Retriever again, play it, repeat ad infinitum. It equals an easy Storm counter buildup, and can cause other cards to trigger when the artifacts go to the graveyard or enter play. As an example of the former, toss in the aforementioned Disciple of the Vault to give your opponent a swift death. As an example of the latter, toss in Genesis Chamber to give yourself infinite 1/1 Myr Tokens, which you can use to generate infinite mana, or give your Arcbound Ravager infinite Counters, or mill your opponent to death with Grinding Station, a combo that later received a Shout-Out on an Un-Set card [1].
      • After printing of Scrap Trawler in Aether Revolt, players found out that combining it with Myr Retrievers, KCI and Chromatic Star (or other cheap artifact that draws a card upon being destroyed) gives the player access to variety of infinite loops, allowing the player to draw his entire deck, make infinite mana and ultimately kill the opponent with endlessly returning Pyrite Spellbomb. The resulting decks, while very difficult to play, ended up dominating Modern tournaments throughout 2018 - combined with deck being simply annoying to play against, Wizards decided to bite the bullet and ban Ironworks from Modern.
      • The Krark-clan Ironworks deck is also infamous for the difficulty of interactions that it requires. Magic doesn't allow players to respond to (most) activated abilites that generate mana, due to the potential unfun scenarios that could happen if players could counter mana generation. The KCI Combo deck was filled with artifacts that could sacrifice themselves to generate mana and draw a card, and through rules abuse, players could sacrifice their artifacts on odd windows of time and generate interactions that even the most experienced MTG players aren't accostumed to. Since some of those interactions were crucial to some of the possible kill combos and to dodge removal, the KCI combo deck raised the bar of complexity in the Modern format way past what Wizards would find acceptable.
    • Speaking of the Myr Retrievers, having at least 2 available and Heartless Summoning from Innistrad makes for a really cheesy potentially infinite Storm count. Your Retrievers are now 0/0 and instantly drop into the graveyard after summons, but that's okay, they can Retrieve each other and now have an effective summoning cost of (0).
    • Retract quickly got broken in as a powerful Storm counter enabler, being used in conjunction with large numbers of low-cost artifacts to let you cast and then recast multiple spells rapidly for one measly blue mana; it also limits the ability for multiple artifact lands to linger on the battlefield, and easily feeds spells and abilities that could exploit multiple artifacts entering or leaving play. In particular, formats like Legacy and Vintage make this spell into a powerful beast, as it could "untap" all of your Moxen at once (by unsummoning all your tapped moxen and letting you resummon them untapped)!
      • One potential combo setup involves Retract, Glimpse of Nature, and a steady supply of (0) artifact creatures, like the Phyrexian Walker, Ornithopter, and Memnite. Get UG mana, preferably from an artifact source you can re-summon, cast Glimpse, summon your free artifact creatures and draw cards. Now use the blue mana and cast Retract, pulling the artifacts back to hand, and do it again, getting more cards. Hypothetically you could find the space to float mana to cast Laboratory Maniac and draw your entire library out, winning on an empty deck. You could also use the repeated castings of free artifact creatures to build a tremendous Storm count, or get enough mana out of your library to drop the Krark-clan Ironworks and generate even more mana for a killing blow with, say, Fireball.
    • Sundering Titan was a major force in Tooth and Nail decks, and is absolutely devastating where multiple basic land types are in play, especially in multiplayer matches. The Titan was also a beast in conjunction with spells and abilities that allow it to enter and leave play repeatedly, like Astral Slide, Goblin Welder, Trash For Treasure, reanimation spells, Tinker, or Venser, the Sojourner, and using Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to create temporary token clones of it was just as devastating. To trample your opponents in the dirt further, his ability is worded such that the Titan allows you to destroy one of each basic land type when it enters or leaves play, so once the summons resolves your opponent is only going to hurt more trying to kill it, and even moreso if they share basic land types with you as you can hit their lands instead of yours. Furthermore, this ability does not target lands so it ignores Hexproof and Shroud. Currently the Titan is banned in official Prismatic and Commander formats due to its controllable massive land destruction effect.
    • Speaking of Tooth and Nail, it was the other premier deck archtype of the Mirrodin era, as the power it yields when cast with Entwine makes it disproportionately devastating and appropriate for a hefty 7GG. In its native Green, Tooth players could either dig up powerful, game-ending threats like Darksteel Colossus, the aforementioned Sundering Titan plus Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, or other flexible creature combinations that feature premier creatures like Eternal Witness, Triskelion and a Mephidross Vampire whose ability allows Triskelion to regenerate its +1/+1 counters as it machine-guns your opponent's creatures, the aforementioned Platinum Angel plus a Leonin Abunas who gives your artifacts (including the Angel herself/itself) Hexproof, or just about anything a sufficiently creative player could pair up for the Tooth to pull straight into battle from your library. As a matter of fact three entire mana engine variants of Tooth decks prevailed, some leveraging Urza's Lands alongside Sylvan Scrying and Reap and Sow, some using Cloudposts, and others using Green's natural mana acceleration and Vernal Bloom to pump vast amounts of green mana out for the big spell. To give you an idea of how powerful Tooth and Nail is, it was the only other non-Affinity deck archtype type to flourish in Mirrodin Block/Standard until the artifact lands and Disciple were banned in that season.
    • Due to the huge number of artifacts in Mirrodin block, Thirst for Knowledge could reliably draw a net of two cards. in older formats like Legacy and Vintage, its "drawback" of either discarding two cards (or discarding one Artifact card instead) after drawing three makes it extremely effective for canny players to feed their graveyards for Welder, Tinker or reanimation trickery, and the drawback is essentially non-existent if you're running Yawgmoth's Will.
  • Mindslaver is a hilariously degenerate card which effectively allows you to break the game for your opponent, while also denying them a turn. While it's another case like Platinum Angel where the card isn't even particularly good in high-level play, in casual games the text might as well have been "destroy target friendship."
  • The Crucible of Worlds from Fifth Dawn is pretty strong by itself, being capable of singlehandedly declawing basic land destruction, but in conjunction with other cards outside of Mirrodin Block, it can enable some truly crazy shenanigans. Spells that allow multiple land drops, such as Fastbond, and spells or abilities that are fueled by land sacrifices, such as the Zuran Orb, can get impressively more effective when you can then bring back all the lands you just sacrificed. It also enables you to get extra uses out of your Wastelands and Strip Mines, reset the cumulative upkeep of Glacial Chasm, and recover from the effects of global (land) destruction spells like Balance and Armageddon.
    • A very specific example: Crucible plus Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Walk The Aeons. Play three lands, sacrifice them as Buyback for Walk the Aeons, get another turn, replay the three lands from your graveyard, sacrifice them again, enter a timeloop of repeating turns until you win.

    F.I.R.E. era 
With the Guilds of Ravnica set, Wizards started implementing a new design philosophy called "F.I.R.E." (an acronym for Fun, Inviting, Replayable and Exciting). While the philosophy is unrelated to card power, the same era had massive controversy about card power levels, with bans occurring in a frequency not seen since the Urza block, and many players ended resenting F.I.R.E., blaming it for the extreme unbalance of the game, seen in basically every sanctioned format.

  • While Guilds of Ravnica itself didn't draw a lot of ire with its cards, Ravnica Allegiance was the point where the game started tipping towards the broken side. This was mainly due to Wizards attempting to give new tools to Simic decks, since blue-green was often seen as the weakest of the color pairs in general power level. Needless to say, it went horribly right:
    • The poster card for the new Simic abilities was Growth Spiral, a seemly-innocuous common that works as a slightly better Explore. However, the fact that Growth Spiral is an instant allows players to keep mana open for counters and interaction while ramping. At worst, it reads "Pay 2 Mana: draw a card," which makes it better than most ramp spells, which in late game can be interpreted as reading, "Pay (some) Mana: do absolutely nothing that will help you right now." All of that might have been a minor factor if it wasn't for...
    • Wilderness Reclamation. A card that untaps all of your lands at the end of the turn, Wilderness Reclamation has amazing synergy with instants, cards with flash, activated abilities and all kinds of shenanigans. Playing a Wilderness Reclamation allows you to spend all of your mana on your turn on powerful spells and still have that very same mana ready to stop your opponent's plays. After dominating the Standard meta for months, both Reclamation and Spiral were banned in August 3rd, 2020.
    • Hydroid Krasis also deserves a mention. An extremely powerful creature with effects that scale insanely with the amount of mana you have, Krasis is one of the best late game finishers ever made, refueling hands and recovering life while being a massive flampling threat. To make matters worse, its draw effect is a CAST trigger as opposed to an enters-the-battlefield trigger, which means that countering Krasis will not stop the draw unless you run a counterspell with that specific function.
  • War of the Spark then followed course:
    • The price of Teferi's Puzzle Box saw a surge after War of the Spark due to the introduction of Narset, Parter of Veils. Essentially working like a Modern-legal parallel to the Leovold-Box Commander combo, it aims to curve Narset into Puzzle Box, forcing the opponent to put their hand on the bottom of their library afterwards and not drawing anything due to Narset's passive 1-draw-per-turn effect. Narset being mono-blue also makes the combo dependent on fewer colors. She also had a significant influence in Vintage without needing the Puzzle Box. The prevalence of efficient card draw in that format meant that Narset's passive ability became great for locking out the opponent from the same amount of card advantage her owner was gaining, which led to her restriction in Vintage on 18 November 2019.
    • Teferi, Time Raveler is easily one of the most hated incarnations of the character. His passive ability forces opponents to play at sorcery speed, essentially disabling all countermagic and making other forms of removal less efficient. Being 3-mana means he shows up very early when the opponent likely doesn't have enough mana to counter him or enough power on board to answer him quickly. On top of that, his own +1 ability lets his controller flash anything in so they can hold up answers to whatever might threaten Teferi. Wizards later admitted that the only reason why Teferi was held in the Standard format for so long was because he was a direct counter to the above-mentioned Wilderness Reclamation decks, and as soon as Reclamation was booted from the format, the so-called "3feri" was also banned.
      • Years later, he was given nerfs in Magic Arena's Alchemy mode, bumping his cost up one additional mana as well as tweaking his passive into simply preventing players from casting spells during his controller's turn (allowing the use of certain cards which he previously prohibited), and as a result became the first ever banned card to be unbanned in Alchemy after being rebalanced.
    • Karn, the Great Creator caused headaches in Vintage and Modern. On Vintage, it disables all of the Moxen and Lotuses that are the core of the format, which led to a quick restriction. However, it was on Modern that he sparked the biggest controversy: combining Karn with Mycosynth Lattice stops the opponent from being able to tap their lands for anything, including mana. While it seems like the combo would be slow due to costing 10 mana, Karn can tutor Lattice from the sideboard with his -2 ability, and even if you don't have enough mana to cast a Lattice, you can tutor Liquimetal Coating instead and use it on your opponent's lands, which then become targetable by Karn's +1 ability to become 0/0 creatures that immediately die - effectively Strip Mining your opponent once per turn. Ultimately, Lattice ended up paying for Karn's sins and got banned on Modern.
    • Nissa, who Shakes the World is loathed for being both a ramp card AND a payoff. As stated in Growth Spiral's entry, the biggest problem with ramp decks is that they need ramp cards early and payoffs late, and if they draw the wrong kind of card at the wrong time, they're stuck with unplayable trash in their hand. Nissa not only doubles the player's mana, but does so by creating an army of 3/3 creatures with vigilance and haste that couldn't care less if they're destroyed, as the massive mana advantage generated ensures that losing a land or two will be moot. And being in a set with Proliferate didn't help, either.
    • Arboreal Grazer is another innocuous common that's actually an amazing player on ramp decks. While, unlike most of the other powerful ramp cards designed under F.I.R.E., it doesn't circumvents the ramp vs payoff problem, it ramps a player on turn 1 while being a solid 0/3 body (he doesn't die to Shock!) that protects against the OTHER weakness of ramp: early aggro. At the best scenario, it allows Standard ramp decks to emulate Modern Tron decks and drop Ugin, the Spirit Dragon on turn 4.
  • Taking a small detour from the Standard sets, Wizards decided to experiment something new with Modern Horizons, a set designed as a spiritual successor to Time Spiral whose cards would jump straight to the Modern format... and even then, it didn't avoid some backslash for introducing broken cards:
    • Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is an interesting specimen in that you can't cast it normally but are forced to use its alternate casting methods of convoke and delve to play it. In return, it's a big body that you can repeatedly cast from your graveyard provided you have the resources to do so. While it seems hard, players quickly figured out that Hogaak was a free 8/8 trampler that can show up as early as turn 2 if things work out right (and "working out right" happened too often - one article calculates around 60% chance of a turn 2 Hogaak, AFTER the deck was depowered with Bridge from Below being banned). It was so strong and prominent that GP Las Vegas saw 10-20% of the decks featuring it, and eventually it would be banned in late August 2019.
    • Arcum's Astrolabe is a humble Snow artifact that cycles and fixes colors. While it seemed unremarkable in Modern, it definitely made waves in Pauper. The restriction to common-print cards only made it impractical to play a deck that's more than two colors, and players would have to rely on the likes of Prophetic Prism for color-fixing. Astrolabe was additional copies of Prophetic Prism for 1 less mana, and only required a slight adjustment of the mana base to snow lands. The card would eventually get banned from Pauper in late October 2019.
      • And, remember we said it seemed unremarkable in Modern? Key word: it seemed. Players figured that they could combine Astrolabe with Urza, High Lord Artificer (a card considered broken and overloaded by itself) to turn Astrolabe from mana fixing to straight-up ramp. And as if that wasn't enough, MH also gave snow decks Ice-Fang Coatl, a card that becomes the Legacy staple Baleful Strix once you control three snow permanents, with flash stapled on it just to make it an even better tempo play. Ultimately, Astrolabe was banned from Modern, and even in Legacy, players resent the card enough that it was, too, banned.
    • Wrenn and Six — a very efficient 2-cost planeswalker with very good abilities. They're reasonably balanced for Modern, but they truly shine in Legacy. In Legacy, not only is there a prevalence of 1-toughness creatures that are highly vulnerable to the -1 ability, but you also get to use the +1 ability to juggle lands that sacrifice themselves. This includes the fetches, and more dangerously, Wasteland, which is also Legacy-legal. Wrenn and Six got banned from Legacy on 18 November 2019 to cull the prevalence of Temur decks using them.
  • Core Set 2020 wasn't exempt from the "fun" either:
    • Field of the Dead became a force to be reckoned with as its "seven different lands" condition was easily fulfilled in multicolor decks and their wide variety of available non-basic lands that serve the same mana-fixing function. It had a powerful combination with Scapeshift, which can lead to a development of an enormous board from nowhere. Not helping matters was the inclusion of Golos, Tireless Pilgrim; who could put any land from the deck into play, including the Field itself, and whose effect could be repeated with flicker effects to get more lands into play and generate more Zombies. When the multicolor deck could gladly accommodate Teferi, Time Raveler, this resulted in a deck that could shut off counterplay and eventually develop a nigh-unstoppable stream of Zombies. The common answers to Field of the Dead included nonbasic land removal, like Blood Sun, Alpine Moon, and Field of Ruin, but they all rotated out with the introduction of Throne of Eldraine, while the new set presented no new effective answers to this land. Mythic Championship V was largely dominated by Field of the Dead decks and more aggressive decks designed to counter Field of the Dead; slower archetypes like control were non-existent. Ultimately, Wizards decided to ban Field of the Dead from Standard in late October 2019, and from Pioneer in December that same year.
    • M20 also brought Veil of Summer, a very efficient color-hate counter-tool that also draws its player a card. Often called a 1-mana Cryptic Command, Veil really brought to the surface the notion that Wizards was pushing too hard on the color green by allowing it to prey on its weaknesses and even draw a card in the process. Veil was banned from Standard and Pioneer, and even on the formats it wasn't banned, it's still a key player on sideboards.
    • Kethis, the Hidden Hand at first seems like a Commander-only goodie. However, some players realized you can use his ability of playing legendary cards from your graveyard to loop two copies of Mox Amber, with Diligent Excavator refueling your graveyard. From there, it's just a matter of playing Jace, Wielder of Mysteries with the mana generated by the Moxen to win the game. The only reason why this combo wasn't banned from Standard was the fact that it was only legal in the format for three months, but as soon as Wizards realized that Pioneer could house the same play, especially after a mass-ban of other combo decks, they took the extra step and banned Kethis from the format.
    • Risen Reef adds to the list of unbalanced Simic ramp cards in Standard. Even 4 Risen Reef by themselves are already a powerful ramp and card draw engine in a single card, but add the tons of Elemental support that came in M20 and you'll have a deck that quickly spirals out of control.
  • Throne of Eldraine then came later, and with it, another set of headaches - in fact, Eldraine is considered one of the most powerful sets of all time.
    • Surpassing Teferi and Narset in the "loathed 3-mana walker" category is Oko, Thief of Crowns. He already starts with above-average loyalty for a planeswalker of his cost, and his first two abilities let him push it even higher. The dream curve is to play Gilded Goose on turn 1, use its Food to make the mana to play Oko on turn 2, and then have his +1 ability turn the Goose into a 3/3 Elk to harass the opponent or defend him. Once Upon a Time can also be used to increase the consistency of this optimal curve. His +2 ability isn't too bad, either, as the Food token can also be converted into an Elk. The Elk-transforming ability also works on your opponent's cards, hosing anything that depended on its raw stats or abilities that didn't immediately activate. By the time the opponent's beaten through the Elk army and knocked out Oko's massive loyalty, his controller's likely in a position to field other threats — like another Oko. While Teferi and Narset above are susceptible to Fry, a card specifically designed to answer the likes of these walkers, Oko can avoid dying to it if his controller has the foresight to use his +2 ability first.

      What really sells Oko is unlike most of the other broken cards in Standard, who usually at most only moonlight in other formats unless they have abilities that are specifically stronger there, Oko proceeded to make an immediate meta impact in nearly every available format from the jump! Not just Standard, but Modern and even Legacy! Even Pioneer, a format that was created just a few weeks after Eldraine's release, found itself inundated with Oko. It has gotten to the point that top Standard decks were as expensive as some top level decks in Modern (for example Amulet Titan), and it was not unusual to see cards like Noxious Grasp and Mystical Dispute in the main decknote  specifically for dealing with Oko. Even so, the Oko-playing deck would simply defend him with the aforementioned Veil of Summer. For most, it wasn't a matter of if, but when Oko would get banned in Standard — and he, Veil, and Once Upon a Time all got banned from Standard on 18 November 2019. Not even month later, he was also axed from Pioneer.

      His reign of terror in Modern lasted a few weeks longer, and was even more devastating. Modern's much better mana bases allowed to splash him in basically any deck that already used one of his colors (and sometimes even if they didn't - one truly egregious example was a Boros Burn list where Oko was the only non-red card in main deck), leading to a metagame where every deck was either running Oko, or specifically built to counter Oko - and more often than not, Oko decks still could find a way to win. It took some time, but Oko finally got banned in Modern on January 13, 2020, and eventually, even Legacy decided that they couldn't handle the Elking.
    • The aforementioned Once Upon a Time ended up busted enough to deserve its own section. Its effect is relatively innocent - look at top five cards of your deck, pick a creature or land from them and draw it - and it would probably be good enough to see play at its regular cost of two mana. However, its ability to cast it for free if it's the first spell you play in a game pushed it to uncomfortable levels. Starting with this card effectively extended your opening hand by five cards, allowing you to cherrypick whatever you need and massively improving consistency of your deck - especially considering the power of 1-drop creatures like Gilded Goose and Edgewall Innkeeper. To make matters even worse, its restriction ended up being meaningless thanks to creatures with Adventure mechanic, allowing them to double as card draw, bounce spells, removal, or just two creatures in one card. Once Upon a Time was banned in Standard on November 18th, 2019 (together with Oko and Veil of Summer), two weeks later it was kicked out of Pioneer, and on March 9th, 2020 was banned even from Modern.
      • Once Upon a Time also brought massive problems to Modern thanks to Neoform, another card from War of the Spark. When it was released, Neoform was massively feared for enabling the Grishoalbrand combo deck, one of the rare Modern decks with the ability to win on turn one. Ultimately, however, even with Neoform, the deck was too inconsistent to become a top contender, and even if it managed to put Griselbrand on the field, it would occasionally whiff the combo. Then OuaT came and made the deck way more consistent than it had any right to be. It wasn't unbeatable - OuaT didn't change the fact the deck whiffed with some frequency - but the Modern playerbase wasn't amused to see consistent turn-1 kill combos entering the format.
    • Fires of Invention is another problem card from Eldraine. While at first it may seem balanced by the casting restrictions, it doesn't stop the player from using activated abilities that cost mana, and both M20 and Eldraine came with a good package of cards whose activated abilities changed the course of the game, from Castle Vantress ensuring you'd never draw a bad card again, to Kenrith, the Returned King giving you five choices on what to use your mana, to Cavalier of Flame just straight-up murdering players. With the restrictions not being nearly enough to stop Fires decks from taking a massive chunk of the metagame, Wizards relented and banned Fires of Invention from Standard and Historic.
    • Cauldron Familiar and Witch's Oven create, together, an engine that allows the player to get life gain, life loss, enters-the-battlefield, leaves the battlefield and sacrifice triggers once per turn. On top of that, it's also annoying to play against, as clever players can block non-trampling creatures with the Familiar and then sacrifice it to the Oven, fizzling the attack without losing their creature. Even more clever players can time their effect activations to dodge exiling cards that would otherwise stop the combo, such as Soul-Guide Lantern. Add to that the fact that it was also a pain for Arena players with the time consumed to repeat the Cat-Oven sacrifice interaction, and it's easy to see why most players rejoiced with Cauldron Familiar's ban.
    • Questing Beast is a 4/4 creature for 4 mana. That by itself is an okay rating for a vanilla creature, but Questing Beast isn't vanilla at all. Instead, it has a massive SIX abilities, from basic keywords to situational counters and anti-stall abilities, making the Beast an all-star creature that fits in many strategies with little effort. While many people have been aware of Wizards using Power Creep to push Green out of its reputation of one of the worst colors in the game, Questing Beast gets cited as an example where Green's creatures are being pushed too far.
    • Embercleave. For a meager two red mana, you can cherry pick one of the attacking creatures in your aggro deck army and make it hit more than twice as hard. And if your opponent destroys it, just pay 3 mana and equip it to someone else in the next turn. Coupled with extremely agressive creatures such as Anax and Torbran on the same environment, Embercleave allows red decks to one-shot their opponents out of absolutely nowhere.
    • Also from Eldraine's cycle of Legendary Artifacts, we have The Great Henge. The Henge singlehandedly helps Midrange beat any type of archetype. Aggro? Not only are your creatures even bigger and harder to get past, but it also gains you life to help you stabilize. Control? Henge makes it almost impossible for you to lose steam, and your big beaters are also immune to Standard's best removal in Heartless Act. Ramp? Henge is also ramp, so you can easily play 6 or 7 mana spells in your Midrange deck and match Ramp's lategame spells. To top it off, it is pathetically easy to get a 5 power creature to cast Henge on Turn 4, using Lovestruck Beast, Kazandu Mammoth or even Brushfire Elemental coupled with Fabled Passage. As such, if you run creatures in Eldraine Standard and are in Green, it's hard to justify not running the Henge. This coupled with the aforementioned Embercleave contributed to create an environment where people were maindecking Artifact hate, despite the fact that only three Artifacts saw serious competitive play (the third being Stonecoil Serpent, a great creature on its own but nowhere near as dominant as those two).
    • The aforementioned Adventure mechanic also deserves some mention. A permanent with Adventure can be cast as an Instant or Sorcery for the Adventure effect, and then as a permanent later, providing effective card advantage. What really pushes them past the line, however, is Lucky Clover, which makes Adventures happen twice, and cards like Bonecrusher Giant and Brazen Borrower really didn't need ways to make them more powerful. The rise of Omnath (see above) was primarily because of Adventures: just as 72% of decks in the 2020 World Finals were built around Omnath, a different-if-overlapping 72% were built around Adventures. (There were 4 Omnath Ramp decks, plus 3 Gruul Adventures and 1 Temur Adventures.) And, just as 5 of the Top 8 were built around Omnath, 7 of the Top 8 were Adventure decks (with the lone holdout being Dimir Rogues; Seth Manfield played 5 games and lost 4 of them). When Omnath was banned, Adventures enablers like Lucky Clover and Escape to the Wilds went too.
  • The next set was Theros: Beyond Death, and even if it didn't bring the same level of controversy as Oko did in Eldraine, it still had some big outliers:
    • Thassa's Oracle is the ultimate finisher for combo decks. While the so-called "Lab Maniac" effects were considered Boring, but Practical ways of winning with a combo deck, Thassa's Oracle is the first card of the kind that doesn't require the player to draw from an empty library to win, just requiring you to have a low enough number of cards there. That acts as a massive safety net for such combos, as previous iterations of those decks could easily mill their entire deck only to see their win condition get destroyed and turn an automatic win into an automatic loss. And if that wasn't enough, it's still playable as a simple 2-mana pseudo-scrying creature on the early game, unlike the original Lab Maniac that was effectively a vanilla outside of the combo.

      Thassa's Oracle was eventually discovered to comprise a 2-card combo with Tainted Pact — you effectively play a singleton deck (including your basic lands!) so that Tainted Pact, in response to Thassa's Oracle's ability, will exile your entire deck and let you win the game on the spot. All this for 2 cards and 4 mana. The combo largely restricted itself to Legacy until Tainted Pact was reprinted in Strixhaven Mystic Archive and thus made legal in the Historic format (A MTG Arena-exclusive format which permits rotated-out cards to be used). Turns out Historic had enough content to construct a coherent singleton deck, so this combo started to dominate that environment. The combo led to Thassa's Oracle getting banned from Historic, though some players wish for it to be removed from other paper formats.
    • Underworld Breach zig-zags in power between formats. Standard? Good card, but not enough things to do with such a powerful recursion effect. Pioneer? Easy combo enabler, to the point the card had to be banned. Modern? The combo is also possible there, but it competes with a field in a way higher power level, so it doesn't seem too problematic. Legacy? Add Brain Freeze and Lion's Eye Diamond to get Breach banned from another format. And of course, being reminescent of Yawgmoth's Will doesn't help at all. In Commander? Arguably even more powerful than Yawgmoth's Will due to not having the caveat of exiling anything that goes to your graveyard. The aforementioned Brain Freeze and Lion's Eye Diamond combo is both possible and legal in Commander, along with an even easier combo with Pyrite Spellbomb. Breach + Lion's Eye also enables any number of evil things you'd love to do with your graveyard. Breach very quickly became one of the poster children for degenerate combo in Commander.
    • Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath left the community flabbergasted about how powerful it is. Not only it's ANOTHER ramp card that offsets the inherent weakness of the playstyle, but it also quickly turns into a massive game-ending threat by iself, while drawing even more cards, gaining even more life and extending even more the land advantage on the battlefield. On top of that, it also has amazing synergies with abilities like Evolve, his low CMC allows plays that aren't possible with other famous finishers, and God have mercy of your soul if you try to use Hushbringer as an anti-meta card... because it also stops the sacrifice trigger, turning Uro into a 6/6 for 3 mana that's eager to bury you in card advantage. It's no exaggeration to say that Uro is one of the most overloaded cards in the 27 years of Magic, and as a testament of his power, he saw play in every single format, from Standard to Legacy, before being banned out of Standard on September 28, 2020, with Wizards not ruling out the option of banning him elsewhere. Wizards followed through with that option, as Uro was banned in both Pioneer and Modern on February 15, 2021.
  • And as if everything here wasn't enough, there were even more problems with Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Aside from the Companion mechanic, which has its own entry in the Mechanics folder, there are also individual problem cards:
    • Winota, Joiner of Forces allows red-white decks to turn the game around with a single attack. Winota doesn't even need to attack herself - just being on the battlefield allows every non-Human to search a Human from the deck and trigger all of their effects. The worst offenders were Agent of Treachery in Standard, which could steal masses of resources from opponents and has good synergy with other cards in the Standard format, and Angrath's Marauders in Historic, which might as well say "When this card enters the battlefield, if it entered the battlefield due to the ability of Winota, you win the game". Agent got banned from Standard, but in Historic, the presence of the Marauders proved to be too strong to keep Winota in the format. Winota remains to this day a viable commander for "CEDH", or the highest power level of Commander, a pool with about a hundred viable candidates out of thousands of legendary creatures.
    • Wizards made the decision to push better cycling effects in Ikoria, giving a bunch of cards the ability to cycle for a single colorless mana. The end result was cycling drafts taking over the Limited environment of the format and even bleeding into Standard, as the abundance of cards with cycling 1 allowed players to build entire decks filled with those cards (some of which can't even be cast - they're just there to be thrown away) and payoffs that ping, swarm or outgrow their opponents, capping all of this off with Zenith Flare, a card that's easily able to kill unsuspecting players with mass damage to the face. Not only is the deck annoying to beat, it's also extremely linear to play against due to the fact most of the cards are only there to be thrown away to power up a finisher.
  • From Core Set 2021:
    • Elder Gargaroth is another infamous example of Power Creep that Green was subject to. A 3GG 6/6 already blows out the vanilla test, but it comes with three static abilities — vigilance, trample, and reach — to make it great on both offense and defense, and when it attacks or blocks, you get a choice of an extra 3/3 body, extra card draw, or extra life, making it great for a lot of situations.
  • Zendikar Rising, unsurprisingly, brought its own share of issues.
    • Omnath, Locus of Creation was released in Zendikar on September 25, 2020. A mere 18 days later, it was banned from Standard, Historic and Brawl — which, as far as the playerbase was concerned, was about 16 days too late. Its toolbox of Landfall abilities rewarded players for playing up to three lands a turn — remarkably easy with some of the tools mentioned above — and led it to dominate the metagame; it was legal during the 2020 World Finals, in which 32 players competed and 23 of them ran Omnath-centric decks, including 5 of the Top 8 and all of the Top 4.
    • Certain Landfall cards by themselves are very broken if they're in your starting hand, especially if they're used as mutation food for certain creatures from Ikoria:
      • Ruin Crab is a 1-mana Blue card that's very easy to bring out. If it's in the starting hand, its Landfall ability can very easily mill your opponent's deck into oblivion, particularly if it's in a mill-heavy deck.
      • Being a 3-mana Green card, Scute Swarm is not as bad as Ruin Crab above, but it's still a very broken card by virtue of the fact that as soon as you have six lands, you will start having a swarm of them the very second you start adding more lands.
  • While the Norse Mythology set Kaldheim finally brought a very-welcome reduction of the overall Standard power level, it also brought its fair share of problems, mostly due to cards not being used as intended by Wizards.
    • The modal double-face card Valki, God of Lies and the back side, Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter. For two mana, Valki allows you to exile a creature from each opponent's hand until he leaves, allowing you to stop problematic creatures from entering. To add insult to injury, you can pay the CMC of a creature exiled with him to have him permanently become a copy of that creature. On the back, Tibalt gives you an emblem that lets you play cards exiled with him as he enters and lets you spend mana as if it were mana of any color to cast them, allowing you to ignore color restrictions. All three of his abilities exiles cards from different zones to help fuel his emblem, making the exile zone function as an extension of your hand and not being restricted to cards you own.

      While both Valki and Tibalt are very strong, in Standard, Tibalt is kept in check by costing seven. In Modern, however, players were able to cheat him into play using Cascade. How it works is that you cast a card with Cascade that costs three and reveal cards until you hopefully hit Valki. Since Valki costs two mana and is the front side, you're able to cast him without paying the mana cost, but this also applies to the back side of the card as well since you chose which side to cast. The result: players casting Tibalt without paying his mana cost as early as turn 2-3 constistently, which caused Wizards to change how Cascade works (it now checks to see if the spell actually does cost less than the spell with cascade).
    • Tibalt's Trickery, on the surface, seems like a fair card. It's a red counterspell, but it let's that spell's controller exile cards from the top of their deck until they reveal a nonland card with a different name and cast it for free; moreover, they have to mill 1-3 cards randomly beforhand. In theory, this was meant to be red's answer to an opponent's control and combo deck. In practice, the spell never targets an opponent's spells 99% of the time. Instead, you use this to counter your own low cost spell with the hopes of casting something much bigger and dangerous. The play would be to cast Tormod's Crypt or Stonecoil Serpent for no mana, counter it with Trickery, then hopefully cast a spell such as Koma, Cosmos Serpent, Genesis Ultimatum or even Ugin. While the random nature of the deck makes the strategy inconsistent, its ability to have such game-ending threats as early as turn 2 make it hard for your opponent to respond to.
      • In Modern, this strategy is even more powerful due to the formats expanded card pool, as well as a card that also abuses cascade. You would cast a 3-CMC cascade card, use the cascade trigger to find Trickery, counter the cascade spell, then cast cards like the Eldrazi titans (which have cast triggers) or Omniscience for free. With Simian Spirit Guide and Chancellor of the Tangle, you can pull this off as early as turn 1 before your opponenet gets a turn. On February 15, 2021, Simian Spirit Guide was banned, which made a turn-one win harder, but the random nature of the deck made Wizards also ban Trickery from Modern as well, a mere 10 days after Kaldheim was released.

The Commander format allows for longer games and more elaborate plays. Its multiplayer format allows for some cards to have even greater impact than the usual 1v1 environment, leading to several cards being very strong specifically here.
  • There are several cards that force all players' life totals to a set amount, cutting games dramatically short and potentially ending in anticlimactic defeats for most, if not everyone involved. Such cards include Biorhythm and Sway of the Stars. Allnote  are banned to prevent "sudden death" games.
    • Similarly, the very concept of Infect spits at the format's raised life totals, as the player only needs a quarter of the effort to eliminate a player and there are very few ways of removing poison counters from players. Though Infect-related cards are not banned in the format, using a deck built around Infect can make you a high-priority target very quickly.note 
  • Limited Resources sets all players to 5 lands, and prevents further playing of lands if there are ten or more lands in play. Reasonable in the faster 1v1 formats where you could still cast most of your deck, but crippling in this format, on top of unfairly favoring decks that run a lot of mana-generating artifacts. It has been banned in Commander for this reason.
  • Coalition Victory is intended to be Awesome, but Impractical in forcing you to control a land of each type and a creature of each color. In a 5-color Commander Deck, it's easy, since a single 5-color creature immediately counts for half the win condition. Given the amount of access to ramp in order to even play your Commander, the moment you resolve Coalition Victory with your Commander in play is the moment you win. It's banned in Commander for being too easy to win off of.
  • Karakas has the ability to return a legendary creature to its owner's hand. Not very significant in most 60-card formats, but very impactful in Commander, where everyone's got at least a legendary creature that's central to their deck's strategy. Freely saving your commander from removal or disrupting others' commander-based strategies gets annoying fast. It has since been banned in Commander.
  • Panoptic Mirror lets you imprint a spell on it, letting you cast a copy of that spell for free during your upkeep. So of course you imprint Time Warp for an unending stream of extra turns. Panoptic Mirror is banned in Commander, where the pace of the game is slow enough to let you accomplish it.
  • Trade Secrets forces you to collude with an opponent — they draw two cards, you get to draw four, and the process can be repeated as many times as needed. While giving opponents card advantage is a big deal in 1v1, Commander encourages collusion and politics, making this card an incredible asset for a large amount of card advantage with a temporary ally.
  • Rofellos is a Legendary Elf that adds green mana for each Forest you control. Setting him as your Commander means that you can easily access him before your opponents can counter him or before they can answer him, and by the time he gets hit by removal, he's easily generated an enormous amount of mana that you've used to quickly advance your board state and steamroll your opponents. Rofellos was formerly banned from being a Commander (meaning that he could still be part of the 99-card deck) but updates to the Commander banlist did away with "banned-as-Commander" and just banned him and similar cards outright.
  • Erayo flips if the fourth spell of a turn is cast. It takes effort to get there in 1v1, but when more players are put into the equation, especially those who like to play instants, flipping Erayo becomes a lot easier. The reverse side, Erayo's Essence, counters the first spell cast by each opponent each turn, which is very infuriating to work against, especially when this also thwarts attempts at collusion to remove the Essence. Erayo was formerly "banned-as-Commander" before being outright banned like Rofellos above.
  • Braids forces each player to sacrifice an artifact, creature, or land in their upkeep. The issue lies in the ability to cheat out Braids as fast as possible, and as a Legendary creature she can be set as the player's Commander, letting them have access to her without needing to wait to draw her. Braids on turn 1 or 2 ensures that, barring any explosive 1-land plays, the opponents are rendered unable to play at all as they are constantly forced to sacrifice the one land they get to play each turn. Her controller may be subject to this too, but at that point they'd already have a lot of additional resources to sacrifice to Braids. Again, like the above two, Braids was banned as a Commander before becoming outright banned. Braids as a character was given another chance with the card Braids, Arisen Nightmare, and while she was not banned she immediately became a very powerful CEDH commander.
  • Sylvan Primordial, like the rest of the Primordial cycle, is designed to have an effect that scales with the number of opponents affected by it. The problem here is that Sylvan Primordial affects lands, the lifeblood of many a deck. While a hardcast Sylvan Primordial is a minor setback, there exist many ways to cheat it into play as early as turn 2, creating an enormously lopsided game state as your opponents are all set back to a few lands and you have many more. This led to Sylvan Primordial getting banned from Commander.
  • Deadeye Navigator works out to be an incredibly strong combo enabler, allowing itself or the creature it's soulbonded to to leave and re-enter the battlefield for 2 mana at instant speed. Deadeye's ability to flicker itself lets it dodge a lot of targeted removal, and in the meantime whatever it's bonded with will have been blinked several times for a lot of value from its enter-the-battlefield effect. Due to how Soulbond works with flicker effects, flickering Deadeye lets you change what it bonds with, so you can, for instance, change the flicker combo from generating a lot of mana to drawing cards to use your mana on.
  • Cyclonic Rift is easily one of the strongest boardwipes in Commander. For a format where games go long and high-cost spells are plentiful, casting Cyclonic Rift for its Overload cost is not too difficult, and the overload cost itself only requires a single blue mana, as opposed to other boardwipes that demand double or triple of their color, making it an easy staple in anything that has a speck of blue mana. An instant-speed bounce-everything spell is already very hard to work around as it bypasses defensive keywords like hexproof, shroud, and indestructible, but the most painful part of it is that it only affects cards its player doesn't control. If an overloaded Cyclonic Rift resolves on the end step before its controller's next turn, everyone else is left largely defenseless against whatever board that's been built up from a long standoff.
  • Prophet of Kruphix had its fair amount of play in Standard, but Commander was where the card truly shined. While it doesn't give itself any protection from threats on its own, being able to untap your lands and creatures and giving creatures in your hand flash on top of it gave any deck running blue or green an insane advantage: the two colors that loves creatures that could tap and bounce or counter threats outright. Often, it could effectively mean "Your opponents' turns are also your turns," which naturally meant that any deck that could run it did. It was also a constant target of copying effects, so it wasn't uncommon for multiple players to have a Prophet of Kruphix out at once, which would give them advantages over anyone who didn't have one and also make it quickly get really silly and confusing as to whose turn it was originally supposed to be when everyone was flashing things in all the time. About two years after it was introduced, the card was eventually banned in Commander.
  • You better not be playing a mono-color deck if your opponent slaps Iona, Shield of Emeria on the field. Even with its big, scary mana cost there's always plenty of reanimate spells around. What really broke Iona is Commander; your deck in Commander can never have a card of a different color than one printed on your chosen Commander. This is NOT restricted to their mana cost, but anywhere on the card. As most commander decks are around 2-3 colors, this essentially gave the controller of Iona the ability to shut down 1/3rd to 1/2 of the enemy deck, especially in multiplayer since most people will share colors. Iona would eventually get banned in July 2019.
  • Sometimes a card usually considered nothing more than mediocre or at worst a Junk Rare can excel in specific formats thanks to slight shifts in the base rules. Enter Serra Ascendant, a card that's nigh-useless in every other format, but is an absolute beastly one-drop in EDH due to games starting at 40 life, when it's clear that the card was designed for other format's 20. To add insult to injury, it even has Lifelink, meaning that once it starts attacking the first few times it's not likely that the player will dip under its threshold anytime soon. While it stays off the EDH banlist due to a 6/6 Lifelinker not being particularly impressive mid or late game and thus is prone to inconsistency, its presence turn one normally means that it's going to take at least one other player down.
    • Felidar Sovereign is of similar design, as it simply states that your life needs to be above a fixed amount (rather than anything scaled to your starting life total) to reap its benefits. This benefit: an Instant-Win Condition. Your requirement: 40 life — your very starting life total in Commander. The one thing keeping this from being truly gamebreaking is that you do need to draw it and it's an upkeep check, so if you somehow manage to resolve it, Felidar Sovereign is going to be a lightning rod for removal, if you're not already putting an enormous target on your forehead.
  • While Conspiracy: Take the Crown (the follow-up to the original Conspiracy draft set) reprinted several Legacy staples, the set gave the format its own gamebreaker with Leovold, Emissary of Trest. His first ability prevents all of your opponents from drawing more than one card each turn. This made Windfall, Day's Undoing, Timetwister and other cards with a similar effect more powerful hand destruction that was difficult to recover from. Even if your opponent was able to cast a powerful spell, Leovold's colors allowed you to answer anything your opponent threw at you (counters in blue, artifact and enchantment destruction in green, and creature removal in black). To add insult to injury, even if your opponent manages to kill him, his second ability lets you draw an additional card if the removal was targeted (this applies not only to him, but to every permanent you control). What made Leovold even more broken was his interaction with Teferi's Puzzle Box. The official ruling states that you conduct your normal draw first before the Puzzle Box's ability is put onto the stack. If either the Puzzle Box or Leovold weren't countered or aren't destroyed with instant-speed removal, then your opponent no longer has a hand for the rest of the game! Before being banned for creating easily-accessed lopsided game states, Leovold went for $50-$60 on average. To compare, you can buy a full playset of the Conspiracy printing of Show and Tell (a staple in many Legacy decks) for the same price.
  • Paradox Engine has a simple but very powerful ability of untapping all nonland permanents you control whenever you cast a spell. Given the nature of Commander, you'll likely have a lot of artifacts that tap for mana, and establishing early ramp so that you can cast Paradox Engine early with a few mana artifacts will let you snowball in advantage really easily. The moment you untap with Paradox Engine in play is also often the moment you've won, especially if all your artifacts tap for more mana than each spell you cast will use, and this generally results in a really long combo turn not unlike those seen in the days of Combo Winter. Paradox Engine got banned from Commander in July 2019.
  • Helm of the Host is incredibly potent in Commander, as it creates copies of whatever creature it's equipped to. If it's a legendary creature, like your commander, the copy is not legendary, dodging the legend rule that's supposed to balance legendary creatures. Although its cast and equip cost is pretty steep, when it all comes together it can get ridiculous, as you don't even need to attack with the equipped creature to get the copy. One combo involves Aurelia, the Warleader or Godo, Bandit Warlord, who give an extra combat step and another copy of themselves when they attack for the first time. When their copies attack, it's their first time attacking too, so you get an infinite loop of combat steps with an extra Aurelia or Godo each time, without needing to put the original into combat at all. And that's just the surface of how it can be exploited. The copies even remain on the battlefield on subsequent turns, so you can do silly things like mass-clone them with Rite of Replication to cause even more havoc.
  • Expropriate, one of the most powerful Council's Dilemma cards. You and the opponents vote to give you extra turn(s), or control of a permanent of your choice. This doesn't target, so if anyone votes "money" you're getting something good regardless of how this card is responded to. You're essentially given an extra turn at minimum, and a powerful permanent from each opponent; if anyone gives you more extra turns you're in an even better winning position.
  • Urza, Lord High Artificer is one of the most powerful single commanders in the game. He can generate an obscene amount of mana every turn, turning every artifact you own into a Mox Sapphire while creating a construct with power equal to the number of artifacts you control. This can generate an obscene amount of value with a token generator, but gets truly broken with stax pieces like Winter Orb. You can use his ability to turn off Winter Orb during your own untap step, making it a powerful engine. Urza can also use 5 mana to cast a random spell from your deck without paying its mana cost, giving it an infinite mana outlet as well. Urza is generally considered the reason why Paradox Engine got banned, and even then the deck barely lost a step.
  • Teferi's Protection is a 3-mana white instant that, essentially, causes everything you own to phase out for a turn and provides you with a turn's protection from everything. It is the best life-saving card in the game as there are very few ways to bypass Teferi's Protection. One of the best ways to use it is in response to a boardwipe, as you will phase back in with your army of permanents ready to take down your opponents who have been ravaged by it.
  • Thrasios, Triton Hero is considered to be the best commander in the game. He provides a strong mana outlet that provides more lands or more cards in hand. Providing a mana outlet that can win on the spot is powerful enough, but the partner mechanic gives him access to another commander for further on-demand advantages and access to more colors (including black's tutor suite). The competitive meta is largely centered around Thrasios, usually with some pairing of him and another partner commander (usually Tymna, the Weaver) based around colors.
  • While Tymna, the Weaver is less centralizing than Thrasios, she is a powerful source of card advantage as well. Tymna provides card advantage based on how many opponents you dealt combat damage to at the cost of your life. It's a slightly less powerful version of Edric, Spymaster of Trest (a powerful commander as-is) at face value, but with the ability to add one or two more colors and another commander.
  • Chulane, Teller of Tales is an infamous value engine. It's already fantastic that he draws you a card each time you cast a creature, but he also goes the extra mile in letting you play a land from your hand at the same time. The land isn't forced to enter the battlefield tapped, either, so if it naturally enters untapped you can use it rightaway to, for instance, cast another creature to trigger this ability again. It's not unusual to see a Chulane deck be focused on casting several small creatures that also add to hand advantage to make the most of him in one turn — sometimes drawing through the entire deck in the process.
  • Hullbreacher from the Commander Legends draft set cancels the opponent's draws from effects and gives you Treasures for each card they would have drawn. Flash him in against someone attempting a large draw and you hose them, hose any future attempts at gathering further card advantage, and you also get extra mana to defend Hullbreacher with. Flash him in on a Wheel effect (essentially Discard and Draw for everyone) and you have a fresh hand, a ton of accessible mana, and your opponents have nothing to stop you with. And at a cost of 2U Hullbreacher was easy to fit into a lot of decks, matched with one of the most popular colors in the format, and was basically a big color pie violation. Hullbreacher would get banned from the format in July 2021.
    • There are two things that make Hullbreacher particularly egregious. The first was that, being printed in a Commander-focused set, it was all but seen as a quick cash grab for Wizards. The other was that it was a nearly 100% better upgrade to Smothering Tithe, which's an extremely powerful card, but kept in check due to costing four mana, not actually stopping draws, and mainly, being white, historically the weakest color in the format. Seeing such a powerful effect being given to a blue card made many white players feel like Wizards were yanking their chain.
  • Golos, Tireless Pilgrim was clearly designed for Commander - and ended up acquiring enough infamy that it ended up banned despite being the most played commander in the format. Its ETB effect of searching any land might sound innocuous, or even just a bit powerful because it can fetch any land, but it means Golos players can always find lands to pay the increasing commander tax and always keep it in play. Once it stays, it's a constant threat due to its effect of playing the top three cards of your deck for free, putting players into Morton's Fork situations where they either removed Golos, only for it to return easily and bring more lands, or let it stay on the field and risk losing the game in case his effect flips any powerful card. There are only a few ways to fully stop its threat, such as Darksteel Mutation and post-errata Oubliette, but you still have to deal with the other 99 cards in the deck - which can be ANY cards, since Golos has a WUBRG color identity. Worse, since it has WUBRG pips on its text, but costs five generic mana to cast, Golos could helm decks of ANY combination, even with less colors, at the small cost of not using its activated ability often. This effectively meant that Golos could replace any other commander in the game - and in fact, would be BETTER than a significant amount of them. Before its ban, EDHREC listed over 7600 decks led by Golos in the last two years - to put in perspective, the former most popular commander, Atraxa, only reached around 6000, and even Korvold and Kenrith, which face similar criticism for being too versatile, couldn't reach past 6200.
  • Bolas's Citadel is an extremely powerful card. While it's theoretically balanced with three black symbols to cast it, which isn't hard in Commander in the slightest, once it's in play, it basically allows you to play Channel in Black, but instead of using it to add mana, you're casting spells for just life. In other formats, where your life is 20 at the start and only one opponent, this isn't a big deal, you probably don't have much life by the time you can cast Bolas's Citadel. In Commander? Where you have 40 life and other players drawing attention away from you, this card becomes a combo extender, a turn extender and allows you to just go from nothing to a full field with very little effort. If combined with Aetherflux Reservoir and Sensei's Divining Top, you can effectively draw your whole deck, build up a ton of life, and then blast every opponent to death before they can do anything. By the way, Channel is banned in Commander, just so you get an idea of how powerful this card is.
  • Dockside Extortionist, a card that allows you to create Treasure tokens equal to the number of artifacts and enchantments your opponents control. In a 1v1 game, this is less impactful unless one player has an artifact or enchantment-themed deck. In Commander, there are three opponents for the card to interact with and using mana artifacts to ramp is extremely common. Almost every deck that runs red mana runs this card for the sheer value it generates for only two mana; players can easily double or triple their mana off of a single Dockside Extortionist. Even better, red is a colour typically balanced around needing little mana; giving them access to loads of it usually guarantees someone is in for a world of hurt.

  • The entire dredge mechanic was a disaster, and became one of the few 10s on the Storm Scale. The theory behind it was that cards that used it were slightly weaker than other cards of similar mana values, but you could bring them back to your hand by milling a certain number of cards (which varies depending on the Dredge card) any time you would normally draw, and they would help you find other dredge cards in the process. In practice, only one dredge card, Life From the Loam, was actually cast for (this is important) its intended purpose, while the rest were simply not worth playing because why would you WANT to get a subpar card every turn? Even Grave-Shell Scarab wasn't very good, despite being an effectively unkillable 4/4 creature. So what was the problem, if it was seemingly underpowered? Well, it turned out to be far more powerful than initially thought, and arguably the most powerful Guild mechanic in any Ravnica set, due largely to a severe case of Not the Intended Use:
    • Decks that revolve around playing things from the Graveyard loved Dredge because it provided an easy way to dump cards into it, ready for casting, and giving the player phenomenal card advantage. Being Black and Green, Dredge was in the colors that can most easily play spells or creatures from the graveyard or retrieve them from the graveyard into your hand. When choosing to Dredge the weaker dredge cards, the player basically moves a card that can't be played from the graveyard to their hand and then moves a number of cards into the graveyard from their library based on the Dredge number. The higher the Dredge number, the more cards were moved into a castable position this way. Dredge decks basically get to draw more cards per instance of "draw a card" than opponents and then have the sweet broken advantage that any disruption like counterspells, milling or discarding effects result in the cards affected effectively returning to their extended hand, drawing more cards into their extended hand or setting up more Dredge effects. The only way to outright interfere with them was to play heavy graveyard hate or have removal/hate cards that exiled the target instead of sending it to the graveyard.
      • The Modern Dredge deck was depowered somewhat in early 2017 by the banning of Golgari Grave-Troll in Modern, nerfing the Modern deck's power by denying it that juicy Dredge 6 every turn and giving the Dredge deck less ability to deal with the traditional Dredge-hate card, Grafdigger's Cage. Said card is also restricted in Vintage.
    • In Extended, Life from the Loam could be used to bring back sacrificed fetch lands, the net effect being that you could replay your fetchlands over and over again and thus pull all the lands out of your deck, improving your draws. This wasn't great on its own, but in conjunction with cycling lands - lands you could discard to draw cards - Life from the Loam became a card drawing engine, as you could cast Life from the Loam to grab back a fetchland and a pair of cycling lands, play the fetchland to pull out another land from your deck, then cycle your cycling lands to draw two cards (or potentially dredge back up Life from the Loam, dumping MORE cycling lands into your graveyard for you to fetch...). The deck played cards like Terravore, which became monstrously huge due to the number of lands dumped into the graveyard, Devastating Dreams, which Terravore could survive, Life from the Loam could fuel with a huge hand size, and which would wipe out all the lands and all opposing creatures (but leave your Terravore intact...), and Seismic Assault, which meant Life from the Loam effectively read 1G: deal 6 damage distributed amongst up to three targets. Worst of all, there was little that could be done about it - countering Life from the Loam was a waste of time and the deck could draw scads of cards off of very little mana, and could run a lot of lands, allowing it to be more consistent.
    • In Vintage, not only does it bring down the house in tandem with Yawgmoth’s Will, it also allows for the existence of a deck called Manaless Dredge. Bazaar of Baghdad combos extremely well with a dredge deck, and if you don't need to cast any spells, you can do something insane - such as, say, run no mana sources, normally the lifeblood of any deck - and thus run four copies of Bazaar of Baghdad and four copies of Serum Powder so that you can ensure that you always get a Bazaar of Baghdad in your opening hand. As the deck runs scads of dredge cards, all you need to do is find one dredge card and you can quickly dump your library into your graveyard. Ichorid doesn't cost mana to get into play in this situation, Narcomoeba comes into play for free as well, Street Wraith lets you dredge cards even faster, Dread Return allows you to bring your Golgari Grave-Troll into play, and Bridge from Below allows you to spew out piles of zombie tokens for free... the net effect is a deck which can win on turn 3 reliably, turn 2 occasionally, and on a god draw kill you on turn 1. Because you’re technically not casting anything, it’s also completely immune to counterspells, too. Needless to say, the deck is very popular, in large part due to costing less to assemble than most Vintage decks, making it a “budget” option for anyone looking to explore the format. While the deck is only dominant in Vintage if unprepared for (and everyone prepares for it because it sucks losing to a deck that dumb), the deck fundamentally circumvents the basic mechanics of Magic, not requiring mana to function. It doesn't help that Vintage decks are not really equipped to deal with hordes of monsters, as creature-rushing isn’t typically a viable strategy in the format - Swords to Plowshares and similar spot removal is not especially useful against the deck and won't save you from being swarmed. Thus many decks run four copies of some graveyard hate spell - like Leyline of the Void - in their sideboard and just mulligan until they get it in games 2 and 3.

      (Relatedly, remember how we mentioned, way at the top of the page, that there is essentially no combo or card that does not benefit from a Black Lotus? This is the first one that doesn't. And yes, it took almost 20 years of new cards to finally achieve one.)

  • Storm is a mechanic so busted that Wizards themselves consider it to be the most broken mechanic they've ever designed, and it's not hard to see why. Designed to multiply the effects of a spell based on how many other spells were cast before it, Storm became the output of some very potent combo decks that could cast an absurd number of spells due to various cards giving more mana than they cost (albeit temporarily, but that's what Storm is built for). Countering the Storm spell didn't work, either, as the spell copies itself on cast, forcing the player to either counter the Storm triggered ability or erase the entire stack at once. It's so infamous that it named the "Storm scale", which is the official scale gauging how likely a mechanic would be reprinted — 1 being "it'll always be around" (e.g. Flying, Trample), and 10 being "never again". Naturally, Storm ranks as a 10 on it, accompanied by excessively weird mechanics like Banding or those which really only work in multiplayer Commander games like Voting.
  • Despite not being a 10 in the Storm Scale like storm and dredge, Phyrexian mana is infamous for being one of the most powerful mechanics ever competitively, to the point Unstable's parody card about Spike (i.e. the competitive Magic player archtype) has six Phyrexian mana on its casting and ability costs. According to Mark Rosewater, the original idea of the mechanic was that it could allow R&D to represent the transformation of Mirrodin into New Phyrexia by creating colored artifacts without doing it in the same way the Alara block did. However, Wizards underestimated the Critical Existence Failure aspect of Magic, leading to competitive players aggressively paying the 2 life for powerful effects they shouldn't get on their deck colors, making Phyrexian mana responsible for some of the biggest color bleeds in the modern color pie. Birthing Pod generates extremely powerful combos, Gitaxian Probe allows any deck to effectively run 56 cards while furthering the win condition for Storm and Death's Shadow decks, Mental Misstep counters more cards in Legacy and Modern that one can imagine, Dismember is a Modern staple that can destroy almost everything in the format for 1 mana and combos with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth if you don't feel like paying life, Surgical Extraction is a candidate for "best sideboard card ever" due to its ability to permanently eliminate the key card of your opponent's deck as soon as one copy of it hits the graveyard... the list goes on. Here's an example of what Phyrexian mana can do.
    • Birthing Pod is also infamous for being one of the few cards that will never suffer from Power Creep, as each new creature added to the game means a new way it can be abused. To put in perspective, Prime Speaker Vannifar has the same effect but is more restricted by being Simic and being a creature, and she still spearheads an acceptable combo deck.
    • Not only did Mental Misstep have the ability to counter a wide range of early threats, it could also counter itself. Because it was also completely splashable, there was no reason for one to not run 4 of it, if only to ensure yourself against opposing Mental Missteps.
    • Even if it's one of the most famous Spike mechanics in the game, Johnny players aren't exempt from the fun either, as comboing Phyrexian mana with cost reductors can allow players to play cards like Act of Aggression with no mana cost.
    • Phyrexian mana also presents an unique problem related to reprints, most notable with Surgical Extraction. Due to its unique style and flavor, it can't be reprinted aside of sets with Phyrexians or in supplemental sets. Most people would expect those reprints in a Masters set, but since Wizards stopped them at Ultimate Masters, there's not a good expectation for the next reprint of powerful Phyrexian mana cards. This has caused Surgical Extraction to shoot up in price, up to $40 a single copy.
    • The mechanic eventually showed up again in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, but in a much more limited fashion: not only does it appear on only one card, Tamiyo, Compleated Sage, but it actually comes with a drawback this time in the form of the "compleated" mechanic, which causes her to start with two less loyalty in exchange for powering her out a turn early. It's also only one part of her casting cost, meaning you still need to have Blue and Green mana sources available to cast her, getting around the problems present in New Phyrexia where every colored mana in a spell's casting cost was Phyrexian Mana, allowing them to be played in any deck. These limitations will likely be in force for Phyrexian Mana in future appearances.
  • Hexproof and Infect aren't broken mechanics per se. They're powerful, but can be handled. However, putting them in low-cost creatures has proven to be a mistake. A low-cost hexproof creature can be pumped with as many Auras as the player wishes while not risking the usual downside of Auras of being inherent minus if the creature dies, leading to the Bogles deck, one of the most hated decks of the Modern format due to its boring playstyle. Low-cost Infect creatures lead to players abusing cheap pump cards to score a 10-poison hit as early as turn 2, which's not helped by the fact that two of said low-cost creatures have built-in evasion.
    • Hexproof is also problematic because Wizards wants every color pair to have at least one overlapping evergreen mechanic, and hexproof fulfills this role for Simic. It's frustrating when said mechanic cannot be put on low-cost creatures, as if blue hadn't enough problems with its overlapping mechanics.
  • The original partner mechanic was widely considered a mistake among commander players. This mechanic allowed access to two commanders as long as they both had the partner ability. While it generated a lot of variety, giving players access to four-color decks, the ability to have two separate commanders saw a lot of play. The two most notable were Thrasios, Triton Hero and Tymna, the Weaver, who are widely considered to be two of the best due to their already strong abilities. The mechanic would return in Battlebond in the form of "partner with", limiting certain commanders to one specific partner. Partner returns in Commander Legends, but thus far all of the commanders revealed with the mechanic are mono-colored, limiting players' options.
  • The Companion mechanic from Ikoria. You can pick only one card to function as a Companion, and as long as your deck fulfills the Companion criteria, you can cast the Companion card from outside the game. You don't have to draw them, they don't count towards your deck limit, they're always accessible. That alone makes them extremely powerful - starting a game with extra card in hand, and one that is guaranteed to work well with your strategy, gives an tremendous advantage over players who don't use one, and most of their deckbuilding restrictions were either easy to fulfill, or had enough loopholes to work around them. Companions quickly dominated almost all formats, drawing ire from both casual and professional players, with many declaring it to be the most busted mechanic in Magic - topping all those listed above. It eventually reached the point where WotC actually went and nerfed the entire mechanic, changing it from "cast from outside the game" to "add to hand for 3 mana". And naturally, a few companions are worse than the rest:
    • Lutri, the Spellchaser. Its Companion condition only checks if you have at most one copy of each nonland card, a requirement that practically every Commander or Brawl deck already meets.note  Thus, there's nearly no opportunity cost for including Lutri as your Companion as long as your Commander deck has access to red and blue mana at minimum. Hence Lutri got banned from Commander and Brawl before the set even released, and has stayed banned even after the Companion mechanic got reworked.
    • Zirda, the Dawnwaker. Remember the combos involving Grim Monolith and some way to untap it to produce infinite mana? Zirda works the same way, reducing the cost of Monolith's untap ability to one mana (out of 3 it produces), and thanks to being a Companion, you're guaranteed to "draw" it and cast it when you're ready to go off. The combo was powerful enough to get Zirda banned in Legacy just a month after Ikoria's release. Zirda's combo potential and low cost makes her to this day a viable commander for CEDH.
    • Speaking of Legacy combos, Gyruda, Doom of Depths also had one before the errata. In his case, the idea was to create a deck full of cloning effects, cast Gyruda on turn 1 and chain multiples of his ETB effect until a haste-enabler or another win condition was found. While it might sound irrealistic to cast a six-mana creature in turn 1, just remember that Lion's Eye Diamond exists, and discarding your whole hand is moot when the card you need to play is outside the game.
    • Topping all of them, however, is Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Its restriction to permanent cards with mana cost no greater than 2 sounds painful, but in Legacy and Vintage, the vast majority of the decks fulfill it by default, and even the cheapest cards in these formats are powerful enough to take over the game when unanswered. Whether it was bringing a simple Delver or the Black Lotus itself, Lurrus decks had a tool providing incredible card advantage over anyone who wasn't using it - until on May 18, 2020, Lurrus was banned from Legacy and Vintage. No, we don't mean "restricted" - since the Companion mechanic meant restricting it was pointless, Lurrus achieved what no other card in Magic could ever do and was banned from Vintage purely because of its power level. In 2021, Lurrus was unbanned, as Wizards believed the Obvious Rule Patch to the Companion mechanic nerfed it sufficiently, but it's still an obscenely powerful card.
    • Eventually, Mark Rosewater revealed on his blog how such an overpowered mechanic made it past playtesting: a combination of having to sink a lot of time into tweaking the complicated Mutate mechanic so that it didn't confuse players, and the COVID-19 pandemic hitting right before the set's release and forcing everyone out of the office, meant that work on Companion kept falling to the wayside and eventually was allowed to be released in a semi-unfinished state, to game-breaking results.

    Alchemy Rebalanced Cards 
The introduction of the Alchemy game mode in Magic: The Gathering Arena allowed for something which is impossible in paper Magic: rebalancing paper cards in a digital format, in addition to rebalancing digital-only cards, allowing Wizards to deal with problem cards without having to ban them, buff struggling and underperforming cards and archetypes, or even nerf a previously banned card and unban it. While there are many examples of nerfed cards, a few stand out:
  • Goldspan Dragon is a powerful ramping engine that creates a treasure token every time it attacks or becomes the target of a spell, and also doubles the mana treasure tokens produce, on top of being a 4/4 flier with Haste. Targeting it with removal is problematic, since that creates a treasure token which can be converted into two mana of any color, which is within the range of many counterspells, kill spells, or just generally things which can ruin your day. And even if you do manage to kill it, your opponent still has treasure tokens which they can use to ramp into something big and nasty before you’re ready for it. Many Red decks run the full four copies of the card as a result, which is made easier by Mythic Wildcards being cheaper than paper cards. Alchemy removed the “or becomes the target of a spell” trigger, punishing removal and interaction less.
  • Hullbreaker Horror has a high mana cost, but if its user manages to get it in, there’s a very high chance that they’ll win the game. It can’t be countered, so counterspells can’t save you from it. It has Flash, so it can pop up during your combat step and use its massive 7/8 body to kill one of your attackers (although this is at least telegraphed: if your opponent leaves a large number of lands, including at least two Islands, untapped during their turn, use caution). Then, once it’s out, each time its user casts a spell, they can bounce back either a spell on the stack or a nonland permanent on the field back to its owner’s hand, turning every spell they have into a counterspell and allowing them to clear the field for a game-winning all-out attack, or even removing curses and other effects from their own permanents. It’s best matchup is against other Blue decks, which tend to rely on counterspells to get rid of things they don’t like and don’t have much else in the way of dealing with things that shut down that strategy, particularly things with abilities that still trigger even if the user is frozen, such as Hullbreaker Horror. Alchemy removed its counterspell immunity, making the matchup less painful for Mono-Blue and other control decks.
  • Lier, Disciple of the Drowned. While his ability disabling all countermagic also affects your own counterspells (a problem for any Blue deck), the bigger issue is that he also gives every instant and sorcery in your graveyard Flashback. As seen with Dredge, we all know what happens when the graveyard becomes an extension of its user’s hand: you can mill your deck to “draw” cards and then cast them for the Flashback cost, to say nothing of getting a second use of removal and bounce spells that can massively interfere with your opponent’s strategy, particularly if they’re running a creature-heavy deck. In Alchemy, this ability only works during his controller’s turn, allowing the opponent more breathing room to play creatures and other permanents without fear of them getting instantly destroyed or bounced.
  • Skull Skaab is an interesting inversion: its ability creates a decayed Zombie token, but only if you Exploit (sacrifice a creature when you play another creature with the Exploit keyword to trigger an enters-the-battlefield ability) a non-token creature, making it somewhat underwhelming in Constructed formats. However, it would have been very broken in Draft and other Limited formats where, if the ability allowed you to exploit tokens, it would have been extremely hard to deal with using a limited card pool, whereas most well-made Constructed decks can deal with people chaining Exploit effects over and over. Thus, in Alchemy, you can now exploit Skull Skaab’s Zombie tokens and instantly replace them, making the abilities have almost no cost, since the change doesn’t affect Limited.
  • As mentioned above, Teferi, Time Raveler was a metagame-warping card that ended up getting banned. His Alchemy rebalancing shows just how much mana curves affect a card’s power, to the point where slight tweaks in a card’s mana cost can massively impact its viability. Most of the time, one can only play one land per turn, so the amount of mana they can access goes up by one each turn; thus, a card’s mana value roughly determines the earliest turn they can be brought out. Teferi’s issue came from him only costing three mana, allowing him to be brought out as early as turn three: if his controller goes first, that’s before most decks can effectively respond to him and dodge his powerful abilities. The rebalanced version costs four mana instead of three (although he gets an extra starting loyalty to compensate), and his passive merely restricts the opponent from playing spells during his controller’s turn, allowing for the use of Instants and Instant-speed abilities during parts of the turn other than the Main Phases. According to the developers, the change was made to curate him into a more specialized anti-control tool than an all-around powerful card.
  • Both Cauldron Familiar and The Meathook Massacre are central components of many Black-based control decks in Explorer/Pioneer due to their ability to shut down aggro decks; Cauldron familiar sucks one life from your opponent and gives it to you, and can bring itself back to the battlefield by sacrificing a Food token, making it almost impossible to deal with outside of exile-based removal, which isn't optimal since it's a one-mana creature that's easily replaced. Think you can get around it by going wide and swamping the opponent? Meathook kills your weenies and leaves an effect damaging you every time you kill an opponent's creatures while healing them whenever they kill one of yours, essentially allowing them to leech you to death while making themselves hard to kill in turn. Even in Standard where there's no Cauldron Familiar, Meathook is still an oppressive board wipe since it can be dialed to hit only small creatures while leaving your beaters intact, unlike most others which just blindly kill everything in sight. Alchemy essentially gutted the strategy in Historic by removing Familiar's ability to block as well as Meathook's healing ability; in Standard Alchemy, the latter nerf also speeds up Black control mirror mataches from chess games into aggressive fights to the finish.

  • Sometimes a card does not have to be overly powerful to get banned; it just has to lengthen and complicate the game enough to make it virtually unplayable. Enter Shahrazad, which makes players play a game within a game, with the losers of the subgame losing half of their life points, rounded up. Running four of these meant potentially playing a game within a game within a game within a game within a game, which was often used to force rounds to go to time in tournaments: for a while a particularly degenerate tactic was to sideboard four copies of Shahrazad, win the first game, then pull them in for the second match to force a draw and thus a win overall.
    • Maze of Ith got a trip to the Restricted list for the same reason.
    • On a similar note, there's Chaos Orb and Falling Star, which as part of their effects are flipped over from above the playing field and then do something to anything they land on: Chaos Orb destroys any permanent it touches, and Falling Star deals damage to and taps creatures that it touches. What that did to complicate the game was that it made players space all of their cards as far apart as possible, to ensure that those cards couldn't affect too many of their cards, which tended to make actually playing the game a lot more difficult as it was more difficult to see what players actually controlled. It also led to arguments and time-wasting rulings by judges about such things as what exactly constituted a flip, how far it had to be above the table, whether it was actually touching something, and when cards could be moved around (supposedly, at least one tournament player attempted to cut his card into confetti so it would hit the whole table, although this is probably an urban legend.) As a result, they both ended up being banned in all formats, making Chaos Orb, Falling Star, and Shahrazad the only 3 cards that aren't ante cards, promo cards, or un-set cards that are banned in all formats. Every other card in the game is playable in at least Vintage, even if that card is on Vintage's Restricted List.
    • Playing the rules as written on the card, Floral Spuzzum should cause a similar issue, since the card's ability requires the card itself to choose if it activates. Sadly Wizards are spoilsports and the errata turn it into a normal, non-sentient piece of cardboard.
    • On a related note, Contract From Below isn't just broken, it's actually real-life illegal, at least in the United States (since the ante mechanic violates U.S. anti-gambling laws).
  • "Tutor" is a name for a series of cards, but also a more general name for any card which has the ability to draw a specific card from your library. The ability is often gamebreaking, since there are some very powerful cards you can go looking for. The original, and possibly most powerful, is Demonic Tutor, a card that will get you any card for just two mana. It's such a powerful card that Diabolic Tutor, a card that does the same thing for twice the mana, is a commonly seen card in Commander and other formats where it is legal, being the most common and easy to acquire substitute for Demonic Tutor.
    • Then there's Vampiric Tutor, which appeared in Visions. While it causes you to lose two life and puts the card on the top of your deck rather than directly in your hand, it also costs only one mana to cast and comes at instant speed. And like Demonic Tutor, it's spent some time on the banned/restricted list. There's a lot of debate over which of the two cards is better, but both are widely considered far too inexpensive for what they do.
    • Demonic Consultation, released in Ice Age, has the downside of exiling the top six cards of your library, and then anything else between that and the card you need, but it costs only one(!) black mana to cast and is instant speed! While there is the risk of milling your entire library (if, say, the card you wanted was among the six that were initially exiled), if you have four of the card you need in the deck, this is extremely unlikely, and it really doesn't matter what you exile as long as you get the card that will win you the game. While this card was initially derided for being a weaker version of Demonic Tutor, it soon became a key component of the dreaded Necropotence decks, as having four in a deck ensured that you basically had eight copies of Necropotence. Just like Demonic and Vampiric Tutor, it's banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage. Demonic Consultation also has another insidious purpose: it can be used to completely empty your deck. And there are several cards that win you the game if you have an empty library or draw a card with an empty library.
    • Even Demonic Tutor's terrible offspring Grim Tutor can be found enabling degenerate combo decks in Legacy and Vintage. Seeing as it's really the best option that isn't banned or restricted, it's really a player's only choice if they just gotta do something broken.
    • In Legacy Infernal Tutor and Lion's Eye Diamond do a reasonable impression of Demonic Tutor and Black Lotus in combo decks. Unsurprisingly, they (especially Lion's Eye Diamond) tend to be the poster children of degenerate combo in Legacy.
    • Diabolic Intent is another cheap black tutor, offering any card in your deck for the low price of 1B and a creature. The "sacrifice a creature" cost makes it a bad fit for combo decks which tend to be light on expendable creatures, but it's still positively broken in control & aggro decks, and players using the Threshold mechanic can feed 'fodder' creatures into their graveyard to accelerate their activation of Threshold. Unlike most other tutors, it also isn't restricted or banned in any format.
    • One of the more unusual Tutors is Entomb, which spent a very long time on Vintage's restricted list. For Black, putting a card into the graveyard is basically the same as putting it into your hand, and may actually make it easier to cast.
    • Tutors aren't all restricted to Black; other colours can demonstrate the raw power of selectively pulling cards into your hand. The Mirage block had a full four-card cycle of inexpensive Tutors (excluding red), although the black one of the batch (Vampiric Tutor, of course) became the most infamous one.
      • Blue has many, many such spells, from the infamous Tinker to the much more sane Fabricate, and most of them had very variable power and flexibility ranging from Fact or Fiction to Gifts Ungiven.
      • Green has a number of staple tutors of its own, usually tied to lands (Rampant Growth is the perennial staple of fast mana in Green-based decks; Sylvan Scrying trades off the ability to immediately put lands into play for the power to fetch any non-basic land; Reap and Sow has an alternate effect that enables land destruction and is powerful enough to grab non-basic lands and put them directly into play), although Time of Need demonstrates tremendous amounts of power and flexibility in grabbing any Legendary creature of any colour and putting it in your hand.
      • Red was the only color without pure tutors for a while (Goblin Recruiter is a Goblin that tutors up other goblins and puts them all on top of your library when you summon it, and a mainstay of all Extended and then Legacy format Goblin shenanigans) until Urza's Saga gave it Gamble, a card that will get you any card for one(!) red mana. The only downside of the card is that after you put the card in hand, you then have to discard a card at random, meaning you could end up discarding what you just tutored for, and the odds of doing so increase the fewer cards you have in hand. While these caveats make it one of the more fair tutors, it can still be quite powerful, and in the right deck it can be the above mentioned Entomb on a bad day.
      • One of the more unusual sets of tutors comes in the form of the 'Fetchlands', a full cycle of non-basic lands that were introduced in Onslaught that could be sacrificed (alongside a blood tithe of 1 life point) to fetch a basic land from your library. Flooded Strand is one of this set, and sees a lot of play in Astral Slide-themed decks. They're popular enough that even Vintage decks use them in conjunction with the Dual Lands in order to further streamline the land count in deck builds.
      • What if your tutor spells could target things outside your library? An entire five-card cycle of Wish spells were introduced in Judgement that allowed you to tutor for cards outside the game, which in tournaments meant that you could reach straight into your sideboard even in Game 1 for solution spells that you didn't load into your main deck, and the Exile zone was still off-limits. In casual play, if played without that tournament qualifier, a Wish spell could reach into your collection albums for anything you had available. Other spells that could grant you Wish-like effects soon followed in later expansions.
  • It's sometimes said the only reason turbo-mana instant Dark Ritual seemed fair was because it's always been around; it's powered numerous superfast combo decks over the years, and was once banned during the attempts to cripple Necropotence decks.
    • Dark Rit was also thematically inappropriate; as the Color Pie was re-defined, the decision was made to limit bursts of mana to Red.
    • Speaking of Red turbo-mana, Seething Song is currently banned in Modern because it fuels some degenerate combos, in particular Storm decks. Having a net profit of 2 red mana is already very good, but adding cost reducers like Goblin Electromancer just pushed the value beyond what is comfortable.
    • In addition to the above, Braid of Fire is a quite unusual card in that its cumulative upkeep adds increasing amounts of red mana to its controller's mana pool. Under the old rules, it was quite likely to kill its owner through Mana Burn eventually, but said mechanic has been removed from the rules ages ago.
  • White had its own turn at being broken, with the combination of Winter Orb, Icy Manipulator and Armageddon allowing them to shut down the entire game and win by default when their opponent ran out of cards. Such "prison decks" lost some degree of potency when the rules for Artifacts were changed (under the old rules, an Artifact's effect was "turned off" when it was tapped, meaning Winter Orb only affected the owner when they wanted it to), and largely disappeared with the advent of fast combo decks that won long before the board could be locked down, being replaced by much quicker "control" decks. Rising Waters is a more modern variant of Winter Orb.
  • Zuran Orb is an extremely powerful card for any deck which needs life more than it needs Lands; Balance decks and Necrodecks love it equally, and it's especially powerful when combined with Fastbond.
  • All cards from the Unglued and Unhinged Self-Parody sets are banned in normal play, but some of the cards from these sets are so overpowered that if used in normal play they would be considered an enormous game breaker. R&D's Secret Lair (which doesn't so much break the game as destroy it) and Gleemax (which lets you control any card in play if you can sneak around its enormous casting cost) are key examples. The third un-set, Unstable, added another amazingly broken card in Rules Lawyer, which like Secret Lair, doesn't so much break the game as shatter it into a million tiny pieces, especially if you can get two of them out so they can protect each other. It's effectively Platinum Angel + Avacyn, Angel of Hope on steroids, with some other useful abilities added on top of that.
    • That said, some un- cards have later been printed in real sets, such as The Cheese Stands Alone becoming Barren Glory in Future Sight, with the only change being The Cheese's static ability becoming one that triggers at the beginning of your upkeep.