Ever since the summer of 1993, Wizards of the Coasts’ card game Magic: the Gathering has been a tabletop staple. Now, expert players from Canada and the United States, Brazil, Poland, Japan, China, and many other nations compete at the highest level and show the rest of us what this game can really offer.
This means using the strongest and coolest cards and strategies, but sometimes, things get out of hand. A certain card may warp a format; that is, every other deck is forced to either use that card or counteract it, and no deck can afford to ignore it. If this happens for too long, a card gets itself banned, and sometimes, cards are banned because they enable a whole deck that is warping the meta. This can happen in Standard, Modern, Legacy/Vintage, and even Commander, so a banned/restricted list is kept. Let’s review the 10 scariest cards on that list and see what overpowered Magic cards are capable of.
10 Black Lotus
No list of overpowered Magic cards is complete without this iconic card. It’s the king of the famed “Power Nine,” dating back to 1993’s Alpha, and it’s simply far too good at what it does: boosting the player’s mana.
With it, turn-1 instant victories are possible, and that’s no fun. So, the Lotus got itself banned practically everywhere, but it is restricted in Vintage, meaning a player may have exactly one in their deck (counting their sideboard).
9 Mental Misstep
The New Phyrexia set is packed with jaw-dropping cards, from Karn Liberated to Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite to Batterskull. But in the case of Mental Misstep, the cruel power of Phyrexia took things too far.
If the player can spare two life points, this card is free to cast, and by now, Wizards is very cautious about making free-to-play spells. This is why. With absurd ease, a player can counter any one-drop spell, and such spells are staples in Modern, Legacy, and Vintage. This is downright unfair.
This card enabled the over-the-top Affinity strategy during the 2003-2004 Standard season, and that deck drove many players to temporarily quit Magic because the meta was so grossly warped. Artifacts like Skullclamp were responsible for this.
Skullclamp’s power/toughness boost is nothing impressive, but this Equipment is cheap to cast and equip. More importantly, is that triggered ability: when the equipped creature dies, its owner draws two cards. That’s outrageous, and with the -1 to the creature’s toughness, that’s easy to do on command. Uncool.
7 Oko, Thief Of Crowns
At first, this 3-drop Planeswalker was poised to be a strong part of the Standard meta when Throne of Eldraine arrived in the format. But the result was that this rogue fairy planeswalker wrecked everything like a bull in a china shop.
Its abilities are very strong and flexible, and its low casting cost and cheap loyalty costs made it scarily aggressive. This card kept shutting down strategies in various formats, so Oko got himself banned, and his card’s value dropped fast.
6 Tolarian Academy
In the lore, Tolaria was an advanced magic school run by the legendary planeswalker Urza, and he embodied everything about blue mana, from time to artifice. This land does match his vast power, but in game terms, it went too far.
Being legendary does too little to slow down its awesome ability, and any deck that can play a lot of artifacts will get its hands on way too much mana, too soon. What is more, some spells and abilities allow players to untap a land easily, and that makes Tolarian Academy even scarier.
5 Birthing Pod
Another card from the famed New Phyrexia makes the list, and anyone who played Modern in the early to mid-2010s will recognize this card either with fondness, or horror. It may be green, but Phyrexian mana means that any deck can wield it.
This card’s ability is quite powerful in any context, but if a deck is built around it (as was the case), that deck becomes far too consistent, and players were able to win games on turn three. This violates Wizards’ “turn-four format” paradigm, so it got itself banned.
4 Umezawa’s Jitte
The Champions of Kamigawa set is known for its low power level, which was overcompensating for the overpowered Mirrodin block. Only a few popular cards in this block proved worthwhile, and this particular equipment got carried away.
It should be clear right away why this card is banned in Modern: it does too much. In any colors, a player can equip this onto a creature, and rack up charge counters fast. From there, the player can easily pump the creature, gain life (probably the weakest ability), or weaken another creature. Modern couldn’t handle such a card.
3 Yawgmoth’s Will
Many of the most overpowered cards are artifacts, lands, and blue (this may not be a coincidence), but black mana has also made its share of unfair cards. Used right, Yawgmoth’s will can be an absolute terror, and so, it is banned in Legacy and Vintage alike.
Black mana is all about the graveyard, such as resurrecting dead creatures or exiling graveyard cards for more power, such as the Delve ability. But paying 2B to play all cards in the graveyard is recklessly powerful, and can often win the game on the spot.
2 Mana Drain
Overall, the ancient set Legends isn’t known for offering many powerful cards to the game; it’s mainly made up of clunky, multicolored legendary creatures. But then there’s Mana Drain, the set’s best card.
It’s a counterspell for just UU, but that’s not the outrageous part. The player can then add colorless mana to their mana pool during their next upkeep equal to the countered spell’s CMC, and that is just too much power for such a card.
1 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
This is one of the most recently printed cards to end up on the overall banned/restricted list that Wizards keeps. Ironically, this card was printed for Modern Horizons to breathe new life into the format, but it did so a little to well.
This 8/8 beater is an odd one. No mana can be spent to cast it, but with Delve and Convoke on this card, casting it is very easy, and it can even be cast from the graveyard. Being a black/green hybrid card makes the Convoke part even easier to handle. And so, Modern has said good-bye to Hogaak.
Magic: the Gathering is a tabletop staple, but some of the most powerful cards in its deck are banned and illegal. Can you guess which ones?