Artifacts have not done too shabby, historically, and in the game's first 25 years, there have been some pretty outrageous hits. All this week, we're taking a look at the Top 25 artifacts of all-time. The first five of our countdown can be found here .
Between you and me, this list definitely actually contains closer to 50, but I'm not writing a nineteen-part expose' on artifacts that produce more mana than they cost.
Speaking of artifact mana, few cards in the game's history have been as overtly targeting of artifact mana as Chalice of the Void, especially the Moxes.
Okay, okay, that one was pretty on the nose as well. Let's just get this out of the way…
These are reasonably strong cards; however, regardless of restricted lists and championship lists, these are not among the top 25 artifacts of all-time. It is definitely Mishra's Workshop doing it, not these cards.
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 1 Chief of the Foundry
- 4 Foundry Inspector
- 2 Hangarback Walker
- 1 Lodestone Golem
- 3 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 4 Phyrexian Revoker
- 4 Steel Overseer
- 4 Walking Ballista
Since, I mean, Foundry Inspector, Chief of the Foundry, and Phyrexian Metamorph are all totally just on their own merits… You know, costing three colorless...
Anyway, Chalice of the Void is a little bit of a special case. Maybe it's getting a bit of a boost from kind of representing all the $T4KS cards (The $4K Solution, once the first two letters switched places, on account of the Smokestacks that appeared in the lists).
Chalice of the Void is actually quite strong on its own, however, even without Workshops. The key is just how effective a Chalice on one is, not just a Chalice on two. The ability to lock out one-cost cards (which is one of the absolute best costs, in general), has proven itself an extremely influential force in Legacy and Modern, giving potent disruption to anyone that can live without one-drops, themselves. For instance:
- 4 Goblin Rabblemaster
- 4 Legion Warboss
- 3 Magus of the Moon
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 1 Hazoret the Fervent
- 1 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Larry Niven's Disk was the original "easy out" for decks relying on colors without access to artifact or enchantment removal, namely blue decks and black decks. When you're playing a strategy with a lot of power that just needs a catch-all solution to everything, it's hard to do much better than Nevinyrral's Disk.
In true Draw-Go decks, the extremely heavy use of permission can contain most threats as long as you don't fall behind on the battlefield. Nevinyrral's Disk provides a catch-up mechanism for those that do sneak through. Besides, you haven't lived until you've seen the demoralized look of an opponent that just had their battlefield destroyed by a Nevinyrral's Disk, with a Capsize bouncing it before the effect resolved.
Just as blue decks used the Disk to clean up problematic permanents that snuck past permission, black decks used it to reset the battlefield after stripping their opponent's hand of any further resources.
Necropotence is one of the most powerful card draw engines of all-time, but it is not without a drawback. Sometimes your life total would run low and you'd want to go back to drawing cards like normal. Despite black "not having enchantment removal," a simple activation of Nevinyrral's Disk could get you out of the dark bargain and back to drawing cards without life loss.
Nevinyrral's Disk also provided a safety valve for relieving some of the pressure protection from black creatures would put on the strategy.
18. Aether Vial
Aether Vial has enjoyed a long and illustrious career as an enabler for various linear aggro decks.
The list goes on and on. As long as you've got a fair number of one, two, and three-drops, Aether Vial has got you covered. These days, the most common Aether Vial strategy is probably Humans in Modern:
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 3 Militia Bugler
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 3 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
While some Aether Vial decks just want it for the two or three mana discount a turn it can afford, decks like this show just how powerful the color-fixing requirements can be; alongside Cavern of Souls, it really makes life hell for anyone overly reliant on permission.
Playing your creatures at instant speed, uncounterable, without paying their costs… kind of abusive.
17. Black Vise
Black Vise was the original "cheesy" card, brutally punishing people who stumbled on mana or came out of the gate slowly. Designed to punish Counterspell decks, it ended up being so effective with Howling Mine as to spawn numerous archetypes seeking to capitalize on its mana efficiency and massive damage capacity in spots where everyone has too many cards, regardless of what the opponent might be playing or not.
While Black Vise was more famously used in Gruul "Vise Age" decks, it has also found a variety of interesting applications outside of such straight-forward aggression. For instance, Turbo Stasis decks made use of the (at the time restricted) Black Vise, in order to actually win matches under time pressure, as well as tactically, against Necropotence decks that needed their life as a resource (and generally, would always have seven cards in hand).
While not cracking our top 25 list, the anti-Black Vise, Ivory Tower, deserves an honorable mention.
Ivory Tower was good lifegain before there was good lifegain. The incentives it promotes are not great, but back then, it was just so hard to efficiently gain life, with two glaring exceptions. Ivory Tower (which was obviously amazing with cards that filled your hand, like Land Tax, Howling Mine, or Necropotence), and number sixteen on our list...
16. Zuran Orb
If you haven't played against Zuran Orb, it can be easy to underestimate just how outrageous of an impact this card has on games. It's not just that it's zero mana to play; it's zero mana to use. As such, you are effectively threatening to sacrifice your lands at any time, without actually needing to. You just get to play like you have fourteen more life than you actually have, or whatever. If your opponent tries to make a big move to kill you, or heaven forbid, tries to race you, you can just sacrifice what lands you need to when the time comes.
While the life boost was so great as to make the card nearly ubiquitous, some decks made even better use of it. Necropotence decks appreciated the lifegain and insurance having a Zuran Orb would afford, without question; however, perhaps the most effective users of Zuran Orb were Prison decks.
What's more, if you're just going to cast Armageddon anyway, you might as well get a bunch of free life out of the deal.
In fact, Zuran Orb was one-half of the absolutely back-breaking Zuran Orb + Balance combo that helped shape the era. Together, you'd get an Armageddon, a Wrath of God, a total life reset, and frequently, even a Mind Twist, for good measure.
Zuran Orb's efficiency is unmatched, but it was also the enormous slowdown of tournaments that lead to the card being restricted and banned in various formats. Today, it doesn't really have natural homes, as formats it is legal in are not as about lifegain versus damage as some past years; however, if you're ever in the market for the best lifegain zero mana can buy, you know where to turn.
Remember, it's not the gaining of life from Zuran Orb that is so powerful…
It's the threat that you could...