While there are countless combos in Magic that can give any player an insane advantage, certain cards unbalance the game by themselves. It used to be the Power Nine that were the biggest cause for concern: Mox Emerald, Mox Jet, Mox Pearl, Mox Ruby, Mox Sapphire, Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Timetwister, and the unattainable (unless you’ve got $27,302 to burn) Black Lotus. The moxen and Black Lotus could provide a lot of mana on turn one, Time Walk gave an extra turn for cheap, Ancestral Recall gave a serious draw advantage for one mana, and Timetwister screwed with cards in hand and restored powerful spells from the graveyard (especially an issue if you’ve got a Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, and Time Walk in said graveyard).
But all these cards have long been banned or restricted. So is there a new Power Nine? Jace, the Mind Sculptor says, “Yes, there is.” Jace is powerful in in all his forms, but the Mind Sculptor is the most atrocious. +2: More or less stack your opponent’s deck one turn at a time. 0: stack your deck as you draw extra from it. -1: Unsummon. -12: Unless your opponent has a substantial set of resources on the battlefield and you have almost no life left, then you win. Did I mention it’s only four mana to cast? It’s no surprise that this card has been banned since it hit tournaments with the release of Worldwake.
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is another planeswalker that falls into this realm of a lot of power for a low cost. Ashiok hits the table (devastatingly earlier than something like Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker) and starts creating havoc for your opponents. With a nasty +2 milling (with exile) ability, it’s not going to be an easy planeswalker to kill either.
In the days when moxen ruled the battlefield, you were lucky to play a 3/3 creature with one ability for four mana (Bog Wraith, Phantom Monster, or War Mammoth). But welcome to the Theros block. Four mana now gets you seven of the ten gods and they are all self-supporting powerhouses: Thassa, God of the Sea; Purphoros, God of the Forge; Nylea, God of the Hunt; Mogis, God of Slaughter; Heliod, God of the Sun; Erebos, God of the Dead; and Ephara, God of the Polis. Take your pick, they’re all helping your other creatures or hurting your opponents, they’re all going to become big creatures when your devotion gets up, and they’re all indestructible. Cards like these make players miss the days when Wrath of God really meant something. Out of these, I’ve got to narrow it down a bit, so I’m going to say Nylea, God of the Hunt is the most outrageous for the cost. Nylea gives your other creatures trample and can pump them up for just four mana.
Stoneforge Mystic is a beautiful nightmare. While most combos require two specific cards, Stoneforge Mystic gives you an entire subtype to thrash your opponents with. Couple it with Elbrus, the Binding Blade and you just might have a 13/13 on your fourth turn. Anything that allows you to ignore mana costs is a game changer. Unlike Omniscience, Stoneforge Mystic doesn’t cost ten mana up front, and that gives it a huge advantage.
Umezawa's Jitte is one of those cards that only needs a little tweak to get it back to balanced. If it gained counters when combat damage was dealt to a player, it wouldn’t be quite as atrocious. But it isn’t balanced. As it is, rapidly building counters that each provide your choice of “Equipped creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn; or target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn; or you gain 2 life” are just a bit rough for one piece of equipment. Especially at two mana.
The Commander set brought us a few cards that seem needlessly overpowered: Kaalia of the Vast and Animar, Soul of Elements. Animar has two abilities that feed each other and lead to creatures with mana costs near zero: “Whenever you cast a creature spell, put a +1/+1 counter on Animar, Soul of Elements” and “Creature spells you cast cost less to cast for each +1/ +1 counter on Animar.” Couple that with protection from white and black, and you’ve got a creature that’s hard to get rid of. Kaalia is another of those cards that lets you ignore mana cost: “Whenever Kaalia of the Vast attacks an opponent, you may put an Angel, Demon, or Dragon creature card from your hand onto the battlefield tapped and attacking that opponent.” That gives you your pick of about 300 creatures (think Akroma, Empyrial Archangel, Griselbrand, or Platinum Angel) for nothing.
Lorwyn brought us the Elemental Incarnations. This may be my own history showing, but of the five of them, Vigor always seems to make games nearly impossible to win (or lose if you cast it). Since most green decks are creature based and spitting out Elf and Saproling tokens left and right, Vigor makes them unkillable and stronger every time you try to get rid of them. Of course, at least they’re not indestructible.
Lastly, a card that just made me stop when I read it. A little 3/1 Merfolk Rogue called True- Name Nemesis for three mana. Nothing special. Oh wait, it’s got this: “As True-Name Nemesis enters the battlefield, choose a player. True-Name Nemesis has protection from the chosen player.” All those “Exile target permanent” cards you’ve been keeping handy for gods and Planeswalkers and inconvenient equipment do absolutely nothing. You can’t block it, your Royal Assassin and Goblin Sharpshooter can’t take him down, your Lightning Bolt is useless here. Didn’t I mention the good old days when Wrath of God meant something?
So to sum it all up: Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver; Nylea, God of the Hunt; Stoneforge Mystic; Umezawa's Jitte; Kaalia of the Vast; Animar, Soul of Elements; Vigor; and True- Name Nemesis.
What’s your favorite (or most despised) broken card? What did I miss or completely get wrong in here? What did I get right?