Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Card Advantage in Magic
Maintaining card advantage is crucial in Magic, helping you play lands and spells every turn. Fortunately, many "cantrips" draw a card as they enter the field, immediately replacing themselves in hand. Found across all colors and card types, cantrips are a versatile bunch that usually don't cost much mana—which reign supreme? These are the 50 best cantrips in Magic: The Gathering!
50. Cloudkin Seer
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 3
For a common, Seer's pretty impressive. 2/1 stats are medicore for his price, but flying, a draw on entry, and both the elemental and wizard subtypes more than compensate.
49. Aura Blast
Blast instantly destroys an enchantment, then draws you a card, and it's only gained power due to the influx of enchantments from Theros Beyond Death.
If you're unlucky enough to face a deck that doesn't use enchantments, you can always cast Blast on one of your indestructible enchantments (the Theros gods work well) to get its draw.
48. Rogue Refiner
Rogue Refiner's subtypes aren't great (though rogue can be useful with prowl cards), but he's got decent 3/2 stats, his cantrip effect, and he gives you two energy counters on arrival, empowering other energy-based abilities.
47. Elvish Visionary
Visionary's 1/1 stats are puny, but she's inexpensive and has elf synergy, blending well with green's most abundant tribe. The shaman subtype can also come in handy with cards like "Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro".
46. Ichor Wellspring
Like other cantrips, Ichor draws on arrival, but it also draws when sent from field to graveyard, so it's actually nice when destroyed by a removal. It doesn't have any field effects, but having it out also discounts your artifact affinity spells.
45. Warlord's Fury
Permanent cantrips draw on arrival, but instant and sorcery cantrips simply draw as part of their effect. Fury here only works during your main phase, but it's cheap and grants your creatures first strike for the turn, making them harder to safely block. Combo with deathtouch for a lethal combo.
44. Leadership Vacuum
Vacuum returns all commanders a player controls to the command zone, then lets you draw a card. While it's only useful in EDH format, it's a powerful and instant removal with several situational benefits:
- It bypasses hexproof on commanders (the spell targets a player)
- You can bounce multiple partner commanders
- You can get rid of multiple commanders if yours is stolen
43. Disinformation Campaign/Dovin's Acuity
These two enchantments each draw on arrival; campaign also makes opponents discard and Acuity gives you two life. Plus, you can return Campaign to hand when you surveil and Acuity when you cast an instant during your main phase, letting you recast them for even more cantrips!
This one's what's called a "slowtrip", drawing a card at the start of the next turn's upkeep instead of immediately. Burnout will counter a blue instant spell, great against their notorious counterspells. Plus, you can still cast Burnout on non-blue instants; it won't counter them, but you'll get the draw.
41. Bonds of Mortality
Mortality gives a draw on entry and lets you spend a green mana at any time to make opposing creatures lose hexproof and indestructible for the turn. Both are excellent defensive traits, so the ability to remove them can really save you from big threats.
40. Hallowed Moonlight
Until end of turn, Moonlight exiles creatures that would enter the field but weren't cast, like tokens or cards put into play via effect. Its effectiveness depends on what your opponent runs, but at absolute worst, you've got a two-cost instant cantrip.
39. Setessan Training
Many auras are criticized for their risk—you lose them if you lose their enchanted creature—so it's nice to have cantrips to fall back on in case you're hit with a removal. Training doesn't cost much mana, draws on entry, and gives +1/+0 and trample, piercing excess damage through blockers.
38. Cartouche of Knowledge
Effectively a superior version of white's "Angelic Gift", Knowledge grants its creature +1/+1 and flying. It also has the unique cartouche subtype, empowering your cartouche-related abilities.
37. Sage of Ancient Lore/Werewolf of Ancient Hunger
Sage's power and toughness become equal to the number of cards in hand, blending well with her cantrip effect, but beware: the cantrip won't save her if you had nothing else in hand when cast (you still get to draw, but she'll hit the graveyard from having zero toughness).
During an upkeep where no spells were cast last turn, Sage transforms into her Werewolf form. Here, her stats are equal to the total cards in all hands (perfect for multiplayer) and she gains vigilance and trample. That's a powerful beatstick, but note she'll transform back during an upkeep where two or more spells were cast last turn.
36. Fblthp, the Lost
Compared to prior early-game cantrip creatures, Fblthp has puny 1/1 stats, no tribal support, and since he's legendary, you can only control one. However, he'll give a draw on entry, or two if he was cast or entered from your library!
Casting spells from your deck will require the assistance of other cards, but you'll be well-rewarded with two draws on top of blocker fodder.
35. Arcum's Astrolabe/Prophetic Prism
These are useful mana-fixers, each tapping to convert one mana into one of any color. Astrolabe costs one less to cast, but needs mana from a snow permanent; Prism is more expensive, but accepts any resources.
You'll find a similar mana-fixing effect on "Chromatic Sphere", whose cantrip triggers when sent to the graveyard.
Leap gives flying for the turn, making a creature harder to block or (since it's an instant) letting you block an opposing flying unit. It's a small and temporary boost, but useful for its cheap price, speed, and cantrip.
33. Kenrith's Transformation
Attach Transformation to an enemy unit; it becomes a 3/3 elk who loses other subtypes and abilities. While it won't actually destroy its target, that's a great way to circumvent troublesome abilities while drawing a card and triggering enchantment effects. Or, put Transformation on your own weak 1/1 token to boost its stats.
32. Dark Intimations
Dark Intimations requires several colors and mana, but makes each opponent sacrifice a creature or planeswalker and discard a card. Meanwhile, you return a creature or planeswalker from your graveyard to hand and draw.
Stopping there, you'd already have a great spell, but when you play a Nicol Bolas planeswalker, Intimations will exile itself from your graveyard to give him one extra loyalty.
31. Eidolon of Blossoms
Eidolon admittedly has poor 2/2 stats, vulnerable to red's weak "Shock" removal. However, her constellation gives you a draw whenever she or another enchantment enters your field, quickly refilling your hand. And since Eidolon herself is an enchantment creature, she'll trigger your other constellation abilities.
Squelch is one of few spells that counters an ability rather than spell. It only works on activated abilities (ones that are paid with a cost, as opposed to naturally triggered ones), but it's an excellent disruption that refills your hand.
Shelter gives a creature protection from a color of your choice for the turn, meaning they can't be damaged, blocked, targeted, or enchanted by sources with that color. This makes an excellent response to a removal, refilling your hand along the way.
28. Crackling Drake
Perfect for instant/sorcery decks, Crackling Drake has flying, four toughness, and power equal to the number of instants/sorceries in your graveyard and exile. This quickly skyrockets his stats, and the fact that exiled spells count defends against graveyard punishers like "Leyline of the Void".
Crackling Drake also has a cheaper but cantripless counterpart in "Enigma Drake", both excellent supports for instant/sorcery Izzet decks.
This one's similar to Leadership Vacuum, but more versatile and works in non-commander, instantly bouncing a creature back to hand and drawing a card. Simple, cheap, and great against creatures buffed by +1/+1s or tokens (which will stop existing).
26. Carven Caryatid
Thanks to defender, Caryatid can't attack, but her 2/5 stats and cantrip provide an excellent blocker, and her spirit subtype has a few tribal supports (especially in blue). You might also consider the similar "Runic Armasaur", who doesn't draw on entry but whenever an opponent activates a non-mana ability.
These are basically the same spell but need different colors and shield different card types. Insists prevents your next creature that turn from being countered; Overmaster does the same for an instant/sorcery.
Note that Insist and Overmaster can themselves be countered, but most foes aren't willing to negate a one-cost play.
24. Contentious Plan
Contentious Plan proliferates, adding counters to players/permanents that already have one. It also has a more expensive but instant-speed alternative in "Steady Progress", and a costlier but double-drawing form in "Tezzeret's Gambit".
23. Regal Force
For his large price, Force only has average 5/5 stats, but he draws a card on entry for each green creature you control. At worst, that's one (himself), a single cantrip, but it can skyrocket in mono-green builds. And Force has only gotten better with time thanks to his elemental faction's tribal upgrades.
22. To Arms!
Arms instantly untaps all your creatures, giving you surprise blockers or reusable tap effects; mix into green to get double the resources from mana-tappers.
21. Shadow of Doubt
Doubt's hybrid symbols accept either blue or black mana, and it instantly prevents all players from searching their libraries that turn. Use it to negate common fetch lands and tutors found in commander format.
20. Explore/Growth Spiral
These are basically the same spell, but Spiral adds instant speed at the cost of needing specific colors. Either way, both draw a card and let you play an extra land, great setup for future plays.
19. Quicken/Scout's Warning
Quicken gives your turn's next sorcery flash (letting you cast it at instant speed), while Scout's Warning does the same for a creature. Both useful and cheap abilities; try using Quicken to delay a board wipe and kill more units.
Opt's an excellent cantrip and deck-thinner, instantly scrying one, then drawing a card, perfect for ensuring your early land drops and quickly empowering cards like Crackling Drake.
A staple in both standard and commander, Opt is also one of today's cheapest spells, costing well under a single dollar!
17. Portent//Ponder/Preordain/Serum Visions/Gitaxian Probe
These guys have similar effects, letting you rearrange your deck's next few cards, then draw. "Clairvoyance" and "Peek" can serve as man's substitutes.
Gitaxian Probe spends either one mana or two life to draw and reveal an opponent's hand, a big tactical benefit. All are useful early-game blue cantrips.
Exclude only works on a creature, but counters it while drawing a card. Throw in a flexible costs that only needs one blue and you've got an excellent counterspell.
Dimiss is a more-expensive Exclude, countering while drawing a card, but it works against any spell type, not just creatures, making it more reliable.
14. Ground Seal
Ground Seal prevents cards in graveyards from being targeted by spells or abilities, devastating against black's graveyard shenanigans. It's also an easy way to trigger your enchantment-based abilities.
13. Silvergill Adept
Adept requires you either reveal a merfolk from your hand or pay three extra mana when you cast him, so he really only belongs in merfolk decks. But he excels in them, offering a cheap 2/1 cantrip who also enjoys wizard synergy.
12. Nissa, Vastwood Seer/Nissa, Sage Animist
Nissa's only sort of a cantrip, not drawing on entry but adding a basic forest from deck to hand. From there, she's a 2/2 elf who transforms into a planeswalker when you play a land and control at least seven.
As the Sage Animist, Nissa's +1 plays the top card of your deck if it's a land, or adds it to hand otherwise, -2 creates a 4/4 legendary token, and -7 untaps up to six lands, making them 6/6 elementals.
11. Wall of Blossoms/Wall of Omens
These are excellent 0/4 walls that draw on entry, perfect for defender decks or just as general blockers. You might also consider the saga "The Birth of Meletis", which adds a basic plains for its first effect, creates a 0/4 wall with its second, and gives two life with its final.
Snakeform works at instant speed, accepts either blue or green mana, and turns a creature into a 1/1 snake for the turn. They lose all other subtypes and abilities, perfect for weakening attackers before blocking and killing them.
9. Ice-Fang Coatl
Coatl is only 1/1, but has flash, flying, and the snow type plus snake subtype. He works well with other snow permanents, gaining deathtouch while you control at least three others.
8. Shadow Rift/Slip Through Space
These two both make a creature unblockable for the turn, great for a late-game finisher. Well, Rift gives them shadow, which usually makes them unblockable since they can only block or be blocked by other creatures with shadow (which are very rare).
Space also has devoid, meaning it lacks color, which makes it available to more tutoring effects.
7. Risen Reef
Despite weak 1/1 stats, Reef makes elemental tribal decks a force to be reckoned with. On entry, he draws a card and lets you play it trapped if it's a land, and he triggers the same ability when other elementals enters your field! Since he's not legendary, feel free to cast multiple copies and have their abilities stack.
6. Hydroid Krasis
Krasis needs one green mana, one blue, and X more, giving you half X life and draws and bearing X +1/+1 counters. He's also got flying, and his draws and life trigger on being cast, not entering the field, meaning you still get them even if he's countered.
Abeyance drastically restrict an opponent's turn, preventing them from casting instants, sorceries, or using non-mana activated abilities. You can even cast it during your turn to block counterspells against your other plays.
Disrupt counters an instant or sorcery unless its owner pays one, a brutal denial when your opponent taps all mana for a big play. And if you're fighting a deck that doesn't use many instants or sorceries, you can always cast Disrupt on your own spell to get its draw (just make sure you have an extra mana).
Manamorphose turns one colorless mana and one red or green into two in any color combination, an excellent mana-fixer for multicolor decks. So, you're spending two and a card to get two and a card, except the two are now whatever colors you need.
2. Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
CMC: 2 (4 with escape)
When Uro enters the field or attacks, you gain three life, draw a card, and can play a land from your hand tapped onto the field. He's sacrificed when cost for his base price, but can escape from your graveyard for four by exiling five other cards from it.
1. Baleful Strix
Simple yet powerful, Strix is only 1/1 but has flying and deathtouch, making him a lethal blocker against threat. He's also got the artifact type, working especially well in artifact-supporting decks and proving uncommons can be just as deadly as mythics.
Using Cantrips in Magic
In addition to their natural draws, cantrips are especially potent with storm decks (which strengthen based on the number of spells played that turn). They also quickly fill your graveyard with fodder for delve, spell mastery, and escape abilities.
You might also consider delayed draw effects (like "Ancestral Vision" and "Lifecrafter's Beastiary"), but for, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next set of cantrips, vote for your favorite and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill
Ronnie Weeks on March 31, 2020:
wow! I've never played with that.