Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
The Biggest Threats in Magic's Arena (As of Ravnica Allegiance)
With a successful and free-to-play launch, Magic's online Arena community quickly attracted thousands of players. The game offers numerous playstyles and gradually expands your pool of cards—today we'll tackle some of the most dangerous threats you'll face.
Our list emphasizes spells both powerful and quickly obtained, with several being nabbed by simply completing Arena's tutorial (at least their initial copy, you'll need to spend wildcards for duplicates). With that in mind, here are ten of the most common and fearsome spells in Magic's online Arena!
10. Tendershoot Dryad
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 5
Admittedly, Dryad's 2/2 stats are pitifully low for her price. However, she offers several colorless slots, blending well in multi-color decks, and automatically creates a 1/1 saproling token during every upkeep (not just yours). Left unchecked, this quickly swarms your field with fodder, overwhelming foes with sheer numbers.
Additionally, Dryad's ascend trait grants you the city's blessing once you control at least ten permanents (easy with her swarming), and she'll provide your saprolings +2/+2 while you have it. This turns them into threatening 3/3s, and the effect stacks when you field multiple Dryads, as each will strengthen all your saproling tokens.
The sooner you eliminate an opposing Dryad, the better. Most players are smart enough to keep her out of battle, so you'll probably need removals. Red's spells do nicely, as two toughness can't withstand a one-cost "Bolt" or "Shivan Fire."
9. Fountain of Renewal
The bane of many red aggro decks, Fountain only needs one mana and accepts any color, making an easy first-turn play. It simply gains you a life at the start of your upkeep. You can also sacrifice it and spend three mana to draw a card, helpful in the late-game when your hand depletes.
Lifegain is one of Arena's most common strategies (especially with a certain card we'll later see), and Renewal both activates life-based effects and helps stall aggro decks until foes can counter. Plus, not many Arena themes run artifact removal, and trading for a one-cost relic isn't ideal anyway.
White's "Cleansing Nova" nuke works well against Fountain; you can either choose to destroy all creatures, or all artifacts and enchantments. If you pick the latter, you'll decimate Fountain as well as any other passive boosts your rivals have played.
8. Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Ajani ranks lower since he's not as easily obtained as most of today's spells, but he's a fierce planeswalker who most players utilize as soon as they unlock him. Needing only one color, Ajani enters with a solid four loyalty and brutal +1 effect, adding a +1/+1 counter on up to two creatures. With this continuous boost, even weaklings soon turn into threats, meaning it's only a matter of time before foes are overrun.
Then, -2 returns a creature from your graveyard directly to your field, and ultimate -7 grants an emblem that creates three 1/1 cat tokens with lifelink during your end step. Three excellent abilities in one.
Ajani's hard to defeat since he'll often be up to five loyalty on the turn he arrives, and white has several competent creatures to guard with. Still, you can redirect a red "Bolt" and "Lightning Strike" for five damage, and if your opponent hasn't played angels, you might be able to slip past blockers with flying troops.
7. Ravenous Chupacabra
Chupacabra combines a soldier with a removal. His stats are only 2/2, but when he enters the field, he automatically destroys an opposing creature. This triggers regardless of how Chupacabra arrived (not just when cast), meaning it'll activate if you revive him from the graveyard or create duplicate tokens—we'll later cover a prime token factory.
Since Chupacabra himself isn't especially powerful, he's not difficult to topple, but he's already done his damage just by appearing. Here, the best offense is a good defense, as you can thwart Chupas with a blue counterspell, or by simply applying hexproof to your units. White's angel "Shalai, Voice of Plenty" shields your other creatures, though she herself remains vulnerable.
6. Enigma Drake/Crackling Drake
Both Enigma and Crackling Drake need red and blue mana, so you're mercifully save when facing mono-color decks. But if you see the Izzet colors, odds are strong you'll face these similar draconic beasts.
Both have flying, four toughness, and a power stat equal to the number of instants and sorceries in the graveyard. Though he needs one more mana, Crackling draws a card on arrival and also tallies exiled spells.
Thus, both will gradually increase in power, and their flying makes them difficult to guard. However, neither are legendary, so they're both valid targets for black's "Cast Away," and you can nail them while they're tapped and attacking with white's "Seal Away." Also, remember that banishing cards from your foe's graveyard weakens Enigma, though it won't deter Crackling.
5. Twilight Prophet
You'll unlock this mythic rare ace once you beat the tutorial, and she's a staple for any black deck. Prophet's stats are a mediocre 4/4, but she has flying and is just sturdy enough to withstand a red "Lightning Strike," making her challenging to remove.
Like Dryad, she has ascend, granting the city's blessing when you control ten or more permanents. Once you have it, Prophet automatically reveals the top cards of your deck during your upkeep, adds it to your hand, then each opponent loses its CMC in life while you gain that amount. You're basically getting an extra draw with potential lifegain and damage each turn, an enormous and continuous boost. And as icing on the cake, Prophet carries the useful vampire subtype, stacking well with white and black's most prominent faction.
When you face a Prophet, you can stall her by killing other opposing cards (if you lack a removal to take Prophet herself out), delaying the city's blessing. Just remember that once a player has it, they have it for good—at that point, do everything you can to annihilate Prophet before foes can harness her effect. If you luck out, her first few bonus draws will be lands, which won't hurt you since their CMC is 0.
4. Spawn of Mayhem
CMC: 4 (3 with spectacle)
Mayhem takes time to collect, but he's a brutal player often used in red/black aggro blends. At base cost, he's a 4/4 demon with both flying and trample, already an impressive deal. But he also carries a spectacle discount, letting you play him for just three mana if an opponent lost life during the current turn.
That's simply an amazing bargain for such a powerful card, and Mayhem also inflicts one damage to each player at your upkeep, gaining a +1/+1 counter if you then have 10 or less life. Not only does this potentially strengthen Mayhem even further, the damage discounts other spectacle cards.
Like Prophet, Mayhem's four toughness and flying guard him against many of red's starting removals, but if you've managed to nab a "Lava Coil," you can deal him four damage, hopefully defeating him before he ransacks your life points and gains his upgrades.
3. Light Up the Stage
CMC: 3 (1 with spectacle)
Light Up the Stage proves that blue isn't the only color with hand advantage. For three mana, this sorcery exiles the top two cards of your deck, letting you play them until the end of your next turn. This includes lands (following the regular one-per-turn limit).
Two turns should be more than enough to utilize the units, and with Stage's reduced spectacle cost, it only takes a single mana to play. Watch out for repeated Stage/Bolt/Lightning Strike combos, devastating your health and early creatures while amassing plenty of new cards.
Stage is hard to stop (especially in tangent with Mayhem), but lifegain strategies help endure the onslaught, hopefully buying time for a mid or late-game comeback. Speaking of which...
2. Ajani's Pridemate
With several copies unlocked right off the bat, Pridemade's a staple in any lifegain strategy. At 2/2, he's already solid as a two-cost creature, but he automatically scores a +1/+1 counter whenever you gain life, quickly skyrocketing in power. When combined with cards like Fountain, Prophet, and "Ajani's Welcome," Pridemate will very likely become the strongest creature on the field. He's not legendary either, letting players field duplicate copies at once.
Thankfully, Pridemate doesn't naturally have flying or trample, so you can guard him with throwaway tokens. Better yet, cast a deathtouch creature to likely prevent him from attacking at all. Lacking one, you might have to spend an insta-kill removal to beat Pridemate, but be careful, as this will leave you one spell down against more-expensive threats.
1. Helm of the Host
CMC: 4 (5 to equip)
This equipment offers incredible power, and since it's rare (not mythic rare), it's not too difficult to craft duplicates with wildcards. Host requires four mana to cast, then five to equip, so it's definitely pricey. However, at the beginning of combat on your turn, it automatically creates a token copy of its bearer, except the token isn't legendary. Thus, you can duplicate any soldier without sacrificing, and the clones also gain haste, letting them act immediately. Since the effect triggers at your combat (and not upkeep like many cards), you'll also be able to make use of it the turn your equip Host.
Aim for Host more than its wielder; kill one recipient, and your foe can simply reattach it to another. While Arena is currently low on artifact-specific removals, it contains several catch-alls like "Ixalan's Binding" and "Deputy of Detention." These cards exile any non-land permanent, making them some of the only counters to Host. That said, they only exile until they themselves leave the field, meaning foes can potentially recover with a removal of their own.
More of Arena's Best Cards
In addition to today's spells, you'll find some players (especially ones who played the beta) utilizing rare but brutal aces like "Cast Down," "Nicol Bolas, the Ravager," and "Karn, Scion of Urza." And don't underestimate the power of subtype-based decks; it's often not one individual merfolk or goblin that does you in, but their combined swarm and support capabilities.
The more you play, the more cards you'll collect—Arena's most difficult when you first start, as you only have so many options. Still, completing the tutorial will nab many of today's entries and grant a fighting chance, but for now, as we eagerly await Arena's next expansion of top-tier spells, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill