Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What Is Cycling in Magic?
Cycling is a powerful Magic keyword that lets you pay a cost (often two mana) and discard a card to draw one, letting you tweak your hand and stock your graveyard. Cycling favors blue and black but is found throughout all colors, and it's a great way to fill your graveyard for spell mastery, delirium, and threshold effects.
Plus, you can activate cycling as an instant (even if the card itself isn't), letting you utilize the effect at any time. However, not all cycles are created equal, with some costing more mana, and others letting you search specific cards rather than drawing. So, which looping spells reign supreme? These are the 10 best cycle cards in Magic: The Gathering!
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 1 (2 when cycling)
Usually, cycling cards are slightly weaker to balance their versatility, but Unearth is surprisingly efficient. It bears the de facto cycling trait, letting you pay two mana to discard it and draw something else, but you can also cast it with a single swamp to return a creature with CMC three or less from your graveyard to the battlefield.
Few revivals this cheap come a downside as minor as Unearth's negligible restriction, making it great for black decks full of early-game minions.
9. Cloud of Faeries
CMC: 2 (2 when cycling)
Cloud of Faeries is a weak 1/1 (one power and one toughness), but her multitude of great abilities make her worth considering. Flying lets her soar over ground blockers, her faerie lineage combos superbly with her brethren, but most importantly, when she enters the field, you can untap up to two lands! Thus, you've basically cast her for free, and she's a great way to access the reduced prices of surge cards without depleting your resources.
Since her summon refills your mana, you'll rarely want to toss Cloud, but when you need more cards, you can pay two mana to cycle her, always a nice option to have available.
8. Archfiend of Ifnir
CMC: 5 (2 when cycling)
Ifnir costs a fair chunk of five mana, but he arrives as a solid 5/4 demon with flying. Additionally, whenever you cycle or discard another card, you place a -1/-1 counter on all opposing creatures, gradually weakening and killing enemy units. And since this neither targets nor destroys, it's a great way to dampen foes with hexproof or indestructible.
Like our previous spells, you can cycle Ifnir for two mana, a good way to replace him in the early-game if you can't yet afford his cost.
7. Death Pulse
CMC: 4 (3 when cycling)
Death Pulse costs four mana, but it functions at instant speed and debuffs its target by -4/-4 for the turn, outright killing most foes. Alternatively, Pulse's cycling cost actually needs three mana (and two must be black), but you not only get to draw, but also reduce an enemy's stats by -1/-1 for the round.
This isn't as powerful as Pulse's regular effect, but its lower cost and hand replenishment generally make it a better option—use it to finish off combat-weakened troops while boosting your hand.
6. Ash Barrens
CMC: 0 (1 when cycling)
Like other lands, Ash Barrens doesn't cost any mana, but you can only play one terrain per turn. Similar to wastes, it can tap for a colorless mana, but you can also spend one mana to activate its basic landcycling, letting you discard it to search out a basic land from your deck.
This quickly places a land into your graveyard, and it's perfect for searching out specific mana types in multicolor decks. Plus, cycling a land doesn't use up your land per turn, letting you immediately harness your searched terrain.
5. Decree of Silence
CMC: 8 (6 when cycling)
One of the most powerful yet expensive cards in Magic, Decree of Silence needs a whopping eight mana to cast. However, this enchantment auto-counters the next three spells your opponents cast, negating their next trio of cards without fail. You can also cycle Silence for a hefty six mana, but you get to counter a spell in addition to drawing a card.
Silence works particularly well in EDH format using "Jhoira of the Ghitu" as commander, where her suspend ability will (eventually) let you field it for free! Also, combo with cards that exile and return your permanents, allowing you to reset Silence's depletion counters and continuously thwart opposing spells.
CMC: 2 (2 when cycling)
Another of the best counterspells in the game, Miscalculation only needs two resources and negates an opposing spell unless its controller spends an extra two mana. In most cases, they'll be unable to pay and you'll have ruined their strategy, and even if they can afford the fee, you're still depriving them of extra resources.
Plus, if your opponent's running anti-counter tactics, Miscalculations' standard cycling prevents it from staying dead in your hand, letting you swap it for something else.
3. Homing Sliver
CMC: 3 (3 when cycling)
One of the best slivers around, Homing adeptly supports his brethren. While he's weak at 2/2, he grants all slivers "slivercycling", letting you pay three mana to discard them and search out a sliver from your deck.
Homing himself bears thiz trait, and if you're playing a commander sliver deck, he quickly pulls your unique components without having to rifle through your 100-card deck.
2. Allied-Color Lands
CMC: 0 (2 when cycling)
Each color partners with its two allied factions to offer powerful land cards listed below. The terrains enters the field tapped, but can later exhaust for one of two colors. Unlike most multicolor-tapping fields, they actually possess both basic land types, qualifying for effects that rely on islands, forests, and the like.
- Green and white: Scattered Groves
- Blue and white: Irrigated Farmland
- Blue and black: Fetid Pools
- Red and green: Sheltered Thicket
- Red and black: Canyon Slough
Useful for multicolor decks and effects that empower land types, you can also simply cycle these fields for two mana when searching out non-lands.
CMC: 3 (3 when cycling)
Why you gotta make things so Complicated? Well, because it's a great card. Using its regular effect, you can negate any type of spell unless its owner pays an additional three mana, a hefty fee they'll very rarely be able to afford. However, if you cycle Complicate for the same price, they only have to pay a single mana—but now you get to draw.
Pay close attention to your opponent's resources when using Complicate—its default mode works great when they have a few resources to spare, but if they're all tapped out, use its cycle to both counter and draw in one potent package. A mainstay in my own blue commander decks, Complicate's a surprisingly affordable bargain, costing less than a single dollar!
How to Support a Cycling Deck in Magic
Remember, even spells without cycling can support the ability, like the enchantment "Astral Slide", which lets you temporarily exile creatures when you cycle. Even better, the artifact "Fluctuator" only costs two mana and reduces your cycling costs by as much, making it absolutely crucial to a dedicated rotation deck.
Cycling remains a versatile ability that helps any deck quickly search out its aces, and I hope it appears on future cards. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of cycling spells, vote for your favorite member and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill