Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Standing Cycling Decks in Magic: The Gathering
Magic's Ikoria set featured several cards with the cycling mechanic. You can play these cards for their base price, or you can instantly discard them from hand and pay their cycling fee (usually one or two mana) to draw a new card.
Not only is cycling useful for hand-manipulation, but it's also supported by several cards, leading to dedicated decks with a unique theme—which spells are essential for the cause? These are the ten best cards for standard cycling decks (in the Ikoria/Zendikar Rising rotation) in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Footfall Crater
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 1 (cycling 1)
Crater is simple, cheap, and falls into the cycling theme's core colors of white/red. For one mana, you enchant a land to let it tap to give a creature trample and haste for the turn. Or, you can simply cycle Crater from hand for one mana, drawing a new card.
It's not so much that Crater's effect is good (though it can be useful for getting trample) as it's a solid on-color cycler that can be recovered from the graveyard with a companion's effect (more on that soon).
9. Raugrin Triome
CMC: 0 (cycling 3)
One of the decisions cycling themes must make is whether to incorporate a third color on top of white/red, almost always blue. If you opt to do so (which I recommend), you'll want some Raugrin Triomes. They enter tapped, but give either blue, white, or red mana, ensuring you have whatever you need. More than that, you can cycle it by paying three, an expensive cycling cost, but still nice to have available.
Mill decks are popular right now, so another advantage of Triomes over basic lands is they benefit your ace card ("Zenith Flare") simply by being in the graveyard.
8. Boon of the Wish Giver
CMC: 6 (cycling 1)
If you run blue, Boon is an expensive but occasionally useful play, drawing four cards, a nice way to replenish a depleted hand. Or, you can simply cycle it for one, a cheap and easy effect to trigger your cycling-based shenanigans.
7. Go for Blood
CMC: 2 (cycling 1)
Blood can either cycle for one or have a creature you control fight an opposing creature. This is one of few removals in your deck, useful when you absolutely need to handle an opposing threat, but often, you'll simply want to cycle it since it's so cheap.
6. Drannith Healer
CMC: 2 (cycling 1)
You can cycle Healer for one or cast him as a 2/2. His effect gives you one life whenever you cycle another card, useful for outlasting aggro. Definitely run four in your deck, but you'll want Healer's counterpart even more…
5. Drannith Stinger
CMC: 2 (cycling 1)
Stinger is just like Healer, a 2/2 able to be cycled for one, except instead of healing, he hits opponents for one when you cycle. In most cases, you'll prefer a Stinger over a Healer, as you'll get enough healing from Zenith Flare, but both are staples in the theme.
4. Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Using Lurrus as your companion lets you add him to hand from outside the game for three mana. The downside is he only lets your deck have permanents of cost two or less (instants and sorceries aren't restricted).
Still, only a few worthwhile cycling permanents, like "Shark Typhoon," fall outside this range, meaning you're basically getting a free companion. Once out, Lurrus lets you once per turn cast a permanent of cost two or less from your graveyard. He can't let you cycle from it, but it's still a nice way to recover key cards such as…
3. Valiant Rescuer
CMC: 2 (cycling 2)
Rescuer's 3/1 stats can hit hard early on if your opponent has no blockers. More than that, he creates a 1/1 soldier token the first time you cycle each turn, so you can create two per round by cycling on both your and your opponent's move.
You can also cycle Rescuer himself for two, but usually, you want him out to rapidly swarm the field for an offensive push.
2. Flourishing Fox
CMC: 1 (cycling 1)
Both casting and cycling Fox only cost one mana, making him a great turn-one option. He starts as a 1/1 but gets a +1/+1 whenever you cycle. If your opponent isn't careful, you can catch them off-guard with this in combat. For instance, swing with a 1/1 Fox, they block with a 2/2 thinking they're safe, then you cycle twice to make Fox a 3/3 and win the exchange.
1. Zenith Flare
Flare is your endgame, the coup de grâce that often wins the match. For four, it instantly hits any target for damage equal to the number of cycling cards in your graveyard and gives you that much life. You can eliminate creatures or planeswalkers with this if needed, but usually, you want to directly strike your opponent for massive damage.
Zenith Flare's one weakness is its vulnerability to graveyard hate; if your opponent hits you with a "Soul-Guide Lantern," your Flares become practically worthless. In those cases, you'll have to rely on Rescuer's swarming and Stinger's damage to win.
Still, Flare is absolutely crucial to a cycler's success, and it won't break the bank, costing less than a single dollar!
Advantages of Cycling Decks in Standard
Running cycling themes has several advantages (in addition to their own power) in MTG Arena. Since most of its cards are just commons/uncommons, you don't have to expend many rare and mythic wildcards to fill its ranks. Also, blue/black mill Dimir themes are popular as of this writing, and the more they stockpile your graveyard, the stronger your Zenith Flares get.
Even when these cards eventually rotate out of standard, they're still great choices for EDH or modern cycling decks, but for now, vote for your favorite, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill