Power Nine

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The "Power Nine"

In Magic: The Gathering, the Power Nine are nine rare cards found in the Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited sets, and are widely considered to be the most powerful cards ever printed. In games where they are legal, they play an important role in the competitive tournament atmosphere. However, they are only legal in Vintage in which they are restricted, meaning a deck may not contain more than one copy of the cards. Due to their power, these nine cards are considered "broken" (overwhelmingly powerful).

The cards[edit | edit source]

The Power Nine are:

Black Lotus[edit | edit source]

The Black Lotus is the most valuable Magic card ever to be released in a regular set. Especially its Alpha and Beta versions are considered to be extremely valuable.[1] Former Pro player and Magic writer Zvi Mowshowitz has declared Black Lotus as the best artifact of all time, claiming every deck in the history of the game is better with a Black Lotus in it.[2] The illustration on Black Lotus was painted by Christopher Rush, who was at the time a Wizards of the Coast employee. The Black Lotus illustration is a depiction of a black lotus flower over a foliage backdrop.

Moxen[edit | edit source]

The cycle of five Mox cards — Mox Pearl, Mox Ruby, Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet and Mox Emerald (colloquially "Moxen") — are Artifacts, that are similar to the five Basic lands in that they add one mana of a specific color to their owner's mana pool. In most situations the Mox cards are better than lands because a player can play as many of these as they desire while a player can only play one Basic land per turn.[2] All five Mox cards have been illustrated by Dan Frazier. In each artwork a different piece of jewelry is depicted.

Ancestral Recall[edit | edit source]

Ancestral Recall allows the player to use one card to draw three more at an extremely low mana cost.[3] It originated as part of the "boons" cycle, one of each color, which gave three of something (e.g. mana, life, damage) for the cost of one mana. Ancestral Recall remains the only one of these cards to not have been reprinted since Unlimited.

Timetwister[edit | edit source]

Timetwister holds great power due to its ability to get a hand of fresh cards with the possibility of drawing cards that used to be in that player's graveyard.[3]

Time Walk[edit | edit source]

In Time Walk's early play test version it had the text "Target player loses next turn." While the intent of the game designers was that the opposing player would skip a turn, many new players saw the card and believed that the targeted player would lose the entire game (i.e.: "Target player loses [during his/her] next turn" instead of the intended "Target player loses [the ability to take his/her] next turn"). However, the wording was changed prior to the release of Alpha.[4] Even with the altered wording, Time Walk remains the cheapest way to get an extra turn in the game.

The "Power Nine" in a modern frame

Variants of power cards[edit | edit source]

The fame of the cards has been alluded to in subsequent printings of Magic: the Gathering.

Black Lotus[edit | edit source]

The first attempt to design a fixed Black Lotus was Lion's Eye Diamond from the Mirage edition. Lion's Eye Diamond was designed to be unplayable due to causing the player to discard his or her hand but still ended up being powerful.[2] The card was eventually restricted in Vintage. Lotus Vale, from Weatherlight, was a land that permitted repeated use of the Black Lotus's ability, but required that two lands be sacrificed when played. The Tempest card called Lotus Petal is identical to Black Lotus except that it only produces one mana instead of three and also ended up restricted in Vintage. Urza's Saga saw the release of Lotus Blossom, which costs {2} and enables its controller to put a petal counter (possibly in reference to Lotus Petal) on the card at the beginning of his or her upkeep, then tap and sacrifice the card to add a number of one color of mana to his or her mana pool equal to the number of petal counters that had been on the card. In the Mirrodin set, the Gilded Lotus imitates the Black Lotus's ability by producing the same amount of mana without being sacrificed, but at a much higher cost {5} to play. Lotus Bloom, printed in the expansion set Time Spiral, has Black Lotus's ability but incorporates a three turn delay.

Also of note are creatures with "lotus" in their name that have the ability to "add one mana of any color to your mana pool." Lotus Guardian, a 4/4 artifact creature with flying from the Invasion expansion that costs {7}, has the activated ability "{T}: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool." Lotus Cobra, a 2/1 green creature from the Zendikar expansion that costs {1}{G} (and the first colored card with "Lotus" in its name), utilizes a landfall ability to produce mana, has the triggered ability "Landfall - Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may add one mana of any color to your mana pool."

Moxen[edit | edit source]

Mirrodin features a Chrome Mox while Stronghold is the home of Mox Diamond, both of which ended up being fairly powerful but still balanced.[2] Mox Opal from the Scars of Mirrodin expansion enables its controller to add one mana of any color to his or her mana pool via the Metalcraft keyword ability. Mirage had five Mox-like cards called "Diamonds", one for each color. Diamonds were identical to Moxes, except that they cost {2} to play, and they enter the battlefield tapped.

Ancestral Recall[edit | edit source]

In Ice Age appeared Brainstorm. Though the caster of Brainstorm has to put two cards back on top of his or her library after drawing three, Brainstorm is still considered a powerful card, and has been restricted in vintage. In Time Spiral Ancestral Vision but with a four-turn delay, similar to the delay that was used to balance Lotus Bloom. In Magic 2012, Visions of Beyond functions as a cantrip, but can completely duplicate the ability of Ancestral Recall if a graveyard has 20 or more cards in it. In Worldwake, a planeswalker named Jace, the Mind Sculptor was printed. His [0] ability is basically a Brainstorm for free. The Alliances card Library of Lat-Nam allows the caster's opponent to choose between the caster drawing three cards at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep (a la Ancestral Recall), or the caster searching his/her library for one card, and putting that card into their hand (a la Demonic Tutor). In Khans of Tarkir, the card Treasure Cruise gives three cards at a much higher mana cost, but can be reduced to Ancestral Recall's cost using Delve; this led to it rapidly being banned in Modern.

Time Walk[edit | edit source]

Time Walk has several descendants. Final Fortune from Mirage is a red Time Walk costing {R}{R}, but with the additional price of losing the game at the end of the extra turn. Time Warp from Tempest is identical to Time Walk, except the casting cost is {3}{U}{U} instead of {1}{U}. Time Stretch from Odyssey is essentially a double Time Warp, costing {8}{U}{U} and giving you two extra turns instead of one. Beacon of Tomorrows from Fifth Dawn gets the caster an extra turn with the additional benefit of getting shuffled back into the library, but costs {6}{U}{U}. Later, Walk the Aeons of the Time Spiral expansion was released. It allows a player to take an extra turn for the cost of {4}{U}{U}, but can be bought back by sacrificing three islands. Then there comes Savor the Moment; its casting cost of {1}{U}{U} is only one more than Time Walk, but you have to skip your next untap step, severely curtailing its usefulness. Most recently printed is Temporal Mastery, which costs {5}{U}{U}, but with the miracle ability to enable casting it with merely {1}{U} when the player draws it as the first card drawn in a turn.

None of the descendants have seen much competitive play, but the recent reprinting of Time Warp in Magic 2010 has caused many decks to be built around it and Time Sieve, an artifact that allows for a Time Walk effect by sacrificing 5 artifacts in play.

Timetwister[edit | edit source]

The Urza's Saga card Time Spiral untaps enough lands to pay for itself (although its converted mana cost of 6 keeps it unplayable in the early turns) and removes itself from the game.

Diminishing Returns has a similar effect to Timetwister for just one blue mana more, but as an additional cost forces the caster to remove 10 cards of his or her library from the game. The Betrayers of Kamigawa card Sway of the Stars adds the effect of setting of each player's life total to 7, but costs 10 mana. Mirrodin's version, Temporal Cascade can duplicate Timetwister via the Entwine mechanic, but costs 9 mana if used this way. In the 2011 core set, a fixed version of Timetwister has appeared called Time Reversal which does the same thing, at 5 mana. Magic Origins also featured Day's Undoing, which is identical to Timetwister except that it ends the turn (allowing the caster's opponent to use the seven new cards first).

Parodies of the Power Nine[edit | edit source]

Not only has the fame of the Power Nine been alluded to years after their release, but it has been lampooned in ways that hyperbolize their utility.

The Unglued parody set contained Blacker Lotus, a card with art that depicts the original Black Lotus being overshadowed in prominence by a much larger, more powerful lotus. For the same casting cost of {0} as Black Lotus, Blacker Lotus can enter the battlefield and produce 4 mana of any one color as opposed to 3 in the case of its predecessor. However, the improved utility comes with a much greater price, as instead of merely sacrificing Blacker Lotus to harness its activated ability as is the case with Black Lotus, Blacker Lotus' activated ability requires its controller to literally "Tear Blacker Lotus into pieces." Unglued also contained Jack-in-the-Mox, a card that costs {0} like the original five moxes and which depicts in its artwork a Jack-in-the-box whose crown is ornamented with the original five moxes. Based on the outcome of a six-sided dice roll as per its activated ability, six different results of using the card's activated ability are possible, with rolling a "1" causing the card to be sacrificed and its controller to lose five life, and the other results causing additions of one colored mana of one color to the mana pool of Jack-in-the-Mox's controller, with a "2" resulting in the addition of {W}, "3" adding {U}, "4" adding {B}, "5" adding {R}, and "6" adding {G}.

The Unhinged parody set that followed Unglued contained Mox Lotus, a card that was a combined parody of the power of the various lotus and mox cards, especially Black Lotus and the five original moxes, as precious sources of mana that could enable their controller to gain significant card advantage and/or tempo. Like its legal mox predecesors, the artwork for Mox Lotus depicts the artifact as a piece of jewelry, and like its legal lotus predecessors, it is shaped in the form of a lotus. For the hefty converted mana cost of {15}, Mox Lotus is the first card to have been printed that, by itself, enables its controller to generate infinite mana of not just one color, but infinite mana of every color, as well as infinite colorless mana, in the same turn. Notably, as Mox Lotus was printed in 2004, the card says "You do not lose life due to mana burn," which is a point of historical interest as the card was printed before mana burn was eliminated as a functioning game concept and made obsolete.

Power Ten?[edit | edit source]

The term "Power Nine" was originally coined based on the cards in the group representing a substantial jump in price over any other card in the game. However, with slowly dwindling supply (due to loss and accidental destruction), no reasonable expectations of reprints, and an increasing demand, the market has changed, putting three more cards on nearly the same price plateau as the Power Nine: Bazaar of Baghdad, Mishra's Workshop, and Library of Alexandria, the last of which, from the Arabian Nights, was historically often referred to as the tenth piece of power.[5] All are worth at least US$300 on the secondary market. It has also been argued that the cards Yawgmoth's Will, Tinker and Sol Ring all rival or exceed the power level of the Power Nine, but because of their much lower rarity, they do not fetch nearly the same price.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Magic: The Gathering – Part Five: Top Ten Cards. Collectors' Quest (16 August 2008). Retrieved on 2009-07-07.
  2. a b c d Mowshowitz, Zvi (28 February 2005). The Top 50 Artifacts of All Time. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2009-08-04.
  3. a b The Top 50 Card Drawing Cards. Magicthegathering.com (March 21, 2003). Retrieved on 2008-09-15.
  4. Card of the Day August 2003: Time Walk. Magicthegathering.com (August 12, 2003). Retrieved on 2008-09-15.
  5. Magic Arcana. (October 15, 2003.) “The Power Nine”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.