Last updated on June 17, 2022

Chalice of the Void - Illustration by Seb McKinnon

Chalice of the Void | Illustration by Seb McKinnon

Artifacts! One of the most unique card types in Magic’s toolbox and some of the most impactful cards as well. We’ve had artifacts ever since the game started, and with different variations and twists with new set mechanics.

Today I want to go over some of the best artifact cards ever printed in a few different categories so that everyone can find what they’re looking for. Whether you’re a Commander player, a casual player, or you just want to figure out why people keep playing Altar of Dementia, there’s something for everyone! I also opted not to include vehicles mainly because they’re so (relatively) new to the game, and there just isn’t a lot to offer in that subtype just yet.

With that said, let’s just jump right into it!

Table of Contents

Best Mill Artifacts

While mill isn’t usually the best way to end a game, it does offer a lot of support to strategies like dredge, reanimator, flashback, and other graveyard synergies. Here are some of the best supporting pieces to get cards in the ‘yard.

#5. Grinding Station

Grinding Station

Grinding Station is the most deck-specific card in this category, mainly because it really benefits from a deck that’s built around using this tool to untap it as many times as possible in a turn. With the right deck, you can easily fill up a graveyard.

#4. Grindstone

Grindstone

The classic! While Grindstone doesn’t see as much play as it used to it’s still a really easy way to mill a player who’s using a monocolor deck. It also pairs insanely well with Painter’s Servant, letting you completely deck a player in one move.

#3. Mindcrank

Mindcrank

Mindcrank is a little different from the rest of these since it’s dependent on your opponents’ life totals changing to be most effective. But this also means that politics in a multiplayer game can become much more important.

#2. Mesmeric Orb

Mesmeric Orb

I hate Mesmeric Orb.

No, really.

This card is so annoying to play against because everyone has to mill every turn. This is a great way to become a target quickly and it’s really easy to get onto the table very early. Especially in Commander games where a player has anywhere from 10 to 20 lands and mana rocks untapping each turn.

#1. Altar of Dementia

Altar of Dementia

Maybe I’m biased but I think Altar of Dementia is incredibly flexible.

Getting board wiped? Sac ’em to the Altar.

Someone wants to exile a creature that you wanna bring back? Sac ’em to the Altar.

Do you need to dig a little deeper to find a card you need? Sac ’em to the Altar.

I could go on and on about how good this is, but the honest truth is that it fits into so many scenarios. I probably put an Altar in almost all of my Commander decks.

Best Utility Artifacts

Sometimes you just need to get the job done. Whether it’s setting yourself up for a powerful turn or just trying to make sure you always have something to do, these artifacts are key players that can slot into almost any deck.

#10. Whip of Erebos

Whip of Erebos

Whip of Erebos is a unique card. Not only does it give you a great static ability with lifelink but it also gives you repeated reanimation. It’s an easy slot into most black decks that have powerful creatures they want to recur. Adding lifelink to the mix only lets you sustain longer against aggro decks.

#9. Expedition Map

Expedition Map

This little unassuming Expedition Map is one of the reasons why Tron decks have stayed so consistent over the years. Being able to fix your mana so cheaply while also getting other important utility lands like Cabal Coffers, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, or even Gaea’s Cradle is great.

#8. Lifecrafter’s Bestiary

Lifecrafter's Bestiary

Okay, hear me out on this one. Yes, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary only fits in green-based decks, but it’s good. Getting a free scry isn’t too shabby but being able to drawing a card every time you cast a creature for the low price of can keep your hand fueled for a long time.

#7. Archaeomancer’s Map

Archaeomancer's Map

One of the few new cards to let white gain a little more power, this cheeky little artifact acts like a Burgeoning that also fetches you a few lands to keep up with the rest. Archaeomancer’s Map isn’t super flashy but it gets some work done.

#6. Bolas’s Citadel

Bolas's Citadel

Who needs mana when you can use your life? This is one of black’s core mantras and Bolas’s Citadel oozes that flavor. Add in an easy way to dome your opponents for 10 life when they get low and this card is an easy fit in most decks. It also pairs incredibly well with Sensei’s Divining Top and Aetherflux Reservoir for a quick combo kill.

#5. The Great Henge

The Great Henge

Throne of Eldraine gave us a lot of dumb cards, and The Great Henge is one of the biggest ones. A cheap mana ramp when you have a big board is great, but adding in lifegain on top of the mana and adding counters to grow your team? It can get out of hand stupidly fast.

#4. Phyrexian Altar

Phyrexian Altar

Another great combo piece as well as mana accelerant. The Phyrexians really knew what they were doing and Phyrexian Altar is a shining example of their ingenuity. Token and combo decks rejoice as mana can become near infinite. And sometimes it does become infinite.

#3. Cursed Mirror

Cursed Mirror

Cursed Mirror really snuck under the radar for me. Even after buying the precon it came in I wasn’t really sold on it. But once I started using it, it became clear. A cheap Clone effect for a turn paired with a mana rock means that it’s incredibly flexible and is actually useful after it’s ETB effect, unlike Duplicant.

#2. Birthing Pod

Birthing Pod

We all know how good Birthing Pod is. It was a powerhouse when it was legal in Standard and it’s been a powerhouse in eternal formats. It’s an entire archetype all on its own, abusing powerful ETB/LTB effects and tutoring up specific cards you need in any given scenario.

#1. Sensei’s Divining Top

Sensei's Divining Top

Top. The card is so good that it made Legacy decks stall for time for years. A card so good it made the Miracle keyword a top-tier deck in a format where you can win on turn 1. A card so good that it’s almost impossible to get rid of it once it’s in play. Filtering your draws and protecting itself makes Sensei’s Divining Top one of the best artifacts ever.

Best Mana Artifacts

Naturally you’re gonna wanna be able to cast spells, and the best way to do that is through ramp. Not every color has access to land ramp, but every deck can play artifacts. I also chose to omit the Power 9 Moxen and Black Lotus here because c’mon.

#10. Gilded Lotus

Gilded Lotus

The closest thing most players will ever get to a Black Lotus. Gilded Lotus sees plenty of play in casual Commander and it does a great job of ramping while still being a pretty fair mana value.

#9. Basalt Monolith

Basalt Monolith

A bit of a strange inclusion but hear me out. Basalt Monolith can make infinite mana pretty easily with cards like Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy, mana doublers like Mana Reflection, or reduction effects like Zirda, the Dawnwaker and Power Artifact.

#8. Talismans

It’s tough to say that this cycle of cards isn’t good. Sure, Talismans might take off a point of life or two. But in the end you only need them for immediate color fixing, and you’ll just tap them for generic mana a few turns later anyway. It’s a small ramp effect but it’s consistent and gets you what you need.

#7. Guild Signets

I rank the Guild Signets higher than Talismans purely because they filter you to get what you need and never deal damage. Aside from that they’re almost identical. One filters mana and adds one, the other adds one for one life.

#6. Chromatic Lantern

Chromatic Lantern

Why bother with ramp when you can just fix your colors entirely? Chromatic Lantern makes it way easier to cast any spell in a multicolor deck now that your lands tap for anything. It also ramps you up by one.

#5. Mana Vault

Mana Vault

By far one of the most powerful mana artifacts out there. So powerful in fact that it’s been banned from Legacy and restricted in Vintage. An instant ramp by three at the cost of maybe not untapping it for a few turns is great, and it’s pretty easy to untap your permanents in Commander.

#4. Chrome Mox

Chrome Mox

One of the few legal Moxen available in most formats, Chrome Mox slides into #4 purely because of how good it is. Pitching a card for a free mana is incredibly good and we’ve often seen it get abused by Storm strategies in several formats because of its 0 mana value.

#3. Mox Opal

Mox Opal

On the other hand, why pitch a card when you can just have a free mana if you’ve already got two artifacts? Mox Opal was a staple in Modern for a long time and is still relevant in other formats.

#2. Mana Crypt

Mana Crypt

Once again, free mana ramp reigns supreme. While Mana Crypt is basically only good in Commander (and Cube), it’s tough to argue that a free two mana ramp card with a very narrow downside isn’t a good card.

#1. Lion’s Eye Diamond

Lion's Eye Diamond

The best of the best and the closest we’ll get to a Black Lotus ever again. Lion’s Eye Diamond is a powerhouse card that fuels several combos in Legacy and Commander and is even restricted in Vintage thanks to its power to end the game.

Best Stax Artifacts

Playing Magic is fun, but fun is a finite resource and I want all of it.

Some Stax player somewhere

These cards will make your opponents grunt and groan and possibly threaten you with bodily harm. They’ll also slow the game down to a crawl, so you better plan ahead if you want to use these cards in your deck.

#10. Storage Matrix

Storage Matrix

Forcing your opponents to only untap a specific type of permanent can really stop a game in its tracks. It’s great to get the groan fest rolling, but Storage Matrix can still lead to board states building up over time until someone destroys it.

#9. Damping Sphere

Damping Sphere

One of the newer cards on this list, Damping Sphere comes as a unique way to not only shut Storm decks down but also stop mana doublers. It even makes cards like Cabal Coffers and Gaea’s Cradle useless.

#8. Static Orb

Static Orb

Static Orb is similar to Storage Matrix but much better thanks to its requirement to be untapped. This means that cards that allow you to tap them before your untap step let you skip all of the downsides and force your opponents to deal with them instead.

#7. Torpor Orb

Torpor Orb

Why let creatures enter the battlefield if nothing happens? When you think about it on a larger scale, ETB effects are some of the most powerful effects for creatures. Torpor Orb not only shuts those down but also anything else that might trigger from it.

#6. Smokestack

Smokestack

The namesake to the Stax archetype, Smokestack is just plain unfair in the right deck. It’s not great for Commander players but it was a powerhouse for years in Vintage in MUD/Shops decks.

#5. Cursed Totem

Cursed Totem MH2

Just like with Torpor Orb, why let creatures do anything? Cursed Totem does in fact stop mana abilities, unlike similar effects on newer cards.

#4. Winter Orb

Winter Orb

Why are there so many orbs on this list? Winter Orb is a house against other decks as long as you have a way to tap it before your turn, locking your opponent out of the game.

#3. Void Mirror

Void Mirror MH2

Another recent addition to Magic that’s slowly finding its place in the metagame. Void Mirror flat-out counters any spell that was cast with an alternate ability or if it was cast for free. It also counters any colorless spell if only generic mana was used to pay for it, which means that it makes artifact-based decks a lot harder to play.

#2. Grafdigger’s Cage

Grafdigger's Cage

You wouldn’t think Grafdigger’s Cage does that much, but it’s stopped so many archetypes from ever becoming popular thanks to its simple ability. Shutting down dredge, reanimator decks, and most graveyard synergies is incredibly powerful, and all for just one mana.

#1. Chalice of the Void

Chalice of the Void

Chalice of the Void has seen play in some form or another ever since it was printed in Mirrodin. It still sees constant play in control decks across Modern and Legacy since it can easily shut down some of the most powerful spells that exist in the format for only two to four mana.

Best Equipment

Voltron assemble!

Or I think that’s how this goes. Whether you’re playing a Voltron-style deck or you just want to add some of the most powerful equipment out there for your creatures to use, there’s something here for everyone.

#10. Illusionist’s Bracers

Illusionist's Bracers

Copying the activated abilities of powerful creatures with Illusionist’s Bracers is, you guessed it, powerful. Doubling your mana from a Faeburrow Elder or two activations from Kenrith, The Returned King can quickly get out of hand.

#9. Sword of the Animist

Sword of the Animist

Probably one of the best equipment that slots into almost any deck since every deck plays lands. Sword of the Animist is cheap to play and equip, and you’ll end up very far ahead if your opponent underestimates it.

#8. Helm of the Host

Helm of the Host

I honestly think Helm of the Host is one of the most unique equipments we’ve had in years, and it allows for some really creative decks. Spikes get to play Godo, Bandit Warlord while silly players can try to play Etrata, the Silencer.

#7. Hammer of Nazahn

Hammer of Nazahn

While the second ability isn’t much to write home about, the top ability is the real kicker when it comes to Hammer of Nazahn. Cheating the equipment cost makes this card astronomically more powerful.

#6. Masterwork of Ingenuity

Masterwork of Ingenuity

Why have one when you can have two? It’s also important to know that Masterwork of Ingenuity can also copy your opponent’s equipment, meaning you can get your own copy of a powerful equipment.

#5. Lightning Greaves & Swiftfoot Boots

Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots have been staples of Commander for a long, long time. I paired them together because they’re basically the same card. It’s hard to pick one being better than the other, so they both come in at fifth place.

#4. Embercleave

Embercleave

Another powerful card out of Eldraine, Embercleave defined the Standard format for a long time. It almost always sneaks up on you when you least expect it, and you almost never pay full price for it.

#3. Swords Cycle

There’s almost no way to pick one of these Swords to be the best, and half of this list would be Swords if I did. Each one is entirely unique and offers powerful effects paired with protection from two colors which make these a safe pick in almost any deck.

#2. Shadowspear

Shadowspear

I really didn’t think Shadowspear was all that good for a long time, but the more I look at it the more I realize how powerful it is. For such a cheap cost and cheap activations, every single line of text here is important.

#1. Umezawa’s Jitte

Umezawa's Jitte

The de facto best equipment, hands down. So powerful it dominated Extended and Legacy for years and was a 0-day ban when Modern was created thanks to its power level. There’s no way around Umezawa’s Jitte’s flexibility.

Best Artifacts in Modern

The Modern format is such a diverse format. It uses more artifacts than most other 60-card formats do. I chose to omit all of the cards in affinity, mainly because the current metagame isn’t really suited for the archetype and it would also take up a huge chunk of this list.

#10. Amulet of Vigor

Amulet of Vigor

An artifact so powerful that it created an entire archetype. Amulet of Vigor still sees some play here and there, but it’s a key part of a really fun deck for those who have the mental capacity to math out how many untaps they get.

#9. Cranial Plating

Cranial Plating

The only piece of affinity that makes this list, Cranial Plating has become an important piece in any artifact-based deck in the format. It makes your creatures hit hard and it’s one of the few pieces of equipment that can equip at instant speed.

#8. Pithing Needle

Pithing Needle

Pithing Needle is always seen as a sideboard card and it’s had its fringe uses over the years. It’s a powerful card to shut off specific strategies or powerful cards like planeswalkers with minimal investment.

#7. Relic of Progenitus & Nihil Spellbomb

Out of all of the graveyard removal options in Modern, you pretty much only see one of these two in the sideboard. Relic of Progenitus and Nihil Spellbomb both basically do the same thing with the latter requiring black mana.

#6. Aether Vial

Aether Vial

Aether Vial is one of the more unique cards on my list and it fits in a niche type of creature-heavy deck. You really need to capitalize on having creatures in your hand to make this card shine but it becomes a house in several decks.

#5. Sword of Fire and Ice

Sword of Fire and Ice

The first of two swords, Sword of Fire and Ice is powerful not only because it makes your creatures pro-red, but the on-hit effects are also great. Shocking a target and drawing a card is nothing to sneeze at.

#4. Sword of War and Peace

Sword of War and Peace

Sword of War and Peace is a lot better than the previous Sword. It’s purely because the colors are more relevant in the current metagame. Red is very popular in Modern right now and white comes in right behind it. Evading Prismatic Ending and Path to Exile is crucial for creature-based decks.

#3. Mishra’s Bauble

Mishra's Bauble

Mishra’s Bauble is a free card.

No, really.

This is basically a free card that you can cycle through and you also get a bit of info for the next card, plus it fuels delirium strategies.

#2. Engineered Explosives

Engineered Explosives

Having a colorless semi-board wipe option for all decks means that any archetype has access to make matchups easier overall, as long as they can pay the sunburst cost. Even setting Engineered Explosives at two means you can wipe out a lot of important permanents for a cheap four mana.

#1. Chalice of the Void

Chalice of the Void

Chalice of the Void has been a mainstay of the format ever since its beginning and even stems back to its father Extended. It’s a powerful effect that can disrupt all kinds of strategies, and it’s flexible enough to always be relevant in every matchup.

Best Artifacts in Commander

Commander’s massive pool of artifacts means that there are a ton of cards out there with different uses. I picked out the ones that I see most often in my experience, but yours may be different.

#10. Sol Ring

Sol Ring - Commander 2021

It’s the most iconic card in Commander and it can make or break games. Such a powerful effect on the first turn can make your games so much more explosive and can also make you a target early on. Sol Ring is such a powerful card that it comes in every Commander precon.

#9. Strionic Resonator

Strionic Resonator

Remember how I talked about how good Illusionist’s Bracers was? Strionic Resonator is its cousin from uptown. It’s a little more flexible but can only target triggered abilities. Thankfully tons of commanders have impactful triggered abilities to make use of.

#8. Vedalken Orrery

Vedalken Orrery

It turns out that it kinda rules to play everything at instant speed. While Vedalken Orrery may not see play at competitive tables but it rocks casual Commander pods and it’s a steal for only four mana.

#7. Aetherflux Reservoir

Aetherflux Reservoir

I was so excited to see Aetherflux Reservoir when it was previewed. I’m a huge fan of Storm-based combo decks and this just gives me another way to storm out by casting a bunch of spells. It’s flexible and combos easily with cheap spells or infinite loops with Sensei’s Divining Top plus Bolas’s Citadel or other nifty combos.

#6. Panharmonicon

Panharmonicon

Torpor Orb is Panharmonicon’s worst nightmare. You get to abuse any ETB effect by doing it twice and this can get out of hand fast in the right deck. It does mean that your deck should be tuned to abuse this card, but that shouldn’t be too hard.

#5. Mirage Mirror

Mirage Mirror

For the longest time, I didn’t think Mirage Mirror was that good. That is, until I played with it. The flexibility to copy almost any permanent means that you always have the upper hand or even pull some tricky plays when your opponent least expects it.

#4. Signets & Talismans

Like I mentioned earlier, these 2-drop artifacts are a key part of Commander decks as a whole. Signets and Talismans fix mana, they’ve got no downside, and they’re just plain great.

#3. Primal Amulet / Primal Wellspring

My only flip card on the list, but it’s a great one. Primal Amulet helps advance spellslinger strategies with its cost reduction while Primal Wellspring lets you set off some big flashy plays. It’s not an include in every Commander deck but it’s great in any spell-heavy strategy.

#2. Isochron Scepter

Isochron Scepter

The most powerful imprint card in my opinion, and with good reason. This unassuming artifact would just set up locks with repeatable counterspells or Silence effects until Kaladesh. But with Dramatic Reversal, Isochron Scepter has become a staple for cEDH decks and it’s almost unbeatable once it starts.

#1. Rings of Brighthearth

Rings of Brighthearth

What a silly card. Being able to copy any activated ability for only two mana can make some serious plays. Infinite mana with Basalt Monolith or Grim Monolith and pairing Rings of Brighthearth with Sensei’s Divining Top to draw your entire library are just some ways to get the most out of this artifact.

My Top 5

Now that we got those out of the way, I want to cherry-pick a couple of “hidden gems” that might not be on your radar. These are mostly aimed for casual play or Commander players, but they’re all uniquely powerful. You could consider this an “honorable mentions” section.

#5. Parhelion II

Parhelion II

Big. Dumb. Vehicles.

Parhelion II is such a crazy card that you know it’s going to hurt when it lands and gets a turn. 8 mana for 13 total power across three bodies, all with vigilance, and they can block the next turn as well. It’s bonkers and easily ends games.

#4. Lithoform Engine

Lithoform Engine

I talked about how good Rings of Brighthearth is, but what about if I also stapled on Radiate and let it copy permanents? Lithoform Engine might not be as abusable as Rings but it’s a house on its own.

#3. Ashnod’s Altar

Ashnod's Altar

I like Altars. In a similar vein to Phyrexian Altar but not as broken, Ashnod’s Altar lets you convert fodder into colorless mana. It can easily ramp you into bigger cards or let you dump mana into activated abilities if things go south.

#2. Throne of the God-Pharaoh

Throne of the God-Pharaoh

I promise I’m not crazy. Throne of the God-Pharaoh is actually really good, and it can pose as a win con in a variety of decks. Tapping your creatures for abilities and mana will slowly kill your opponents and it adds up quickly.

#1. Altar of the Brood

Altar of the Brood

I like Altars, okay?!

I probably put this card in every Commander deck that I can. At worst Altar of the Brood is a minor annoyance for your opponents that makes them mill once or twice a turn. But once games go on for a while you can end up dropping a ton of permanents in a turn and mill for a huge chunk. Infinite ETB effects? There ya go, game over.

Wrap Up

Engineered Explosives - Illustration by Lars Grant-West

Engineered Explosives | Illustration by Lars Grant-West

Artifacts are a unique part of Magic’s game design that really doesn’t exist in other card games. They have a long and storied history ranging from abusable to downright toxic for the game. I hope these rankings showed you some of the best artifacts that exist in Magic or at least reaffirmed your thoughts behind them.

Did I miss an important, all-powerful artifact? Do you think something else should have ranked higher? Reach out to us on our Discord or tell us on Reddit. I’m sure I missed a card or two that could have gone on the list, so let me know!

As for me, I’m about to go build a Boros Vehicles Commander deck now that I’m done staring at artifact cards. Stay safe, wash behind your ears, and get out of my house!

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