Last updated on February 27, 2024

Memory Jar - Illustration by Donato Giancola

Memory Jar | Illustration by Donato Giancola

Magic: The Gathering is a game with a considerable tenure under its belt. Long ago, we battled with vanilla 2/2s that are now almost nonexistent in competitive Magic, which has evolved since the game's introduction. With that in mind, have you ever wondered which decks have been too broken for a format? Well, you’re in luck, as today I’ll go over the best MTG decks ever created and how they took over games and dominated metas like no others.

I know some may already be at the top of your head, but I bet you’ll find some you probably didn’t know existed.

Intrigued? Let's dive into it!

What Are The Best Decks in MTG?

Sword of Feast and Famine (Double Masters) - Illustration by Thomas M. Baxa

Sword of Feast and Famine (Double Masters) | Illustration by Thomas M. Baxa

When discussing the premier decks in MTG, we often consider the current top-performing deck in a particular format, identifying clear winners. For instance, Rhinos may stand out as a dominant archetype in Modern, while Delver could be a frontrunner in Legacy. Despite their prominence, it's important to note that these decks aren’t invincible. While they exert significant influence over the metagame, they remain reasonably manageable in gameplay.

However, across various formats and numerous annual ban lists, certain decks or cards have proven to be excessively powerful, negatively impacting the overall health of the Magic: The Gathering meta. Today, I'll highlight decks that have been deemed too oppressive for the rest of the field to handle.

Determining the best decks can involve considering factors like the number of tournament wins, overall metagame dominance, or a combination of both.

#15. Caw-Blade

Stoneforge Mystic (Worldwake) - Illustration by Mike Bierek

Stoneforge Mystic (Worldwake) | Illustration by Mike Bierek

You may think that one of the most infamous decks in Magic history may be a little bit low on the list, and frankly, it would if not for the fact that the other ones can aim to win on turn 1.

Originating from Brian Kibler's creation named Caw-Go, Caw-Blade in Standard was a deck that relied on seemingly fair creatures like Squadron Hawk (this is where the “caw” derived) to search for other copies of it. While the deck ran decent countermagic spells like Mana Leak and Spell Pierce to control the tempo of the deck, the key card was Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

With its 0-loyalty ability, it basically added a Brainstorm effect to the deck, which resulted in shuffling away your extra copies of Squadron Hawk that then can be re-fetched when you play a copy of it, allowing you to get access to more cards from your library without losing value.

What sealed the deal for this deck was the introduction of Sword of Feast and Famine in Mirrodin Besieged and Batterskull from New Phyrexia. Along with Stoneforge Mystic, it suddenly turned into a situation where you had to kill the latter on turn 2. Otherwise, Batterskull would take over the game on the following turn, not to mention that the hawks were particularly great carriers of the sword, as you can untap your lands, keeping up countermagic and making sure you got enough mana to interact with your opponents’ spells or allowing you to cast more spells.

At the end of the day, these proved too powerful for the Standard meta, and both Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic were banned.

#14. Pauper Chatterstorm

Chatterstorm - Illustration by Milivoj Ceran

Chatterstorm | Illustration by Milivoj Ceran

What started as a meme in Pauper quickly became one of the fastest bans in the format's history. While it may not compare in terms of power level to other best-ever decks, this one could kill you on turn 1 or 2, depending on your luck, with very consistent turn-3 kills.

Chatterstorm

After a little bit less than a month, Chatterstorm was banned from the format, and Galvanic Relay followed soon after.

#13. Modern Cloudpost

Oracle of Mul Daya - Illustration by Vance Kovacs

Oracle of Mul Daya | Illustration by Vance Kovacs

One of the dominant decks on the first-ever Modern Pro Tour was Cloudpost. Back in 2011 in Philadelphia, this deck ran 12 “Locus” lands in the form of Cloudpost, Glimmerpost, and Vesuva (which can copy either of the first two). With the right combination of lands, you can have up to 9 mana by turn 3, and since you ran mana filters like Gruul Signet, you can use it to cast your green spells like Primeval Titan to get you more lands or search for your Titan with Green Sun's Zenith.

If that somehow fails, you could always cheat an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play with Through the Breach to destroy your opponent’s resources.

After this Pro Tour, in September 2011, both Cloudpost and Green Sun's Zenith were banned from the format.

#12. Omnath Lucky Clover

Omnath, Locus of Creation - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Omnath, Locus of Creation | Illustration by Chris Rahn

This is a funny one because it’s a deck that was around when I started to play Magic mid-pandemic. To my surprise, Standard was broken, and the card that caused it was Omnath, Locus of Creation.

Omnath, Locus of Creation

The adventure package of the deck, alongside Lucky Clover, made a mighty deck to face already, but with the introduction of the elemental, it went into a whole new level. Suddenly, all Standard tournaments were filled with the same deck, Omnath Adventures.

According to Frank Karsten, its ban from Standard took only 17 days.

#11. Simic Oko

Hydroid Krasis | Illustration by Jason Felix

Hydroid Krasis | Illustration by Jason Felix

For a few months during 2019, this deck dominated the Standard meta.

Oko, Thief of Crowns Once Upon a Time

It starts with powerful cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns and Once Upon a Time that provided consistency to the deck. The planeswalker, in particular, is a strong one that has been banned in almost every format it has touched.

The  Mythic Championship VI tournament was the one that set the alert as six copies of the deck were present in the top eight.

#10. Modern Eldrazi

Dismember - Illustration by Jason Felix

Dismember | Illustration by Jason Felix

Eye of Ugin is a card that makes your Eldrazi spells cost 2 mana less. At the time of the printing, this was no major problem, mainly because the only Eldrazi worth playing at the time were the original big three: Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth.

This changed with the introduction of Oath of the Gatewatch as new, cheaper, and more aggressive Eldrazi were added to the game, like Matter Reshaper or Thought-Knot Seer. Alongside Eldrazi Temple, which isn’t legendary, it created very potent turns where players couldn't really interact with oversized creatures with excellent ETB effects or that had haste that could start pressure opponents early.

It was legal in Modern for about two months until Eye of Ugin was eventually banned. Still, during that period, it amassed a considerable number of Grand Prix and Pro Tour top eights combined, being one of the most potent and broken Modern decks that ever existed.

#9. Modern Hogaak

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis - Illustration by Vincent Proce

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis | Illustration by Vincent Proce

In June 2019, Modern Horizons was released, and with it came Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

With convoke and delve as the main keywords, slamming it onto the battlefield as early as turn 2 was very easy.

It was initially paired with Altar of Dementia and Bridge from Below to create a perfect graveyard sacrifice deck that used Hogaak to overperform in Modern.

WotC initially decided to ban Bridge from Below, but as time passed, Hogaak strategies continued to dominate the meta, and in August of 2019, the signature card of the deck finally got banned.

#8. Mirrodin Affinity

Meddling Mage - Illustration by Todd Lockwood

Meddling Mage | Illustration by Todd Lockwood

With the release of Darksteel, the second expansion of the Mirrodin block, Standard became dominated by the appearance of affinity decks that quickly overpowered many decks from the format thanks to the use and abuse of Arcbound Ravager, Disciple of the Vault, and Skullclamp.

Eventually, this deck also transitioned into extended winning Pro Tour Columbus in 2005 in the hands of Pierre Canali.

Historically, the affinity mechanic as a whole has been very problematic, forcing bans in many formats like Legacy, Modern, and even Pauper, where the deck has suffered many nerfs, and it's still one of the most potent strategies around.

#7. Tibalt’s Trickery

Tibalt's Trickery - Illustration by Anna Podedworna

Tibalt's Trickery | Illustration by Anna Podedworna

Broken decks have the tendency to abuse cards with cascade. The “trick” was to hit the single Tibalt's Trickery and cast an Emrakul.

Tibalt's Trickery

The deck was so silly that it only lasted into Modern ten days before it was banned, but since it was in the middle of the pandemic, it never had the chance to shine in paper tournaments.

#6. Flash Hulk

Protean Hulk - Illustration by Matt Cavotta

Protean Hulk | Illustration by Matt Cavotta

Flash Hulk was a deck that was eventually banned from Legacy, given the interaction between Flash and Protean Hulk.

Flash Protean Hulk

For just 2 mana, you can put the latter into play and immediately sacrifice it to search for multiple creatures that give you an instant win combo. The first appearance of the deck was in Grand Prix Columbus in 2007, with a significant representation in the meta and three copies of it in the top 8, including the first place, Steven Sadin, who managed to steamroll the competition.

His combo consisted pretty much of using both signature cards of the deck to tutor for Karmic Guide and Carrion Feeder, returning Protean Hulk to the battlefield with the spirit’s ability. From there, you sacrifice the Hulk with the Feeder’s ability to fetch for a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker that can make a copy of the Karmic Guide, and with the goblin’s trigger on the stack, you sacrifice it to the Carrion Feeder to return it with the spirit's ability again. From there, you can make infinite copies of the spirit with haste and win the game.

Subsequently, on June 1st, 2007, Flash was banned from Legacy.

#5. Hypergenesis

Hypergenesis - Illustration by Ron Spears

Hypergenesis | Illustration by Ron Spears

The infamous Hypergenesis combo involves casting a 3-mana spell with cascade, like Violent Outburst, enabling an immediate Hypergenesis cast. This deck excels in quickly summoning powerful creatures like Angel of Despair, potentially in the first turn as cards like Gemstone Mine or Simian Spirit Guide enabled the feat.

This was an extremely good deck in Extended, which made the top eight in Pro Tour Austin of 2009. It has been banned since then and was initially put on the Modern ban list. It has never left that place since the format was introduced.

#4. Academy Combo

Windfall | Illustration by Scott Murphy

Windfall | Illustration by Scott Murphy

The Combo Winter era is often referred to as the metagame after the release of Urza's Saga between 1998 and 1999. Many cards were banned in between as many overpowered combo decks reigned in tournaments.

One of these was Academy, named after Tolarian Academy, which added mana equal to the number of artifacts in play you controlled. Paired alongside Mind Over Matter, this two-card combo generated seemingly infinite mana, which later could be used to cast Stroke of Genius to draw more cards and eventually kill an opponent with a second copy of Stroke of Genius.

The deck didn’t live long enough, though, as key cards like Mind Over Matter and Windfall were banned soon after its major competitive appearance.

#3. High Tide

High Tide - Illustration by Marc Simonetti

High Tide | Illustration by Marc Simonetti

At this point, we all know that in his prime, Kai Budde couldn’t lose on Sunday until he decided to retire to give others a chance to win at competitive magic.

High Tide

One of his iconic decks was High Tide, a mono-blue combo deck that secured Kai’s victory at Grand Prix Vienna in 1999.

The core strategy is centered around the namesake card, High Tide, to add extra mana every time an island is tapped. With it, you could then cast spells like Frantic Search, Palinchron, and Time Spiral, which are virtually free as they untap mana every time they resolve, leaving the player with seemingly infinite mana to spare and end games by casting a Stroke of Genius targeting your opponent to make them draw more than their entire library total. This deck was often referred to as “the purest and most beautiful control deck ever devised”.

#2. Necropotence

Necropotence - Illustration by Dave Kendall

Necropotence | Illustration by Dave Kendall

The Extended Necropotence deck, a potent black-based strategy, gained fame through Randy Buehler's victory at Pro Tour Chicago in 1997.

This aggressive deck utilizes Lake of the Dead to efficiently cast spells with significant early-game black mana requirements. Both Order of the Ebon Hand and Knight of Stromgald are identical cards that benefit from the mana this deck produces while employing Necropotence to generate massive card advantage, drawing additional swamps to fuel the Lake. Drain Life, powered by the Lake, not only replenishes life lost to Necropotence but also deals substantial damage to the opponent, ultimately securing victory.

The deck's strategic versatility extends with a splash of white for Disenchant and sideboard cards, along with red for potent burn spells like Lightning Bolt. In 2008, Mike Flores acclaimed it as the best Extended deck of all time.

#1. Memory Jar

Brainstorm - Illustration by Willian Murai

Brainstorm | Illustration by Willian Murai

There's a joke circulating within the Urza's Saga meta: “The die roll was the early game, mulligan decisions were the mid-game, and turn 1 was the late game.” Considering the capabilities of previous decks, this sentiment rings true. In the case of this particular card, it was swiftly banned from Standard just 14 days after its release and subsequently from other formats like Extended after Randy Buehler and playtest partner Erik Lauer secured 3rd and 4th places in Grand Prix Vienna 1999 with the deck.

With numerous avenues to generate significant mana, utilizing cards like Lotus Petal, Mana Vault, Dark Rituall, Mox Diamond, and Lion's Eye Diamond (pre-Errata), players could easily cast Tinker to search for Memory Jar or hard cast the latter if it was already in hand. Subsequently, it became a matter of finding a Yawgmoth's Will to recast everything, eventually finding Megrim through card advantage or Vampiric Tutor and winning the game once the enchantment was in play, forcing the opponent to discard their hand.

This deck incorporated Defense Grid to shield itself from opposing countermagic, solidifying its reputation as one of the most annoying, if not the best, decks in Magic's history.

Wrap Up

Thirst for Knowledge - Illustration by Anthony Francisco

Thirst for Knowledge | Illustration by Anthony Francisco

While it's easy to pinpoint a deck as the best of the format in a given meta, it's certainly hard to recall how many times decks have broken it. I hope that with this little list, some of you may have recalled some memories, good or bad, about some of them.

What do you think? Did I happen to miss any that you would have loved to see? Let us know in the comments or over at the Draftsim Discord. If you liked the content and want to check out more, remember to follow us on X/Twitter to never miss an update.

Take care, and see you next time!

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2 Comments

  • Avatar
    Vladmir February 8, 2024 5:27 pm

    Just a small correction on the #11. Simic Oko section:

    “The planeswalker, in particular, is a strong one that has been banned in almost every format it has touched, and it’s even restricted to one copy in Vintage.”

    Oko has never been restricted in Vintage, Oath of Druids Combo and Sultai Midrange often play 3x copies of it.

    • Jake Henderson
      Jake Henderson February 26, 2024 5:52 am

      Thanks Vladmir, this has been fixed.

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