Last updated on October 13, 2023
Serum Visions | Illustration by Izzy
Magic has all kinds of slang terms for just about every card there is. Fetches, looting, flyers, rocks, and cantrips. Cantrips are probably one of the first ones you’ll end up hearing, and are of great interest if you're a blue and red player like me.
Cantrips are great spells because they replace themselves in your hand and offer excellent tempo and strategy implementation through a game of Magic. Today I’ll be looking over the top 71 cantrips out there, and go over which ones I think are great and which ones are best left untouched.
Let’s get started!
What Are Cantrips in MTG?
Brainstorm | Illustration by Willian Murai
Cantrips is the slang term for cards that draw a card in addition to other abilities. They usually refer to cheap blue spells like Ponder or Brainstorm, which are included in decks to help manipulate the top of the library on top of generating card advantage.
This is one of those “technically a cantrip” cards that you’re never really too excited to play, but it counts and is green.
#70. Niveous Wisps
Here we have Niveous Wisps, a cheap white spell that makes a creature white and tapped, and then replaces itself by drawing a card. There isn’t too much use for cards like these unless you plan around, but drawing a card for one mana in white is good.
#69. False Dawn
False Dawn is pretty similar to Niveous Wisps in that it changes colors and draws a card. The difference here is the extra 1 in the mana value, and it hits all permanents you control as well as all cards in your hand.
#68. Learn from the Past
#67. Clear the Mind
If graveyard hate is your thing, then it just got even better than the last card on the rankings. Clear the Mind does the same thing but for 1 less, which is a much better deal. I’d still like to see it for .
#66. Confounding Conundrum
What a great hate piece that I somehow have never encountered before. New Commander staple anyone?
#65. Ground Seal
Ground Seal is another cheap enchantment that replaces itself on top of having another bonus effect. In this case it locks the graveyard from being targeted by spells and abilities.
#64. Cerulean Wisps
Up next is Cerulean Wisps, a 1-mana spell that makes a creature blue and untaps it, and then draws you a card immediately after. It’s cheap card draw with an effect that might be able to be used in some sort of combo, but it’s certainly got much better cantrips to beat for .
#63. Conjurer's Bauble
Conjurer's Bauble is the only Bauble that doesn’t cost , and this one can tap and be sacrificed to draw a card and put one card from the graveyard onto the bottom of your library. Nothing too special here.
#62. Psychotic Fury
Next up is Psychotic Fury, a 2-mana red instant that gives a multicolored creature double strike and draws you a card in the process. This card is so close to being good. It’d be an insane aggressive card if it just targeted any creature and only cost .
I’m still not sure if it would be played if it hit triggered abilities as well. The answer to that is… probably?
Another counterspell is next, Dismiss! Four mana to counter something and draw a card is just “meh.” It’s too costly and I’d rather just have Counterspell and be able to spend that two mana elsewhere on my turn.
#59. Dusk Legion Zealot
Dusk Legion Zealot is just your standard run-of-the-mill “draw a card, lose a life” creature. This effect is present in just about every card game that uses life totals, and it’s great in every single one.
#58. Cloudkin Seer
Next up we have Cloudkin Seer, a 2/1 flier for three that also cantrips when it enters the battlefield. This is decent value. It’s a great 3-drop in Limited, but sees play just about nowhere else.
#57. Messenger Falcons
You should be fine with the right fixing, or if you’re only running two colors.
#56. Inspiring Overseer
The third 3-mana flier that draws a card, Inspiring Overseer is the best of the bunch. The lifegain is pretty sweet, and it allows this card to shine in Limited and Constructed angel decks that can effectively use that lifegain to trigger other permanents.
#55. Eye of Vecna
I think Eye of Vecna is an underrated card in Commander, and even cEDH. It draws a card on its way in and can continuously supply card advantage while also acting as a lightning rod for other artifacts you’d rather keep around.
#54. Cloak of Feathers
While this offers a card for just one mana with upside, that upside isn’t too relevant or generally good enough to make this card much in the formats you can play it in.
#52. Hindering Light
Hindering Light is a bit more interesting. It’s an Azorius () counterspell that hits spells targeting you or your permanents, which isn’t as specific as it seems, and the card draw is really nice.
Remand is strictly better.
This is decent in the right deck, but I’d much rather see this ability on a small creature or artifact where I can get value from it multiple times.
I’d be happy to play this card in slower formats if I forgot Ponder existed.
#49. Fists of Flame
Fists of Flame is a newer red instant that costs and draws you a card on top of giving a creature you control trample and +1/+0 for each card you’ve drawn already, and at instant speed. Sort of like card draw in a storm-y way, and I think this would be great in basically any Niv-Mizzet EDH deck.
#48. Crystal Spray
Crystal Spray is another blue cantrip. This one costs three mana and changes a spell or permanent’s colors to one of your choice, all while drawing you a card in the process.
I like these effects. They’re neat. But not too much removal or interaction is based on color, which makes it hard to find use for outside of a Sen Triplets EDH deck.
#47. Cleansing Wildfire
Currently limited to being in fringe Standard decks, Cleansing Wildfire destroys a land and replaces it with a basic from its controller’s deck, and draws you a card in the process. It’s a great piece of interaction for 3-color decks that often get greedy with their mana base.
I could see myself playing this card and then removing the rest of the copies (or some other dead card) from my deck to play with a smaller deck size.
Flux allows for each player to sift some of the cards in your hand and lets you draw an extra one. It’s a cute card, but I’d rather this force players to discard as many as you do. That would make it much more viable in wheel Commander decks, which is pretty much the only place where I can see this being used.
Flicker effects are pretty accessible in Azorius. I think I’d rather just play Ephemerate or some other cheaper engine that I can cast earlier though, even though this one draws you a card. Still, it’s decent.
Another 4-letter instant here, Stun is a red card that forces a creature to not block that turn, plus it draws you a card. It's a great way to preemptively set up your opponent’s blockers (or lack thereof) with the upside of drawing a card.
This is cute. I could see it being used in budget EDH decks, particularly Voltron, but that’s about it.
#42. Kenrith's Transformation
Kenrith's Transformation is great removal in Commander. And if you’re like me, you probably forgot that it draws its controller a card in the process. That’s great creature removal in green, especially for so cheap, and I love playing this card in just about every green deck I own.
#41. Kaldheim Runes
In this spot I’ve chosen to include each of the runes from Kaldheim. These are all cantrips with various effects that work best in different situations. They currently make up the Runes deck in Standard and occasionally see use in casual EDH decks.
Though there is something to be said about the fact that it doesn’t award your opponent with a new basic or some other bonus. It just completely Strip Mines them.
#39. Wheel and Deal
It’s not too good, and while it’s exceptional when paired with a Narset, Parter of Veils, that’s about all you’ll be doing with it.
Once a 1- or 2-of in Modern Izzet () decks, Electrolyze has since fallen to the power creep that has taken the lives of many previous staple cards. This is still decent removal that also cantrips on its way out, which makes it much more playable.
Disrupt is a cheap counterspell meant to counter instants and sorceries whenever your opponents tap out. It also draws a card in the process, which makes it a much better and blue version of Mana Tithe (assuming you only care about countering instants and sorceries).
Peek is a cantrip you probably haven’t heard of before, and that’s because it’s just a worse Gitaxian Probe. You might think that this is a good alternative where the Probe is banned, but it’s really not.
The power of Gitaxian Probe comes from the fact that it's free, not necessarily that it looks at an opponent’s hand and draws you a card. Though those are great aspects of it.
#35. Scale the Heights
Green’s got a few cantrips, surprisingly, and another one is Scale the Heights. This spell gives a creature you control a +1/+1 counter, gains you two life, and lets you play an extra land that turn at sorcery speed. To top it all off, it draws you a card.
This is sweet, and it would be great if it cost less mana or did another potent effect that doesn’t require a creature on turn 2.
#34. Arcum's Astrolabe
While it does require snow mana to be functional, Arcum's Astrolabe is a great cantrip and artifact in decks that can run snow basics. Previously a dominant card in Modern before it was banned, this card is most commonly used in Urza, Lord High Artificer cEDH decks as a cantrip and combo piece.
#33. Sleight of Hand
One of the more unique cantrips, Sleight of Hand is really only used in older Modern storm decks, and not much else outside of that. It just doesn’t offer as much information as Brainstorm or Ponder, so it isn’t used outside of that.
#32. Ichor Wellspring
Ichor Wellspring is a cheap little artifact sludge guy that'll draw you a card when it enters and when it eventually goes into the graveyard. It’s not a creature, though, so good luck having it destroyed!
#31. Cryptic Command
Ah yes, Cryptic Command. How this card has fallen from grace since the printing of Archmage's Charm. Once a blue staple, this spell has proven to be just too expensive, even if you do get two options.
#30. Visions of Beyond
Visions of Beyond is a card you’d think would be an auto-include in mill decks, but for some reason it's not. 20 cards is certainly not a high barrier in formats with fetch lands and cheap spells like Modern where this is legal, but it just appears to be too bad before that period to be worth running, at least in a playset.
Opt is a cantrip that can be called both disappointing and decent. It’s no Preordain, but you also get instant speed to make up for the lack of scrying. I think I’d rather have the extra card knowledge, though.
Green hates having its creatures be countered, and Insist is a great way to get around that. It’ll tank at most one counterspell, and you know you’re good to go if it resolves. It sort of got outed by Veil of Summer, though.
#27. Scout's Warning
Scout's Warning is a cheap white instant that gives your next creature spell flash and draws you a card. This is pretty nuts for a white card and costs as close to nothing as you can get without using Phyrexian mana.
#26. Growth Spiral
Simic () loves two things: drawing cards and playing lands. Growth Spiral does both. Two mana to draw a card plus ramp out a second land for the turn is just sweet, and practically any Simic deck in Commander will play this.
#25. Spirited Companion
Spirited Companion certainly deserved some recognition as a cantrip. It’s mostly only used in Standard since it can be an early body and can be used as a sacrifice outlet or enchantment counter later on, but it’s still good value.
#24. Wall of Omens
Wall of Omens is a surprisingly great card for being a wall. It’s got four toughness, which keeps it out of Lightning Bolt and Shock range while also being able to tank early creatures. But the card draw is what seals the deal for me.
#23. Aura Blast
Enchantment removal in white for ? Count me in. Drawing a card is a nice bonus too since Aura Blast can't hit artifacts.
#22. Omen of the Sea
While it's recently fallen out of play, Omen of the Sea is a great cantrip that offers some extra value later in the game when your resources start to dwindle. You get to essentially cast Preordain for at instant speed and then can scry again later on.
This card is great in slower formats if Yorion, Sky Nomad is legal.
#21. Abundant Growth
Abundant Growth being a cantrip is just too good. It fixes your mana incredibly well in Modern and it doesn’t even cost early game card advantage since it draws you another card on turn 1.
#20. Spreading Seas
Hitting basics is a small plus since you won’t often have an opportunity to lock down a mono-colored deck, but it can still hit a multicolored deck’s singleton basics.
#19. Dress Down
Dress Down is a sweet card on its own, but it acting as a cantrip in situations where it would otherwise be dead in hand is what makes it a great card. Specific hate pieces like this are only as good as situations can make them, and the “draw a card” text on this saves it from the bulk rare pile.
Once a great counterspell in Modern, Remand has since fallen to the sidelines thanks to Counterspell entering the format. It was a great counterspell (and still is), but it's now just a victim of power creep.
#17. Thought Scour
Thought Scour was once the premier cantrip for graveyard or delve decks, but that time has since past (say hello to Consider). Regardless of its past triumphs and more recent failings, this is still an exceptional cantrip that you shouldn’t underestimate if you see it across the table.
Green doesn’t have too much card draw to speak of, at least not before four mana, but Explore is one of the few exceptions. It does the greenest thing imaginable, giving you a land, and replaces itself in the process.
One of the ways green ramp decks flop is if they have plenty of mana but nothing to spend it on, and this sort of circumvents that situation.
Consider was one of the more powerful cantrips that came to players in Midnight Hunt. It’s a great cantrip in any deck that cares about filling up the graveyard, like the Modern and Legacy Murktide Regent decks, and appropriately replaced Thought Scour’s role there.
#14. Ice-Fang Coatl
#13. Baleful Strix
I can’t tell you how many times I've see somebody die because they underestimated this card chipping away at them every turn since turn 2, and losing 14 life to it.
Manamorphose is one of the most important and famous storm cards of all time. This is a free cantrip assuming you can pay the two mana and have something to do with it after.
Storm decks love this because they usually have plenty of mana but not always enough cards (at least, not the right ones), and this plays the role perfectly.
Next up is Predict, which is where things get a little interesting. This card requires you know the top card of your library for certain, which can be easily accomplished with cards like Dragon's Rage Channeler, Brainstorm, and Mishra's Bauble.
In case you couldn’t tell, this is used in Legacy Delver and a few fringe combo decks, but not much else.
#10. Serum Visions
While Quicken isn’t always the most potent spell to cast, it’s a surprisingly great cantrip for what it does. It only makes your sorcery-speed spells instant speed instead of the infamous non-cantrip Flash.
The difference there is spectacular, which is why the latter is banned everywhere but Vintage. But the card draw on Quicken kind of makes up for the fact it takes up a card slot in the first place.
#8. Veil of Summer
Veil of Summer is the ever-present thorn in my side as a mono-blue Commander player. This card is top-notch interaction for green decks looking to lock down interaction and clear the way for combos in multicolored decks.
This is a must-run in any green Commander deck and often even makes the sideboard in Legacy.
Next up we have Preordain, one of the more powerful cantrips that cost just one . I’m a big fan of this card because it works quite well without deck manipulation, which you can’t say for cards like Ponder or Brainstorm.
This isn't good enough for Legacy, but it's also too good for Modern. Just throw it in your Commander deck and call it a day.
#6. Omnath, Locus of Creation
Omnath, Locus of Creation counts as a cantrip in my book, so it makes its appearance in the top five. A 4-mana 4/4 that draws a card and maybe gains some life is spectacular, and it’s the main engine of 4-color blink in Modern for a good reason. But it’s a little slow in Legacy.
#5. Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is banned in so many formats for a reason. Three mana to draw a card, game some life, and ramp up is bonkers.
In eternal formats with fetch lands and plenty of cheap spells, you can often play this on turn 3 and have it online from the graveyard as early as the next turn.
#4. Up the Beanstalk
Don't even get me started on Up the Beanstalk. This card is awesome. It draws a card to replace itself, draws more cards later, and has tons of other strategies with enchantment decks. The best part of all, though, is that it draws a card whenever you cast Force of Will or any other pitch-card like Fury!
#3. Gitaxian Probe
Gitaxian Probe is as close as you’ll get to running a 56-card deck, and I’d personally say it’s better. Having that information as to not only what your opponent is playing but how their first few turns will shape up is often game-deciding.
Ponder is our runner-up today, and for good reason. This gives you some of the best card selection and sees the greatest number of cards out of any cantrip.
Like all three? Have all three. Like some of them? Use a fetch land to select your favorites. Like nothing? Shuffle it away and roll the dice!
Brainstorm is the first-place cantrip today, to nobody’s surprise. This card is exceptionally strong. It’s basically a nerfed-Ancestral Recall, and it becomes a nearly equally powerful card if you combine it with some shuffle effects or other hand manipulation. A+ here.
Best Cantrip Payoffs
Cantrips are best used in conjunction with fetch lands, which can provide an on-demand shuffle effect. That obviously requires a way to know what’s on top of your library, but some cantrips (like Brainstorm) can help you get there.
There’s also the surveil mechanic, conveniently placed on Dragon's Rage Channeler, which lets you peak at the top card before your cantrip resolves. This can allow you to toss it into the graveyard to avoid being drawn.
Why Is it Called a Cantrip Anyway?
The term “cantrip” is a Scottish word for a small spell. It was popularized in Dungeons & Dragons as similar slang for a cheap spell with no real cost, like Ponder. “Cantrip” is a small little spell you can cast for cheap, often just one blue mana, that does a minor effect like draw a card and maybe scry.
What Are Cantrips Good in MTG?
Cantrips are great because they allow you to generate card advantage over your opponent, further gathering resources and extending a lead or catching up. They also can be amplified through other knowledge effects or shuffling, which can help you setup your deck to draw you the cards you actually want.
Are Cantrips Card Draw?
Yes; cantrips are cards that draw you a card on top of doing something else.
Are Cantrips Card Advantage?
Card advantage is much different than card draw, and cantrips generally are not card advantage.
Card advantage means the spell generates more cards than just one. If you look closely, while spells like Brainstorm and Ponder allow you to see a lot of cards, they don’t actually do anything more than replace themselves, meaning they’re card neutral.
Is Ancestral Recall a Cantrip?
Ancestral Recall is a cantrip since it’s a spell that draws you a card. It doesn’t do much else, but it’s a cheap spell that ends up replacing itself (and more), so it’s considered one. I didn’t include it in the rankings because I feel like it’s in a class of its own.
Preordain | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov
That wraps up everything I have for you today. I love these massive ranking lists because they usually result in me finding some new pet cards or cards that are perfect for some specific Commander decks I own.
What did you think of my rankings? Were there any cards you wish were included but weren’t? Any rankings you’d move around or generally disagree with? Let me know in the comments or head over to chat about it in the official Draftsim Discord.
Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!
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