Last updated on January 13, 2023

Torment of Hailfire - Illustration by Grzegorz Rutkowski

Torment of Hailfire | Illustration by Grzegorz Rutkowski

Magic, like most other card games, has pillars of strategy and gameplay that often determine who wins a given game. Things like value, tempo, interaction, bluffing, and card advantage all have serious impacts determined by the players and their choices throughout the game.

Card advantage specifically comes down to deckbuilding and opportunities during a game. I’m sure you’ve heard of card draw before, but that isn’t exactly what card advantage is.

What is card advantage, and why is it important? How can you gain card advantage? Which cards are the most card advantageous? Let’s find out!

What Is Card Advantage?

Brainstorm (Signature Spellbook) - Illustration by Daarken

Brainstorm (Signature Spellbook) | Illustration by Daarken

Card advantage is just getting more cards out than you put in when you use a card, which can happen in a few different ways.

The most common are card draw spells that draw more than a single card, like Divination. This sorcery is card advantageous because you’re spending one card to draw two, effectively having one more card in your hand than when you started.

This is an interesting way of looking at the game, and it’s something that’s present and important in just about every card game. Card advantage doesn’t always necessarily need to account for the mana spent or other factors because it’s measured on a card-for-card scale.

Card draw’s advantageous effect can also be mimicked by cards that don’t even draw cards in the first place. If you cast Snapcaster Mage to flashback and cast a spell from your graveyard then the Mage supplies you with a creature on top of whatever other card you get to cast again. That’s effectively the same as drawing another card and casting it right away.

Another way to generate card advantage doesn’t even involve drawing cards or casting spells a second time. If your opponent played three straight creatures while you only played one, a board wipe like Wrath of God would be card advantageous because you’re spending two cards in this transaction: your creature (assuming it’s a card you played and not a token) and Wrath of God. Meanwhile your opponent spent and lost three creatures in this exchange.

The idea of card advantage is the entire premise that control decks are built on. They win by using cards to get two-for-ones and draw surplus cards to burry an opponent in card advantage. The opposite effect appears in aggressive decks. They instead willingly take one-for-ones and are often forced to take a one-for-none while banking on overwhelming opponents with speed instead of strength or value.

There’s also card advantage in cards that give seemingly one-for-one outcomes. Take Thoughtseize for example. This card is used to take away a card from an opponent’s hand. While that transaction adds up to one card for one card, you casting Thoughtseize also get information on the cards in your opponent’s hand. Cards in hand lose strength when they become known, making these types of spells card advantageous.

Best White Card Advantage

#5. Court of Grace

Court of Grace

Court of Grace is a great example of enchantment-based card advantage because it brings that advantage through different means. It gives monarch, which draws you plenty of cards and replaces itself, but it also creates 1/1 and 4/4 flying tokens.

Those tokens aren’t exactly stable and consistent value like card draw or two-for-ones, but they exert a lot of pressure on the board and contest your opponents’ non-token creature threats that they spent a card on. There are just so many ways to get card advantage with this card that I couldn’t leave it off the list.

#4. Kor Spiritdancer

Kor Spiritdancer

I’ve included Kor Spiritdancer because it “cantrip-ifys” all your auras, which just means that it turns every aura you play into a card-neutral buff.

Wait, did you just say card neutral? I thought this was a card advantage list?

You, probably

Yes, the auras you play definitely become card neutral. But they demand action from your opponents and the Spiritdancer itself takes a hit from some single-target removal, so you’re bound to get the better end of the value exchange with your opponents. If you lose a card to your opponent’s card but also draw one in the process, that’s a two-for-one in your favor.

#3. Board Wipes

Basically every single board wipe has the potential to be card advantageous. It only requires proper setup so that you aren’t purging more of your own developed threats than your opponent is losing.

These work specifically well in control decks that don’t run a lot of creatures, or decks that run other nonland permanent threats that don’t get caught up in the mass destruction.

#2. Opponent Action = Card Draw Spells

Esper Sentinel Archivist of Oghma

White also has creatures that draw you a card whenever an opponent does something. For example, Esper Sentinel taxes your opponent (guaranteed value), and Archivist of Oghma has you benefit from your opponents’ actions.

#1. Alms Collector

Alms Collector

Alms Collector draws you a fair number of cards, but it gets double value in card advantage because it also shuts down your opponent’s card-advantageous draw spells. That’s a baked-in two-for-one that slingshots you ahead of the competition in just one resolution.

Best Blue Card Advantage

#5. Mystic Remora + Rhystic Study

Mystic Remora Rhystic Study

Blue has lots of card advantage, including Commander staples like Mystic Remora and Rhystic Study. Both cards nearly always yield positive card advantage results in a given game and at least go one-for-one into counterspells or immediate enchantment removal.

#4. Archmage’s Charm

Archmage's Charm

Does Archmage's Charm bring serious card advantage or what? Two out of the three modes are card advantage, specifically the draw two and permanent stealing ones.

While countering a spell isn’t card advantage it’s almost always still better than holding up a card and doing nothing. You’re trading your piece of interaction for their threat, often going equal or positive on the mana exchange. That generates a tempo advantage in your favor.

The bonus with this Charm is that there isn’t risk to holding up mana for it. With a conventional counterspell you risk doing nothing with your mana if you don’t get a targetable spell to counter. But at the very worst here you can trade this in for two fresh cards, even steal a Construct.

#3. Consecrated Sphinx

Consecrated Sphinx

Consecrated Sphinx is truly a king of card advantage. It draws massive numbers of cards, but you also get extra advantage by outdrawing your opponent at every turn.

It doesn’t matter what kind of card draw engine an opponent has in this case because you can always double their output and come out ahead.

#2. Gitaxian Probe

Gitaxian Probe

Gitaxian Probe is just incredible. It costs two life so it’s practically free. It acts as a near-free cycler, but you also get to look at an opponent’s hand.

That’s the real benefit here, because having that information allows you to sculpt your turns and strategy for the entire game and give you a head start on countering your opponent’s likely game plan.

#1. Brainstorm


I’m neglecting to include tons of cantrips here because they don’t bring the same kind of power that other card advantage does. Brainstorm is the exception, because it does more than just draw you cards. It also lets you get rid of less desirable cards to the top of your library, which opens the opportunity for you to do things like shuffle them away or mill them into the graveyard.

You can even play sneaky and “hide” cards on top of your library. This negates the effects of certain otherwise card-advantageous spells from your opponents like Thoughtseize.

Best Black Card Advantage

#5. Grim Haruspex

Grim Haruspex

Grim Haruspex is a 3-mana 3/2 that draws you a card whenever a non-token creature you control dies. This plays well into black’s sacrifice themes but also completely negates the potentially card-advantageous aspects of certain removal spells.

Drawing a card when a creature dies is great. It offsets the loss from your previously played card dying and eventually pays for the Haruspex itself.

#4. Dark Confidant

Dark Confidant

Dark Confidant powered most black Modern decks for years, and not without reason. This card offers premiere card advantage by effectively drawing you an extra card per turn.

The life tax is easily offset by playing naturally low-curve decks, and hitting a land with this just feels great. Even if it dies right away you’re still often trading a 2-mana 2/1 for some kind of other creature or removal spell, which your opponent then won’t be able to use on your follow-up.

#3. Bolas’s Citadel

Bolas's Citadel

Bolas's Citadel represents a big jump from the previous black cards. It offers instant-speed card information on the top of your library and also lets you cast spells from the top by paying life, including lands.

You can carefully craft your draws with this. Play cards off the top when they’re useful or when you need to find better ones, or leave them on top when the cost is too high or you don’t mind holding them for later.

#2. Griselbrand


Griselbrand would be in the top spot if it weren’t banned in nearly every format. Drawing a fresh seven, even for the cost of seven life, is just incredible.

It doesn’t really matter what your opponent does. If you manage to untap with this card and start attacking and drawing more cards you’ll be able to parry their response nearly every time, deckbuilding permitting.

#1. Torment of Hailfire

Torment of Hailfire

Torment of Hailfire is a bomb sorcery with the potential to ruin the lives of the entire pod in a game of Commander. It forces your opponents to discard a card, sacrifice a nonland permanent, or lose three life. This then repeats times.

Even if everyone elects to lose life and sacrifice a few cheap cards you’re still massively ahead. The life damage adds up incredibly quickly, and you might be able to time this to force them to sacrifice their best creature or enchantment.

Best Red Card Advantage

#5. Big Score

Big Score

Big Score and cards like it have brought some incredible power creep goodness to the hands of Standard and Commander players. This is technically card advantage since it goes two-for-two and gives decent selection.

The extra mana on top is great fixing, and this card also slots great into multicolored decks.

#4. Jeska’s Will

Jeska's Will

Jeska's Will should be an obvious pick. It’s really only powerful if you’re playing Commander, but damn is it strong. Adding often and getting three new cards to play is enough to quickly turn the tide of a game.

This is often a great way to try and go off if you’re playing a fast combo deck, especially if you have some kind of flashback or recursion shenanigans going on.

#3. Valakut Exploration

Valakut Exploration

Most of red’s card draw comes in looting and exile effects, and Valakut Exploration is a great example. This 3-mana enchantment lets you exile and play the top card of your library on landfall.

The best part is that you can still get value from the card being exiled if you don’t want to play it by flinging damage equal to its mana value to each opponent.

#2. Faithless Looting

Faithless Looting

Faithless Looting ranks pretty high as you may have guessed. This cheap spell loots for two but has an ultra-cheap flashback ability that keeps the value coming throughout the game.

This is mostly used in Rakdos ()-based reanimator decks, which have none of the drawbacks of discarding two cards because they easily just pitch their reanimation targets and reap the rewards.

#1. Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune is one of the kings of both card advantage and draw. This wheel doesn’t come with a clause to draw the number discarded but a strict seven, unlike a lot of blue wheels. You’re getting a good trade off If you play this on any discardable hand, even if it’s seven cards.

The obvious profitable exchange is drawing more cards than you lost, but it’s okay to pitch a poor six or seven and draw what are likely to be much better cards. You might even disrupt game plans from those sitting across from you in the process.

Best Green Card Advantage

#5. Toski, Bearer of Secrets

Toski, Bearer of Secrets

Toski, Bearer of Secrets is a hard-to-kill squirrel rascal that nets you plenty of card draw throughout a game. it’s pretty difficult to remove between being uncounterable and indestructible,. The unfortunate part is that it has to attack each turn if able.

Toski is mostly relegated to Commander where you typically have at least one player who’s open (or who fears) your combat tricks.

#4. Rishkar’s Expertise

Rishkar's Expertise

Rishkar's Expertise is a 6-mana sorcery that draws you cards equal to the highest power among creatures you control. Green loves playing big fatties, so having a draw-eight (or draw-ten) isn’t out of the question.

To top things off it lets you cast a 5-drop from your hand without paying its cost, effectively making it a 1-mana draw spell with an upside.

#3. Greater Good

Greater Good

Greater Good is, well, great. This 4-mana enchantment lets you sacrifice a creature at instant speed to draw cards equal to its power. The downside is that you then have to draw three cards, but the kinds of huge creatures you can pitch to this in green often have double that power.

This also helps hedge against removal spells which in turn just furthers the card advantage.

#2. Glimpse of Nature

Glimpse of Nature

Glimpse of Nature is the greatest card advantage spell there is in the right setting. It’s an incredibly important piece in Legacy elves decks, allowing them to continuously churn through cheap creatures that replace themselves to eventually land on Craterhoof Behemoth as a closer.

#1. Sylvan Library

Sylvan Library

Sylvan Library is tops in green, and it doesn’t take much research to find out why. Unlike some of the other green cards, this offers guaranteed dividends in either card draw or selection.

Have plenty of life to spend? Draw all three. Running low? You still get the excellent selection.

What’s not to love?

Best Multicolored Card Advantage

#4. Moldervine Reclamation

Moldervine Reclamation

Moldervine Reclamation is a sweet enchantment that’s often overlooked in casual Commander decks. It brings a difficult to remove card advantage effects for sacrifice decks, which are almost always Golgari ().

The lifegain is a nice touch, but that’s not what you’re here for.

#3. Sphinx’s Revelation

Sphinx's Revelation

Sphinx's Revelation has long been an excellent supporting card in Azorius () control decks. It offers a great way to sink mana into a single card later in the game when you’re low on interaction, and the lifegain is significant enough in the kinds of decks that play this card.

#2. Oko, Thief of Crowns

Oko, Thief of Crowns

While Oko, Thief of Crowns doesn’t generate card advantage through drawing, it certainly does in other routes. On a single planeswalker you can:

  • Create an artifact (Mmm, Food).
  • Neutralize an opponent’s threat by turning it into an elk.
  • Give yourself a blocker by turning an artifact into an elk.
  • Or trade something for an opponent’s creature.

What’s not to love? On turn 3, no less!

#1. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is about as good as it gets. It draws multiple cards over the course of the game, accelerates you on lands, and even gains you some life.

The card draw here is significant. This card is basically only played in Legacy Bant () and Temur () decks that need a long-term win condition, and it supplies just that.

Best Colorless Card Advantage

#4. Reckoner Bankbuster

Reckoner Bankbuster

A relatively newcomer to card advantage is Reckoner Bankbuster. This 2-mana enchantment can offer up to three extra cards while being a decent 4/4 body if it’s crewed.

I loved this card in Standard, and it’s even recently made it into some of my casual control Commander decks. It’s just great.

#3. Memory Jar

Memory Jar

Memory Jar can very easily get you out of some seriously terrible situations. It basically draws you a new hand, lets you cast from it, then gives you your old hand back. It does all of this for free, only needing to be tapped.

That kind of instant-speed draw seven can get you the answer you need at the right time and disrupts your opponents’ multistep plans in the process.

#2. Mishra’s Bauble

Mishra's Bauble

Mishra's Bauble may not give you the most total card advantage, but it is the most accessible. It’s literally free and lets you draw a fresh card and have well-timed card information on the top of somebody’s library.

Have a fetch land? Crack the Bauble and peak at your top to see if you want to sacrifice your land now or later. Curious about your opponent’s upcoming turn? See what they’ve got going on. You can’t lose.

#1. Skullclamp


The colorless card advantage trophy undeniably goes to Skullclamp. Maybe it should be a crown…

Got extra tokens or mana dorks? Start equipping them with Skullclamp! They’ll drop like flies, you’ll draw cards, and your opponents will start sweating. “If they don’t need the mana anymore, what exactly are they looking for…?”

Best Card Advantage Payoffs

There aren’t really any synergistic payoffs for card advantage like there is for card draw, but there are ways to build your deck and play the game that greatly benefit from having plenty of cards.

Creature strategies, especially red- and green-based ones, heavily benefit from card advantage. Aggressive decks naturally lose out on card advantage in the long run because you want to kill your opponent before that becomes a problem. You’re done for if you put more cards in their hand.

Control decks, on the other hand, function completely based on this idea. Getting consistent two-for-ones and out-valuing your opponent only pays dividends, and a lot of decks try to press this advantage as hard as possible to bury opponents.

Why Is Card Advantage Important?

Card advantage is important because Magic is often a game of attrition, especially in 1v1 formats. Most games come down to who’s left standing with something on their side of the board, outside of aggressive beatdowns.

Think about all the times you’ve barely won a game of Magic. It was probably with one more creature than your opponent, one better spell, or one key piece of interaction that wouldn’t be there if you weren’t just slightly ahead in card advantage.

Are Cantrips Card Advantage?

Most cantrips are, in fact, card advantage. They typically all do something on top of drawing a card, usually some kind of card selection.

Whether it’s scrying, giving the best of two or three cards, or hiding other cards away, it all counts as card advantage.

Wrap Up

Reckoner Bankbuster - Illustration by Steve Prescott

Reckoner Bankbuster | Illustration by Steve Prescott

Card advantage is a part of the game any aspiring Magic player should get to know if they want to succeed. Good card advantage is a sign of efficient game moves, and efficient game moves eventually lead to game-winning results.

What are your favorite types of card advantage? Which specific cards do you like in your decks for card advantage? Are there any that you think beat my picks? Let me know in the comments below or over in the official Draftsim Discord.

Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!

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