Last updated on February 13, 2023
Curse of Vitality | Illustration by Kieran Yanner
Is the person sitting across from you in Magic an enemy? You attack them with creatures. You can have your burn spells go to their face. You can do other things that combo and control them out of their game. But does the idea of cursing them with a permanent cross a line?
In a multiplayer game like Commander, does the feel bad of a curse feel even worse for the victim? And is targeting only one person like that even useful, strategically or politically?
Let’s rank all the curses in Magic and find out!
What Are Curses in MTG?
Fraying Sanity | Illustration by Ryan Alexander Lee
A curse is an enchantment aura that attaches to a player and can be identified with the “Enchantment – Aura Curse” type line. Some cards have names that use the term “curse” a bit differently, like Curse Artifact, which targets an artifact instead of a player. Another example is Curse of Marit Lage from Ice Age, which applies to everyone with Islands. Those aren’t “proper curses” as you might define them.
Each visit to Innistrad increases the number of curses since the idea is on point for horror themes. And it’s possible that your interest has been piqued seeing as we were just there.
There are also “curse tribal” decks for Commander. Especially around Lynde, Cheerful Tormentor, who may be worth playing for its name alone. Because curses are a bit slow and expensive for Constructed play in formats like Standard or Modern, this ranking of all the curses in Magic primarily has Commander in mind.
Ready or not, let’s take a deep dive into the art of cursing friends and antagonizing other players!
Best White Curses
This color is a mixed bag for curses. If curse-relevant commanders didn’t often have white in their mana cost, I’m not sure anyone would want to run most of these.
Despite what I just said, Overwhelming Splendor is a beating. It strips the utility from someone’s creatures, artifacts, and enchantments. Any deck that relies on creatures has to answer it in a head-to-head matchup or it loses.
How do you win with a cavalcade of vanilla 1/1s? Even if the curser doesn’t then wipe all the now measly minions from the cursee’s board, it becomes so much easier for anyone else at the table to destroy them, not to mention just attacking.
The downside of this curse is that it’s outrageously expensive to cast in general, much less for something that only hits one person in a multiplayer game. It does very little against planeswalker-heavy superfriends decks and most combo and control decks.
Still, the card is the over-the-top headliner for the curse festival. It’s the one you remember from Cube, and you probably have to run this assuming your colors allow if you’re ready to rock curse tribal.
Curse of Silence
A reasonable inclusion in Hallowed Haunting-style enchantments decks or old school enchantress decks for its low cost, Curse of Silence’s ability to add an extra tax to a commander is nice.
This curse and the next on the list are bumped up for being the cheapest curses on the block. These “weenie curses” are more relevant when you consider that some curses stack effects based on the number of curses on a player. A commander like Ghen, Arcanum Weaver also needs cheap stuff to cycle so this is decent in that kind of deck.
Radiant Grace / Radiant Restraints
A cheap aura for your creatures that flips into half an Authority of the Consuls when the creature dies, Radiant Grace is a reasonable way to slow creature-based aggro decks. You mostly want this cursing someone the turn before they kill the dork you dropped it on.
Curse of Vitality
Curse of Vitality is like the essence of group hug, and the art is what it presumably feels like to pilot a group hug deck.
Everybody gets a card if they attack Steve which is great because everybody hates Steve today. He’s playing something awful like a Chulane, Teller of Tales deck, and we told him to stop bringing that deck.
The best part is that I always get a card. That’s cool with everybody, right?
Faithbound Judge / Sinner’s Judgment
Faithbound Judge is really difficult to evaluate. The flying wall on the front side can grow into a Serra Angel over three turns. That seems like not enough. Then you can disturb it out of the graveyard when it dies to make someone at the table lose… eventually. It’s the Romero zombies of curses. I drop this and you’ll be sorry in six turns! Or I can mill it and you’ll be sorry when I get seven mana.
I can see this being a nice bit of politicking in spirits tribal, and you won’t hate it in your opening hand. But there are a couple dozen cheaper cards I’d rather have in that deck that aren’t .
Curse of the Forsaken
Curse of the Forsaken is nice if you’ve got a lifegain theme going, but I’m not sure there aren’t a lot better options for that. It serves a decent political purpose at a Commander table if you’re in a lifegain meta.
And if you are, do you really want someone else’s Ajani’s Pridemate to get swole because of this?
Curse of Conformity
Curse of Conformity is Overwhelming Splendor light. It’s cheaper to cast but still not exactly cheap. It can also buff an opposing weenie deck, so why not spend the five mana on one of the oodles of wraths in this color?
The real attraction to this card is the meme-worthy act of cursing yourself and buffing your board of Thopters or whatever. I’m sure that’s on the bucket list for some players, but not for me.
Curse of Exhaustion
A one-sided Rule of Law for one more mana, Curse of Exhaustion can be a desperate addition to certain stax builds. But sleeving this up is its own curse of exhaustion.
Best Blue Curses
If you’re looking for the memes you’ve come to the right place.
Curse of Verbosity
Remember Curse of Vitality? Ditto. But aren’t you feeling like you’ve got to collect them all with Curse of Verbosity, though?
Any mill deck in Commander is swimming heroically upstream and Fraying Sanity is a must-include. You’d rather have auras that affect everyone like Sphinx’s Tutelage, but you’re playing a mill deck and are used to the struggle.
Curse of Unbinding
Curse of Unbinding is expensive and seems to mostly just annoy your opponent. The value of which can’t be underestimated, I guess, in certain circumstances. In some ways that’s your thematic goal in playing a curse or curse deck anyway, so maybe this feels almost like a flavor auto-include.
Curse of Surveillance
I spend five mana once and basically draw an extra card in 1v1. Then I draw even more because Curse of Surveillance stacks with the number of curses. That’s pretty fun.
I can see this being a really key card in Commander for certain kinds of group hug builds. But I’d still rather have Verbosity.
Curse of the Bloody Tome
Listen, buddy. I win in 40 turns. Got that?
Curse of Inertia
I’ve got a deal for ya. You attack Steve over there and one of your dorks gets vigilance.
What about I sweeten the deal? Maybe I’ll let you untap anything you want, but only one thing, and only if you attack, certain restrictions apply. Void where prohibited.
No? You sure?
What if I throw in…
Curse of Echoes
Best Black Curses
Now we’re talking! This is where you live if you’re playing a curse deck.
Curse of Vengeance
Cheap is good.
Curse of Vengeance has “spite counters,” which is just rad and exactly the kind of flavor win you need to help people forgive you for playing a curse deck.
This seems like the most useful curse to play outside of curse tribal or group hug decks. Any enchantment-matters decks will like the price, and you’ll eventually get a nice raft of cards if you can identify the person likely to lose first and, I dunno, another curse tribal player and slap this on them.
The fun part that makes you feel smart is putting this in a good deck and slapping it on a noob or someone struggling to keep them alive. No one wants you to get the cards, and you can save someone literally out of spite. They may not like having this dropped on them at first, but just wait. They’ll understand the big brain thing later.
Curse of Misfortunes
Curse of Misfortunes is the engine for your curse deck. I’m not sure that turning your deck into a curse-y toolbox helps that much when they all have to target the original player, but this gives your deck a bit more speed. You probably need to do this thing too if you’re going with the curse thing.
Add honorable mention card Bitterheart Witch and the fun never stops, I guess.
Expensive and slow but grinding and horrible to be the victim of, Cruel Reality is the top end of a lot of black decks in a lot of Cubes. This is probably the reason you’re playing a curse deck. If this card seems unplayable to you, you probably shouldn’t be playing a curse deck.
Torment of Scarabs
Torment of Scarabs is Tergrid’s Lantern in enchantment form, which is pretty deece if you’re playing that kind of deck. Fair warning, though: no one likes you if you’re playing that deck.
Curse of Disturbance
More “fun” group hug shenanigans with the same dude and his high fade hipster haircut, now clearly on the run after all his mansplaining in the Curse of Verbosity went tragically(?) wrong. I guess you need to run the set of Curse of Disturbance if you’re going to run one, so let’s go!
Curse of Shallow Graves
Obviously Curse of Disturbance is the final form of Curse of Shallow Graves, and I can see this in the same decks.
Curse of the Restless Dead
Curse of the Restless Dead is the first curse we’ve seen that doesn’t actually hurt the player it’s attached to, which is novel. It just makes you zombies. A lot of zombies if you slap it on a landfall player. They’re only decayed zombies, but you know you want this if you’re a zombie deck or creature sac deck.
Curse of Fool’s Wisdom
Curse of Fool’s Wisdom is a recurring source of lifegain and lifedrain for the decks that want that, which helps with the central weakness of curses: that they only attach to one player. And the madness helps with the absurd mana cost.
I have a Commander deck that wants this, and so do you.
Trespasser’s Curse is a recurring source of lifegain and lifedrain for the decks that want that, which helps with the central weakness of curses: that they only attach to one player. This has the bonus of being game-over for infinite elves decks.
Curse of Leeches / Leeching Lurker
Curse of Leeches is a recurring source of lifegain and lifedrain etc., etc. But this is pretty fiddly and durdly. I guess you can drop it on different players each time as day and night flip which might be a suspenseful good time if your group’s threshold for fun is really low.
Accursed Witch / Infectious Curse
Accursed Witch is (eventually) a recurring source of lifegain and lifedrain etc., etc.
Curse of Thirst
Curse of Thirst feels like a dare. Can you do this curse thing hard enough to actually win with this card? Is this the scenario you need to achieve before you put the curse deck away and stop annoying your playgroup?
Curse of Death’s Hold
Curse of Death’s Hold is so expensive for what it does. Don’t most folks swap this out of their Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver precons? I guess if you have this out with Overwhelming Splendor you feel like a god, and maybe that’s all the reason you need here.
Curse of Oblivion
There’s worse graveyard hate out there, I guess. I can’t imagine Curse of Oblivion is worth it even in some kind of curse-y tribal.
Best Red Curses
Playable curses in this color all feel like you’re assassinating someone at the table. The other colors’ curses feel grindy, but red’s can end someone’s evening really quickly. Maybe even yours.
Curse of Obsession
How many red stax decks are there? Because if not that then it seems the real reason to play Curse of Obsession is to curse yourself and have a less killable Avaricious Dragon on your board to get some red card draw going.
Curse of Opulence
Curse of Opulence is the cheap entry-level high-fade dude card. The amuse douche?
Curse of Hospitality
Is there a more feel-bad card in our list of curses than Curse of Hospitality to drop on someone? Does anyone attack anyone else? It seems unlikely that you’re not next to go after you do this. Especially if the player you want others to smackdown is playing, like, a charming doggo tribal deck or something.
Curse of Bloodletting
Do they get another turn after you drop Curse of Bloodletting on them?
Curse of Chaos
Curse of Chaos seems like the most underpowered of the “Hey! Everybody start attacking Steve!” cards.
Curse of Shaken Faith
Curse of Shaken Faith is the nuts if you drop it on a storm player. And everyone will forgive you for being a curse player if you do.
Curse of Stalked Prey
Enabling someone else’s Selesnya counters decks is not where you want to be.
Curse of the Nightly Hunt
I guess if you’re spreading curses around the table Curse of the Nightly Hunt enables some of your goad-style strategies. But if they pointing their besties at you, wouldn’t that solve the problem for them?
Curse of the Pierced Heart
Why doesn’t Curse of the Pierced Heart cost 1? Even in a Rakdos spectacle deck, I feel like this gets cut.
Everyone hates you.
Best Green Curses
Curse of Clinging Webs
Curse of Clinging Webs is an auto-include in a spider tribal deck, sure. Pretty decent wrath protection, or if you’re packing lots of wraths yourself.
Curse of Predation
One mana more for an otherwise strictly better Curse of Stalked Prey? At least you might be the one running the Selesnya counters deck, so maybe Curse of Predation is worth it for you.
Curse of Bounty
I guess Curse of Bounty is the most savage of the cycle of curses with this guy. But it also seems like the most risky. Whatever you’re playing, but especially if it’s multicolor curses, I’m not sure you have enough spells to foil the craziness that will fly when you toss a free Wilderness Reclamation to everyone at the table with a creature on the board.
But I dunno. Maybe you’re here for that? Maybe you hope that this is the one curse that keeps you alive while the blue-heavy players unload on each other?
Payoffs: Cursed Strategy and Deck Ideas
It feels like curse players are always The Unluckiest. They’re probably just too slow to be competitive as a deck in Duel Commander or a 1v1 format like Standard. A curse here or there can help in enchantment-matters decks, but it takes a lot for curse tribal to work.
Curse-centric decks work best in three ways for group games like traditional Commander.
Agitator Ant | Illustration by Igor Kieryluk
Goad is a keyword that forces other players’ creatures to attack someone other than you. Players usually get a bonus for this like with Agitator Ant, probably to ease the politics of playing goad cards.
Other cards like Breena, the Demagogue along with a lot of the cards in its preconstructed deck don’t force creatures to attack. Those creatures or their controller get a bonus of some kind. And, of course, so do you. Older versions of that effect that don’t give you a particular bonus include cards like Edric, Spymaster of Trest.
Curses fit into goad decks very well. They feel more antagonizing than a goad card because they victimize one particular opponent. But cards that goad add velocity to a curse strategy. There are a few commanders that fit the bill, but the ones with the most colors are Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant and Marisi, Breaker of the Coil.
Group Hug Decks
Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis | Illustration by Willian Murai
The “worst” kind of group hug deck just gives goodies like cards and life to each player, usually alongside extra gifts to keep the losing players alive. These games can go on forever.
The “better” versions have a wincon or two like Laboratory Maniac when you get decked, or Aetherflux Reservoir. The OG for this kind of deck is Phelddagrif but newer commanders like Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis and Kenrith, the Returned King are also popular in this space.
Curses need a bit of work to fit in a group hug mold, but I’ve seen it done. Especially if you distribute them around the table as needed. And they can provide a final wincon…
Assuming you have a secret goal to actually win. Especially the powerful and expensive curses.
Lynde, Cheerful Tormentor | Illustration by Anna Steinbauer
The classic enchantment decks are called Enchantress, originally based around Verduran Enchantress which draws a card when you play an enchantment. Many, many versions of that kind of card have popped up over the years and commanders like Tuvasa the Sunlit often fit the bill.
Cards that make creatures when you cast enchantments like Alela, Artful Provocateur and Daxos the Returned, are another way to work this theme. Curses fit nicely into this kind of deck. Especially the cheaper ones.
Enchantment recursion decks finding ways to reuse enchantments when they die are an especially interesting take on enchantment-based card advantage. They work particularly well with curses since they hit the graveyard when the target player loses. The mascot for curse decks, Lynde, Cheerful Tormentor, does this. So do Tiana, Ship’s Caretake and Ghen, Arcanum Weaver.
Curses give enchantment decks something aggressive and directional to add to the buff, stax, and value cards that populate these decks.
Do Curses Target a Player?
A curse must have a valid player target when it enters the battlefield. So if it’s down to 1v1 and your opponent has an Aegis of the Gods out, you just cursed yourself!
Who Controls Curses When They’re Attached?
You control curses you’ve attached to a player. But it can get confusing when control of permanents changes with Gauntlets of Chaos-type effects. If someone else steals your curse or if you give it to another player with Generous Gift, they choose another player (maybe you!) as the target of the curse once they gain control of it.
Do Curses Count Towards Devotion?
Yes, curses count towards devotion. They’re permanents you control with pips that count.
What Happens to Curses When the Enchanted Player Dies?
The curses attached to a player go to the graveyard when the enchanted player dies.
How Do Curses Work with Recursion Cards Like Tiana?
Creatures and cards that recur enchantments like Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker are great ways to reapply curses. Maybe to a new victim once the first loses the game?
Can You Sacrifice Curses?
You can absolutely sacrifice curses. That’s part of the fun of Ghen, Arcanum Weaver!
I’ve used both Ghen and Arenson’s Aura for political purposes in Commander games. It feels a bit like a protection racket shakedown to promise to sac your Curse of Hospitality if they attack someone else, but hey, you’re playing curses.
You knew what you were getting into.
Who’s the Guy in All the Curses Anyway?
The guy in the cycle of curses from Commander 2017 is The Unluckiest Planeswalker™. You can see his doll being tortured by Lynde, Cheerful Tormentor, and he recently showed up on Flame Blitz. I can foresee many years of jokes, at least until he meets his destiny; the Lhurgoyf.
Curse of Inertia | Illustration by Jasper Sandner
I can’t say that these decks are great or even fun things to be doing in all cases, but curses can provide a kind of alternate storyline to the way Commander games usually go in the right group (usually a more casual space). That’s often a nice change of pace for a playgroup.
It’s a bit of work to figure out how to pull this off with only 42 proper curses in Magic and none that are strictly dedicated to 5- or even 4-color curse-friendly Commander. Curses generally fit a type of control build anyway so a control commander in the colors of the curses you want is probably the right choice, at least until The Unluckiest gets printed and we start living the dream.
Which curse is your favorite to sling around the table at your friends? Or your least favorite to have thrown at your face? Let me know in the comments down below or over on Draftsim’s official Twitter.
That’s all from me for now. Have fun and be nice! Ish.Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: