Last updated on November 16, 2023
Whispering Madness | Illustration by Clint Cearley
Wheel cards are controversial cards in each game they’re played in. The player casting it dislikes their hand and wants to draw a new one but their opponents often don’t, leaving at least one player at the table upset.
Today I’m going to go over just what a wheel is, the best ones available in each color, and the best payoffs for your Commander decks. Let’s get into it!
What Are Wheels in MTG?
Windfall | Illustration by Scott Murphy
Wheels are spells or abilities that cause players to discard or lose the cards in their hand, only to draw new ones immediately after. They get the name “wheels” from the infamous Wheel of Fortune, which does just that.
Some wheels have extra benefits, like shuffling the graveyard into the library or dealing damage. But the core mechanic of discarding your hand to draw a new one is what makes something a “wheel.”
Why Don’t White and Green Have Wheels?
Unfortunately for all you green and white lovers, neither color has any wheel effects in its domain. Discarding and drawing cards just isn’t something that white or green do thematically. They just don’t exist. Both drawing and discarding are things nearly entirely restricted to blue, red, and black.
#7. Game Plan
First on the list for blue today is Game Plan, which excels in multiplayer formats. It’s a wheel for which is a pretty mediocre casting cost, but any other play can help you cast it by paying up to themselves.
Odds are there will be somebody who’s mana flooded in your game or hellbent and has both the mana and the incentive to help get this off.
#6. Jace's Archivist
Jace's Archivist is a 2/2 for that can cause every player to wheel for just , drawing equal to the greatest amount discarded. This is the best wheel on a stick in blue and is a great inclusion in any wheels deck that can play it.
#5. Echo of Eons
Starting off the top five for blue is Echo of Eons. This spell is a simple wheel that shuffles everyone's graveyard and hand into their libraries and draws seven cards for .
This is as straightforward as they come and an auto-include in most blue decks, regardless of whether they’re wheel-themed or not.
#3. Day's Undoing
Here’s where things start to get powerful. Day's Undoing is a wheel that, like many blue wheels, shuffles the hand and graveyard into the library and forces everyone to draw seven. The kicker here is that it ends the turn if it’s your turn. That’s the price to pay for the best possible wheel, but it’s well worth it.
#2. Time Spiral
Now here’s where things start to get expensive. Time Spiral is your run-of-the-mill blue wheel that shuffles your graveyard and hand into your library. But the best part is that it untaps up to six lands as it resolves. This makes it an excellent combo piece with High Tide, which is a pretty sweet Legacy deck believe it or not.
In first place is, of course, Timetwister. A better Wheel of Fortune, this sorcery shuffles everyone’s hand and graveyard into their library and then draws them seven cards. This is a great option if you’re looking to be cautious about graveyard recursion decks, as long as you have upwards of $2,000 to get one.
#2. Contract from Below
The first of the two blue wheels is Contract from Below, which is actually banned in every single format it would otherwise be legal in. It works off the ante mechanic, where players gain ownership of the cards in the ante zone after they win.
This mechanic is basically nonexistent and can’t be played with thanks to gambling laws. A draw eight for is pretty good though.
#1. Dark Deal
In the #1 spot winning by default is Dark Deal! This is a wheel for , but with the downside that everyone draws as many as they discarded minus one. This is a classic black spell, just copying whatever blue is doing but making everyone discard in the process.
Red is where most of the wheel effects are. After all, it’s where Wheel of Fortune (the mechanic’s namesake) comes from.
#9. Magus of the Wheel
A 3/3 for isn’t great, but it isn’t bad either. On top of that it only costs to spin the wheel, which is about as cheap as these effects come. Overall this is a great wheel effect and an auto-include in any Nekusar, the Mindrazer deck I build.
#8. Imposing Grandeur
Next up is Imposing Grandeur. This card was released with the Innistrad: Crimson Vow Commander decks and wheels each player, drawing them cards equal to their commander’s mana value (or highest if they’re running partners).
This is a very unique take on wheels. And I’d say it’s worth it so long as you’re running a high-price commander. Maybe not so much if you’re running Birgi, God of Storytelling.
#7. Wheel of Fate
#6. Valakut Awakening
Valakut Awakening is your average run-of-the-mill MDMC that wheels based on the number of cards put onto the bottom of your library from your hand. It's instant speed, which is a premium in today's wheel economy, and maintains that classic pricing. I think this card is alright, and it offers a “unique-enough” take on wheels.
#5. Reforge the Soul
Reforge the Soul is an excellent wheel, and another one that just costs . This card is a lot easier to get off the ground than Wheel of Fate since you can easily get it to be your first draw with something like Sensei's Divining Top.
#4. Incendiary Command
Incendiary Command actually has an option that wheels everyone and makes them draw equal to the number of cards they discarded. I like this wheel because also gets you a mini board wipe off or takes out a troublesome nonbasic.
#3. Collective Defiance
In the #3 spot for red wheels is Collective Defiance. At worst this is a wheel for , but like Incendiary Command you have some options with this one. You can pay to essentially get a better Lightning Bolt that can blast a creature or do four to a player.
It’s a nice addition and you’re not required to pay the additional cost like you are with Incendiary Command.
#2. Molten Psyche
Molten Psyche is a fairly straightforward wheel that lets you blast each opponent for plenty of damage as long as you have metalcraft active. That’s pretty easy to do in Commander since you’re likely to always have one or two artifacts out at a given time and can easily wait for a third one before letting this loose.
#1. Wheel of Fortune
In the #1 spot for red wheels is none other than Wheel of Fortune. This is basically as good as it gets. It costs instead of but it ensures everyone gets seven cards, which isn’t something most wheels do.
#5. Rix Maadi Reveler
This has a pretty limited range of use and is best in aggressive Rakdos () decks. But it’s still a multicolored wheel so it makes the list.
#4. Arjun, the Shifting Flame
Arjun, the Shifting Flame is a classic sphinx creature, a big flier that has some kind of ridiculously powerful ability. This time it’s a triggered ability that forces you to put your hand on the bottom of your library and draw that many cards each time you cast a spell.
I’m sure there’s some kind of cycling combo deck that can win with this consistently, but I don’t know where I’d start with that.
#3. Heartwarming Redemption
Heartwarming Redemption is a wheel that gains you life after you draw. It’s a pretty straightforward wheel but is a little defensive for Boros () in my mind. I’d think that this card would then also give you creatures +1/+0 also, but this is still great.
#2. Emergency Powers
This is where things get really fun, with Emergency Powers in the #2 spot. This Azorius () wheel has the addendum mechanic, which lets you place up to a 7-drop permanent on the battlefield if you cast this during your main phase.
This is a great add-on to any wheel spell. You don’t even need a battlecruiser creature to make this good, either. You’ll still be more than happy dropping Solemn Simulacrum.
#1. Whispering Madness
Finally, as you may have guessed, in the #1 spot for best multicolored wheels is Whispering Madness. This wheel has the cipher mechanic, which means you can milk your opponents for all they’ve got if you can attach this to a greater attacker like Baleful Strix.
#2. Memory Jar
Everyone discards their current hand and gets back the cards they were made to discard originally at the end of the turn. It’s basically a draw seven and can work wonders in combo decks that just need that last piece to close out a game.
#1. Teferi's Puzzle Box
In the #1 spot for best colorless wheels is Teferi's Puzzle Box, which has an incredible effect. On each player’s draw step, that player wheels their hand.
Wheels aren’t great on their own. If they don’t guarantee a draw seven then they’re card neutral for your opponents and negative for you. You often want cards that have triggered abilities on cards being discarded or drawn, which will generate enough extra value for you to get an edge over your opponents.
Here are some of the best wheel payoffs that I’ve personally played with and loved.
Spiteful Visions is, of course, one of the best wheel payoffs. In addition to drawing more cards for further value, it also deals one damage to any player when they draw a card. Unfortunately that hits you too, but it’s a great way to push additional damage when combined with other payoffs.
It’s also an enchantment, which makes it more resilient than other creature-based payoffs.
Underworld Dreams is also great and is a little better. It costs which can be a bit harder to cast, but the payoff is that it only pings your opponents. It’s also an enchantment, which makes it much more likely to stick around longer and really put some damage in.
The Locust God
Next up is the first wheel payoff creature, The Locust God. This god creature creates a 1/1 flier with haste whenever you draw a card. That’s pretty ridiculous since it means you’re pushing upwards of seven damage each time you play a wheel.
This is a great alternative to direct damage, and the creatures have some other synergies that they can play into.
Don’t think for a second I’ve forgotten about Waste Not. Part of wheeling is the actual discard of a lot of cards, which deserve to have triggers too! This cheap enchantment draws you cards, generates mana, and even creates 2/2 Zombies. What’s not to love?
Niv-Mizzet, Parun is one of the best Niv cards when it comes to wheels. It lets you direct one damage to anything when you draw a card, which is as good removal as it is burn. You also get to draw an extra card with your wheels, which makes them card-neutral at worst and much better cards overall.
Nekusar, the Mindrazer
I played around with a Nekusar, the Mindrazer EDH deck for a while, and believe me, it has some power packed into it. It’s naturally a card-draw engine itself and does damage each time an opponent draws.
It turns every wheel into a burn spell that effectively does 18% of your opponent’s max life on top of slowly chipping away. It’s only a matter of a few turns before you close out the game if you manage to stick Nekusar and keep it alive. Forcing opponents to draw only speeds up the clock.
Memory Jar | Illustration by Donato Giancola
And there you have it, the best wheels and their payoffs ranked! I’m definitely a certified long-time wheel lover. Having played my friend’s Nekusar, the Mindrazer deck for so long, most of these cards are permanently burned into my mind.
What do you think of wheels as a mechanic? Are they a useful tool to combo off, or an annoying setback that forces everyone to mulligan an otherwise good hand? Let me know what you think in the comments or over in the official Draftsim Discord.
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