Monday, 02 November 2020 13:23

Zero to Hero: Ranking Magic: The Gathering's zero casting cost artifacts

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Zero to Hero: Ranking Magic: The Gathering's zero casting cost artifacts WOTC

With the recent revelation of a new zero casting cost artifact that has made waves across the Magic: The Gathering community, Jeweled Lotus, we thought this would be a good time to look back at the game’s various zero casting cost artifacts and rank them.

To make things interesting, we are not including those that are found in the Power Nine (Black Lotus and the five moxen) because, well, duh.  We also are not including anything that has an “X” in the casting cost (eg: Shifting Wall, Engineered Explosives, etc.) or any other situation where the casting cost is not truly zero, such as the case with Everflowing Chalice.  Additionally, artifact lands and silver-bordered cards are also exempted from this list.  Also, that new Jeweled Lotus card isn't on the list because it's not out yet.

This list is purely for cards with a legit zero as the casting cost (yes, that includes artifacts that are "Suspend 0").  Even still, that leaves a good 34 cards for our list.

So, without further ado, we rank Magic: The Gathering’s zero casting-cost artifacts from worst to best.

 

Kite ShieldDespite costing zero to cast, Kite Shield costs three to equip and only buffs a creature by +0/+3.  It’s not a terrific ratio and it gets specifically outclassed by two other, similar cards on this list.  It’s only been printed in one set (M12) and that’s probably for the best.

Herbal PoulticeCreature regeneration can be handy, but Herbal Poultice isn’t just expensive to use at three mana, it’s an expensive one-time use that, honestly, just isn’t that useful in the grand scheme of things.

Darksteel RelicUnlike the artifact Null Rod, which “does nothing,” Darksteel Relic literally doesn’t do anything aside from counting towards one’s artifact count (which, honestly, doesn’t count for much).

Accorder’s ShieldStrictly better than Kite Shield as it costs the same to equip but adds vigilance in addition to the +0/+3 buff.  It’s also eerily similar to…

Cathar’s ShieldIt’s a functional reprint of Accorder’s Shield.  It is quite literally the same card save for the name, so we just listed the two in alphabetical order for argument’s sake.

Spidersilk NetWhile the net’s +0/+2 buff isn’t as good as the above two cards’ +0/+3, it costs one less to equip and adds reach, which can be quite handy – especially in limited play.

 

Fountain of YouthLife is a resource, and Fountain of Youth can help you live forever.  Well, kind of.  While repeated life gain is nice, two mana spent for every one life gained isn’t exactly going to blow anyone away.

Bone SawBONE SAW IS READY!!!  Sorry.  Couldn’t resist.  Despite the card buffing a creature a paltry +1/+0, its one mana equip cost is quite nice in the early game.

Delif’s Cone – A life gain deck’s friend, Delif’s Cone (at the detriment of not dealing damage to an opponent) lets you gain life equal to half of one of your unblocked creature’s power, which can trigger off a lot of cool effects in the game these days.  Also, the art is hella trippy when looked at through clear-colored 3D classes.  Go ahead.  Try it.

Welding JarRemember what we said about regeneration in terms of Herbal Poultice?  You can throw it all out the window with Welding Jar.  Not only does it regenerate any artifact (not just artifact creatures), it doesn’t cost any mana to do so.

Paradise Mantle Birds of Paradise is a great early game drop because of its “any color” mana generation ability.  With Paradise Mantle, you can turn any creature into a Birds and, thanks to its equip cost of one, can turn a zero casting-cost creature into a makeshift Birds on turn one.

Gustha’s ScepterWhile an awkward card that’s only ever seen paper print in Ice Age, Gustha’s Scepter is hand protection as it exiles and returns cards from your hand, thus saving said card from discard, intel, and so on.  Just make sure you don’t lose control of it while it has cards in exile for you.  You won’t get them back.

Phyrexian Walker – Old school players might remember when a turn one Wall of Wood was considered an alright play as it’s a 0/3 wall for one green mana.  Phyrexian Walker blows it out of the water by being a zero-costing 0/3 without defender thanks to it not being a wall.

 

MemniteWhile an 0/3 for zero is nice, something that can actually deal a little damage is just a tad nicer.  Sure a 1/1 is easy to deal with, but at least it can take out your opponent unaided.  Sure it’ll take 20 turns, but that’s besides the point.

 

SpellbookHand size, schmand size.  Who needs it?  Not you if you have Spellbook in play.  Sure, it’s not as versatile as Library of Leng, but it also costs zero compared to the Library’s casting cost of one.

Dark SphereFeaturing one of the most excellent pieces of artwork Mark Tedin has ever created for a Magic card, Dark Sphere is oft forgotten, but nevertheless useful as it halves the amount of damage taken from any source (rounded down).  Note that the card says “any source” and not “an unblocked creature” or anything like that, which makes it quite versatile.

 

Shield SphereRemember what we said about a 0/3 for zero being pretty good?  Well, how about a 0/6 for zero?  The catch?  Well, every time it blocks (at the time of blocking, mind you) it gets a -0/-1 counter.  Also, it’s a wall, so it can’t attack.  But still.  Besides, Phenax players love the darn thing.

 

Claws of Gix Oh Gix, you Phyrexian rascal.  Your Claws were kind of a big deal back in the Urza’s block and they’re still useful today thanks to them being not just a lifegain source, but also as a sacrifice outlet that easily plays into a number of strategies along those lines.

Mox TantaliteWhile a rose by any other name might smell just as sweet, a mox by any other name doesn’t imply that all moxen are equal (as is the case with Mox Tantalite).  While the card generated a lot of buzz leading up to the release of Modern Horizons, it just didn’t live up to the hype as its suspend mechanic just made it a bit too slow for most people’s tastes.

Jeweled AmuletIt seems that only recently players have begun to notice Jeweled Amulet, but this underdog card has some good uses.  Essentially a “diet” mox due to its first ability needing to be used before it can actually be useful, the card pairs extremely well with proliferate.  Hello, Atraxa.

Urza’s Bauble - Magic’s O.G. bauble, Urza’s Bauble gives you both intel and card draw for zero mana.  And that’s not too shabby by any means.

Mox AmberWhile underappreciated when it first came out in Dominaria, Mox Amber has started to see play in Urza decks, Kethis Combo decks, and more in recent years.  It’s also become a fairly common inclusion in EDH, which is probably the format the card was designed for to begin with.

Lotus BloomDo you recall what we said about Mox Tantalite and suspend?  Well, it’s less of an issue with Lotus Bloom thanks to the card generating three mana of any color rather than just one.  Sure, it’s a one time shot this time around, but it tends to pack a bigger punch when used.

OrnithopterMagic: The Gathering’s original zero-drop creature, Ornithopter continues to be useful thanks to it being a 0/2 with flying and it can deliver quite the blow when paired with Cranial Plating with other artifacts on the board.  It’s a key inclusion in decks such as Robots and Cheerios.  And (back in the day) it was a key piece in a three card combo that included Enduring Renewal and Atog.

 

Tormod’s CryptGraveyards be damned.  Tormod’s Crypt has always been a staple sideboard card since its original printing in The Dark, but in the years since has become even more important thanks to cards like Uro, Tarmogoyf, Zenith Flair, and so on.

Mishra’s BaubleBauble, bauble, toil and trauble.  Okay, that’s not the correct spelling, but it worked for the lame joke.  Just like with its predecessor, Urza’s Bauble, Mishra’s Bauble provides you with intel and card draw for zero mana.  This time around, however, rather than a random card from a player’s hand, it’s the top card of a player’s library.

 

Lodestone BaubleA key component in the popular Bomberman deck, the Bauble (at its worst) is card draw and (at its best) can set a player up for success or another up for up to four straight land draws, seriously hindering them in the process.

Zuran OrbAt one time restricted in Vintage and banned in Standard, Extended, and Legacy, Zuran Orb is an easy source of life gain with many synergies (such as the card listed just above this one).  Contemporarily, the card gets included in Gitrog, Titania, Lord Windgrace, and Uro decks.

Lotus PetalSpeaking of cards that were banned at one point or another, the Tempest card Lotus Petal got the axe in 1999 when it got taken away from Standard, Extended, and Legacy, as well as becoming restricted in Vintage.  This zero-cost, one-shot, one mana generating artifact can be the catalyst of many a mean turn-ones.  It was finally unbanned from Legacy in 2004, but remains restricted in Vintage.

Mox OpalWhile not the most powerful of the moxen due to its metalcraft requirement, it got the ban treatment earlier this year thanks to its key role in the dominant Urza decks that were dominating Modern at the time.  The zero-drop artifact is still a major inclusion in many Legacy decks such as Bomberman, Artifacts, and assorted Paradoxal Outcome strategies.

Mana CryptA former HarperPrism book-exclusive promo that has recently seen print in both Mystery Boosters and Double Masters, Mana Crypt is essentially a zero drop Sol Ring with a 50/50 chance of a downside on the upkeep.  It’s a great first turn/early game accelerator that has a high player demand (hence the recent reprintings).

 

Chrome Mox Originally printed in Mirrodin, the card has been on tier-one since day one.  A key component in a variety of decks including Belcher, Stompy, Reanimator, TES, and so on, it was (at one time) banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage.  And, to this day, the card is still considered far too powerful to be allowed in Modern.  It almost makes you wonder what else is on this list…

Lion’s Eye DiamondOnce considered so bad a card that you couldn’t give it away stapled to a one dollar bill, Lion’s Eye Diamond has proven to be amongst the game’s top zero casting cost artifacts.  Despite its “discard your hand” drawback, this Black Lotus Lite has strategies built around it that are nearly game-breaking.  In 2003, some seven years after the card saw print, it became restricted in Vintage and banned in Legacy before being unbanned in the latter a year later.  These days, it’s a key component in a number of powerful decks including Storm, Dredge, Doomsday, Belcher, Painter, and so on.

Mox DiamondFirst printed in the set Stronghold in 1998, Mox Diamond was scoffed at because it “wasn’t a real mox” due to its “discard a land” requirement.  Oh how time as proved the critics wrong.  While not quite as powerful as its Power Nine brethren, the card is nevertheless extremely strong and sees some serious play in decks such as Loam, Painter, Lands, and in Dark Depths strategies.  In Sept. of 1999, the card received a ban in Legacy and became restricted in Vintage.  Sept. of 2004 saw the card returning to Legacy, but it would take another four years for it to become unrestricted in Vintage.