Small creature decks have long relied on cards that grant their team +1/+1, often referred to as “anthem” effects after one of the iconic cards with this ability, Glorious Anthem. Of course, the best anthems do a lot more than just buff the stats of your team, and today we’re going to go through some of the best anthems ever printed, many of which have seen plenty of play across both 60-card formats and Commander.
10. Ethereal Absolution
While it’s way more expensive than what you’d ordinarily pay for an anthem effect, Ethereal Absolution also does a lot more than an ordinary anthem. Honestly, the most valuable part of this card is the fact that it gives opposing creatures -1/-1, making opposing one-toughness creatures useless while making their 2/2s pale in comparison to your mighty board. Plus, a bit of incidental graveyard hate that also churns out fliers is always going to be welcome!
9. Marshal’s Anthem
Another effective six-drop anthem, Marshal’s Anthem scales extremely well as the game goes long. It can bring back the best threats your opponents have already dealt with, while also giving them (and the rest of the team) a bump in their stats. Given that one of the problems you most often run into when playing anthem effects is not having any creatures to buff, Marshal’s Anthem neatly solves that problem with its reanimation multikicker ability.
8. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
A good percentage of the time, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was just a four-mana anthem effect that couldn’t be removed. As with every card of its kind, however, flexibility was what made Gideon so effective – you could play him, make a 2/2 to shore up the board, then start attacking, or make more tokens, or just hit the ultimate and send your embiggened team in for the kill. Anthem effects don’t usually offer flexibility, and Gideon is a standout for that reason.
7. Angel of Invention
Angel of Invention was at its best not as a 2/1 that made a couple of Servos, but as a 4/4 token copy made by God-Pharaoh’s Gift. Angel of Invention was the favored option for GPG decks to bring back once they’d landed their seven-drop artifact (usually with the help of Refurbish, as early as turn four), and from there having eight power – four of it hasty, flying, vigilant and with lifelink – would be enough to seal the deal. Angel of Invention isn’t a card we see a huge amount of these days, but it’s still flying around the fringes of Historic and Explorer.
6. Intrepid Adversary
Mono-White Aggro is all the rage on MTGA at the moment, particularly in the Best-of-One Standard queues, and Intrepid Adversary is a big part of those decks. Its baseline stats, a two-mana 3/1 lifelinker, mean it isn’t much to write home about, but once you play it as a 4/2 anthem creature that juices up your Thalias and Hopeful Initiates, Intrepid Adversary really begins to show its power. Mono-White Aggro is an extremely powerful deck with a lot of depth, but sometimes it just wants to smash face with little creatures, and Intrepid Adversary is here to facilitate that.
5. Eldrazi Monument
Not just +1/+1, but flying and indestructible as well? Never mind that second paragraph, I’m sure it’s not that bad. In all seriousness, this card is huge in decks that are able to constantly feed the Monument each turn, typically those with commanders that can generate a token to sacrifice or decks that don’t mind sacrificing a creature for fun and profit. Cards like Rhys the Redeemed, Krenko, Mob Boss or Marrow-Gnawer can provide the required fodder, meaning the rest of your token army reap the benefits of the Eldrazi Monument.
4. Wedding Announcement
As one of Standard’s most-played cards, Wedding Announcement plays both sides of the field really well – it provides you with the creatures you need to make its anthem effect powerful (or, if you already have them, more cards to pull you further ahead). It then sits there as an anthem, powering up your creatures – including those made by more copies of Wedding Announcement. This is one of the best anthem effects in recent memory, and deserves its position as a staple of the Standard format.
3. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Rather than just the usual +1/+1, Elesh Norn gives your team +2/+2, while also annihilating opposing small creatures and rendering unplayed ones completely useless. On top of that, these absurdly powerful effects are attached to a creature, meaning it can be reanimated or otherwise cheated into play in order to steal a game out of nowhere. Reanimator decks of all kinds have used Elesh Norn to manage rowdy battlefields, and a resolved copy of this card is usually game over for any smaller creature deck.
2. The Immortal Sun
This card does so many different things, it’s difficult to remember them all at the best of times. Between shutting down planeswalkers, drawing you an extra card each turn, and making all your spells cheaper, The Immortal Sun also somehow finds the time to make your team bigger! It’s even colorless, so it can go into more or less every deck – just don’t play a Gideon hoping to give them a total of +2/+2, as it won’t end well for you.
1. Mirari’s Wake
We’ve seen how good anthems offer a lot more than just the stat buff, but there’s no anthem in Magic that offers a more powerful additional effect. In reality, the anthem effect on this card is the one that’s “additional” – it’s almost an afterthought, compared to the absurdly powerful personal Heartbeat of Spring effect that Mirari’s Wake offers you. This card is an EDH all-star, a must-kill threat on any battlefield, and is also a great way to make all your opponents put aside their differences and come after you when you resolve it!