Top 10 Best Cycling Cards in MTG – Riley Ranks

Cycling has got to be one of the best mechanics in Magic, particularly when it comes to Limited. Offering perhaps the most valuable thing a Magic card can have – flexibility – cycling cards have an inherently low floor due to the fact that they, at very worst, can be looted away for something more useful. Cycling has been around for a long time, and there are almost 300 cards with the ability (not to mention those that rely on cycling cards to function, like Drake Haven or Zenith Flare). Today, we’re going to get across some of the best cycling cards ever printed. 


Header - 10. Flourishing Fox

Flourishing Fox

Ikoria brought a moderately powerful suite of cheap cycling creatures that came together to form a surprisingly powerful deck that many found very frustrating to play against. Flourishing Fox was one of the headline acts, but went hand-in-hand with Valiant Rescuer to create a deck that could go both wide and tall. Add Drannith Stinger for incidental burn, Drannith Healer for incidental life gain and then finally Zenith Flare to finish the game out of nowhere. This deck was basically a Limited archetype that levelled up into Standard, and with the power of an early Fox and a late Zenith Flare, won games it had no business winning. 


Header - 9. Wilt


One of the great boons that cycling grants to a card is, of course, the ability to exchange it for something that may be a bit better in a given circumstance, and Wilt is the perfect example of this. An extremely narrow card, you’d generally want Disenchant/Naturalize effects like this in your sideboard. With the advent of Best-of-One Magic on MTGA, however, having a potentially main-deckable hate piece like Wilt opens up all-new deckbuilding dimensions.


Header - 8. Censor


Somewhat similar to Wilt, Censor is one of those cards that is either really, really good or really, really bad. Using Censor in the early turns to stop an opponent from curving out feels great – when they jam two or three-drops straight into this card, you feel like you’re casting actual, literal counterspell. Unlike something such as Mana Leak, however, when you draw this on turn 10, it’s still fine. Cycle it away for something better, and keep going. Usually, Force Spike effects drop off enormously in the late game – but Censor holds it own thanks to cycling. 


Header - 7. Gempalm Incinerator

Gempalm Incinerator

Tribal decks, such as Goblins, don’t always get to play a huge amount of interaction. Tribal-based removal isn’t generally the best-in-class, so having a card like Gempalm Incinerator is extremely welcome in an otherwise pretty one-dimensional creature deck. Gempalm Incinerator can take down huge creatures when combined with a big board of Goblins, and failing that it’s a… well, a three-mana 2/1. Not so great. Still, having an uncounterable removal spell when you’re playing a small creature deck is invaluable, and Gempalm Incinerator is exactly that. 


Header - 6. Ash Barrens

Ash Barrens

There was a time that this was an $8 common, before a string of reprints calmed it down to its current $1 mark. Ash Barrens might not look like much, but it’s actually a very useful piece of fixing, particularly in Pauper where effects like this are hard to come across. Use it to either curve out as a land or to fix your colors as a cycler – either way, Ash Barrens helps smooth out your mana development, and before its first reprint in Masters 25, it had a pretty ridiculous price tag, for a common. 


Header - 5. Street Wraith

Street Wraith

Street Wraith is a particularly notable cycler in that it can be cycled for zero mana, and as a result has seen play in all sorts of decks that can benefit from such an effect. In Living End, for example, where it’s a “free” creature for the ‘yard before you cascade into the deck’s namesake card – or in Death’s Shadow, when that was the best deck in Modern, to give your Shadow +2/+2. It’s been part of Hollow One decks, madness decks, all sorts of EDH decks, and these days does its best work in Doomsday, in both Legacy and Vintage.


Header - 4. Hollow One

Hollow One (Timeshifted)

Hollow One was an extremely powerful deck that made a huge splash at PT Rivals of Ixalan in 2018, capable of putting absurd amounts of power onto the battlefield as early as turn one thanks to Hollow One’s built-in mana discount in conjunction with cards like Faithless Looting and Burning Inquiry. With Looting now banned in Modern, the deck obviously took a hit, but it’s still around the traps with Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar, Vengevine and a bunch of other graveyard-based nonsense. 


Header - 3. Decree of Pain

Decree of Pain

Any time a “when you cycle this card…” ability gets stapled onto a cycler, it’s worth paying attention to its effect. Given that the effect will not only be uncounterable but also draw you a card, even smallish, less powerful effects that punch well above their weight. 3BB for a global -2/-2 isn’t great, but when it’s uncounterable, at instant speed, and replaces itself – watch out. That’s not to mention the fact that the hard-cast Decree of Pain is also ridiculous in Commander as well!


Header - 2. Shark Typhoon

Shark Typhoon

The hard-cast mode on Shark Typhoon is such a rarity – the overwhelming majority of the time, you cycle this away to make a Shark. In the early game, it’s a 1/1 that draws a card and chumps an early attacker, while in the late game you can eat an attacker then start to go to work on their life total with a flying Shark. Again, being instant, uncounterable and drawing a card make Shark Typhoon’s effect perfect for control decks, and when the game is finally wrapped up a six-mana hard cast can close things out quickly. 


Header - 1. The Triomes

Savai TriomeZagoth TriomeRaugrin TriomeKetria TriomeIndatha Triome

There have been plenty of cycling lands printed over the years, from Forgotten Cave to Scattered Groves. Ikoria’s Triomes, however, eclipse them all as the best cycling lands ever printed. It’s not just because they provide three colors, and it’s not just because they can be (expensively) cycled away to mitigate flood – it’s also because they have basic land types and therefore can be snagged with fetchlands. The Triomes offer ultimate flexibility – fixing, fetchability, or the opportunity to just be cycled away when you don’t need lands!


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