Enchantments that attach to other permanents are hardly new – they’ve been around since Antiquities with Artifact Ward and Artifact Possession. They only officially became known as “Auras” in 2005, with Ninth Edition bringing us cards like Web, Reflexes and the very perplexing Fishliver Oil. Over a thousand Auras have been printed, in all, but not all Auras are created equal. Many are unplayably bad – something that often comes with the territory, as auras necessarily involve the risk of a two-for-one – but others have risen through the ranks to be amongst the very best. Today, we’re going to get across five such card – the best auras in MTG!
Hard, unconditional removal isn’t something that is printed all that often in green. It doesn’t get Doom Blades or Lightning Bolts (only Hornet Stings every now and again, I suppose), and so when a green card is printed that deals with actual, factual anything, mono-green mages are going to sit up and take notice.
Song of the Dryads is one such card. As is the case with cards like Beast Within, it comes at a cost – green doesn’t just get to kill stuff without paying a price – but the fact remains that Song of the Dryads can be used to deal with more or less anything. It’s very popular in mono-green Commander decks as a result, as they don’t always have the best removal suites, but this card is great in Commander for another reason on top of that.
Actually removing an opposing commander is a difficult thing to do in EDH. If you kill or exile or tuck your opponent’s general, they can just put it back into the command zone and recast it later. Song of the Dryads, however, is one of those cards that can actually deal with an opposing commander “properly” – they can’t recast it. Instead, they have to find a way to sacrifice or destroy the Forest their commander becomes, or disenchant the Aura – not always an easy thing to do!
Spreading Seas has been put to a few different uses over the years. Primarily, you’d find it in Merfolk decks, where it would generously give opponents an Island in case they forgot to bring their own – and, incidentally, allow islandwalking Merfolk to attack with impunity. In a deck filled with cards like Master of the Pearl Trident and Lord of Atlantis, it turns out that your opponent having Islands is pretty, pretty good.
Outside of Merfolk, Spreading Seas also used to see some play in Modern blue-based control decks, seeking to punish greedy mana bases back when three-color decks were sometimes even stretching to a fourth color. As it cantrips, Spreading Seas was a pretty low-investment card – but it was also pretty low-impact (particularly against other blue decks) and has since fallen out of favor.
Rancor has been a mainstay of Modern Bogles decks for a long time, and when it was reprinted into Standard years and years ago it had a strong impact on aggressive green decks that needed a way to punch extra damage through against all the durdley, Thragtusk-based lists. It was even legal in Standard alongside infect, very briefly, and it did a lot of work there!
Here the really interesting thing about Rancor, however – the story goes that it was originally costed at 2G, not just G. That would have made it a pretty medium card, to be honest – not one of the key ways for Aura decks like Modern Bogles to force damage through without giving up too much card advantage in the face of removal. Sure, recursion and trample are nice, but at 2G? That’s way too much.
I wasn’t able to find confirmation of this but to the best of my memory it was accidentally printed at G rather than 2G, and this misprint resulted in it being a lot more pushed than R&D expected. It didn’t make the card wildly overpowered or anything, but it certainly made it a lot more impactful than it otherwise would have been!
Future Sight was full of weird cards, and one of the weirdest is Daybreak Coronet. For just two mana, you turn even the smallest and humblest of creatures into a beefy, vigilant, lifelinking first striker, and all for just two mana – but only if the creature already has Auras attached to it beforehand!
The card’s incredible power is balanced out by the inherent risk that Auras come with – the risk of getting blown out by removal for little gain, when a Doom Blade gets you two-for-one’d as you try to land an Aura on your creatures. Daybreak Coronet necessarily forces you to risk a three-for-one instead, as you already have to have committed an Aura!
Of course, the natural home for a card like Daybreak Coronet is on an hexproof creature so spot removal isn’t an issue any more, and as a result it’s a key finisher in Modern Bogles decks. Not that Bogles is a huge deck in the format these days – I’m sure I’m not the only one who is glad that Bogles hasn’t really had any decent results for months and months.
Unban Splinter Twin, you cowards! I don’t think there’s a more beloved Aura card in Magic’s history, and despite it being banned over five and a half years ago, people still aren’t over it and are still clamoring for it to be unbanned. Splinter Twin plus Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite effectively ends the game on the spot, and was the primary win condition of blue-red controlling decks in Modern while the combo was legal.
Why are people still cut up about this card? It just resonated extremely strongly with the type of player that loves to play the type of deck it enabled – full of instant-speed interaction, a deck that could play multiple angles and adopt various postures, from proactive to reactive. Splinter Twin decks would punish the slightest misstep with a turn-three Pestermite into turn four Splinter Twin, forcing you to keep up removal while also pressuring them through interaction.
Is it still too good for Modern? I can’t see how it would be. It’s a four-mana sorcery-speed Aura that can’t be played into removal, and Modern has sped up to the point that hoping to enact such a game plan is… well, to put it diplomatically, rather optimistic. Which brings me to my original point: unban Splinter Twin, you cowards!