There are very few effects in Magic as powerful as taking an extra turn. Extra turns pull you miles ahead very quickly indeed, and even a single extra turn can be enough to swing in for lethal or find the final piece you’re looking for to win the game then and there. Today, we’re going to look at five of the best extra turn cards – Time Walk effects, as they’re known. There aren’t many: fewer than 50 cards like this exist. Let’s get underway!
Six-mana Time Walk effects tend not to make it, even with minor upside. Part the Waterveil didn’t make it, Karn’s Temporal Sundering was too hard to cast, the list goes on. While we’ve seen some recent seven-mana Time Walks get there, they owe their playability to external factors. For instance, Alrund’s Epiphany would not see anywhere near enough play if it weren’t for Emergent Ultimatum.
If they don’t get there at six and seven mana, what about at five? Five seems to be something of a sweet spot in terms of playability. Not so cheap as to be broken in half, but not so expensive as to be unplayable. Time Warp was running rings around Historic, thanks to the many ways in which it can be exploited with cards like Velomachus Lorehold and Mizzix’s Mastery.
A no-frills, straightforward five-mana Time Walk seems to be as close to a correct casting cost for an effect like this (although you could argue it’s still too cheap and I don’t think it would be unreasonable). How long Time Warp sticks around in Historic remains to be seen – I don’t think it’ll be banned before things like Brainstorm or Mizzix’s Mastery (editor’s note: it was) – but for the meantime, it’s a big part of competitive Magic and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
While Emrakul, the Aeons Torn isn’t often played for its Time Walk effect, the fact remains that the Time Walk kicker on this already disgustingly powerful card more or less stitches up any game in which it is hardcast. Usually, Emrakul is cheated into play with Sneak Attack or Through the Breach – which is reflected on the new art on Through the Breach, a spectacular bit of art direction – and the extra turn doesn’t trigger as a result. Get to 15 mana, however, and you’re laughing all the way to the bank.
Few decks are capable of getting there, however. For most decks, 15 mana might as well be 15 billion. Only decks like 12 Post, that exploit cards like Cloudpost to make huge stacks of mana, can ever really get there. Still, I thought it worth including Emrakul in this list, as it does allow you to take extra turns when cast as Garfield intended, and I don’t want to disrespect this world-ending Flying Spaghetti Monster by leaving it out.
Remember Nexus of Fate? Anyone who played while it was legal in Standard certainly will, as this card was so obnoxious to play against that it drove people silly with frustration. It was the centerpiece of a Turbofog deck that was effectively able to loop Nexus of Fate every turn thanks to the combination of Wilderness Reclamation and a bunch of card draw.
The fact that Nexus was an instant meant Wilderness Reclamation effectively doubled the mana you had available for it (you would often cast it in your own end step, after the Reclamation trigger resolved), but the problems didn’t stop there. The strategy became so powerful that it was banned in Best-of-One play, due to the need for a sideboard to deal with the card.
But even that wasn’t the end of the drama. Even now, there are no non-foil copies of Nexus of Fate. In some parts of the world, foil Magic cards tend to look more like Pringles than playing cards, which presents a problem for competitive in-person play, as bent foils in an otherwise non-foil deck are essentially marked cards. But there was no non-foil Nexus to use instead, and so at more than one Pro Tour, judges provided basic Mountains with “NEXUS OF FATE” Sharpied across them, to use as official proxies. It was not a good look, and Nexus of Fate has gone down as one of the most infamous Time Walk effects as a result.
Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones. Maybe you’ve never even heard of Expropriate, and are wondering what it’s doing on a list like this. If you’ve never played EDH, there’s a chance you won’t even know what this card does – have a quick re-read of it, and think of just how much you can get away with in a four-player game with a card like this.
At worst – at worst – this card is a Time Walk that gains control of three of the best permanents on the battlefield. At best it’s a quadruple Time Walk, and if you can’t win the game in four consecutive turns, well, I don’t know what to tell you. Your EDH deck probably needs a bit of a tune-up, I’d say.
Nine mana? Easy peasy, in a format like Commander. Nine mana is effortlessly achievable in most games. If the table gets a sniff of an incoming Expropriate, however, you’ll notice how quickly they all band together to make sure you don’t get the value that is rightly yours. They’ll make deals, hold up counterspells, and attempt to foil you at every turn.
Expropriate is, in my experience, one of the most polarizing cards in Commander. Personally speaking, I love it, but then again, I’m the one with it in my decks – alongside Illusion of Choice. 10 mana for four turns? Don’t mind if I do.
There’s no doubt about the best Time Walk ever printed is, naturally, Time Walk itself. The original and the best. No extra turn card comes close to two mana for an extra turn. Time Walk is – rightfully – one of the Power Nine, it’s an iconic piece of Magic’s history, and it’s just about as powerful a card as was ever printed.
If you’ll believe it, however, the card almost read like it was even more powerful than it is. Initially, the story goes, Time Walk was templates to say “target player loses next turn” rather than the actual wording, “take an extra turn after this one.” Target player loses next turn? As in, they lose their next turn, or they lose the game, on the next turn?
Thankfully, to avoid confusion, the wording was changed, and we’re left with rules text that has survived through to this very day: the Oracle text matches the printed text, which isn’t always the way with cards that old. In any case, Time Walk remains uncontested as the best extra turn card ever printed, and for all of our sakes, I hope that doesn’t change.
Extra turns are so powerful that Wizards has had to be very careful when doling them out. For the most part, they’ve done a good job, and few Time Walk effects have gone on to be truly broken. Those that were, however… whoa. Time Walk, Time Vault, all the way through to Nexus of Fate, there have been some howlers in terms of power level. Still, you can’t argue that these extra turns cards are both powerful and iconic, and a big part of Magic’s history.