In Magic: The Gathering, the Power 9 is a term used to describe a set of the nine most powerful and game-breaking cards in the TCG’s history. All of these were printed early on in Magic’s lifetime – in Alpha, Beta, or Unlimited – before balance had been fully figured out. Despite being widely banned, the MTG Power 9 are extremely coveted because they’re the best MTG cards in existence, and so few copies exist.
The MTG Power 9 is so strong that most of the cards are only legal in the ultra high powered Vintage format, even finding their way onto the MTG Commander banlist and Legacy MTG banlists. Each one of these cards is also on the MTG Reserved List, making a full reprint close to impossible. This scarcity, coupled with the cards’ power, has put each member of the Power 9 firmly among the most expensive MTG cards of all time.
Below, we’ll go through each of the Power Nine cards, and just what makes them so broken.
MTG Black Lotus
The infamous Black Lotus, most expensive MTG card of all time, needs no introduction. This card provides absurdly good ramp, giving its owner three mana for free – which allows for a terribly strong early game, or insanely broken combos. Rapper Post Malone last year revealed that he’d spent a whopping $800,000 on a copy of Black Lotus, the most expensive MTG purchase we’ve ever encountered. Like all the other Power 9 cards, Black Lotus is banned pretty much everywhere, and restricted in Vintage – which means you can only have one copy in your deck.
Five out of nine of the Power 9 cards have essentially the same effect. The Mox Sapphire, Jet, Ruby, Pearl, and Emerald are each zero cost mana rocks, that provide one coloured mana per turn, for free. They might seem a tad underwhelming at first, at least for “strongest Magic cards ever”, but imagine starting a game with one or more of these in your hand – a second land drop on turn one would set you up for victory.
MTG Time Walk
The mana-making Power 9 cards are a bit more subtle in their strength, but there’s nothing subtle about Time Walk, a two mana spell that lets you take an extra turn. Extra turn spells have only gotten better over the years. Whereas way back when you could draw a card, play a land, play a creature, and get to make another attack (still very good) the general power level of MTG cards has increased to the point that players can achieve so much more in a single turn.
Spells with this kind of effect are becoming increasingly problematic in Magic – if seven mana additional turn spells like Nexus of Fate and Alrund’s Epiphany can get banned, it’s easy to see why Time Walk is so scary.
MTG Ancestral Recall
Drawing three cards for one mana is so efficient, which is why Ancestral Recall finds its place on the Power 9. The basic effect just gets you so much card advantage, and it can even be used as a win condition in some niche scenarios, milling an opponent out. It just goes to show how much of a difference a little mana discount can make. Divination is so-so, but Ancestral Recall is off the chain.
Likely the weakest card in the Power 9, whereas the other MTG cards on this list are generically busted, and could slot into virtually any deck, Timetwister is situational. For that reason, it’s the only Power 9 card that isn’t banned in Commander. Its effect is certainly strong though, letting you (and everyone else) shuffle your hand and graveyard into your deck and then draw a new batch of cards
So why is Timetwister on the list? It’s mainly due to its game breaking potential alongside the other cards that were legal alongside it in Alpha and Beta. Imagine Timetwister alongside Black Lotus for instance, or in a deck with numerous Time Walks. In the early days of Magic there was no limit on the number of copies of the same card you could include in a deck, so you could automatically win with enough Black Lotuses, Timetwisters, and Lightning Bolts. Shocking.
How can you play with the MTG Power 9?
Unless you’ve got bags of cash to throw at pieces of cardboard (not something we recommend), your chances of playing with real, original copies of the Power 9 are slim. However, if you want to experience the gameplay of these iconic cards, there are a few alternate routes to try.
You could play Vintage or Vintage Cube on Magic Online, for a cheaper way to try this monstrous format. You could build a Commander deck around the card Garth One-Eye (who can summon a Black Lotus). Or you could play with MTG Alchemy cards on MTG Arena, where Oracle of the Alpha shuffles a copy of every single Power 9 card into your deck.
We suppose you could also try and get hold of one of the Power 9 cards within the $999 30th Anniversary edition. Just remember, these are not tournament legal, so they’re exactly like MTG Proxies you could make at home, and probably not worth gambling thousands of dollars to obtain.