Magic the Gathering: The 10 Worst Instant Cards, Ranked

We found the worst instant cards in Magic the Gathering. Just because these cards are fast, doesn't mean they're powerful.

Do you like to play trading card games? Magic: the Gathering launched the entire genre, and it's been massively popular since its inception in the summer of 1993. Knights, angels, goblins, wizards, elves, and much more vie for dominance in this beloved game franchise, and players can use a dazzling variety of spells to win. They can shoot fire, enchant the world, dissolve stone or steel, and even nullify a spell in progress!

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It is instant and sorcery cards that help a player support their creatures, and some, such as Force of Will and Lightning Bolt, are famous. But some instants or sorceries are really showing their age, and some were never very good to begin with. Let's take a tour of the 10 worst instant card in Magic the Gathering. Just because these cards are fast, doesn't mean they're powerful.

10 Disorient

This blue instant appeared only once: in the M10 core set. Good thing, too, since it's a total waste of potential. Blue magic likes to use diversionary tactics and "soft" removal, such as bouncing creatures or artifacts and slowing down attackers.

Reducing a creature's power is a common blue trick, but it's really not that impressive, even when done right. Then you get Disorient, which demands 3U just to eliminate 7 power from one creature. That's not going to have much impact in any game, and what a mana cost. This clunky instant doesn't even cantrip (card draw bonus) or let you scry 1, as many blue cards do. Give us a cantrip, and then we'll think about it.

9 Fanatical Fever

There's no question that green mana embodies the savagery and fury of nature, and that reflects in its many huge creatures and creature pump spells. Green also likes to destroy artifacts and enchantments.

Fanatical Fever, though, is a waste of a good name. Giving a creature +3/+0 and trample is a good effect, yes, but like Disorient, it's overcosted. Why pay 2GG for that effect for just one turn? It's not even an aura. When you've got the likes of Rancor, Mutagenic Growth, and Groundswell on call, you can see why Fanatical Fever has become totally obsolete. Your Tarmogoyf deserves better.

8 Angel's Mercy

What's going on here? How can lifegain be a bad effect? Life points are what keep you alive. While this is true, Angel's Mercy represents a trap that many novice Magic players fall into, overestimating the value of life points.

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Gaining life does not get you closer to winning. It only moves you further from losing, which is not the same thing. Put another way, you can win the game whether your life total is 1 or 1,000. Besides, if your board state is poor and you're taking damage, gaining 7 life will not buy your much time, and your opponent's heavy-hitting creatures are still there. That's not worth spending 2WW and an entire card on.

7 Rain of Rust

The Mirrodin block is home to all kinds of cool abilities and effects. It gave us equipment, scry, affinity, sunburst, and even entwine. Why choose one effect on a model card when you can do both? Tooth and Nail is a good example of entwine done right.

Meanwhile, we also get Rain of Rust. For 3RR, you can destroy an artifact or a land, but that's asking an awful lot. Entwine lets you have both ways, but for another 3R. Since when is 6RRR a good deal for blowing up a land and an artifact? Your mana base must be pretty huge if you're slinging spells like that.

6 Frazzle

Alas, not even the famed Ravnica: City of Guilds block is immune to making dud cards. This block, in many players' minds, saved the game after the unfair power of Mirrodin and the watered-down Champions of Kamigawa.

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The illustration, name, and flavor text on Frazzle are a riot, but good art doesn't make for a good card!.Paying 3U for a counterspell is awfully steep, and for some reason, Frazzle can't counter blue spells at all. Why not? It's not clear. That restriction makes no sense, and it kills any chance for Frazzle to be even halfway useful.

5 Cradle to Grave

Cool name, and cool illustration, too. What a shame about the rest of the card, though. Players love Doom Blade, being an instant that has practically defined how black mana can kill creatures in the game. "Dies to Doom Blade" is a popular phrase in the Magic community.

If you like Doom Blade, how about a worse one? Cradle to Grave is a pretty impatient spell since it will only target a nonblack creature that entered the battlefield this turn. Flavor-wise, that makes sense, but this timing restriction is simply a huge headache.

4 Ember Shot

Red is a fairly weak color for drawing spells, so a red spell that cantrips is bound to have a higher mana cost than a blue spell that also cantrips. Okay, that makes sense.

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Now for the kicker. Take Lightning Bolt, allow it to cantrip, and add a staggering six generic mana to its mana cost. This ratio is all wrong. 3 damage and a card costs more than Wurmcoil Engine? That's nonsense, and no red player is going to touch this. If you're running red and want to draw some cards, you have options like Faithless Looting, Tormenting Voice, and Cathartic Reunion. Forget the damage. Just draw those cards.

3 Hisoka's Defiance

It's not a list of bad cards without some entries from the Champions of Kamigawa block. One major problem with this set, as Mark Rosewater once explained, is that it is "parasitic." Meaning, its cards care very much about interacting only with other cards from the block, and Champions cards don't get along well with the game as a whole.

Take this counterspell as an example. It will only work against spirits and arcane spells, representing blue human mages defying the kami. Even within the Champions block, that's awfully narrow, and in Magic as a whole, it is hopelessly irrelevant. Look, it can counter Geist of Saint Traft, but don't count on that ever happening.

2 Call for Blood

Now for our second and last Champions block card: Call for Blood. Cool name, cool art, lousy effect. Is this the best the deadly kami and ogres can do? Yes, black magic often dabbles in -X/-X effects, to represent a creature's life essence being withered away. Such effects also sidestep indestructible and regeneration, which is a nice bonus.

But look at the costs on this thing. You're paying 4B to start with, and then you also have to sacrifice a creature with high power to make X a relevant value. Since when does that sound like a good deal? Grasp of Darkness and Nameless Inversion perform the -X/-X effect quite efficiently, but Call for Blood simply can't keep up. That call for blood, in short, will not be answered. Sorry, ogres.

1 Break Open

While Hisoka's Defiance is horribly narrow in function, at least it is capable of doing some good, in theory. When Champions of Kamigawa came out, maybe a few players had a good time countering a huge spirit spell with it during the pre-release or in sealed pool games.

But Break Open sets a new low standard. This red spell, for 1R, will turn your opponent's face-down morph creature face up. Why? To disarm a trap when that morph creature blocks, so you're warned ahead of time? That's a real stretch, and now your opponent doesn't even have to pay for that creature's morph cost. And goodness knows that most games of Magic don't involve morph anyway, so Break Open has absolutely no effect whatsoever. It doesn't stand a chance.

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