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Top 10 Arena-Exclusive Cards in Magic: The Gathering

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat

Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat

Online-Only MTG Arena Cards

MTG's online Arena game made headlines with a set, Jumpstart Historic Horizons, that takes advantage of the online format via mechanics specifically made for digitalized play. The set sparked controversy over its exclusion of paper play, with some fans condemning the set while others praise its unique mechanics (listed below). But no matter where you fall, here's a look at the ten strongest online-exclusive cards to clean house in Magic: The Gathering Arena!

  • Conjure: Create a copy of the specified card into your hand.
  • Draft: Add to hand one of three cards randomly selected from a specified pool.
  • Seek: Add a random card that meets the specified conditions from deck to hand.
Tireless Angler (Arena exclusive)

Tireless Angler (Arena exclusive)

10. Tireless Angler

CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 3

Angler makes a passable blocker at 1/4, and his rogue subtype helps their tribe, but he's really best for a pseudo-landfall that triggers whenever an island (basic or not) enters your field.

This lets you draft one of three random cards from his library into your hand; fortunately, they're solid creatures with a variety of mana costs to suit your current mana. Here's what Angler can potentially choose from:

  • Fleet Swallower
  • Moat Piranhas
  • Mystic Skyfish
  • Nadir Kraken
  • Pouncing Shoreshark
  • Sea-Dasher Octopus
  • Spined Megalodon
  • Stinging Lionfish
  • Voracious Greatshark
  • Archipelagore
  • Serpent of Yawning Depths
  • Wormhole Serpent
  • Sigiled Starfish
  • Riptide Turtle
  • Ruin Crab
Absorb Energy

Absorb Energy

9. Absorb Energy

CMC: 3

Absorb Energy thwarts and spell regardless of its type for three, already a fair deal, but it also makes cards in your hand that share a card type with that spell one cheaper to cast. Remember, this only works with the spells currently within your hand, but even getting just one or two discounted will basically give back the mana put into Energy.

Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan

Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan

8. Sarkhan, Wanderer to Shiv

CMC: 4

Like his previous forms, Sarkhan supports dragon tribal builds. He begins with four loyalty and only needs a touch of red, making him pretty splashable; more than that, his first +1 makes dragons in your hand one cheaper and lets you pay for them with colorless mana. Sarkhan's second +1 conjures a Shivan Dragon into your hand (an expensive but powerful creature), and -2 will ping a creature for three damage., great for staving off aggro.

Garruk, Wrath of the Wilds

Garruk, Wrath of the Wilds

7. Garruk, Wrath of the Wilds

CMC: 4

Garruk's biggest weakness is a somewhat low starting loyalty of three, but he wields a great +1, making a chosen creature in hand cost one less mana and perpetually gain +1/+1. Or, use -1 to draft a card from Garruk's library onto the field. -5 isn't the best ultimate, simply giving your creatures +3/+3 and trample for the turn, but it can be useful for a final push.

I love that -1 conjures directly to the field (you don't have to pay for what you draft). Most are relatively small blockers, but note you can snag the ever-useful enchantment Garruk's Uprising; here are the draft options:

  • Mosscoat Goriak
  • Sylvan Brushstrider
  • Murasa Rootgrazer
  • Dire Wolf Prowler
  • Ferocious Pup
  • Pestilent Wolf
  • Garruk’s Uprising
  • Dawntreader Elk
  • Nessian Hornbeetle
  • Territorial Scythecat
  • Trufflesnout
  • Wary Okapi
  • Scurrid Colony
  • Barkhide Troll
  • Underdark Basilisk
Benalish Partisan

Benalish Partisan

6. Benalish Partisan

CMC: 2

Partisan is a weak 1/2 with lifelink, but you can cycle him for two, discarding him to draw a new card. You want him in your graveyard anyway, as you can pay two when you cycle another card to return him tapped to the field with a perpetual +1/+1 bonus.

This gradually buffs his stats and helps you start recovering from any board wipes that come your way.

Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan

Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan

5. Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan

CMC: 3

Freyalise offers an amazing elf-tribe planeswalker. For just three mana, she's sturdy with four starting loyalty, and her +1 untaps an elf while giving it and a random elf in your hand +1/+1 perpetually (for the rest of the game, even when changing zones).

That's a great way to buff elves while reusing tap effects, and if you're low on cards, try -1, which simply seeks an elf (placing a random one from deck to hand). Work up to -6 to conjure a Regal Force onto the field; he's a beefy 5/5 that draws a card on entry for each green creature you control.

Kiora, the Tide's Fury

Kiora, the Tide's Fury

4. Kiora, the Tide's Fury

CMC: 4

Like Sarkhan, Kiora bears four loyalty and is splashable (insert water pun here) since she just needs one colored mana. She also has two useful +1s; the first conjures a Kraken Hatchling into your hand. That's a weak 0/4, but it only costs one mana and helps hold off aggro. It also makes good fodder for Kiora's -3, which sacrifices a kraken to create a fearsome 8/8 kraken token.

Kiora's second +1 untaps a creature or land and prevents all damage it would deal or take until your next turn. To make full use of this, try untapping lands that produce multiple mana, like Lotus Field.

Key to the Archive

Key to the Archive

3. Key to the Archive

CMC: 4

Key enters tapped, and on entry, it drafts a card from its spellbook, then discards a card. The discard is lame, but worth it since draft options include some of the best control and removal spells in the game, from negation via Counterspell to extra turns with Time Warp. From there, Key will later tap for two mana in any color combo, a useful color fixer; here's what it can pull:

  • Approach of the Second Sun
  • Day of Judgment
  • Time Warp
  • Counterspell
  • Demonic Tutor
  • Doom Blade
  • Lightning Bolt
  • Claim the Firstborn
  • Krosan Grip
  • Regrowth
  • Despark
  • Electrolyze
  • Growth Spiral
  • Lightning Helix
  • Putrefy
Slayer's Bounty

Slayer's Bounty

2. Slayer’s Bounty

CMC: 1

Bounty is super cheap to cast and reveals all creatures in an opponent's hand on entry. Like clue tokens, you can pay two mana to sacrifice Bounty and draw a card, but try to keep it out while you sac other clues, as doing so lets Bounty draft one of the following control-focused cards:

  • Bounty Agent
  • Outflank
  • Bound in Gold
  • Bring to Trial
  • Glass Casket
  • Reprobation
  • Collar the Culprit
  • Compulsory Rest
  • Expel
  • Fairgrounds Warden
  • Iron Verdict
  • Luminous Bonds
  • Raise the Alarm
  • Seal Away
  • Summary Judgment
Tome of the Infinite

Tome of the Infinite

1. Tome of the Infinite

CMC: 3

Tome enters for three and taps and spends a blue for its effect, so with four mana, you can activate it immediately. Either way, it conjures a random card from its library into your hand (and lets you pay for it with any mana colors); note that unlike drafting, you won't pick one of three options. So you're stuck with what you get, but you'll rarely complain since the options are great, giving blue access to iconic spells from other colors:

  • Swords to Plowshares
  • Light of Hope
  • Ponder
  • Force Spike
  • Dark Ritual
  • Duress
  • Lightning Bolt
  • Assault Strobe
  • Giant Growth
  • Fog

Should Magic Have Online-Only Cards?

Today we examined several excellent spells that you'll currently only find in Arena, but the future of such cards is still uncertain. I still believe paper play is Magic's future, and it's kinda lame to not be able to use these cards in commander (I'd love a Freya for my elf deck); that said, there's some argument to their ability to utilize mechanics that require a computer.

We'll see if Wizards of the Coast decides to produce similar cards in the future, but for now, share your thoughts and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

© 2021 Jeremy Gill