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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Longest chain of strictly better Magic cards

Some Magic cards are "better" than others in vague sense. Some are even "strictly better" - that's a narrow concept for a card that is preferable to another in just about any "normal" game situation - due to more powerful effect, more flexibility, lower or easier mana cost etc.  at no downside.

For creatures this also means the "strictly better" version should have at least the same creature types, but more creature types are usually fine (so Zombie Knight is strictly better than Zombie, other things being equal) - but then I guess it's fine to ignore creature types that don't carry any bonuses whatsoever (so Alloy Myr is "sort of strictly better" than Opaline Unicorn - since there's no card that gives bonuses for Unicorn creature type).

There are some cases where you'd actively want to play a "strictly worse" cards, but they are pretty unusual. For example a removal spell that can't target Spellskite would be preferable to one that can, and in a devotion deck you might prefer the same creature for GG cost over 1G and so on, so no card is "absolutely under any circumstances better" than any other, but "strictly better" is still useful as a concept.

So an interesting question comes to mind - what's the longest chain of strictly better cards you can come up with?

With help of user Felicia_Svilling from reddit, here's a 5-card chain of strictly better cards. I don't think this can be beaten, but then I might be wrong.

The first card in the chain is a strictly worse version of Cancel. It in an instant, not a sorcery in Oracle text. Portal cards were funny like that.
The current low-power version of counterspell. They print strictly better versions of this card in just about any block.
This one fits the chain really nicely since it's a Cancel if you don't have metalcraft and Counterspell when you do.
Counterspell - the pre-nerf Cancel.
And the final part of the chain. Ironically it was originally not strictly better than Counterspell. Back when it was printed mana burn existed, so you might be unable to spend all that mana, and it could even kill you. Without mana burn, it became strictly better.

Can you come up with a longer chain, or even another 5-card chain?


Anonymous said...

You forgot Dissipate and Dissolve in there, too!

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous:
Dissipate and Dissolve don't classify as "strictly better or worse" where would you put them in the list? Is it better to scry or to exile the card? s it better to be able to cast the card for only 2 blue with metalcraft or to scry? It all depends on the situation. And "strictly" better doesn't depend on the situation. It's ALWAYS better.

Anonymous said...

"Something something Mindslaver" makes Mana Drain worse than Counterspell.

Farod said...

They aren't technically strictly worse than any of the other cards, since they do something in addition to countering a spell.

Anonymous said...

Try to resolve Counterspell or Drain against a Chalice with 2 counters. This notion of "strictly better" is almost universally misunderstood. "Would almost always rather play" is really what you're getting it.
Sure, this is a semantic argument, but in Magic there are so many strange situations that you really do need to choose your words carefully.

SfootsoldierS said...

Nothing can be strictly better.

I believe counterspell and mana drain to be worse because they can be countered by spell snare.

Anonymous said...

If you disregard permanent types, this is a chain of six:

Celestial Prism
Mana Prism
Opaline Unicorn
Alloy Myr

There are also several other chains of five within mana-producing artifacts.

taw said...

Anonymous: Even if we ignored creature types (Unicorn/Myr/Scarecrow), we really can't ignore some of them being creatures and others not. There'r summoning sickness, dying it sweepers etc.

Anonymous said...

But what's the argument for counterspell and mystic denial? Also revolutionary rebuff and mana leak? I think it might just be an example of strictly better.