Recently, we covered the best Sorceries ever printed throughout Magic’s History. From powerful Storm cards to elite extra turn spells, there are tons of powerful Sorceries in the game. Today, we will be covering the best Instants the game has to offer. Instants naturally offer a lot of flexibility compared to Sorceries given the ability to be played on an opponent’s turn. Cards like Counterspells are important pieces of the puzzle in MTG and can only function at Instant speed. Some of the best cards in the game are Instants. With that in mind, let’s dive right in and take a look at the MTG best Instants of all time.
#10 Force of Will
Force of Will, while not banworthy in Legacy or Vintage, is one of the defining cards for both formats. Blue has such a rich card pool to offer, but most blue decks wouldn’t be complete without this card. It provides elite protection from opposing combos and can simply answer anything problematic your opponent may cast. Of course, the card goes both ways, because you can use it offensively rather than defensively. Blue-based combo decks make great use of Force of Will to be able to fight through the opponent’s interaction.
Force of Will is actually relatively balanced in many games because pitching another blue card to it is definitely a real cost. The existence of Force of Will, especially in Legacy, also helps keep a bunch of all-in combo decks in check. Decks like Oops All Spells could potentially run rampant if this card were not around. Given its immense influence on Legacy and Vintage as formats, Force of Will earns the number 10 spot on this list.
#9 Dig Through Time
When covering Sorceries, it was no surprise that Treasure Cruise was relatively high up on the list. Treasure Cruise wasn’t the only absurd Delve spell printed in Khans of Tarkir, however. Coming in at number nine on this list, we have none other than Dig Through Time. Dig Through Time costs eight mana just like Treasure Cruise, but importantly requires another blue mana to cast it. This card is an Instant, not a Sorcery, and it looks at seven cards, allowing you to select two to put in hand. With Fetchlands and cheap spells in the mix, it’s quite easy to cast Dig Through Time for only two mana.
Dig Through Time is excellent for combo decks especially, because seven cards is a lot to look at. For two-card combo decks, Dig Through Time can often find one if not both pieces of the combo at once. Even in a format like Pioneer where Fetchlands aren’t legal, Dig Through Time has made its presence felt since the days when Inverter of Truth was legal. Given that it costs an extra blue mana and ultimately nets you one less card than Cruise, lots of decks would prefer Cruise if given the option. Still, there’s a reason Dig is banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage, and the card definitely deserves a spot on this list.
Brainstorm is an interesting card because, even though it adds so much consistency to the decks that play it to the point of being restricted in Vintage, the card is still legal in Legacy. It has cemented itself as one of if not the best card in Legacy and is the ultimate cantrip. While many other powerful cantrips like Ponder and Preordain help smooth out your draws, Brainstorm does something very unique. Brainstorm draws you three cards, but requires you to put two cards back on top of your library. You still only net one card in the process, but as long as you can shuffle your library after casting Braintorm, you can put back mediocre cards from your hand and get rid of them.
This card is an elite hand sculptor. It digs for Lands when you need them but can also get rid of them if you have too many. Obviously in formats with Fetchlands, shuffling your library is trivial, but even in a format like Pauper, players find other ways such as using Thought Scour or cycling Lorien Revealed to manipulate the top of their libraries. It is a pillar of the Legacy format, and given the level of consistency it adds to decks that play it, it earns a spot on this list.
#7 Mystical Tutor
Mystical Tutor may be restrictive in what cards it allows you to tutor for but given how many strong Instants and Sorceries there are to choose from, it’s still a very strong card. This card is quite powerful in spell-based combo decks, letting you search for any missing piece. It’s important to note that the card you search for does go on top of your library, so it does take a little bit of setup. Nonetheless, being able to tutor a card like Yawgmoth’s Will in Storm or Tinker in an Artifact-centric Vintage deck is extremely strong. Of course, sometimes simply grabbing Ancestral Recall or Time Walk is totally reasonable too. Despite only grabbing Instants and Sorceries, Mystical Tutor still pulls its weight.
Flash is a very funny card. On the surface, it looks perfectly reasonable. After all, the card costs two mana, and whatever Creature you put into play with Flash has to be sacrificed unless you pay its mana cost reduced by two. In this sense, you aren’t really saving any mana to keep the Creature around. Sure, you get to put the Creature in at Instant speed, but is that really worth a full card? Well, that’s not quite what makes Flash so powerful.
Flash is an absurd card because for two mana, you can put in a Creature with a massive trigger when it dies, choose not to pay the Creature’s mana cost, and benefit. No Creature pairs better with Flash than Protean Hulk, which quickly got Flash banned Legacy and restricted in Vintage. There are tons of ways to combo using Protean Hulk’s death trigger, some of which are a bit convoluted but still get the job done. Flash, much like Channel, presents such a simple win condition utilizing two cards that it deserves a spot on this list, but isn’t higher due to its lack of flexibility.
#5 Demonic Consultation
Speaking of simple two card combos, Demonic Consultation comes in at number five on this list. Demonic Consultation is a bizarre tutor effect that forces you to name a card, exile the top six cards of your library, then reveal cards until you reveal the card you named and exile all other cards revealed this way. In theory, this is a powerful but risky tutor, because if the card you want is in the top six cards of your library or really far down in your library, you could simply lose via decking. The thing is, this card is used very differently alongside Thassa’s Oracle.
The key is to name a card that is not in your deck, which will end up causing your entire library to be exiled. From there, simply cast Thassa’s Oracle and win the game! This combo takes two cards that total three mana to pull off, but unlike with Flash and Protean Hulk, does not require putting other mediocre Creature cards in your deck to make work. Instead, you can fill your deck with ways to consistently find the combo. Even in a format like Vintage where Demonic Consultation is restricted, it often still sees play in Doomsday decks that also utilize Thassa’s Oracle as a win condition. This gives Demonic Consultation the edge in these rankings.
Gush is another unassuming card on the surface. It lets you draw two cards, which is certainly powerful, but needing to either pay five mana or return two Islands to your hand is a steep cost, right? Well, for combo decks, not exactly. Returning two Islands and getting to draw two cards for free can be very strong, especially for decks like Storm or Doomsday that are trying to win the same turn. In some cases, Gush can even be used almost as a “Ritual” itself. If you don’t have a land drop, you can float mana, cast Gush, then play one of those lands and actually net a mana in the process. This card is deceptively powerful and makes combo decks a lot more consistent, earning it a spot high up on this list.
#3 Vampiric Tutor
Much like Mystical Tutor, Vampiric Tutor is a strong one mana Instant that puts a card from your library on top of your deck. However, instead of restricting you to only Instants and Sorceries, you can get any card at the cost of two life. Much like the case with Gitaxian Probe, two life just isn’t a very high price to pay for the versatility and consistency Vampiric Tutor provides. Of course, sometimes you will still just want to grab a strong Instant or Sorcery like Ancestral Recall but having the option to get a powerful card of any card type, be it Black Lotus, Necropotence, or any other great card is a big deal. Vampiric Tutor’s flexibility puts it a few spots higher, coming in at number three on this list.
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#2 Mental Misstep
Much like Gitaxian Probe, this card shows just how absurd Phyrexian mana is in MTG. Technically, this card costs one blue mana. However, for the low cost of two life, you can cast it without spending any mana at all! This card keeps any powerful one mana cards that your opponents might cast in check. It’s a fantastic answer to an opponent’s Ancestral Recall. It stops a bunch of the Tutors on this list. It counters opposing copies of Sol Ring. Mana efficiency is so important in older formats, so this card really hits a lot of the best cards in Eternal formats.
Mental Misstep can also counter opposing copies of Mental Misstep to push through your own Ancestral Recall. It can’t counter everything, but unlike Force of Will, it’s a zero mana Counterspell that doesn’t result in card disadvantage. It makes sense why this card is banned Modern and Legacy and restricted in Vintage. As good as this card is, though, much like how Time Walk was a clear number one on our list of the best Sorceries, one Instant is head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.
#1 Ancestral Recall
This should come as no surprise to players that are familiar with this card. Card advantage is such an important part of many games of Magic, but cards like this that net you multiple cards typically cost a lot of mana. There’s a reason Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time were so high up on these lists compared to other card draw spells. Mana efficiency is so important when evaluating cards, especially in the context of Eternal formats. Treasure Cruise was pretty high on the list of best Sorceries of all time, and Ancestral Recall is significantly better.
Unlike Cruise, Recall takes no work to get going. This means it can be cast much earlier on in the game. It’s very common in Vintage to cast Recall on the first turn cycle on your opponent’s upkeep to avoid having to discard cards in your cleanup step. Using Vampiric Tutor or Mystical Tutor to find Recall is also relatively common. The card is outrageously efficient and has basically no deckbuilding restrictions outside of having access to blue mana in some capacity.
Compare this to a card like Brainstorm, which also made the list. Both cards cost the same amount of mana and draw three cards, except Recall doesn’t force you to put two cards from your hand back on top of your library. This is yet another Power Nine card that has stood the test of time, and is the clear best Instant of all time.
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