Recently, the full decklist of the Timey-Wimey Doctor Who Commander deck was spoiled. This Commander deck in particular utilizes a very cool theme: Time Counters. Between cards with Vanishing, Suspend, and a subset of permanents that naturally can accrue Time Counters, the Timey-Wimey deck uses The Tenth Doctor quite nicely as a Commander. This is thanks to the newly featured Time Travel mechanic which lets you add or remove Time Counters from permanents you control and cards you own in exile.
Of course, Time Counters are nothing new to MTG. Given the hype surrounding Doctor Who, we thought it would be a neat idea to go over the best cards in MTG’s history that feature Time Counters. Notably, we will not be incorporating new Doctor Who cards that have yet to make their presences felt in these rankings. Instead, we will be focusing on cards that have each had a major impact on MTG. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the best MTG Time Counter cards.
#5 Reality Acid
Reality Acid is a rather simple card, and one who’s competitive viability has certainly died down a bit given the rise in power creep in MTG. However, the card has seen play in Pauper and plenty of play in Commander decks showcasing Brago, King Eternal or Aminatou, the Fateshifter, making it one of the more prominent cards with Vanishing. After all, the number of cards with Vanishing in MTG’s history is very minimal.
Much like some of the other cards on this list, what makes Reality Acid a strong card is the ability to abuse it. The intended use of the card is to wait until the Vanishing counters have been removed, then the Enchanted permanent is sacrificed. Instead, though, if you can find a way to “blink” Reality Acid (such as by connecting with Brago in combat), you can force your opponent to sacrifice their permanent ahead of schedule. In Pauper, players would use Reality Acid in conjunction with cards like Kor Skyfisher to slowly get rid of the opponent’s Lands. Getting to Enchant any permanent is powerful, and if you can repeatedly reset Reality Acid, you may be able to effectively lock your opponent out of casting spells.
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#4 Rift Bolt
Rift Bolt is short, sweet, and to the point. It only has Suspend 1, and in the event you topdeck the card, you can simply pay three mana to cast it instead. Obviously, this card is worse than Lightning Bolt, so decks that are just looking for a handful of red removal spells should look elsewhere. For decks looking for redundancy in the form of three-damage burn spells, this card is perfect.
Modern Burn, for example, makes great use of this card. Despite being printed over 20 years ago, it’s still a staple in a tier one deck. Rift Bolt and Skewer the Critics may not be flashy, but when you’re in the market for efficient spells to burn the opponent out with, they get the job done.
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#3 Search for Tomorrow
Search for Tomorrow, much like Rift Bolt, is a card with a cheap Suspend cost that can still be reasonably cast for three mana if drawn after the first couple turns. This card is an excellent inclusion in Modern Scapeshift decks that win via Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. The goal of Scapeshift decks is to get enough Lands in play so that when you cast Scapeshift, you can find Valakut and enough Mountains to burn the opponent out all at once.
Search for Tomorrow is a unique card in that it helps you ramp for as little as one mana, whereas some of the other ramp cards such as Sakura-Tribe Elder cost two mana. The most explosive starts for this deck involve Search for Tomorrow, earning it a spot on this list.
Read More: MTG Doctor Who What is Doctor’s Companion?
#2 Lotus Bloom
Lotus Bloom is one of a few Suspend cards that costs no mana at all to Suspend. It has Suspend 3, and just like Black Lotus, you can sacrifice it to add three mana of any color to your mana pool. While Lotus Bloom isn’t as strong as it once was, it still sees play in Tameshi, Reality Architect combo decks that can search for Lotus Bloom via Wargate and put it directly into play. Lotus Bloom also saw a lot of play in Ad Nauseum combo decks in Modern for quite some time. This was a combo deck that typically won the game on turn four, just in time for Lotus Bloom to come off of Suspend.
What gives this card a bit of a higher ranking on this list than some of the others was its contribution to Modern Eggs decks that eventually resulted in Second Sunrise getting banned. In this deck, you could use Reshape to help find Lotus Bloom and put it directly into play, bypassing the delay caused by Suspend. With Lotus Bloom and enough Eggs in the graveyard, Second Sunrise acted as a combo piece, letting you return a whole slew of Artifacts back to the battlefield. Lotus Bloom has undoubtedly lost a bit of its luster since then, but its impact on MTG earns it a higher spot on this list.
That said, there is a minor movement in Modern trying to bring Eggs back, so you could be seeing Lotus bloom more than you expect.
#1 Living End/Crashing Footfalls/Hypergenesis
While each of these cards function a little differently and the decks that utilize them are built differently, they all have one thing in common: they work well with cheap Cascade spells. The goal with each of these cards is to cast cheap cards with Cascade, such as Shardless Agent or Violent Outburst, in a deck filled with other cards that cost three or more mana. That is, except for these cards, which will then be reliably Cascaded into.
Modern Living End requires some setup, usually involving putting Creatures with Cycling into the graveyard. However, it is quite powerful when it resolves, and being able to play Grief is a big bonus. Crashing Footfalls decks require less of a setup cost, but casting a single copy of Crashing Footfalls is less likely to be enough to win the game on its own. Still, these decks get to run interaction like Force of Negation and are very consistent, hence why the archetype shows up in Legacy as well.
Hypergenesis, on the other hand, is much more over the top, almost certainly winning the game when cast as long as you have something big like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to put into play. Hypergenesis has outrageous play patterns as a result, causing the card to get banned in Modern many years ago. However, it was banned so early on that it’s unclear how much better Hypergenesis archetypes are than the other two Cascade cards mentioned. Therefore, we decided to group all of these cards together.
Frankly, Glimpse of Tomorrow could have been mentioned here as well, but the setup cost for that deck is definitely a bit higher. Either way, these zero mana Suspend cards work so well with Cascade and are each so powerful that they collectively earn the top spot on this list.