As many MTG players will know, 2023 has been an incredibly busy year. Loaded with 11 sets, countless Secret Lairs, and announcements aplenty, it’s been almost impossible to keep up. Thankfully, all that is behind us now, as there are just a few hours left in the year. With the entirety of 2023 behind us, it’s the perfect opportunity to look back over all the best bits.
For better or worse, MTG has had some ups and downs throughout 2023. Between controversies, lackluster reprints, and dismal Draft experiences, not every set has been stellar. Thankfully, we don’t have to dwell on Magic’s 2023 missteps today, as we’ve already covered those in detail. Instead, we get to celebrate all the good that Wizards created by ranking the best MTG sets of 2023.
Overall, thanks to the sets on this list, 2023 has been a fantastic year for MTG. Loaded with powerful new staples, gorgeous new art, and even new formats, 2023 really has had it all. The question remains, however, which out of the eleven sets released this year was the best?
If you’re wondering that exact thought, you’re in luck, as we’re here with the answer. So, let’s take one last look back over 2023 and all the best MTG sets the year had to offer!
6 | Phyrexia: All Will Be One
To kick things off, Phyrexia: All Will Be One was a deeply enjoyable, although weirdly forgettable, MTG set. Looking back, the set had great mechanics, flavor, and new staples which have continued to see healthy play. This is especially true for the set’s mythics, which knocked it out of the park with value and variety.
As the tease for the new Battle card type, there’s definitely no forgetting about Atraxa, Grand Unifier. Despite this success story, however, the set’s story wasn’t exactly standout. Sure, it had its moments, but as the middle chapter of the Phyrexian invasion of the multiverse, much of the details have been lost. Rather than standing apart on its own, Phyrexia: All Will Be One just feels like another set in the arc.
Adding to the problems the set faces, Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s Limited wasn’t exactly perfected. Dominated by a Gruul archetype, the format was far from perfectly balanced. That being said, however, it was still a lot of fun as the set’s mechanics were a joy to use. Ever since New Phyrexia in 2011, MTG players have been clamoring for more Poison mechanics and that wish was finally granted.
5 | Wilds of Eldraine
Following on from the end of the Phyrexian Arc, Wilds of Eldraine was a very welcome breath of fresh air. More than just kicking off the new three-year major story arc, however, this set was also an absolute delight. So much so, in fact, that it feels rude putting it so far down this list, but that’s just how good 2023 has been.
From a flavor perspective, Wilds of Eldraine absolutely smashed expectations. Playing into the stories of classic fairytales, the set was a nostalgic, colorful, and visually delightful romp. As usual, this was heightened by the set’s Booster Fun frames, which are mathematically the most beloved around.
Alongside the wonderfully whimsical fairytale flavor, Wilds of Eldraine also had some absolutely fantastic cards. Out of these Up the Beanstalk might be the standout pick, but there’s no shortage of great choices. Offering unique designs, great flavor, and a whole lot of fun, the best cards from Wilds of Eldraine really were the best.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Wilds of Eldraine also had the Enchanting Tales Bonus Sheet! Helping to add flavor to the set and fun to the Draft environment, this Bonus Sheet was a welcome treat. Beyond being plenty of fun, the Enchanting Tales was obviously loaded with reprints which worked wonders at lowering prices.
4 | Doctor Who Commander Decks
Once again, it feels criminal for this set to be so low down on this list. Providing players with oodles of flavor and incredible cards aplenty, the Doctor Who Commander decks were each fantastic. If you’re a fan of the classic British TV show, this set may well be your favorite MTG set from 2023 with little competition.
While the Doctor Who Commander decks are undeniably a flavorful delight, I must concede that not everyone is a fan of the show. Thankfully, however, the decks aren’t just a collection of niche references and fifteen Doctor Whos. Instead, this set contains a boatload of interesting cards, unique designs, and classic returning mechanics.
If you’re just after some new power and support to spice up your Commander decks, Doctor Who definitely delivers. Flesh Duplicate, for instance, is a fantastic new copy spell and arguably the best spell in the entire set. No matter if you like Dinosaurs, Cybermen, Aliens, or Time Counter shenanigans, however, this set has something for you.
3 | The Lost Caverns of Ixalan
From the moment that it was first teased, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan had players incredibly excited. This was largely due to the set’s unique aesthetic, which played heavily into Ixalan’s Mesoamerican theming. Unlike past sets on Ixalan, Wizards turned things up to eleven this time around, and players were loving it.
Between the main set and the Booster Fun frames, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is one of the most virtually striking sets in years. Easily on par with Streets of New Capenna from 2022, Wizards created a truly gorgeous world. Thankfully, while this detail was more than enticing enough, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan was more than a pretty face.
Much to the delight and dismay of many MTG players, Wizards finally brought back Cascade in the form of Discover. Supposedly a fixed version of the mechanic, this new twist admittedly still had problems. Due to this, Geological Appraiser even had to be banned in Pioneer! While this is rather problematic, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan had plenty of traditionally great cards too.
Providing great support for Commander and constructed players alike, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is an absolute joy. Sure, the limited meta might be very bomb-dependant, but it’s hard to deny they’re fun to play with. Between Roaming Throne, Cavern of Souls, and Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation, this set is a blast.
2 | March of the Machine
To put it lightly, March of the Machine had an awful lot going on. As the final chapter in the Phyrexian Arc, it had to wrap up the massive story event once and for all. Spanning almost the entire Magic multiverse, this set was unlike any other in scope and design. Miraculously, Wizards of the Coast managed to pull it off.
Nailing the flavor, Wizards managed to showcase the multiverse coming together in a fight for survival. This was best shown off in the brand new Battle card type, which made the set undeniably iconic. While we haven’t seen Battles since, it’s only a matter of time before they turn up again and again.
Alongside the new card type, March of the Machine also pushed the boat out with its Booster Fun. Playing into the themes of each set, the set contained a staggering 18 different card frames. This allowed players to see the multiverse in all its glory and even previewed some upcoming Booster Fun treatments.
To go along with the set’s good looks, March of the Machine also included a smorgasbord of powerful staples. Seeing consistent Commander and Constructed play, the Praetor cycle, Faerie Mastermind, and Breach the Multiverse are all utter delights. These cards even managed to behave themselves in Limited, which was yet another standout success.
Topping it all off, March of the Machine also featured the Multiverse Legends Bonus Sheet. As the name suggests, this Bonus Sheet reprinted classic and Commander-favorite Legendary Creatures from across the multiverse. While not all the reprints were slam dunks, there was more than enough value to satisfy players.
1 | The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth
Last but not least, we finally have the best of the best that 2023 had to offer. This set, of course, was The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. As the first-ever Draftable Universes Beyond set, Tales of Middle-earth had a lot to live up to. Thankfully for Wizards of the Coast and players alike, the set more than met expectations.
Rather than just hitting the bar, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set the new gold standard for quality. The set might not have had any story chapters, but each card still oozed flavor from the beloved franchise. As usual, this flavor was further realized throughout the Booster Fun cards, however, Scene Cards took this one step further.
Showcasing a full battlefield when played together, Scene Cards have been an undeniable smash hit. This is especially true of the Scene Boxes which arrived in the set’s second release. Containing brand-new cards, this double-release was miraculously well-received and only added to the set’s provenance.
Speaking of provenance, we couldn’t mention Tales of Middle-earth and ignore The One Ring. Serialized and immortalized with a one-of-one printing, this card was aptly iconic, inspiring a mad hunt to find it. Once this happened, the card was sold for $2,000,000 to Post Malone, making it forever famous.
Beyond this immediately iconic card, Tales of Middle-earth contained plenty of incredible staples. Both warping formats and providing new Commander options, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth really did it all. We can only hope that this utterly fantastic set wasn’t a miraculously design one-off.
Read More: MTG Rocks’ 2023 Card of the Year Awards