Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
9, Jun, 22

The Best Tax Cards in MTG

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If you’ve ever wanted to frustrate your opponents into conceding through completely stalling their board, a life of taxing might be right for you. As some of the most annoying cards in Magic: The Gathering, taxation cards can be some of the most fun to play, so long as you don’t mind finishing the game with fewer friends than you started with.

Whether you’re building a dedicated death and taxes theme or just spicing up your deck with an annoying stalling tactic, here are our top picks for the best Tax cards in Magic: The Gathering.

What are Tax Effects in MTG?

Deafening Silence
Wizards of the Coast

Tax effects in MTG, also known as Stax effects after Smokestack, refer to any effect which adds an additional cost casting spells, attacking with creatures, or untapping mana. Most cards with Tax effects are found in White. However, previously the mechanic was primarily found in blue because, of course it was.

With the ability to slow any game down to a crawl, taxation effects give you some breathing room to build your board and survive for a bit longer. With most Tax effect cards being creatures or enchantments, however, they are, like most things, not immune to removal.

The Best Tax Cards in MTG

Wizards of the Coast

We’re kicking this list off with a somewhat unorthodox honorable mention. Elite Spellbinder is far from the most powerful tax card in all of MTG, especially compared to this list’s powerhouses. However, its taxation lite effect is still remarkably effective at keeping you one step ahead. 

This is because, alongside Elite Spellbinder’s ability to make one of your opponent’s cards more expensive, you also get to have a peek into their hand. This gives you some vitally important information that could ensure your victory.

11 – Winter Orb

Winter Orb
Wizards of the Coast

As a strictly better version of Hokori, Dust Drinker, Winter Orb is a frustratingly excellent way to turn any game into an absolute crawl. For only two mana, Winter Orb prevents each player from untapping more than one land for each upkeep. This is an incredibly punishing effect early game; to make matters better, you can potentially avoid its symmetrical effects. 

Thanks to other taxing cards such as Tangle Wire, or any other ability that lets you tap artifacts, Winter Orb’s effects can be mitigated. Run Winter Orb with Urza, Lord High Artificer if you want to lose friends in EDH very quickly. While requiring some delicate setup, this combo can quickly have you dominating the game while proving the power of taxes.

10 – Blood Moon

Wizards of the Coast

As an effective way to completely shut down decks with complex mana bases in Commander, Modern, and Legacy, Blood Moon is a surefire way to piss off your opponents. By turning all nonbasic lands into Mountains, Blood Moon has the potential to either stall or completely devastate your opponents’ mana base depending on the deck they’re playing. 

For those with an aversion to enchantments, Magus of the Moon is a creature with the same effect. While technically more value than Blood Moon thanks to its 2/2 body, I wouldn’t count on Magus of the Moon surviving for long.

9 – Lodestone Golem

Lodestone Golem
Wizards of the Coast

Frequently found in Vintage, Lodestone Golem is often praised for its ability to punch opponents right in the face. Alongside its healthy 5/3 body, which can make short work of an opponent’s life total, Lodestone Golem comes with the added benefit of making all nonartifact spells cost one more to cast. 

As well as being a threat on the board, this ability makes dealing with Lodestone Golem that little bit more complex, freeing up your presumably artifact-themed deck to cause some havoc in the meantime.

8 – Tangle Wire

Tangle Wire
Wizards of the Coast

Thanks to its Fading mechanic, Tangle Wire can effectively tax your opponents for turn after turn without ever becoming too much of a threat. Unlike other cards on this list, Tangle Wire may only give you a slight edge for as long as it’s in play. However, that is still more than enough to make a difference before it fades away.

8 – Thorn of Amethyst

Thorn of Amethyst
Wizards of the Coast

As someone with a personal vendetta against blue, Thorn of Amethyst excites me. Thorn of Amethyst lets me keep casting my irresponsibly giant green creatures without the added cost of Sphere of Resistance. It also mitigates the chance of counterspells, thanks to making them that little bit more expensive. 

Admittedly, Thorn of Amethyst can be situational as creature-focused decks are barely affected by this Artifact. Against the right noncreature spell heavy deck, however, this spell can be a vital roadblock in their planned path to victory.

7 – Archon of Emeria

Wizards of the Coast

While it doesn’t make your opponent’s spells cost more to cast, Archon of Emeria is another effective way to stall your opponent’s progression. By preventing players from casting more than one spell each turn, Archon of Emeria adds a layer of protection from heavy draw decks and cantrips by making opponents think carefully about every spell they cast.

Alongside this helpful ability, Archon of Emeria also prevents your opponent’s nonbasic lands from coming into play untapped. While many nonbasic lands come into play tapped on their own, this added effect is an extra bonus of taxation that might keep you ahead.

6 – Leonin Arbiter / Aven Mindcensor / Opposition Agent

With the ability to disrupt players from searching their libraries, Leonin Arbiter, Aven Mindcensor, and Opposition Agent are all powerful tools in the tax man’s arsenal. While Opposition Agent is the more powerful of the trio, even Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor can do some serious work when played against the right kind of deck.

Even when you’re not playing against a deck crammed full of the best tutors in MTG, these cards can still effectively annoy your opponents and keep you one step ahead of the competition.

5 – Ghostly Prison / Propaganda

As some of the most powerful and widely known tax cards in all of MTG, it’s no wonder that both Ghostly Prison and Propaganda made this list. Sporting identical effects in white and blue, Ghostly Prison and Propaganda make attacking with any creature cost two mana.

While simple, there is no denying the effectiveness of these two cards, as against many decks, they’re able to nullify the threat of combat damage completely. As if it wasn’t enough to be devastating to decks that go wide with creatures, Ghostly Prison and Propaganda will even disrupt chaos-inducing effects like Goad. It’s important to note that Ghostly Prison and Propaganda will not protect Planeswalkers that you own from attack.

4 – Narset, Parter of Veils / Spirit of the Labyrinth

Narset, Parter of Veils, and Spirit of the Labyrinth may not make your opponent’s spells more expensive, but they’re still some of the most potent taxing options in MTG. With the ability to stop players and opponents from drawing more than one card each turn, both Narset, Parter of Veils and Spirit of the Labyrinth have the power to shut down a multitude of decks in both the early and late game.

While Narset, Parter of Veils’ unsymmetrical effect is obviously superior, playing either of these cards in conjunction with other tax cards from this list such as Archon of Emeria and Winter Orb you can quickly make sure that you won’t be invited to play any Eternal formats ever again. To make your opponents even more furious, Hullbreacher is an even more powerful option that is understandably banned in Commander.

3 – Static Orb

Static Orb
Wizards of the Coast

If you want to tax yourself and your opponents so hard that it feels like you’re playing in slow motion, look no further than Static Orb. By preventing players from untapping any more than two permanents during their untap steps, Static Orb is one of the harshest tax cards in MTG, but it’s not all bad news. 

Unlike many other cards in this list, Static Orb’s effect is only active while it’s untapped. This lets you sneak in some trickery by tapping it before your turn to keep you ahead.

2 – Grand Arbiter Augustin IV

Wizards of the Coast

If you’re looking for a Commander that can deliver the repeated threat of taxation, look no further than Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. Not only is Grand Arbiter Augustin IV able to slow your opponents down with an extra one added to all their spells, but it is also able to make your own spells cheaper. 

This combined effect of speeding up your own progression while simultaneously slowing down your opponents allows you to leap ahead of your opponent and consistently keep your board one step ahead of theirs.

1 – Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Wizards of the Coast

At just two mana for a 2/1 with first strike and the ability to slow down your opponents by making all their noncreature spells cost one more mana, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is one of the most cost-effective ways to tax your opponents in any format. 

As a staple in Death and Taxes decks, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben isn’t just a powerful way to delay your opponents and a tempting target for removal, as they’re also a surprisingly powerful body in the early game for both offense and defense.

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