Magic: the Gathering


Standard: The 10 Best Cards of 2023

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In today's article, we evaluate the ten best cards released in 2023 for Standard and their impact on the competitive Metagame!

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2023 was intense for Magic: The Gathering. With the culmination of the Phyrexia arc, a journey back into the past with The Brothers' War, and the fateful conclusion of one of the Multiverse's greatest antagonists with the March of the Machine, in addition to recent trips back to Eldraine and Ixalan.

This year was also the year in which competitive Magic formats took their first big step outside the game's universe: The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earthlink outside website became the best-selling set in the game's history, and brought staples to all formats where its cards are legal!


In this week of retrospectives, I present the ten best cards released in 2023 for the main competitive formats, and, to finish it, we will cover Standard!

The Ten Best Cards of 2023 for Standard

The selection criteria for this list are based on the impact each card has had on Standard's competitive environment this year, whether by establishing a new archetype, leveraging an old strategy, redefining the way games are played, or by being present in multiple decks.

10 - Virtue of Loyalty

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Virtue of Loyalty was the card that stood out most from the Wilds of Eldrainelink outside website mythic enchantments cycl, with presence in most White Midranges and Aggro, with the potential to amplify its numbers as more creature-based "go-wide" decks emerge next year.

9 - Restless Lands

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The Restless Lands cycle gave Standard matches greater scope and served as decent replacements for the Manlands cycle from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. While they don't stand out as much as their predecessors, they do a good job of ensuring that players always have something to do with their extra mana.

8 - Cavern of Souls

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Make Disappear was one of the most important cards in Standard in 2022 and also in 2023. Its flexibility allowed any deck with blue to extract some value from it, whether as a Quench at the beginning of the game, or with the amplification of its scope in decks such as Esper Midrange and Azorius Soldiers - it was also one of the main means of keeping strategies with greedy mana bases in check.

Cavern of Souls, while it is not a staple in multiple strategies yet, has given Domain Ramp and the recent Rakdos Discover the necessary security to cast their bombs over counterspells, guaranteeing to extract some value from them.

7 - Mirrex

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Mirrex has become Standard's most flexible and most played "manland" in the current season, present mainly in two-color lists that need a more efficient board position. With its flexibility in generating any color of mana when it comes into play and populating the battlefield every turn, the land has become a staple.

Subterranean Schooner was one of the main reasons behind the increased use of Mirrex, as the tokens created by it can crew the vehicle and become threats and a source of card advantage.

6 - Up the Beanstalk

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Up the Beanstalk may not be as powerful in Standard as it was in Modern, but the card is an excellent motivator to play with high mana curves and still extract value from it, and each card released in 2024 can further increase its potential.

Alongside Leyline Binding and Sunfall, Up the Beanstalk has become a staple of Bant Control and Domain Ramp, which amplifies its value with other high mana value cards, such as Herd Migration and Atraxa, Grand Unifier.


5 - Tishana's Tidebinder

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Tishana's Tidebinder became a multi-format staple in less than two weeks. In Standard, the card has grown in usability since its rise in Azorius Midrange - from Esper lists to Soldier variants, the card has received more attention in the Metagame and could grow even more in 2024.

Its flexibility is what makes it so powerful: Stifle is a rare effect in Magic, especially in Standard, and having it attached to a decent creature still has the potential to "lock" Planeswalkers, artifacts, and other creatures makes Tishana's Tidebinder one of the strongest cards released this year for the competitive scene.

4 - Atraxa, Grand Unifier

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Atraxa, Grand Unifier was the main payoff for "cheating mana costs" on Magic in 2023, and in Standard, the Phyrexian angel starred in different strategies alongside The Cruelty of Gix and Breach the Multiverse, as well as being present in some Invasion of Alara lists.

As the format evolved and the Metagame adapted, Atraxa stopped being just a target to cheat on mana and also became a viable card to cast, being a centerpiece in Domain Ramp.

3 - Lithomantic Barrage

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Lithomantic Barrage is the most important Sideboard piece released in 2023 for Standard, given the recurring addition of white and blue threats in the current Metagame, in addition to being a clean and efficient answer against Raffine, Scheming Seer and dealing with several creatures in decks such as Soldiers and Azorius Midrange.

2 - Deep-Cavern Bat

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Recently released at Lost Caverns of Ixalanlink outside website, Deep-Cavern Bat seems to be taking over the same space of ubiquity in archetypes that Make Disappear had last year, being present in Esper Midrange, Rakdos Discover, Dimir Midrange, Golgari Midrange and becoming the second most played creature in the format today, behind only Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.

In fact, the rise of this creature may or may not be linked to the disuse of Make Disappear as more decks include Cavern of Souls to cast their bombs, making its "discard" an efficient way of delaying one or two opponent's turns. Furthermore, the combination of Flying and Lifelink guarantees a good breath against Aggro, especially in Esper Midrange, where we can sequence it with Raffine, Scheming Seer to increase the life discrepancy between us and the opponent.

1 - Fast Lands

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Fast Lands were a huge improvement to the mana base of several decks in Standard and amplified the format's speed by a few turns without the need to make too many concessions with Pain Lands, reprinted last year.

With them, Esper Midrange solidified its position as the best deck in the format without too many concessions on early turns, aggressive two-color strategies, such as Toxic and Soldiers, gained excellent support, and will probably retain their status as Standard staples throughout its entire lifetime in it, thus being the most important card cycle of 2023 for the format!



That's all for today!

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment!

Thanks for reading!