In Magic: The Gathering, the Power Nine are nine rare cards that were printed early in the game's history and are widely regarded as overpowered. However, in games where they are legal, they play an important role in the competitive tournament atmosphere. All nine cards were rares printed only in the Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited sets, meaning they were only printed for a short period from late 1993 to early 1994.
The Power Nine
Arguably the best known card in the Power Nine, and for that matter all of Magic. With the exception of certain special cards printed outside normal sets (such as Splendid Genesis, Fraternal Exaltation and Shichifukujin Dragon,) the Black Lotus is the most valuable Magic card. The card, especially its Alpha and Beta variants, is often valued from anywhere from $15,000 to over $60,000, depending on condition.
The Black Lotus has unparalleled power in terms of mana acceleration, temporarily putting the owner 3 turns ahead in mana development. This advantage, combined with other efficient and powerful cards, allows its user to get so far ahead that victory can become inevitable.
Former Pro and Magic writer Zvi Mowshowitz has authoritatively declared Black Lotus as the best Artifact of all time. As further testament to Black Lotus's power level, he also stated that every deck in the history of the game is better with a Black Lotus in it, a statement that is true for no other card.
The illustration on Black Lotus was painted by Christopher Rush, who at the time was a Wizards of the Coast employee rather than a freelance artist. The Black Lotus illustration is a depiction of a black lotus flower over a foliage backdrop. Since then, Rush has made a similar, but distinct alternate art for the card, given to the winner of the 2003 Type 1 Championship held at GenCon.
Currently Black Lotus is only allowed to be used in the Vintage tournament format where it is a common component in many powerful decks.
Black Lotus inspired a more reasonable card, Lotus Petal. It is similar to Black Lotus but only adds one mana instead of three.
Drawing cards is the heart of the game; the player who has the most options has the best chance of winning. Ancestral Recall allows the player to use this one card to draw three more, for a price considered extremely cheap by modern Magic standards. For comparison, the card "Brilliant Plan" from the set Portal - Three Kingdoms has virtually the same effect as Ancestral Recall, but is a Sorcery instead of an Instant (meaning that it can be played only during your turn) and costs five mana, five times as much as Ancestral Recall.
Card Advantage views every action as a trade between the player and his opponent. Typically, players trade card-for-card (e.g. using one creature elimination spell to remove one creature card). Anything that upsets this balance changes card advantage between the players. For its extremely low cost of a single blue mana, Ancestral Recall allows a player to gain +2 card advantage (3 cards drawn minus 1 card "spent" in casting Ancestral Recall) at the speed of an instant. No card has ever come close to doing this as cheaply and consistently as Ancestral Recall.
There are several comparisons to Ancestral Recall, but a good one is Jace's Ingenuity. It is an instant like Ancestral Recall, but costs five mana to cast!! No wonder it is restricted in Vintage and banned in Legacy.
Depending on the circumstances, Timetwister can be a more potent drawing card than Ancestral Recall, allowing all players to renew their hands completely and get back cards already played. Its drawback is that one's opponents also have the potential to benefit from the same effects; however, they also may lose valuable cards currently in their hands, whereas the player of Timetwister can prepare to use his or her other cards before casting Timetwister. For many decks, Timetwister acts like restarting the game, and gives the casting player the sizable advantage of going first with their new hand.
Most importantly, Timetwister is valuable in degenerative "combo" decks. Using some other means, such as a Xantid Swarm, to prevent the opposing player from playing any cards for the rest of the turn (thus negating the possibility of the opponent drawing countermagic to anything that the active player plays), the active player play out his entire hand, then use Timetwister to get seven new cards to continue his or her "combo". A successfully resolved Timetwister against an opponent in the right deck generally seals the outcome of the game.
Timetwister holds great power especially in the Type 1 (Vintage) format due to a lesser noticed ability to resurrect restricted power cards from the graveyard. This was also the primary reason why other cards with similar powers (Regrowth, Yawgmoth's Will, etc.) were restricted or banned. A very similar card is Time Reversal, except that it is five to cast and Timetwister is only three.
Timetwister, as of mid-2006, had the lowest average value of all Power Nine cards, and is often priced lower than several cards from later sets, such as Bazaar of Baghdad from Arabian Nights, or Mishra's Workshop from Antiquities, though Timetwister's Alpha and Beta counterparts usually outvalue these cards.
As with the other Power Nine, the power of Time Walk greatly exceeds its cost, especially in the early game. If multiple Time Walks are cast in a row (generally only possible with some method of graveyard recursion, as Time Walks are restricted in the one format within which they are legal), the advantage it allows a player, in development of cards and mana, is often decisive. In fact, in powerful or degenerate Type 1 decks, one casting of Time Walk is generally enough to decide the outcome of the game. A toned-down remake of this card, Time Warp, appeared in Tempest, at the much higher cost of 3UU.
One infamous story surrounding this card comes from its early play test version, which had the text "Target player loses next turn." While the intent of the game designers was that the opposing player would skip a turn, many new players saw the card and believed that the targeted player would lose the entire game. However, the wording was changed prior to the release of Alpha.
The Moxes (or Moxen)
The five Mox cards are notable in that they are almost strictly better than land as a mana source. In fact, in the days before their restriction to one card per deck, it wasn't uncommon for players to forego running basic land cards altogether in exchange for four sets of "Jewelry," the reason being that they do not have the "play only one per turn" restriction that land cards have. Even after their restriction, running all five Moxen is considered a staple for Vintage Decks. The Moxen are the standard by which most mana-producing artifacts are created and judged. Blue is the only color that has spells in the power nine, (Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, and Timetwister) so the Mox Sapphire is the most desirable and expensive of all the moxen. Blue is the staple of all Vintage decks. After this, Black and Red mana are usually needed the most, making Mox Jet and Mox Ruby a good second tier of moxen. After this the moxen's usefulness resides primarily in their ability to produce mana which can be used for generic costs, rather than their ability to produce green or white mana, due to those colors' relative weakness in Vintage. Therefore, while the Mox Emerald and Mox Pearl are still highly valuable, they are the 3rd tier among moxen and may be up to $100 cheaper than Mox Sapphire.
Power Nine as collectors' cards
The Power Nine are priced very highly, fetching hundreds of dollars per copy. Cards in mint condition, which are often demanded by serious collectors, fetch significantly higher prices. Prices for a single Beta Black Lotus have steadily climbed from about $200 in 1995 to over $2000 in 2005, with a top condition one going for as much as $10,000. White-bordered Unlimited variants are worth about half as much as their black-bordered Beta counterparts both because the Unlimited printing was larger and because, while Beta is considered part of the first edition, Unlimited is not. Black bordered cards are also generally preferred over white bordered by collectors since they show damage/scuff marks around the edges and therefore are more difficult to pass off as mint condition, as well as for aesthetic and prestige reasons. Power Nine cards are often considered prized jewels of a collection because of their age, expense, and significance in Magic: The Gathering's history.
Power Nine on the Wizards reserved list
The Power Nine were on the first Magic: the Gathering "reserved list" unveiled by Wizards of the Coast in 1996. Reserved cards were never to be reprinted because of concerns that additional printings would collapse the secondary card market. The reserved list has gone through several revisions, notably in 2002 when many cards were removed from the list, thus becoming available for reprint. However, the Power Nine remain fixed on the list due to their "unbalanced" power in the game and rising value in the secondary market.
Fake cards and proxies
The Black Lotus, along with several other rare cards, is often copied due to its rarity. Most of these copies are benign, and meant for use by players who cannot afford to buy a real one. These are called "proxies", and are only allowed at independent non-sanctioned tournaments, at the organizer's discretion. However, some Power Nine copies are attempts at actual forgery. Collectors and players are advised to carefully inspect Power Nine cards when purchasing them. Experienced dealers can usually spot forgeries with the naked eye, due to many tell-tale printing idiosyncrasies that were left on the original runs. Under magnification, an original card printed by Carta Mundi of Belgium for Wizards of the Coast, can be satisfactorily determined real, or a forgery printed up on an inkjet or colour laser printer, fake.
Power Nine as game pieces
The Power Nine are a mainstay of the Vintage (aka Type 1) tournament atmosphere. They empower highly explosive plays that often lead to victory for the player who draws them. Early combo decks led to an abusive and often invincible playing style that was the impetus for a host of new rules and restrictions for the game. In official tournament play, cards such as the Power Nine have been "restricted" to one per deck in Vintage (Type 1), the only format that allows them at all. Different types of tournaments were created allowing only cards easily found by all players. The first of these new tournament types, called "Standard" (aka Type 2), quickly became much more popular than Vintage because of the lower cost of entry. In spite of the fact that eight of these cards will always be considered Vintage tournament staples, in recent times there has been question as to whether Timetwister really belongs in the same category as the rest of the Power Nine. While certainly worthy of restriction (as with nearly every card printed with the unfortunate phrase "Draw seven cards"), it is often the only one of the Power Nine that is not automatically included in a Vintage deck. Most players agree that it will continue to be associated with the rest of the Power Nine simply by default.
Contemporary "power" cards
The fame of the cards has been alluded to and lampooned in subsequent printings of Magic: the Gathering (in fact, every card with the word "lotus" in its name is based on Black Lotus). For example, a card from the Tempest expansion set called "Lotus Petal" is identical to Black Lotus except that it only produces one mana instead of three. Although it was designed to be a more reasonable variant of Black Lotus, it eventually landed on the restricted list as well. The "Blacker Lotus" was a satirical card in the light-hearted Unglued set which produced four mana, although it required the user to tear up the card after use, so it could (normally) only be used once. Mox Lotus, from the Unhinged parody set, provides infinite mana, but costs fifteen to play. In the Mirrodin set, the Gilded Lotus imitates the Black Lotus's ability by producing the same amount of mana without being sacrificed, but at a higher cost to play, which is considered an acceptable level of power by today's standards. On August 23, 2006 Wizards of the Coast revealed the latest of their Black Lotus-inspired variants: Lotus Bloom. At the same cost and the same wording as the Black Lotus, it introduces a delay of three turns as a way to harness the power of the card. The card was released in the expansion set Time Spiral.
As for the Moxen: Mirrodin features a Chrome Mox while Stronghold is the home of Mox Diamond. Time Spiral includes Gemstone Caverns, designed by Magic Pro Player Tyoshi Fujita, which also bears Mox-like qualities. In all cases, the power level of each 'new' Mox is balanced with the investment of an additional card. Scars of Mirrodin, like the Mirrodin block, features a new mox called the Mox Opal, which is legendary (There can be at most one on the battlefield at any given time) and requires Metalcraft (at least 3 artifacts in play) to use. It taps for one mana of any colour.
The term Power Nine was originally coined based on the cards in the group representing a substantial jump in price over any other card in the game. However, with slowly dwindling supply (due to loss and accidental destruction), no reasonable expectations of reprints, and an increasing demand, the market has changed, putting 3 more cards on nearly the same price plateau as the Power 9: Mishra's Workshop, Bazaar of Baghdad, and Library of Alexandria (Most frequently accepted as the 10th piece of power). All are worth at least a miniuim amount of $300 on the secondary market. It has also been argued that the cards Yawgmoth's Will, Tinker and Sol Ring all rival the power level of the Power 9, but because of their much lower rarity, they do not fetch nearly the same price.
Players sometimes refer to the "Power 10", with their favorite of these cards inferred as the 10th power card.
- "Black Lotus" - Card image and rules text from Wizards of the Coast
- "Blacker Lotus" - Card image and rules text from Wizards of the Coast
- "All-time MVPs: Black Lotus" - Strategy-specific Wizards of the Coast article on Black Lotus
- "The Power Nine" - Images of all Power Nine cards
- Vintage (Type 1) restricted list