What are the Most Played and Versatile Magic: the Gathering Cards in Each Colour?

Magic the Gathering's most played and versatile cards listed by colour

What are the Most Played and Versatile Magic: the Gathering Cards in Each Colour?

Asking for the absolute best specific card in a game with over 20,000 candidates might be akin to asking if your next job is the perfect one for you. The easiest answer is: “it depends on the situation.”

While that certainly holds weight, are there any cards that are just so versatile, capable, and adaptable that it’s applicable in almost every gameplay scenario? Here are our top picks for each colour, followed up with detailed examples to show that this isn’t just a popularity contest. We chose to exclude the Power 9 cards, since they’re known to be the 9 most powerful cards for a reason and would naturally fit into any scenario.

Top Most Versatile White Cards in Magic

Swords to Plowshares

As a 1-Mana Instant that Exiles any target Creature, this white card is so powerful and versatile that it’ll be a 1st pick in any constructed format from Vintage to Commander. It checks all the boxes for premium removal. It’s very cheap at 1 Mana, and while 0 would be even better, those usually come with some casting restrictions which would take away its power.

Swords to Plowshares is 1 of the top and most versatile white cards in Magic the Gathering MTG

The drawback of the opponent gaining life is likely the best outcome you can hope for. We would rather have the opponent gain life than draw cards, for example, as life gain prolongs the game but doesn’t ensure victory or defeat. The other similar alternative – Path to Exile – is inferior in our books because it gives the opponent an extra Land which can make a different in the early to mid game.

Top Most Versatile Blue Cards in Magic


If we allowed Power 9 cards here, then Ancestral Recall would be the top pick. But Brainstorm achieves the same level of utility and versatility, if only lacking in the extra card draw. Since you have to put back 2 cards on the top of your Library, you’ve essentially sifting for an answer rather than getting new cards.

Brainstorm is a well known and very versatile blue card in the whole of Magic the Gathering

Drawing cards has always been a key mechanic in Magic, and Brainstorm does that so well but just 1 Mana that it had to be banned in the online-only Historic format shortly after it was introduced. The fact that it is not legal in Modern either clearly shows how versatile this card is.

Mana Drain

Blue is all about counter spells, and debating the best of them will always come with some heated discussions. There’s the classic Counterspell, cheap Arcane Denial, and other free ones like Mental Misstep and Force of Will.

Mana Drain is one of the top blue cards in the history of Magic the Gathering

But looking at pure versatility and strength, it’s hard to argue against Mana Drain being 1 of the best blue cards in Magic. It is a carbon copy of Counterspell, except that you get free Mana added at your next turn, giving you additional leverage to control the game. You can use that extra Mana to cast Creatures while leaving blue Mana available for more counter spells.

This power level and versatility comes with a price, and as a Mythic Rare is also hard to pull. Currently regular versions still sell for US$40-50, making Mana Drain less accessible than other cards on this list.

Top Most Versatile Black Cards in Magic

Demonic Tutor

Black is chock full of removal and discard spells, but in terms of versatility and power, they still fall behind tutor spells. Tutors are cards that let you search for any card in your deck, and put it either in your hand or top of your Library. There have been many in Magic’s history, but the best of them would be Demonic Tutor.

Demonic Tutor is one of the best most versatile black cards in Magic the Gathering

Demonic Tutor has both advantages and drawbacks against the popular Vampiric Tutor. Demonic Tutor costs more, and is a Sorcery (which means can only be cast on your turn). However it adds the chosen card to your hand, meaning you basically on parity in terms of card count. Vampiric Tutor, on the other hand, places the chosen card on the top of the Library, so you are losing out on 1 card.

Being able to search for any card is extremely powerful, as you can find a key card that gets you out of a tight spot, or in a stalemate and can find a way to power through for the win.


It’s pretty crazy what this spell that costs only 1 Mana can do. Black has a lot of ways to bring back Creatures from the Graveyard, but most cost much more Mana. Reanimate does it for 1, at the loss of life equal to its Mana Value. It’s not a negligible drawback but in Commander it is much more forgiving since you have 40 life to start.

Reanimate is a very popular, strong, and versatile black card in MTG

Reanimate is so good that it and its cousin Animate Dead are not even playable in the higher-tier Modern format. However it is still a very common sight in Commander and is a key card in many strategies.

Top Most Versatile Red Cards in Magic

Dockside Extortionist

This might very well be the most recently released card that has made its way into the most powerful and versatile list of red Magic cards. Dockside Extortionist is only legal in a few formats, and 1 of them is Commander. This is where the Extortionist shines because each opponent is likely to have at least a couple of Artifacts or Enchantments, and all of them are going to contribute to your Treasure count.

Despite being a new card, Dockside Extortionist has emerged as one of the top red cards in the whole of Magic

Treasures are highly versatile because it lets you cast big things, and the card is a cog in infinite combos that generate unlimited Mana through those tokens. Considering red doesn’t get busted cards that often, it’s a blessing to have Dockside Extortionist being so useful in just about any red Commander deck.

Because there’s only been 1 ever reprint of Dockside Extortionist (in Double Masters 2022), and is also a Mythic Rare card like Mana Drain, the cheapest version still remains pricey between US$50-60.

Jeska’s Will

Another very young card in Magic’s history, Jeska’s Will helps the red player in 2 departments – temporary Mana ramp and card draw. Red has always had cards that do 1 or the other, but Jeska’s Will lets you do both as long as your Commander is on the Battlefield.

Imagine having 7 Mana at your disposal to play any of the 3 cards that you’ve just Exiled from the top of your Library. That’s amazing value for just 3 Mana and can really push your game ahead. There’s hardly any mono red deck that doesn’t now include Jeska’s Will because of its versatility.

Top Most Versatile Green Cards in Magic

Llanowar Elves

The indisputable face of green ramp is ubiquitous is just about any mono green deck. It grants you the ability to cast 3 Mana spells on turn 2, and this is the 1st card players hope to see in their opening hand (apart from Lands of course). This is the card that makes green scary, because you’re now able to cast the big beasts faster, and that allows you to outmuscle the opponent.

The green card with the biggest impact in Magic the Gathering

It’s not without weaknesses though. Being a 1/1 Creature, it is vulnerable to an immediate kill before you can tap it for Mana. Opponents playing red and black will have the easiest time to remove Llanowar Elves, but in most situations, having this played on turn 1 greatly increases your chances of winning.


The non-Creature side of Llanowar Elves is also highly versatile and can fit into almost any deck that uses green. Its ability to search for 2 different Basic Lands beats many of the other ramp spells. It costs 1 more than Farseek, Three Visits and Nature’s Lore, but gets to retrieve 1 additional Land. That’s great value for the cost.

Cultivate gets even better in 2 or 3-colour decks as being able to search for 2 different Basic Land types means you don’t have to worry about having all colour covered in your opening hand as long as you have green Mana and Cultivate itself.

End Step

We hope this gives you a good primer on the most utilised and versatile cards in Magic: the Gathering. Some of these are just Common and Uncommon cards, but they are so well-loved and utilised that they’re not sometimes not easy to obtain, and do cost a few dollars at least.

What are the cards you feel deserved a mention as being highly useful and versatile across multiple Magic formats? Lets us know in the comments!

After playing from Tempest to Urza's Saga block, Ted took a 20 year break from the game before returning to the classic Plane of Dominaria in 2018. His favourite formats are Commander, Draft, and, grudgingly, Standard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top