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The PDH Power 9

Black Lotus, by Chris Rahn, Owned by Wizards of the Coast © All Rights Reserved.

“What are the best cards in this format?” That is the question that I and many others ask every time we are introduced to a new environment. Knowing what the strongest cards are informs what you play in your deck as well as what you should be prepared to play against. PDH like every other format has a handful of spells which rise above the rest to populate that upper echelon.

In this article I would like to present what I think are the 9-ish most powerful cards in the (best) format. These cards are not auto-includes, but they are clearly head and shoulders above the competition and are played in most decks lucky enough to be in their colors. We will start with number 9 and work our way down the list to the best card in the format.

#9 – Ulamog’s Crusher

Let’s start with the big guy himself. Ulamog’s Crusher is famous as the biggest creature the format has to offer. In fact, many deck builders auto include him without a second thought. While I don’t think throwing this giant Eldrazi into any list is correct, I do think that he is big enough to include in most lists which can cast him consistently. Crusher has the feel of the Bombs of EDH. He is big enough to survive combat with most creatures, and he shreds your opponents’ resources while you beat them in the face. Make sure your list can deal with this 8 drop when the time comes.

#8 – Tortured Existence

Tortured Existence is a one card (and one mana) build-around-me engine. While this card doesn’t actually generate any card advantage, it allows the pilot flexibility to get what they need when they need it. When combined with Sanitarium Skeleton and especially Stinkweed Imp you get to ensure that you have a creature to discard every turn for the rest of the game. TortEx allows you to take number 9 on our list and jam him over and over until your opponent runs out of answers and starts to bin their own lands. This card hints at one of the biggest themes of the format: Graveyard Synergy. The graveyard is utilized as a resource by many decks. Every deck should include ways to deal with it.

#7 – Whispersilk Cloak

This is a commander-based format. Many decks don’t function or don’t function well without the big man (or woman). Whispersilk Cloak offers protection to the general while also making it unlockable. And, it is an artifact which makes it difficult to deal with. Unlike Auras, if the commander is killed in response to the equip, it sticks around. A successful equip can mean the end of a game in some decks. This artifact is enough reason to play a few artifact removal spells in your G,W, and R lists.

#6 – The Tutors

Yes, I am bending the rules here, but you can’t include Muddle the Mixture without Mystical Teachings and you can’t include that without Shred Memory … and the list goes on and on. Tutors allow you to take a singleton deck and reduce the variance of it. They allow you to get what you need when you need it. Tutors enable engines and combos as much as they allow a deck to deal with them. Most of the tutors in the format are Transmuters. You pay three at sorcery speed and get a card out of your deck that costs the same as the tutor. All of the Transmute tutors are in UB. The best ones are those that have a usable ability if you chose not to use it as a tutor. Muddle the Mixture is the perfect example of this. It is a good counterspell in its own rite but becomes infinitely stronger when you add the tutor effect to it. On top of the Transmute cards there are various targeted tutors. Trinket Mage, Merchant Scroll, Fierce Empath, and Wirewood Herald, come to mind as some of the stronger options.

#5 – Pestilence

One of the most defining things about the format is that there are not very many wrath-effects. As a rule, Wizards doesn’t print cards at common that get to wipe the board. There are only about four decent cards in the entire card pool that you could reasonably say get the job done. Pestilence is one of them. This four-cost enchantment lets you repeatedly clean the board for as long as at least one creature remains in play. Since there are not many board wipes in the format, there is no reason to build around or play around them. Pilots play out their whole hand, they go wide without fear. Pestilence can swing a game in your favor in a turn.

#4 – Rhystic Study

Another thing that can be difficult at common is card draw. Specifically, cards that draw you more than two cards are rare. There are no Phyrexian Arenas or Dark Confidants here. Rhystic Study can easily do more than draw you 3 cards. Think about a multiplayer game where a player has this in play on turn 3. If just one of their three opponents doesn’t pay the tax every other turn, this can dray you 8 cards in a 20 turn game. To add to the power level, Rhystic Study is an enchantment. Few decks play more than one or two cards that destroy enchantments, and some colors don’t have any cards that can deal with it directly.

#3 – Crypt Rats

The only thing better than wiping the board with a 4 CMC card is doing it for 3. And as a bonus, this board wipe is on a body that can be recurred from the graveyard as many times as necessary. Plus, you don’t want to know what happens when you give him lifelink or deathtouch. Crypt rats is easily one of the 3 strongest cards in the format.

#2 – Displace

Displace is one of the rare cards that does it all. Protect your creatures from removal. Check. Repeat Enter the Battlefield abilities. Check. Enable infinite combos. Check. Check. Check. The pairing of this card with one of the Archaeomancer type cards and another Enter the Battlefield card is one of the strongest things you can do in the format. For those of you who might not have seen this synergy in action, it goes like this. You get an Enter the Battlefield creature into play, let’s say Mulldrifter. Then you also get Salvager of Secrets into play. You can cast Displace targeting both Drifter and Salvager. If it resolves, it goes to the graveyard and both creatures leave play and return to play. Both of their ETB abilities trigger and go onto the stack. You resolve Drifter’s and draw two and then you resolve Salvager’s targeting Displace (which is in the graveyard because it has completely resolved at this point). Displace returns to your hand and you can repeat if you have three more mana available. Now, things get really interesting if you replace Mulldrifter with Peregrine Drake. In that case, the three-card combo produces infinite mana.

#1 – Ghostly Flicker

Ghostly Flicker is the number one best card in the Pauper EDH format. Flicker fills the same role as Displace (discussed above) while being even more flexible. Flicker can still produce infinite mana or repeat ETB effects, but it can also target artifacts and lands. This means that it can protect artifacts from removal and it can repeat land’s Enter the Battlefield effects. This means that your Bojuka Bog can be used as needed throughout the game. Additionally, the wording on Flicker vs Displace means that creatures stolen with Act of Treason can be kept permanently. Ghostly Flicker and Displace are two of the primary reasons to play Graveyard Hate (and instant speed kill spells for that matter) in all of your decks. Most Blue, Black and Green decks are going to be looking to the graveyard for part of their game plan and you need to have a way to interact with it during the game.


Before we wrap up, lets answer some likely questions.

  1. Why are all the cards on the list blue, black, or colorless?

In a similar way to Blue being the only color in the real Power 9, Blue and Black are the only colors represented here. Blue and Black are the best colors in the format in my opinion. They just have access to most of the best cards. They have all of the counterspells and almost all of the kill spells. They have most of the tutors and they have the strongest combo. This isn’t to say that other colors are not viable, but in a vacuum, the power level of UB is higher than any other faction.

  1. Why is Peregrine Drake not on the list?

If you put out a poll and asked the player base what the best cards were in the format, Peregrine Drake would make the top 9. So why is it not listed here. The reason is simple. Without Ghostly Flicker or Displace, Paragrine Drake is (almost) unplayable. It is not the reason the combo works. It is just the strongest target.

  1. If these cards are so good, why are they not banned?

I wrote an article a few weeks ago that discussed ban lists and reasons to ban things. Take a look at that article to see what criterion we use to decide whether or not to ban a card. We will continue to monitor the format to make sure that cards are banned if necessary.

There were a lot of cards which almost made the list, but didn’t quite make the cut. Below are the Honorable Mentions; Great cards, but not as good as the Power 9.

Honorable Mentions

Trying to nail down what the best cards are can be controversial. Even with the original Power 9, some still say that and not should be the 9th card on the list. This list is my opinion and I would love to hear yours. What did I forget? What doesn’t deserve a slot? Comment below with your own list.



#Essential #Primers #Power9


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