The 10 rarest cards in Magic: The Gathering

Some of the rarest and most expensive pieces of paper.

Image via Wizards of the Coast

There have been many cards printed for Magic: The Gathering over the game’s 30-year-long history. It’s one of the most notorious trading card games due to the rarity and real-money value of some of its cards. For instance, some cards in MtG have only a single copy out there, which makes them an absolutely unfathomable prospect to see in a game. How many of those rare cards are out there? Honestly, no one really knows, given the global appeal and long lifespan of the game. That said, there are good guesses in the collector community, and in this article, we will list 10 of the rarest cards in Magic: The Gathering.

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What are the 10 rarest cards in Magic: The Gathering

10. Shivan Dragon

Image via MtG Gatherer

Card Set: Limited Edition Alpha Set

Like many cards on our list, the Shivan Dragon was part of Magic’s first set that’s also known as Alpha Set. These cards are rare by virtue of being among the first ever printed. Although they were reprinted later as Beta Set, and more times over the years, the original Alpha versions are among the rarest cards out there. Shivan Dragon is a powerhouse creature summon in its own right, with decent stats that was only power-crept many years down the line.

9. Time Walk

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Card Set: Limited Edition Alpha Set

Another card from the rare initial MtG set, this card is also so strong that it’s almost broken. For a very low cost of 1 Blue mana, you get to play another turn, thus effectively counteracting the effects of summoning sickness. With the proper setup, this card is a one-two punch for instant victory.

8. Timetwister

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Card Set: Limited Edition Alpha Set

Though the effect of Timetwister is a big reset for the game, the card’s value lies in its rarity. Even by the Alpha Set standards, this card is among the rarest. With its evocative vintage artwork, it’s no wonder that this card is sought after by collectors, with only a few of them being circulated among the trading circles despite the somewhat lackluster effect.

7. Ancestral Recall

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Card Set: Limited Edition Alpha Set

This card was initially supposed to be called ‘Ancestral Memories’ and be of common rarity. Yet it was bumped up to rare and renamed prior to the release of the Alpha Set. When you look at the effect, it’s no wonder that it was. It’s a super powerful card that can fit into many strategies while costing only 1 Blue mana. Despite several reprints, the original version is among the rarest cards ever printed.

6. Chaos Orb

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Card Set: Limited Edition Alpha Set

True to its name, the Chaos Orb has one of the most fun, intense, nerve-wracking, and chaotic effects in the game. You pick up the card and drop it onto the desk from at least a foot above the table. If it flips and then drops onto the table, all non-tokens it touches when it lands are destroyed. The swing potential of this card is ridiculous, almost as much as its first-edition rarity.

5. Gaea’s Cradle

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Card Set: Urza’s Saga

There’s a tradition from Wizards of the Coast to print special Judge Cards to give to the official judges on MtG tournaments. These people perform an often thankless job and these cards show a little special appreciation to them. Many of the recent Judge Cards can be found easily enough, but some of the earliest ones are rare indeed. One such card is Gaea’s Cradle, which is very rare and powerful, making it a highly sought-after commodity. 

4. Hurricane (Blue border)

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Card Set: Revised Edition (Summer Magic)

This card has a fun story behind it. Among the first few follow-up sets in the early days of MtG, there was a set called Revised Edition. However, the set was undercooked and shipped with a variety of print issues. So another revision was done to the Revised Set, and this one was called Summer Magic because it was released during the summer of ‘94. Even this set had several errors, and one of the most notorious ones was that the Hurricane spell card was printed with a blue border, and not the green one as it should have had. These were immediately pulled back, but some of them made it out into the world, thus creating one of the rarest officially misprinted cards out there.

3. Black Lotus

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Card Set: Limited Edition Alpha Set

Even those with casual knowledge of Magic: The Gathering know about the infamous Black Lotus card. It is estimated that there are only a few thousand of these circulating about (counting reprints), and a very small number of them come from the Alpha Set. The power of this card is what marks it as one of the first OP cards in the game, as it can easily net you a Turn 1 victory if you manage to draw it in your initial hand. That makes it not only one of the rarest MtG cards, but also wildly expensive, going for anywhere between $40,000 to a whopping $150,000 depending on the edition, grading, and mint status.

2. 1996 World Champion

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This is a unique Magic: The Gathering card that was made to commemorate the 1996 World Championship in Magic. Of course, that means that the card’s effect is completely off-the-wall. Thankfully, as there is only one out in the world, you don’t have to fear seeing it on your table any time soon. The card is clearly meant to be a bragging rights trophy because nothing like it would ever be allowed to exist under normal circumstances.

1. Shichifukujin Dragon

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There is another unique Magic: The Gathering card out there besides the 1996 World Champion, and that’s the Shichifukujin Dragon. The unique status of these two cards makes them interchangeable on our list’s positioning, and furthermore means that they are both priceless in terms of value. This card was printed as a promo for the grand opening of the Duelist’s Convocation International Tournament Center in Tokyo and is now part of a Japanese collector’s library. The card itself also boasts an extremely powerful effect, though Shichifukujin Dragon is (only slightly) more balanced than the above-mentioned card.