Strictly better

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Strictly better describes a card which is, in isolation from other effects, superior to another card in at least one respect, while being worse in zero respects.[1] Cards are commonly found to be strictly better than others by virtue of lower cost, larger effect, instant speed, greater power or toughness, or more versatile or added effects.

"Strictly better" status is not dependent on creature type or color.[2] More generally, such comparisons between cards are made independent of any particular board state. Therefore, because of the sheer number of possible gameplay circumstances, for any given "strictly better" card, there is typically some imaginable set of circumstances in which it is, in fact, inferior to another card that would otherwise rank below it. This fact implies that a "strictly better" card might be more accurately termed "typically better", and that distinction sometimes confuses newer players.[3][4] However, "strictly better" is well understood among experienced Magic players, and is the prevailing description of such a relationship between cards.

For example, Lightning Bolt is strictly better than Shock. Both are instants, both cost Manar.gif, and both can target either a creature or a player, but Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage, whereas Shock deals only 2 damage.

Many pairs of cards are not directly comparable, and thus cannot be termed strictly better or worse. For example, Reprisal and Vanquish the Foul have similar effects, but the latter half of each effect cannot be compared to the other card. Despite Reprisal's lower cost and faster speed, it cannot be termed strictly better than Vanquish the Foul. However, Reprisal is strictly better than Smite the Monstrous, because it has a lower cost and prevents regeneration, while being worse in no respect.

The printing of a new strictly better card may make comparable cards obsolete, and this process, left unchecked, leads to power creep. Occasionally, this may occur with directly comparable cards printed in the same set, such as Glory Seeker and Knight of Cliffhaven in Rise of the Eldrazi.

Examples[edit | edit source]

More powerful at same cost[edit | edit source]

The following cards have the same cost, but one has an added ability or greater size.

More flexibility at same cost[edit | edit source]

The following cards have the same effect, but one is more restricted in its use.

Same effect but cost less[edit | edit source]

The following cards have the same effect, but one has a greater cost.

Instant instead of sorcery[edit | edit source]

The following are cards that have the same effect and cost, but are instants instead of sorceries.

Multiple upgrades[edit | edit source]

Some cards may be strictly better in multiple respects, but are only strictly better overall if they have no attributes inferior to the card they are compared with.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Mark Rosewater. (March 31, 2003.) "This Land is My Land", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater. (July 20, 2014.) "Does the term "strictly better" care about creature types?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  3. Mike Flores. (March 03, 2014.) "Strictly Superior", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mike Flores. (March 10, 2014.) "Redundancy", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast.