The Magical History of Mythic Rare Instants (updated 9th of December 2023)

If we focus on the cards that were originally mythics, there aren’t many. Can you name them all? There’s actually quite a few that have been reprinted as mythics. There’s even a version of Impulse from a From the Vault that has the telltale orange in the logo, even though it has been printed as common on multiple occasions. I’m leaving out everything that was of lower rarity initially, as well as everything that has an Adventure on it that is an instant. Also, Alchemy and silver-bordered don’t count.

Mythics were first introduced during the Alara block, but there were no instants among those 35 mythics in that block. The first one was in Zendikar (2009).

Doesn’t actually feel mythic to me, but these were still the early days and the mythics were still trying to find their footing. This is potentially very powerful, so it should have a high rarity, but sideboard cards don’t feel mythic to me.

The next mythic instant came the following year in Worldwake (2010).

Comet Storm has received a lot of flack for being a mythic in the first Modern Masters set, because it didn’t compare very favorably value-wise to the other mythics in the set. It is still a very powerful card, but the effect is basically just a Fireball and even though X-spells are now rares, it doesn’t feel like a mythic despite the upgrade.

It took over two years to see the next one.

Of all these, this definitely had the most impact. Sphinx's Revelation was first printed in Return to Ravnica (2012). It was the defining card in Standard and sees some Modern play. Still, it doesn’t feel that mythic. It is a strong card and you don’t want to see it too often in limited, so in that sense it’s good that it’s above the rare level, but some cards and some lifegain… boooring. (Which it definitely was in Standard, because you would see it everywhere.)

It didn’t take that long for the next one. RTR Blocks second set, Gatecrash (2013) had this very hyped card:

Funnily enough, of the cards thusfar, this feels like the most mythic to me. Not necessarily much more than the three previous ones, but somewhat. There was a lot of interest surrounding this card initially, but it never could find a home. Probably because Supreme Verdict ruled.

Year 2014 brought us the previously Future Sighted Delve for the Sultai (Khans of Tarkir) and included this card:

I’m guessing this was a mythic for limited gameplay. It’s potentially very strong, but again, doesn’t really feel that mythic. Okay, there’s a bunch of tokens for potentially a very small amount of mana, but that doesn’t seem that interesting.

Another card with both Standard and Modern impact. Two damage for three mana isn’t a good rate, but it is colorless, which matters and casting those big eldrazi was par for the course. I guess this does feel mythic to me, but compared to some of the weird concoctions in other card types, it’s just yet another sweeper. The triggered ability does make it at least somewhat more interesting and does deal more damage than red cards usually do.

Finally, from Amonkhet (2017)…

I do love this card, but only on a platonic level. Extra turns probably should be on mythics, especially in red, where it’s not a common ability, even though red can definitely do it. This hasn’t had much of an impact (except for one video where SaffronOlive can’t help laughing when he uses this to mess up some sort of cycling deck).

Battlebond (still 2017) had a card that had to be an instant to work.

This doesn’t, again, quite feel mythic to me, but for limited reasons it definitely needs to be. You can’t let an effect like this happen too often, as it would become quite boring quite fast.

…and then there was the biggest mistake WotC has ever made in this particular category. I present to you, from M19…

Okay, this is one of those problematic cases, as it really a mythic, if you get one from every box? Although, only for a limited time. This was a menace to Standard on multiple angles. It was hard to get, because you needed to buy a box, and when you did, it was always foil, so it would warp easily. Some shops wouldn’t even sell them as singles, because they felt it would seem like they were ripping off their customers, who they were for, which made the availability problem even worse.

And that was just the beginning. They ended up having to ban it, but only did it after it was made obvious how problematic the card was, when some player played the card with no wincons in the deck, just casting it over and over again with no ability to end the game, except hoping the opponent would concede.

It seems to me that making this an instant was just a bad idea, but the card was a bad idea anyhow, especially at the time, where they were “experimenting” with mana and making tons of mana was just par for the course, which made the whole thing much worse. And this was supposed to be a Commander card… which tells you how badly these people understand their own game and how horrible the testing process was. They changed their whole approach to boxtoppers after this, but not before we saw another mistake in the form of Kenrith, the Returned King.

Which brings us to…

Chance for Glory from Guilds of Ravnica (2018) is an instant of no particular reason. Yes, you can save your creatures with it, but that’s going to be a corner case. You are much more likely to want to play it on your turn anyhow, but I guess you can play it in combat as well. However, obviously, it wouldn’t be used in this way. Instead of going for glory, it was used in conjunction with Gideon of the Trials to very un-Boros-like effect.

March of the Multitudes is just a miss flavorwise. You don’t mobilize armies just like that. It requires preparation. On the other hand, without being instant, it would be underpowered, so it needs that addition to make it playable, except that it really isn’t.

The very next Standard set (Ravnica Allegiance 2019) brought us Emergency Powers.

The reason this is an instant is just so that it can work with Addendum, the Azorius mechanic from the set. Of course, it also works with the name. There is logic behind this. If you are in a hurry and have to cast this outside of your main phase, you can’t get as much of those emergency powers as you can when you have time to figure things out (at sorcery speed). From a flavor point of view, I kind of like this. The problem is that they also made the huge mistake of printing Narset, Parter of Veils, which synergizes with Emergency Powers way too well. (And yes, Narset was only one of the problem planeswalkers from War of the Spark, with Teferi, Nissa and Karn all being bad as well. Oh yeah, and Ugin for different reasons.)

It took over a year to get to the next mythic instant, Discontinuity.

This is just not a fun card to play against. I mean, think Time Warp, but glue a Counterspell on it for just one mana. Or, alternatively, a 1U counterspell. This is the kind of card that’s interesting on paper, put should remain there.

It took almost a year to get the next mythic instants, but Strixhaven (2021) had two.

Neither should be an instant. It was just so easily exploitable with Magma Opus, but more importantly, they don’t feel like instants. You don’t Harness Infinity just like that. It feels like ritual magic, which requires preparation. Same with Magma Opus. Sure, it’s a play on ‘magnum opus’ which means the greatest work of art and is often used to describe the peak of an artists career. Godfather 2 is the magnum opus of Francis Ford Coppola and so forth. Those require a lot of work. You don’t just throw together a meaningful piece of art. These are just failures and Magma Opus continues to be a problem for the alternate use of discarding it for a treasure as well.

It took another year for us to see another one of these in Streets of New Capenna (2022).

First, I hate the flavor text. What is that supposed to mean? It’s just one of those lines that is supposed to feel enigmatic, but is actually just stupid. This one definitely needs to be an instant, because otherwise it would be completely useless, but at the same time, I don’t think this should be a mythic. Drawing cards at instant speed is now just so common that it almost feels banal.

The D&D-themed Commander set, Battle for Baldur’s Gate (2022), brought us two more.

I wasn’t sure if I should include these, as this is not a Standard set, so they can scale cards a little differently. On the other hand, at least these feel mythic. Do they need to be instants? They definitely shouldn’t be. Once again, these feel like rituals. I haven’t played D&D in… over 10 years, I’d say… but even in that game spells like these have a casting time that usually isn’t just one turn.

And that’s it for now. We haven’t seen a real mythic instant for over a year.

All in All

It seems hard to design a mythic instant and besides a few expceptions, they feel like rare sorceries, which have been pushed by making them instants. Feels like they should stay away from these in the future as well. There is less than 20 of them for a reason.

The problem with instants is the flexibility, which means that you actually need to make less decisions. Take Sphinx's Revelation. Since you can do it end of turn, you don’t have to commit to it, but you can keep removal and counterspells up instead. It also made Standard very boring by being way too pervasive. I was playing FNMs very actively during this period and I would only play a Monoblack Aggro specifically, because during many of these tournaments I wouldn’t play against any decks besides these. I would often crush them, but those Revelations were always disheartening. It was just an oppressive card even on it’s own and it had a couple of other overly powerful other cards for the deck. All of this could have probably been fixed, if this was only a Sorcery.

Also, from a flavor point of view, mythic spells should be a huge ritual, not something someone just does at the their whim. This means they should be mostly sorceries, of which there are a lot more of. They often feel a lot more like mythics anyhow.

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