You and your friend John both enjoy Magic the Gathering, but you've gotten into an argument over which creature is the best. The two of you agree that the only fair way to settle this is to see how good each creature is individually. You proceed to build decks consisting of 59 basic lands and the one creature under consideration, and see how quickly you can kill an opponent whose deck consists of 60 basic lands.

The best creature according to the two of you is the one that can win this arrangement on the earliest turn possible (and, as tiebreaker, deal the most damage to the opponent). You may stack your hand and deck however you like at the start of the game.

After investigating all creatures legal in Vintage, which do you and John conclude is the best?

Example: A deck consisting of Brushstrider and 59 basic forests can deal 21 damage by turn nine.

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    $\begingroup$ Do poison counters count here? $\endgroup$ – BlueFire Sep 18 '16 at 7:57
  • $\begingroup$ I am familiar with such turn-based card games, although not with this particular one. Should not this question be narrowed down to a selection of handful of well-defined cards (e.g. the ten best) of which we should decide which one is the best? How many distinct cards are there actually, to inspect? $\endgroup$ – Matsmath Sep 18 '16 at 12:13
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    $\begingroup$ I guess the better way for me to phrase my question is, are you and John playing against each other? Or are you playing solitaire against a punching bag that has no means of defending itself and/or trying to win against you in the same manner? $\endgroup$ – Bulldogg6404 Sep 18 '16 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ Solitaire. There is one creature between your two decks combined. But if your creature depends on the opponent's hand or deck, you may assume it consists entirely of basic lands. $\endgroup$ – Zerris Sep 18 '16 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ Does this question require prior experience in Magic: The Gathering? $\endgroup$ – Buffer Over Read Sep 19 '16 at 14:13

A new challenger appears!

Flailing Soldier

Turn 1: play the creature. Can't attack yet.

Turn 2: While attacking, pay 2 to pump up to 4/4. 4 damage. BUT WAIT! Our opponent went first, and pays 3, to make it a 7/7.

Turn 3: While attacking, pay 3 to pump up to 5/5. Our opponent pays 4, making it a 9/9.

Turn 4: While attacking, pay 4 to pump up to 6/6. Our opponent pays 5, pumping it up to 11/11.

Total damage: 27. Turn 4. Can not POSSIBLY get faster.

(and technically it's possible)

Even though if someone tried this against you you could kill it immediately.

Thus, this creature takes the crown for being the absolute best, and the absolute worst creature in Magic: the Gathering.

  • $\begingroup$ turn 4 on the draw is slower than on the play, which gets 24 on turn 4, if opponent help is legal, that is. $\endgroup$ – Sconibulus Sep 20 '16 at 1:05
  • $\begingroup$ Questionable whether "earliest turn" means YOUR turn, or all turns, but that's a fair note. $\endgroup$ – Kingrames Sep 20 '16 at 1:53
  • $\begingroup$ Oooh, I like it. I had considered that card tied for second with your other answer, but didn't think about the opponent paying as well! Very nice. 24 on the play would be faster, though still (at least) second best. $\endgroup$ – Zerris Sep 20 '16 at 2:21
  • $\begingroup$ What turn does your #1 answer kill on? I can't visualize anything costing 1 or 2 mana and having time to ramp up faster than this. $\endgroup$ – Kingrames Sep 20 '16 at 2:52
  • $\begingroup$ Orcish Captain follows the same pattern and kills on the same turn but does not deal as much damage. It, however, requires you to win 9 coin tosses in a row, which is highly unlikely. $\endgroup$ – Kingrames Sep 20 '16 at 4:00

Student of Warfare

22 Damage, turn 5 on the play.

Turn 1: play the creature, it can't attack yet.

Turn 2: level 2, attack for 3 damage.

Turn 3: Level 5, attack for 3 damage.

Turn 4: Level 9, attack for 8 damage. (at this point level no longer means anything)

Turn 5: Level 14, attack for 8 damage.

22 damage total.

  • $\begingroup$ I thought about deleting this answer, but it's still probably helpful to show the thought process that went into getting to where I got. If you're interested in seeing other contenders, check out Primordial Ooze, Mayor of Avabruck, and Figure of Destiny. All of them are notorious for being explosive starts to games, without committing more than a single card to the table. $\endgroup$ – Kingrames Sep 20 '16 at 0:39

The card

Pack Rat

can deal a total of 20 damage on Turn 5's combat damage step on the play, assuming you start with it in your opening hand. Interestingly enough, in the event you're playing commander, it can deal 44 damage on Turn 6's combat damage step.

Turn 2: Play Pack Rat;
Turn 3: Activate its ability before the combat step to make a copy of Pack Rat, then attack with the original Pack Rat, dealing 2 damage (1 attacker with 2 power);
Turn 4: Activate its ability before the combat step to make a second copy of Pack Rat, then attack with the original and the first copy, dealing 6 damage (2 attackers with 3 power each);
Turn 5: Activate its ability before the combat step to make a third copy of Pack Rat, then attack with the original and the first two copies, dealing 12 damage (3 attackers with 4 power each).

  • $\begingroup$ Shouldn't you be able to increase the total damage done by using the abilities of the tokens too? Or is that illegal? $\endgroup$ – Anon Sep 18 '16 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ @McFry it costs a total of 3 mana to activate the ability, so the first turn you could use it a second time, mana-wise is turn 6. $\endgroup$ – Sconibulus Sep 18 '16 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, I see. So it is only allowed to place 1 land card per turn? $\endgroup$ – Anon Sep 18 '16 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ @McFry Correct, players may only play one land per turn unless a card's effect changes that rule (such as the card Exploration). $\endgroup$ – Bulldogg6404 Sep 18 '16 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ Just slightly edges out Figure of Destiny, which is 22 damage on turn 6. And yes, I remember losing games to that because that little bastard was always growing one turn too fast for my removal. I think the only possible contenders to beat the rat are the level up guys and Ashling the Pilgrim, but they're nowhere near the exponential growth of the rat. $\endgroup$ – Kingrames Sep 19 '16 at 5:46

An amusing, but perhaps not entirely satisfying, yet in my opinion entirely within the wording of the original question answer:

Similarly to the way fool's mate is technically the fastest checkmate in chess, the creature Menacing Ogre can inflict 24 'damage' on turn 5 (emphasis can, as per the original wording). Both players choose 19, then attack for 5.

Another 'outside the box' answer I can think of that is worse than the other answers presented, but is still amusing:

Lupine Prototype can inflict 20 damage on turn 6 after mulliganing down appropriately to start the game to achieve hellbent.

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    $\begingroup$ Not bad - I like the creativity! As it happens, you can do even better than 24 damage on turn 5, so we don't need to decide whether that's within the rules. $\endgroup$ – Zerris Sep 19 '16 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ I would call that 43 damage. Damage to yourself is still damage! $\endgroup$ – Kingrames Sep 19 '16 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ Alternatively, you can clarify the puzzle further and say that paying life, or loss of life, does not count as damage (this is consistent with the game's rules), so it doesn't count here. $\endgroup$ – Kingrames Sep 19 '16 at 23:41

Please consider this an outside the box answer...

All creatures legal in Vintage, hey?

I'm thinking

Infernal Spawn of Evil

which will deal 22 damage by turn 4, 1 from your hand on the first turn, and 7 on each successive turn once summoned, if playing mana flow - and 24 damage by turn 7 if mana restricted after first turn.

Of course, if you're willing to bend just a tad then


Which can deal 99 damage as early as turn 2 playing mana flow, or by either turn 6 or 11 depending on mana restriction after the first turn. (however, this does require either one less land in your deck, or a deck of 61, since it is one creature on two cards)

I suppose it should be noted the whole expansion is generally not playable except in rather casual games (which, forgive, this solitaire version does seem to be)... I am taking the loophole of the expansion not appearing on the banned list, and it also specifying "any" cards not on that list are allowed :D

  • $\begingroup$ What is mana flow? $\endgroup$ – Kruga Sep 20 '16 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Kruga - a specific play style, very common where/when I was first playing, that had lands being put down for free, and allowed players to draw their hands back up to strength afterwards... the idea was that it encouraged a quick and lively game, since you spent more time using playables rather than waiting for mana to be drawn (the skill was in using those playables, and deck building around the flow). Standard rules otherwise were lands were free on the first turn, and one-per-turn only after that. $\endgroup$ – Megha Sep 20 '16 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ Silver-bordered cards, such as those from Unglued and Unhinged, are not vintage-legal. Although the site you linked to doesn't mention that, the card itself states that it is only legal in the "Un-Sets" format, which is casual only. $\endgroup$ – Kingrames Sep 20 '16 at 22:41

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