Are you new to Magic: the Gathering and wondering which of the many sets are the best to buy? Or are you an enthusiast curious about what other people’s favorite sets were?
You’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll be detailing which MTG sets are the best.
The things we’ll be talking about are:
- What sort of features and qualities we considered
- What we feel are some of the best MTG sets
- Our overall recommendation
Let’s get started.
Features and Considerations
Before we begin, it’s crucial to go over a few notes here.
First: best is purely subjective. We’ve gathered what we feel are some of the best sets in Magic: the Gathering’s history, but the key word here is “feel.”
That being said, we did have a reason for picking the sets that we picked.
Second: the word best has a different meaning to every Magic player. Some might feel best means powerful, others may say it means fun, and others beyond that might say best means the most valuable.
We also chose not to include Alpha, Beta, or Unlimited in this list. While they’re usually a shoo-in for most powerful, it’s extremely difficult to find the most sought-after cards from those sets today.
With that in mind, the factors we’ve chosen to highlight are the following:
- Overall: a combination of things, from flavor to power level
- Drafting: which set is best for the draft format
- Commander: the set that includes the widest selection of potential Commanders
- Modern: which set has some of the most useful cards for the Modern format
- Value: the set that will deliver the most sought-after cards for a reasonable price
- For beginners: which set will be the easiest for a beginner to get into MTG with
- Fun: the set which will lead to the most fun when played casually (with a group of your best friends)
- Power: which set consistently has the largest number of game-breaking or over-powered cards
Best MTG Sets
Best Overall: Innistrad
What made Innistrad so great was its theme. At the time it came out, it was the first set to visit the dark, terrifying plane of Innistrad.
The gothic horror tone echoed throughout the set was well-received by fans. It was a novel experience in the game, and theme aside, featured many powerful cards like Grimoire of the Dead or Snapcaster Mage.
There are many who feel that Innistrad signaled a sort of “golden age” for MTG. Its horrific and dark feel hasn’t been done as well since.
- Appealing dark thematic feel
- Overall high power level
- Good for tribes like vampires, werewolves, spirits, humans, and zombies
- Rather expensive
- Not many cards outside of its horror theme
- The werewolf tribe was weaker in comparison with the others
Best for Drafting: Conspiracy
This set was made for drafting, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Conspiracy is one of the best you can get for the format.
The main reason for that is that it features cards with mechanics that directly interact with drafting. Its feel is designed to cultivate an air of political intrigue and deception, making it especially fun to play with a group of people.
- Created to enhance the drafting experience
- Fun political atmosphere
- Can support up to eight players in a draft
- Fairly inexpensive
- Certain mechanics in the game that focus on drafting may not be useful in other formats
Best for Commander: Dominaria
Because its theme hinges on the presence of numerous legendary creatures, Dominaria is the set to beat when it comes to Commanders.
A plethora of legendary creatures gives you a large pool of potential Commanders to choose from. Helm of the Host is also a particularly intriguing card in this set.
It’s an equipment that makes a token copy of a creature, and removes the legendary status from the token if Helm of the Host was equipped to a legendary creature. One thing this does is make it possible for you to have multiple legal copies of your Commander, but the options here are endless.
- Plenty of legendary creatures to pull a potential Commander from
- Several useful artifacts, such as Helm of the Host
- Not as many aggro cards in this set, if you prefer faster strategies
Best for Modern: Ultimate Masters
Modern includes a huge variety of sets – in fact, it’s every core and expansion set from Eighth Edition onward. Because of that, picking one set that’s best for this format is a little difficult.
But what makes Ultimate Masters a solid choice is that it’s an overall high-power set. Masters sets take some of the strongest cards from Magic’s history and reprints them in one location.
It’s important to mention that cards in Ultimate Masters come from a variety of sets. Printing in Ultimate Masters doesn’t change what formats a specific card is legal in.
Therefore, there are some cards in Ultimate Masters that can’t be used in Modern. You’ll need to confirm the legality of the card first.
- Overall high power level for the set
- Each box comes with a valuable Ultimate Box Topper card
- Great for drafting
- Contains a lot of cards that would be useful in a variety of decks
- More expensive than many of the options on this list
- Not all cards in the set can be used in Modern
Best for Value: Masters 25
This set was printed to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of Magic: the Gathering’s existence.
Cards from throughout Magic’s lifespan were reprinted in this set. Perhaps most notably, it contains a valuable reprinting of Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
But that’s far from the only powerful card in the set, and as such, it’s a pretty good choice for value.
- High overall power level
- Contains some extremely sought-after cards, such as Jace, the Mind Sculptor
- Fantastic for high-power drafts
- More expensive than other choices on this list
Best for Beginners: Core Set 2020
If you’re a beginner looking to get into Magic: the Gathering, one of the best sets you can consider is the most current Core Set. As of January 2020, that was M20.
The reason these are better for beginners is they don’t have a ton of mechanics in them. They’re limited to recent changes and interactions, unlike sets like Modern Horizons which have dozens of complex mechanics.
They’re a smart method for dipping your toes into the world of Magic: the Gathering.
- Good for beginning Magic players
- Solid purchase for fans of Chandra
- No story support for the set
- Not as many powerful cards as in other sets
Best for Fun: Unstable
“Un-sets” like Unstable are parody Magic cards. As such, they always have wacky interactions and mechanics that are good for a laugh.
An example of this is the card Gimme Five, which lets a player regain 1 life for every player who high-fives them within thirty seconds of it being cast. Of course, those who choose to high-five the caster also gain 1 life, giving them incentive to partake.
These cards are marked with a silver border, which indicates they are not legal for official Magic tournaments and events. However, they’re still good fun for a casual and crazy game with your friends.
- Fantastic for casual drafts with friends
- Contains beautiful full-art lands
- Cards are overall funny and random
- Generally, these cards can’t be used in other formats and are not legal in Magic events.
Best for Power: Urza’s Saga
You’re not likely to find many booster packs or boxes around for Urza’s Saga anymore.
That’s not just because it’s an old set, but also because many of the cards in this set were massively over-powered. In fact, this set was widely regarded as so broken, that a period of time called Combo Winter occurred in tournaments after its release.
During this time, Magic players felt that there were too many powerful combos and cards in tournaments. This led to large numbers of those cards being banned.
Urza’s Saga also contained Yawgmoth’s Will, which some feel is the most powerful card ever made in Magic’s history.
- One of the strongest MTG sets ever printed
- Contains numerous valuable cards
- Rare and hard to find packs for
- Many of the cards are seen as “broken,” in that they are simply too powerful
The set in this list were each included for a reason. If we had to pick a favorite above the others, however, we’d pick Innistrad.
Its dark gothic theme was incredibly interesting, and invigorated interest in Magic at the time. Furthermore, it contained quite a few strong cards.
It’s also not so old that it’s difficult to find boxes or packs for – although said boxes or packs will generally be costly.