The not-so-secret appeal to the practice of reading tarot cards is that people have always longed for ways of gleaning their futures in spiritual ways. The appeal of a franchise like CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura is that it borrowed heavily from tarot traditions to tell a sprawling story about a young girl’s quest to become the most powerful magician of her generation.
Like any magical girl series worth its salt, Cardcaptor Sakura leaned heavily into its central conceit: that a deck of cards was the key to tapping into vast magical energies being sought out by a number of different people. Ultimately, Sakura herself ended up becoming master of the deck, making it her own, and creating new cards over the course of two series and a feature film. But while all of Sakura’s cards were important, they weren’t all exactly the same kind of useful, which is why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to look back and consider a ranking for all of them.
As one of the gentler air-oriented elemental cards, the Cloud was depicted as being relatively easier to master, but while its ability to spontaneously create cloud cover was cute, it wasn’t exactly the most useful in magical battles.
Originally created in order to help wash things, the Bubbles Card has a very specific practical purpose but is somewhat limited by the fact that it isn’t exactly creating soap bubbles, per se. While the card might be useful for washing cars, it seems as if the sort of magical object that would inadvertently leave one’s house drenched if it was activated indoors.
Because there were also Clow Cards created to give people the powers to jump incredibly high and straight-up fly, the Float Card’s helpfulness was something of a non-starter, all things considered. Sakura’s quick thinking to use it as she was falling to her death, however, proved that in very specific circumstances, the Float could be put to good use.
The Fiery Card (which later became a Sakura Card) and Blaze Clear Card (a subsequent card of Sakura Kinamoto’s own creation) were capable of setting things on fire when commanded to do so. Like all of the major elemental cards, both of them were incredibly powerful also to a fault given the sheer destruction that massive fires can cause. One would be better off just using a lighter rather than risking a wildfire.
Originally created for entertainment purposes, the Flower Card is pretty much only good for growing, you know, whatever sort of flowers that the card’s master can imagine. Useful for party tricks and decorating or coming after people with violent allergies to pollen.
Where so many of the other Clow Cards were useful tools and weapons to be used in battles, the Voice Card was more inclined to play pranks on people by stealing their voices if it found them pleasant enough. Assuming that one had to deal with another magic user whose attacks relied on vocal commands, the Voice could come through in a pinch.
The Snow Card’s rather simple and straightforward. You want some snow? You call on her, but aside from creating snowstorms (that would likely make it very clear that the snow was magical depending on the time and place the card was used), it could easily cause suspicion and draw unwanted attention to its user. Also, snow is awful.
The Wave Card is one of the lesser cards that falls beneath the Watery Card and essentially has many of the same water-focused strengths, even if it’s limited to creating tidal waves. It’s not really a card one could safely use to do many things effectively away from naturally occurring bodies of water, but it would likely prove to be incredibly useful at sea if someone needed to make some waves.
Despite its serene appearance, the Mist Card is actually quite dangerous, as the gasses it emits can eat through both organic and inorganic matter with startling ease. The Mist is meant to be used as a tool, but it’s far too easy for it to be weaponised with devastating results.
It’s difficult to say exactly how useful the Promise Clear Card would actually for people other than Sakura because it was created from her own emotionally driven magical powers while making a promise to her good friend (who moonlights as a mystical guardian Yukio). The card’s origins suggest it’s not really all that dangerous, but given how Sakura herself doesn’t know what it does, calling it useful or safe is a bit of a stretch.
Like Promise, the Break Clear Card’s specialty is a bit mysterious, but the cards’ general tendency to have rather self-explanatory names makes it seem as if it destroys things’ physical forms. That being said, because the cards have also been known to have more metaphorical purposes, Break could just as easily be used to “break” things like a person’s will or their heart.
The Reversal Clear Card is the sort that has one specific function it can do incredibly well, and little else. In this case, said function is inverting objects in order to immobilize them (so long as they’re not flying), which sounds like it wouldn’t be all that helpful, and in truth, it probably wouldn’t be. Every so often, though you find yourself needing to flip a car over, which is precisely what Reversal’s good for.
To be fair, most of the beings held within the Clow Cards are perfectly luminescent on their own with much more intensity than the Glow Card. But in moments where you merely need a bit of mood lighting, Glow’s softly lit projections might be somewhat more appropriate than, say, calling upon the Light Card.
There are times when you need to hide things from the prying eyes of others, which is when the somewhat confusingly named Lucid Clear Card comes into the picture. The one downside to the card’s ability to render things invisible is that it doesn’t last especially long, meaning that you’d have to work quickly in order to make sure that folks don’t see whatever it is that you’re trying to hide.
The Sweet Clow Card’s another that’s really meant for fun (or perhaps chores), as its only purpose is to make things sweet or turn them into edible desserts. Much as the Clow Cards tend to be used for fighting, opting for a more diplomatic route with one’s enemies is always an option. Even if it is just pretense for a more serious battle that’s about to begin.
Were it not for the fact that the Twin Card didn’t make a point of getting into so much mischief, its ability to duplicate objects might actually come in handy more often. But because there are so many other cards that can essentially do what the Twin does, it ranks rather low on the list.
When Sakura created the Rewind Clear Card, her mind was focused on thinking of her fellow cardcaptor Syaoran as a child, which led to the card gaining the ability to “rewind” things to younger versions of themselves. Whether the card could do the same thing to inanimate objects was never made clear, meaning that Rewind was never known as anything but a card useful for turning people into kids.
The Appear Clear Card’s unique among the franchise’s telekinetically oriented beings as it doesn’t just move inanimate objects, but rather brings them to life and grants them a certain degree of basic sentience. With the proper training, anyone wielding the Appear Card would have a distinct leg up dealing with tasks ranging from the mundane to the world-saving.
Where so many of the Clow, Sakura, and Clear Cards were all designed to perform acts of what most people would consider “classical” feats of magic (flying, making things disappear), the Record Clear Card and its ability to record things it saw and project them as sophisticated holograms was uncharacteristically modern. What it lacked in combat ability was made up for in its pure functionality and the fact that it’s infinitely more useful than a man-made drone for recording footage.
Why there are Mirror Cards for both the Clow and Clear decks remains a mystery, but it’s important to note that the two cards do work quite differently and embody different ideas of what it means to be reflective. Where the Mirror Clow Card was especially good at imitating the likenesses of other people, the Mirror Clear Card was more geared towards reflecting things (like blasts of energy) back at their source.
The Storm Clow Card was an excellent example of the way in which—while there were many different instances of cards having similar abilities (for instance, the Wave, Watery, and Rain Clow Cards)—cards with multiple strengths like the Storm Card were formidable in their own right and capable of impressive feats usually only associated with the defining quartet of elemental cards.
Sometimes you wanna swap bodies with people, which is what the Change Clow Card was made for. Considering the issues of consent that would be involved, it’s a card that should only ever be used in the most dire and specific of circumstances, and truly, there were far more cards with less possible negative repercussions that could be used to achieve the same effect.
Though creating hail via the Storm Clow Card was certainly possible, the Hail Clear Card not having a humanoid persona made it somewhat easier to use in a more straightforward way. What’s more, the chunks of ice it generated were noticeably more effective to wield as massive projectiles.
The Jump Clow Card was created in order to give its users massive ups in times of need, which might sounds a bit less useful than being able to fly (and to be fair, it is), but there are times when all one really needs to do is just make it high enough into the air to reach a better vantage point, or to catch sight of something one can’t see on the ground.
Elegant as the Clow Cards were designed to be, cards like the Big were meant to embody the sort of pure, brute force that’s sometimes necessary to deal with excessively aggressive (and typically large) magical entities. What’s charming about the Big Card, though, is that she was known to be especially gentle despite how dangerous her powers had the potential to be.
Despite their rather straightforward skillsets, what the Maze Clow Card and the Labyrinth Clear Card both actually do is warp space itself in order to create complex structures designed to, in theory, trap targets within them forever. Less skilled magicians might find initial confrontations with these cards difficult to manage, but the key to mastering it is realising that, intimidating as their walls may seem, they can simply be smashed through with the right kind of magic.
The Arrow Clow Card would be better named the “Volley,” as it seldom shoots single arrows, but rather swiftly moving barrages of them that almost never miss their targets. Hostile as the card tends to be when its without an owner, its usefulness in battle as a precise method of attack is unmatched.
Surprisingly, there weren’t all that many Clow Cards that were expressly meant to be used primarily for defence, but for a deck full of living magical weapons, the Shield was a necessary addition. Despite its heavy appearance, it was known to take a number of different forms meant to guard against all manner of attacks both physical and magical, and true to its name, was incredibly difficult to smash through.
As the Big’s opposite, the Little Clow Card’s primary power is self-evident, but what made the card especially wily was the fact that it could reduce the scale of intangible things like another person’s ability to wield magic. One can assume the Little would have other clever applications, which would have made it especially tricksy when used with a bit of imagination.
Like the Arrow Card, the Shot both fell under the Fiery Card’s overall element and was built to attack on the behalf of its user, but unlike the Arrow, the Shot was instinctively better at increasing its accuracy over time.
The Dark/The Light
Though the Light and Dark had the finest tuned control over light and darkness in the entire deck, their true purpose was to represent balance as a whole, something evidenced by the fact that the twin sisters representing both aspects could only be interacted with when they were both present.
Simple as the Lock Card was, its power to seal things off was deceptively powerful, as it could both simply lock doors or, in extreme cases, could create impenetrable barriers over things featuring locks, making it a handy card to secure things from being entered into or escaped from.
In instances where things merely needed to have their physical placements switched (as opposed to having the consciousnesses of things swapped the way the Change Card could), Transfer was the card to choose.
Like the Maze and Labyrinth Cards, Spiral was created with the idea of trapping things, but here, the Clear Card accomplished this by creating spiral-shaped constructs made of whatever naturally occurring material was in the vicinity. Beyond keeping targets in check, the Clear Card as a whole was quite good at making a show of how versatile its magic was.
The Rain Card wasn’t technically the most robust of the Clow deck’s water-focused cards, but where the others tended to be more suited for destroying things, the Rain had the potential to put out whatever sort of massive fires any fire-focused cards might start, making it something deserving of recognition amongst its peers.
As a bestial Clow Card, the Thunder was known for its propensity to go on chaotic rampages until it was finally sealed. But its ability to take on more ethereal cards like the Shadow (as was the case in the Cardcaptor manga) made its rough temperament a challenge worth dealing with.
Both the Illusion and Mirage Cards were revered for the visual tricks they were capable of creating—tricks that were often meant to play on people’s hopes and fears as a sort of psychological manipulation.
The Shade and Shadow Cards were both important reminders of why less powerful, seemingly simplistic cards were necessary checks on stronger cards’ strength, as neither Shade nor Shadow could be physically touched by magic users without the assistance of other ethereal cards.
The Swing Card is tectonic and, though somewhat similar in nature to the Earthy Card, its powers were distinct because they were specifically vibrational and more oriented toward creating spontaneous earthquakes and shattering targets.
Like its other prominent elemental counterparts, the Earthy Card exhibited virtually all of the Earth-focused powers contained within the whole of the Clow deck, but the full scale of its strength made it comparatively more chaotic to wield.
The Sand Card also demonstrated the way in which the cards under the four elemental alignments were, at times, better suited for delicate situations, as it was far more skilled at precisely creating and controlling constructs made of sand rather than large chunks of earth.
Unlike the Voice Clow Card, which could merely steal the voices of others, the Song allowed users to fully imitate a wide variety of sounds without the need for access to a specific template, making it practical for espionage and deceptive uses.
Of all the sonically-geared cards, the Silent was perhaps the most significant, as it simply nullified sounds altogether, making it capable of nullifying verbal magic altogether.
The Wood Card raised interesting questions about the nature of the Clow deck’s overall concept of balance, given that it had the potential to overwhelm the Earthy Card despite the fact that it wasn’t one of the deck’s four major elementals.
In sharp contrast to the other primary elementals, both the Windy Card and its successor the Gale Clear Card were equal parts dangerous and profoundly gentle, something that spoke to their willingness to maintain order and their preference to keep the peace.
Like all of the elementals, the Watery and Aqua Cards were significantly more prominent than the lesser cards and useful in terms of lending their strength to the maintenance of order, but were also notable for their vicious temperaments.
Unlike the Mirror Clow Card and Mirror Clear Card, Reflect’s sole purpose was to launch projectiles back toward their source, making it indispensable when dealing with enemies and, in theory, cards like the Arrow and the Shot.
Having complete control over gravity itself to the point of giving specific objects or people their own gravitational fields is the sort of advanced-level magic a person could normally only dream of without this particular Clear Card.
As a source of intangibility, the Through Clow Card came along with all of the same potential dangers that are typically presented with the concept of being able to walk through walls. Useful as that is, a person using it without enough of their own magical energy to power it could easily have found themselves permanently fused into whatever they were attempting to move through. Use with caution.
The full extent of Siege’s power was never fully illustrated, as its purpose was to create flexible constructs in which to encase other things—to imprison them, if you will. Combined with the use of other cards, though, it had the potential to work as the most effective means of capturing magical entities and mortal being alike.
Simple as the Sword Clow Card and the Blade Clear Card were, their magical properties made them exceptionally good at piercing and tearing through strong (and sometimes mystical) substances that human-made weapons never could.
As a card aligned under the Watery, the Freeze was emphatically violent, but also very keen on employing its wits to attack with clever strategies involving all forms of ice, ranging from flinging spears to simply popping up and freezing its targets. Given its calm, and its potential to straight-up freeze Watery in combat, it earns a much higher spot in this ranking.
The simplest Clow Cards were almost uniformly the most deadly, something expertly demonstrated by the Erase, which could not only erase its targets, but fundamentally wipe them out of existence if used correctly.
While somewhat similar the Maze and Labyrinth Cards, the Loop set itself apart by creating spatial loops that were nearly impossible to escape from because the “traps” it created were not physical structures in the traditional sense.
The Sleep and Snooze Cards could be used to lull people into magical slumbers as a form of defence, yes, but truly, they were both the sorts of sleep aids that virtually everyone could have used at one point or another to improve their qualities of life.
In most instances, the Clow Cards with obvious Clear Card analogs could have been considered to be more or less comparable, but Action was demonstrably more advanced than the Move. Action was shown to be able to animate objects of basically any size and weight, whereas the Move could only move small objects very, very short distances.
The Libra Clow Card’s ability to identify whether people are telling the truth is actually the sort of thing that would make it ideal for self-reflection rather than just spotting liars. Being able to be truthful with yourself is a key component to magic, making the Libra worth keeping close to one’s side.
So much of this list revolves around the concept of power, which is why the Power herself is ranked so highly. Hers is the gift of raw physical strength, which has a number of obvious applications including, but not limited to, granting people what they need to take things into their own hands (literally) and dealing with whatever kinds of physical confrontations they’re presented with.
Regardless of the situation at hand, one thing we could all use more of is time itself, which the Time Card could provide by manipulating the flow of time to its user’s liking in a variety of standard, but nonetheless impressive, ways.
The Repair Clear Card’s capacity to put back together broken things gave it a significance most of the other cards never quite managed, because its magic was wholly geared toward the sort of deep healing and restoration that would be necessary following any sort of major confrontation.
The Return Clow Card was distinct from the Time Card in that it granted its user the power to project their consciousnesses back through time and space in order to gain a better understanding of past events. Because so much of one’s magical proficiency is tied to perspective, it made the Return one of the more important passive cards in the deck.
As the only card created by fusing two others, the Hope Card was one of the most mysterious in large part because it was never clear exactly what it could do. Like the other cards whose powers weren’t explained, however, one can extrapolate from its name that it granted hope to its user and to the person they loved most, as one of the Hope’s constituent pieces was the Nameless Card.
In instances where the Power Card’s strength alone wasn’t quite enough to give the upper hand in hand to hand combat, the Fight and Struggle Card’s unrivalled fighting skill were most likely the better options to go with, as they both imbued their users with the knowledge and indomitable will necessary to best one’s opponents.
At times, one’s best bet at surviving is actually just to run away at a breakneck pace, making the Dash a trump card to use in emergencies.
As one of the first Clow Cards that Sakura captured in the original series whose abilities she essentially reimagined in Clear Card, the Fly and Flight Cards are somewhat legendary because of how they were both instrumental in a magician’s ascent to the heights of their powers. “Basic” though their functions were, the basics are often the most important lessons we all learn.
Energy cannot be destroyed, but the Nothing Card embodies the potential for things to be unmade, whether they be physical, imaginary, or magical in nature. Its power was destructive on a definitional level, making its power more of a warning about the importance of not letting one’s strength get so out of hand that it becomes an existential threat.
By writing in the pages of the Create Card—which was styled as a notebook—its users could make real anything they could reasonably imagine, making it the Nothing Card’s spiritual inverse. The lesson learned to be from it, then, was to always understand the potential one has to manifest things into existence.
By tapping into the power of the Dream Clow Card, users could gain access to visions of the future in their sleep. It’s yet another form of using one’s magic in order to gain perspective, something infinitely more useful than any one weapon or trap.
Because almost all of the Cardcaptor franchise’s messages explicitly centered magic as a means of conveying larger ideas about responsibility, power, and balance, it’s arguable that the most important of the cards was the Nameless, which combined with the Nothing to form the Hope. While the Nameless’ exact function isn’t spelled out, it activates at a moment in which Syaoran, the boy Sakura loves, is about to lose all of his magic as a consequence of the Nothing. It’s thought that the Nameless is able to cancel out the Nothing’s effect because of Sakura’s feelings for him, and while yes, that’s all very schmaltzy, it’s a situation worth taking to heart, as it’s a display of the kind of magic we should all aspire to.
Cardcaptor Sakura, Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie, and Cardcaptor: Clear Card are all currently streaming on AnimeLab.