I like creatures. They swing. They block. They have abilities. They advance the game. Simply put, creatures do things. They are the most commonly played non-land in your deck for a reason. Creatures are the core, essential identity of the game we play. Creatures rule!
Given this key component of the MTG experience, there are a lot of sexy critters out there that have lost the love. So sad. Why are they disappearing from, well, everything? So sad!
And thus, this list is born. What creatures have had a day in the sun for multiplayer, but still have what it takes to break things open? What are your powerhouses?
There are creatures that used to dominate kitchen table play, especially multiplayer. But they have, often, struggled to make the transition to Commander, especially today. Almost today’s entire list is from pre-Modern sets, and is designed to show you some powerful creatures that you can turn to and rely on, as these all have a powerful history of just taking care of business when dialing it up against multiple players.
So let’s count down the Top Ten Old Creatures that Live Again!
10. Butcher Orgg
I am not the only one who recalls the power of a Butcher Orgg. No less a multiplayer luminary than Anthony Alongi himself had Butcher Orgg on his list of the best Red multiplayer cards of all time in his Hall of Fame. And you can see why! This thing is rough to deal with. It doesn’t matter if you hit the player or not. It doesn’t matter what blocks you. Divide that damage as you choose to kill the stuff you need to kill. You have serious card advantage anytime you smash. And you can easily combine this with effects in Red that increase your damage dealt, or something like Berserkers' Onslaught to give it double strike. It’s better than any Thorn Elemental!
That’s a reference to this card, by the way:
And here are a few cards that will enhance the Butcher Orgg to even greater heights!
9. Ancestor’s Chosen
This card is amazing. It was often heavily played due to the considerable amount of life you’d gain when it arrived on the battlefield. At first, you might want to dismiss it because of its high casting cost, but that is not as much of a deterrent as you might imagine. The longer you wait, the better the ability is. I’ve often gotten 15 or 20 life from it in Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy or a new graveyard-centric Commander deck. Plus, don’t sleep on a 4/4 with first strike. I’ve often held off some attackers after I tapped out to play it and gained 12 life or so while also having a body ready to drop and roll. It’s downright abusive when you have Blink effects like Momentary Blink rocking the table as well.
The ‘Gost. Take another look at Gurzigost if you’ve either forgotten about it or never knew what it did. 6/8 for 5 mana? Activates for a Thorn Elemental if you need? (You don’t normally, but it’s nice to see it there as an option.) But the best case is the “disadvantage” the ‘Gost has. You have to restock two cards from your graveyard to the bottom of your library each of your upkeeps or else you lose your ‘Gost. I’m sure you can see tons of ways to abuse and harness that restocking in Commander, right?
The time may come when power creep in creatures has antiquated the Spiritmonger. But that time is not today. Time has not ebbed for Spiritmonger. The 6/6 for mana body is still strong. The regeneration is good, and the ability to grow as you damage things a la Sengir Vampire is solid, and the color changing is all right too. You occasionally run it against the right card or effect, although not that often.
Spiritmonger is a solid card. It still matters. So, get your Monger on and wrassle up some Spirits!
Despite the fact that it is hitting at #6 today, Thundermare and #10 above directly inspired this article. Thundermare has a rare ability for Red. Upon arrival to the battlefield, all other creatures tap, and you can swing for 5/5 with your hasted Fire Horse. In the past we’d often call Thundermare a Lava Axe variant.
By the way, on a totally unrelated note, my favorite Lava Axe art is the Portal 2 art;
So, as you can see, given that the Thundermare is a guaranteed hit for a 5/5 creature, it’s not too dissimilar to a Lava Axe in effect, and given that it leaves you a tapped 5/5 creature, it’s a solid card.
But the Thundermare’s value in multiplayer is considerably greater with the tapping effect. Here let’s drill down into how:
Imagine you are in a four-player game, and turns go to your left, clockwise.
Note that you hit Bob, you have a beefy 5/5 Horse, and you are in a much better position. In a multiplayer game, people only attack if they know they are not going to be exploited by being open. Maybe they negotiated safety. Or maybe their 20 life doesn’t fear your Avenging Druid. But the general rule is that people only swing when they can do so freely. Thundermare hits for 5, but then the next few people aren’t sure if they want to open themselves to reprisal attacks.
Hence the Thundermare plays very well indeed.
Okay, Top Five Time!
5. Desolation Angel
I’m glad that Desolation Angel was reprinted as a Masterpiece in the Amonkhet series. Although the card was not a great financial win, it certainly feels like a strong card that wants to break things open. 5 mana nets you a 5/4 flyer, but you are never casting it for that. It’s really . You get a 5/4 flyer and an Armageddon effect all rolled up into one.
Now I’m normally not a fan of Armageddon and other mass removal of land effects in multiplayer, but Commander can often abuse the “hands off” policy that many tables have for lands, and thus allow lands like Academy Ruins and Volrath's Stronghold to dominate too much. You have to have a healthy balance of letting people keep their Swamps and Command Towers but being prepared to kill other junk like Maze of Ith, Reliquary Tower, or even a Gaea's Cradle. I’m not afraid to take out an overly abusive Cradle or a Cabal Coffers. Don’t come unprepared for land destruction, but don’t go overboard. That’s my normal rule.
But there are times when you need to set a rule aside. And Desolation Angel is one. I don’t like how mass land destruction can often make a game go one for way too long without me being a part of it. But if you have a 5/4 flyer out and are the only one with a creature, you can win quickly. And given the obvious weakness of Desolation Angel vs. Armageddon, I think this is a lot fairer. (Consider Living Death as one such method to attack that weakness made manifest). A lot fairer.
4. The Great Morphs of Ages Past - Bane of the Living,Mischievous Quanar, Willbender
We used to have a hidden Dream Cache of powerful morph creatures to turn to when the situation arose. And many of the best morphs were played all over the block, especially the trio above which would get used in almost every multiplayer deck that wanted to harness their power and majesty. From the Willbender, that works on targeted spells or abilities to the Bane of the Living with which you can prepare for major board sweepage, these are all strong options for your kitchen table play. And many others were dominant as well, like Exalted Angel, Hystrodon, and Chromeshell Crab. A few of these were reprinted again for those who grabbed morph in later sets and wanted to combine them. But some, like Mischievous Quanar above, has not been, and I think it has been largely forgotten by modern audiences. But take a look at your new Fork Lord. For just 3 mana, you can flip it and Twincast an instant or sorcery spell you just played. Great! Now you can, later, flip it back down to reload for another flip and copy, which can give you a lot of card advantage. And we’ve all seen someone immediately flip it back down and back up to copy their spell two or three times. And unlike some repeatable copying effects, the Quanar is able to copy opposing spells as well. There are a lot of great morph options available, so get your morph on!
3. Silvos, Rogue Elemental and Jareth, Leonine Titan
Still fighting! All five of the gladiators in this cycle had a huge imprint on casual Magic. And three are still known quantities today, like Visara the Dreadful and Arcanis, the Omnipotent. But these two fell by the way side long ago. Which is sad of course, as they are all good, these included. Jareth just earned another day in the sun due to his Cat status. Silvos was a rare recently too. But neither are really played as much as they should be. I rate Silvos as the third best in the cycle after Visara and Arcanis, in that order, and then Jareth 4th with Rorix Bladewing in 5th. But your opinion may vary. Still, the lesser known entrants are just as powerful as always, so give these gladiators another time to shine.
Ixidron. As creatures get better and more abusive at the kitchen table, Ixidron improves as an awesome answer in Blue. Unless they have morph, or megamoprh, they ain’t flipping over. All of the pretty toys at the table are now 2/2 colorless and ability-less dorks. Sounds bad, right? Yes. And of course, Ixidron is played at the right time. As better creatures arrive, you can bounce, Ghostly Flicker, and more to get another day from it. If you are running a few morphs, then it works well as you reload some useful morph triggers. And it can clearly dominate a board as the only not-face-down dork, thus being of incredible size. I have killed players out of nowhere by playing this and then hitting them with a Whispersilk Cloak’ed hit after having a 21/21 Ixidron. It’s such a great answer in Magic, that I am totally clueless as to why it’s not getting the play it used to. And it did. It was a king! No reason not to turn to it again, right?
1. Sun Quan, Lord of Wu
Do you want to win games? Do you want to cast creatures that win you a game outright? Great! Take another look at Sun Quan, Winner of Games. Sun Quan wins games better than almost any of creatures I have ever played. Unless your foe has horsemanship, which never happens, Sun Quan arriving at the battlefield essentially makes all of your creatures unblockable. Unlike something similar like, “Your creatures have flying” where you can be blocked often, or “Your creatures have shadow” where they can still block anything normally, there is no disadvantage to Sun Quan.
Back before Portal sets were legalized, all of the cards in these sets were illegal. My table had house ruled that horsemanship would work like this:
By adding that extra element of blockability for flying, you kept the ability from being broken, it was flavorful (a master on the horse certainly could keep from being engaged in battle by someone who isn’t, but they could be stopped by a Drake or Angel, no matter how much they swerved about). Even with the weakened version of horsemanship, Sun Quan won me more games than any other creature in my deck. And then it was legalized, and horsemanship was now as written on the card, and it was just so much more powerful at our kitchen table.
Sun Quan is one of the strongest game-ending creatures in the history of the game. Here’s to the Lord of Wu!