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What Are the Top Vanilla Creatures in Commander?

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I can't remember the last time I included a vanilla creature in one of my Commander decks. The nature of a singleton format entails squeezing the most value out of every single card. This usually means there isn't much room for just a 2/2 Bear Cub from Portal Second Age, no matter how cute it is. This got me thinking about the nature of vanilla creatures and which ones should be given a second chance in your next Commander deck.

What is a Vanilla Creature?

A standard "vanilla" creature is a term for a creature with no abilities. In this case, that means no keywords, nothing. Don't get scared off yet! There are subtypes of vanilla that we'll talk about. Some of these might appeal to you, and some you might already play. The top card in each category is worthy of a place in certain decks!

We'll cover the top:

  • Virtual Vanilla
  • French Vanilla
  • Legendary Vanilla
  • True Vanilla

What is the Top Virtual Vanilla Creature (Honorable Mention)?

What is a Virtual Vanilla Creature? According to Mark Rosewater, "This is a creature that is functionally a vanilla creature after the first turn it's in play." This is probably the furthest in spirit from a vanilla creature. Enter the Battlefield (ETB) effects are such a powerful mechanic in Magic: The Gathering and in Commander. They are often utilized more than once. However, if not flickered, the virtual vanilla functions and blocks like a vanilla creature, thus it makes the list. This category is more of an honorable, technical mention.

Dockside Extortionist

The top Virtual Vanilla is the Commander staple Dockside Extortionist from Commander 2019. Virtual vanillas like Reclamation Sage and Ravenous Chupacabra are very powerful staples as well. Dockside Extortionist's ETB ability to make treasure often puts a player far ahead. However, after that, it is just a little vanilla - a little vanilla waiting for a Temur Sabertooth to go infinite.

What is the Top French Vanilla Creature?

What is a French Vanilla Creature in Magic: The Gathering? "A French vanilla creature is a creature with nothing but creature keywords," according to Rosewater. Things like flying or haste are keywords. This is still fairly removed from a true vanilla creature because haste and trample on a 5/5 (Charging Monstrosaur) are very maneuverable. Those keywords can really stack. However, these abilities are usually matched by other creatures with the same keywords and then topped by creatures who have abilities outside of keywords.

Akroma, Angel of Wrath

My nomination for this category is the keyword soup angel, Akroma, Angel of Wrath from Legions. A flyer with trample swinging in for 6 on the turn she ETBs is scary. Oh, and she doesn't tap when she attacks, so she's an excellent blocker. Oh, and no blocking with Utvara Hellkite or Razaketh, The Foulblooded because she has protection from Red and Black. The only thing holding her back is the 3 White pips needed to cast her and the 8 mana total in her casting cost.

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What is the Top Legendary Vanilla Creature?

Okay, you got me. This isn't an official category created by Mark Rosewater, but I thought it would be important to bring up. In Commander, what would be cooler than a vanilla-themed deck with a vanilla legendary commander? I know Rosewater isn't a fan of vanilla as a theme, and for good reason. There isn't enough of a focus in certain colors of vanilla creatures to allow for a theme around them. As I've mentioned previously, there is a heavy load to lever in Magic: The Gathering for a single card. Vanillas often can't carry that weight. There is a reason there are three synergistic cards for vanilla creatures: Muraganda Petroglyphs from Future Sight, Jasmine Boreal of the Seven from Dominaria United Commander, and Ruxa, Patient Professor from Commander 2021.

Yargle and Multani

However, we love a janky little deck anyway, don't we? I love making a deck that blindly follows a theme, then shelving it after a few games before taking it apart forever. Who better to do this than Yargle and Multani from March of the Machine? They are an insane body with the legendary tag. We can run cards like Blade of the Sixth Pride that are top-heavy and all about damage. Give Yargle and Multani an opening twice and it might be game over.

Lastly, please read the flavor text of Yargle and Multani with me:

"I've heard much about you from my daughter," Multani rumbled. "There was a time when I'd balk at your aid, phantom, but she has shown me the merit in Urborg's strange ways."

"Gnshhagghkkapphribbit," replied Yargle.

What is the Top True Vanilla Creature?

We've talked about Virtual, French, and Legendary vanilla creatures. At the top of the article, we talked about what a true vanilla creature is: no rules text whatsoever. No keywords. No abilities. What could potentially manage to fit the theme of the powerhouses in this list with so little?

Gigantosaurus

It's going to have to be: Gigantosaurus. We knew it had to be the bing Green dino from Core Set 2019. Five Green for a 10/10. No, it doesn't have trample. No, it doesn't discount itself based on the mana used to cast it, but after a board wipe, it feels good to slam this card and hope someone doesn't play a blocker. In Ghalta, Primal Hunger decks, it is a must-include, discounting Ghalta to only 2 Green. In decks with Selvala, Heart of the Wilds, it makes her tap for a whopping 10 green. It has high devotion for things like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. It's a strong vanilla in Magic: The Gathering.

Did any of these creatures catch your eye? Any new deck ideas come out of this list, or must-includes in your next deck?

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