Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Standard Creatures in Magic
Most Magic creatures play two roles, serving in battle with their power/toughness, but also utilizing unique effects to gain an advantage. Some might be weak in battle, but compensate with powerful tap abilities or keywords like vigilance.
But some slackers (called "vanilla" creatures) don't have any effects. This makes most of them practically unplayable, but some compensate with impressive battle stats—which reign supreme? These are the ten best effect-less creatures in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Kalonian Tusker
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 2
Tusker is a simple 3/3 for two, bulky enough to begin pressuring foes early in the game. Like most vanillas, he's also not legendary, so you can control multiple, and his beast subtype has a few tribal supports.
Just like Tusker, Watchwolf is an impressive 3/3 for two, though this time, you'll need white alongside green. But I'll take his wolf subtype over beast, fitting well in a slowly-but-surely growing tribe.
8. Metallic Sliver
Sure, Metallic is a weak and effect-lacking 1/1, but sliver decks almost always run five colors, so his colorless nature gives you an easy spell even if you're still color-hunting. More than that, almost all slivers give each other added abilities, so Metallic can be surprisingly tough once your field starts filling out, and his artifact status provides even more supports.
7. Indomitable Ancients
Four mana is a hefty price for a basic monster, but Ancients compensates with amazing 2/10 stats. To take advantage of his outstanding toughness, use him in beatdown decks that apply toughness for damage instead of power using cards like "Assault Formation" and "Doran, the Siege Tower".
6. Leatherback Baloth
For one more mana than Tusker, you get another hefty beast, this time with 4/5 stats! If you play a mana-elf on turn one, you can get Baloth on turn two and be swinging hard by three.
Admittedly, Baloth's specific symbols make him unwieldy outside mono-green, but they're good for satisfying the devotion needs of god cards.
5. Savannah Lions
For a single mana, Savannah gives an easy 2/1 cat, not only strong stats for low cost, but another useful subtype with several tribal options. Great for any cat theme, Lions is also one of today's cheapest cards, costing less than a single dollar!
4. Isamaru, Hound of Konda
For Savannah's cost, Isamaru provides an even-stronger 2/2, although since he's legendary, you can only have one at a time. Still, the once-ignored hound subtype has since been changed to dog, and it's gradually gaining more supports, helping Isamaru fit into a tribal theme.
If you thought Baloth was locked into green, check out Gigantosaurus, who only accepts five green mana, no other colors allowed. However, not only does he belong to the dinosaur bloodline, Gigantosaurus wields phenomenal 10/10 stats.
Get trample onto him (and hexproof or shroud for defense) and your opponent is in big trouble.
2. Phyrexian Walker
Our last two creatures lack effects but have the artifact type and don't cost any mana! Walker here is a simple 0/3 blocker, which might not sound great but is surprisingly impressive considering his free entrance and lack of color needs.
Plus, despite his wall-like stats, he doesn't have defender, so you can attack with him (useful once you've boosted his power with other cards).
You could argue whether Memnite's 1/1 is better than Walker's 0/3, but it lets Memnite hit for something without any other boosts. While he might seem weak, don't underestimate the power of a free card with no color necessities and artifact synergy.
French Vanilla Cards in Magic
Today we explored true vanilla creatures with no abilities whatsoever, but you'll also encounter similar "french vanilla" creatures who only have keywords (like deathtouch or trample), lacking unique effects.
While some are unremarkable and unusable in constructed play, others compensate with raw power, and when done well, can be just as exciting as other cards. But for now, vote for your favorite simpleton and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill
Pilcrow on August 17, 2020:
As a cheap (free) blocker, I prefer Shield Sphere to Phyrexian Walker. It's probably my favorite 0-cost card, though Ornithopter gives it a good run for its money. Unfortunately, though, its defender limitation keeps it from excelling in toughness-based beatdown decks, and the -0/-1 counters do take their toll.