Last updated on September 27, 2022
Kestia, the Cultivator | Illustration by Zezhou Chen
Theros was defined by its enchantment creatures. From the mighty gods to the cycle of Archetypes to the infamous Swan Song token, enchantment creatures are unavoidable on this plane. Two mechanics emerged as part of this enchantment theme.
The first, constellation, just rewarded you for playing enchantments. The second, bestow, generated advantage in more subtle ways. Let’s dive right in and see why!
What Are Bestow Cards in MTG?
Baleful Eidolon | Illustration by Min Yum
Bestow is an alternate casting cost ability that exclusively appears on enchantment creatures. Bestow X means you can cast that spell “bestowed” for X, its bestow cost. If you do, the spell becomes an aura enchantment and gets the “enchant creature” ability.
You choose a target for the new aura spell and the bestowed card enters the battlefield enchanting that creature. When that aura becomes unattached (typically from that creature dying), it loses its bestowed quality and becomes an enchantment creature again, losing the aura type and enchant creature ability.
This is a very long-winded way to say that bestow creatures can enchant a creature like an aura and then become a creature again when they die.
#18. Mogis’s Warhound
Mogis’s Warhound grants +2/+2 for three mana but effectively goads the enchanted creature into attacking each turn. It’s an aggressive aura that can push a lot of damage through before it’s permanently removed as one of the cheaper bestow cards.
You definitely want to bestow the Warhound for maximum value.
#17. Gnarled Scarhide
There are only five 1-mana bestow cards, and Gnarled Scarhide isn’t the best. A 2/1 that can’t block is typical for a black uncommon, but bestowing that downside onto the enchanted creature is hardly worth it at four mana.
You can enchant your opponent’s creature to prevent it from blocking in a pinch… if you’re willing to give it +2/+1 as well.
#16. Crystalline Nautilus
Crystalline Nautilus is one of only two nautilus creatures in Magic. It grants a +4/+4 buff with the downside of also giving the illusion-style sacrifice ability to its target. You’ll get a replacement creature when the enchanted one inevitably dies, and that’s all fair for five mana.
You could use the Nautilus offensively, enchanting an opponent’s creature to make it easier to kill.
#15. Ghostblade Eidolon
You’d normally see a 1/1 with double strike cost about two mana (see: Fencing Ace), so Ghostblade Eidolon comes in at a little too expensive. Especially considering its enchantment typing means that it’s more susceptible to removal. the six mana for the enchantment and extra body is still pretty steep compared to something like Battle Mastery.
#14. Spiteful Returned
Spiteful Returned is one great way to guarantee two damage makes it past your opponent’s blockers. Coming back as a 1/1 means it’s not much of a threat and might die when it attacks, but that’s an okay trade-off at its 4-mana bestow cost.
#13. Nyxborn Shieldmate
The 1/2 Nyxborn Shieldmate is fair value for a common at one mana. Bestowing for three mana isn’t bad either, and it doesn’t come with a downside.
Spirespine is great! If you’re looking to kill the enchanted creature, that is. It works as an inverse-Gnarled Scarhide in another edge case and can be used as, well, let’s call it “interesting” removal for your opponent’s creatures.
#11. Baleful Eidolon
Baleful Eidolon is a little overcosted at two mana for a 1/1 with deathtouch. That statline usually costs only one black except you’re paying for the versatility to bestow it for an even less-valuable five mana.
There’s no denying that this Eidolon runs expensive, but getting a guaranteed creature after trading in combat can be useful in Limited formats.
#10. Thassa’s Emissary
Thassa’s Emissary has one of the most expensive bestow costs but is one of the strongest bestow cards. +3/+3 and an ability should be valued at about five mana in blue (compared to Drake Umbra or Illusionary Armor), so the extra mana for a body that sticks around makes this card a great value.
It also generates consistent value by drawing a card every turn or forcing difficult decisions in combat.
#9. Celestial Archon
Celestial Archon is another fairly playable bestow rare. Five mana for a 4/4 with two abilities is already pretty good, but bestowing for seven really makes it valuable. Seven mana puts the Archon at the top end of bestow costs, but the threat comes after enchanting a creature can usually finish out a game.
#8. Hopeful Eidolon
Hopeful Eidolon also saw play in the Standard of its day. +1/+1 and lifelink for four mana isn’t what you’d typically expect from an aura, but replacing itself with another 1/1 lifelinker makes this a valuable enchantment.
#7. Hypnotic Siren
Hypnotic Siren might not seem like much, but look closer: It’s a 1-mana 1/1 with flying, which was incredibly valuable in the meta of its day. It was only sparingly cast for its bestow cost, instead making the ideal target for future auras.
#6. Herald of Torment
A 3/3 flier for three mana is easily one of the most valuable bestow creatures. For just two more, Herald of Torment gets you an extra body when you bestow it. This makes it one of the better bestow rares available.
Nighthowler bestows +1/+1 for each creature card among all graveyards. It mostly sees play in mill-based Commander decks as an extra copy of the Bonehoard effect. Four mana makes it comparable to Bonehoard in terms of value, so this sits on the strong side of bestow effects.
Chromanticore is the only 5-color bestow card, a 4/4 with keyword soup that gives its enchanted creature said soup. Seven mana for its bestow cost is very expensive, but any 5-color deck already runs mana-fixing and -ramping abilities to combat this.
#3. Eidolon of Countless Battles
The crème de la crème of bestow cards is Eidolon of Countless Battles. Ethereal Armor mixed with Pennon Blade that replaces the creature it enchants, and it only costs four mana? This is one of the flat-out best enchantment creatures there is.
This is even more powerful in a bestow deck since all those auras you control stick around as creatures when they’d normally be removed.
#2. Boon Satyr
Boon Satyr is a good card absent its bestow ability. A 4/2 with flash for three mana is great value, and bestowing it for two more is undoubtedly worth it.
Consider a green removal spell when your opponent attacks too early, or else use it as a pseudo-haste effect and end their turn by dropping this or enchanting a creature. It’s a great beater for its mana and sees play in enchantment decks to this day.
#1. Kestia, the Cultivator
Commander 2018 gave us the only legendary bestow creature, Kestia, the Cultivator. Kestia is the perfect leader for any enchantment EDH deck since it rewards you for auras and the subsequent enchantment creature they become.
I would’ve like to see Kestia with another ability to grant to the creature it’s bestowed on, but it generates a lot of value regardless.
Best Bestow Payoffs
Enchantments have access to a lot of support in Magic, and many hail from the same block as the bestow cards.
There’s nothing better than the humble “enchantress” effect. Eidolon of Blossoms is a thematic choice for your deck full of Nyxborn creatures while Setessan Champion makes a great target for your bestowed auras.
Hateful Eidolon is an inverse of this effect, instead drawing cards when your bestowed auras turn back into creatures.
Grim Guardian can slowly chip away at your opponents’ life totals.
There are also a ton of options to capitalize on all those enchantments staying on the field. Ethereal Armor is a great 1-drop, and Sage’s Reverie refills your hand after you’ve bestowed all your gifts to your creatures.
Does Bestow Become a Creature?
Yes, and no. The original bestow ability turns the card into an aura enchantment, but the bestowed card loses its aura subtype and regains the creature supertype when it becomes unattached.
Does Bestow Count as a Noncreature Spell?
Sometimes. Bestow cards are either a creature spell or an aura spell while on the stack, never both. It’s an enchantment in either case, but it’s only a noncreature spell when cast as an aura.
Are Bestow Creatures Auras?
Bestow creatures are auras when cast for their alternate bestow cost and remain auras until they become unattached. They cease to be auras as they resolve if their target becomes illegal (for example, if it’s Murdered in response).
What Happens When a Bestowed Creature Dies?
When the creature a bestow card enchants dies, the bestow card stays on the battlefield and becomes an enchantment creature, losing its aura type and the enchant creature ability.
It’s important to note that the “bestowed” quality refers to the card withbestow, not the card that’s enchanted by the bestowed aura. This is an almost meaningless point, but you could bring it up if you’d like to be pedantic.
What Happens if the Bestow Target Dies Before the Aura Resolves?
Unlike other aura spells, the bestowed card just enters the battlefield as an unattached creature if the target of the enchant creature ability is no longer legal when the spell resolves. It also loses the aura type before it resolves (in case you’re running something like Chishiro, the Shattered Blade).
Why Is Bestow So Expensive?
Bestow appears to just be an overcosted aura effect at first glance. Everflame Eidolon looks like a worse Dragon Breath, right? The real value in bestow is that it saves you from being hit with the ol’ 2-for-1. Enchanting a creature just to watch it die the next turn to a single Doom Blade hurts a lot.
In Limited environments (and certain Constructed ones), bestow compensates you with another body after the enchanted creature is destroyed. Modest advantages like this are the stars of competitive gameplay. Forcing another removal spell keeps your opponent from pulling too far ahead.
And it’s not wrong to point out you’re paying for the versatility of each card. You have the choice whether you need a creature or aura in that moment. A minor advantage, but an advantage nonetheless.
Sure, bestow is on the slow side compared to totem armor or Elephant Guide. But the new creature’s ability to keep the traits of the aura make it a fair trade off.
Crystalline Nautilus | Illustration by Brad Rigney
Bestow didn’t really get the love it deserved. It’s a subtle way to generate advantage, saving you from being 2-for-1’d and shining in Limited and formats with small card pools. It wasn’t a defining mechanic in the Standard of its hey-day. Still, a few bestow cards managed to make their way into decks anyway. The mechanic could use some more diversity to shine in EDH since it only has one legendary card but it slots well into broader enchantment themed decks.
What do you think? Does Boon Satyr deserve the top spot over Kestia, the Cultivator? Is bestow overcosted for its value? And when do you think we’ll see new bestow cards? Let me know in the comments or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
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