Last updated on September 27, 2022
Creeping Tar Pit | Illustration by Adam Paquette
Across all the cards and special lands in Magic, creature lands (sometimes referred to as “manlands”) are some of the most useful. They’re a good way to increase pressure for an aggro deck, help you spend mana in a midrange deck, and are often even the win condition in a lot of popular control decks.
Manlands are incredibly resilient, hard to remove, and work as excellent lands early on. They’re also great ways to fix mana in multicolored decks. To sum it up, creature lands are an exceptional tool in Magic that have definitely found their place in every crevice of the game.
Today I’ll be going in depth on just about everything you could possibly want to know about creature lands, and everything you need to know in case they appear in one of your games. I’ll also go through a complete list for every color and rank them to help narrow down some choices for your upcoming EDH decks.
Without further ado, let’s get to the fun part!
What are Creature Lands in MTG?
Faceless Haven | Illustration by Titus Lunter
Creature lands are lands in Magic that have the ability to become or already are creatures. They come in all shapes and sizes with some being as small and (seemingly) insignificant as Mishra’s Factory while others are as game-defining and threatening as the classic Celestial Colonnade.
Creature lands offer a special kind of value that no other type of card in Magic can bring to the table. They can take up a land slot, which doesn’t reduce the amount of nonland cards in your deck. They can often fix your mana by coming in the form of dual lands. Finally, they offer a way to spend your mana more efficiency in the mid-to-late game and offer a win condition for otherwise hardline control decks.
Today I’m talking specifically about land cards that have the ability to become creatures, not spells or planeswalkers that make your lands into creatures. There’s one exception to this rule, which is Dryad Arbor. This card is both a creature and a land. This puts us at 36 total creature lands to go over, which I’ll rank according to their color(s) and how powerful they are.
Ready? Let’s go!
Best White Creature Lands
#2. Forbidding Watchtower
There are only two mono-white creature lands, so in last (but also second!) place is Forbidding Watchtower. This card is meant to act as a strong defensive option for control decks that can afford to play on turn 1 or 2 and not miss out on anything from it coming into play tapped.
#1. Cave of the Frost Dragon
Miles ahead of Forbidding Watchtower in first place is Cave of the Frost Dragon from Forgotten Realms. This set introduced a new mono-colored creature land for every color, all of which are extremely powerful.
White’s version activates for , which while a steep cost still provides the player with a 3/4 flier. This has been heavily used in Standard in mono-white aggro decks as a finisher and way to apply additional pressure, but it’s also seen some play in Azorius Control decks for the same reason.
Best Blue Creature Lands
#2. Faerie Conclave
First for blue is Faerie Conclave, which for the price of can turn into a 2/1 flying faerie creature. This is a much stronger creature land of the five released in Tenth Edition. While it’s far superior to the previously mentioned Forbidding Watchtower or Spawning Pool it’s still vastly inferior to the next creature land in blue.
#1. Hall of Storm Giants
Hall of Storm Giants is one of the best creature lands to come out of Forgotten Realms, mainly for its impact in Standard propping up blue-based control decks as a way to close out the game. Despite its steep cost of it plays perfectly with blue’s control theme as a way to expend copious amounts of mana in the ultra-end game.
The protection of having ward for also plays a big part in this card’s potential since it deters most hard removal from black or red opponents.
Best Black Creature Lands
#2. Spawning Pool
#1. Hive of the Eye Tyrant
The best mono-black creature land is Hive of the Eye Tyrant from Forgotten Realms without a shadow of a doubt. This land is everything Spawning Pool wants to be when it grows up, which is turning into a 3/3 with menace and the ability to exile a card from a graveyard when it attacks for .
This is a very strong card overall and has seen plenty of play in mono-black in Standard and Historic where it fulfills the creature land’s role of being a mana outlet and acting as a late-game threat.
Best Red Creature Lands
#2. Ghitu Encampment
Ghitu Encampment is the mono-red creature land from Tenth Edition, which for turns into a 2/1 warrior with first strike. An obviously stronger card than other creature lands that perfectly falls into red’s style of play.
#1. Den of the Bugbear
Despite Ghitu Encampment’s strengths it’s nothing in comparison to Den of the Bugbear, which is (debatably) the strongest creature land to have ever been printed. It perfectly represents red’s aggressive playstyle and the bonus of creating a 1/1 Goblin that’s also tapped and attacking makes it a highly aggressive creature land that excels at fulfilling its duties of applying additional pressure when needed.
On top of that it comes into play untapped if it’s your first or second land, which helps in the aggressive decks where it’s most played.
Best Green Creature Lands
#3. Treetop Village
Treetop Village is the last of the Tenth Edition creature lands and is easily the most powerful as a simple 3/3 for . It works nicely in midrange green decks that can afford to pay that cost regularly after turn 4 or 5.
It also works as a solid threat against opponents who may have used all their removal on your other green mana dorks or creatures and are short on finding a way to kill a 3-toughness creature.
#2. Dryad Arbor
Dryad Arbor is an infamous creature-land that’s both types at the same time. It’s caused its fair share of rule debates but is ultimately both a creature and a land, so it’s affected by summoning sickness.
In the right deck (like elves) this land provides a powerful boost to cards that function based off the number of creatures on the battlefield, so it’s found solid ground in those decks.
#1. Lair of the Hydra
Regardless of how good the other mono-green creature lands may be, Lair of the Hydra is still better (thanks power creep!). This land turns into an X/X creature depending on how much mana you’d like to spend on it.
I really like this card. Its power comes from the fact that it can be as threatening as you want it to be, even if that ends up just being a bluff. It can also be extremely difficult to remove once it becomes upwards of a 5/5 creature, and at the very worst can be a very large lightning rod.
Best Multicolor Creature Lands
#12. Nantuko Monastery
Starting off the list is Nantuko Monastery. This land only taps for colorless but it needs for its activating cost, which is why it’s in the multicolored section. This is a pretty poor card overall, even after considering it becomes a 4/4 first strike for two mana.
#11. Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
First on the list for the official multicolored creature lands is Svogthos, the Restless Tomb. While it only taps for and not any particular color I’m slotting it under the multicolored section because of its activated ability costing .
#10. Hissing Quagmire
Following Svogthos is the Golgari () creature land, Hissing Quagmire. It’s really this land’s lack of place in any strong deck and the fact it doesn’t bring much to the table in comparison to better lands. Black and green aren’t struggling for removal, and a 2/2 that dies to basically any 2-drop is pretty bad overall.
#9. Lumbering Falls
Lumbering Falls isn’t the start of anything better either. A 3/3 that costs to activate can’t really trade well, and the bonus hexproof mechanic doesn’t exactly add enough value to make it an attractive inclusion. Creature lands don’t make for good early blockers since losing a land that early on, especially against an aggressive deck as the primary thing it dies against, is a very damaging blow.
#8. Lavaclaw Reaches
Lavaclaw Reaches is where things start to get better. It’s aggressive nature actually works here instead of being a hinderance, and it’s great because Rakdos () is a color combination that can take advantage of it. But I’d like to see some trample or menace here since that would take it from playable to great.
#7. Needle Spires
Needle Spires has a similar story to Lavaclaw Reaches, mostly because it’s an aggressive creature land that’s in a color combination that wants it. Boros () has enough damage buffs and equipment that synergizes with double strike. But this is still a barely playable land that’s better replaced by Den of the Bugbear.
#6. Shambling Vent
Shambling Vent is slightly better than Needle Spires, mostly because it costs less to activate and can better block 2-drop creatures early on. The lifelink is a great bonus too, and Orzhov () has multiple ways to benefit from gaining additional life.
That’s really the reoccurring theme here: creature lands that present bonuses that their color combination can actually use earlier on along with being a threat later in the game.
#5. Stirring Wildwood
Speaking of value, Stirring Wildwood turns into a whopping 3/4 with reach for only . It fits pretty well into Selesnya () and even Abzan () midrange decks, and it’s certainly the best creature land available to those colors.
#4. Wandering Fumarole
Wandering Fumarole is where things really start to get interesting. In addition to being a strong dual land it offers a great defensive option as a 1/4 blocker. This keeps it out of range of Lightning Bolt and early creatures that it actually wants to be blocking. To top things off it can turn into a 4/1 offensive creatures for free.
#3. Creeping Tar Pit
In third place for multicolored lands is Creeping Tar Pit, which is undoubtedly the best creature land in black. Unblockable is exactly what we want to see since it essentially turns its activated ability into “: Deal three damage to target player or planeswalker.”
#2. Raging Ravine
Next up is the staple and threat of every classic Modern Jund deck, Raging Ravine! This land gives you plenty of value for four mana, which in this case is a 3/3 that gets bigger every time it attacks. This means that it only needs to attack once to get out of Lightning Bolt’s range and run over earlier creatures played on turns 2 or 3.
#1. Celestial Colonnade
In first place as you may have expected is Celestial Colonnade. This is the win condition for more Azorius () decks than I can count, and debatably one of the strongest creature lands ever printed. It just gives too much value for its own good.
Best Colorless Creature Lands
#10. Stalking Stones
First (really last) on the list for colorless creature lands is Stalking Stones, which turns into a 3/3 for a whopping six mana. This is obviously a horrible deal until you realize it becomes a 3/3 forever. But I still don’t think this is a great creature land and it doesn’t have a spot in any deck. Maybe if it had some kind of clause that said, “if it’s already a creature, it gains 3 +1/+1 counters.”
#9. Hostile Desert
Hostile Desert is up next, and it’s actually a pretty good value for what you get. A 3/4 for just two mana is a deal of unheard value in Magic, but the caveat is that it only taps for a single colorless. No colored deck can reasonably afford to run this, other than something like colorless Eldrazi EDH. Even then it isn’t a “high power” card since those decks don’t rely on early creatures to win through combat damage.
#7. Frostwalk Bastion
Frostwalk Bastion is a colorless snow land that becomes a 2/3 for and a snow. As a bonus it taps a creature for one untap step when it deals damage to it. This bonus sadly isn’t very powerful since it dies to smaller creatures and only taps for a colorless.
#7. Dread Statuary
Dread Statuary is better than the previously mentioned lands because it actually provides some offensive threat with four power. Unfortunately that isn’t enough to make up for only tapping for a colorless. Colorless lands naturally have that as a barrier to being “good”, which means there’s only a handful of actually playable cards in this category.
#6. Blinkmoth Nexus
Starting off the top five is Blinkmoth Nexus, and no, I didn’t mean to type Inkmoth Nexus. Blinkmoth sadly only taps for a colorless like the lands that came before it on this list. But unlike the other lands it actually provides a level of value that makes up for it.
Blinkmoth turns into a 1/1 creature with flying, which can be synergistic with different spells that buff creatures to push additional damage in aggressive decks.
#5. Mishra’s Factory
Mishra’s Factory tells a similar story to Blinkmoth Nexus where it becomes a 2/2 creature with the option of buffing another assembly-worker creature. These become stronger in numbers and can provide serious damage later on in the game for the decks that can play it in multiples.
#4. Crawling Barrens
Next up we have budget Faceless Haven, more commonly known as Crawling Barrens! This is a decent creature that you can pump up in the turns leading up to its actual use, without exposing it to removal by denying it actually becoming a creature. This has seen some considerable play in Standard, but not much else, and is still a decent mainland overall!
#3. Faceless Haven
Faceless Haven is where this list jumps up a level. It’s undoubtedly one of the best creature lands overall. It slots well into any aggressive or midrange snow deck. Four power and three toughness is a great place to be for three mana and can trade well with earlier creatures.
Mutavault is a colorless land that turns into a 2/2 for , but it’s completely carried by the fact that it’s every creature type. This works best in merfolk decks that can have multiple lords at any one time and becomes upwards of a 4/4 or 5/5 for just .
#1. Inkmoth Nexus
In first place is the infamous Inkmoth Nexus, which has long been a win condition and very lethal threat for infect decks across Modern and Legacy. Flying and infect is a lethal combination, especially when the creature with those keywords isn’t even a creature most of the time.
This land is resilient, powerful, and does everything the decks that play it want it to do. What more can you ask for?
What Are the Cycles of Manlands?
There are two primary cycles of manlands: the allied- and enemy-colored ones. These have seen numerous reprints and special versions and are the most commonly reprinted creature lands there are.
The allied-colored manlands include Celestial Colonnade, Creeping Tar Pit, Lavaclaw Reaches, Raging Ravine, and Stirring Wildwood. The allied colors include some of the most popular and powerful creature lands to have ever existed.
Celestial Colonnade is practically the only win condition in countless Azorius and Esper () control decks. Raging Ravine was a staple of Modern Jund Midrange for its ability to act as a strong mana outlet and finisher. Creeping Tar Pit has also seen quite a bit of play, especially in Commander and in the Vintage Cube since it can be a potent threat in Dimir () control decks.
The allied-colored creature lands have a lot going for them, and it’s questionable if we’ll ever get new multicolored lands as powerful as these again.
As far as the enemy colors go we have Shambling Vent, Wandering Fumarole, Hissing Quagmire, Needle Spires, and Lumbering Falls. These have shoes too big to fill from the allied colors but are still very powerful.
Wandering Fumarole brings exceptional versatility by being able to act as a strong blocker or offensive creature. Shambling Vent helps Orzhov midrange decks get off the ground and sustain themselves in grindy matches, and Needle Spires is a very Borosdual land that can become increasingly deadly if it’s the target of some buffs or equipment.
Lumbering Falls and Hissing Quagmire, while not terrible, just don’t bring as much to the table. They’re kind of awkward to play with and their color pairings don’t usually need what creature lands bring to the table.
Why Are Manlands Good?
Stirring Wildwood | Illustration by Eric Deschamps
Manlands offer a level of consistent threat and way to spend your mana efficiently as games progress into the endgame. Control decks love manlands for the fact that they don’t take up valuable nonland spots in the deckbuilding process but still fulfill their role of closing out games and providing a way for all-counterspell decks to actually win.
Aggressive decks find them to be especially great if they don’t disrupt their first few turns, like Den of the Bugbear, because they can help push through barriers of removal or defensive interaction that would otherwise trip them up. Midrange decks just have the mana after a few turns to spend and are content with spending it on a simple creature that draws out resources from their opponent.
What’s the Right Number of Manlands for Your Deck?
Manlands have the downside of entering tapped, and they’re not able to be targeted by fetch lands. This makes them a very poor draw when you need mana the most, which is basically any turn after 1 until 7 or 8.
Being down in mana against an opponent can put your back against the wall and prevent you from adequately using the other components of your deck. This means that creature lands should only be two or three of your lands in 3-color decks and no more than four in the simpler 2-color decks.
What Types of Removal Work Against Manlands?
Manlands are slightly more resilient than nonland creatures since they dodge removal that specify the target must be nonland. But they’re still creatures. They’re just lands in addition to being a creature. This means that anything that doesn’t specify that it targets nonland permanents work, so don’t get too ahead of yourself.
Do Lands that Become Creatures Have Summoning Sickness?
Creature lands do suffer from summoning sickness. The summoning sickness rule affects all creatures, regardless of how they form, unless they have haste.
Do Animated Lands Have a Creature Type?
Animated lands do have a creature type, and that type is disclosed in the activated ability rules text. For example, Faceless Haven becomes a creature with all creature types while Celestial Colonnade becomes a blue elemental.
Do Land Creatures Have Summoning Sickness?
Yes, land creatures like Dryad Arbor are affected by summoning sickness. This is particularly weak in the case of the Dryad since it means it can’t tap for mana on the turn it comes in.
What’s a “Nonland Creature”?
A “nonland creature” is exactly what it says it is: a creature that isn’t a land. The reason this comes up and is a commonly asked question among Magic players is because some removal cards, like Planar Outburst, specify that their effects don’t affect those types of creatures. This includes your creature lands so don’t worry about playing around them.
What Happens When You Put Counters on a Manland?
Counters stay on a permanent until something directly removes them, or the permanent leaves the battlefield for any reason. Even in the case of +1/+1 counters they just stay on the land when it’s not a creature and will still be around when you reactivate it.
What Happens When a Manland Dies?
Being a land in addition to being a creature makes no difference in what happens when the creature is killed. It still dies just like any normal creature would, which unfortunately means that you’ll be down a land in the exchange.
Hive of the Eye Tyrant | Illustration by Johannes Voss
That wraps up everything you need to know about creature lands, from which ones are good to the specifics around how they work. I’ve always been a ride or die fan of Celestial Colonnade. What can I say? The art is beautiful, the blue and white mana pips look cute together, and the card empowers one of my favorite strategies, Azorius control!
Thanks for reading. Make sure to let me know what you think in the comments down below or over on the official Draftsim Discord.
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