Last updated on August 7, 2022
Plundering Barbarian | Illustration by Andrew Mar
We’ve seen the wonders of the dwarven race portrayed in pop culture, from games like Dungeons & Dragons to books and films like Lord of the Rings. Often portrayed of stocky build and shorter than other races, dwarves always bring strong will, inventiveness, and a willingness to fight to any story they appear in.
Today I’m examining the best dwarves from all of Magic’s history, even if they’re not usually players’ first go-to race in fantasy or the game. While only some colors are represented, there are some powerful cards in the dwarven tribe, including some that helped players reach top finishes in some of the game’s biggest events.
Can any of these cards live up to the promise of a Gimli card in the upcoming Lord of the Rings set? Let’s find out!
What are Dwarves in MTG?
Depala, Pilot Exemplar | Illustration by Greg Opalinski
For now let’s dive deep into the mountains and mine our way through the best dwarves!
Best White Dwarves
White is one of the main colors for dwarves. A lot of the staples you think of when considering the best dwarves are either white or multicolored sharing white.
Sram, Senior Edificer
A hallmark of Modern Cheerios before the Mox Opal ban along with seeing play in nearly every enchantment-based deck in Pioneer, Historic, Alchemy, and Commander, Sram, Senior Edificer is a powerful draw engine that historically stands above most other dwarves in terms of play.
Digsite Engineer plays well with the dwarven mini theme of artifacts and equipment so commonly associated with them in stories. This EDH card allows you to pay two mana whenever you cast an artifact spell create a “Karn-Struct” that gets bigger the more artifacts you control. A great addition to any artifact deck, this Engineer gives white decks an extra avenue to go wide in EDH.
Aerial Responder was an incredibly powerful Limited card and mirrors the likes of Vampire Nighthawk. While arguably less powerful, this flying, vigilant, lifelink dwarf can easily swing races and hold off small creatures. Plus there aren’t many better dwarves to suit up with equipment than one that has evasion and helps you stay alive.
An honest worker, Stoic Farmer lets you search out a basic Plains when it enters the battlefield. Cards that draw lands are already solid in EDH, so why does this Farmer make the grade? Well if an opponent controls more lands than you, you can put that land into play tapped.
So you always get the land into play unless you went first in an EDH game and no one ramped, making this a consistent form of ramp in white. With the foretell bonus to help smooth out your early turns, this dwarf is a great card to help you catch up. Especially against other decks putting lands into play early.
With a recent appearance in the Pioneer 5-0 lists, Restoration Specialist allows you to return one target artifact and one target enchantment from your graveyard to your hand. Combo-ing this with The Restoration of Eiganjo creates a looping engine to grind out opponents and get value on each iteration.
Best Blue Dwarf
Reveka, Wizard Savant
A 0/1 for four mana, Reveka, Wizard Savant taps to deal two damage to any target and doesn’t untap on your next untap step. A bygone card of a bygone era that’s likely as shocked to end up on a list like this as I was to find out it existed.
Best Black Dwarf
Skullport Merchant fits nicely in the Standard black decks that look to control the board and out-attrition your opponent. It pairs well with cards like Shambling Ghast and Eyetwitch and lets them create even greater value for you while they fill their role as speedbumps to slow down the game.
The bonus of turning unneeded mana into cards can greatly help decks trying to one-for-one the opponent to death. Especially in a format where Treasures are plentiful.
Best Red Dwarves
The other major dwarf color, red has some of the most well-known dwarves in Magic. Especially for Standard players. These cards show up outside of dwarf decks and have been the bane of many players, finishing with numerous top 8s in a ton of events.
While the weakest of the red dwarves here, Storm-Kiln Artist is a powerhouse in spell-based decks. It generates excess mana to continue powering through combo turns or just getting slight value with each spell.
A staple for all Izzet () decks in EDH, this card continues to bury opponents with little recourse if you can protect it.
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
What if red decks could deal 2+ damage with each red source? That would likely mean your opponent would die. Very quickly.
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell managed to do this to countless opponents in both Standard and Pioneer as mono red remained a staple of both formats on and off until Lurrus of the Dream-Den came along to displace 4-drops. One of the scariest cards to sit across from, few cards can instantly end a game instantly out of nowhere the way Torbran can.
Magda, Brazen Outlaw
While a staple of many Gruul () aggro decks, Magda’s bonus clause to find a dragon also led to fringe play in Pioneer earlier in the Neon Dynasty format. It could find cards like Dragonlord Atarka or Goldspan, which enables even more explosive starts since it can so easily creature Treasures with Magda.
Modal cards are generally powerful effects that make the cut in EDH since they can answer problems that you otherwise may not have a clean answer to. And they aren’t just dead if that mode isn’t needed.
Plundering Barbarian exemplifies this perfectly. It can answer an artifact doing its best Manic Vandal impression. But unlike Vandal, you can also just make a Treasure and power out a bigger threat on the next turn if there aren’t any worthwhile artifacts to plunder.
Best Multicolor Dwarves
You should be able to guess that there’s only one non-red/white multicolored dwarf. Every other multicolored dwarf is Boros ().
So let’s breakdown these powerful Boros dwarves, and maybe one Orzhov () one too.
Reyav, Master Smith
2-drops that power up your creatures are already powerful, especially when they can be your commander. Reyav, Master Smith gives Boros decks an identity by enabling powerful enchantments and equipment to double in effectiveness.
This can kill players out of nowhere, especially since all your enchanted or equipped creatures gain double strike. Even more so with the addition of Neon Dynasty’s reconfigure cards that can double as both threat and equipment.
Another card that continues the equipment subtheme of dwarves, Bruenor Battlehammer allow you to pay for the first equip ability you activate each turn. Paired with expensive equipment to move around like Colossus Hammer, Bruenor can easily take over the game.
And that’s before accounting for the +2/+0 for each equipment attached to a creature. This can allow you to kill out of nowhere by suddenly equipping and buffing a creature for free.
Duergar Hedge-Mage can destroy an artifact and/or an enchantment depending on if you have two or more Mountains, Plains, or both when it enters the battlefield. While not as flashy as the earlier dwarves, this role-player is incredibly common as an answer to otherwise difficult-to-interact-with permanents.
Koll, the Forgemaster
Continuing our forge subtheme, Koll, the Forgemaster allows you to buyback nontoken creatures that died while enchanted or equipped. While this effect can protect your best threats, Koll also looks out for your equipped and enchanted tokens by giving them +1/+1. This lets you benefit from Koll regardless of what type of creature you have kicking around to hold a sword.
Hofri allows you to exile nontokens as they die and create a Spirit token copy of that creature while also pumping those creatures and giving them trample and haste. This can make it impossible for opponents to kill your other creatures efficiently since Hofri recurs them and makes them even stronger.
While a departure from the normal themes of dwarves, Hofri is a powerful enough standalone card to warrant a spot on this list.
Barrowin of Clan Undurr
Whenever Barrowin enters the battlefield you venture into the dungeon. Whenever it attacks you can return a creature with mana value three or less from your graveyard to the battlefield if you’ve completed a dungeon. This effect can easily grind out opponents trying to trade with you for resources in a deck focused on rushing through dungeons.
While not able to loop with itself, Barrowin can certainly find other creatures that can pick it back up in case it meets an untimely demise.
Depala, Pilot Exemplar
A second dwarven lord, Depala, Pilot Exemplar pumps both dwarves and vehicles as a Pilot. It also allows you to spend excess mana when it taps to look at the top X cards of your library and put all dwarves and vehicles seen into your hand.
This was one of the best ways to refill your hand in the Boros Dwarves deck that did really well at Pro Tour Aether Revolt before Mardu () Vehicles took over the format.
Best Dwarf Payoffs
Depala, Pilot Exemplar & Magda, Brazen Outlaw
Two of the three big dwarven payoffs include Depala, Pilot Exemplar and Magda, Brazen Outlaw. These two cards directly pump dwarves and have bonus effects when it comes to tapping dwarves. While not the most powerful payoffs they still reward you for incorporating a glut of dwarves in your deck.
The other major dwarf payoff I want to mention is Dwarven Recruiter. You can search your library for any number of dwarf cards, reveal them, and put them on top in any order when it enters the battlefield.
While obviously not as powerful as just drawing the cards, being able to stack your deck is really strong. Especially in EDH where you can use that knowledge to influence future turns. Recruiter is a powerful enough payoff to warrant inclusion here even if it’s not quite powerful enough to land on the list of best dwarves.
Sram, Senior Edificer | Illustration by Chris Rahn
Dwarves are a powerful tribe in Magic. They all blend pretty well to enable each other even though there are a few different subthemes sprinkled among them. While not as cohesive as creatures like spirits or elves, dwarves make up for it in raw power level. They can definitely cause plenty of headaches in EDH and where they see play in Standard and Pioneer.
The future for dwarves looks bright as I’m sure we’ll continue to see more planes that include this tribe moving forward. They‘ve become a staple in Magic after all. Maybe one day we might even shift the color pie a little and get a green dwarf!
Let me know what your favorite dwarves are and what decks you’ve played that play them. For me, it’s gotta be playing Depala, Pilot Exemplar in Kaladesh and Aether Revolt vehicle decks. Let me know yours in the comments down below or over in the Draftsim Discord.
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