Rise and Shine | Illustration by Franz Vohwinkel
I think it’s safe to say that most of you have seen at least one of the Toy Story movies, whether by your own choice or because some kid in your life made you. Admit it; there was at least some good stuff in there. Like the childhood wish fulfillment of toys being alive!
That’s what I’m all about today, because I’m looking at what it takes to bring your toys (i.e., artifacts) to life. Animating your artifacts can be a great way to widen your board and protect yourself from an onslaught. You’re playing Treasure tokens and your opponent is playing creature tokens? Artifact animation can let you beat them at their own game.
Which animate artifact spells are the best? Which iconic Magic characters are most associated with it? The story continues!
What Are Animate Artifact Cards in MTG?
Peacewalker Colossus | Illustration by Vincent Proce
Animate artifact cards can turn an artifact into a creature with specified stats and typing. Some affect only one artifact, while others impact your whole board. Some artifacts are self-animating, like the Monument cycle from Dragons of Tarkir, but that’s not my focus today. I’m on a mission for cards that animate other cards, not themselves. For that reason you won’t see Cursed Mirror here, fantastic as it is.
Animate Artifact from Alpha was the first artifact animation card in the game, and it combined with Time Vault and Instill Energy to make the first infinite turn engine.
Artifacts and artificers go hand in hand, and a fair number of artifact animation effects come on artificer creatures or ones with it in their name. Karn and Tezzeret each have multiple cards with artifact animation abilities, which is fitting given each of their roles in the story.
The Planechase card Ghirapur has indirect artifact animation as its static ability; it turns an artifact into a vehicle, which becomes a creature with crew 2.
Urza, Prince of Kroog and Mishra, Eminent One can each animate noncreature artifacts by making copies. You’re not really animating your artifact, but it’s a very similar effect. Urza also buffs your artifact creatures, encouraging you to animate as many as you can.
Best White Animate Artifact Cards
#2. Armed and Armored
Armed and Armored is a cheap mass vehicle-animator, and you get to attach a bunch of equipment to a dwarf of your choice. Even in a deck that doesn’t run a single dwarf, the mass-animation for two can be useful. Its instant speed can let you create a bunch of blockers from nowhere.
#1. Peacewalker Colossus
Sorted here due to color identity, Peacewalker Colossus takes Armed and Armored’s animation and reduces it to one creature, but makes it repeatable. It’s pretty much a must-have if you’re, ahem, piloting a deck with Kotori, Pilot Prodigy, Depala, Pilot Exemplar, or Greasefang, Okiba Boss.
Best Blue Animate Artifact Cards
#24. Fluros of Myra’s Marvels
As an Un-set card, it’s hard to recommend Fluros of Myra's Marvels for any serious gameplay. A casting trigger based on power, toughness, and loyalty like this can get silly pretty fast.
#23. Karn’s Touch
Karn's Touch is the cheaper, temporary, instant-speed version of Animate Artifact. Good lore tie-in, though. The problem with relying on the artifact’s mana value when animating it is that tokens usually have a mana value of zero. You have to do some tightrope walking to avoid having those creatures die immediately, like putting +1/+1 counters on them before the fact.
#22. Skilled Animator
A more permanent version of Skilled Animator’s ETB can be found on a planeswalker or two. I’ll let you guess which ones before we get to them.
#21. Majestic Metamorphosis
Card draw tacked onto an artifact-animating, creature-artifact-izing instant sounds pretty blue. Majestic Metamorphosis gets you a 4/4 angel until end of turn, which is at least more evasive than a vanilla 4/4 or 5/5.
#20. Unctus’s Retrofitter
You have to target one of your own artifacts with Unctus's Retrofitter’s ETB ability, and that’s a knock against it. Your 4/4 stays that way as long as either it or your Phyrexian artificer are on the field, so yay for semi-permanence.
#19. Suit Up
The downside with Suit Up is that it’s temporary, and it’ll only animate vehicle artifacts. The upside is the card draw, and the stat-altering can be good if your target’s smaller.
#18. Kenku Artificer
Homunculus fliers? I dig it. Kenku Artificer animates an artifact as an ETB, putting three +1/+1 counters on it in the process. It’s eligible for Pauper; its ETB could be worth flickering it, and it can turn some of your noncreatures into creatures in an artifact affinity deck.
#17. Animate Artifact
It’s the original Animate Artifact effect and was part of early infinite combos, so I have to show it some respect. That said, permanent artifact animation can be found more cheaply these days; the same MV gets you a Tezzeret planeswalker, for example.
#16. Mightstone’s Animation
Mightstone's Animation is a common; Animate Artifact is an uncommon. Mighstone's Animation also gets you a card and guarantees your new creature’s stats. Not much else going on here.
#15. Ensoul Artifact
Ensoul Artifact is cheaper than the original Animate Artifact, and it gives you a specific number for the new creature’s power and toughness. It’s getting better, but auras are one of the tougher card types to reuse.
#14. Tezzeret, Cruel Machinist
You can have temporary artifact animation on a neutral loyalty ability with Tezzeret, Cruel Machinist, but I find that it’s a bit expensive to cast. And no, I’m not counting the ultimate here as artifact animation, just like I wouldn’t count manifesting an artifact from the top of your library.
#13. The Blackstaff of Waterdeep
The Blackstaff of Waterdeep from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is a legendary artifact that lets you animate an artifact for as long as the Blackstaff remains tapped. You can only do it at sorcery speed, but it’s cheap to put onto the field. With the Blackstaff out, you can start animating the moment you have two mana open.
#12. Workshop Elders
There’s a cheaper way to turn your artifact creatures into fliers, but Workshop Elders still has a trick or two up its sleeves. You get to animate an artifact at the beginning of combat, and the effect doesn’t fade.
#11. Animating Faerie
The Bring to Life adventure on Animating Faerie puts counters onto your artifact as it animates it. If you’ve already pumped it with Katsumasa, the Animator, that could turn into a big creature. Gorion, Wise Mentor can also copy that adventure for a different artifact, causing even more mayhem.
#10. True Polymorph
I can’t think of a hyper-specific place to use True Polymorph, although its phrasing gives you a fair bit of flexibility; you can double up your win condition or de-power an opponent’s. Its effect lasts beyond the end of turn, and you can turn something big into a copy of something small, or vice versa.
#9. March of the Machines
Next up is March of the Machines, not to be confused with March of the Machine. It’s indiscriminating mass artifact animation, so it’ll animate your opponents’ artifacts too. That can be a boon or a bane, but Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth is probably okay with that.
#8. Masterful Replication
It’s more situational, but the second mode of Masterful Replication can be a mass-artifact animation spell if you pick the right target. Imagine turning a board of artifacts into Altar Golems and giving them trample with Gimbal, Gremlin Prodigy.
What’s even more bonkers? Pair this with Saheeli, the Gifted, whose ultimate creates copies of every artifact you have until end of turn. Splat.
#7. The Antiquities War
The first two chapters of The Antiquities War gets you artifacts to your hand to ready for the third and final chapter. Any deck running a lot of artifacts can take advantage of this, especially if you’re pumping out tokens.
#6. Katsumasa, the Animator
Katsumasa, the Animator is a potential moonfolk commander focused on artifacts and animating them. Its own artifact animation ability is only temporary and costs three mana a pop. It only gives artifacts 1/1 base stats, but Katsumasa puts counters on artifacts before you animate them. It’s an interesting focus for a deck, but you probably want this card as a support player elsewhere.
#5. Mobilizer Mech
Reading this effect just makes me think of a motorcycle with an empty sidecar. You’ve crewed your Mobilizer Mech, and it lets you bring along another uncrewed vehicle for the ride. All you need is one of Shorikai, Genesis Engine’s Pilot tokens and you can swing with a 3/4, an 8/8, and whatever else you’ve got.
#4. Cyberdrive Awakener
Cyberdrive Awakener gives you a lot of value for having some artifacts on hand to animate. Its ETB is temporary but wide-reaching, and all your artifact creatures have flying while the Awakener is on the field.
#3. Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh
Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh has a -2 ability that permanently animates one of your artifacts. It specifically doesn’t change the power and toughness of your vehicles while making your other targets base 4/4s. Having artifacts in hand to discard is a way to turn this Tezzeret’s +1 loyalty ability from card neutral to card positive.
#2. Rise and Shine
I absolutely love the versatility that comes with an overload cost. Switching “target” to “all” text like this can be super powerful, and one card with both options can pull double-duty for you. Rise and Shine is another effect that pumps counters onto the artifacts you animate. Given that it’s reprinted in March of the Machine Commander, you just know that this wants some proliferation effects nearby.
#1. Tezzeret the Seeker
Tezzeret the Seeker comes with mass artifact animation on its ultimate ability. Its other abilities all tie into artifacts too, and its +1 loyalty ability untaps artifacts for mana if Urza, Lord High Artificer is on the field. You probably won’t want to run too many bigger artifact creatures in a deck like this; mass artifact animation spells like this replace the power and toughness of your artifacts that are already creatures.
Best Black Animate Artifact Cards
#2. Xenic Poltergeist
A 3-cost spirit with a tapping ability doesn’t seem like too much for an artifact animation ability. Being mono-black makes Xenic Poltergeist a bit tough to slot into an artifact Commander deck. Since you don’t have to control your target, you could use its ability for artifact removal in a Horobi, Death's Wail deck or to turn an artifact you want to steal into a creature.
#1. Voldaren Bloodcaster / Bloodbat Summoner
Bloodbat Summoner “only” animates Blood tokens, but that just makes it all the better in a deck focused on them. Strefan, Maurer Progenitor and Anje, Maid of Dishonor are probably its most logical fit, but any vampire deck can make decent use of this 2-drop. It’ll just be slower to transform if you’re not out for Blood and relying only on the Voldaren Bloodcaster face to get there.
Best Red Animate Artifact Cards
#2. Yotia Declares War
This saga has chapters that pump out a 0/2 thopter and tap your artifacts to deal some damage, but the read ahead ability lets you skip right to the artifact animation. Yotia Declares War only gives you a vanilla 4/4 artifact creature with no additional types.
#1. Start Your Engines
Now this is podracing! Nope, not apologizing. A card name like that, it’s mandatory to make a joke. It was either that or my childhood memories of Tonka Raceway, coincidentally another Hasbro product.
Start Your Engines gives you the combo of mass Vehicle animation and mass creature buffs. This can give your board that extra “oomph” for a big swing, whether it’s a race to the finish or a demolition derby.
Best Green Animate Artifact Cards
#4. Alloy Animist
This animist is a druid, not an artificer, showing off how green would bring life to the lifeless. Alloy Animist doesn’t tap to animate an artifact, but the activated ability costs three and is only temporary.
#3. Lifecraft Awakening
Lifecraft Awakening is an X spell that’ll pump an artifact of your choice by the X you manage to pay. It’ll animate a noncreature, non-vehicle artifact and turn it into a construct too. Personally, I think I’d prefer an X spell that turned X target artifacts into creatures, even if they’re just 1/1s.
#2. Tawnos’s Tinkering
Tawnos's Tinkering stops at putting two counters on your permanent of choice, but it gives you more choice too. You can animate and untap a land or an artifact, which can let you take advantage of more timing options.
#1. Titania’s Song
Titania's Song strips all artifacts of abilities and animates them for as long as it’s on the field. A little longer, actually, unless someone destroys it right before an untap step. It affects you too, which ain’t music to my ears. I could see combining a mass animation effect like this with a sweeper.
Best Multicolored Animate Artifact Cards
#5. Tezzeret the Schemer
Tezzeret the Schemer’s ultimate gets you an emblem that animates an artifact every time you initiate combat. If only you could get this effect on a cheaper ability.
#4. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Hello there. As I was saying, it’s nice to animate an artifact into a 5/5 on an easier ability than an ultimate. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas gives you just that on its -1. I’m giving this iteration of Tezzeret the edge just because it’s easier to use the ability at least once.
#3. Sydri, Galvanic Genius
Sydri, Galvanic Genius gives you temporary artifact animation, but you don’t have to tap it to activate it. You can animate more than one artifact per turn, and the second ability can give lifelink and deathtouch to as many artifact creatures as you can afford.
#2. Oko, Thief of Crowns
Oko, Thief of Crowns has an ability that can be situational artifact animation. It’ll turn your target into a 3/3 elk and strip it of its abilities. That can either give you an extra body or shut down an opponent’s threatening combo piece. Its third ability can swap control of a permanent with your opponent; while you probably won’t want to grab the elk you made on their side, even temporary artifact-animation can let you snag something game-changing.
#1. Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer’s -2 animates an artifact by copying a creature. It’s only temporary, but it can be all kinds of good. At one end of the spectrum you can have your Treasure token copy a mana dork for a turn so you don’t have to sacrifice it. At the other end? Copying your Blightsteel Colossus. Oh yeah.
Best Colorless Animate Artifact Cards
You need to tap Toymaker and discard a card to activate its ability, and its animation effect only lasts until end of turn. I’d probably only use this as a work-around for artifact removal, which you can also interpret as “removal with extra steps.”
#3. Mech Hangar
You don’t often see lands on lists that aren’t specifically looking at them, but Mech Hangar from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is here to buck that trend. It’ll help to color fix your vehicles and pilots, but we’re interested in the artifact animation. It’s only temporary, but it’s on a land that can’t be countered.
#2. Karn, Silver Golem
Karn, Silver Golem can animate lots of artifacts cheaply and without having to tap. Whether you’re animating your own artifacts or turning your opponents’ into creatures before removal or sweeping, Karn gets the job done. The artifact animation and the way this Karn’s stats change when it blocks or is blocked fit so well into the Karn lore.
#1. Karn, the Great Creator
Karn, the Great Creator has a +1 loyalty ability that animates an artifact until end of turn. I appreciate the “up to” phrasing because you can pump up Karn’s loyalty even if you don’t have a legal or favorable target.
Best Animate Artifact Payoffs
Turning an artifact into a creature makes it eligible to target with a “target creature” spell or ability. That can be a double-edged sword, like leaving it open to creature removal, but it’s also what enables some of the best payoffs.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Animate Artifact, or any effect that permanently turns Time Vault into a creature, lets you enchant Time Vault with Instill Energy to create an infinite turn engine. Replace Time Vault with your favorite mana rock like Sol Ring to generate extra mana. Or you can pair an Animate Artifact with Control Magic to steal an artifact from an opponent.
Speaking of creature theft, Conquering Manticore and Oko, Thief of Crowns are other cards with those kinds of abilities. Daring Thief is a “exchange control” effect that swaps permanents that share a type. You can also use a Wrangle to temporarily steal that artifact. Personally, I only like temporary thievery if I’ve got some way to send it to the graveyard or exile rather than back to my opponent’s side of the field.
Mass artifact animation can give you a field of blockers to save you from an overwhelming onslaught or a bunch of attackers for your big swing. Having more creatures also affects Scion of the Wild’s stats as well as other abilities that count the number of creatures you have.
Don’t forget the cards that care about artifact creatures. Urza, Prince of Kroog grants them +2/+2, Cyberdrive Awakener grants them flying, and Gimbal, Gremlin Prodigy grants them trample.
Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth has payoffs for both your creature deaths and your token sacrifices. It follows that if you animate an artifact token before you sac it, whether to its own ability or to another, you’ll trigger both of Eloise’s abilities. March of the Machines is something to consider when exploring this commander.
And of course, there’s a bunch of vehicle-specific animation spells that can be great when you’re running those kinds of artifacts. Kotori, Pilot Prodigy, Depala, Pilot Exemplar, Greasefang, Okiba Boss, and Shorikai, Genesis Engine are some of the better options.
Katsumasa, the Animator | Illustration by Heonhwa Choe
There are so many reasons to bring your artifacts to life, and one very greedy reason to animate your opponents’. But eventually, even your favorite trinkets and toys must return to being cards in your deck boxes.
Do you focus on artifact animation, or is it secondary to your endgame? Which formats do you play it in, and are there any combos that I missed? Let me know in the comments below, or over on the Draftsim Discord.
Play time’s over, so it’s time to clean up and do some maintenance. Oil for everybody!
Wait, no, not that kind!
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