Last updated on September 20, 2023
The Reality Chip | Illustration by Campbell White
Artifact creatures have been a topic of discussion since the beginning of Magic. The fact that they benefit from being both creature and artifact types and went in every deck since they’re flexible cards brought lots of balancing problems in some Constructed formats.
These creatures became colored when it made sense from the Shards of Alara block on, and colored artifacts are a mainstay nowadays. Today it’s time to dive headfirst into everything about artifact creatures.
Ready? Let’s get started!
What Are Artifact Creatures in MTG?
Stonecoil Serpent | Illustration by Mark Poole
Simply put, artifact creatures are creatures that have both the “artifact” and “creature” types. And that’s really all there is to it.
Staple Artifact Creatures
An old (sideboard) staple in Modern, Spellskite can redirect any spell in the stack to it for the low cost of two life or . It blocks well on the ground and, considering the prevalence of Lightning Bolt in the format, it’s the true lightning rod.
If you're interested in going deep on sideboarding in Modern, it's covered in this course by Reid Duke.
Oh, what’s that aura you have on the stack enchanting your guy? Mine! Combat tricks? Those are mine too.Spellskite players
The death cantrip bird is a staple of Cube and Legacy control decks that was deemed too powerful to be printed in Modern. Baleful Strix cantrips for two mana and defends the air and the ground alike. You can also blink or unearth this guy for extra value.
You want to play Baleful in any Dimir () defensive/controlling deck, especially if artifact synergies are present.
A 2/2 that cascades into a 0-to-2-drop for three has a lot of value. Shardless almost always hits a 0-mana spell if you build your deck with a curve that starts on three.
This card is friends with the likes of Ancestral Vision, Living End, Crashing Footfalls, etc. A good place to start building with this artifact creature is creatures with adventure, the modal double-faced cards from Zendikar Rising, and expensive cycling creatures.
This sad robot was printed in the Mirrodin block. It ramps, it fixes mana, and it draws you a card when it dies or chump blocks. All for the low cost of four mana.
Recent power creep in creature design makes Solemn Simulacrum an ‘’almost useless body’’ so it’s not the powerhouse it used to be. Still, a land and a card are almost never bad.
For four mana (or three and a little life), Phyrexian Metamorph can Clone any artifact or creature on the battlefield. Pretty much any deck can use this in 60-card formats thanks to how Phyrexian Mana works. Use this card in conjunction with other ‘’change into artifact’’ cards like Liquimetal Coating and suddenly Phyrexian Metamorph can be anything it (and you) ever wanted!
Karn, Silver Golem
The Mox killer, Karn, Silver Golem used to shine in formats like Legacy Vintage that are full of cheap artifacts since its ability kills them outright. From Lotus Petal and the Moxen to problematic permanents like Chalice of the Void, the original Karn kills them all.
Nice indestructible artifact land you got there. It's now a 0/0.Karn, Silver Golem players
Duplicant permanently exiles a creature and becomes a Clone of the exiled creature. Blink it in Azorius () for more removal and clone selection. This card was very solid in midrange and control decks.
The first creature with the text “you can’t lose the game”. You hear that, opponent? You can’t win anymore!
From control decks’ win condition to EDH consideration as a blue commander or in the 99, Memnarch has been stealing permanents since original Mirrodin. 4-mana steal-artifact and 7-mana steal-anything is a powerful mana sink. Phyrexian Metamorph can suddenly clone any permanent for three mana, and artifact destruction like Shatter hits more targets than usual.
The Best Artifact Creatures for Reanimate and Tinker Strategies
Sharuum the Hegemon
A popular commander in Esper. You get to put another artifact from your graveyard into play when Sharuum the Hegemon hits the battlefield. Bonus points for self-milling and reanimating Sharuum, because you can then reanimate another target. Blink it and go to reanimator value town.
Since you’re reanimating, can I interest you in the next two cards on the list?
Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Big beefy creature for eight mana with lots of keywords. Sphinx of the Steel Wind is awesome if it enters the battlefield way earlier than it should.
Inkwell Leviathan was a reanimator staple and is still played in Vintage Cube and reanimator strategies to this day because it’s very hard to remove once it hits the table. It was also played in Tinker and control strategies as a finisher.
The Best Artifact Creatures for Artifact-Heavy Decks
There has always been a 0/2 for zero mana that flies. It’s easy to overrate Ornithopter because it’s free and flies but it’s not worth half a card by itself.
That said, it’s best used in strategies that require a critical mass of cheap and good equipment for it to attack freely in the air. Turn 1 Ornithopter paired with turn 2 Ensoul Artifact produces a hasty 5/5 flier. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas can make it a 5/5. Cranial Plating triggers a beating out of nowhere.
The fact that this little guy is ever present in Constructed combo strategies earns it a place on the list.
A 1/1 for free. No synergies needed.
Vault Skirge costs Phyrexian Mana, which can be paid with two life instead of . Any color could play the 1/1 flying lifelink imp on turn 1, and you have yourself a very good evasive beater if it’s paired with Cranial Plating and some artifacts.
You’re going wide with cheap artifacts and artifact creatures and lots of 1/1 and 0/2 fliers in play. Now what?
I’ve got the answer for you: Steel Overseer puts a +1/+1 counter on each of them. Every turn. Lots of games have been won by Overseer against a removal-light opponent.
Although Etherium Sculptor is a weak creature, each artifact you cast after it lands costs less. Paired with some card draw from blue, it’s easy to swarm the board with the Sculptor in play.
Don’t be fooled by Metalworker’s weak body. This card can generate absurd amounts of mana (if it survives). It can tap for four to six mana in artifact-heavy decks.
Frogmite + Myr Enforcer + Sojourner's Companion
Frogmite, Myr Enforcer, and Sojourner's Companion all have the affinity mechanic, which makes them cost less for each artifact you have in play. Frogmite and Myr Enforcer were key players in affinity decks. Effectively paying zero and one mana for a 2/2 and a 4/4 (respectively) is very strong. Creatures have more abilities and ETB effects nowadays, but a vanilla beater was awesome back then.
I’m including Sojourner's Companion because it’s a strictly better Myr Enforcer and it was recently banned in Pauper, a format where affinity sees heavy play. See, WotC, cost reduction skills are dangerous and usually ban worthy.
Hollow One spawned its own deck that explores cycling synergies, and a card that lends its name to a competitive deck is powerful if you ask me. How much should a 4/4 cost to be competitive? Cycle some cards, draw some cards, and play a 4/4 for free. Not to mention that it has cycling itself if needed.
Mulldrifter is always a good value creature and, despite the high mana value, Thought Monitor enters the battlefield for cheap thanks to affinity. It also reloads your hand to keep playing those artifacts.
Not to mention that each artifact land generates the equivalent of two mana thanks to affinity, which helps a lot.
Karn, Legacy Reforged
Karn, Legacy Reforged is fresh out of March of the Machine: The Aftermath and ready to rumble. It has power and toughness equal to the mana value of your most expensive artifact, and it generate a ton of colorless mana on your upkeep each turn. We'll have to see just how far this creature can be pushed, but I expect it to make a dent in just about any artifact-based Commander deck out there.
The Most Powerful Artifact Creatures
A mana value of X means Stonecoil Serpent is flexible, goes in any deck, and can be always cast on curve. One of the first ever X-cost creatures with an upside, this serpent has reach and protection from monocolor. In a format that’s dominated by multicolor creatures like Commander, Stonecoil Serpent is very strong.
Hangarback Walker piles +1/+1 counters (mostly from another source) which become 1/1 Thopter tokens when Walker dies. It grows alone if left on defense, benefits from Steel Overseer, and it can produce a flying army in a pinch with a sacrifice outlet (or when it dies of “natural” causes). It’s very hard to trade favorably outside of exile effects.
Walking Ballista does it all. It slices, dices, cooks, and carries +1/+1 counters and deathtouch equipment like a boss. Ballista dies when it needs to. Need to tutor a win condition with infinite mana production? Walking Ballista is your artifact creature. Need to kill a mana dork on turn 2? Ballista’s got it covered.
This creature is ‘almost too strong and ban worthy in a lot of formats, from Modern to Pioneer, thanks to its synergy with Heliod, Sun-Crowned. Just give it lifelink for a turn and hit something for infinite damage. Ballista covers everything, from what to do with excess green mana to the early game. It also gladly stores its +1/+1 counters for later use if Arcbound Ravager is on the board.
Esper Sentinel has been a staple for white decks since it was printed in Modern Horizons 2. It shines in white weenie aggro decks, providing card draw (which is scarce in white) or slowing your opponent down.
You usually draw one or two cards a round in EDH with this is play, and it only costs one mana. But you're playing white, right? If you can boost its power with anthems, auras, or equipment, suddenly your opponents are much more reluctant to play any noncreature spell. Open the card draw gates!
There’s already a top-tier Humans deck in Modern, and this Sentinel slots in there perfectly. Bonus style points for drawing cards when your opponent is tapped out thanks to Aether Vial.
The Ravager in “Ravager Affinity”, Arcbound Ravager was a powerhouse. It enables artifact sacrifices for free, grows, and then transfers its accumulated counters to other artifact buddies in a pinch since it has modular. Being attacked by two Ravagers? Better have two removal spells. Or three, if all those counters are transferred to another artifact creature.
The beating never stops with this one. Alongside the artifact lands like Seat of the Synod and Disciple of the Vault, this Ravager was a much needed ban. Even against a lot of main deck artifact removal like Smelt, Ravager Affinity was nearly unbeatable.
Golos, Tireless Pilgrim
Golos, Tireless Pilgrim‘s nice-sized body grants it resistance to some forms of removal, plus it ramps and fixes you. You have unlimited potential if you can get to five colors and seven mana since you can play three spells a turn. Golos was almost banned in Standard because of its synergies with Field of the Dead.
A staple in its Standard format that now sees light play in Historic, Pioneer, and Modern, Torrential Gearhulk’s 5/6 flash body is ready to ambush creatures on the field. Not to mention that the instants in your graveyard are your playground when you cast it.
A 6/6 for six with deathtouch and lifelink is great. Wurmcoil Engine blocks well and give you some life for the trouble. But it also leaves behind a 3/3 deathtouch and a 3/3 lifelink when it’s destroyed.
From an absolute bomb in Limited to a Constructed staple, it’s really hard for midrange and control decks that rely on destroy-creature or sweeper effects to deal with Wurmcoil Engine. Still, Modern has Path to Exile to keep it in check, and cheap aggro/burn decks will never give you the opportunity to cast a 6-mana value spell.
Myr Battlesphere is a powerhouse in ramp decks that can play it ahead of the curve. It creates Myr tokens to help stabilize the battlefield, and it feeds itself. Play it alongside Myrs and Myr-producing artifacts to get the full value. This card is good on its own merits, it’s a Cube staple for green ramp, and it’s been reprinted in almost every Commander precon.
Breya, Etherium Shaper
One of the 4-color commanders of Commander 2016, Breya, Etherium Shaper does a lot on its own. It produces two 1/1 Thopters when it enters the battlefield and it’s removal on a stick if you sacrifice two artifacts.
Breya can be built as a Myr tokens commander with incentives to go wide in white and artifact sacrifices in red and black. It can also be blinked to generate more value. Pair it with Mycosynth Lattice to sacrifice anything and activate its abilities.
Ancient Stone Idol
Ancient Stone Idol is weird, but cool. A 12/12 with flash that creates a 6/12 with trample when it dies. Attack your opponent often with tokens to put it into play faster. After that, can I interest you in Tend the Pests?
The Best Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Artifact Creatures
Blade of the Oni
Blade of the Oni is nice as a 3/1 with menace that can reconfigure onto something for four mana later in the game. I like it, and the demon subtype seems relevant. It doesn’t die to Power Word Kill, and Streets of New Capenna seems like it’s going to be demon themed.
Platinum Angel, is that you? A 3/2 flier for three is okay, and reconfiguring onto a creature seems like a strong play. I’m worried that Cloudsteel Kirin is good but doesn’t do anything well enough to see much play.
The Reality Chip
The Reality Chip can supply a deck with lots of card advantage thanks to the reconfigure ability. Casting spells from the top of your library is no joke, and you can cast multiple spells a turn as long as the equipped creature dies.
Do Artifact Creatures Count as Artifacts?
Yes, artifact creatures count as both creature and artifact types. Every card that affects either type of card, like “destroy target creature” or “destroy target artifact,” affects these cards. Cards that grant a certain benefit to all artifacts or creatures also hits artifact creatures.
Do Artifact Creatures Have Summoning Sickness?
Yes, artifact creatures suffer from summoning sickness since they’re also creatures.
What Color Are Artifact Creatures?
All artifact cards were originally colorless. A colorless card doesn’t have a color and can be cast with mana of any type. There have been lots of artifact creatures (and artifacts in general) printed with colored mana in recent years, like the creatures from the Shards of Alara block.
Is an Artifact Creature a Creature Type?
No, “artifact creature” isn’t a creature type. Both “artifact” and “creature” are separate card types. Parasitic Strix is considered an artifact and a creature, and it only has the “bird” creature type.
Are Changelings Artifact Creatures?
Changelings are every creature type, but “artifact” isn’t a creature type.
A similar misunderstanding happened with the new shrines from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. These cards have the type line, “Enchantment Creature – Shrine.” The “shrine” part is an enchantment type, not a creature type.
Platinum Angel | Illustration by Brom
Well, that's it for today. I hope you enjoyed our time together.
Artifacts being colorless always meant inclusion in almost any deck and a flagship from WotC’s balancing teams. After all, lots of cards from this list are a part of Magic’s design and competitive history, having earned their place in the Hall of Fame (of Pro Tour Appearances and broken decks).
What’s your favorite artifact creature? Are there any that I missed in this list? Let me know in the comments down below or over on Draftsim’s official Discord.
That’s all from for today. Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll see you in the next one!
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