Natural Order | Illustration by Terese Nielsen
It’s hard to win a game of Magic without creatures. Smacking your opponents to zero is the best way to win most games, and you need to go to great lengths to build your deck around noncreature wincons if you’re not winning with creatures.
Besides, creatures have incredibly powerful effects. Collector Ouphe can shut some players out of the game, while Ravenous Chupacabra is just a Murder with stats that can get flickered. But all those spicy abilities don’t do much if you can’t find the right creature for the job when you need it. There’s nothing sadder than drawing your Archon of Emeria after your opponent stormed off and won. That’s where tutors come in.
What are creature tutors in Magic, and which ones will give you the best bang for your mana? Here beginneth the lesson!
What Are Creature Tutors in MTG?
Corpse Connoisseur | Illustration by Mark Hyzer
Creature tutors are cards that allow you to search your library for a creature card and put it into your hand. They can also put the card into your graveyard, on top of your library, or even straight into play.
The important part of tutors is that they give you access to cards without having to draw into them. Variance can keep your Ouphe at the bottom of the library, but tutors allow you to find and play it when you need it.
Best White Creature Tutors
#4. Forerunner of the Legion
One of the tutors that leave the card on top of your library, Forerunner of the Legion is a strong (if limited) tutor. Only finding vampires mostly restricts this card to vampire tribal, but it can find some powerful value cards like Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose and Edgar, Charmed Groom.
#3. Ranger of Eos
Ranger of Eos is a little expensive, but it makes up for it by finding you two cards. Only finding creatures that cost one can seem a bit restrictive, but there are some fantastic hits like Soul Warden, Esper Sentinel, and Sylvan Safekeeper to name a few.
It’s an ETB ability so you can also flicker the Ranger to get multiple triggers.
#2. Recruiter of the Guard
Finding a creature with two or less toughness is far less of a restriction than a creature with a mana value of one. Recruiter of the Guard has been a mainstay of Legacy Death & Taxes thanks to its ability to hit a wide range of utility creatures like Mother of Runes and Skyclave Apparition.
Even though it only gets one card, the wider range lets this edge out Ranger of Eos.
#1. Ranger-Captain of Eos
The Ranger is promoted to Captain and becomes the best white creature tutor. Ranger-Captain of Eos only grabs one creature, but its second ability makes it much better than the other options.
This card is a tutor and can stop an opponent from winning the game, or stopping you from winning the game. It’s hard to beat a creature with two powerful abilities on an efficient body.
Best Blue Creature Tutors
#2. Phantom Carriage
Phantom Carriage is quite expensive for a tutor, but it provides a reasonable amount of pressure as a 4/4 flier. It’s also pretty flexible. It can find creatures with disturb and dump them into your graveyard to let you get them back or find a flashback spell for extra value and a range of options.
#1. Higure, the Still Wind
Higure, the Still Wind is also pretty specific, but it does its thing quite well. Ninjutsu practically guarantees one trigger of Higure’s ability, but its activated ability lets you hit your opponents over and over to keep tutoring.
A repeatable tutor effect like this is quite strong.
Best Black Creature Tutors
#5. Shadow-Rite Priest
Clerics are a creature type that picked up several new cards over the past few years, with Shadow-Rite Priest pulling double duty as a lord effect and a tutor.
It’s also got the benefit of being repeatable and acting as a sacrifice outlet. The flexibility of finding any black creature makes this card great.
#4. Shadowborn Apostle
Shadowborn Apostle might be one of the most iconic creature tutors in Magic. It takes a bit of setup to make the ability work, but one mana and a few 1/1s are a small price to pay to put a demon directly into play.
It might be more meme-y than good, but this is still the coolest way to get a 1-mana Griselbrand.
#3. Corpse Harvester
Zombie tribal is pretty good, pretty cool, and has a pretty nice tutor. Corpse Harvester also makes you sacrifice creatures, but its tutor ability finds you two cards and is pretty cheap.
It’s not hard to find zombies that want to be sacrificed or end up with a surplus of tokens shambling about. Finding Swamps is also a nice touch, ensuring you have the mana to cast all the zombies you find.
#2. Corpse Connoisseur
One thing black is good at is getting creatures back from the graveyard, and Corpse Connoisseur sets this up beautifully. It’s a little expensive but has a relevant creature type and an okay statline.
Unearth also lets you get the ability twice, and it works well with other self-mill cards.
#1. Buried Alive
Buried Alive is similar to Corpse Connoisseur, except it gets you three bodies in the ‘yard for far less mana. Filling your graveyard quickly is exactly what black wants to do, and this adds a total of four cards. It gives you a variety of creatures to either recur or reanimate for a nice touch of flexibility.
Best Red Creature Tutors
#6. Dragon’s Approach
Like Shadowborn Apostle, Dragon’s Approach is more fun than good, but it does have a pretty powerful effect. Having no board impact weakens this card, but finding dragons and putting them into play is strong.
You also don’t have to cast five copies of Dragon’s Approach since only the fifth copy has to resolve. You can get the others into your graveyard via other methods like mill or discard.
#5. Deathbellow War Cry
Eight mana is a ton for a tutor, but putting four creatures into play with it effectively nets you mana. Deathbellow War Cry is another hyper-specific, tribal-focused tutor, but it puts in some serious work.
This adds a lot of pressure to the board in a single turn and could even kill a player with some haste shenanigans. Keep in mind that Maskwood Nexus is a legal card.
#4. Sarkhan’s Triumph
There seems to be a pattern in red creature tutors: finding specific creature types, mostly dragons. Sarkhan’s Triumph is the epitome of fine.
Three mana is a bit much for a tutor, but not unplayable. And only finding dragons is narrow but not unmanageably so. It’s just fine.
#3. Magda, Brazen Outlaw
Yet another dragon tutor, Magda, Brazen Outlaw takes a bit of work to do the tutoring but will put your dragon into play. There’s extra flexibility from the ability to grab artifacts.
Magda also benefits from just being a good card without the tutor ability. Ramping and attacking make this card well-suited to any aggressive deck.
#2. Sarkhan, Dragonsoul
Sarkhan, Dragonsoul also takes some work to get to the tutor. Sarkhan has to be in play for at least three turns, uncontested. But dumping every dragon into play is worth the attempt.
It practically guarantees victory, especially with a Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund. The other loyalty abilities are lackluster, but this is still a fun card.
#1. Imperial Recruiter
Topping off red, Imperial Recruiter hits a wide range of targets while providing a body that can get numerous triggers. One of the best hits is Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to either assemble an infinite combo (hello, Pestermite), or just tutor every turn.
Best Green Creature Tutors
#20. Shared Summons
Five mana is a little much for a tutor, but Shared Summons makes up for it by finding you two cards and being instant speed to let you deploy it at the best time. Only finding creatures with different names isn’t much of a drawback, especially in Commander.
This is also a great card to help find a quick combo. Thassa’s Oracle and Thrasios, Triton Hero just so happen to have different names.
#19. Woodland Bellower
Green is all about deploying big monsters, and Woodland Bellower is a big monster that happens to come with a friend. Putting up to nine mana worth of creatures onto the battlefield for six is a nice mana advantage.
This card offers board presence and is a decent threat, even if you’re getting a smaller value creature like Collector Ouphe that provides an effect rather than a threatening body.
#18. Traverse the Ulvenwald
Traverse the Ulvenwald is very efficient and powerful, but it requires some stringent deckbuilding requirements. You pretty much have to be some flavor of self-mill to reliably enable delirium.
This card has some flexibility by fetching a land, but that doesn’t quite make up for its weakness.
#17. Vivien on the Hunt
Having Birthing Pod on a planeswalker’s uptick is a strong ability, and Vivien on the Hunt proudly sports it. Besides being a powerful tutor that puts your target into play, this card offers card draw and board presence while ticking up to pretty high loyalty.
#16. Fauna Shaman
A repeatable tutor is a strong tutor. You can generally get some tutors back, but Fauna Shaman doesn’t require you to do any extra work. It just asks you to have a few creatures in hand to discard.
The main weakness of this card is that it’s slow and fragile. You can’t use it until the turn after you play it, giving your opponents ample time to remove a measly little 2/2.
#15. Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate
This planeswalker is a house. Unlike Sarkhan, Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate doesn’t require much setup to get its tutor and puts the card right into play. You always downsize whatever creature you find, but that’s fine.
Vivien also helps build out your board state and gives you a pseudo-card draw by letting you play creatures off the top for a well-rounded threat.
#14. Primal Command
Primal Command costs a lot of mana but offers flexibility for the price. Finding a creature and doing another thing is quite strong, especially since this card can tuck one of your opponents’ threats while finding you one of your own.
#13. Defense of the Heart
You generally don’t want your cards to depend on your opponents doing something to work because you can lose value if they don’t, well, do the thing. All Defense of the Heart asks of your opponents is to play some creatures, which is a pretty safe bet.
Dropping the two best creatures in your deck into play is great. You’re still getting value if your opponents decide to limit the number of creatures they play to avoid triggering this card.
#12. Protean Hulk
Protean Hulk is a heck of a tutor and was once on the Commander banlist. This card is so good because it’s a combo in a can.
There are a lot of ways to turn this effect into an infinite combo, especially with cards like Flash that let you sacrifice it. Dropping this onto the battlefield makes everybody at the table stiffen up and pay attention.
#11. Tooth and Nail
Tooth and Nail hits hard. Two Eldrazi for a measly nine mana is well above rate.
That said, this card’s cost makes it pretty narrow. You really want to be paying its entwine cost because neither effect is worth the rate at seven mana. It also lacks early-game flexibility and gets stranded in your hand quite easily.
#10. Eldritch Evolution
Eldritch Evolution is a pretty powerful and interesting little card. There’s room for a two-for-one if it gets countered, but the effect is worth the risk. Letting you jump up the curve by two mana is really efficient.
Even if you just play this on turn 3 after a 2-drop, you’ve got a 4-mana creature a turn or two before your opponent. It also works great with cards that trigger on ETB or when they die.
#9. Chord of Calling
Two qualifiers for being a great tutor include getting to play it at instant speed and putting the tutored target into play. Chord of Calling hits both notes. It’s a little expensive at , but convoke makes up for that rather nicely.
Altogether it’s a very powerful card and well worth a slot in the top 10 creature tutors.
#8. Summoner’s Pact
Finding the card you need at instant speed is great, and doing it for free is even better. Sure, you need to pay some mana on your next upkeep, but that’s a price worth paying to find Endurance while your opponent’s Reanimate is on the stack.
Plus, you don’t have to pay the mana if you simply win the turn you cast the Pact.
#7. Green Sun’s Zenith
Too good for Modern, Green Sun’s Zenith is a little restrictive because it only finds green creatures. But they go straight into play, and having X in the mana cost makes this relevant at basically every point of the game.
Even on turn 1 it fetches up a Dryad Arbor before shuffling back into your library so you can find it again and again. Only adding a single green to a creature’s mana cost makes this incredibly efficient.
#6. Survival of the Fittest
Survival of the Fittest benefits from being a repeatable tutor. Discarding creature cards isn’t too costly in a creature-centric deck and can even be beneficial when paired with black.
Being an enchantment also makes this card hard to interact with, enabling plenty of turns of tutors.
#5. Finale of Devastation
Finale of Devastation is super powerful because it can find a finisher or be a finisher. Getting to 12 mana isn’t that hard in a green deck and lets Finale become a devastating spell.
Getting to search your graveyard and your library is a nice finishing touch in case the card you need is countered or killed earlier in the game.
#4. Sylvan Tutor
Cheap tutors are strong, and it doesn’t get much cheaper than one mana. Sylvan Tutor doesn’t restrict what you can grab, doesn’t cost much mana, and is about as efficient a tutor as you could hope for (short of putting the card on the field or in your hand).
The only downside to this card is being sorcery speed.
#3. Worldly Tutor
Worldly Tutor does all the same things as Sylvan Tutor, but at instant speed. Your opponents have far less time (if any) to react to your decision, and it lets you change your gameplan in response to what your opponents are doing.
#2. Birthing Pod
Birthing Pod is good enough to be banned in Modern and is worth checking out in other formats. There are some deckbuilding requirements here, though. You need to have a good “Pod curve” so that your creatures always turn into something bigger and better. Bigger and better for one mana and two life is worth building around.
The fact that the tutored card comes into play is the icing on the cake, letting you find creatures with game-breaking ETBs before trading them off for something better.
#1. Natural Order
It doesn’t get much better than tutoring cards straight into play with very few restrictions. Any green creature is more than enough for Natural Order to be an absurd card.
4-mana Craterhoof Behemoth tends to end games quickly. This card can also find silver bullets in a pinch, like a Reclamation Sage to remove a troublesome enchantment or an Acidic Slime to shut down an opposing Cabal Coffers.
Natural Order is just one of the best tutors available.
Best Multicolored Creature Tutors
#13. Samut, the Tested
Samut, the Tested has a lot of interesting potential as a tutor. It’s also pretty flexible, letting you find creatures or planeswalkers.
The main drawback is that it takes so long for it to reach enough loyalty to ultimate, and its other abilities are pretty underwhelming.
#12. Rushed Rebirth
This is a pretty unique card. Rushed Rebirth can turn a death into life.
You’re trading down on a creature, but this spell is cheap enough that it won’t matter too much. You have to play it in a sacrifice-heavy deck because you can’t rely on your opponents killing your creatures when it’s convenient for you.
This is a bit of a weaker card overall.
#11. Enigmatic Incarnation
Birthing Pod effects are really powerful. Enigmatic Incarnation doesn’t require any mana input to operate, but it has some stringent deckbuilding requirements. You don’t just have to balance a curve of creatures, but also one of enchantments.
That said, this kind of ability is worth building around.
#10. Congregation at Dawn
Congregation at Dawn is just three Worldly Tutors in a trench coat. It’s a lot of value for three mana, and being an instant offers a lot of flexibility (when you cast it, at least).
Giving up your ability to draw noncreature spells for at least three turns can be awkward if you’re missing land drops or looking for interaction, though. It also gives your opponents a lot of information about what your next couple of turns will look like.
#9. Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer
A flexible tutor that puts a card straight into play is really good because it’s relevant at all points in the game. Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer is basically Chord of Calling that can go in the command zone.
#8. Altar of Bone
Altar of Bone is a very interesting card in the context of its colors. Selesnya () doesn’t normally get much in the way of sacrifice outlets.
This card is pretty good because it pairs best with a wide board of tokens, but two mana and a creature isn’t the worst cost to pay for a tutor effect.
#7. Fiend Artisan
Fiend Artisan is in colors you’d expect a sacrifice outlet from. This card can generate a lot of value. It’s kind of like Birthing Pod, but it rewards you based on the amount of mana you feed into it rather than the creature you sacrifice.
It’s great with tokens and smaller creatures and can also grow into an intimidating threat itself.
#6. Jarad’s Orders
I’ve discussed how black creature tutors often benefit from the creatures going into the graveyard, and Jarad’s Orders is no exception. Pitching a card into your graveyard isn’t a drawback in black, really making this a tutor for two creatures.
#5. Momir Vig, Simic Visionary
Worldly Tutor is a good card, so why not get as many goes at it as possible?
Momir Vig, Simic Visionary lets you Worldly Tutor any time you cast a green spell. It pairs especially well with Simic () creatures as both abilities trigger, letting you draw the card you tutored up.
#4. Nahiri, the Harbinger
We’ve seen a couple planeswalkers that put creatures into play, but Nahiri, the Harbinger takes the cake because it gives them haste. You have to recast the card, but that’s not a huge deal when you’ve dropped an Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and gotten that annihilator trigger. Getting artifacts also offers nice flexibility.
Remember when Neoform broke Modern with turn 2 Griselbrand? Even outside of the combo potential, this is a cheaper version of the already good Eldritch Evolution.
Adding the +1/+1 counter is just the icing on the cake.
#2. Prime Speaker Vannifar
This list has Birthing Pod, Birthing Pod on a planeswalker, and now Birthing Pod on a stick! Rather like Rocco, the big appeal of Prime Speaker Vannifar is getting this effect in the command zone, giving you instant access and making it harder to conclusively remove.
Not to mention that being a creature lets Vannifar work with cards like Bounding Krasis and Great Oak Guardian to rapidly climb up your mana curve.
#1. Eladamri’s Call
Eladamri’s Call is just incredibly efficient. It only costs two mana, doesn’t have restrictions, puts the card right into your hand, and is an instant.
Short of putting the tutor target on the battlefield, this card takes all the best abilities we’ve seen and rolls them into a single package.
Best Colorless Creature Tutors
#4. Citanul Flute
Citanul Flute is a functional creature tutor. It’s repeatable and colorless, but it just costs too much. Five mana on top of effectively paying for the creature you find twice is so much mana.
This could be interesting in a shell that generates infinite mana or greatly reduces the cost of activated abilities, but it’s weak elsewhere.
#3. Eye of Ugin
Eye of Ugin offers a lot more than just a tutor. Finding just Eldrazi is pretty narrow, as is its cost-reduction ability.
This is a house in Eldrazi tribal though.
#2. Conduit of Ruin
Conduit of Ruin isn’t literally an Eldrazi-focused card, but it’s pretty close. It works well in conjunction with artifacts, and the ramp it offers the first creature you cast is pretty significant.
This card still needs a rather focused shell looking to cast big colorless creatures.
#1. Pyre of Heroes
To finish things off, here’s Birthing Pod, Tribal Edition.
Pyre of Heroes gets better in conjunction with how deep your chosen tribe goes. There are a ton of elves to find but dogs are a much narrower archetype, making this narrower.
Best Creature Tutor Payoffs
The best payoffs for creature tutors are hyper-specific creatures. For example, Collector Ouphe is a card I’ve referred to several times. It wins single-handedly in some games, but does nothing on other board states.
Access to creature tutors gives you access to situational cards like the Ouphe more often, increasing your deck’s consistency and its winrate. Tutors are also great at shutting the door, ensuring you have access to your finishers the turn you want to finish the game. There’s a reason Natural Order usually finds a Craterhoof Behemoth.
Jarad’s Orders | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov
Here endeth the lesson.
The consistency tutors grant your decks makes them a must-have, especially in formats like Commander. They’re only as strong as the cards they find, and their cost is something to consider. Tutoring for a card basically combines the mana costs of the tutor and the card being found.
Tutors are incredibly powerful and versatile on the whole. Creature tutors are especially strong because of how important they are to the vast majority of deck’s gameplans. Even spellslinger strategies have some valuable creatures.
What do you think of the rankings? Did I miss anything? Which are your favorite creature tutors to use in your decks? Let me know in the comments below or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
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