Last updated on October 14, 2022
Volrath, the Shapestealer | Illustration by Heonhwa Choe
Creature types in MTG started as a mere detail in the card’s layout. But today the first thing you look at when you see a new card is probably the creature type.
What colors is each type most present in? What’s the most powerful creature type? Let’s find out!
Dack’s Duplicate | Illustration by Karl Kopinski
According to a big list that includes types that appear on tokens there are 261 different creature types. If you only consider types that appear on creature cards, the list is shortened to 226 creature types.
Humans are the most common creature type with more than 2,000 cards. Other very abundant types are soldiers, wizards, warriors, zombies, elementals, and spirits with more than 450 cards each.
In MTG’s first set, Alpha, creature types were used for flavor-related reasons and rarely impacted the game. The first cards to care about the type of creature were lords like Lord of Atlantis. But those interactions were few and far between.
After the printing of cards cards like Icatian Lieutenant, Dwarven Soldier, and Goblin Chirurgeon in the Fallen Empires set, players realized that there was another factor that mattered besides the color of the card and the mana cost. That factor was the creature type.
The “slivers” card type was later introduced in the Tempest block. Slivers are creatures that give value for all the sliver card types in the game (yes, even your opponents). Sliver decks were all the rage back in the Tempest block but, funnily enough, if you were playing slivers you didn’t want to see any on the other side of the table because your opponent would also benefit from your abilities.
According to WotC’s article on the creature type update, there was a debate about issuing an errata on creature types because it would create a lot of confusion concerning old cards. For example, let’s say I’m playing Samite Healer from Fifth Edition whose creature type is “summon cleric.” But my deck has human tribal synergies, so I need to explain to my opponent that Samite Healer is now also a human.
On the other hand this was a tipping point for creature types. The Lorwyn block was already being designed, and that set had cards that cared about creature types and subtypes. So the policy was defined to “update the creature card type whenever the card was reprinted.”
Wizards published the Grand Creature Type update in 2007 to inform and update players on the criteria and considerations to define the new creature types on MTG cards. The main items are detailed down below, quoted from WotC’s official article:
- “Creatures without creature types got some creature types.” Some artifacts creature cards just said “summon artifact” and some legendary creature cards said “summon legend.” For example, the first printing of Rorix Bladewing was a “Creature – Dragon Legend,” but this was changed to “Legendary Creature – Dragon.”
- “Creatures that lacked races got a race.” Samite Healer was a cleric but is now a human cleric. In fact, creatures that were clearly human in the art got the human subtype added.
- “Creatures that lacked an obvious class got a class.” Cards that only had a race, like Elvish Archer, got an appropriate class subtype added. In this case it was “archer.”
- “Obsolete creature types were eliminated.” Cards that look like birds are considered birds (but not vultures), cards that look like beasts are considered beasts, etc.
Overall, this was a huge project. A total of 1197 cards changed in the creature type update. 146 creature types were eliminated, and 8 were added, to leave the final list at 216 creature types.WotC
Almost every set that came after the great 2007 update introduced new creature types.
- Lorwyn: Noggle
- Magic 2010: Siren
- Zendikar: Ally, Surrakar, Eldrazi
- Scars of Mirrodin: Hippogriff, Germ, Praetor
- Innistrad: Werewolf
- Theros: God, Sable, Lamia, Nymph
- Khans of Tarkir: Naga
- Battle for Zendikar: Scion, Processor
- Shadows over Innistrad: Mole
- Kaladesh: Aetherborn, Pilot, Servo, Monkey
- Amonkhet: Jackal
- Ixalan: Trilobite, Dinosaur
- Battlebond: Azra
- Core Set 2019: Egg
- War of the Spark: Army
- Commander 2019: Sculpture
- Throne of Eldraine: Mouse, Peasant, Warlock, Noble
- Theros: Beyond Death: Demigod, Tentacle
- Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths: Otter, Shark
- Core Set 2021: Dog
- Kaldheim: Phyrexian
- Strixhaven: School of Mages: Inkling, Fractal
- Modern Horizons 2: Ranger, Phyrexian creature type update
- Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms: Bard, Beholder, Gnoll, Halfling, Hamster Tiefling
Some creature types have also been removed over the years. Anteater has been completely removed while hounds are now considered dogs.
This table by Reddit user Not_Quite_Vertical is too awesome not to include. It covers only legal black-bordered cards, so cards from Un-sets and silver-bordered cards aren’t included.
Have fun analyzing this table as much as I did! It shows the type of creatures by card count, average mana values, and in which color each creature type is most represented.
The best creature type is hard to define, but some metrics can be used to narrow it down:
- If you’re looking for creature types that make good creature-focused (i.e., tribal) decks then you probably want goblins, humans, or elves. You can definitely find decks with these creature types in lots of competitive formats like Pioneer, Modern, and Legacy.
- If you’re looking for creature types that have the most individual powerful cards then dragons, angels, demons, and sphinxes are good choices. These are usually printed at rare and mythic rare rarities.
- If you’re looking for creature types that have the most creature type synergy, you can’t go wrong with elves, goblins, zombies, human, ally, vampires, and slivers.
- In terms of powerful Constructed decks, your best options are humans, goblins, or dragons.
- If you’re looking for big creatures, then your best choices are dinosaurs, hydras, giants, or beasts.
Creature types that are present on only one card are usually the weirdest. Elder Spawn is the only “spawn” type creature. The “trilobite” card type is also very weird. Last but not least is the creature type “bringer,” present on a cycle of cards in Fifth Dawn.
Legendary is actually a “supertype,” not a creature type or subtype.
Not all shapeshifters are all creature types, just the ones that are also changelings. This ability states that the creature is all creature types at once. All cards printed with the changeling ability are shapeshifters but there are lots of shapeshifters that aren’t changelings, like Aetherling and Altered Ego.
Realmwalker | Illustration by Zack Stella
Well, that’s a lot to process! Ever since the introduction of creature types in Magic’s rules, tribal decks and decks that focus on a specific creature type have been incredibly popular. There are lots of tribal Commander decks too, from Edgar Markov’s vampires to Krenko, the Mob Boss’ goblins.
If your favorite MTG creature type is badly represented or doesn’t have enough good cards to make a tribal deck, don’t worry! Changelings can always be used to fill up the ranks, and there’s bound to be a future set that’ll provide more cards at some point.
What are some of your favorite creature types? Are there any that you hope get some more support soon, or even an entirely new creature type you’d like to see printed? Let me know in the comments down below or tweet at us.
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