Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury - Illustration by Jaime Jones

Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury | Illustration by Jaime Jones

Deckbuilding in MTG is always a game of finding the right cards to complement the right strategy that you want to play towards. For example, you might be building a deck based on effects that trigger when they enter the battlefield. You’re probably looking for several things. You probably want to add a heap of effects that look for your creatures entering, a helping of effects that can double up your triggers, and to top it all off you can add a dash of the dash mechanic. Eh? No? Okay, moving on.

Dash is a fun mechanic for more than one reason. It can either help you stay on curve or mitigate negative effects on creatures that have it. They can surprise an opponent for that last point of damage that you need for the win or help facilitate decks that like to see creatures enter the battlefield to trigger other effects.

And if you’re here that means you’re looking for some advice on picking out the best dash creatures to add to your list. If that’s the case, you’re in luck! If that’s not the case, well, you’re still in luck because you’ll have the knowledge for when you inevitably do need to include some dash creatures.

So let’s get right to it!

What Are Dash Creatures in MTG?

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer - Illustration by Simon Dominic

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer | Illustration by Simon Dominic

Dash is a mechanic that allows the player to cast creatures with it for an alternate casting cost. Upon paying the dash cost the creature gains haste, but it returns to its owner’s hand at the end of the turn.

There are other creatures that mimic the dash ability. Some of these appeared all the way back in the Visions expansion, like Viashino Sandstalker. While there are a lot of cards like that, they’re very different from creatures that actually have the dash mechanic.

For the sake of ranking fairly today I’m exclusively looking at creatures with dash since they’re designed differently than other creatures with similar effects. Dash creatures have an alternate casting cost thanks to their mechanic, while creatures like Glitterfang don’t.

#20. Kolaghan Skirmisher

Kolaghan Skirmisher

Kolaghan Skirmisher is pretty simple. It doesn’t do anything special, and its dash cost is more than its original cost. At its base it’s a 2-drop for a 2/2. I’d rather just pay that and force my opponent to remove the body from the board than pay more for a creature that doesn’t stick around and will probably just be blocked and killed.

#19. Alesha’s Vanguard

Alesha's Vanguard

I can appreciate Alesha’s Vanguard. Its base cost is more than its dash cost, which lets you bring it out earlier in your curve. It’s a 3/3, decent for a card that costs four mana, but you’re getting a 3/3 with haste for three mana when you pay its dash cost.

If you dashed this on turn 3 and then hard played it on turn 4 then you’ve managed to get a lot of value with one card over the course of two turns.

#18. Mardu Scout

Mardu Scout

Mardu Scout is ahead of Alesha’s Vanguard here for a few reasons. It costs less across the board and its dash cost enables a more diverse land base. Its base cost is which can be hard to cast in a multicolor deck, but its dash cost fixes as .

Not only is the dash cost more color friendly, it also has the same mana value as its base cost, allowing you to play it out on turn 2. Its stats are 3/1 so it dies easily, but it’s basically a Lightning Strike that you can keep casting every turn and you know it can get through for the damage if you’re swinging into a clear board.

#17. Screamreach Brawler

Screamreach Brawler

Coming in ahead of Mardu Scout is Screamreach Brawler. A 2/3 creature for three mana isn’t bad, but it’s also a very safe dash. It’ll be hard for your opponents to kill it through combat if you’re casting it on turn 2 for its dash cost. And if they really want it gone they’ll waste removal on it, which is always good.

But it boils down to the Brawler being harder to kill than the Scout, and it acts the same as the Vanguard as a means to dash on one turn and play on another. All this gives you a chance to draw into some more effective cards while your opponent deals with this one creature.

#16. Sprinting Warbrute

Sprinting Warbrute

I like Sprinting Warbrute from its stats alone. I’d rarely suggest casting it for its base cost. Its dash is cheaper, and this is a fantastic way to make your opponent burn up their burn or use some removal late in the game.

If you’re dedicated, Warbrute is a big and chunky 5/4 that your opponent won’t want to take damage from. And it’ll come back to your hand and threaten your opponent again on the next turn if it doesn’t die.

#15. Kolaghan Forerunners

Kolaghan Forerunners

Kolaghan Forerunners isn’t my favorite, but it can be very big and it has trample. Its base and dash costs are no different, and that’s fine. It’s a great late-game card if you have a large board since its power is dependent on the number of creatures you control.

But, by that same token, you have no reason to include this if you expect a lot of removal from your opposition. It’ll never be as big as you want it to be, which is why it’s sitting here at #15 on the list.

#14. Pitiless Horde

Pitiless Horde

Pitiless Horde is in the same situation as Sprinting Warbrute, but a little better. It’s a strong 5/3 that you can put on the board for three mana if you need to, but you’ll lose two life on each of your upkeeps. Its dash cost is , the same total as Warbrute’s, but you can mitigate that life loss and still get to swing with a 5/3 with the same logic.

The big reason that Horde is here instead of Warbrute is because it’s got great stats for a creature that costs . Not to mention that there are cards out there that reward you for losing life. This can find a home in more than just one place.

#13. Treetop Ambusher

Treetop Ambusher

This is nothing too special, but it does something every time it attacks which is what we like to see. You’re better off playing Treetop Ambusher normally, but you can still benefit from its dash. It can either swing as a 3/2 or grant another creature a +1/+1 buff for the turn, which is always nice.

The Ambusher is ranked at #13 because it allows you to use one card for a turn or two to gain value and deal damage just like Alesha’s Vanguard or Screamreach Brawler. But it’s better in the sense that it can grant one of your other creatures a little extra power if you want to swing with something else but don’t want it to die.

#12. Zurgo Bellstriker

Zurgo Bellstriker

Zurgo Bellstriker is super simple in its contributions. Sure, a 2/2 for two when dashing is fine, but it’s a fantastic turn 1 play if this is in your opening hand. Doesn’t matter if it can’t block large creatures, a 2/2 for is fantastic since red decks pride themselves on being fast and dealing as much damage as they can for as little a cost as possible.

The Bellstriker’s superior stats alone put it closer to the middle of the list.

#11. Mardu Shadowspear

Mardu Shadowspear

Mardu Shadowspear takes its spot ahead of the Bellstriker by way of forced life loss. It doesn’t matter if it gets blocked, your opponents still lose one life. It can be played on turn 1 and that extra damage can really add up if your opponent refuses to deal with it.

#10. Reckless Imp

Reckless Imp

Reckless Imp is fantastic for more reasons than one. Good stats as a 2/2 flier for three mana, and its dash cost allows it to dash on turn 2 and be played on turn 3 to get lots of value out of it.

The Imp is also a very safe evasive damage tactic. If your opponent doesn’t deal with it on your turn and they have no way to block it, you can just keep dashing this to guarantee two damage each turn. It can’t block because it’s not meant to block. It’s heavily encouraged to just dash it over and over for steady damage.

#9. Lightning Berserker

Lightning Berserker

Finally down to the single digits with Lightning Berserker. Yet another 1/1 for one mana with a nice ability tagged onto it. It can get as big as you need it to get to slam into your opponent or their creatures for lots of damage in the late game.

#8. Ambuscade Shaman

Ambuscade Shaman

Ambuscade Shaman is super nice to have in several situations, earning it a spot in the single digits. It’ll just stick on the field as a way to buff other creatures that enter the battlefield if you play it for , which is super synergistic with other dash cards.

And if you dash it, you’re paying for a 4/4 with haste. That’s just good. Since it can either be a large swinger or a means to an end with other dash creatures, it’s more than welcome to take its place among the top 10.

#7. Mardu Strike Leader

Mardu Strike Leader

Getting farther into the good stuff, I love Mardu Strike Leader. I don’t care about its base or dash cost here. Those are pretty average. What’s lovely is that it leaves behind a token every time it attacks.

It’s great to just keep dashing the Strike Leader over and over and over to build your board while dishing out damage. This is the one dash creature that makes a permanent contribution to your board presence.

#6. Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury

Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury

Alas, we reach Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury at #6 on the roster. Almost making that top five, Kolaghan boasts an identical base and dash cost of , 4/5 stats, and flying. It also buffs all your creatures by +1/+0 whenever a dragon you control attacks. That means it’ll trigger its own effect, and it just gets better if you’re playing more dragons.

The evasion the Storm’s Fury has means it’s at least five damage that’s hard to block, and its dash is a good way to avoid sorcery-speed removal without losing its fantastic effect.

#5. Goblin Heelcutter

Goblin Heelcutter

Some okay stats at for a 3/2, and Goblin Heelcutter‘s dash is . Its strength exclusively lies in its ability to prevent a target creature from blocking for the turn. This can really turn a bad swing into a fantastic one by making sure your opponent’s strongest creature can’t just freely kill whatever it wants. It saves your board state and makes your opponent block more uncomfortably.

The Heelcutter earns its spot as the fifth best dash creature for its tide-turning ability.

#4. Vaultbreaker

Vaultbreaker

Here comes Vaultbreaker in fourth place, once more mostly for its ability. for a 4/2 is okay at best, but for a 4/2 with haste is a lot better. Even better is that you can loot when it attacks.

Card draw is always nice. You’d generally prefer regular card draw over looting, but looting still gives you the chance to get rid of some dead cards in your hand, so I think we can all agree that Vaultbreaker is a solid dash creature.

#3. Flamerush Rider

Flamerush Rider

Flamerush Rider is awesome. It’s taking the #3 place for several reasons.

I don’t recommend casting it for its base cost of , but its dash cost of for a 3/3 with haste is perfectly fine. Where it really shines is its ability to create a token copy of another attacking creature that you control when it attacks. The token is exiled at the end of combat, but it’s going to make waves if you copy a super dangerous card that your opponent was already having a difficult time dealing with.

#2. Warbringer

Warbringer

Warbringer might look weaker than Flamerush, and it is. Its ability doesn’t copy anything or draw cards. But it’s still infinitely more valuable if you’re playing dash creatures.

It’s a 3/3 for and it dashes for . That’s pretty solid, but it really shines when you’ve got other dash creatures in your hand since it reduces dash costs by while it’s on the field. This means a lot of previously decent dash creatures get better by a large margin just because it costs less to cast them, meaning you can do more for less. Never pass that up. Ever.

#1. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer MH2

Did you really expect anything else? Ragavan can do it all!

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is a 2/1 body for , or it gains haste and costs if you dash it. You create a Treasure token and exile the top card of that player’s library whenever Ragavan deals damage to a player. What’s more, you can cast that card until the end of the turn.

And if you’re about to say, “I can’t always cast it because it might not cost red mana,” I’m going to remind you that you get to make a Treasure token at the same time. It doesn’t matter what you exile, you can probably cast it. At the very least that’s a card your opponent will never get to see again.

Ragavan offers such absurd value for so little cost that it’s hard to not call it the best dash creature to grace the Multiverse.

Why is Dash Good?

Flamerush Rider - Illustration by Min Yum

Flamerush Rider | Illustration by Min Yum

Dash enables a lot. It can fill spaces in your curve and make one card last for a long time in a hand that might not have a lot of plays, giving you time to draw more. You also get to attack the turn the creature hits the field to pressure your opponent.

A lot of enters- and leaves-the-battlefield triggers can be abused by dash creatures since they do both in one turn. The creature is immune to sorcery-speed removal, and the dash cost is optional on top of it all. Not to mention that you don’t have to cast it for its dash cost since you can just hardcast it if that works out better.

Dash’s overall versatility makes it extremely potent when played properly, which might be why we don’t see the mechanic super often. Such a potentially powerful mechanic enforces a lot of rules in the design space of cards with it, but at the same time it allows for super unique interactions if done right.

Is Dash a Spell?

Dash is an alternate casting cost to the creature that it’s on. So, yes, but also no. It doesn’t count separately from the creature itself, nor is it some other spell you have to cast. Dash allows you to cast the dash creature for an alternate cost, so the spell is still that creature, just cast for a (usually) different cost.

Is Dash an Instant?

Dash doesn’t change when you can cast your creatures. If you can give flash to a creature with dash then you can cast it at instant speed, but otherwise you have to abide by the same rules for when the dash creature can be cast.

Does Dash Count as Cast?

Yes, paying the dash cost for a creature counts as casting it, just for an alternate cost. The reminder text for dash states that “you can cast this spell for its dash cost,” which is relatively self-explanatory. It can still be countered and interact with the stack like the spell normally would if it was cast for its original cost.

Does Dash Change Mana Value?

The mana value of a card and the mana paid to cast a card are not linked, and a card’s mana value is always the total of the mana symbols on the top right of the card. Dashing Ragavan for two doesn’t make its mana value two.

Is Dash an Activated Ability?

Dash is a static ability that works in any zone of the game when casting the card. It just allows for an alternate cost to be paid.

Can You Dash from the Command Zone?

Yes, you can dash from the command zone. But dashing is still casting the spell, so you’re still going to be adding the extra cost to the commander tax when you cast a creature from the command zone using its dash cost.

Do You Pay Commander Tax on Dash?

Since dashing is still casting the spell just for a different cost, you still add the appropriate commander tax onto the cost that you pay when you dash based on how many times you already cast the commander.

Does Cost Reduction Like Animar Affect Dash?

Animar, Soul of Elements

Yes, cost reduction affects dash. While dash is an alternate casting cost, it’s still a casting cost. That means it’s subject to any changes in casting cost that it would be subject to with its normal cost, like with Animar, Soul of Elements.

Dashing to The Finish

Zurgo Bellstriker - Illustration by Jason Rainville

Zurgo Bellstriker | Illustration by Jason Rainville

All right everyone, it would seem that we’ve reached the end. What do you think? Are there any dash creatures that you’d rearrange on the list? Are there any favorites that you like in particular? Feel free to discuss and ask questions down in the comments or over in the Draftsim Discord.

This is a mechanic that I think has a lot of potential to return in small bursts as time goes on, and I hope it does. It’s been fun going over it with you all!

Stay safe everyone, and I’ll see you back here on the next one!

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