Last updated on March 30, 2023
Omnath, Locus of Creation (Promo) | Illustration by John Tedrick
Elementals are a tribe that’s been around for most of Magic’s history, but they’ve really come into their own in the last five years or so. They exist across all colors and can care about pretty much anything, but many have a strong affinity for lands.
Which are the best elementals out there? How can you use them to their best, and what are the sweet things you can do with them? Let’s jump in and find out!
What Are Elementals in MTG?
Fury | Illustration by Raoul Vitale
Elemental is a creature type in Magic that represents the embodiment of an element of the plane they’re on. They first appeared in the very first Magic set, representing the four elements as Air Elemental, Earth Elemental, Fire Elemental and Water Elemental. Since then they’ve been seen on a huge variety of planes, from the fairytale land of Lorwyn as the Flamekin to the relatively modern-day Capenna as representations of the life on that plane.
Elementals exist across all colors depending on the aspect of the plane they’re representing. Sometimes it’s a green nature or land elemental, or you might have a black death-aligned elemental, etc. It all depends on the nature of the creature.
There are lots of elementals, both classic ones from Magic’s history and newcomers that benefit from the general power creep of recent years. I’ve ranked my picks mostly on power level, but sometimes a particularly interesting or cool card creeps in.
Honorable Mention: Infinity Elemental
One of the coolest ideas I’ve seen for a creature is Infinity Elemental. The best part about it is that it’s not particularly broken!
Of course, “going infinite” with this card is pretty trivial. It’s actually kind of fine as a creature that can attack. Funny things happen when you give it lifelink, but that’s just part of the fun!
This is a super interesting design that will probably never show up in a black-bordered set, but it absolutely deserved a mention.
Aethersnipe is a classic card that’s often seen as a powerhouse in Limited. It’s also one of those cards you might not guess is an elemental!
This is “evoke elemental” from before that phrase became scary in Modern, so it’s a few steps down from that in terms of power level. It’s often just as scary in Limited. Bouncing any nonland permanent is always a powerful effect, and the ability to reanimate or blink it once it’s on the battlefield is super strong. A common sight in many Cubes out there.
Another original evoke elemental, Mulldrifter is seen in much the same way as Aethersnipe. It’s at worst a Divination, which may have been power crept out of Limited these days but can still be good. You can bring this back super easily, and blinking it is just card advantage heaven.
And the body on this is far from nothing. Even modern sets see an occasional 3/3 flier with no text for five. This doesn’t quite have those stats, but you get two cards to go with it!
#38. Chandra’s Spitfire
Here’s the first elemental that actually feels like an elemental. Chandra's Spitfire was part of the suite of elementals that were brought in with M20.
It didn’t see as much play in the elemental decks of that era, but mono-red burn decks made good use of it. Doing a great impression of Kiln Fiend, it’s a solid finisher in a deck filled with burn spells and other ways to ping your opponent!
Reveillark is a super interesting card. A rare case of an evoke card having a cost that’s less than its mana value can set up all kinds of shenanigans.
It’s got the odd cost because it cares about leaving the battlefield rather than entering it. It still loves to be blinked, though, and returning something like Charming Prince to flicker the Reveillark is simply bonkers. Not to mention that lots of the other elementals on this list have some pretty good ETB effects.
Vesperlark is the younger sibling of Reveillark, but it’s got the potential to be even more powerful because it’s cheaper.
This caused some waves in Historic when it first came out mainly because it was brought out around the same time as Davriel's Withering. If you cast withering in response targeting the Vesperlark, it could target itself with its ability to cause an infinite loop where it died and came back.
This lead to a rebalancing so you can no longer do it. Still, there’s lots of value in this little 3-drop.
Hitting a bit of a theme here with the white elementals, Flickerwisp is another great combo or synergy piece that sees play in multiple formats.
A 3/1 flier for three is already fine. It can take out a key blocker for a turn in an aggro deck, and it can trigger one of your ETBs again in a deck that cares about that. A key point is that it can target any other permanent, including lands.
One of my favorite things to do in Limited is to flicker my opponent’s bounce lands (like Boros Garrison). When the land comes back, they need to bounce another land to their hand. Value!
#34. Runaway Steam-Kin
Runaway Steam-Kin is one of those cards that’s always crying out to be broken (and it isn’t the last one!) There are so many ways to make this an infinite mana source. On top of that you can just make it a solid beater as a 2-mana 4/4.
Originally seen in aggro decks, sometimes paired with Experimental Frenzy, it now sees some play in storm builds with Birgi, God of Storytelling. It’s not currently in any game-breaking decks, but it feels like it’s just a matter of time…
#33. Chandra’s Incinerator
Another card crying out to be broken, Chandra's Incinerator maybe hasn’t been broken in half yet. Yet.
I mean, come on! It’s got the potential to be a 1-mana 6/6 with trample. It even makes your burn spells better once in play. It does everything a burn deck wants, it may cost just at a tad too much mana.
#32. Grinning Ignus
We’re on a bit of a combo streak here coming in with Grinning Ignus. This is one of those cards from Future Sight that immediately caught players’ attention and still attracts the eye to this day.
It combos with basically anything that repeatedly creates mana, and it’s fun to boot. The posterchild of many-a jank combo, it was introduced to a whole new generation of Magic players in Strixhaven and remains a fan-favorite “bad card.”
#31. Earthquake Dragon
Earthquake Dragon may be more at home with its other creature type, dragons, but it’s still a powerful elemental worthy of mention.
As potentially a 1-mana flampler (flying and trample), it’d be good enough for some decks if it were just that. The ability to come back to your hand is a great sweetener, and sacrificing lands is something that its elemental brethren sometimes look for.
#30. Cavalier of Dawn
M20 brought a whole host of great elemental cards, including the mythic Cavalier cycle. Cavalier of Dawn is the first to appear here.
It’s got a bit of a Generous Gift feel about it, but its 5-mana value doesn’t quite do it in a lot of decks, even attached to a 4/6 body. There’s still a lot of words on this card, and it has the potential to be quite good someday.
#29. Cavalier of Night
Second up with the Cavalier cycle, Cavalier of Night is a pretty good removal spell if nothing else! A removal spell attached to a 4/5 lifelinker is even better. If you can turn the sac cost into an upside, what’s not to love?
This is definitely at home in some kind of aristocrats deck, and there’s a lot of value in this little rectangle of cardboard.
#28. Fulminator Mage
Not one that’s often seen in Commander, Fulminator Mage has been a key hate piece in 60-card formats. It’s been power crept out of the format now, but this elemental was once worth over $30 and was a staple in decks like Jund ().
#27. Voice of Resurgence
Another card that is past its heyday, Voice of Resurgence is also famous for being pretty much the only card worth pulling out of Dragon’s Maze.
This is a punchy little 2-drop in the right deck and can potentially spawn you an army of fatties. Playing it alongside other token generators was a way to win pretty easily just a few years ago.
#26. Ancient Greenwarden
You know what’s better than a Crucible of Worlds? A Crucible that’s attached to a Panharmonicon for lands. That’s exactly what Ancient Greenwarden is!
There’s lots of synergies available with this, especially since many other elementals also care about lands. Its mana value is probably a bit too high for Constructed formats, but Commander players should absolutely love this one.
#25. Cavalier of Gales
Cavalier of Gales is a big flier attached to a Brainstorm, which is pretty good value in any deck. The payoff when it dies maybe isn’t as good as some others, but there’s no getting around this powerful beater.
This is another card with some great value that doesn’t see a lot of play right now, but I can see a world where this changes.
#24. Cavalier of Flame
Here’s a Cavalier that’s seen a recent uptick in play in Pioneer as the Fires of Invention deck has received a few more tools.
Cavalier of Flame is a pretty good combo piece to use with creatures. Its activated ability gives haste and there’s a whole bunch of other relevant text stapled to it, which all give you tons of ways to close out games. Its ETB trigger helps you find it if you’re going for a combo.
This is one that sees play, and it could see more in years to come.
#23. Omnath, Locus of Rage
The first Omnath on the list, and far from the last. Omnath, Locus of Rage has a special place in my heart as the first card I built an EDH deck around.
With its mish-mash of abilities, this Omnath provides some board presence and, potentially, a way to end the game. Quite often your opponent won’t want to wipe the board because you can bolt them to death with the triggers from this, giving a certain amount of inevitability.
That’s if the 5/5s it creates don’t already give you that, of course!
#22. Animar, Soul of Elements
Animar, Soul of Elements was the Temur () commander at one point. It may have more competition these days, but it’s still up there in popularity.
Getting your big creatures out for cheap is exactly what some players want to do, especially when playing Commander. The combo potential from the cost reduction also appeals to other players, giving this one wide appeal. It’s one that has seen play since it was printed and should continue to for a while.
#21. Titan of Industry
A recent powerhouse that just provides so many options, flexibility is where the power lies with Titan of Industry. Well, that and the 7/7 trampler.
Getting to choose two from the list gives you something to deal with in pretty much any situation. It’s incredibly difficult to lose the game the turn after this comes onto the battlefield. It’s seeing good play in both Standard and Pioneer as both a reanimation target and a ramp payoff, and I can definitely see why.
#20. Omnath, Locus of Mana
One more for the Omnath entries, Omnath, Locus of Mana is the OG!
When this was printed its ability to not lose mana was something players hadn’t seen before. It wasn’t even that long since mana burn left! Giving the benefit of not spending all your mana just seemed crazy. It’s not broken, but this one is super interesting and still pretty unique after all this time.
#19. Maelstrom Wanderermaelstrom Wanderer
Cascade is a mechanic that makes some of our hearts flutter. There’s just something about not knowing what you’re going to hit which makes playing the mechanic incredibly exciting. It’s even cooler to see the keyword printed twice in a row!
Maelstrom Wanderer is a card for people who like to live dangerously. You might hit a couple mana dorks, or you might hit a couple spells for an unexpected game-ending combo, who knows? Giving all your stuff haste helps with getting that combo, so this one is dedicated to all the Johnnys and Jennys!
#18. Avenger of Zendikar
Avenger of Zendikar is another of those classic Commander cards that are still a favorite to this day. Fitting into the common “lands matter” theme that elementals seem to love, Avenger provides resources for a lot of different strategies.
Tokens, landfall, flicker, and more can all abuse the abilities on this, and you can quickly create a board that can get out of hand and win from nowhere. Countless games of Commander have been won the turn that this resolves.
#17. Ashaya, Soul of the Wild
First came Dryad Arbor, which introduced the concept of a land also being a creature. 13 years later WotC stepped that up with Ashaya, Soul of the Wild, which turns all your (nontoken) creatures into lands, too!
That nontoken clause is super important because there’d be way too many ways to create an unstoppable infinite loop without it. There are still a lot of infinite combos that you can make with this, not to mention the possibilities of ramping with your board. Landfall, ramp, or just a spicy combo deck should all want to make use of Ashaya.
#16. Titania, Protector of Argoth
Titania, Protector of Argoth may not look like much. It can take over games so quickly if you combine it with a way to sac lands.
If you haven’t been on the receiving end of Titania, you have no idea. Coming out in Modern Horizons 2, the Draft format even had Zuran Orb which allowed you to go off with absolute ease. A high-risk/high-reward strategy that only needs haste to become absurd.
#15. Risen Reef
Core Set 2020 came with a variety of powerful-looking elementals. One that flew under the radar, at least until spoiler season was over, was Risen Reef.
This is a one-stop value engine in an elemental deck, especially if you’re building your elemental deck around caring about lands. It’s so easy to put three or more lands onto the battlefield with this one. A classic combination is pairing this with Mirror March. Just be careful not to draw yourself to death!
#14. Omnath, Locus of the Roil
The poster child of the Core Set 2020 elementals, Omnath, Locus of the Roil is a fantastic finisher.
This can be a way to win on the spot in a 1v1 format. It provides you the value to win if it doesn’t, probably on your next turn. It’s strong by itself and fits the lands matter elementals deck like a glove.
This was the elemental commander when it first came out,.
#13. Cavalier of Thorns
Cavalier of Thorns has lots of great stats, but possibly the most important one is that it gives you three green devotion. Mono-green devotion is currently a top deck in Pioneer, and this card provides both a great rate and more fuel for your Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
This has seen play in Constructed formats on and off since its introduction, and it’s just a fair and solid card.
#12. Verdant Force
Another classic, Verdant Force is a card that gets so much better in multiplayer formats.
It may not look like much, but creating a 1/1 every upkeep is a phenomenal rate. It gives you useful chump blockers, sac fodder, and board presence for going over the top. You name it, it does it!
Now we’re getting into the good stuff. Vigor has the potential to give a whole load of stats.
Think about it. You have a board full of tiny creatures (potentially from Verdant Force). Your opponent can’t swing in because your creatures are effectively immune to combat damage. If they do, your stuff will get swole.
Remember, your 1/1 gets 20 counters if it’s dealt 20 damage!
#10. Nyxbloom Ancient
Who doesn’t love a mana doubler? Green players do. What’s better than a mana doubler? Why, a mana tripler, of course!
Nyxbloom Ancient is just that mana tripler. It can make a ridiculous amount of mana. Every Timmy’s dream. Being a 5/5 trampler to boot isn’t bad either.
#9. Yarok, the Desecrated
Yarok, the Desecrated is one of those elementals that don’t follow the crowd. A Panharmonicon on a stick, it’s got a unique effect.
It has a bit of an odd color identity for ETB-matters effects, but that’s part of the fun. There are obviously a lot of great ETBs in Magic, but it’s probably worth noting that elementals often have good ETBs. You could even build an elemental tribal deck around Yarok if you wanted!
#8. Muldrotha, the Gravetide
Good elementals can provide lots of value, and Muldrotha, the Gravetide is yet another.
Sultai () is a color identity that already loves filling the graveyard. Muldrotha cares about exactly that, allowing you to cast boatloads of extra cards each turn as long as you’ve got the mana. It allows you to respond to pretty much any threat because you don’t need your response in hand if it’s in your graveyard.
It’s even great for assembling combos. You don’t need to draw your combo pieces if you can just mill them instead.
#7. Bane of Progress
Artifacts and enchantments are running around all over the place in Commander because they’re difficult to deal with en masse. Bane of Progress not only fills that niche, but it profits off it!
Getting rid of your opponents’ mana rocks and tricky enchantments (and your own, but never mind that) and getting a huge beater with the deal? Not a bad card if you ask me. It does what it means to do well, and it’s a useful piece in pretty much any green deck.
Anyone coming into this list won’t be surprised to see the MH2 incarnation elementals in the top 10. The first is Subtlety.
There may be some discussion in the rest of this cycle, but I think it’s fairly agreed that this is the weakest in the cycle. Not that a free counter is bad, it’s just that there are other options for free counterspells. This isn’t quite as good as the others. Still super powerful.
Grief was the evoke elemental on everyone’s mind when MH2 was previewed. T1 grief plus Ephemerate was something that a lot of people were (quite rightly) worried about coming out of the gate.
As it happens it wasn’t quite as broken as people thought. Or maybe the rest of the set was more broken than people thought! It’s still a powerful play, and you need to watch out for it when playing Modern. “This hand is bad to Thoughtseize,” is now “this hand is bad to Grief.”
Solitude, in contrast to Grief, was one that players didn’t seem to think much of in spoiler season, but it’s become a definite staple in Modern since.
One hell of a removal spell, it’s still amazing if you hard-cast it. Now that Yorion, Sky Nomad is gone it’s lost a little, but it’s still a powerful removal spell attached to a not-insignificant body.
Endurance is arguably the fairest of the cycle, but that doesn’t mean that it’s weak.
It’s got a 3-mana value, and it’s a real threat just to be flashed in as a blocker. Stopping graveyard-based combos for free is a fantastic upside for this mid-sized body. This card does a lot and is probably a big reason why Modern feels so playable at the moment.
Fury is a card that seems to be going from strength to strength in Modern, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Pretty much single-handedly making any one-toughness creature unplayable in the format, it’s made Death & Taxes seem like a joke. It may not be at the top of MH2’s elemental tier list for everyone, but I don’t think it can be argued that it’s at least in the conversation.
#1. Omnath, Locus of Creation
The most powerful elemental in MTG (so far, at least) probably has to be Omnath, Locus of Creation, and also the most powerful Omnath.
Very few of the other elementals are powerful enough to justify a whole deck being built around them, but this one is. Banned in multiple formats, the requirement to get multiple land drops in a single turn is trivial in the right deck, especially in formats where fetch lands are legal.
It really feels like the only thing that can unseat a 4-color Omnath is probably a 5-color Omnath, and I can imagine that could show up at some point in the future. What I think would be really sweet, though, is an Omnath that uses all five colors as well as colorless mana, or a straight colorless Omnath!
Best Elemental Payoffs
Elementals are a widely themed tribe, but lands matter seems to be common ground for a lot of them. So if you’re building elemental tribal then Zendikar's Roil is probably a pretty good addition to your deck.
Getting elementals with landfall pairs so well with cards like Risen Reef and Omnath, Locus of Rage. This is a sweet addition that does exactly what you want with the right deck.
Subtlety | Illustration by Anastasia Ovchinnikova
Elementals have been a part of Magic since the beginning, and they’ve recently started to get the love they deserve as a tribe. I highly doubt we’ve seen the end of powerful elementals. The inevitable fifth Omnath should bring them another surge in popularity.
What’s your favorite elemental? What do you see a 5-color Omnath doing? I’d love to hear your ideas down below or over in the Draftsim Discord.
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