Last updated on March 15, 2023
Avacyn, Angel of Hope (Double Masters) | Illustration by Randy Vargas
Keywords are an essential part of Magic and the way it’s played. There are over 160 ability keywords in Magic and almost 20 of them are evergreen abilities. It’s easy to say that flying is probably the most well-known.
Flying was the first mechanic Richard Garfield ever designed for the game. It’s been around since Alpha, and it’s shown up in pretty much every set since. There are well over a thousand cards with flying plus quite a few others that either grant flying or interact with it in some way.
Flying is Magic’s essential evasion ability. It’s clear and relatively simple in what it does while still being one of the best ways to gain an advantage in combat almost 30 years after the game was created.
Creatures with flying can be found on cards of all five colors, and even no color. Most of them come in white and blue, followed by red and black. Green has the least fliers but has specialized ways to deal with flying creatures.
Flying itself is sometimes used as an archetype to build around, but you commonly find flying creatures in a variety of strategies and builds. So what are the best fliers in the game? Let’s find out!
What Are Fliers in MTG?
Selfless Spirit | Illustration by Seb McKinnon
Flying is an evergreen ability that states that creatures without flying can’t block creatures with flying. A flier is, simply put, a creature with the “flying” keyword ability.
Flying appears on very variety of creature types. Those that are usually depicted with wings (birds, dragons, angels, sphinxes, etc.) tend to have flying more often than not.
Best White Fliers
#12. Selfless Spirit
White cards being great defensively is nothing new. Selfless Spirit makes for a great early drop that stays useful later in the game.
A 2-mana 2/1 creature with flying is already a decent early card, but its sacrifice ability keeps it useful in later in the game. There a so many cards in white that let you return creatures with either low mana costs or low power/toughness from the graveyard, so you can turn this into a recursive way to make all your creatures indestructible.
#11. Serra Ascendant
I’ve always been a fan of cards that were clearly designed for formats that use the regular life total but are instantly broken in Commander. Serra Ascendant is a 6/6 with flying and lifelink on your first turn in EDH.
I’d bet it’ll also take any removal your opponents have, but this isn’t a bad thing. It can act as bait so that you force your opponents to waste some removal early, letting you drop the cards you really want to play later in the game more safely.
#10. Sunscorch Regent
Speaking of removal bait, Sunscorch Regent is a card that’s unlikely to stay on the field for long, but again, that can be a good thing. Gaining life and having your creature grow every time an opponent casts a spell can change the tide in a Commander game quickly.
Even if this card acts as removal bait, it still gains you at least some life before it goes. It’s also impervious to some damage-based removals since it grows when an opponent casts a spell.
#9. Archangel of Thune
A creature with lifelink that gives all your creatures +1/+1 counters whenever you gain life is already a great card. The fact that Archangel of Thune also has flying makes it an incredible card because it’s much easier to attack with it without fear of losing it quickly.
#8. Luminous Broodmoth
Flying is one of the best evasion abilities. Recursion and having your creatures come back from the graveyard are also great. Luminous Broodmoth very effectively combines both by returning your creatures that die to the battlefield with a flying counter on them.
I’ve suffered many games against this card in Arena.
#7. Emeria Shepherd
Landfall is honestly an absurdly good ability sometimes. The ability to return a nonland permanent to your hand every time a land enters the battlefield under your control is an incredible ability to have in such a recursive way.
You get to return that permanent to the battlefield if the land is a Plains. Emeria Shepherd is a must-have in most white decks.
#6. Windborn Muse
I may be a bit biased towards Windborn Muse because I love pillowfort strategies. It works perfectly in that, especially if you combine it with Propaganda.
#5. Archon of Emeria
Archon of Emeria is an amazing addition to any stax deck. Limiting the numbers of spells you can play isn’t great, but slowing down your opponents in the spells they play and tapping their nonbasic lands can set them back a lot.
#4. Welcoming Vampire
One of white’s biggest weaknesses is its lack of card draw. Welcoming Vampire may not be the greatest way to draw cards, but it’s decent and repeatable for a relatively low cost.
#3. Karmic Guide
Karmic Guide is a card that’s bound to not stay on the field as a creature in many games. The biggest reason to have this card in your deck is for it to return cards from your graveyard onto your field.
#2. Aven Mindcensor
Tutors are a staple in EDH. Almost every deck has at least one, and they’re usually the first step in any combo. Aven Mindcensor is a safe addition to any deck to protect yourself against combos and powerful plays.
#1. Avacyn, Angel of Hope
All your permanents gain indestructible for as long as Avacyn, Angel of Hope is on the battlefield. I don’t think I need to explain why this card is absolutely amazing.
Best Blue Fliers
#12. Spectral Sailor
Simplicity is sometimes the best thing you could aim toward. Spectral Sailor isn’t a game changer or a particularly powerful card, but it’s a useful, good card. That can be all a deck needs.
Proliferate was originally designed as a complement to infect, and it worked great in that role. It’s since proven itself a really powerful ability that works great in any deck that plays any kind of counter.
Thrummingbird is pretty much obligatory to any deck that plays counters.
#10. Diluvian Primordial
Diluvian Primordial is an incredible card for Commander, and it’s almost certain that it’ll cause some amazing plays. It’s an especially solid card in any blink deck.
#9. Archetype of Imagination
The archetype cycle from back in Theros was interesting design wise. I think Archetype of Imagination is one of the best thanks to flying itself being such a great ability.
#8. Thieving Skydiver
Thieving Skydiver is a great card to use to steal an artifact that can benefit you, but It’s also good at hindering an opponent’s combo. You can also make this ability a repeatable one if you have ways to bounce it back to your hand.
#7. Glen Elendra Archmage
The ability to easily counter noncreature spells and swiftly is a great one to have on hand. Glen Elendra Archmage also has wither, so it can come back to play at least once.
#6. Siren Stormtamer
Even though Siren Stormtamer can’t bring itself back from the graveyard, it more than makes up for it with its cheap mana value and flexible countering ability.
I placed Wonder higher than Archetype of Imagination because it’s easier to keep a card in your graveyard than it is to keep it on the field. It’s more likely that it’ll give your creatures flying than not.
#4. Peregrine Drake
There are a few combos that use this card’s ability to untap lands. You can use Sneak Attack to cheat Peregrine Drake onto the field so you can untap lands. You can also make it combo with some blink abilities or trigger the ability by copying the Drake.
#3. Gilded Drake
Play Gilded Drake and steal your opponent’s commander or combo piece. This card remains to this day an absurdly good card and it can combo in some absurdly fun ways in Commander.
#2. Consecrated Sphinx
I’ve seen Consecrated Sphinx played in a ton of Nekusar, the Mindrazer decks with good reason. I honestly think it’s a wonderful card for any blue deck thanks to its ability being entirely optional. You don’t have to discard if you don’t want to!
Mulldrifter is amazing in decks with good recursion and ways to bring it back from the graveyard so that you can keep drawing cards. It’s a solid utility card in any deck.
Best Red Fliers
#9. Atsushi, the Blazing Sky
The cycles of dragons from the original Kamigawa and Neon Dynasty are really fun to play. They make for decent creatures to have on the field and encourage you to use them more recklessly: you get to use their abilities if they die!
Atsushi, the Blazing Sky’s two abilities fit right in with red’s current strategies in Commander, i.e., generating Treasures and playing cards you exiled from your library. This is a must-add to any Prosper, Tome-Bound deck.
#8. Balefire Dragon
Balefire Dragon is an absurdly good card against decks that focus on large armies of small creatures. If your opponents have no way to block your attacks (and flying ensures that’s harder than it should be), their fields stay depleted for most of the game going forward.
#7. Lathliss, Dragon Queen
You may have noticed that pretty much all the best red creatures with flying are dragons. That’s because a ton of them are really good.
Lathliss, Dragon Queen is no exception. It creates a 5/5 Dragon with flying every time you have another nontoken dragon enter your battlefield.
#6. Scourge of Valkas
Scourge of Valkas can deal out some massive damage in a decent board state. Cards like the aforementioned Lathliss, Dragon Queen can effectively double its effect.
#5. Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
What makes Drakuseth, Maw of Flames a bit better than Balefire Dragon is that you get more control over the way you deal out the damage. This can take out a creature with flying or reach that your opponent controls, ensuring it’ll hit.
#4. Utvara Hellkite
I think what makes Utvara Hellkite absurd is the fact that the ability triggers whenever any dragon you control attacks. That means that this ability triggers even when the tokens this card creates attack.
You get a basically never-ending supply of dragons because any Dragon token that dies while attacking already created a copy of itself.
#3. Hellkite Tyrant
There are almost no decks in EDH that play absolutely no artifacts. Everyone has at least a Sol Ring or Arcane Signet. You’ll manage to use Hellkite Tyrant to steal combo pieces or game-defining artifacts for yourself more often than not.
This is also a must-have in decks that play tons of Treasures and other artifact tokens as a simple alternative win condition.
#2. Terror of the Peaks
A lot of dragons are great because they have abilities that trigger whenever another dragon enters the battlefield. Terror of the Peaks takes that a step further by having an ability that triggers whenever any other creature enters the battlefield under your control.
Whether you decide to play this in a large stompy deck or a token list that puts a dozen creatures each turn, there’ll always be a way to make good use of this card.
#1. Goldspan Dragon
I honestly think Goldspan Dragon will only keep this spot for as long as Treasures remain as they are in the current meta. A ton of red decks have started relying heavily on Treasures to rap quickly, and this optimizes that thanks to its two abilities.
Best Black Fliers
#8. Kokusho, the Evening Star
Lots of black decks tend to lose tons of life to push their schemes forward. Kokusho, the Evening Star can ensure that you recover a decent amount of that life when it dies.
What’s best is that it encourages you to actually attack (or block) with it because you either get some damage in or get some damage in and recover some life in the process.
#7. Falkenrath Noble
Black decks tend to play a ton of removals and rely heavily on sacrificing their own creatures. Having Falkenrath Noble on the field can guarantee some extra advantage for you by gaining you life for every creature that dies.
#6. Vampire Nighthawk
I’ve said it before, but sometimes a card can be good because of its simplicity. Vampire Nighthawk has somewhat fallen behind in terms of power level lately but it remains an unquestionably amazing card for more aggressive strategies and a perfect example of a good cost-to-value ratio.
#5. Rune-Scarred Demon
Tutors are fundamental to most EDH decks, and Rune-Scarred Demon is a tutor on a 6/6 creature. Its mana cost may be a bit high but it’s definitely worth it, especially if you have ways to blink it and repeatedly trigger its ETB.
#4. Razaketh, the Foulblooded
Razaketh, the Foulblooded’s tutor ability requires you to pay a higher price, but two life and a creature are easy to recover. A repeatable tutor can prove absurdly powerful.
#3. Vilis, Broker of Blood
Vilis, Broker of Blood basically lets you draw two cards for one black mana and two life. It has the added benefit that you can weaken or even kill a creature.
Even without all that you still draw a ton of cards while this is on the field.
#2. Butcher of Malakir
Butcher of Malakir puts the “eye for an eye” philosophy to work with its ability. But black mana isn’t exactly fair.
You get the benefits from sac’ing your creatures and the simultaneous benefit of punishing your opponents for it if you play this card in a sacrifice deck. Consider this as the #1 card if you’re looking for EDH cards.
This card in Commander is essentially a win condition by itself. It does all it needs to do to ensure you’ll get every card you need.
That’s why Griselbrand is completely banned in Commander (unless your playgroup decides that you can play it, but I doubt it). It still saw tons of play in Modern last time I checked, but Modern isn’t exactly my specialty. Even so I think it earned its #1 spot for its sheer raw power.
Best Green Fliers
#4. Gilded Goose
It may seem like Gilded Goose is just an okay card at first glance. It probably is in a lot of decks. You can make this unassuming goose generate infinite mana and infinite turns with the right cards.
Playing this while you have Emiel the Blessed, Jaheira, Friend of the Forest, and Academy Manufactor on the field means an infinite mana combo. There are also a few of these same combos to generate infinite turns with Time Sieve.
#3. Kura, the Boundless Sky
Kamigawa’s spirit dragons could probably get a whole article for themselves because they’re a great work of design and mechanics.
Kura, the Boundless Sky is a very undeniably green card with its two abilities that trigger when it dies. You can either tutor three lands into your hand (any three lands, not just basics) or create a Spirit token with as many +1/+1 counters as you have lands.
This is a super versatile card because it can work perfectly in the earlier stages of the game or later when you already have a ton of lands.
#2. Old Gnawbone
Have I mentioned how important prevalent Treasures are in the meta right now? I almost don’t want to include Old Gnawbone just for the sheer power level it has in the current meta.
Honestly any deck that has green should run this card. It has no drawbacks.
#1. Birds of Paradise
Say it with me now: simple and effective cards are just the best. Birds of Paradise is as good today as it was back in Alpha. It has straightforward benefits but is also usually great removal bait, especially for burn spells like Shock and Lightning Bolt.
Best Multicolored Fliers
#8. Baleful Strix
I don’t think I’ve seen a single deck that plays black and blue but not Baleful Strix. A flier with deathtouch is already an amazing defense against some huge threats like dragons, but it also draws you a card when it comes onto the field.
This is a simple but effective utility card.
#7. Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
I’ve had Gisela, Blade of Goldnight win me several games without me having to do much. It’s an incredible way to play politics and prevent your opponents from attacking you while also being extremely punishing when you attack them.
Any defensive strategy can greatly benefit from it.
#6. Savage Ventmaw
Savage Ventmaw is just a great card. Attacking with it grants you a pretty solid amount of mana that can easily be enough to cast some of your more powerful creatures, especially dragons.
#5. Atarka, World Render
Atarka, World Render is a must-have in any dragon deck. It (and the other dragon lords from Fate Reforged) has an absolutely incredible triggered ability.
Giving your dragons double strike can instantly win you a match if you have enough dragons and plan your attacks right. Even if it doesn’t come to that it still guarantees your attacks do massive damage to your opponents.
#4. Kess, Dissident Mage
While Kess, Dissident Mage’s ability can be a bit less grandiose than others we’ve seen, it’s definitely an amazing way to make the most out of a good spellslinger deck. It can have some really fun interactions with tons of different instants and sorceries.
#3. Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Of all the incarnations Niv-Mizzet has had, Niv-Mizzet, Parun is the most efficient. It’s primarily focused on drawing cards which in turn hurts a target. Any deck with decent card draw will have you dealing out damage constantly.
Parun also draws you a card any time a player casts an instant or sorcery, so expect to draw cards and deal damage basically all the time.
#2. Aurelia, the Warleader
Boros (), both as a guild and as a color combination, is heavily focused on wide and strong attacks and combats. Aurelia, the Warleader reflects that neatly by granting you a second attack phase every time it attacks.
This can quickly prove a game changer with a proper field.
#1. Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice
Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice impeccably incorporates abilities from each of the colors it represents while its end-step ability has become a complete fan favorite. Even without the proliferate ability this’d still be a more than decent card.
Having a way to proliferate at the end of each turn for free makes strategies like planeswalkers and infect not only viable but almost absurd at times.
Best Colorless Fliers
#6. Platinum Angel
You can’t lose the game and your opponents can’t win. That’s it.
Platinum Angel is almost funny in how simple but incredible it is. Just make sure you don’t get so overconfident that you get yourself into a game-losing situation.
#5. Smuggler’s Copter
Smuggler’s Copter is easy to crew, has a decent power, and allows you to draw a card whenever it attacks or blocks. Straightforward and useful.
The best part is that drawing is optional, so you can just opt out if you want to attack but don’t want to draw and discard.
#4. Jhoira’s Familiar
Historic is honestly a fun strategy to build around. Jhoira’s Familiar’s ability applying to all historic spells you cast means that it’s an easy addition to any deck historic-based decks in general, or any that plays one of the three strategies that fall under this term.
#3. Steel Hellkite
Yes, this is yet another dragon, even in colorless. What can I say, dragons are great!
Steel Hellkite’s X ability could be stronger, but it’s still a really fun way to get rid of some specific annoying permanents. Give it myriad and that X ability suddenly gets a bit more interesting.
#2. Ornithopter of Paradise
Definitely not as iconic as Birds of Paradise but definitely a good and useful card. Ornithopter of Paradise has the advantage of being completely colorless, so you can add it to any deck for an early mana dork.
It’s a free artifact creature, what more could you ask of it?
Ornithopter is deceivingly useful since it can help you trigger many different abilities whenever it enters the battlefield. You don’t really risk or lose anything by playing it to trigger those abilities since it’s free.
Best Flying Creatures Payoff
There are hundreds of cards that work perfectly with flying. It’s one of the oldest mechanics after all, aside from still being a particularly powerful one.
Cards like Watcher of the Spheres and Warden of Evos Isle are an easy first choice for decks based around this strategy.
Thunderclap Wyvern, Empyrean Eagle, and Favorable Winds all make your flying creatures grow to ensure your highly evasive attacks also hit for a lot more damage.
Reconnaissance Mission, Winged Words, and Winged Portent all benefit from you playing creatures with flying.
I think it should go without saying, but blue should absolutely be your main color if you’re planning to build a deck heavily focused on flying creatures. It doesn’t just have some of the best fliers but also some of the best cards for the strategy.
Can Flying Creatures Block Non-Flying Creatures?
Yes, creatures with flying can typically block both other creatures with flying and creatures that don’t have the ability. Some cards have rules text that explicitly states that that creature can’t block creatures without flying, but those are exceptions.
Can Vigilance Block Flying Creatures?
Not necessarily. A creature’s vigilance ability doesn’t mean that it can block creatures with flying; only other creatures with flying or creatures with reach can block a flier.
Can a Planeswalker Block Flying Creatures?
Planeswalkers don’t really block at all, but they can be attacked by flying creatures. When a player attacks they can choose to have unblocked damage go towards their opponent or a planeswalker they control.
Can Walls Block Flying Creatures?
No, walls by default can’t block flying creatures. Walls and other creatures with defender can’t attack, but if they also have flying or reach (e.g., Wall of Swords or Wall of Vines) then they can block fliers.
How Do You Stop Flying Creatures?
The most effective way to stop flying creatures is either with other flying creatures or with creatures with reach. If you don’t have either of those, killing the fliers with removal and targeted damage should do the trick.
Is There an MTG Card That Gives All Creatures Flying?
There are a few creatures that can grant all your creatures flying (including some mentioned above), plus the Levitation enchantment. There are no cards that give all creatures on the battlefield flying, but that would also defeat the purpose of giving your creatures flying in the first place.
Platinum Angel | Illustration by Brom
Flying is one of Magic’s oldest and best mechanics to build around. It remains possibly the single best combat ability, and it’s definitely the best evasion ability in the game. Flying creatures are varied, fit into a ton of different strategies, and there are plenty of ways to get flying creatures into your decks if you need them.
What are your favorite flying creatures? Do you agree with my picks? I know I had to leave out more than one great card, so feel free to let me know in the comments which you think should’ve made it. And don’t forget to join the amazing Draftsim Discord.
That’s all from me for now. Have a good one, and I’ll see you next time!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates:
You missed probably the best flier, inkmoth nexus
Don’t think that’s anywhere close to the best flying creature, but thanks for the suggestion!