Last updated on September 27, 2022
Master of the Pearl Trident | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast
Islandwalk and other land walk abilities seem to have fallen out of favor in recent times. It’s possible that relying on an opponent to have a specific type of basic land is too big of a gamble with so many dual land options. Whatever the reason for it, newer players may not be sure what islandwalk cards do or why they’re good.
The sheer number of land walk cards that have been printed over Magic’s long history can be overwhelming, even for more experienced players. It can be hard to identify which cards are best. So I took a look at every islandwalk card printed in Magic to decide which ones you should prioritize in your decks.
Let’s get into it!
Colossal Whale | Illustration by Adam Paquette
Islandwalk is an ability that alters how creatures that have it can be blocked. The rules text reads: “This creature is unblockable as long as defending player controls an island.”
Islandwalk can be an incredibly powerful effect against the right decks because your opponent may not be able to stop you from doing direct damage. This helps you keep the pressure on them and benefit from any abilities that trigger when you do combat damage.
#44. Halimar Wavewatch
Halimar Wavewatch doesn’t start with islandwalk. Instead you have to level it up five times to give it that ability. It requires 12 mana to have islandwalk or to be able to do damage without help.
#43. Merfolk Raiders
Merfolk Raiders wouldn’t be too bad of a card without phasing, but there are better islandwalk cards to invest in that stick around each turn. This card needs to wait for two turns after coming in to be able to attack, so it’s undesirable for more aggro-focused merfolk decks.
#42. Shore Snapper
Shore Snapper is essentially a 2/2 vanilla creature for three mana when you first cast it because it requires you to pay one blue mana to give it islandwalk. There are better options, like the creatures that come in as a 2/2 with islandwalk as a static ability for the same mana cost.
#41. Coral Barrier
Coral Barrier itself doesn’t have islandwalk, but its ETB gives you a 1/1 islandwalker. It’s nice to get a blocker and an islandwalk creature that can hopefully sneak in past your opponent’s blockers, but it’s unfortunate that only the token has islandwalk.
Token creatures can more easily be permanently removed than other creatures since they die to bounce spells. Besides, a 1/3 defender creature for three mana isn’t the best value.
#40. Devouring Deep
Devouring Deep is a little expensive when you look at its power and toughness. There are cheaper islandwalk creatures with the same power. The lower mana cost comes with a worse toughness, but this doesn’t matter as much since you’ll probably attack more than you block with it.
#39. Grayscaled Gharial
Grayscaled Gharial is just a 1/1 with islandwalk for one mana. It’s better than a lot of vanilla 1/1s and other 1- drops, but it isn’t anything special compared it to other islandwalk creatures.
#38. Goblin Flotilla
You might not expect a goblin to have islandwalk. Goblin Flotilla can be an interesting option for goblin decks, but its triggered ability makes it a little worse. It’s actually easier to block than a normal creature if your opponents don’t control islands.
But the Flotilla is a total win on flavor. Most islandwalk creatures are sea creatures or merfolk, so it’s funny to see two goblins in a rowboat with the same ability. It fits nicely into the more comedic tone shared by a lot of goblin cards.
There’s not a whole to say about Pale Bears. It’s a 2/2 islandwalker, but it doesn’t do anything other than deal more damage than weaker islandwalk creatures.
#36. Lurking Crocodile
Lurking Crocodile has the chance to come in as a good value 3/3 thanks to its bloodthirst 1 ability. It’s unfortunately just a 2/2 or 3/3 creature if your opponent doesn’t control an island, like all land walk creatures.
Better islandwalk creatures can do more outside of that ability.
#35. Deeptread Merrow
You can probably get the Merrow big enough to be a real threat with the prevalence of anthems that buff merfolk. Paying one mana to give it some evasion won’t seem like too big of a downside at that point.
Cheating it in won’t really do you much good either since you’ll still probably need at least a few islands on the field before it can attack.
Benthic Behemoth can be a huge threat on the battlefield. It’s very powerful to be able to do seven damage to a player without worrying about blockers, but it comes at a high price.
For the exact same mana cost you can play better options, like the completely unblockable Tidal Kraken.
The basic mana curve for islandwalk creatures is power and toughness one less than mana value, and Bull Hippo is a solid example. It’s a 3/3 that sometimes can’t be blocked so it can be good for chipping away at your opponent’s life.
Unfortunately there isn’t much tribal support because there are very few hippo cards.
Zodiac Horse is also firmly on the islandwalk mana curve and lacks tribal support. You might want to include this card if your playgroup lets you play with one of my favorite commanders, Princess Twilight Sparkle.
River Bear has a reasonable enough mana cost that it can be played earlier in the game, especially in a green deck. Sneaking three damage in is never a bad thing, but River Bear is overshadowed by some other islandwalk creatures.
This can be a fun card to include if you’re one of the players trying to make Ayula, Queen Among Bears bear tribal work for you
#29. Segovian Leviathan
Segovian Leviathan is another 3/3 creature with islandwalk and no other abilities. Its higher mana cost makes it seem like a disappointing option, but its serpent creature type gives it an advantage.
This is still nothing special compared to other islandwalk cards, especially at its mana cost. I wouldn’t include this card in a deck that’s just looking for a good islandwalk creature.
I give merfolk an edge over the competition because they’re a popular tribe that often use unblockable creatures or creatures with islandwalk. Rootwater Commando may have less power and toughness than some other islandwalkers, but I think it has more playability thanks to its strong tribal support.
Benthic Djinn is designed to give players a stronger creature than they should have for its mana value. It comes at a price that might make players consider whether this card is worth playing, but I think it’s a good trade against opponents running islands.
You don’t need to worry about losing two life if you’re dealing out five unblockable damage per turn. The trade-off seems less favorable if you aren’t able to make use of its islandwalk ability. And you can always sacrifice the Djinn before it does too much damage to you if you’re running cards like Village Rites.
Regenerate can be a very helpful ability for a blocking creature. You get to keep your blocker and won’t take any damage unless the attacker has trample if you choose to block with River Boa and then regenerate it.
An endless chump blocker is a great way to keep yourself in a game longer. River Boa gains some versatility with islandwalk, allowing it to be a great defender or attacker.
Recent islandwalk creatures seem more useful just because they have more effects than islandwalk alone. Inkfathom Divers serves as a weaker version of Brainstorm to show you what’s coming up in your next few draws.
Fetch lands and spells that allow you to shuffle your deck pair well with the Divers. But the effect isn’t terribly useful without some way to interact with or shuffle the upcoming cards in your library. Inkfathom Divers is good in certain situations, but it isn’t an evergreen card.
A creature with islandwalk for one mana is a nice way to start off the game and hopefully lets you do some early damage. You also get some information early on about what kind of deck your opponent is playing with Merfolk Spy’s triggered ability.
That can be good for a first game and gives you an early chance to think about sideboard options if you’re playing a BO3 format. It’s also nice to get a chance at spotting a counterspell in your opponent’s hand so that you can play around it the best you can if they’re running blue.
This has come up a lot: islandwalk just isn’t that useful if your opponents don’t control an island, or you can’t turn any of their lands into one. Merfolk Seastalkers gives you the chance to tap down some blockers for a price.
This effect is expensive and doesn’t hit every possible blocker, but it’s still a way to get damage through when you aren’t able to make the best out of islandwalk abilities.
Rishadan Dockhand is ahead of the typical islandwalk mana curve by being a 1/2 for one mana, but its other effect can be more useful than it first appears. You can pay one of your own mana and tap the Dockhand to tap down an opponent’s land, which seems uneven but is great in some circumstances.
You can tap it down on your opponent’s upkeep to restrict access to that color of mana if they only have one land of a certain color. You can also tap land creatures to open the way for your attackers, or to prevent them from attacking you. You can tap utility lands like Maze of Ith that only work at a specific time.
You can also tap down a Tron land or any land that taps for multiple mana during an opponent’s upkeep, forcing them to spend the mana at instant speed or lose it.
Sand Squid can be a very useful tool in your deck even without islandwalk. Its activated ability can tap down one of your opponent’s creatures indefinitely. You’re saving yourself from attacks from that creature, but you’re also forcing your opponent to choose between burning a removal on your tapped 2/2 or leaving their creature tapped.
You can also change targets at will on each of your turns because you can untap Sand Squid on any given untap step.
Multikicker is a fun mechanic. Blue decks aren’t usually known for mana ramp, but there are some decks that can be improved by an Enclave Elite. It can become a big threat to any players playing Islands if you’re able to build up enough mana to kick this card several times.
This slots well into a deck using a lot of proliferate effects since you can continue to make it bigger. I could also see this card being especially powerful in an artifact-focused deck with Urza, Lord High Artificer.
Hybrid mana is always nice to make a card easier to cast and to give it a little more flexibility while constructing a deck. Commander decks are still limited when it comes to hybrid mana, but Cold-Eyed Selkie could easily go into a mono-blue or mono-green deck in any other Constructed format, or in Limited.
The Selkie can also be a good way to draw cards, especially in a merfolk deck where you’re likely using anthems to buff it up.
Slow and steady. It can take a while to realize all the ways that Meandering Towershell is great. Some aspects are more obvious, like how it can block up to eight power safely for only five mana, or how it can do five damage without being blocked.
Its ability may seem like a downside that keeps it cheaper, but it can have some nice interactions in decks focused on ETB effects. Cards like Garruk’s Uprising or The Great Henge draw you cards each time Meandering Towershell re-enters the battlefield. You also do an extra five damage if you pair it with Terror of the Peaks, which can make up for the extra turn it takes to attack.
The flavor on this card is also great. It’s fun to imagine this massive turtle slowly lumbering toward your opponent while two turns of action going on around it.
Colossal Whale beats out other big creatures with islandwalk thanks to its ability to clear up some of the field for you. You have to attack to activate its ability, but it gets to exile a creature. You can choose to exile a blocker that could kill it, or you might not have to worry about blockers thanks to islandwalk.
Its ability is also a good way to clear out token creatures. I imagine someone who hasn’t already sacrificed their Marit Lage’s Slumber to get a Marit Lage might think twice if they saw a Colossal Whale coming their way. Commanders like Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm and Volo, Guide to Monsters also be good targets for this since they both run blue and make threatening token creatures.
Another good use for Colossal Whale is against players who steal your permanents or have ways to cast your spells. Creatures exiled with the Whale return to the battlefield under their owner’s control, so you can use it to exile your stolen permanents and get them back once it leaves the battlefield.
You don’t have to worry about whether your opponent controls Islands with Stormtide Leviathan on the board. If it’s out, everyone has Islands! You get an Island! You get an Island!
Stormtide Leviathan is an 8/8 with a double insurance policy. It ensures that its islandwalk works against any opponent with a land and prevents anything without islandwalk or flying from attacking. You probably don’t need mana fixing if you can cast an 8-mana creature, but the Leviathan allows all your lands to tap for blue mana.
You can also pair this card with Boil to destroy every land and stay ahead of your opponents if you’re confident enough in your board state.
Creatures with islandwalk can be underwhelming because they don’t tend to have other abilities, but War Barge can help you solve that. Instead of filling your deck with more situational islandwalk creatures, you can include this single card that can give your good creatures islandwalk.
But War Barge has some big drawbacks. An opponent can use artifact removal on it and destroy any creatures granted islandwalk by its effect at the same time. It costs seven mana to give a single creature islandwalk, so that’s a little pricey.
You could lose both the creature and the artifact on the same turn, but the condition is on the creature not the artifact. An opponent could remove Sandals of Abdallah, but they’d still have to deal with your creature.
Streambed Aquitects doesn’t have islandwalk, but it’s very useful for merfolk decks. Its activated ability allows another merfolk to gain islandwalk and a small buff giving you a chance to sneak in some damage.
Its second ability is potentially more powerful. You can turn a land into an Island to allow your islandwalk creatures to attack unblocked. The land that you target becomes a basic Island instead of having the Island type added to it.
Part Water is another card that can give you access to islandwalk without deliberately taking creatures with the ability. This could fit into a lot of Commander decks that run blue to possibly take out an opponent by surprise.
Part Water doesn’t overcommit you to islandwalk, so you can easily pitch this card to a looting effect if your opponent has no islands.
Versatility and mana cost are the perks of Piracy Charm. It gives a creature islandwalk for a very cheap cost, but it also acts as removal against weak or damaged creatures.
This can be a good card to include in any deck running blue and big creatures because it gives you the possibility of sneaking in a big hit. It also has other modes to choose from if islandwalk won’t work against your current specific opponent.
Giving a big creature islandwalk for a turn is good, but giving a creature islandwalk over a longer period is even better! Fishliver Oil is a very cheap card to play so you can play it when you want to. It can be deadly in infect decks where you can drop it early game, or you can attach it to a huge late-game creature to do lethal damage unblocked.
Azorius () enchantment decks could make good use of this card as another way to give creatures evasion while also having other ways to benefit from enchantments. Tuvasa, the Sunlit is a Bant () merfolk commander that cares about enchantments and seems like a natural place for Fishliver Oil.
Chasm Skulker can be good in a variety of ways. It can become a big threat if left alone for long enough because it grows by at least +1/+1 per turn. Playing this is also a great way to get your opponent to play a removal spell since it pressures them to get rid of it before it gets too big.
This gives you more value in the form of Squid tokens with islandwalk once it dies. Depending on how big you get it you can get a good crop of blockers or a squad of damage-dealers, or a mix of both. You still baited some removal even if it gets destroyed right away.
Tutors can be great, but they can leave you waiting for another turn to put anything onto the field. Merrow Harbinger is one of your best tutor options for merfolk decks because you’re able to tutor a card and put down a 2/3. The Harbinger is a very reasonable mana cost for what it does, and it has decent power and toughness for a creature with islandwalk.
Sygg, River Guide is a great creature to have in a merfolk deck. It’s cheap to play and its activated ability is cheap for what it does. It gives you the option to protect any merfolk you control (including Sygg itself) and is an auto-include in any merfolk tribal deck that it fits in.
Sygg is held back by its color identity. It could easily be one of the best merfolk commanders available if it wee Bant. It’s still a great card for Bant merfolk Commander decks or in merfolk decks in less restrictive formats.
Big islandwalk creatures can be risky to include in a deck, but Wrexial, the Risen Deep is a safer bet because it also has swampwalk. Dimir () has a ton of great EDH options for decks that like to play with your opponents’ cards with commanders like Xanathar, Guild Kingpin and Captain N’ghathrod. Wrexial fits well into these types of decks, especially ones that mill your opponents.
It’s very likely that at least one of your three opponents will be running Islands or Swamps in Commander. You don’t really have to worry about your opponents’ land types since you’re able to hit any of them unblocked if you have Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.
Stonybrook Banneret is a great card for merfolk or wizard tribal decks with or without islandwalk. Creature cost reduction is a great way to get ahead in the game, and this benefits from any wizard or merfolk tribal effects that you’re running.
Islandwalk can provide an advantage to Stonybrook Banneret if you’re running anthems to buff your chosen tribe.
#4. Thada Adel, Acquisitor
It’s hard to overstate how good stealing cards from your opponent can be. You get more benefits than you might realize when you take an artifact from your opponent with Thada Adel, Acquisitor.
And you’re giving yourself access to the card while removing it as an option for your opponent since you’re exiling it. You might choose to exile a card you know you can’t play just to get it out of the way, like if your opponent has a Blightsteel Colossus.
Searching your opponent’s library gives insight into what kind of deck they’re playing. And you may even be able to guess what cards your opponent has in hand if you know the meta well enough in certain formats.
Remember that you should always be respectful of your opponent’s time when searching their library, especially if you’re playing a casual game. And take cues from them on how they’d like you to handle their cards.
Lord of Atlantis is excellent merfolk support. For only two mana you’re buffing all your other creatures and making them impossible to block in the right situations.
Better still the Lord isn’t legendary, so you can have multiple on the board at the same time.
As a color, blue nearly has it all. But it lacks big creatures, so Inkwell Leviathan is a great card for any blue Commander deck looking to do a little more damage.
The Leviathan also has shroud to make it difficult for your opponents to remove. You’re likely to get some damage through with this regardless of most blockers thanks to islandwalk and trample.
This card stands out by being an artifact creature since there are a ton of ways you can get artifact creatures ahead of the mana curve. You can cheat it in with Master Transmuter, Mycosynth Golem can give it affinity for artifacts, and Chief Engineer can give it convoke.
The ability to get it in as an early and hard-to-remove threat makes Inkwell Leviathan the best islandwalk card there is.
The best way to pay off islandwalk is to make one of your opponent’s lands into an Island. The biggest downside to islandwalk is the risk that your opponent might not be playing blue, but you can easily get around this in a variety of ways.
Stormtide Leviathan makes all your opponents’ lands into Islands, but it’s hard to cast and you really only need one Island.
Mystic Compass is a good option. Its effect is repeatable, but you have to pay for it each turn.
Enchantments like Spreading Seas are great since they stick around and require removing.
Whim of Volrath is a fun way to turn a land into an Island for a turn. If you’re worried your opponent might somehow give their land hexproof, you can use it to change the type of land walk your creature has. You can change the word “island” in islandwalk to whatever basic land your opponent is running.
Yes, islandwalk is what’s known as a keyword ability. Unlike other abilities, the rules text of the cards doesn’t necessarily explain what it does. If a card like Kenrith’s Transformation removes abilities from a creature, it loses islandwalk just like any other ability.
Yes and no. Islandwalk works on any land that has the land subtype of island. This means islandwalk works on dual lands like Underground Sea or Breeding Pool that list “island” as a land type. But lands like Temple of Epiphany and Deserted Beach don’t have basic land types, so islandwalk doesn’t work with them.
Rishadan Dockhand | Illustration by Manuel Castañon
I hope you now know everything you need to put some islandwalk into your decks! Cards all over this list have different use cases. A card lower down might suit what you’re doing more than something higher up. Maybe you’ll be the one to show a future opponent the power of islandwalk!
Do you like islandwalk and land walk abilities? Do you think there should be more or less land walk? What tribes beside merfolk do you think work well with islandwalk? Let me know in the comments below or on Draftsim’s Twitter.
This has given me my first steps on an islandwalk towards merfolk tribal, and I hope you found it just as useful. I look forward to seeing you in the next one!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: