Last updated on May 21, 2024

The Gitrog, Ravenous Ride - Illustration by Johan Grenier

The Gitrog, Ravenous Ride | Illustration by Johan Grenier

Saddle up, partners!

Today we're galloping straight into a mechanic that the MTG designers were dying to pull off for quite some time, and the Outlaws of Thunder Junction Magic set was such a good thematic fit for it that they went, “Hey, no better time than right now.”

Saddle and mounts are pretty similar to crew and vehicles (and they were designed that way on purpose), so this here activated ability should be a ride in the park for most of y'all… but even if vehicles ring no bell for ya', worry none: We'll make our mounts trot nice an' easy!

How Does Saddle Work?

Archmage's Newt - Illustration by Edgar Sanchez Hidalgo

Archmage's Newt | Illustration by Edgar Sanchez Hidalgo

Saddle is an activated ability that works similarly to how crew works with vehicles. If a creature has “Saddle N”, you activate saddle by tapping any number of other untapped creatures with total power N or more. When you do, the mount becomes saddled.

For example, The Gitrog, Ravenous Ride has Saddle 1, so you need to tap at least one creature with power 1 or greater.

The Gitrog, Ravenous Ride

Notice that you can tap any number of untapped creatures, and the total power can be much larger than N. In the above example, if you have a 1/1 creature and a 4/4 creature, you can tap the 4/4 to saddle our Gitrog steed if you want. And you could even tap both: Some saddled creatures, like Fortune, Loyal Steed, provide an effect to all creatures that saddled it, so it may make perfect sense to tap more creatures than what you need to meet the “N” in saddle.

You can only activate saddle as a sorcery–that's to say, only in one of your main phases, and only while the stack is empty.

When saddle resolves, the creature becomes saddled until the end of your turn. “Saddled” is just a designation (it has no effect by itself), but the creature will have another ability that only happens while the creature is saddled.

All creatures with saddle have the “mount” creature type. There's no inherent connection between saddle and mount other than flavor. If a mount creature somehow loses the “mount” type, it won't lose the saddle keyword; if it somehow loses the saddle ability, it’ll still be a mount. Non-mount creatures can gain the saddle keyword if an effect gives them the ability.

For now, there's complete overlap between mounts and saddle, if you see a mount creature then you know it can be saddled (ignore the changelings).

Note that there are some older cards with “saddled” in their name (like Saddled Rimestag), or with “mount” in their name (like Phantasmal Mount or Sun-Blessed Mount), which very clearly depict a mount with a saddle… yet they have nothing to do with the mount creature type or the saddle keyword. They’re just named and illustrated like saddled mounts, but they’re not really saddled, and aren’t really mounts!

The History of Saddle in MTG

The saddle keyword and the mount creature type were introduced in Outlaws of Thunder Junction. According to MTG Head Designer Mark Rosewater, WotC had wanted to do mounts for years. “Much like we felt the pressure in Kaladesh to finally make Vehicles,” Mark wrote, “it felt like Outlaws of Thunder Junction needed to be the place we finally cracked Mounts.”

The design team finally settled on making saddle and mounts fairly similar to crew and vehicles, to make it easier for players to grok.

Is Saddle Evergreen?

Being so similar to crew/vehicles, I would guess that saddle will become an evergreen mechanic and you'll see it in most upcoming sets.

Only time will tell, though!

Is Saddle an Activated Ability?

Yep, it is!

Tapping other creatures is the cost; becoming saddled until the end of turn is the effect.

Can You Saddle a Creature at Instant Speed?

Nope, you can only saddle a creature as a sorcery; that's to say, during one of your main phases while the stack is empty.

Can You Tap Tapped Creatures to Activate Saddle?

If the creature is already tapped then no, you can't tap it to activate saddle (unless some other effect lets you untap it first, of course).

Can Creatures With Saddle Attack Without Being Saddled?

Caustic Bronco

Yes, they can!

They are creatures, and therefore they can attack all by themselves. Being saddled provides a bonus when some other condition is met, but it's not mandatory to engage in combat.

Saddle vs. Crew

Saddle and crew are fairly similar mechanics, and that's to make it easier for players to learn.

The two main differences are that mounts are already creatures (while vehicles are artifacts that turn into artifact creatures when crewed), and that saddle works at sorcery speed (while crew works at instant speed).

Seraphic Steed Parhelion II

Broadly speaking, mounts are able to attack even if you don't have a second creature to saddle them (if you don't have a creature to crew them, your vehicles are just very sad, very useless cards that count as artifacts).

You can't saddle a mount while you’re the defending player. You can only saddle a mount during your turn. On the contrary, you can crew a vehicle at instant speed during your foe's turn and use a vehicle to block. This doesn’t really matter for mounts very much since they’re already creatures that can block independent of their saddle ability.

Gallery and List of Saddle Cards

There are 17 cards in Outlaws of Thunder Junction with the saddle keyword; they are also the only 17 cards in the game with the “mount” creature type.

There are also 10 other cards in OTJ that care about mounts, but without being mounts themselves:

Best Saddle Cards

None of the mount/saddle cards strike me as overly powerful, but there are two that seem quite strong and boatloads of fun.

The Gitrog, Ravenous Ride

The Gitrog, Ravenous Ride

This froggy horror‘s gonna make a mess. It deserves some respect just by being a 6/5 hasty trampler, but The Gitrog, Ravenous Ride then draws you cards and ramps you whenever it deals combat damage to a player while saddled – if that's not a Kill On Sight threat, I don't know what is.

Notice also that sacrificing the saddling creature(s) is optional: If your foe removes The Gitrog, Ravenous Ride before it connects, the saddling creature(s) are kept alive.

Golgari aggro is fairly strong right now in Standard. Most of their cards cost 4 mana or less, but many lists run one copy of Nissa, Ascended Animist, so I can see Gitrog making the cut.

Calamity, Galloping Inferno

Calamity, Galloping Inferno

Calamity, Galloping Inferno looks just okay until you read the last phrase of its (admittedly kinda long) ability: “Repeat this process once.”

That's to say, it generates two creature tokens. And they can be different creatures (remember that you can “overpay” the saddle cost, and tap two other creatures if you want). Throw in some token doublers and Calamity raises an army all by itself.

Round Up

Intrepid Stablemaster - Illustration by Svetlin Velinov

Intrepid Stablemaster | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov

Personal hunch: The Magic devs wanted to carefully test the waters here, and in OTJ they didn't go too much over the top with what each saddled creature can do, to avoid some broken card/combo giving a bad rep to a mechanic they plan to deploy again.

In other words, I think saddle and mounts are a very cool mechanic. Future sets may bring mounts that have to be saddled to attack – for example, a mount with defender that loses defender when saddled. As of right now, no need to saddle your war horse for it to jump into the fray! You'll see more mounts in more sets soon, even if most mounts in Outlaws seem fairly tame.

I hope you've enjoyed this mechanical deep dive, and if you have concerns or questions please drop a comment below, or stop by the Draftsim Discord for a chat.

And good luck out there!

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