Last updated on April 26, 2023
Wrexial, the Risen Deep | Illustration by Eric Deschamps
In case you hadn’t heard, we used to punish people for playing basics in Magic. No, it’s true! There was a time when creatures were regularly given a landwalk ability as a hose for another color.
Surprisingly, Swampwalk is the most popular of the landwalk abilities, appearing on five more cards than Forestwalk and eight more than Islandwalk! But its wide distribution shouldn’t shock you.
There are a lot of consistently underpowered creatures with Swampwalk, and a handful of big hitters. Which ones are the best? And how many 3-mana 2/2s can you possibly play? Let’s find out!
What Is Swampwalk in MTG?
Quag Vampires | Illustration by Jason Felix
Swampwalk is a formerly evergreen keyword introduced in Alpha. It’s a specific version of the more general landwalk ability, appearing as “typewalk” in a card’s text. A creature with landwalk can’t be blocked as long as the defending player controls a land of the corresponding type, so Swampwalk creatures gets past blockers if the defender controls a Swamp. The type is usually a basic land type, like Swampwalk, but can also be a supertype, like legendary landwalk on Livonya Silone.
Islandwalk, Swampwalk, Mountainwalk, and Forestwalk all appeared in Alpha, while Plainswalk wouldn’t appear until Legends and has been used much more sparingly than the others.
Landwalk has fallen out of favor with R&D. Mark Rosewater confirmed that it was retired on his blog back in 2017. His justification is that it has the same problems as the intimidate mechanic, where its color-based evasion made it very “swingy.”
These cards overperform to an outstanding degree in the right matchup, but they flop in almost all other situations. Besides that, the only real interaction a player had was to sideboard in other colors, a factor that they have no control over before they sit down at the table. The same is true of landwalk. Both abilities discouraged interaction, and once menace came along it was decided to retire both mechanics.
No new cards featuring Swampwalk have been printed since Return to Ravnica’s Sewer Shambler, meaning there are only a measly 54 cards that even mention Swampwalk, 48 of which are actually creatures with the ability. Three are noncreature spells that grant Swampwalk, three of which are cards that remove or negate Swampwalk.
The best Swampwalk cards are ones with utility outside of just hosing black decks. Others have and give Swampwalk to other creatures, and some are just generally good outside their Swampwalk ability.
Honorable Mentions: The Zodiac Creatures
Portal: Three Kingdoms was an introductory product produced in 1999 for mostly Asian markets and featured a cycle of 11 “Zodiac” creatures with landwalk abilities. Four of them have Swampwalk and are basically the same power-to-mana value ratio.
Zodiac Pig and Zodiac Ox are black and green (respectively) 3/3 Swampwalkers for four, while Zodiac Snake runs at three mana for a 2/2. Zodiac Rat is technically the best value per mana as a 1/1 for one. These rare cards are expensive collector’s items, but not very desirable for gameplay.
#47. Legions of Lim-DûlLegions of Lim-Dul
If you thought they couldn’t make Swampwalk any more situational, think again! Legions of Lim-Dûl has the very specific snow-covered Swampwalk ability, making its only use in matches against snow decks. It’s got an extra point of toughness for the trouble of two black mana in its casting cost, but that’s about all that’s notable about it.
This could see play in Pauper if a snow deck ever crushes the meta.
#46. Lost Soul
Lost Soul first appeared in Legends and was a staple Swampwalker in the core sets through Sixth Edition. It’s on the weaker side of creatures with Swampwalk, lacking the extra point of toughness we’d expect for three mana, so it’s sadly been allocated to the back of the list.
#45. Marsh Boa
Marsh Boa is just a color-shifted Zodiac Rat/Plague Beetle. It’s about as basic as it comes and only rates above the other two because it’s in a different color.
#44. Marsh Goblins
Marsh Goblins is one of the first multicolor cards, ever. Don’t worry, it explains that it counts as both a black and a red card right in the rules text.
Besides its unique rules templating, it’s not a great Swampwalker. A Plague Beetle for an extra red mana isn’t really worth it unless you’re already running some goblin tribal synergies.
#43. Wild Ox
Wild Ox is the Portal Second Age and Starter 1999 version of Zodiac Ox. It’s about as basic a color-hoser as you can get, beating out Marsh Boa by virtue of being stronger.
Anaconda is effectively another Wild Ox, this time with a tribe that kind of matters! There’s not much to say here except that it probably goes great with Seshiro the Anointed.
#41. Krosan Constrictor
Normally we see 2/2 Swampwalkers costed at three mana, so the real question with Krosan Constrictor is if access to its activated ability is really worth the extra one mana. I’d argue it isn’t; its Swampwalk ability implies you want to attack with it, but its second ability is only useful when you’re being attacked and it’s untapped.
#40. Plague Beetle
Plague Beetle is your basic 1/1-for-one Swampwalk creature. It first appeared in Urza’s Legacy and returned in core sets all the way through 10th Edition.
#39. Quag Vampires
Quag Vampires is a fair Swampwalker that decreases in value the more times it’s kicked. With one kick you’re on par with other 2/2 Swampwalkers for three total mana, but at two or more kicks you’re losing value when you end up with a 3/3 for five mana, or a 4/4 for six, etc.
This is best when used alongside other vampire tribal cards or counter doublers so those multikicker costs don’t run so high.
#38. Bayou Dragonfly
You’ll be hard pressed to block Tempest’s Bayou Dragonfly, which comes with both flying and Swampwalk. Two evasion abilities on the same creature is a bit excessive, and the return on investment you see on this versus Invisible Stalker or similar isn’t worth it.
#37. Anurid Murkdiver
Six mana for a 4/3 with Swampwalk just isn’t how you want to spend your mana when so many Swampwalk cards exist. Possibly useful in a frog tribal deck, but otherwise Anurid Murkdiver is just much too slow.
#36. Bog-Strider Ash
Lorwyn’s focus on tribal abilities meant that typical color-hosing effects were replaced with tribal ones. Bog-Strider Ash was meant to play against the red/black goblin decks of the format and is a tough blocker, a Swampwalker, and can grant you life when your opponent plays goblins (notoriously a thing goblin decks do a lot of).
At four mana this card’s got some utility against black decks and red decks, meaning it ranks a bit higher than the standard Swampwalkers.
#35. Viscid Lemures
Viscid Lemures is basically a direct downgrade of Bog Tatters (or is it the other way around?) Five mana for four power that gets worse once you give it Swampwalk means Viscid Lemures just can’t compete.
#34. Bog Tatters
Bog Tatters is just about the most power you can fit on a common Swampwalker. Four unblockable damage for five is, well, okay in mono-black.
This card doesn’t score very well when you consider its vulnerable toughness (it can’t even survive Shock!) It’s just too much of an investment that you’ll immediately lose to removal (one of the most common types of spells players use Swamps to cast).
Five mana makes Sewerdreg too expensive for its 3/3 body. It doesn’t even want to hang around the field necessarily since its second ability sacrifices it to exile a card from a graveyard.
Maybe it was a fair common in the Limited formats of the original Ravnica, but it’s hard to justify now.
#32. Bog Smugglers
Bog Smugglers fits what we’ve come to expect with Swampwalkers: not too strong, not too weak, just three mana for an evasive 2/2. It is tutorable by Cateran Slaver, so that’s something!
Warthog rates just a smidge lower than Stalker Hag. They’re both 3/2s with Swampwalk for three, but Warthog’s double green mana cost for only one evasion ability means it’s applicable in fewer match ups than the Hag.
#30. Stalker Hag
Stalker Hag isn’t half bad! A 3/2 with two landwalk abilities is great value in a Limited environment at just three mana. Its hybrid mana symbols mean it won’t be too hard to cast in a 2-color deck anyways, making it a fair sideboard option for the Golgari () mirror-match.
#29. Pygmy Allosaurus
This dino is green’s only 3-mana 2/2 Swampwalker. Pygmy Allosaurus sits at about average on value for Swampwalkers, in green or any other color.
#28. Bog Raiders
Bog Raiders is your average 2/2 for three Swampwalk creature, this time with the zombie type for extra synergy with your zombie lords like Death Baron and Diregraf Captain.
#27. Moor Fiend
What if Zodiac Pig was cheap? Say hello to Moor Fiend! With a creature type just as irrelevant as boar, it’s effectively an Ice Age printing of the Pig. Er, I mean, Zodiac Pig is the Portal: Three Kingdoms printing of the Fiend.
#26. Bog Wraith
Bog Wraith slots in at the same level as your other 3/3-for-4 Swampwalkers, but R&D seems to have landed on Bog Wraith as the reprintable 4-drop. It first appeared in Alpha and saw reprints all the way through 10th Edition.
Finally, a Swampwalker with an upside! Your standard 2/2 3-drop Shocks each opponent when it dies. Blistergrub is a playable Swampwalk card.
#24. Mire Boa
Mire Boa has a pretty good body for two mana, and the potential to regenerate means it’s a better blocker than many other Swampwalkers. Plus, it’s got a relevant tribe! If it were common it’d be awesome!
But alas, it’s an uncommon and could stand to have another point of toughness in my opinion.
Nighthaze is almost the perfect Swampwalk cantrip, I just wish it was instant speed. The edge cases where casting it in combat after my opponent activated some ability or cast some spell or another are few and far between, but I like having the option to draw a card for one mana in response to any play my opponent might make. Still a great common!
#22. Funeral Charm
A classic mono-black Charm, Funeral Charm is the instant-speed Swampwalk spell I asked for, but it won’t draw us a card like Nighthaze. The diversity of uses here is still… situational at best, but I’d be remiss to leave it out.
#21. Cateran Slaver
Cateran Slaver is part of the mercenary tribe from Mercadian Masques and has the typical tribal ability that lets it tutor up another mercenary card with lesser mana cost. Some of the best cards it can grab are Cateran Enforcer and Primeval Shambler, fairly poor tutor targets.
The best use of the mercenaries’ tutor abilities was casting Conspiracy to let you grab exactly what you needed instead of limiting it to the underwhelming mercenary tribe.
#20. Odylic Wraith
Today I learned about the word “odylic,” which I think the Magic designers are using as the opposite of “idyllic,” but it doesn’t necessarily mean that.
Anyways, Odylic Wraith is an evasive creature that forces opponents to discard cards when it damages them à la Abyssal Specter, but with one point less of toughness. Notably its ability triggers on any sort of damage, not just combat damage, so equipping it with cards like Viridian Longbow could provide a consistent source of discard when your opponent has no Swamps.
#19. Wormwood Treefolk
That nasty little guy in the art for this card is Wormwood Treefolk. Five mana for a 4/4 without built-in evasion is a miss in my book, and it’s only made worse when you consider how much mana and life you’ll be wasting to activate its landwalk abilities.
#18. Marsh Threader
Just a tad quicker than Farbog Explorer is Marsh Threader, a 2/1 kor scout creature from Worldwake. It made huge waves and defined the Standard format of the time.
Ha! Just kidding. It’s a tiny and vulnerable color-hoser that didn’t see much play.
#17. Farbog Explorer
Farbog Explorer and its predecessor Marsh Threader were some of the last creatures with Swampwalk before Sewer Shambler. While both were good commons to draft in a Limited format, they’d still start most games in the sideboard.
Farbog Explorer earns its spot over Marsh Threader just for surviving Electrickery and Shock, the benchmark for any good common creature in my book (Lightning Bolt who?)
#16. Raiding Nightstalker
Hey, can anyone tell me what’s going on in Portal: Second Age with the Nightstalkers? The dozen or so Nightstalker creatures were used sparingly in Magic’s early days, and for some reason they all have guns?
Anyways, Raiding Nightstalker is another fairly-costed Swampwalker at three mana for a 2/2. It rates above the other basic Swampwalkers solely because of its cool art and unique tribe.
#15. Restless Bones
Restless Bones is the only way to repeatedly pass Swampwalk to your other creatures, but it comes at the steep cost of four mana to activate on top of the three mana you pay for a 1/1 that takes two to regenerate.
If you can get the mana you need to make this skeleton work, it’s worth it. But it just won’t pay off as well as you’d like without a significant amount of ramp.
#14. Slithery Stalker
Slithery Stalker is a unique color-hate card in mono-black. It acts as a Banisher Priest for white or green creatures but also has Swampwalk to punish black decks. If its power and toughness were a smidge stronger then I’d rate it higher for being both removal and a threat to multiple colors, but as it is it’s much too situational to rank much higher.
#13. Dirtwater Wraith
I really like where you can go with Dirtwater Wraith. A shade with built-in evasion is always good, and this card has the potential to perform better than many of the other shades if you can invest in Blanket of Night or Evil Presence.
#12. Whispering Shade
Whispering Shade has the typical shade “pump” ability, and it’s made better than Dirtwater Wraith because it can pump its toughness as well. Whispering Shade comes in handy as a blocker where Dirtwater Wraith could only hope to trade with a bigger creature.
#11. Witch Engine
In a pinch, sure, Witch Engine can take you from 6 to 10 mana in a turn at the cost of giving your opponent an unblockable 3/3. There are unfortunately quicker ways to ramp, even in mono-black, especially before you hit six mana. Ignoring its swingy activated ability, a 4/4 with Swampwalk is a bit overcosted for six, especially considering its rarity.
Maybe this is worth running in a deck with no Swamps and cast with the help of multicolor lands rather than basics, but otherwise it’s just not useful.
#10. Wormwood Dryad
Wormwood Dryad is a Time Spiral re-design of The Dark’s Wormwood Treefolk. It’s cheaper, but it’s only a 3/1. Each of its landwalk abilities can be activated for one less mana and one less damage, giving it really effective evasion against black or green decks.
The best part is you aren’t necessarily paying for those landwalk abilities in its mana value, so it can always be played as a slower 3/1 in a Draft.
#9. Sewer Shambler
Poor Sewer Shambler, all alone in 2012 with no other Swampwalk creatures around. This Golgari zombie was fine in the Limited environment of the day, but didn’t last to make it into even the sideboards of scavenge-themed decks. There were just better 3-drops in the form of Varolz, the Scar-Striped.
#8. Zombie Trailblazer
I love any card that costs three of the same mana to cast, so Zombie Trailblazer caught my eye immediately.
Like Zombie Master, this is a Swampwalk-enabler for zombie tribal decks. Its biggest upside is its ability to turn any land into a Swamp, giving your Swampwalk creatures some play against nonblack decks.
This card can basically make another creature unblockable for the low cost of tapping two zombies you control. Goes great in any deck where you’ll have spare Zombie tokens!
#7. Leshrac’s Rite
Leshrac's Rite is the best way to permanently grant Swampwalk to a creature, and at only one black mana it’s the cheapest way to grant a landwalk ability to anything in the entire game. It’s a good card in any Swamp-based situation you find yourself in, especially if you’re looking to swing in with that Ulamog's Crusher.
#6. Zombie Master
Zombie Master doesn’t technically have Swampwalk itself, but it’s the second best Swampwalk enabler on the books. It’s a 2/3 body (meaning it survives Shock) that both protects your board with a cheap regeneration ability and bulldozes your entire battlefield through another black deck.
#5. Street Wraith
Street Wraith is a great card! Unfortunately it’s not because of its Swampwalk ability. Cycling for 2 life and no mana means it’s a popular target for the Doomsday piles in Legacy, effectively cycling you through the last few cards until you can hit Thassa's Oracle.
Still technically a powerful card with Swampwalk, so it breaks the top five.
#4. Sol’kanar the Swamp KingSol'Kanar the Swamp King
Do you want to punish your pod for playing too many black decks? Boy, do I have a legendary creature for you!
Sol'kanar the Swamp King is a legend from Legends that weighs in at five power, five toughness, and five converted mana cost. On top of being unblockable by players that control a Swamp, you’ll also gain a life whenever any player casts a black spell. You can easily build around this with effects like Sanguine Bond and Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose.
Sol’Kanar truly earns his name as the Swamp King.
#3. Wrexial, the Risen Deep
Wrexial, the Risen Deep was an exciting bomb back in the original Zendikar block Standard and still sees play in EDH today. The addition of Islandwalk means it’s got a broader utility than the average Swampwalker, and it lets you cast a free spell from an opponent’s graveyard once it connects with them.
Built-in evasion and a payoff? Yes, please!
Filth is one of the most consistent ways to grant Swampwalk to your entire board. Most often you’ll look to mill or discard one directly to the graveyard, but it can always serve as a chump blocker to throw in front of something without trample.
Luckily you’re not concerned with it trading up as a blocker. It’ll be worth the four mana if it stops even a little bit of damage on its way to the graveyard.
#1. Sheoldred, Whispering One
Sheoldred, Whispering One is one of the five original Praetors from New Phyrexia, and probably one of the best black creatures in the game. Sure, it’s a steep mana sink at , but that more than makes up for it’s 6/6 Swampwalkin’ body. Plus its immediate removal at the beginning of your opponent’s upkeep, plus the value you’ll get returning a creature card from your graveyard every turn.
I’m comfortable calling Sheoldred the best Swampwalk creature.
Best Swampwalk Payoffs
The biggest downside to playing Swampwalking creatures is playing against an opponent with no Swamps to walk on! Luckily black has access to a handful of spells that can change a land’s type to Swamp.
Contaminated Ground, Evil Presence, and Tainted Well are cheap ways to gift your opponents Swamps with a little extra card draw or life loss on the side, or use Reef Shaman and Dream Thrush each turn before you attack.
Unblockable attackers are also notoriously useful as the targets of ninjutsu abilities. An unblocked Swampwalker can become anything from a Throat Slitter to Silent-Blade Oni.
Wrap Up, Walk Off
Street Wraith | Illustration by Cyril Van Der Haegen
Let’s be real, there are easier ways to make your creatures unblockable, especially in black. But you’re not here to read about the best unblockable creatures. You’re here because, like me, you’re spiteful of your pod for building too many black decks. And that’s valid! Keep on being you!
What are your favorite Swampwalk creatures? Does a deck running playsets of Evil Presence and Contaminated Ground just to swing with Bog Raiders sound crazy? Is there a “good” Sol'kanar the Swamp King build? Let me know in the comments or over on the official Draftsim Twitter.
Thanks for reading, and stay boggy!
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