T.A.P.P.E.R. | Illustration by David Sladek
I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve never been the strongest Magic player. I came to it late, and it’s not like I grew up playing any kind of game that asks you to *gasp* optimize your build. I don’t win a lot of games, but something I like to do, especially in group settings, is play spoiler.
Pingers are loads of fun for that, as are mill and discard effects. But another of my favorite troll tools is tapping. That’s right, I’m just gonna tap your permanent. Tap. Enjoy.
Tapping can grow into more than just a nuisance depending on the permanent type you’re tapping and how many you’re affecting. Oh no, look at all your tapped out blockers. From tap effects big and small, here’s your guide on how to “tap that.” Tipper-tapper, let’s get at ‘er!
What Are Tappers in MTG?
Sanctuary Lockdown | Illustration by Lius Lasahido
Tappers are cards that allow you to tap permanents, put simply. You’re usually looking to tap opponents’ permanents as interaction. It can come in the form of an instant, sorcery, or enchantment, but it can also be an activated ability or an ETB among others. Tapping opponents’ permanents mostly belongs to blue. The other colors can access it, but there are often extra costs or limitations attached.
You can expect to pay roughly three mana for your basic tap spell. A creature with an ETB or an instant often costs you that much, as will the typical “tap enchanted creature; enchanted creature doesn’t untap during its controller’s untap step” enchantment. It usually costs you more if you want to tap more creatures or have any extra perks.
The number of permanents you can tap, what types of permanents you tap, and how long they remain tapped are all key factors when judging how strong a tapper is.
I’m not counting conspire cards because that’s its own ability that allows you to copy the spell. Tapping isn’t the purpose, instead acting like a cost to unlock extra perks of the card you’re casting. I’m also staying away from cards that tap a creature you control as part of the activation cost of one of their abilities.
That means no Akoum Flameseeker, no Devout Invocation, and no, not even Nihiloor. We’re not in the business of tapping our stuff to gain advantages; we’re just clowning around.
Speaking of clowning around, you kind of have to snort-laugh at this. I don’t think Jace knows what “tapping” is, so this little T.A.P.P.E.R. robot smashes that fourth wall with an unblinking, unsettling grin.
Ajani Vengeant comes close to qualifying for this list, but it’s not really a tapper. The +1 loyalty prevents an opponent’s permanent from untapping during their next untap step, but Ajani doesn’t to the tapping. There are lots of enchantments and sorceries that do something like this, but that’s its own topic.
Dang it, I wanted to give the kitty some love after what he’s been through lately…
Focused Funambulist + Framed!
Okay Focused Funambulist and Framed! are just silly good fun. But they’re from Un-sets. Don’t be upset.
Motion Sickness is an Unfinity card but I wanted to make a Phoebe Bridgers reference (✌️).
Best White Tappers
#11. Gustcloak Cavalier
Gustcloak Cavalier only taps creatures when it attacks. It’s pretty run-of-the-mill as a tapper. The high mana cost probably comes from its ability to
cower when blocked remove itself from combat.
#10. Ballynock Trapper
Ballynock Trapper comes in at four mana with a simple tap-for-tap ability. It’s just not as efficient as I’d like it to be. At least it comes with a way to untap itself so you can get multiple activations on the same turn.
Sandsower offers you a tap-for-tap tradeoff. You don’t have to tap Sandsower to activate the ability so you can keep tapping at a rate of three-for-one.
It gets points for being repeatable, but needing three creatures to tap one is only viable if you’re producing a bunch of tokens.
#8. Sanctuary Lockdown
Sanctuary Lockdown lets you use your humans to tap creatures. You probably want this more for the static +1/+1 your creatures get, especially since the tap ability also has a mana cost.
#7. Sunstrike Legionnaire
The only way to untap Sunstrike Legionnaire is to cast creatures or use untap abilities, so there’s downside. It can also only tap creatures that cost three mana or less. It only costs two, but there’s better to be had.
Not surprised that I found this in a bulk rares pack at my LGS a few years back.
#6. Kor Hookmaster
An ETB effect is always more reliable than any activated ability. If your Kor Hookmaster resolves, at least you got that one trigger. Multiple activations are nice if you can get there.
#5. Blinding Beam
Blinding Beam gets you two for the usual cost of three mana if you’re looking to tap. Extend its duration for one mana. Not bad, but there are better plays to be had.
#4. Diversionary Tactics
Diversionary Tactics offers you a better rate than Sandsower at two-for-one tapping. It’s also an enchantment, so it won’t be at risk of creature removal.
#3. White Dragon
I wonder which color its eyes are…
White Dragon comes with an ETB effect that taps a creature. It’s not as easily recurring as some of the cards below, but it gains some spots for being in the right colors for an Ojutai, Soul of Winter deck.
I’ve also been playing too much Skyrim.
#2. Yosei, the Morning Star
Yosei, the Morning Star is White Dragon’s older brother, here to chew bones and kick ass. And it’s all out of bones.
This creature’s tap ability comes from its death trigger, which delays your opponent’s untap step and lets you tap five(!) of their permanents, no type restrictions.
#1. Regna’s Sanction
Regna’s Sanction is very well costed for what it does. The friend/foe choice allows for some politics, and your foes all suffer a mass tapping event at your hands.
It costs four and moves at sorcery speed, which feels balanced overall.
Best Blue Tappers
What’s this? Mid-rankings honorable mentions? Yeah, well, blue just has that many cards that tap.
The most basic types are Claustrophobia and all its clones; enchantments that tap a creature and prevent it from untapping. There are so many of these types of effects, whether cheaper versions that tax the creature’s controller or more expensive versions that give you an added bonus. There are also creatures with ETB tapping abilities and activated tap-for-tap abilities. All fairly standard, but we seek excellence.
These blue rankings are probably wrong because Twiddle didn’t even sneak its way in. Now my thumbs don’t know what to do with themselves…
#17. Queen of Ice
Both Queen of Ice and its adventure have tapping effects. You can start tapping even before you get the Queen onto the field and keep it up once it’s on the field.
Three guesses for how much mana it takes to summon this frosty monarch.
#16. Icefall Regent
This dragon only triggers when it enters the battlefield, but Icefall Regent is harder for your opponent to target. Guess their creature’s staying tapped for a minute.
#15. Juvenile Mist Dragon
It may only have an ETB trigger, but Juvenile Mist Dragon also taps one of each opponent’s creatures. It’s no slouch in EDH, ready for your Ojutai, Soul of Winter decks and others.
#14. Wall of Stolen Identity
Wall of Stolen Identity won’t let you tap multiple creatures or do it more than once, so you’d better make that “once” count. It costs only one more than the typical 3-mana enchantment that locks down a creature, but you’re doing it with a freaking wall.
Oh, and it’s a shapeshifter. I guess that’s important.
#13. Illithid Harvester
Horror-fying. No, really. This guy can turn any tapped creatures into 2/2 horrors upon ETB.
Plant Tadpoles acts as a slightly more expensive Icy Blast at sorcery speed. Illithid Harvester fits well with a commander that cares about adventures, like Gorion, Wise Mentor, but you can mess around with horrors if you feel like being more adventurous.
#12. Retreat to Coralhelm
Retreat to Coralhelm gives you a modal landfall ability, which is great. You can choose between a tap and a scry every time land enters, and for the same price as your usual ETB or enchantment tap ability.
#11. Mind Over Matter
Mind Over Matter may take a while to achieve, but it’ll be heckin’ annoying once it’s out. Discard cards to tap; what’s not to like?
#10. Icy Blast
We like X spells here. Icy Blast’s ferocious ability lets you keep your targets tapped for longer. Blue isn’t best at hitting that ferocious trigger unless you’ve already got some aquatic monstrosity out, but white and green should let you get there if you go multicolored.
Shoutout to Reality Spasm, which is practically the same card but costs more to cast.
#9. Breaching Leviathan
The tapping ability is stapled to the ETB of a massive creature, but you get to tap all nonblue creatures if this resolves. They don’t untap on their controller’s next untap step, so you can let the Breaching Leviathan’s summoning sickness wane before you swing.
#8. Niblis of Frost
Having repeatable tap on a 4-drop is a great combo. Instants and sorceries have the double benefit of triggering Niblis of Frost’s prowess and your tap ability, so go ahead and cast some spells!
#7. Lorthos, the Tidemaker
Lorthos, the Tidemaker is like a reusable Breaching Leviathan. It costs a lot to get there, but you can’t deny that tapping up to eight permanents can be big.
#6. Kiora Bests the Sea God
Another saga, but the only relevant part is the second chapter. Kiora Bests the Sea God’s second chapter taps all nonland permanents, which should open up the board for you to swing at your adversary.
#5. Shipbreaker Kraken
You’ll have to pump in the mana to get Shipbreaker Kraken to become monstrous. What’s attractive here is that the creatures you tap don’t untap as long as Shipbreaker Kraken is under your control.
#4. Time of Ice
Each of this saga’s chapters play into tapping creatures. Your first two chapters of Time of Ice tap an opponent’s creature and delay the untapping, while the third chapter acts as a sweeper for tapped creatures.
Time this right and you can have that come into effect after you’ve activated or cast a mass-tapper.
#3. Tolarian Kraken
Big, bad sea creatures seem to be the order of the day (anyone else craving sushi?).
Tolarian Kraken brings you repeatable tapping that’s accessible when you draw a card. Just make sure you have free to take advantage of it.
#2. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Loyalty ability to tap creatures? Check. Second loyalty ability that draws cards depending on your opponents’ tapped creatures? Double-check.
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage is fine at tapping creatures itself, but that -2 should be what’s getting your gears churning.
#1. Timin, Youthful Geist
Timin, Youthful Geist taps creatures on every combat step, not just yours. Its partner Rhoda, Geist Avenger has great synergies with anything that taps your opponents’ creatures, but even Timin on its own will net you a bunch of activations.
Best Black Tappers
#5. Mana Skimmer
Somehow, land tapping is worse when it’s just a combat damage trigger. The flying might help it get through, but Mana Skimmer isn’t the way to go.
A tap enchantment with a cost to keep around just… it makes me Melancholy, okay? Don’t mind me, just gonna put on some Elliott Smith.
#3. Mana Leech + Mole Worms
Would you still love me if I were a mole? How about a worm? How about a mole worm?
Mole Worms and Mana Leech have identical stats and abilities. Land tapping is just so… pastoral.
#2. Phyrexian Gremlins
Phyrexian Gremlins offers you a pretty simple tap-for-tap trade, but it’s artifact-specific. Land tapping is only really useful when your opponent has something special going on, but this is still in the “meh” tier.
Paralyze does at one mana what a lot of blue cards do at higher costs. Taxing your opponent four to untap seems reasonable for a 1-drop, especially since we’re out of the main tapping colors.
Best Red Tappers
#4. Stensia Innkeeper
Stensia Innkeeper taps an opponent’s land tap on ETB. There isn’t a lot of tapping opponent’s lands available, but this costs too much to be all that useful.
#3. Chandra’s Revolution
Chandra’s Revolution lets you deal damage to a creature on top of tapping an opponent’s land. It costs the same as Stensia Innkeeper but isn’t attached to a body.
#2. Hyperion Blacksmith
I’m ranking Hyperion Blacksmith above the land tappers because I figure messing with someone’s artifacts can sometimes be better than messing with their lands.
But it sees less play based on EDHRec, so what do I know?
#1. Curse of Marit Lage
Land-specific hate can be gimmicky, but it targets blue. Come on! Watch your blue opponents sweat when Curse of Marit Lage hits the field.
Best Green Tappers
#9. Joven’s Ferrets
Joven’s Ferrets taps anything that blocks it. You only get activations on your combat step but you get the benefit of tapping multiple blockers. It’s low cost, but it’s the only ferret in the game.
#8. Orochi Ranger
Orochi Ranger taps any creature to which it deals combat damage. Its stats fit a 2-drop, but you’re probably topping out at one activation unless you’ve got some tribal lord effects going.
A lot of blue cards do exactly what Roots does for three mana instead of four. I love me some root beer, but I’m not rooting for Roots.
#6. Whip Vine
The cost to access a tapping ability is about right. Whip Vine comes in as a 3-mana creature, but it’s restricted to blocking, and its tap ability only affects fliers. This doesn’t even see use in Arcades, the Strategist decks.
#5. Clinging Mists
I have to give Clinging Mists points for how many creatures it can tap, and that it doesn’t tap blockers. Thing is, you need to be low on life to access the tapping part of this card.
This is more of a damage prevention card so it’s slightly miscast here.
#4. Matsu-Tribe Decoy + Matsu-Tribe Birdstalker
Matsu-Tribe Decoy and Matsu-Tribe Birdstalker are similar in that they both tap creatures to which they deal combat damage. One costs more and can basically be granted reach (Birdstalker). The other is slightly cheaper and you can pay to force a creature to block it (Decoy).
#3. Kashi-Tribe Reaver
Kashi-Tribe Reaver places higher than its Matsu-Tribe peers from Champions of Kamigawa because its regenerate ability is overall more useful than activated reach or a forced block. It’s still not the best snake warrior for tapping, though.
#2. Kashi-Tribe Elite
Oh hello, it’s that ol’ familiar combat damage trigger!
I’ll take Kashi-Tribe Elite’s legend snake lord shroud ability any day. This lad has a steady home with the legendary snakes from Champions of Kamigawa.
#1. Nature’s Will
Nature’s Will is a decently powerful enchantment that can give you better mana access after you swing with your fliers and tramplers. Sure, your opponent will untap their lands on their designated step, but they can’t respond to anything until then.
Best Multicolored Tappers
Let’s get astrological (not astronomical). I’m a Taurus. Yes, I like minotaurs. This has me like that chuckling bearded dragon gif.
Look, I might like Backlash, but there are better burn spells and better tap spells. This gets more play than some of our other 3-mana tapping cards, but it’s not even in primary tapping colors.
#11. Abominable Treefolk
It’s a Simic () snow creature with stats that rely on the number of creatures you control. Abominable Treefolk taps an opponent’s permanent on ETB and is costed about right for its snow-reliant stats.
#10. Silkbind Faerie
I’m giving this faerie points just for being a faerie. I also like that Silkbind Faerie’s activated ability needs you to untap it as part of the cost. The casting/activation rates are average at best, but this lil’ rogue is doing its best.
A land tapping enchantment that punishes players who leave their Islands untapped. Disgusting. Hating Monsoon season is a meme, right?
It restricts what blue players, whether mono- or multi-colored, can do on turns that aren’t theirs, and that should be something most of the table cheers.
#8. Bounding Krasis
Bounding Krasis features in some Prime Speaker Vannifar decks. Makes sense: it’s in the right colors, it has flash, and its tap effect is costed on curve.
The mana cost also helps you look for 4-mana value creatures when you sac it to Vannifar, so there’s that. It’s a basic ETB tapping ability, but the total package works.
#7. Dovin, Architect of Law
Dovin, Architect of Law is definitely focused as a tapper. Unfortunately all its tap abilities cost you loyalty. You can gain at the same rate as you spend (one per turn), but it takes a six mana and four +1 activations to get to that ultimate ability.
#6. Ojutai, Soul of Winter
What I like about Ojutai, Soul of Winter is that you could just as easily slip it into a 99 and build around it. There are some other dragons kicking around this list that could go well with it, and its tap ability can be useful disruption.
#5. Tamiyo, Compleated Sage
Rankings are based on tap abilities, right? Well, Tamiyo, Compleated Sage is cheaper to cast than Dovin, Architect of Law, and the tap ability is the one that adds loyalty counters. I’d rather have a tap ability that fuels other shenanigans than a tap ability that I have to pay for.
#4. Ral Zarek
Ral Zarek is another planeswalker with a loyalty ability that taps a permanent. It also untaps something, and there’s no restrictions on who owns or controls the permanents. It’s only until next upkeep though, but it only costs four to get Ral Zarek out and tapping.
#3. Glare of Subdual
Glare of Subdual enables some tap-for-tap shenanigans. Being in Selesnya () gives you access to token strategies to include this in, like, an Emmara, Soul of the Accord deck.
I rank this above the planeswalkers because it’s generally cheaper to get out and you should be able to use it more than once per turn.
#2. Thoughtweft Gambit
Mass tap and untap is a great thing to have on an instant. Costing six to pull off a Thoughtweft Gambit is about right on curve. It’s decent enough to be in about a quarter of Timin/Rhoda decks on EDHRec.
#1. Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
I don’t think this should really be a question. Derevi, Empyrial Tactician comes with an alternative casting cost to bypass commander tax. It taps or untaps creatures when you have creatures ETB and when your creatures deal damage to a player. You get more tap triggers than you can get anywhere else.
Bow down to the tapper supreme!
Best Colorless Tappers
#8. Amber Prison
Amber Prison costs eight to get going, but it’s still giving me a smirk. We’ve been binge watching Fringe at my house lately, and this kinda reminds me of that.
It’s my list and I’ll cheat if I want to.
#7. Puppet Strings
You’re sinking five mana to tap your first creature, but at least Puppet Strings gives you the option to untap too.
#6. Entrancing Lyre
Three is fairly average to get a tapping artifact out, and this one has an X in its activated ability. Entrancing Lyre is just so much better than everything that auditioned before it.
#5. Tangle Wire
Everybody’s tapping permanents! Tangle Wire also hits you, so keep that in mind. It’ll only last for a few turns (or until it’s killed), so make the best of it.
#4. Kill Switch
Kill Switch does just as it suggests: it taps all artifacts. I’d like it a little better if it also allowed you to keep it tapped, but maybe that’s asking too much.
#3. Arena of the Ancients
What is it with all these old artifacts? Arena of the Ancients cares about legends in that it’ll tap everyone that’s already on board and won’t let any untap as long as it’s out.
This is just the cat’s meow. Neko-Te taps creatures until it leaves the battlefield. Let this equipment’s foes lick their wounds while they wait.
#1. Angel’s Trumpet
Angel’s Trumpet is pretty much built to call the table to arms. Swing with all you got, else you won’t have it as a blocker and it’ll punish you.
Best Tapper Payoffs
Timin, Youthful Geist + Rhoda, Geist Avenger
Rhoda, Geist Avenger grows when you opponents’ creatures become tapped (aside from when they attack). If Timin, Youthful Geist is on the board you get one activation at the beginning of each combat phase.
Lower-cost and repeatable tapping abilities are great to have if you’re looking for more ways to buff Rhoda. If you want to slip in some more humans you can use Sanctuary Lockdown to tap opposing creatures and pump Rhoda.
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage has a -2 loyalty ability that draws cards based on the number of tapped creatures opponents have. You obviously can’t use two loyalty abilities on the same turn, but you can use your other tapping effects to give you a larger draw from that -2.
Some cards affect the game depending on whether they’re tapped or not. For example, Archelos, Lagoon Mystic makes all other permanents enter tapped or untapped depending on its own state. Want to tap it without risking a combat phase? Tappers to the rescue! They also help if you’re facing such a threat and need to change what it’s doing to the board.
Artifact tappers can also be useful for disrupting players that are using them against you. You’ve just untapped your Grindclock on your untap step? How alarming; allow me to hit “snooze.”
As you’ve seen, lots of tapping abilities are tied to ETB effects. Blink decks should like some of these as complementary pieces. Maybe a few smaller creatures that tap a creature or two and a bomb that taps multiple, if not all creatures when it enters the battlefield. There’s also tribal ETBs, like Merchant Raiders for pirates and Merrow Reejerey.
Bounding Krasis | Illustration by Jack Wang
Tapping is one of the core game actions in Magic. Tapping lands for mana, tapping permanents to activate abilities, tapping to attack… it’s just annoying when it’s not your choice to tap your stuff.
What do you think of these rankings? Which of the many unlisted blue cards would you rank above my picks? Which cards do you use in your Timin and Rhoda decks? Let me know in the comments below, or come continue the discussion on Discord.
After all that, I’m tapped out and I need a jolt of coffee!
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