Last updated on May 20, 2022
Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn | Illustration by Lucas Graciano
Unicorns are top tier magic, at least in the movies, from The Last Unicorn (gen X represent!) to Harry Potter. And it seems like the internet has decided that they poop rainbows. So there’s that.
Unicorns are a bit underwhelming in Magic’s history from that perspective. They’re very rare (there are so few I can easily rank every single unicorn in Magic), which is on theme. But their powers… well, let’s just say they’re getting better.
These cards don’t usually make a large impact in 60-card formats or in Draft, but enough cool stuff has been made that we can now field two versions of unicorn tribal in Commander. Unicorns in EDH can be on point, so let’s take a look!
Prized Unicorn | Illustration by Rudy Siswanto
Unicorns are a creature type that was first printed in Alpha with the vanilla and overcosted bear Pearled Unicorn. Although early unicorns had a range of abilities, unicorns cared about lifegain and +1/+1 counters in the post-Modern Horizons era.
This thematic consistency is what really allowed unicorn tribal to exist since the majority of unicorns in Magic were printed in the last four years when what matters to unicorns was becoming more focused.
Three quarters of the unicorns in Magic are white, which makes sense given their representational history. Just image search “unicorn” and you’ll mostly see a pile of white unicorns with rainbow manes. Magic is still missing the rainbow manes, but they’ve gone all in on the white.
This rules text has aged about as badly as anything in Ice Age. Cumulative upkeep! Concern with mana burn! Look, if you’re running Mystic Remora and then dropped Adarkar Unicorn the next turn, I’d absolutely just stand up and start slow clapping.
But aside from that boomer meme-pocalypse moment in your cumulative upkeep tribal deck (why, though?), there’s no point in running this unicorn. And you can’t actually run it in an EDH deck with a unicorn commander since it has a blue pip so you’re spared that difficult choice.
Below rate for a creature even back in Alpha, you can imagine what power creep means for this card. But Pearled Unicorn is the OG, so this has to be an auto-include if you’re running unicorn tribal.
This is an interesting space for cumulative upkeep I’d have liked to have seen go further. Revered Unicorn still feels unplayable in a normal deck, but you can generate an interesting lifegain loop with Emiel the Blessed.
Inspiring Unicorn is pretty uninspiring, actually. For true believers only.
At eight mana to cast both the adventure side and the creature, Lonesome Unicorn may be the least efficient adventure creature in Throne of Eldraine. I run a pretty effective Selesnya () adventures deck when Arena rolls out a midweek Magic using the Artisan format, but even in that deck I won’t play this unicorn.
I know I played Daybreak Charger when I (probably unwisely) tried to make mono white aggro work in M21 Limited. You’ll pay this in unicorn tribal because you’re playing unicorn tribal and this has a mane of fire, but you’re never actually happy to top deck this.
We get these effects on ETB in every set now. But this is still strictly worse than Ronom Unicorn, even in the sac-to-kill-an-enchantment space.
I know Healing Salve is the most maligned of the Alpha cycle that also gave us Lightning Bolt, and I also know that it took almost ten years before design gave up on ever more “powerful” versions of Samite Healer, but I can’t help but think that if they keep printing cards like Valkmira, Protector’s Shield and Blessed Sanctuary that some kind of alternative build to Ghostly Prison-style pillow fort decks might be in our future.
We’ve seen a lot of cards do this. Ronom Unicorn does this for unicorn tribal. Otherwise, meh.
This could be a wincon in Theros: Beyond Death Draft if you were desperate to push damage in a format that could turn into Pillow Fort Limited. Captivating Unicorn remains one of the few common unicorns to see EDH play outside of unicorn tribal. It’s expensive and not an enchantment creature for some reason, but this ability isn’t terrible in Enchantress decks that can quickly drop a lot of cheap enchantments.
This occasionally shows up in group hug decks, and I’d totally put it in Weird Hand Tribal if I could even find enough cards for that. But I don’t know how you’d just throw Wishmonger in unicorn tribal decks. It has all sorts of chaotic possibilities I’m not sure you really want when you’re just trying to gain life and attack.
This always felt like a card that just couldn’t hang in Flourishing Fox cycling decks in Ikoria Limited, and I imagine there are a lot of Commander deckbuilders who have this card in piles for consideration for lots of decks but end up cutting it.
Although the most popular mutate commanders are in Sultai () and Temur () colors, commanders that can use white often include Majestic Auricorn. You can build less parasitic mutate decks, but builds that want as many mutate triggers as possible like Nethroi, Apex of Death, Vadrok, Apex of Thunder, and Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt often want this.
This card also shows up in unicorn lifegain decks and in some just really odd spaces, like the handful of folks shoehorning this into weird builds of Chulane, Teller of Tales.
I also want to point out that this creature does not, in fact, have only the one horn. I count at least 18, as if this majestic beast once said, “Hooo, boy, if I had a horn for every time my mutate pile got blown out by a Doom Blade…“
Loyal Unicorn shows up in lots of Commander decks that want to turn creatures sideways for fun and profit in addition to unicorn tribal decks. It’s useful in durdly attacking decks like Isshin, Two Heavens as One, or faster attempts at beatdown like Haktos the Unscarred.
This Cube staple put unicorns on the map. Although Emiel the Blessed can command a unicorn army, that role is most often filled by Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn. Emiel is most often used for its first ability, the flicker.
The ability is more expensive than automatic flickers like Teleportation Circle but it can be used repeatedly since it doesn’t require a tap like Roon of the Hidden Realm. It can also be used at will like Cloudshift in response to spells in a way that Thassa, Deep-Dwelling can’t.
The green in the hybrid mana symbol means you can’t pack this into your Brago, King Eternal decks, but it also means Emiel slots easily into Selesnya counters decks on top of all the decks that just want a flicker effect like Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder and a partner like Thrasios, Triton Hero.
No red, black, or blue unicorns yet. That seems uncreative to me, and WotC still needs to make up for Feast of the Unicorn. Still, we’ve got a few interesting ones in green, both of which are Lure on a stick. Or, I guess, a horn.
Drop it on a board with a few other deathouchers. Wait for three players to take their turns and ignore you and the Fynn in your command zone. This card seems fine and totally not sus. Your turn, drop Fynn and totally win! #YOLO
If you really, really want another copy of Lure to enchant with, you’ll put up with Noble Quarry’s six mana(!) bestow cost here. Who wants that? Boomers living that sweet rampage life with Gabriel Angelfire or running the similar pipedream builds with commanders like Gorm the Great or Sekki, Seasons’ Guide.
It’s fine. Winning isn’t why we all play this game.
Can we all just take a second and appreciate the insanity of this? As Zebra Unicorn rears up, giving us all red-eyed side eye in front of a blood moon(!) and like maybe some stained glass(!!), can you dig it?
This +1/+1 counter machine is in more than 8,000 EDH decks, all with a Selesnya counters core. It boggles me that Good-Fortune Unicorn isn’t in even more unicorn tribal decks. But I guess I can see why this card doesn’t make the cut if you’re leaning into blink with Emiel the Blessed and lifegain with Lathril, Blade of the Elves.
Maybe the best unicorn ever printed? I guess you can fight me for Emiel, but Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn is one of the top ten lifegain commanders out there. Compare it to Trelasarra, Moon Dancer. Wouldn’t you rather have this unicorn while you dig for your Scurry Oak?
A walking, neighing Manalith was probably never good enough, but I don’t see Opaline Unicorn being run outside of unicorn tribal decks since it’s been power crept by Alloy Myr and Ornithopter of Paradise.
There aren’t a lot of reason to run most of these unicorns.
The pace of unicorn printings in Magic is accelerating. It wasn’t that long ago that we despaired of decent squirrel tribal, but now we live in a Chitterspitter world. It might be worth pulling your unicorns together next time you’re rooting through your bulk storage boxes to see if the inevitable rainbow wave of unicorn awesomeness hits you when it arrives.
It’s a flip of the coin which commander you use since the full synergies aren’t quite there yet. You might also go full equine tribal and include a few nice Selesnya horses since the only horse legend, Keleth, Sunmane Familiar, doesn’t have enough colors to include enough horses to form a deck. But Crested Sunmare, Diamond Mare, Thundering Mightmare, Vine Mare, and a few others might want a home in EDH.
I’d be tempted to see if more casual EDH folks would be up for counting unicorns as horses for the purpose of Crested Sunmare given how low-powered this tribal deck is, even compared to other tribal decks.
Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn is a great lifegain commander. And quite a few unicorns like playing in the space of lifegain and +1/+1 counters so you can even push it to quasi-tribal if you want.
Big green rampy stompy cards have lots of homes in Commander. But there are no mono green blink commanders. Yet. Green seems to keep getting bigger and bigger pieces of the color pie.
Emiel the Blessed is the best option to play with the ETBs of cards like the new hotness Workshop Warchief and old chestnuts like Eternal Witness, Acidic Slime, Regal Force, and Woodfall Primus. Add some white ETB cards like Ephemerate along with green enablers like Instrument of the Bards and Yisan, the Wanderer Bard and, well…
I’m not entirely sure how well this would work, but it would be unique and fun to try to build.
Look, if you made it this far, I think you want to know which Magic unicorns are going to look awesome enough to be airbrushed on the side of a van conversion in case you need to time travel back to 1982. Almost all of these manes are pretty dope, but there are a few that really do the job.
Honorable mention to whatever it is Mesa Unicorn is doing in the art.
#5. Adarkar Unicorn
If you forgive the late 90s fetish with chin strip goatees on people and alternative/post punk/ska/swing revival band lead singers, then you can appreciate the flowing locks on Adarkar Unicorn. This is still the most cartoon style of any Magic unicorn. And that means a great swirl of lines in those frosty locks as this unicorn stares you down.
#4. Daybreak Charger
The mane is made of fire. Or light. I dunno what’s happening here, exactly, but the mane on Daybreak Charger glows, and it’s huge!
#3. Prized Unicorn
Tell me that you don’t immediately think of a shampoo commercial as Prized Unicorn gazes at you mid-hair toss.
#2. Ronom Unicorn
Dramatic. Windswept. Hardcore. Ronom Unicorn is the Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff of unicorns. If someone came along and rebooted the unicorns franchise to make it grittier and have the unicorns talk in low growls, this is the look.
#1. Good-Fortune Unicorn
Good-Fortune Unicorn is the 80s supermodel hair you’re looking for when you’re building out the concept art for your jazz fusion/prog rock ironic retro album (released only on vinyl, natch).
Daybreak Charger | Illustration by Forrest Imel
Unicorns are still a solid hipster tribe in Magic. They aren’t quite there yet in most ways, but there are some classic vibes to them along with a handful standout cards. A quick web search for unicorn t-shirts will show you what you need to wear as you bring unicorn tribal to your play group.
I can’t imagine anyone targets you first for damage with this kind of deck, so that’s a bonus. They’re a monster if they do.
If that’s your jam as a Magic player, give unicorns a shot. And maybe you can figure out a way to mix in some kind of “toot your own horn” dad joke while you’re at it.
What’s your favorite unicorn? Are you hoping for some more rep for this underserved tribe soon, or could you care less? Let me know in the comments down below or join the discussion in the Draftsim Discord.
That’s all from me for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: