Last updated on April 7, 2022
Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen | Illustration by Johannes Voss
Magic is a game with almost 30 years of history, and you’d be amazed at how many types of cards and mechanics have been printed so far. WotC defines card types like creatures or artifacts and keywords like first strike and trample, but players around the world have their own ways to categorize cards.
Lands are a great example of this. Various different types of lands are classified by popularity, like scry lands, shock lands, slow lands, etc. These aren’t officially named by Wizards; players decided to give them those nicknames.
There are plenty of other cards with their own unofficial pseudonyms, and today I’m going over a specific category: the lords.
Let’s find out what a lord is and their impact on MTG Arena!
This is a complex question, but a lord is basically a creature with a global effect that enhances or affects other creatures of its type. Almost every lord has the “other creature types you control get X” oracle text as its first ability, and they usually just pump them with +1/+1 effects.
The most iconic lords are probably the first and oldest ones, like Lord of Atlantis. This Lord had a few erratas since its printing, including having its type changed and being reworded so that only pumps other merfolk. Zuberi, Golden Feather is another old lord, the lord of the griffins.
But lords aren’t just reduced to pumping the team. There are others, like Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (one of the few Jund commanders out there), that give fantastic abilities to their tribe. In this case your dragon army gets haste.
With that clear, let’s start by naming the best lords out there!
It’s usually good to have every creature you play act as a Vindicate, right? Here’s the catch: there are only 37 other scarecrows printed, and not even half of them are good on top of that. What’s left from here is to play tons of changelings and hope for the best.
Still, Reaper King is mainly used in other ways outside of tribal strategies. Its pop up in combo strategies where you cast spells that make every other creature spell a scarecrow.
There was a time in Lorwyn where treefolk rose in popularity, and Timber Protector was a beast and a half. Indestructible is an ability that usually isn’t easily given to other tribes. Getting to pair this guy with Ashaya, Soul of the Wild is great since it makes every other non-token creature you have indestructible.
Adaptive Automaton isn’t a lord for any particular tribe, but rather a lord for any tribe since you can choose which kind of creature to pump when it enters the battlefield.
Morophon, the Boundless
Morophon, the Boundless is Adaptive Automaton’s big brother. It pumps the tribe you chose and reduces the cost of that creature type. What’s cool about this card is that you can smash all the colors you want as well as multiple creature types in one deck and it still works.
Balthor the Defiled
Balthor the Defiled is a weird one. You’d usually see it in mono-black zombie Commander decks since it’s a zombie itself. It works primarily by bringing any other creature that was sent to the graveyard back to the battlefield.
Best Tribal Lords
Along with elves, goblins are one of the most emblematic tribes in Magic. They’re also one of the main tribes that have a bunch of lords to boast.
- Battle Cry Goblin
- Goblin Chieftain
- Goblin General
- Goblin Rabblemaster
- Goblin Trashmaster
- Hobgoblin Bandit Lord
- Mad Auntie
- Goblin Warchief
Elves probably have the most lords out of all the tribes thanks to their popularity.
- Allosaurus Shepherd
- Canopy Tactician
- Elvish Archdruid
- Elvish Clancaller
- Elvish Warmaster
- Imperious Perfect
- Joraga Warcaller
- Wolverine Riders
Zombies surprisingly have a lot of lords with some very unique cards.
- Archghoul of Thraben
- Bladestitched Skaab
- Cemetery Reaper
- Death Baron
- Diregraf Captain
- Headless Rider
- Hordewing Skaab
- Lord of the Accursed
- Risen Executioner
- Tomb Tyrant
- Undead Augur
- Undead Warchief
This may not be the most popular of the tribes, but merfolk have their fair share of lords.
- Coralhelm Commander
- Master of the Pearl Trident
- Merfolk Mistbinder
- Merfolk Sovereign
- Merrow Reejerey
- Lord of Atlantis
What’s particular about these lords is that they don’t pump creatures based on their type, they pump them based on their color. This is great for decks that benefit from using both colors, especially in Commander. The only color pair with two lords supporting the same colors is Selesnya () with Tolsimir Wolfblood and Wilt-Leaf Liege.
- Tolsimir Wolfblood
- Wilt-Leaf Liege
- Deathbringer Liege
- Boartusk Liege
- Ashenmoor Liege
- Glen Elendra Liege
- Thistledown Liege
- Creakwood Liege
- Mindwrack Liege
- Murkfiend Liege
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed doesn’t tie you to play a specific tribe. Sure, you may know it better from all the insane combos it can pull off with creatures like Walking Ballista, Triskelion, and sacrifice engines, but you heard about it here first if you’re weren’t familiar with those!
If you ever wanted to build an aggro artifact Commander list and needed a lord, Alibou, Ancient Witness is all you ever needed. It enables instant combos with cards like Kuldotha Forgemaster, which is also an instant threat if you run the right package. But it’s primarily used in aggressive Boros () decks that use a combination of equipment and artifact creatures, but the option is there.
Alela, Artful Provocateur is unique in that it’s a creature that can create its own army as long as you meet the requirements. It also pumps its team and you could theoretically build around it with no other creatures in your deck.
Aven Brigadier earns its spot since it pumps two creature types, something that was scarce back in the day.
My experience with the now-dead Extended format started with kithkins, but Wizened Cenn was among my favorite cards from it.
Getting to reduce the amount of mana you pay to play your creatures is huge. Daru Warchief also gives one extra toughness to others of its kind unlike other lords.
Knights aren’t a very common creature type but getting to make them indestructible with Knight Exemplar is an ability that very few tribes have.
Captain of the Watch
Captain of the Watch makes this list purely because it’s close to my heart. It was one of the cards I played and won with during my initial days in Standard. Take that Alara Jund.
Reducing the mana of creatures is good but giving them haste with Goblin Warchief is just broken.
Magda, Brazen Outlaw
Magda, Brazen Outlaw is great because it’s a bit different from other lords. It tutors for things that can potentially end games quicker, like dragons or dangerous equipment. Don’t be surprised if you’re ambushed by a random Embercleave one of these days. You’ve been warned.
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell isn’t your regular lord, but it’s by far the best red lord. Any creature, no matter how small it may be, represents a massive threat with Torbran in play. And it doesn’t stop there as Lightning Bolts are now turned into 1-mana value Lava Axes.
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Hand of the Praetors
Cemetery Reaper is one of the best lords for zombies.
Chainer, Dementia Master
Chainer, Dementia Master is just broken. It excels in bringing back entire armies on its own and pumping them in the process in reanimator shells.
Scion of Oona
Evasion and protection are qualities that are kind of rare on lords. In Scion of Oona’s case, giving other faeries shroud proved to be great in its prime since it forces your opponents to deal with it first.
Ixidor, Reality Sculptor
Ixidor, Reality Sculptor makes the list through pure lore. And the fact that it can generate its army if needed.
One of the best merfolk lords is without a doubt Merrow Reejerey. It lets you play multiple spells in a row by untapping your lands and can also get you past big blockers.
Cheap lords are some of the best in the game, and Supreme Phantom is great at supporting other spirits.
Lord of Atlantis
Lord of Atlantis is a runner-up for the best lord of all time. Blue is the most used color in Magic and it has access to some of the most powerful spells in the game. So what do blue mages play? Islands.
You get the idea.
Lords that can create their team are excellent and Imperious Perfect does it for very cheap.
Elvish Archdruid is particularly impressive since it not only pumps your whole team, it enables a lot of big spells very early thanks to the mana it can produce. It’s like having Gaea’s Cradle with feet for your mono-green elves deck.
Deranged Hermit not only pumps its tribe but it can instantly create a complete party wherever it goes.
Nightpack Ambusher is insanely good. It can be played on your opponent’s turn, ambushing their creatures while you start making its army on your own. It excels in tempo decks but pumping other wolves at instant speed in your werewolf tribal deck is no joke.
Kaheera, the Orphanguard
Kaheera, the Orphanguard is one of the few companions that can be your commander without interfering with the deckbuilding process too much. It also sees a fair amount of play in control decks in Historic and Pioneer since it’s the only creature the deck runs.
Morophon, the Boundless
Rienne, Angel of Rebirth
Rienne, Angel of Rebirth amazed me since it’s very rare to have a lord that pumps creatures based on their color and being able to build your entire deck around it greatly rewards you.
Chief of the Foundry
Flexible and cheap, Adaptive Automaton is a great a lord for any tribe.
Myrs are a tribe that’s not very popular across the multiverse, but that doesn’t keep them from having a trusty lord in Myr Galvanizer.
You may be wondering, why go so far as limiting your deck by using just one kind of creature? The answer to that is payoffs.
These cards heavily reward you if you commit to a single tribe. Here are some of the best ones out there:
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell | Illustration by Grzegorz Rutkowski
So there you have it! These are the most iconic lords in Magic. I hope you enjoyed the journey and met some new lordly friends for future deck innovations.
What do you think? Did I miss an absolutely iconic lord? Do you have a particular lord you like for a less-supported tribe? Let me know in the comments below or find us over on Twitter.
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