There are a ton of creature types in Magic. Not all of them are very populous – Joven’s Ferrets remains the only card in Magic with the “ferret” type – but the ones at the top of the food chain are both populous and popular. Today we’re going to get across the 10 commonest of the most common creature types in all of Magic. You won’t believe number one! No, I take it back, you will. It’s really obvious. Let’s get to it!
Note: for the sake of posterity, these numbers are correct as of May 2021. I think. Look, I did my best. And no, it doesn’t include changelings, before you “well, actually” me.
Beast seems to be a bit of a catch-all type, to be honest. You’ve got huge woodland monsters like Obstinate Baloth or Kalonian Tusker, but then there’s the cow-like Thragtusk, the frog-like Craterhoof Behemoth, and the… balloon-like Cosmic Larva? Beast really feels like a “none of the above” category, a bit of an “other (please specify)” option. “Hey, we’re going to print a weird metal monster with sharp teeth and electricity and lobster claws called Arcbound Ravager, what type should it be?” “Ah, man, I dunno… just go with Beast, that’s where we put ’em all.”
For one of Magic’s most famous and beloved tribes, Elves come in at a disappointing ninth in the overall standings (better than Goblins though, who with 389 cards are twelfth). There are plenty of famous Elf cards, of course, from Bloodbraid Elf to Deranged Hermit to the inestimable Llanowar Elves, but this is a creature type that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Elves decks are popular in Legacy, Modern and Historic, where they’re one of the scourges of the Best-of-One ladder. As far as creature types in Magic go, Elves have definitely made their mark as one of the most famous.
Cleric is one of those tribes than kinda sneak under the radar. I remember staying with a friend of mine after a GP, Nathan Gotlib, and he mentioned he had a Cleric EDH deck. “Wow, you must have scraped the bottom of the barrel for that one,” I said, before being utterly amazed by some of the creatures that are, in fact, clerics. Mother of Runes, Leonin Arbiter, Auriok Champion, Weathered Wayfarer, Luminarch Aspirant – even the brand-new Elite Spellbinder! There are a ton of “secret” Clerics, way more than you’d think, and after learning that, it’s not such a surprise to find they’re the eighth-most popular tribe in Magic.
Unlike a Cleric, it’s a bit harder for a Zombie to hide its creature type, as the rotting flesh tends to be a bit of a… dead giveaway. There have been competitively-viable Zombie decks here and there throughout Magic’s past – most famously with Gravecrawler and Geralf’s Messenger as a foil to 2012’s Standard Delver – but the tribe’s casual appeal is its real draw. EDH is awash with Zombie decks, captained by cards like Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, Varina, Lich Queen and, a little oddly, the non-Zombie commander Gisa and Geralf.
Elementals appears to be another catch-all category, much like Beasts. However, while Beasts are “big monsters what live in the forest,” Elementals seem to instead be “monsters of various size what have been made by magic,” or, failing that, “strange creatures that don’t have big enough teeth or claws to be Beasts”. Elementals range in size and shape from the little Tangled Florahedron to the colossal Malignus (although all are obviously dwarfed by Unstable’s Infinity Elemental). Interestingly, Elementals have one of the largest – if not the largest – collections of tokens, with over 30 different Elemental tokens in existence.
I was surprised to learn how populous the Spirit tribe is at first, but then once you have a think about it you realize it’s painfully obvious as to why – regardless of your original creature type, once you die, there’s a good chance that you end up as a Spirit anyway. There are some surprising inclusions, too – did you know that Seedborn Muse, Deadeye Navigator and Bloodghast are all Spirits? It’s not all semi-transparent ghostly figures like Obzedat, Ghost Council! And then, on top of all this, there’s Kami of the Crescent Moon with its little blue Spirit butt winking at you in its art.
The next few creature types on the list are “classes” rather than actual species. There are a lot of Soldiers, the majority of them white, and virtually all of them dual-type. While there are a handful of big Soldiers – Akron Legionnaire alongside Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis as the headliners, as an 8/4 and a 2/8 respectively – most Soldiers are much smaller. Despite this, there are only a handful of Soldier lords in Captain of the Watch, Field Marshal, Aven Brigadier and Auriok Steelshaper (and even then the Steelshaper is only a conditional lord). Still, there are some very famous soldiers, such as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Captain Sisay and perhaps more controversially, Rick, Steadfast Leader. Because he’s an ex-cop? Quite an interesting call.
I have to admit, I don’t really understand the real difference between Warriors and Soldiers. I suppose “Soldier” implies a military element, but really, Soldiers are just a subset of Warriors, and the distinction seems largely academic when it comes to Magic. Maybe Captain of the Watch would just be absolutely busto if the two types were collapsed. In any case, just like Soldiers, there are precious few lords (Kargan Warleader is the only one I could find), and plenty of famous legends. Krenko, Mob Boss, Ezuri, Renegade Leader and Neheb, the Eternal are all Warriors – but I’m getting more beat vibes from this creature type, I have to say. It seems like another “other” category, for humanoid creatures that don’t wield magic. I suppose that’s why there are so many!
And when it comes to humanoid creatures that do wield magic, where do they end up? In the second-most populous creature type, Wizard! With famous examples including Snapcaster Mage, Dark Confidant, Vendilion Clique and so many more, the Wizard creature type has done very well over the years. For such a powerful tribe, it’s funny that it doesn’t have the same tribal identity as something like Elves or Goblins – but I think it’s a case of the Wizard type being secondary to the “main” type, which can be anything from Troll (Guardian Augmenter), to Bird (Derevi, Empyrial Tactician) to the one and only Lizard Wizard, Frilled Mystic.
And, of course, the most populous creature type is none other than Human – and by a huge margin, too. It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that there are more Humans in Magic than there are Soldiers, Warriors and Wizards combined. Humans are enormously solipsistic (you think so too, right? Or is it just me?) and most of the characters represented in cards are Humans almost by default. They have such a huge head start on the other types, and so many new ones are printed, that it’s overwhelmingly unlikely they (we?) will ever be toppled as the number one creature type. Humans! We’re the best! Kind of.
There you have it – the 10 most common creature types in Magic. What do you think? Do you disagree? Bad luck, bucko – the numbers don’t lie and (as long as I didn’t stuff up my research) there’s nothing you can do about it. I should really do more quantitative lists like this, as it’s very difficult to argue with them. See you next week for “top five most expensive planeswalkers in M14”!