Creatures are one of the most important parts of Magic: The Gathering. Many creatures’ strengths lie in their abilities, but creature evaluation always begins with the two small numbers in the bottom right corner of every creature card. Still, one of the most often overlooked elements of creatures in Magic is It’s their strength.
A creature’s toughness is its armor and health at the same time. This is because the creature dies when it takes an amount of damage equal to its tenacity. This means that creatures with high tenacity are the most resilient in the game and capable of living damage-based eliminations like Lightning Bolt. So today, let’s take a look at just how tough magical creatures truly are.
Updated by Chris Stomberg on May 25, 2023: Who doesn’t like big-ass creatures? Magic’s lore includes massive creatures including Krakens, Dragons, Dinosaurs, Eldrazi, and more, so there’s no shortage of contestants for cards with the highest tenacity. Tenacity is usually a measure of a creature’s defensive ability, but printing on cards like Assault Formation, which allows a creature to allocate damage equal to its Tenacity, has made these creatures sought after in tenacity-themed decks.
There’s also something to be said for decks that simply want to pass the time with some of the best blockers in the game. Whatever your reason for needing high tenacity creatures, here’s an updated list of the biggest ones.
15 Phyrexian Dreadnought
Despite having a mana value of one normal mana, the Phyrexian Dreadnought is one of the largest creatures in Magic with a staggering toughness of 12. Dreadnought is one of the oldest cards in the game and was printed on Mirage blocks in 1996.
This card uses the archaic term “ask”, so it displays its age in the rule text. Cards with bury have been corrected to say “Put a permanent into its owner’s graveyard” or “Sacrifice this permanent” instead. In other words, the true cost of playing Dreadnought is putting it on the board to sacrifice creatures with total power of 12 or greater when they enter the battlefield. Otherwise, the Dreadnought will go straight into the grave.
14 Arixmedes, the sleeping island
This sleeping giant functions as a land and creature, and it makes a lot of thematic sense for one of the biggest creatures in the game. When Arixmethes is executed, it must cast 5 more spells before transforming into a massive 12/12 body on land. Thankfully, Slumbering Isle helps offset its delayed arrival on the board by tapping two mana as lands.
Additionally, many removal spells say they destroy the target non-land permanent. In other words, Arixmethes is safe from almost any elimination as long as it maintains a slumber counter. If you’re sure you have a chance to attack with the kraken, you can fire off a few spells to remove any remaining sleep counters and deal a decent 12 damage.
13 ancient stone statue
Another relatively inexpensive creature for its size, the Ancient Stone Idol can be cast for very little mana if you have enough creatures on the board. Thanks to its flash and mana discount abilities, you can cast Ancient Statue during the combat phase pretty easily for half its original cost.
Charge is also a very important keyword for a creature of this size, as it is prone to being blocked by smaller creatures your opponent controls. Even if an opponent is removed to care for an idol, they leave a similarly sized token trampled on unless exiled. All things considered, this is the kind of value we want in a card that costs a lot of mana.
12 Galta, Primal Hunger
Speaking of discounted casting costs and trampling, Galta has both of those traits in spades while being a popular creature type thanks to its dinosaur status. Ghalta counts each creature’s power at a discounted cost, making it much easier to discount than Ancient Statues.
This means it’s not uncommon to see Ghalta hitting the battlefield for a nice 2 green mana. Unfortunately, Ghalta doesn’t provide any value when it hits the battlefield right away, so you’ll want some kind of elimination protection or some way to hasten it to the dinosaurs to see if the card is worth casting.
11 Unholy Phalanx
Despite their general rarity, the Unhallowed Phalanx shares the distinction of being one of the toughest creatures in Magic. This creature is also a rather comical interpretation of necromancy, as it demonstrates the lesser known difficulty of raising the dead.
Phalanx isn’t a playable card in most decks, but it works well with armor themed decks that have a way to make creatures allocate combat damage equal to their toughness. Other than that, it’s the most highly regarded card outside of constructed decks.
10 Emrakul, the Promised End
Emrakul, the Promised End is a 13/13 legendary Eldrazi from the Eldritch Moon. Emrakul costs 1 less mana for each type of card in your graveyard. Emrakul has flying, stomping, and instant protection, protecting the card from all instant elimination.
As if Emrakul’s massive size and fighting prowess weren’t enough, once you enter the battlefield, Emrakul allows you to take control of your opponent on your next turn. This allows you to make fun plays like casting your opponent’s elimination onto your own creature or using your combat phase in the worst way possible.
9 tree of salvation
A strictly defensive creature, the Tree of Redemption is a 0/13 plant with a 4 mana defender. Most defense-oriented creatures provide utility by blocking, but the Tree of Redemption has a unique tap ability that trades tenacity for life total.
This allows you to increase your toughness when your life total is high, and set your life total to 13 when you’re in serious situations.
8 tree of perdition
A mono black reflection of the Tree of Redemption, the Tree of Perdition is a mono black 0/13 with Defender. However, the Tree of Redemption allows you to tap to exchange armor for your life total, while the Tree of Perdition allows you to tap to exchange armor for your opponent’s life total.
This ability can be used aggressively, especially when the Tree of Perdition’s Toughness is reduced by -1/-1 counters or magical effects.
7 Autochthon worm
Autochthon Wurm is a Selesnya worm that costs a whopping 15 mana. Boasting a massive 9/14 body and charge, Autochthon Wurm’s mana cost may seem overwhelming, but it has a muster feature that allows creatures to tap to assist in casting.
When put into a deck with a large number of creatures, such as a token deck, Autochthon Wurm is relatively easy to cast.
6 world spiny worm
Appears in Return to Ravnica, The Worldspine Wurm is a massive 11/15 trampling for 15 mana. If it’s a green creature, you’ll be hard pressed to find a creature that can beat the Worldspine Worm in battle due to its great strength and tenacity. Even if your opponent has to overcome the Worldspine Wurm’s incredible toughness, when they die, the Worldspine Wurm’s stats are redistributed, creating 3 green 5/5 Wurm tokens.
When used with “Hymn” effects and spells that buff all creatures under the player’s control, the death of a Worldspine Worm can actually make the board state more threatening. Worms are vulnerable to banish-based removals, though, so be careful.
5 Emrakul, The Aeon’s Torn
One of the three Eldrazi Titans, the original incarnation of Ion’s Torn Emrakul, is often a game-winning creature when cast. An irrefutable 15/15, Emrakul is unhurried but can use great stats on cast as Emrakul gives an extra turn when entering the battlefield.
In addition to phenomenal strength and tenacity, Emrakul also possesses flight, protection from colored spells, and an annihilator 6. This protection from colored spells complements Emrakul’s high tenacity quite well.
4 impermeable great worm
The impenetrable Great Worm has no charge ability, but is essentially a strong and powerful alternative to the Autochthon Wurm. Impervious Greatwurm, a 16/16 for 10 mana, mustered like the aforementioned Autochthon Wurm.
However, in addition to their lower cost and higher strength and toughness, impermeable greatworms are indestructible. Between invulnerability and 16 armor, few creatures are as resilient as an impenetrable greatworm.
three Marit Large
Rather than being a normally cast creature, Marit Lage is a legendary token that can be created with the effects of the Dark Depths and Marit Lage’s Slumber cards. Marit Lage is a black 20/20 avatar with flying and invulnerability, very powerful from an offensive and defensive standpoint.
Dark Depths is a land played in the same format as Legacy. This land can’t be tapped for mana like you’d expect from a land, but it enters the battlefield with 10 ice counters that can be removed for 3 normal mana costs. If Dark Depths has no ice counters left, it is sacrificed and Marit Lage is created. Dark Depths may seem mana intensive, but there are plenty of ways to get rid of these counters without paying a cost.
2 Karis & the Beholder
Kharis & the Beholder are extremely rare and obscure legendary creatures exclusive to Heroes of the Realm, a special card series exclusive to Wizards of the Coast staff.
As creatures, Kharis & the Beholder is Selesnya 1/20 for 5 mana using 20 size dice. When this creature enters the battlefield and at the beginning of your upkeep, you create a 1/1 white Human token and roll a 20-sided die. If the result plus the number of creatures you control is greater than 11, put a +1/+1 counter on all creatures you control. If you manage to roll a natural number 20, for each nonlegendary creature you control create a token that is a copy of that creature.
It’s safe to say that Kharis & the Beholder will be a popular choice for Commander players if it’s an accessible and usable card. However, as it currently stands, this card is not playable in its constructed format and is very difficult to obtain.
One BFM (Big Furry Monster)
Also, BFM, which is illegal in all formats, is black 99/99 for 15 mana. The creature is so large that it splits into two cards that must be played simultaneously, a concept that Wizards of the Coast will revisit in Eldritch Moon. with meld mechanics.
Aside from its terrifying size, BFM has dodge in the form of requiring at least 3 creatures to block, which helps push damage away. Needless to say, one successful attack from BFM is game over.
Next: Magic: The Gathering – Best Revive Target