A History of Free Creatures

Posted in Arcana on November 18, 2010

By Monty Ashley

With Scars of Mirrodin, there is finally a zero-cost 1/1 in Magic. And it's been a long time coming. Come with us now as we take a look at the rich history of !

There are also cards Shifting Wall and Phyrexian Marauder, which could technically cost zero mana but go straight to the graveyard. They don't count. And neither do creatures with alternate ways of getting onto the battlefield, like Allosaurus Rider or Spirit of the Night. Or Cheatyface. Looks, let's just do this, okay? Any creatures that aren't here were skipped on purpose.


The first free creature was the humble Ornithopter, which made its appearance in 1994's Antiquities:

Ornithopter | Art by Amy Weber


Ornithopter went through a number of different looks, but we already covered that. The important thing today is that could get you a 0/2 flyer.


Legends introduced the first non-artifact creatures that cost zero mana. And there were three of them! In exchange for not being artifacts, they lost a point of toughness and the ability to fly. Frankly, even for , the Kobolds aren't a very good deal.

Crimson Kobolds | Art by Anson Maddocks

Crookshank Kobolds | Art by Christopher Rush

Kobolds of Kher Keep | Art by Julie Baroh

Crimson Kobolds
Crookshank Kobolds
Kobolds of Kher Keep

These days, it's unlikely that we'd print three functionally identical creatures in a single set, even if one of them did get a bonus from Rohgahh of Kher Keep. It's also worth noting that all the card names are plural, which means that even when you get a bunch of Kobolds in one place, they still don't add up to enough to get above zero power.


Shield Sphere | Art by Alan Rabinowitz

Shield Sphere

Shield Sphere is larger than Ornithopter, but it also exchanges the ability to fly with the inability to attack.


Phyrexian Walker | Art by Bryan Talbot

Phyrexian Walker

With Phyrexian Walker, we got closer to the Ornithopter of old. Unlike Shield Sphere, it's able to attack. If that seems like a good idea.

Future Sight

Does Dryad Arbor count? It doesn't have a mana cost of , although it certainly costs zero mana to play. Just in case, here it is.

Dryad Arbor | Art by Eric Fortune

Dryad Arbor

Hey, it's the first time you could get a 1/1 for no mana! But it still comes with strings attached, since it takes up a land drop. Still, Dryad Arbor didn't seem to break anything when it came out, so the stage was set (a few years later) for...

Scars of Mirrodin

Memnite | Art by Svetlin Velinov


Hooray! Memnite at last!

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