Oh, My Lord!

Posted in Feature on November 13, 2002

By Ben Bleiweiss

Since the beginning of Magic: The Gathering, there have been creatures that give specific creature types bonuses just by being in play. The first of these were Goblin King (Goblins), Lord of Atlantis (Merfolk), and Zombie Master (Zombies). All three of these creatures are creature type Lord. This means that they don't pump themselves at all. Hence the nickname "lords."

The definition of creature lords has come a long way since the days of Alpha, as many of the lords pump themselves quite nicely. Others still do not. Either way, this week is a look at the lords of Magic.


The three original Lords from Alpha: Lord of Atlantis, Goblin King, and the underpowered Zombie Master.

Before we get started, three things. Read these, otherwise you're going to email me with questions, and I'll have to refer you right back to the article.

  1. Lords constantly pump their creature types, without any sort of activation. They can give power/toughness (Thrull Champion), landwalk (Eladamri, Lord of Leaves), or even trample (Kavu Monarch). Cards that activate to give bonuses to creature types are not lords (for example, Squirrel Wrangler). Likewise, cards that give only a temporary bonus are discounted (such as, Phyrexian Driver).
  2. Lords must be creatures themselves and must pump a specific creature type (or types). Creatures that pump entire colors are not lords (Kaysa, Juniper Order Advocate). Creatures that shrink entire colors are not lords (Stronghold Taskmaster). Lords may pump more than one creature type, as long as all creatures pumped are of a specific type (Verdeloth the Ancient pumps both Treefolk and Saprolings). Goblin Caves is not a lord.
  3. All Slivers, aside from Sliver Queen and Metallic Sliver, would fit under the definition of lords. We'll get to Slivers one day here at MagicTheGathering.com, but not today. As I could write an entire article on Slivers, I think I'll stop now and save them for a later date.

ANY

Brass Herald: Why not start with the wild card lord? Brass Herald extends the cycle of Apocalypse "envoys," and allows you to look at the top four cards of your library for a specific creature type and put all creatures of that type into your hand. Unlike others (such as Goblin Ringleader), Brass Herald does more for these creatures aside from fishing them out of your library -- it gives a +1/+1 to the named creature type.

BARBARIAN

Balthor the Stout: Balthor's the only guy in Magic who ends up playing lord for two different teams. While still living, he was an outcast from the dwarven tribes who lived among Kamahl's barbarian people. He became a trusted member of those people, and a father figure to Kamahl himself. His card reflects the time he spent among barbarians by giving them a bonus in battle (+1/+1) and allowing Balthor to add firebreathing to any of his adopted brethren.

Soraya the Falconer

BIRD

Aven Brigadier; Kangee, Aerie Keeper; and Soraya the Falconer: Birds have the most lords of any creature type in modern Magic. Back in the day, there were a billion different creature types, one for each different bird. Bay Falcon, Duskrider Falcon, Freewind Falcon, Windreaper Falcon, and Zephyr Falcon were Falcons. Carrier Pigeons were Pigeons. Wake of Vultures were Vultures. Wild Aesthir was an Aesthir(!). All of these creatures have creature type Bird now, thanks to the wonderful errata power of the Oracle.

Also, creatures that are both Birds and Soldiers get +2/+2 from Aven Brigadier. Ascending Aven never looked so good!

CLERIC

Daunting Defender: The first and only common lord in Magic. This is only fitting, as the "tribal" theme is the main theme in Onslaught. What's a tribe without a lord, after all?

ELF

Eladamri, Lord of Leaves and Elvish Champion: For years, people clamored for an Elf Lord. "Merfolk have a Lord, why not Elves?" "Goblins have a Lord, why not Elves?" "Birds have a friggin' Lord, and there are, like, two Birds in Magic. Where's my Elf Lord?" Kaysa didn't satisfy these people. Juniper Order Advocate didn't satisfy these people. So finally, Tempest rolls around, and what do they get? Eladamri, Lame-o Lord of Lameness.

I'm going to get hate mail for this one, but let me tell you straight: People wanted a Lord that made Elves bigger, not untargetable. They wanted their Keebler troops to go large and smash face, not hide from the burn spell of the day.

This is probably why, a few sets later, Wizards printed Elvish Champion. A card finally on par with Goblin King, but for Elves. The Champion proved so popular and such a natural fit for the creature type that it was reprinted in Seventh Edition before it had even rotated out of Standard from Invasion.

Faerie Noble

FAERIE

Faerie Noble: Onslaught promotes tribes in much the same way that Fallen Empires and Homelands did -- only better. Faeries were a cute idea for green, but never really got off the ground. Much of this has to do with the definition of green fliers: Faeries are small winged folk who flutter around. Blue, white, and black get the small fliers in Magic, while red gets large dragons and green gets squat in the flying department. To have Faeries exist as a green creature type would go against the flavor of the color, so they were given the axe.

GOBLIN

Goblin King: The original lord, and the one by which all others are judged. Also, one of the three most played lords in tournaments, along with Lord of Atlantis and Deranged Hermit. What can you say about the original except that Richard Garfield found a great template for this type of card, and it's remained unchanged in Magic for nearly ten years now.

GRIFFIN

Zuberi, Golden Feather: The first Legend to serve as a lord, aside from the semi-lord Rohgahh of Kher Keep. Counts as a Griffin, but pumps only other Griffins.

GUARDIAN

Ivory Guardians: The only conditional lord of the bunch, this creature pumped only itself, Guardian Beast, and Sustaining Spirit for the longest stretch. Other Guardians started appearing circa Mercadian Masques, but not many people have flocked to build all-Guardian theme decks replete with Chaoslace.

Kavu Monarch

KAVU

Kavu Monarch: The only lord on the list to both give and take. It gives trample to Kavu, and it takes +1/+1 counters from Kavu. What a swell Kavu!

KOBOLD

Kobold Drill Sergeant, Kobold Overlord, Kobold Taskmaster, and Rohgahh of Kher Keep: I cannot tell you how many people have emailed me over the past year asking me to talk about Kobolds. Here's what I have to say to you:

Kobold Drill Sergeant: 1R. Type: Drill-Sergeant. All your Kobolds gain +0/+1 and trample. Kobold Overlord: 1R. Type: Lord. All your Kobolds gain first strike.

So with four Drill Sergeants and four Overlords in play, your Crookshank Kobolds are 0/5 first-striking tramplers -- all for the low cost of zero mana!

MERFOLK

Lord of Atlantis: I've talked in detail about Lord of Atlantis before, so I'll make this brief. For his casting cost, he's probably the best and most efficient Lord in Magic. He's a 2/2 for two mana, and he's in a color that traditionally doesn't get good weenies.

MINION

Balthor the Defiled: Balthor makes a trip back from beyond the grave to help out his new buddies. In block play, said chums include Braids, Cabal Minion; Cabal Inquisitor; Cabal Surgeon; Cabal Torturer; Cabal Trainee; Chainer, Dementia Master; Dirty Wererat; Gloomdrifter; Overeager Apprentice; Painbringer; Sadistic Hypnotist; and Treacherous Werewolf. In reality, Balthor is used a lot more for his second ability, which returns all black and red creatures from the graveyard en-masse. I personally have seen decks running Balthor the Defiled with Buried Alive and three Laquatus's Champions. I have yet to see a deck playing Balthor the Defiled to give Cabal Inquisitor and Overeager Apprentice +1/+1.

Ixidor, Reality Sculptor

MORPH

Ixidor, Reality Sculptor: Why not include this Legend that gives all face-down creatures +1/+1? It also aids creatures put into play face down with Illusionary Mask. How's that for retro, Type 1 play?

Warning: Playing Ixidor, Reality Sculptor in Type 1 will cause you to lose.

NIGHTMARE

Chainer, Dementia Master: The darling of Faceless Butchers everywhere, Chainer{{Chainer, Dementia Master}} is the only lord that takes all its followers to the eternal beyond with it. I suppose this is only fair, considering it summons creatures from death to serve as Nightmares.

SAPROLINGS

Verdeloth the Ancient: See Treefolk.

SLIVERS

Didn't you read my preface to this list? No? Fredo, you're nothing to me now. You're not a brother, you're not a friend. I don't want to know you or what you do. I don't want to see you at the hotels, I don't want you near my house. When you see our mother, I want to know a day in advance, so I won't be there. You understand?

SOLDIER

Aven Brigadier: See Birds.

SQUIRREL

Deranged Hermit and Nut Collector: Ah, the Squirrel guys. Deranged Hermit set the tournament scene aflame as the first lord to bring its followers to the party -- nothing like having four 2/2 creatures in play for only five mana. Kinda reminds me of Grizzly Fate, except that you can Unsummon, Snap, or Capsize the Hermit to play it again and again, netting multiple Squirrels each time.

Thrull Champion

THRULL

Thrull Champion: Pumps both your Thrulls and your opponent's, then steals your opponent's Thrulls. For extra fun, you can tap Thrull Champion to gain control of itself. I'll let you contemplate the staggering implications.

TREEFOLK

Verdeloth the Ancient: See Treefolk.

Just kidding.

Verdeloth gave the not-so-popular Treefolk race a hardy push, making 3/6 Redwood Treefolk into Verdeloth-sized 4/7 Treefolk. Lords are best used when they're at the top of your mana curve, so that they'll pump creatures already in play. They aren't great when they cost as much as most of the creatures they pump. Verdeloth is a lot better for pumping sentient fungus then walking trees.

ZOMBIE

Lord of the Undead and Zombie Master: Zombie Master sat in trade binders while Lord of Atlantis and Goblin King saw play in decks. Enter Lord of the Undead from Planeshift. Not only was this Lord more in line with the Goblin and Merfolk lords, but it also had the bonus of being able to bring back dead troops each turn. Not bad for the commander of an army of brainless goons.

Next week: The name of the Beast. Like Rhox. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Ben may be reached at bleiweiss1@cox.net.

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