Magic: The Gathering – Creatures With Toughness

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Creatures are one of the most integral parts of Magic: The Gathering. The power of many creatures is in their abilities, but scoring creatures always starts with those two little numbers on the bottom right of each creature card. Still, one of the most frequently overlooked creature elements in Magic is their toughness.


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A creature’s toughness is both its defense and its health, since when a creature takes an amount of damage equal to its toughness, it dies. This means that creatures with high toughness are among the most resilient in the game, capable of taking out living-based damage like Lightning. So today we’re going to take a look at how powerful magical creatures can be.

Updated on May 25, 2023 by Chris Stomberg: Who doesn’t appreciate a creature with a big butt? Magic’s lore includes titanic creatures, including Krakens, dragons, dinosaurs, Eldrazi, and more, so there’s no shortage of contenders for the toughest card. While toughness is usually a measure of a creature’s defensive ability, the printing of cards like Assault Formation that allow creatures to deal damage equal to their toughness has made these creatures sought after for toughness-themed decks.

There’s also something to be said for decks that simply want to stop time with some of the best blockers in the game. Whatever your reason for needing high-toughness creatures, here’s an updated list of the biggest of them all.

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15 Phyrexian Dreadnought

Phyrexian Dreadnought card image

Despite only having a mana value of one generic mana, Phyrexian Dreadnought is one of the biggest creatures in Magic with an incredible toughness of 12. Dreadnought is also one of the oldest cards in the game, having been printed in the Mirage block back in 1996.

The card shows its age in the rules text by using the outdated term “bury”. Cards with the burial mechanic instead read “put a permanent in its owner’s graveyard” or “Sacrifice this permanent.” In other words, the real cost of playing Dreadnought is having creatures with a total power of 12 or more on your board that you sacrifice when it enters the battlefield. Otherwise, the Dreadnought goes straight to the graveyard.

14 Arixmethes, The Sleepy Isle

Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle card image in Magic: The Gathering, with artwork by Dimitar Marinsky

This sleeping giant acts as both a land and a creature, which makes a lot of sense thematically for one of the biggest creatures in the game. Once Arixmethes is in play, you’ll need to cast five more spells before he transforms from the ground into his massive 12/12 body. Fortunately, Slumbering Isle uses two mana as a land, which helps make up for its delayed arrival on the board.

Also, a lot of removal spells say they destroy the target alien permanent. This means that Arixmethes is safe from almost all removal as long as he maintains his sleep counter. Once you’re sure you have a chance to attack with the Kraken, you can cast a few spells to remove its remaining sleep counters and hit a measly 12 damage.

13 Ancient stone idol

Ancient Stone Idol card from mtg

Another relatively cheap creature for its size, Ancient Stone Idol can be used for very little mana if you have enough creatures on your side of the board. Thanks to flash and its mana reduction ability, you can fairly easily cast Ancient Stone Idol during your combat step for half its original cost.

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Additionally, trample is a very important keyword for creatures of this size, as they are incredibly susceptible to being blocked by smaller creatures your opponents control. Even if the opponent has removal to take care of the idol, it will leave behind a similarly sized token that also has trample unless banished. All things considered, this is the kind of value we want from a card that costs this much mana.

12 Ghalta, primal hunger

Ghalta, primal hunger

Speaking of reduced casting costs and stomping, Ghalta has both in spades, while also being a popular creature type due to its dinosaur status. Ghalt is even easier to discount than Ancient Stone Idol, as it counts the power of each of your creatures towards its discounted cost.

That said, it’s not uncommon to see Ghalt on the battlefield for a cool two green mana. Unfortunately, Ghalta doesn’t provide any value when you hit the battlefield right away, so you’ll probably want to have some sort of removal protection or method of rushing the dinosaur to make sure it’s worth playing the card.

11 An uninitiated phalanx

Unhallowed Phalanx card from mtg

Despite being a rarity, the Unhallowed Phalanx has the distinction of being one of the most powerful creatures in Magic. The creature is also a rather comical take on necromancy, showing some of the lesser-known problems with raising the dead.

Phalanx isn’t a game card in most decks, but it works pretty well with a toughness-themed deck, allowing your creatures to deal combat damage equal to their toughness. Additionally, it is the card most valued outside of constructed decks.

10 Emrakul, The Promised End

Image of Emrakul the Promised End card in Magic: The Gathering, with artwork by Jamie Jones

Emrakul, The Promised End is a 13/13 legendary Eldrazi from Eldritch Moon. Emrakul costs one less mana per turn between cards in your graveyard, and has flying, trample, and instant protection to protect it from all instant removal.

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As if Emrakul’s massive size and combat prowess weren’t enough, upon entering the battlefield, Emrakul allows you to gain control of your opponent during their next turn. This allows you to make funny plays like playing your opponent’s removal on your own creatures or using their battle step in the worst possible way.

9 The Tree of Salvation

Tree Of Redemption card from mtg

A strictly defensive creature, Tree of Redemption is a 0/13 plant with a four-mana defender. While most defense-oriented creatures provide their utility by blocking, Tree of Redemption has a distinct tapping ability that trades its toughness for your life total.

This can increase his toughness when your life total is high, or set your life total to 13 if you’re in a fierce level.

8 Tree of Doom

Tree of Perdition card and background art

Mono-Black Reflection Tree of Redemption, Tree of Perdition is mono-black 0/13 with a guard. While Tree of Redemption can be tapped to trade its toughness for life total, Tree of Perdition can be tapped to trade your toughness for your opponent’s life total.

This ability can be used offensively, especially when Tree of Perdition’s toughness is reduced by -1/-1 counters or enchantment effects.

7 Autochthon Wurm

Autochthon Wurm card and art in MTG

Autochthon Wurm is a Selesnya wurm that costs a staggering 15 mana. Boasting a massive 9/14 body and trample, while Autochthon Wurm’s mana cost may seem huge, it has a convoke that allows creatures to tap to help cast it.

When Autochthon Wurm is placed in a creature-heavy deck such as token decks, it can be played with relative ease.

6 Worldspine Wurm

Worldspine Wurm

Appearance in Return to Ravnica, Worldspine Wurm is a massive 15/15 with trample for 11 mana. Being a green creature, you would be hard-pressed to find a creature that could defeat the Worldspine Wurm in combat due to its great strength and toughness. Even in the event that the opponent has to overcome the Worldspine Wurm’s incredible toughness, the Worldspine Wurm’s stats are redistributed upon death to create three green 5/5 wurm tokens.

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Combined with the “anthem” effects and spells that buff all creatures under the player’s control, the death of Worldspine Wurm can actually make for a more threatening state on the board. However, Wurm is susceptible to banishment-based removal, so watch out for that.

5 Emrakul, The Aeon’s Torn

Emrakul, The Aeon's Torn card from mtg

The original incarnation of one of the three Eldrazi titans, Emrakul, Aeon’s Torn, is a creature that will often win the game when cast. A 15/15 that can’t be countered, while Emrakul lacks haste, his star stats can be used when you play him, as Emrakul gives you an extra turn when you enter the battlefield.

In addition to its extreme power and toughness, Emrakul also has flying, color protection, and a nullifier of 6. This color protection complements Emrakul’s high toughness quite well, as it is nearly impossible to remove without wiping the board.

4 Impermeable large vurma

Impermeable large vurma

While the Impervious Greatwurm lacks trample, it is essentially a strictly stronger alternative to the Autochthon Wurm. A 16/16 for ten mana, Impervious Greatwurm summoned just like the aforementioned Autochthon Wurm.

However, in addition to its lower cost and higher strength and toughness, the Impervious Greatwurm also has indestructibility. Between indestructible and toughness 16, few creatures are as resilient as the Impenetrable Greatwurm.

3 Marit Lage

dark deeps and marit lage token cards from mtg

Marit Lage, not a normal cast creature, is a legendary token that can be spawned by the card effects of Dark Depths and Marit Lage’s Slumber. Marit Lage is extremely strong both offensively and defensively, as she is a 20/20 black avatar that flies and is indestructible.

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Dark Depths is a land that sees play in formats like Legacy. While this land can’t gain mana as you might expect from a land, it enters the battlefield with ten ice counters on it that can be removed at the cost of three generic mana. When there are no ice counters left in the Dark Depths, she sacrifices herself and creates Marit Lage. While Dark Depths seems to require a lot of mana, there are a number of ways to remove these counters without paying their cost.

2 Kharis & The Beholder

Kharis & The Beholder card from mtg

Kharis & the Beholder is an incredibly rare and obscure legendary creature that was only available in Heroes of the Realm, a special series of cards given only to Wizards of the Coast employees.

As a creature, Kharis & the Beholder Selesnya is a 1/20 for five mana that uses a die of 20. When this creature enters the battlefield and at the start of your upkeep, 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 eleven, a +1/+1 counter is added to all creatures you control. If you manage to roll a natural 20, for each non-legendary creature you control, create a token that is a copy of that creature.

If Kharis & the Beholder were an accessible and available card, it’s safe to say that it would be a popular choice for Commander players. Anyway, this card is not playable in any crafted format and is very hard to come by.

1 BFM (Big Furry Monster)

BFM (Big Furry Monster) cards from mtg

BFM is also illegal in all formats, black 99/99 for 15 mana. This creature is so large that it is split into two cards that must be played simultaneously, a concept that Wizards of the Coast would revisit in Eldritch Moon with a meld mechanic.

In addition to its terrifying size, BFM has evasion in the form of requiring at least three creatures to block it, which helps it absorb damage. Needless to say, a single successful BFM attack is game over for sure.

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