[Top 15] MTG Best ETB Creatures That Are Excellent

[Top 15] MTG Best ETB Creatures That Are Excellent
"What a nice battlefield. I think I'll take it!"

Welcome to Value Town

There are many creatures in Magic: The Gather that have an ability that triggers when they enter the battlefield. These abilities, usually referred to as enter the battlefield effects, or ETBs, can be incredibly powerful. Usually, the tradeoff is that the creature will have lower stats for how much mana it costs to cast, although that’s not always the case.

These creatures can potentially eke out incredible value over the course of a game, especially when paired with blink and flicker effects. Such effects cause the creature to go into exile temporarily to then return to the battlefield again soon after, causing their ETB to trigger again. With this value-generating potential in mind, here are 15 of Magic’s most excellent ETB creatures. 

15. Wood Elves

The forest continues to grow with each victory.

There are lots of cards in Magic that can fetch basic lands from your library. What makes this card special is that it allows you to specifically get a Forest from your library. And note that Forests doesn’t have to be basic. That means shock lands, gates, Triomes, and more are all on the table, quite literally. What Wood Elves lacks in raw stats it makes up for in mana acceleration. 


  • Fetches a non-basic Forest from your library
  • Puts that land directly on the battlefield, untapped


  • Slow ramp at three mana
  • Low power and toughness for mana cost

How to get it: Seventh Edition


14. Solemn Simulacrum

"The one that goes: beep boo boo bop boo boo beep."

Unlike Wood Elves, Solemn Simulacrum — affectionately named Sad Robot by the MTG community — only searches your library for basic lands. And while you still get to put that basic land directly onto the battlefield, it enters tapped. On the upside, when Sad Robot dies you get to draw a card, so it replaces itself. It can be a little slow sometimes, but the reason that you’ll see this card in so many commander decks is because it’s colorless. Unlike green, most colors have trouble ramping by searching for lands, and this perfectly fits that bill and even sprinkles a little card draw on top. 


  • Colorless ramp
  • Draws a card on death


  • A bit slow at four mana

How to get it: Mirrodin


13. Grave Titan

Death in motion.

A mass of writhing limbs and flesh, Grave Titan is a fat pile of stats for a great price. As with the rest of the Titan cycle, Grave Titan has both an ETB and an attack trigger. 10/10 in stats on three bodies for six mana is an incredible rate, and the Titan itself has deathtouch to boot, though that rarely matters on bigger creatures. The fact that it also summons two more bodies with 4/4 in power on attack means this is a must-remove threat on sight. 


  • Amazing statline for the mana cost
  • ETB and attack trigger
  • Snowball of value if left unchecked
  • Minimal upside of deathtouch


  • Missing the “zombie” typing for tribal decks 

How to get it: Magic 2011


12. Karmic Guide

"Your choices have led you to this place."

Karmic Guide is a card that never sticks around for long but also keeps coming back. It’s essentially a reanimation spell on a small creature. Don’t let the Echo cost deceive you, if you build a deck that runs Karmic Guide, you’ll likely never pay it. The goal with Karmic Guide is to squeeze as much value out of its ETB through value combos. It should be noted that it can also create infinite sacrifice and recursion loops with Reveillark.


  • Reanimation effect on an ETB
  • Can combo with other card for incredible value, sometimes outright winning games


  • Fairy weak on its own
  • Will most likely be sacrificed to its Echo cost

How to get it: Urza’s Legacy


11. Sun Titan


This creature is an absolute staple in the commander format. A 6/6 for six that lets you bring any permanent with mana value of three or less back to the battlefield is just gravy. Instead of being just limited to creatures like Karmic Guide, this holy giant can get artifacts, enchantments, and even lands. And like Grave Titan before it, Sun Titan gets its effect again when it attacks. Vigilance allows you to use its triggered ability on attack and even hold it up as a blocker — an all around great card.


  • Great value engine
  • Cant target every kind of permanent
  • ETB and attack trigger
  • Good attacker and blocker


  • Limited to targeting cards with three mana value or less

How to get it: Magic 2011


10. Sepulchral Primordial

"Rise, and fight for your new master."

Sepulchral Primordial is the Avatar of reanimation. An excellent finisher that turns your opponents’ greatest deceased threats against them. It’s a powerhouse that can completely turn the tide of a game. That is, however, depending on the quality of creatures in your opponents’ graveyards, assuming there are any at all. There are a few hoops to jump through with this card, but when Sepulchral Primordial hits, it hits.


  • Reanimates your opponents’ best creatures
  • Can swing board states in your favor
  • Attacks well with intimidate


  • Heavily reliant on opponents to play big and/or value creatures
  • Needs creatures to be in opponents’ graveyards

How to get it: Gatecrash


9. Diluvian Primordial

The mystic arts incarnate.

Where Sepulchral Primordial reanimates creatures, Diluvian Primordial reanimates spells. The reason this Primordial ranks higher than its swamp-based counterpart is because big instants and sorceries can often outpower big creatures. Creatures usually need a turn to get going, whereas instant and sorcery effects happen immediately upon resolution. Diluvian Primordial also swings games, even more dramatically than Sepulchral. However, it also has the same downsides in that its efficacy is heavily reliant on your opponents’ decks and game state.


  • Reanimates your opponents’ best spells
  • Can swing game states in your favor
  • Attacks and blocks well with flying


  • Heavily reliant on opponents to play instants and sorceries
  • Needs instants and sorceries to be in opponents’ graveyards

How to get it: Gatecrash


8. Eternal Witness

Her eyes see the past world, this one, and the next.

Another commander staple, it’s hard not to love everything Eternal Witness does. Tutor effects are some of the most powerful in the game, such as Demonic Tutor, that lets you search your library for any card and put it into your hand. Eternal Witness is effectively the same thing, but lets you “search” your graveyard instead of your library. It lets youdouble the value of a card you’ve already played by letting you play it again. All while also leaving a small 2/1 body to attack or block with later, or blink for even further graveyard tutoring. 


  • Graveyard recursion
  • Can block a big threat


  • Double green in casting cost makes it harder to include in three, four, and five color decks

How to get it: Fifth Dawn


7. Rune-Scarred Demon

"Anything your heart desires... for a price."

Speaking of tutoring, Rune-Scarred Demon does just that. While it may cost much more than Eternal Witness, this flying dreadlord comes with a sizable 6/6 body. Without a big power and toughness this card would still be amazing, as blinking it lets you continually put the best cards in your deck into your hand. But it can also attack and block incredibly well due its size and because it has flying. An amazing card to include in any demon tribal or ETB value deck that includes black.


  • Tutors for any card in your deck
  • Great stats
  • Attacks and blocks well
  • Good creature type


  • A bit slow and expensive at seven mana

How to get it: Magic 2012


6. Snapcaster Mage

"Let's try that again!"

Snapcaster Mage is a bit like Eternal Witness, but only for instants and sorceries. Its effect is also temporary, as you must cast the target of its effect before the end of the turn it comes into play. This can be a downside in some cases, but usually it almost always generates massive value. That’s because Snapcaster Mage can be cast at instant speed with flash. So you can even cast sorceries in your graveyard at instant speed— something your opponents might not see coming and can catch them off guard.


  • Instead speed instant and sorcery recursion
  • Efficient at two mana


  • Its recursion effect is temporary

How to get it: Innistrad


5. Avenger of Zendikar 

The forest rose up and took the battle into its own hands.

Yet another commander staple on the list, if you’ve ever played against Avenger of Zendikar, you know exactly how terrifying it can be. Most green decks are excellent at ramping, and can get seven lands on the battlefield with relative ease. So in that case, Avenger of Zendikar is already a 5/12 split up into eight bodies. Then start chucking more lands onto the battlefield and things get out of control very quickly. Even if your opponents deal with the main threat that is this card itself, they then have to deal with all your tokens.


  • Incredible stat distribution for mana cost
  • Snowballs quickly
  • Kill-on-sight threat


  • A bit slow at seven mana

How to get it: Worldwake


4. Yorion, Sky Nomad

It rides on wind currents, only touching down to bless fortunate souls.

So you like enter the battlefield effects, right? How would you like your ETB creatures to ETB again? And again and again and again and again? Well this long-necked snake bird has got you covered. Yorion is one of the best ETB effects on a stick you could possibly ask for.


  • Can snowball ETB effects into absurd value
  • Decent stats on a flying body
  • Minor board-wipe protection


  • Your opponents may get sick with jealousy from gross amounts of value you generate

How to get it: Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths


3. Gray Merchant of Asphodel

"Have I got just the thing for you — it's all the rage in Asphodel."

Reader, meet Gary. Gary is just a humble merchant looking to make a name for himself in the world. And he’ll happily pay you in the drained health of your opponents if you’re willing to pay his mana cost — you certainly won’t regret it. In a game of commander, just playing Gary on an empty board will deal two damage to each of your opponents and net you six life. Add additional devotion to your board state beforehand and you can start to imagine a good life living with Gary.


  • Incredible life swings
  • Can completely change a game 
  • Multiple ETB triggers can end the game


  • Little, if any
  • A big enough life swing may turn lots of enemy attention your way

How to get it: Theros


2. Craterhoof Behemoth

"It couldn't be that b—"

Craterhoof is the finisher of all finishers. Pair this with an Avenger of Zendikar from the turn before and you’ve got yourself a GAME OVER. Ideally you want to play this on a board with at least three to five other creatures on it. The fact that Craterhoof Behemoth has haste means that it also gets to participate in the fun. This creature is an absolute powerhouse and will drastically increase the strength of your deck if you choose to include it.


  • Massive, sudden damage
  • Buffs your whole board
  • Also buffs itself and cas attack immediately with haste


  • Very late-game card at eight mana
  • Your opponents with turn into a pillar of salt when you play this card

How to get it: Avacyn Restored


1. Primeval Titan

Time is it's only companion.

How is this card more powerful than Craterhoof Behemoth, you ask? Well, to put it into perspective, this is the only card on this list that’s banned in commander. Primeval Titan has an ETB and attack trigger like the other titans, with the same statline to mana value, and with trample. But this ETB lets you search for two lands, any lands, and puts them directly on the battlefield untapped. This card is so powerful that it warped the entire format of commander around it, resulting in its eventual banning. 


  • ETB and attack trigger
  • Incredible ramp
  • Good stats
  • Good attacker


  • Banned in commander

How to get it: Magic 2011


Enter the Value

As you can see, creatures with enter the battlefield triggers can be incredibly powerful. They’re usually understatted for their mana cost, but that isn’t always the case. They can be powerhouses that completely turn the tide of battle in your favor. If you feel like your deck needs a little extra oomph, throw one of these creatures in there and enjoy the ride.

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