The multiverse of Magic is an ecologically diverse place, to say the least. At present, the list of creature types in the comprehensive rules takes up thirteen lines of text. Some of these, such as Humans, Zombies, Birds, Soldiers, and Rogues, show up in large numbers in nearly every set. Others of them haven't seen print in years, and I believe many of them have been unfairly neglected in favor of the more popular types. I'm not arguing for a whole set full of any of these types here - just a few of them to spice things up. Here are the five creature types I think get way less love than they deserve:
- Lammasu: There were two fat white rare flyers in the original Ravnica: City of Guilds that had strange never-before-seen creature types that I, among many others, hoped would be fleshed out with more cards. The first of these was the awe-inspiring Blazing Archon, my favorite card in that set, and as you can see, in later years Magic's Archons have done quite well for themselves. The other was Hunted Lammasu, and I was possibly even more intrigued by this one. This was part of a horizontal cycle, so I thought it was pretty odd to introduce an entirely new creature type for that purpose, but Lammasus are a reference to Mesopotamian mythology, which I think is an awesome place for Magic to explore. But there have been no creatures with Lammasu on their typeline since; perhaps they've been hunted to near-extinction? I think they're a good alternative to Angels for white's big iconic flying creatures just as Archons are. Hopefully we'll see one printed in Dragon's Maze - a Triumphant Lammasu or something to represent their resurgence alongside the new Guildpact - or in greater numbers in a future Babylonian-inspired set.
- Orc: Orcs are a staple of most fantasy worlds ever since Tolkien had them as the cannon-fodder villains of his Middle-Earth works. Dungeons and Dragons allows you to slay them en masse and/or play as one, the Elder Scrolls considers them one of the nine main races of Tamriel, and Warcraft has them as a much nobler and more in-touch-with-nature race than the industrial warmongers of Lord of the Rings. Yet Magic, perhaps out of pure contrarianism, has shied away from using them. Orcs had a bad reputation for being ineffectual and cowardly from Fallen Empires onwards, so perhaps players much preferred Dwarves (which also ought to be used more) and Goblins as their red weenie races. I say Orcs deserve a facelift; they have the potential to be much cooler than they are in Magic. They could be treated in a much more serious and badass way than the typical Goblins, and are certainly not pure dumb muscle like Rathi Moggs. They reappeared in recent years in the throwbacks of Coldsnap and Time Spiral block, but that's hardly enough. The Terisaire Orcs of the original Ice Age block got it right in terms of flavor, and I'm confident that can be done again.
- Phelddagrif (and Hippo, too): The original Phelddagrif (an anagram for Richard Garfield, Ph.D.) was a silly tribute to Magic's creator. It did not have its eponymous creature type at the time - it was merely a Legend, at a time when legendary creatures had no other types because creatures only got to have one subtype. But then Planeshift came around and shook things up. It brought us a new, nonlegendary Questing Phelddagrif and with it an entirely new creature type that brought tears of joy to the eyes of longtime Magic players. Unjustly, there was not a new one created in the nostalgia-focused Time Spiral block, perhaps because Creative no longer feels that winged purple hippos fit in with the "feel" of Magic. I say bah to that - a little silliness now and then is relished by the wisest among us. I vote for a new Phelddagrif in the allied-color official Commander set decks, that hopefully are coming out in Commander II. As for Hippos, which are a creature type unto themselves, perhaps R&D will someday complete the large-gray-African-mammals trifecta with hippo people to match Loxodons and Rhoxes.
- Barbarian: You'll notice that a lot of these types are typically red. This is because red's creatures suffer from a paucity of variety, which saddens me since I like playing red so much. Red's class types seem to be almost entirely Warriors, Berserkers, and Shamans these days, which may be Barbarian's problem as a type: the function of the barbarian trope is mostly covered by these three types. Still, Barbarian invokes images that the other types simply can't get: Conan the Barbarian, for example, is more than a Warrior and a Berserker since he has a particular ethos and iconic status. When you say Barbarian to a fantasy nerd, they have a very clear picture of what you're talking about. The sheer flavor resonance here makes this a good choice for a returning type.
- Manticore: One last red type, since red also gets cheated on the flying-big-guy side of things. Sure, everyone loves Dragons, but the "obligatory massively damaging or destructive mythic rare Dragon" seems to be a formal part of set design outlines lately and frankly it's getting a bit stale. I'm not suggesting cutting out Dragons altogether, but it wouldn't hurt to switch out a few of them for Phoenixes (which have fared actually pretty well), or Manticores, a more obscure fantasy monster that is nonetheless totally awesome. If poison counters ever come back in a context other than Phyrexia, the mythic red poison creature had better be a Manticore.