Omnath, Locus of Creation has drawn more ire from the Magic community than I ever expected. It's the straw that broke the camel's back and finally earned Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath a ban in Standard, after that card terrorized the format for eight months. It has already invaded every format beyond Standard, from Historic to Pioneer to Modern, to even Legacy (it Top 4ed the most recent Challenge) and Vintage (it's in a recent 5-0 League list)!
It's making a case for being the single best creature ever printed in Magic.
No, Omnath, Locus of Creation can't wipe the opponent's board (and life total) like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, which earns the distinction of having the highest raw power-level of any creature. Nor can it draw an entire new hand (or entire deck) like Griselbrand—arguably the most "broken" creature in the game—and the go-to option for anyone looking to cheat a creature into play. On the other side of the coin, Omnath, Locus of Creation lacks the raw efficiency of threats like Delver of Secrets or Tarmogoyf, or the incredible potential of Death's Shadow. It can't take over a game with a steady stream of card advantage like Dreadhorde Arcanist or Dark Confidant, nor does it offer the versatility of Snapcaster Mage and Stoneforge Mystic. And it's not an undercosted, overpowered, and recurrable threat like Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis or Vengevine.
But pound-for-pound, Omnath, Locus of Creation may very well be the best creature in the game. It does draw comparison to a few more underappreciated, but no less important, creatures from Magic's history, fused together into one clean package.
To understand Omnath, Locus of Creation, you first need to go back and understand Rogue Refiner. When it was printed in Aether Revolt, Energy wasn't a serious part of Standard yet, beyond fueling Aetherworks Marvel and gimmicky Electrostatic Pummeler decks. It entered the world as an unassuming and underappreciated uncommon, but Rogue Refiner changed everything. It led to the advent of Temur Energy, which went on to dominate the metagame and eventually earn Rogue Refiner a ban.
Rogue Refiner was so important because it drew a card. It's easy to take for granted now, but before Rogue Refiner, efficient creatures that drew cards just didn't exist. Drawing a card had previously been reserved for inefficient creatures like Elvish Visionary, which was playable because of its tribal synergy, but otherwise had a mostly meaningless body. It's the same idea as Mulldrifter, which offered card advantage but at a steep price, with the creature being secondary.
This is further explained by the concept of the dichotomy between "Mulldrifters and Baneslayers," proposed by Patrick Chapin over a decade ago. The idea is that creatures like Mulldrifter provide card advantage but with a weak body, while creatures like Baneslayer Angel are incredible pieces of board presence, but without any inherent card advantage are weak to removal.
Rogue Refiner marked the beginning of the era when these two types of creatures were increasingly fused together—it drew a card and had a relevant body. It even added two energy, which was worth somewhere in the realm of another half a card. This was revolutionary, and it was responsible for bringing about the rise of a midrange deck: Temur Energy, leveraging its body as a threat while grinding through opponents with the card and energy it brought to the table. Controlling opponents relying on one-for-one removal just couldn't keep up with a creature that replaced itself with a free card and more, nor could aggressive decks hoping to push through the ground.
It's a similar story with Omnath, Locus of Creation, which replaces itself with a card immediately, before any of its other game-changing abilities even come into play. If it just stopped there, as a solid 4/4 body for four mana that drew a card, it still might be playable—especially if it was just one or two colors—and it likely would have been a staple in some formats of the past. Aiming removal like Heartless Act or Fatal Push at Omnath, Locus of Creation may deal with the immediate problem, but it's a net-negative in cards that over the course of a game puts Omnath, Locus of Creation squarely on the winning side of the bargain. With its landfall abilities threatening future value and thus demanding removal, it's this cantrip ability that makes Omnath, Locus of Creation a true all-time great card.
After Omnath, Locus of Creation draws a card, its next ability gains 4 life. It's not quite an enters-the-battlefield ability that happens every time, but the opportunity to play a land right after casting means, for most practical purposes, it functions as such. It can be prevented by an opponent casting removal in response to drawing a card, but even this can be worked around with a fetch land already in play, like Fabled Passage or any available in Modern and beyond.
This theme of a four-mana creature gaining 4 life is a familiar one, going back to Loxodon Hierarch and Ravenous Baloth, and much like the 3 of Siege Rhino. In its time when damage still went on the stack, Ravenous Baloth's ability to sacrifice to gain 4 life was nearly as good as happening when it entered play, and it was a huge obstacle for aggressive decks. It wasn't only a major part of Standard, but even an Extended format full of some of the most broken cards and decks in the game. It's a similar story for Loxodon Hierarch, which did one better by gaining its life immediately and offered some additional utility. Then came Siege Rhino, which drained 3 life for a full 6-point swing.
These creatures all had reasonable bodies for the cost, but it was their life gain that made them so powerful. Aggressive decks hoping to race an opponent were stopped in their tracks by the body, while earlier damage was invalidated by the life. Red decks hoping to win by throwing burn at the opponent found a major obstacle in this life total buffer. These creatures were an invaluable part of a well-rounded midrange plan, and allowed their controllers to turn the corner before crushing the late game with their more powerful cards.
It's the same idea with Omnath, Locus of Creation, which may not only gain life the turn it enters play, but each turn afterward! Opponents facing previous incarnations could at least hope to win through 3 or 4 points of life with sheer volume of damage—whether it be an army of creatures running around them or burn going over them. At best they would have a one-for-one removal spell that still left them behind to the life, but in the worst situations they were forced to suffer a two-for-one against their bodies, perhaps using two burn spells to get it out of the way or suffer losing a creature in combat, and then using a burn spell to take it out.
Omnath, Locus of Creation can't simply be ignored, or 4 will turn to 8 to 12 or more, so it all but demands being destroyed immediately. Omnath, Locus of Creation card draw means it's inherently a two-for-one even against a clean removal spell, if not a three-for one—all on top of any life it gained—so it puts aggressive decks into a situation they can't easily win.
After Omnath, Locus of Creation draws a card and gains life, it threatens to generate mana. Four mana to be exact, the same as its casting cost—in a sense paying for itself. It's this ability to replace the mana spent to cast it that made Burning-Tree Emissary a staple during its run in Standard, earns it some play in Modern, and why it's still a key player in Pioneer's Green Devotion deck, and in Pauper.
By paying for itself, Burning-Tree Emissary opens the door to play another spell after. With the help of a fetch land or a spell like Growth Spiral, Omnath, Locus of Creation offers this same ability and is essentially cast for free. Not only will the opponent have to contend with Omnath, Locus of Creation, but whatever spell is cast after, be it another threat or a removal spell, putting them further behind.
Omnath, Locus of Creation is already an incredible creature that generates massive value, like a Loxodon Hierarch that also draws a card, but the mana ability really puts it over the top into something without comparison. If getting through the body, card, and life wasn't already challenging enough, the extra mana makes it almost insurmountable. It makes Omnath, Locus of Creation especially strong against non-aggressive decks as well, where the lifegain might not matter, but the tempo gain of extra mana certainly will.
Yet Omnath, Locus of Creation goes even further with the potential to use this mana ability not just to replace its own cost the turn it is played, but to ramp mana on subsequent turns. A turn-four Omnath, Locus of Creation followed by a turn-five fetch land will suddenly give its controller access to nine mana—an amount that would otherwise require playing dedicated ramp spells, multiples in fact, because there really aren't any that add so much mana for one card.
Like four Birds of Paradise flying in formation, or a super-Gilded Lotus, the mana acceleration of Omnath, Locus of Creation is unprecedented and almost unfathomable. The other abilities are focused on value that sees its impact realized over the course of a game, but this mana ability immediately impacts actual gameplay patterns, and might overwhelm an opponent and effectively win the game on the spot. If Omnath, Locus of Creation card draw and life are the "Mulldrifter," then this potential for mana is the "Baneslayer Angel."
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Decks include Omnath, Locus of Creation for the value of replacing itself with a card and gaining life, and for the ability to generate mana, but it comes with yet another ability. Playing a third land in a turn requires some work and dedication, but doing so comes with the benefit of some serious damage. With the second ability coming first and generating mana, it makes it easy to cast a card to enable this third land drop. While not a main feature, it's certainly relevant when it happens.
This ability makes Omnath, Locus of Creation even more significant as a threat, and makes it like Siege Rhino in its ability to chunk down the opponent. The ability for any deck to convert advantage into winning the game is important, and Omnath, Locus of Creation does that without even expending resources. It's a great asset to a deck like Standard Four-Color Adventures that wins with creatures and will take all the help it can get closing out a game, or decks in Modern where there are some powerful opponents like combo decks that demand being killed ASAP.
This final ability is at its most impressive when it also takes down planeswalkers, which adds further card advantage and tempo gain by impacting the battlefield. This makes it something like a Nekrataal for planeswalkers, and is yet another factor for opponents to consider. It's particularly threatening against opponents wanting to play multiple planeswalkers, because doing so comes with the risk of them all getting swept up at once. An Azorius control deck, for example, that might be able to pull ahead with them can see their work undone by an opponent carefully holding Omnath, Locus of Creation and the ability to trigger it three times.
Omnath, Locus of Creation can be compared to a variety of creatures in Magic, but combine them all into one and you have a card in a league of its own. It draws cards, gains life, makes mana, and deals damage, all with a strong body at a reasonable cost. The biggest obstacle to wielding Omnath, Locus of Creation is its four-color mana cost, but in a world where mana has improved alongside spells with cards like Triomes, this doesn't seem to be a real problem for any deck wanting to take advantage of it. It requires playing lands to be made the most of, but this isn't any real cost beyond playing Magic as normal, and lands like said Triomes that cycle, and Zendikar Rising's new Modal Double-Faced Cards that can be played as spells means decks can afford to play more lands than ever.
Omnath, Locus of Creation might not be the most powerful creature ever, nor the most efficient nor versatile, but it really does seem like the best.