A History of Equipment in Magic

Ciel Collins • April 15, 2024

The History of Equipment

Equipment is a stellar card subtype. It's flavorful in the way flying is, such that it's immediately easy for new players to understand with very little explanation. It's also incredibly cool! People like weapons and armor and gadets and tools. It's fun to suit up your creatures and send them into battle. Sometimes that means putting a pair of boots on a flying whale, or letting a dog hold nine swords, and that's part of the hilarious charm of the Magic.

But how did we get to this point? How did Equipment start, and how has the card type evolved over the years? Let's dig in.

The Origin

It may be hard to believe, but the idea of Equipment started way back in Arabian Nights with this little ditty.

They could give a creature islandwalk, but if that creature died, the sandals went with them. Flavorfully fitting, but not very interesting or powerful. Also, you had to pay mana every turn to put the sandals back on the creature.

The next version would be Zelyon Sword in Fallen Empires, which dodged the "pay mana every turn" problem by staying tapped and continuing to empower the creature. Wizards would make more cards like this for a few years, but there's a problem: they didn't feel like the creature was actually wearing or wielding the Equipment. In that time period, you had cards like Arcum's Whistle, which also tapped to affect creatures. What made the Zelyon Sword actually different?

How could a sword feel like a sword?

They looked to an established card type for some guidance: Auras. Right from the beginning of the game, Magic has had a subtype of enchantments which could actually be attached to a creature, providing some ongoing effect to said creature. The main problem which Auras inevitably faced was the 2-for-1 problem, i.e., a single-target removal spell always puts your opponent "up on cards" when targeting a creature you've buffed with Auras. Could artifacts try something similar without playing exactly like that card type?

The year 2003 brought with it the original Mirrodin block and answered: yes!

Equipment could be cast at any time, not requiring a target. They sit on the battlefield until you activate the sorcery-speed equip ability and target a creature. At that point, the Equipment becomes attached to the creature and stays on until the creature dies or you move the Equipment by activating its equip cost targeting something else.

This made them different from Auras in a few key ways:

  • No card disadvantage when losing a creature
  • Higher mana investment to use and maintain
  • You don't have to have a creature to cast one
  • Like all artifacts, Equipment were exclusively colorless

Mirrodin immediately brought with it the basic tools when designing Equipment. Banshee's Blade is a basic stat upgrade (but one which scales over time). Neurok Hoversail is a "keyword-granting" Equipment. Nightmare Lash, meanwhile, wants a very specific (mono-black) deck and also has a non-mana equip cost!

Equipment would evolve a little over the block. Darksteel introduced Heartseeker and the like, Equipment which gave the creature the ability to unattach the Equipment to gain an effect (simulating the idea that your creature throws the weapon). There would also be Ensouled Scimitar, an Equipment that could become a creature by itself. The final set in the block, Fifth Dawn, introduced a cycle of Equipment which could be attached at instant speed by an alternate colored cost.

Right from the get-go, Equipment existed as an interesting and flavorful card type, but difficult to build around. It required a healthy balance of creatures and Equipment, but unfortunately those early creatures with Equipment-based bonuses... weren't very strong.

Loxodon Punisher

Also from the jump was the problem of "these are colorless cards that can make decklists same-y" due to the cards being colorless. That problem would be one that the entire artifact card type had to contend with, which I talked about here!

Loxodon Warhammer
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Light and Shadow
Cranial Plating

So where did they go from here?

Early Developments

Kamigawa came next and immediately saw more use of the card subtype, bringing us banners and shurikens and cool swords. Oh, and Umezawa's Jitte, a second strike against colorless Equipment.

After that, Ravnica brought a lot fewer Equipment, with Grifter's Blade being the major innovation. It had flash and came into play automatically equipped to a creature, getting to be a combat trick. Only giving +1/+1 made it otherwise forgettable, and this technology would be forgotten about for a while.

The Lorwyn block tried to contend with Equipment's colorlessness by playing into the block's kindred themes. By tying the Equipment to a particular creature type, it helped keep them from being an all-use staple. 

The Alara block actually got to ignore Equipment's colorlessness as a one-off thing! Behemoth Sledge is the only one that kind of sees play, but Mage Slayer is absolutely a house.

Turning Point

Zendikar's theme of exploring adventurers meant it wanted not just Equipment but people who could really use it.

This theme would be intended to synergize with the return to Mirrodin in the following year. Hurrah, the return to Mirrodin, where Equipment debuted!


Scars of Mirrodin would introduce the living weapon keyword, which would let Equipment enter the battlefield with a creature, a 0/0 black (Phyrexian) Germ. When the Germ died, you still had the Equipment. Nifty way around the creature/Equipment deckbuilding balance problem, but unfortunately that pesky Stoneforge Mystic would really take a shine to some of that Phyrexian tech... and those shiny new swords.

And that was Equipment's third strike. Into the penalty box. The next few years saw very safe Equipment get printed in Standard sets.

I mean... Ghostfire Blade was pretty neat, I guess?

The Resurgence

Equipment's return to favor was very slow. 2014 saw the release of a mono-white Commander deck themed around the card type, which was big! Masterwork of Ingenuity is hot, and it would largely be Commander that continued to pull the card type into the spotlight. Oath of the Gatewatch and Shadows over Innistrad both had a small Equipment subtheme (OGW had the first Boros Equipment matters card {Weapons Trainer}), but nothing truly impactful.

Each subsequent Commander product, meanwhile, would see at least one notable card of its type printed, until finally...

Now, obviously, Commander 2017 was actually themed around creature types, but Cats (thanks to both Mirrodin sets) had an affinity for the shiny objects, and so this deck had another big push for the type. Just one shame: Equipment hadn't historically mattered much in green.

And really, were we ever going to get another good Equipment?

To answer the second concern first: 2019. Among other things, we finally saw the colorless restriction removed from Equipment for good! Modern Horizons came out and started a new cycle of Swords of X & Y.

That left the second concern. Where was the Boros Equipment Commander, WOTC!? Tiana, Ship's Caretaker does not count!

Here Come the Boros Equipment Commanders

Many things happened in 2020, but obviously none as important as Boros finally getting its first, second, and third Equipment commander! (Four or more depending on how you count Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist and/or Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh!)

It's funny that it took 16 years to get a Boros Equipment commander, and then WotC proceeded to turn on the firehose. Every year since then, we've gotten at least one Boros Equipment commander (if not more), but other color combinations have gotten in on the fun (most notably Bant, Gruul, and Grixis).

Other Fun Notes

Remember Grifter's Blade? Back in 2019, Zendikar Rising saw a whole suite of Equipment which used that snap-on technology. This "sped up" Equipment by negating that first equip cost and allowing the cards to play more like an Aura that could reattach. It's been used in occasional spots here and there, but hasn't been a regular feature.

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty made a really big twist on the card type with the introduction of Equipment creatures. These creatures had reconfigure, which stopped them from being creatures in order to attach them to another creature. 

Most recently, the living weapon keyword was flavorfully tweaked and adjust with "For Mirrodin!", which made a 2/2 creature token to attach to instead. Making a 2/2 rather than a 0/0 (and being able to use colored mana costs) meant that Equipment could be more aggressively costed.

Oh god, they powercrept Colossal Dreadmaw... 

And with that, we're pretty much caught up!


Equipment decks have been eating really good lately, with several mechanics introduced which help mitigate the creature/Equipment balance, reduce the mana awkwardness of both paying for the Equipment and equip cost, and making Equipment more efficient overall by just using colored pips.

As with anything in Magic, there are always ebbs and flows. I expect that, outside of Universes Beyond sets that want to make reference to the cool gadgets and weapons of other IPs, we might actually see a downtick in Equipment--

What do you mean Outlaws of Thunder Junction has a new Jitte and Sword of X & Y?

Bloomburrow is going to have another Boros Equipment Commander?


The Future of Equipment

Equipment is in a really good spot right now. It's still as fun and flavorable as ever, but now it's playable! The card type has a high level of functionality, being able to provide creatures with all sorts of stat buffs and abilities (both static, triggered, and activated). I know that there haven't been many Equipment which themselves have static or activated abilities (save Shadowspear), but I don't think I want that for Equipment. The point is that your creatures use it, not you!

Maybe they'll shock us with a major twist in the vein of role tokens (which completely changed how the card type played), but I think the card type has really gone through most of its needed evolutions. We can surely use one or two more living weapon variants (and maybe another five or six reconfigure cards...), but it's fine to wait.


(P.S. Feel free to come back in 5 years when WotC reveals some super cool Equipment mechanic that totally revitalizes its design space and make fun of me.)

Ciel got into Magic as a way to flirt with a girl in college and into Commander at their bachelor party. They’re a Vorthos and Timmy who is still waiting for an official Theros Beyond Death story release. In the meantime, Ciel obsesses over Commander precons, deck biomes, and deckbuilding practices. Naya forever.