Why Does Everyone Love Ornithopter So Damn Much?

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My opponent was dead on board next attack. With 5 mana, I could activate my Kird Chieftain on a creature that he blocked and trample damage plus my unblocked dudes would kill him. With one card in hand he could play a maximum of 1 blocker or 1 bounce/removal spell. Aetherize, his only out, lay discarded in the bin. It had removed three tokens and forced by to rebuy Chieftain and Belligerent Sliver; strong work, but it hadn't helped him stem the inexorable tide of aggressive creatures coming his way. He needed to topdeck a miracle. He untapped, drew and windmilled his play.



He extended his hand in defeat.

But why was this card even in his deck?

People Love Free Stuff

'thopter has captured players' imaginations since Antiquities. It may not quite get there on its own, but the price is right. Affinity came along and suddenly everyone had a very compelling reason to suit up the budget beater with Cranial Plating. But was Mirrodin the set that popularized the concept of "Ornithopter Aggro"?

Take a look at this entry in the back of the Ice Age rules booklet

Courtesy of Bhaelfur on Reddit.

"Our condolences to everyone who has been killed by an Ornithopter"

That number has grown in recent years, but the general sentiment seems to be the same. Are we going to see it become a 2-card Mahatmoti Djinn with Ensoul Artifact any time soon? Will the card continue to get reprinted, tanking the value of even the dozens of Antiquities copies I keep sitting on, hoping for an eventual increase? Will this plucky, powerless freebie continue to capture our collective imagination as a community?

Have you ever been killed by an Ornithopter? Post your best story below. Winner gets and Antiquities Ornithopters from me. Bonus points if your story is from before they printed Cranial Plating.

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Jason Alt

Jason Alt is a value trader and writer. He is Quiet Speculation's self-appointed web content archivist and co-captain of the interdepartmental dodgeball team. He enjoys craft microbrews and doing things ironically. You may have seen him at magic events; he wears black t-shirts and has a beard and a backpack so he's pretty easy to spot. You can hear him as co-host on the Brainstorm Brewery podcast or catch his articles on He is also the Community Manager at and writes the odd article there, too. Follow him on Twitter @JasonEAlt unless you don't like having your mind blown.

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5 thoughts on “Why Does Everyone Love Ornithopter So Damn Much?

  1. I hate the card.
    Back in the days when i started mtg in college ornithopther was in fact the key part of only infinite combo i am aware existed at the time… The deck was unfun and stupid as hell (at least from my point of view) as it only contained control stuff (counter / red blast / unsummon…) + combo pieces : enduring renewal, ashnod’s altar, fireball and ornithopter.

    I perfectly recall my frustration when i first encountered this deck and stupid laugh of my opponent jamming the ornithopter into play and laughingly say “infinite fireball !!!! You’re dead !!!”… The guy used to play every single tournament and game…
    Glad there are enough card in the pool not to rely on this stupid card to get silly combos
    Faster than this one… Yeah i hate the card.

  2. Ho yes I have been killed by an Ornithopter!

    When Affinity was Standard legal, I was playing my self affinity in a French champ qualifier. I played this deck only once and only for 2 rounds, at this tournament.

    After a first round loss in a mirror match where I felt like my opponent was not playing great. My second match started by this opening from my opponent: Ornithopter, Artifact Land, Chrome Mox, Cranial Plating. I was dead by turn three while his second turn an obvious: Equipe the Thopter, drop another land and another Plating, attack…

    In one of my very first Extended tournament I also died by because of an ornithopter flung 20 times at me thanks to Goblin Bombardment + Enduring Renewal.

  3. Condolences accepted. Woe unto me back in 1996 I believe. Back before sanctioned tournaments were a real thing, my local card shop allowed two decks into tournaments. I stick 2 decks into top 8 of a tournament, winner gets a Black Lotus. Let’s just say Ornithopter + giant growth is a thing. I lose in top 8 to the guy I’ll play in finals with my Wildfire Emissary R/W deck. He’s running a rampy green/white deck. I’m killing everything green and swinging through with the Emissary. I have him down to 3 life,, I’m at 3 as well, Emissary + pump = win a Black Lotus.

    He draws and Ornathopter comes down.

    Okay, he has a blocker. Buys himself a turn I think. Plenty of outs. Lightning Bolt, Incinerate, Disenchant, all win. Nope, Mountain for me. Swing with Emissary for the win. He blocks naturally, sure, then Righetousness, well crap.

    Him out of cards, me with my mountain in my hand. What’s the top deck? Giant Growth… A Giant (Growth’d) Fricking Ornathopter crushes me and my Power hopes.

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