The Marvel Cinematic Universe's humble beginnings are firmly grounded in science. Even with giant green men, powerful blue cubes, and beings from other planets, the concept of magic still seemed outlandish. It wasn't really until Thanos' first teaser that the concept of something much more primordial began to bubble up.
Fast forward to today, and we now know what's been driving Thanos' quest. He has been searching for the all-powerful Infinity Stones. Like in the comics, when all six stones are combined they give the wielder unimaginable power. For someone like the Mad Titan, this spells trouble.
But the Infinity Stones aren't the only powerful items bouncing around in the MCU. We've seen some other very old, very powerful artifacts pop up. It was bound to happen. Ancient villains like The Hand and old masters like The Ancient One have to get their power from somewhere, after all.
Some of these artifacts are trinkets; doodads to give you a little advantage in a fight, but nothing to write home about. Others rival the power of the Infinity Stones themselves.
Here, we're looking at the 17 Most Powerful Artifacts (That Aren't Infinity Stones), Ranked.
17 Vaulting Boots of Valtorr - Doctor Strange
These boots are definitely nifty to have in a fight. They belong to Karl Mordo in the film Doctor Strange. With the boots on, Mordo is able to leap great distances and easily land most falls. If someone less skilled than Mordo were to use them, they probably wouldn't serve a great purpose in combat.
The boots don't exist in the comics, but Valtorr does. His is a name Doctor Strange often uses when invoking spells. He also happens to be a dragon wind god.
It remains to be seen whether the boots possess any greater powers.
Judging by the MCU's tendency to stay grounded, it's not likely. If Valtorr ever does show up, he'll probably just be a sorcerer. Maybe a sorcerer who likes wind, but a human nonetheless.
16 The Cloak of Levitation - Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange's trusty animated cloak comes in next. As explained by Mordo, the magical item chooses the user - much like the wands in Harry Potter. The cape is shown to be sentient and very feisty. It's capable of keeping Strange afloat in mid air. It also comes to his aid when he needs help and can form a protective shield around him.
Again, definitely a very nifty tool, but not something that's necessarily going to clinch every fight.
It also seems to have a rather tempestuous personality, and could end up serving as a disadvantage in some scenarios.
In the comics, the red cloak is the second one Doctor Strange obtains. The first one was blue. Both cloaks share the same power set as the one shown in the film, though neither of them display the same cognizant traits as the film version.
15 The Water of Sights - Age of Ultron
Think back to the most confusing part of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Dr Selvig brings Thor to a small body of water inside a cave. He tells Thor that the legends about men entering the water don't end well.
It's not implicitly stated, but the Water of Sights is the MCU's version of the Infinity Well.
In the comics, Thanos uses the well to find the Infinity Stones, much like Thor uses it to learn about them in the movie.
Not much information is given about the water. We know that it's ancient, that it's reflected in all nine realms, and that it is home to powerful spirits. Though it may not be a weapon in and of itself, its connection to the ancient power of the Infinity Stones as well as the far reaches of outer space cannot be ignored.
14 The Berserker Staff - Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Here's one from the television side of the MCU, and yet another artifact that comes from Asgard. The staff serves as an important plot element in the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It has a long story dating back to the 12th century.
The staff grants the user a temporary boost in strength and speed by tapping into their inner rage. This causes a mental drain similar to PTSD. In humans, the effect can take years and years to wear off. Because of its power, it's been sought after by both H.Y.D.R.A. and S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as other interested parties over the years.
It's definitely a powerful weapon, though its effects make it ill-suited for continual use.
For that reason, we had to rank it lower on the list.
13 The Staff of One - Runaways
The Staff of One on Hulu's Runaways is pretty impressive. With a prick of blood, it turns on, then you can essentially use it to make things happen. Picture something, and the neurons firing off from your brain send a signal to the staff and it happens. Pretty cool, right?
Of course, only like two people on the planet can use the thing. Tina Minoru designed the staff to respond to her blood, which means her daughter Nico's blood works as well. This also means that any kids Nico may have could use it too. Anyone else gets burned and drops it.
In the comics, The Staff of One is a lot weirder.
When Nico bleeds, it comes out of her chest. She can then use it to use any spell in the world. The catch is, she can only use each spell once.
12 Staff of the Living Tribunal - Doctor Strange
The Staff of the Living Tribunal is the second magical item wielded by Karl Mordo in Doctor Strange. It's shown to be able to deflect magical attacks as well as to actually hit things. Mordo also uses it in the Doctor Strange prequel comic to fight off a crew of magic ninjas.
The staff does appear to be a capable weapon, though not over-powered in any real way.
Like the boots and the cape, it seems to rely more on its user than its own strength.
There is no comic book equivalent to the staff, though the Living Tribunal is a comics character. It's an ancient, cosmic being that can exist in multiple realities at once and blow up planets. The staff has not been shown to possess this level of power.
11 Captain America's Shield
The list of blows Captain America's shield has taken on screen is pretty impressive. Bullets and artillery slide off of this thing like water. It's taken up close blasts from Iron Man's repulsor guns as well as a direct blow from Thor's hammer Mjolnir. It's even taken a blast from Loki's scepter, which housed an Infinity Stone.
The shield is made of pure vibranium. Cap also has magnetic panels on the shield and his gloves in order for him to obtain it more easily.
At the time of its creation, Howard Stark thought it was the last of the world's vibranium. Since then, Ultron made a meteor out of the stuff. We also know that a lot of it currently still exists in Wakanda, making the shield a little bit less unique today.
10 Hofund - Thor
Here's a great two for one deal. Hofund can get you from point A to point B, easily. Also, it's a sword, so can also use it to hurt people. Heimdall, Asgard's gatekeeper, uses Hofund as his main weapon.
Basically, it acts as an inter-dimensional key.
In Thor: The Dark World Heimdall also uses Hofund to create a shield around Asgard. He does this to protect the realm from an attack by the dark elves. Heimdall himself is capable of seeing almost anything across the nine realms, though whether this ability comes from the sword is unclear.
Unfortunately, with Asgard now in ruins, Hofund has been relegated to a fairly basic weapon. In the comics, Hofund does have additional properties. It can become engulfed in a blue flame with energy summoned from the stars, and can also disguise the wearer.
9 Yaka Arrow - Guardians of the Galaxy
The Yaka Arrow is pretty terrifying. Its controller, Yondu, basically uses it as a small guided missile. He does this by whistling to it.
For starters, it's sharp. It can easily pierce through armor, bone, and metal. In Guardians of the Galaxy, Yondu uses it to take out an entire battalion. It can also withstand extreme heat, and has been seen to weave through explosive material without a scratch.
The Yaka Arrow does have one mighty flaw, however.
In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Nebula is able to disarm it simply by shooting the controller offYondu's head while he's distracted. Anyone using the arrow would have to remain constantly vigilant.
Sadly, Yondu is no longer with us. At the end of Vol. 2, we see his first mate Kraglin learning to work the weapon.
8 The Monolith - Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The Monolith is made entirely of solid dark matter. It serves as a portal to the old Inhuman world of Maveth - once a thriving colony until it was destroyed by Hive.
The device was actually the catalyst in the creation of H.Y.D.R.A. They formed with the intention of using it to bring Hive back to Earth.
It does have one other small function: it could be used to wipe out Earth's entire Inhuman population. The Kree built this fail-safe when they decided they could no longer stand by their experiment.
The Monolith is not a weapon in the traditional sense.
However, since it can be used to not only to throw people to the other side of space but to quickly perform genocide, we had to rank it fairly high on the list. As of the end of now, its status in the MCU is still active.
7 The Resurrection Elixer - Marvel Netflix
Though the Netflix corner of the MCU is decidedly more grounded, that doesn't mean it's without its mystical items. As the looming threat of The Hand become more apparent, so too did their ability to cheat injury and death. The first glimpse of this came with the return of Nobu in the second season of Daredevil.
The same elixir was used to revive Harold Meachum, Bakuto, and of course, Elektra. It is said to have been made from the bones of the dragons of K'un L'un. Though it is powerful, its longevity is not infinite.
As of the end of The Defenders, the substance appears to have been used up.
Much to the annoyance of the other leaders of The Hand, Alexandra Reid spent the last of it bringing Elektra back to life. Ironically, Elektra ended up killing her benefactor.
6 The Darkhold - Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Here's another visit from the television side of the MCU. Season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. happened to coincide with the release of Doctor Strange. This gave the show an opening to explore magic like never before.
The Darkhold was discovered by a group of scientists who tried to use it to attain new breakthroughs.
It is shown to be an immensely powerful tool, drawing energy from hell as well was from the dark dimension. Like many of the MCU's other magical items, the book's power comes with some serious drawbacks. It turned most of its original users into ghosts and drove Eli Morrow insane.
To get rid of it, Ghost Rider literally used it to open a gate to Hell and leave. Of course, trips to Hell and back are all too common for the spirit of vengeance, so we'll likely be seeing him and the book again.
5 The Eternal Flame - Thor
The Eternal Flame is pretty awesome. It's so powerful it almost makes Hela ignore an Infinity Stone. As she's walking towards it, she notices The Tesseract.
The Tesseract, as we know, is the mind stone. "That's not bad," she remarks. She then continues her walk to the Flame sitting in the golden goblet.
After a rocking back flip, she uses the Eternal Flame to resurrect an army of the dead, along with her wolf Fenris. But that's not all, folks. At the end of the film, Surtur shows his true power. After Loki places his crown in the flame, he becomes huge and strong enough to take a hit from The Hulk.
The uses for The Eternal Flame are pretty limited.
If you're Surtur, you get to use it once and then that was your life. Not exactly tailored for a small-scale battle scenario, but clearly, immensely powerful.
4 Mjolnir - Thor
A Jedi has his light saber. Mario has Yoshi. Thor has Mjolnir.
The hammer may not be sentient, but it's become a beloved staple of the MCU. In Thor, it crash landed on Earth and made a massive crater. Since then, it's been swinging its way through the nine realms - sometimes with Thor attached, sometimes without him.
Mjolnir is a conduit for Thor's power.
Those who it deems worthy wield the powers of the God of Thunder, which means summoning lightning, flying through the air, and just plain hitting with a mean swing.
The list of folk who can wield Mjolnir is very small - in the films it includes Vision and Thor. In the comics, Captain America joins the list. Interestingly, in Age of Ultron, Cap came very close.
Unfortunately, with the destruction of Mjolnir in Thor: Ragnarok, poor Steve may never have a second shot.
3 Gungnir - Thor
You thought Mjolnir was hard to pronounce? Gungnir is to Odin what Mjolnir is to Thor. As a conduit for the All-Father's power, Gungnir boasts some pretty impressive perks. Like Hofund, it is capable of opening pathways to the nine realms, though it can beam the user directly to places and doesn't require a conduit. Also, when you slam it to the ground, it makes a sound loud enough for all of Asgard to hear.
Odin and his father Bor used Gungnir for millennia to keep powerful threats at bay. Loki used the weapon as well, though it appeared to be less powerful in his hands.
Sadly, Gungnir is no longer with us. At the end of Thor: Ragnarok, Thor casts it aside in Odin's palace. Surtur then destroys the whole building, along with the rest of Asgard.
2 The Book of Cagliostro - Doctor Strange
The Book of Cagliostro appears to be similar to the Darkhold, but far more powerful. It is a key plot point in Doctor Strange. Just one stolen page from the book opens a portal to the Dark Dimension, where Dormammu resides.
The book draws power from the Dark Dimension for other purposes as well. It is revealed to be how the Ancient One has lived such a long life. Doctor Strange uses it to experiment with the Eye of Agamotto.
Any book that can channel the power of an Infinity Stone is no laughing matter.
The full extent of the book's powers have yet to be revealed. In the comics, Cagliostro used the book as a kind of magical diary. He also included passages from the Darkhold, as well as knowledge from the future.
1 The Cosmic Cocoon - Guardians of the Galaxy
The most powerful item in the MCU (other than the Infinity Stones) is the one that's been shown the least. The first tease was given in The Collector's museum in Guardians of the Galaxy. The second came in a post credit scene of the sequel. There, we finally got a name drop for Adam Warlock.
For those unfamiliar with Adam Warlock, he's a huge part of the Infinity War story line from the comics. So huge, in fact, that it's actually his evil doppelganger The Magus who serves as the antagonist for the comics series, not Thanos.
James Gunn recently teased that Adam Warlock may not have his reveal in Guardians 3. Wouldn't it be awesome if the MCU's phase 3 climax actually featured Thanos having to team up with the Avengers and Adam Warlock in order to take down an overpowered, Infinity Gauntlet-wielding Magus?
Are there any MCU artifacts we missed? Let us know in the comments!