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Top 10 Shadow Cards in Magic: The Gathering

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

How Does Shadow Work in Magic?

Magic creatures carrying the "shadow" trait can only block or be blocked by other units with shadow. Since few decks incorporate the mechanic, this generally means your shadowed allies are unblockable, letting you easily pile on the hurt and trigger direct-damage effects.

As you'd expect, many members are black, but we'll see that white and blue also contain a surprising number of shadow cards. So, with dozens of assassins available, which cloaked creatures reign supreme? These are the 10 best shadow cards in Magic: The Gathering!

Stronghold Overseer

Stronghold Overseer

10. Stronghold Overseer

CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 6

Flying generally isn't needed when a creature has shadow, but it only makes Overseer that much harder to block. While he needs a hefty fee of five mana, his twin abilities and 5/5 stats (five power and five toughness) make him the strongest shadow warrior in terms of raw power.

Additionally, by paying two black mana, you can grant all shadow creatures +1/+0 for the turn and weaken non-shadow units by -1/-0, a small but appreciated boost. Throw in synergies with the demon clan and you have a surprisingly versatile beatstick.

Temporal Isolation

Temporal Isolation

9. Temporal Isolation

CMC: 2

This aura's flash trait lets you cast it at instant speed, and you'll usually want to attach it to an enemy, as it prevents all damage its recipient would deal. It also grants the unit shadow, making the unit incapable of blocking any of your non-shadowed cards.

Isolation can also be used on your own units to continuously trigger abilities that rely on attacking without being blocked (like the effect of "Bone Dancer"); just remember you won't be dealing any combat damage when used this way.

Dauthi Ghoul

Dauthi Ghoul

8. Dauthi Ghoul

CMC: 2

In addition to the rare dauthi subtype, Ghoul also carries the zombie lineage, adeptly blending with black's most prominent faction. While his stats begin at a weak 1/1, he gains a +1/+1 counter whenever any creature with shadow (even an opponent's) dies. Thus, use Ghoul in devoted shadow decks that gradually build his strength, punishing foes who leave him unchecked.

Spirit en-Dal

Spirit en-Dal

7. Spirit en-Dal

CMC: 3 (2 to forecast)

Even with shadow, a 2/1 for three isn't an especially-tempting deal. However, Spirit offers a great forecast ability, letting you reveal her from your hand and spend two mana to grant a creature shadow until the end of the turn. A useful effect; just remember you can only trigger it at your upkeep and only once per turn.

Thalakos Deceiver

Thalakos Deceiver

6. Thalakos Deceiver

CMC: 4

In addition to thalakos, Deceiver belongs to the wizard faction, offering many blue synergies. While his 1/1 stats are abysmal for his price, Deceiver carries shadow, and you can sacrifice him when attacking and unblocked (which shadow should allow) to permanently gain control of a target creature!

It's as simple as that; seize command of a rival's strongest monster with this deceptively-powerful spy.

Soltari Foot Soldier

Soltari Foot Soldier

5. Soltari Foot Soldier

CMC: 1

Neither of Soldier's subtypes (soltari and soldier) offer many combos, and his stats are a poor 1/1, but his low cost makes a nice first-turn play. After that, shadow lets him slip by unchecked, and you can devote your other mana towards boosting him with auras, equipments, or other supports.

On his own, Soldier isn't particularly intimidating, but you can pair him with direct-damage effects for enormous early-game advantages.

Looter il-Kor

Looter il-Kor

4. Looter il-Kor

CMC: 2

Looter carries interesting if not particularly-abundant synergies with kor and rogue subtypes, and while his stats are only 1/1, he carries a sweet direct-damage ability. When successfully landing combat damage on a player (which should be easy with shadow), Looter lets you both draw and discard a card.

Sure, your overall hand size doesn't change, but this rapidly cycles through your deck, keeping what you need and tossing what you don't. It also fills your graveyard, useful for the bonus conditions of cards with "spell mastery," "delirium," or "threshold."

Nether Traitor

Nether Traitor

3. Nether Traitor

CMC: 2

Traitor justifies his 1/1 stats with both shadow and haste, executing swift and typically-unblockable strikes. Even better, you can revive him from your graveyard by paying a black mana when another creature you control dies, making him great discard or mill fodder.

Soltari Visionary

Soltari Visionary

2. Soltari Visionary

CMC: 3

A 2/2 with shadow isn't a bad deal for three mana, especially with Visionary's terrific effect, automatically destroying an enchantment whenever he damages a player! Of course, shadow lets him easily swing unchecked, quickly eradicating opposing spells.

For his decent stats and excellent removal prowess, Visionary remains a consistent member of my own white commander decks, especially since he's surprisingly cheap, costing well under a single dollar!

Dauthi Embrace

Dauthi Embrace

1. Dauthi Embrace

CMC: 3

This formidable enchantment grants a creature shadow for the turn by spending two black mana, turning any monster into a nigh-unblockable warrior. But in addition to its obvious offensive capabilities, Embrace can also give enemy units shadow, useful when you need one of your own cloaked creatures to guard a big threat.

You can even force shadow on foes to qualify them for removals like "Dauthi Cutthroat," which can destroy any stealthed creature.

How to Support Shadow Decks in Magic

Since shadow creatures rarely engage other troops and have little need for defense, utilize supports that boost power over toughness, increasing your army's offensive capabilities. Additionally, combo with cards that activate special abilities when you land direct-damage on a player (like the powerful "Sword of" equipments) for easily-obtained bonuses.

Remember that shadow creatures can only block fellow shadow cards, so you might want some walls or other blockers to defend your own health. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of monsters lying in the dark, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

© 2019 Jeremy Gill