Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Skeleton Creatures in Magic
Not to be confused with their more fleshed-out zombie cousins, skeletons mostly reside in Magic's black faction. While weak in terms of combat, skeletons are usually inexpensive and specialize in regeneration or revival from the graveyard, making them hard to permanently remove.
While they could use more tribal support, we've still seen plenty of powerful members—which reign supreme? These are the ten best skeleton cards in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Reassembling Skeleton
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 2
Even for his low cost, Reassembling Skeleton is a weak 1/1. However, he's perfect fodder for effects that require you to sacrifice creatures or discard cards; you can spend two mana to return Skeleton from your graveyard to the battlefield tapped.
That's a great outlet for leftover mana, and if nothing else, it'll give you a throwaway blocker (once Skeleton untaps, that is).
9. Champion of Stray Souls
Unlike most skeletons, Stray Souls needs a hefty sum of six mana, and his stats are only a mediocre 4/4 considering. However, Souls can spend five mana, tap, and sacrifice X creatures to return X from your graveyard to the field, an excellent way to revive powerful creatures by forfeiting weak tokens.
And even if Souls himself is defeated, you can spend seven mana to move him from your graveyard to the top of your deck, making exile one of few ways to truly thwart him.
8. Skeletal Vampire
Like many skeletons, Skeletal Vampire has a secondary subtype (vampire) that increases his synergy potential. For his hefty price, Vampire is a weak 3/3, but he has flying and creates two 1/1 flying bat tokens when he enters the field.
Additionally, by spending five mana and sacrificing a bat, you can create two more 1/1 bats, gradually populating your army. You can also sacrifice a bat to regenerate Vampire, demonstrating typical skeleton resilience.
7. Rimebound Dead
Rimebound is a simple 1/1, but he's cheap to cast and is one of few creatures with the snow type, empowering snow-based effects. You can also regenerate him by spending a mana from a snow permanent (likely a Snow Swamp), which Rimebound can use to repeatedly block big threats without dying.
6. Lightning Skelemental
Skelemental has specific color requirements, but carries both the elemental and skeleton subtypes. More than that, he's a 6/1 with both trample and haste, and when he deals combat damage to a player, they have to discard two cards.
You have to sacrifice Skelemental at your end step, but by then he'll have landed some nice damage and weakened opposing hands. Bonus points if you use him to trigger death-related effects on cards like "Blood Artist".
5. Duty-Bound Dead
Duty-Bound's stats are only 0/2, but his exalted effect gives any creature you control that attacks alone +1/+1 for the turn. This means he can swing as a 1/3, or empower an allied attacker. Additionally, by spending four mana, you can regenerate Duty-Bound. That's pretty expensive for a regeneration, but it's still nice to have available.
On the field, Carrionette is a weak 1/1, and his unusual ability actually triggers from the graveyard, so try using him as discard or sacrifice fodder. Once he's in your graveyard, you can spend four mana to exile Carrionette and a creature on the field unless its controller spends two mana.
In terms of removal ability, the effect is only okay, but it's one of few that operates from the graveyard, perfect for black's self-milling antics. And if an opponent spends two mana to counter the effect, Carrionette won't be exiled, letting you reuse the ability until it successfully resolves.
3. Augur of Skulls
Like many skeletons, Augur is a weak 1/1, but he has the useful wizard subtype, blending well with the blue faction. Additionally, you can regenerate him by spending two mana, and you can sacrifice him during your upkeep to force a player to discard two cards.
That's a nifty trick that outperforms three-cost double-discards like "Mind Rot", rivaling even "Hymn to Tourach" in discard prowess. A staple in my own black decks, Augur is surprisingly cheap, costing well under a single dollar!
2. Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
Skithiryx here is a dragon as well as a skeleton, and you might see him lead a pure-black commander deck or serve as a supporter in a dragon-based one.
Either way, Skithiryx offers a 4/4 with flying and infect, letting him inflict damage to creatures as -1/-1 counters and to players as poison counters. You can also spend one black mana to give Skithiryx haste or two to regenerate him, handy add-ons for an already formidable card.
1. Golgari Grave-Troll
This troll skeleton only needs a small dose of green, meaning he fits well in multi-color decks. Grave-Troll enters the field with a +1/+1 counter for each creature in your graveyard, and you can remove one and spend a mana to regenerate him.
But don't worry even if not many monsters have died yet; Grave-Troll's powerful dredge six lets you add him from your graveyard to your hand (instead of performing a standard draw) by milling the top six cards of your deck. Not only does this quickly recover him, it stocks your graveyard, empowering Grave-Troll when he next arrives.
Supporting Skeleton Decks in Magic
While skeletons could use more kin-based effects, you can sometimes support them with non-members like "Death Baron" (who boosts both zombies and skeletons). Or, rely on their other subtypes for tribal abilities.
Skeletons work well in longer matches thanks to their continuous presence, quickly reviving and regenerating to ensure you're never without a creature at hand. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of skeleton creatures, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill