Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Does Wither Work in Magic the Gathering?
In Magic, the wither trait is similar to infect, as it lets creatures deal damage to other monsters in the form of -1/-1 counters. Since these aren't removed at the end of the turn, this makes damage from wither sources permanent and more hazardous than regular attacks.
Unlike infect, wither won't dish out poison counters when attacking an opponent directly (it deals normal damage), but to compensate, wither creatures are often stronger or have additional abilities. So, which enemy-fatiguing spells reign supreme? These are the ten best wither cards in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Noxious Hatchling
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
Hatchling looks great, bearing an incredible 6/6 stats (six power and six toughness) and a variable mana symbol that accepts either black or green resources; however, he enters play with four -1/-1 counters, essentially serving as a 2/2. But not only does he wield wither, but you also get to remove a -1/-1 counter from him whenever you play a green or black spell.
Thus, Hatchling works well in decks with numerous black/green duos, as casting a spell that's both colors will remove two -1/-1 counters. He's also a good candidate for spells with drawbacks of placing -1/-1 counters on your own units since he can quickly remove them.
9. Boggart Ram-Gang
Simple but effective, Boggart Ram-Gang also bears variable symbols, accepting either red or green mana and arriving with a respectable 3/3 stats. Not only does he have wither, but he also has haste, letting him attack immediately without delay. Throw in the useful goblin subtype (plus warrior for good measure) and you have a hearty warrior who synergizes with many of the red faction's best cards.
8. Needle Specter
Specter is a risky card, as his stats are a terrible 1/1 considering his price. However, he has both wither and flying (letting him soar over ground blockers), and whenever he deals combat damage to a player, they discard cards equal to the damage dealt.
Thus, use Specter in decks with auras or equipments to boosts his power. Then, whenever he swings, your opponent is faced with a dilemma: either guard him (assuming they have defenders with flying or reach) and suffer permanent -1/-1 counters, or leave him unchecked and take both damage and discards.
7. Oona's Gatewarden
Yet another dual mana symbol, Gatewarden accepts either a blue or black resource. Considering her low cost, her stats are an impressive 2/1, although her defender trait means she can only block (and not attack).
However, she has flying, ensuring she can defend any foe, and she'll indefinitely weaken if not outright kill creatures thanks to wither. Plus, her faerie and soldier bloodlines offer some interesting combos, making her a worthy early-game play.
6. Tower Above
CMC: 6 (but can be cast for 3, see below)
Tower Above's unique symbols each allow you to either spend two mana of any type or one green, so he can be cast for as little as three resources with enough forests. He's not a creature but a one-off sorcery that, for a single turn, grants a creature +4/+4, trample (bleeding excess damage through blockers), wither, and the ability to force an enemy creature to block it.
Use this to goad a support unit into unwanted combat. Then, with a +4/+4 boost, you should pierce leftover damage through with trample, and on the off chance your blocker survives the attack, they'll be drastically weakened due to wither.
5. Corrosive Mentor
Mentor is rather weak at just 1/3, but offers both the elemental and rogue subtypes plus the ability to grant all your black creatures (including himself) wither. Thus, in devoted black decks, all you n4eed is one Mentor to morph your army of zombies, vampires, and demons into corrosive warriors who inflict permanent damage.
Hateflayer costs an enormous amount of seven mana, and his 5/5 stats aren't great considering. However, remember that spells like "Elvish Piper" can field creatures without paying their costs, so you can circumvent his fee in the right deck.
More than that, not only does Hateflayer have wither, he offers a rare untapped ability, letting you spend three mana and untap him to deal his power as damage to any target. Useful on its own, this can even form a game-winning combo if you can achieve unlimited mana and grant Hateflayer a tap effect with another card, letting you exhaust him, untap for damage, then rinse and repeat until your rivals lose.
3. Fists of the Demigod
Accepting one mana of any hue and one that's either red or black, Fists is easily cast, and (like any aura) adheres to a creature. As long as that unit is black, it gains +1/+1 and wither, and if it's red, it gains +1/+1 and first strike.
Use this in decks with creatures who possess both colors, giving them +2/+2. Additionally, first strike and wither make an excellent pairing, letting you hit first in battle and reduce your foe's power with wither's counters, weakening their counterattack.
I use Demigod in many of my own red/black commander decks, and compared to our upcoming cards, he's a prime bargain for budget players, costing less than a single dollar!
2. Kulrath Knight
Yet another spell with variable symbols, Kulrath accepts either red or black resources. He needs a substantial chunk of five mana and only has 3/3 stats but enjoys both flying and wither.
More than that, Kulrath prevents opposing creatures who have counters of any type from attacking or blocking. This combos nicely with wither, but it also works with other counter types, punishing foes for +1/+1 tactics.
1. Stigma Lasher
Stigma Lasher starts off strong, wielding 2/2 stats for his low price plus elemental and shaman lineages. But what makes him truly incredible is his effect: whenever he deals damage to a player, they can't gain life for the rest of the game.
That's an absolutely brutal net that negates your opponent's lifelink and other heals; use blue spells to give Lasher unblockable and let him easily land direct damage. As icing on the cake, he can even apply the mark with effect damage (if he somehow gains it through other spells).
How to Support Wither Decks in Magic: The Gathering
Remember, wither strategies pair well with infect cards, who similarly corrupt creatures, as well as first strike, weakening foes before they counterattack. Additionally, they also blend with proliferate effects, which can multiply the number of -1/-1 counters on opposing cards.
Sometimes it's smart to swing with other creatures, leaving your wither monsters ready to discourage attackers on your opponent's turn. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of flesh-eating spells, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill