Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Deathtouch Works in Magic
Creatures with deathtouch in Magic will kill any creature they engage in combat, regardless of their opponent's toughness. They offer excellent blockers, making foes think twice before swinging with beasts like "Ghalta, Primal Hunger." Deathtouch also works with non-combat damage, letting you exploit it with the fight mechanic or other damage tricks.
Casting an early-game creature with deathtouch helps shield yourself and your planeswalkers as you build up to bigger plays—which reign supreme? These are the ten best deathtouchers of cost two or less in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Wintermoor Commander
Commander provides an excellent creature for knight decks, who gained several tribal supports in Throne of Eldraine. Commander's power is always two, but his toughness becomes the number of knights you control, always at least one counting himself.
Of course, he also has deathtouch, and when he attacks, he gives another knight you control indestructible for the turn. This makes it hard for your opponent to block either, as they'll either lose their unit from deathtouch or fail to defeat your indestructible one. Plus, since Commander isn't legendary, multiple copies of himself can shield each other as they swing.
9. Narnam Renegade
Green doesn't have as many deathtouchers as black, making its 1/2 Renegade a bargain deal, especially with the excellent elf subtype. Renegade's revolt effect lets him enter the field with a +1/+1 counter if another permanent you control left the field that turn.
So, for a single mana, you score an early-game tribal deathtoucher, and one who can increase his own stats and blend well with proliferate strategies.
8. Wasteland Viper
Viper offers another impressive 1/2 deathtoucher, especially appreciated outside of black. If not so much as elf, his snake subtype has some tribal support, and his bloodrush lets you discard him from hand and spend one mana to give an attacking creature +1/+2 and deathtouch for the turn, essentially lending Viper's own abilities to an ally.
7. Blacklance Paragon
Admittedly, Paragon doesn't always have deathtouch, but he's got 3/1 stats, flash (letting you cast him at instant speed), and gives a knight deathtouch and lifelink for the turn on entry. He can pick himself, giving you a surprise death-blocker (plus some lifegain), but he can also pick other units.
Versatile and with enough power to hit hard even once deathtouch is gone, Paragon's great for any black deck, but especially for knight themes.
6. Dire Fleet Poisoner
Poisoner is like the pirate version of Paragon, costing two and entering at flash speed. She's got decent 2/2 stats and gives an attacking pirate +1/+1 and deathtouch for the turn, letting you bait foes into undesirable blocks.
But unlike Paragon, Poisoner naturally has deathtouch, giving her more staying power and continuously discouraging aggression.
5. Knight of the Ebon Legion
Admittedly, Knight doesn't carry deathtouch by default, but he can gain it for the turn alongside +3/+3 stats by spending three mana. This can be used on any turn, can activate multiple times per turn, and works well with Knight's next effect, which gives him a +1/+1 counter at the end of your turn if any player lost at least four life.
So swing with Knight, boost him up, and give him a counter after hitting four four. Throw in handy 1/2 base stats plus both vampire and knight subtypes for a versatile card that scales well in the late game.
4. Ice-Fang Coatl
Despite poor 1/1 stats, Coatl's flying, flash, and snake subtype make him a versatile play, especially with his cantrip effect, drawing you a card as he enters the field. To obtain deathtouch, he needs you to control at least three other snow permanents—use basic snow lands or other copies of Coatl to quickly meet the condition and control a rare flying deathtoucher.
3. Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
Ayli's 2/3 stats alongside deathtouch already impress, giving her enough endurance to block-kill and survive weaker clashes, and she carries two useful activated abilities. Spending a mana and sacrificing another creature gives you life equal to their toughness, a useful response to something that would kill them anyway.
And if you have at least ten more life than your starting value, you can spend three mana and sacrifice a creature to instantly exile any non-land permanent. Be sure to use lifelink and Ayli's first ability to quickly amass life for this powerful removal.
2. Wren's Run Vanquisher
Vanquisher requires you to pay either pay an extra three mana or reveal an elf from your hand when you cast her, so you really only want her in elf tribal themes. But to compensate, she's an amazing 3/3 with deathtouch plus the elf and warrior subtypes, giving you a monstrous early-game beatstick.
Plus, since her additional cost only activates when cast, you don't have to pay extra mana or reveal cards when she enters the field through other effects. A staple in my mono-green commander decks, Vanquisher is surprisingly cheap, costing well under a single dollar!
1. Baleful Strix
Minus flash, Strix is a more-reliable Coatl, giving a draw on entry but carrying deathtouch and flying by default. Again, this is a great way to make even flying foes second-guess their attacks, and as a bonus, Strix contains the artifact type, empowering your affinity and other artifact-based cards.
Countering Deathtouch in Magic
Maybe you're not running deathtouch, but want to find ways around it—look for indestructible creatures, immune to destruction. You can also remove deathtouch from opposing creatures with "Archetype of Finality," punish them with "Mirror Shield," or use blocker-hindering traits (flying, menace, etc.) to prevent foes from defending you.
Don't forget that many worthwhile higher-cost creatures also carry deathtouch, but for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next set of insta-killers, vote for your favorite and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill
Sebastian on April 23, 2020: