Too-Specific Top 10 - Shadowy Figures
(Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor | Art by Anna Podedworna)
Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Dauthi Cutthroat is the only creature that can destroy creatures with Shadow, specifically?)
I would not be the first to note that Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor is essentially mono-black Edric, who is well known for his "Flying Men" decks chock full of one-mana evasive creatures. With this comparison, why wouldn't I try to do the same thing with a ton of cheap black creatures that can't be blocked?
Huh? Because there are only two of them, you say? Well, how about other black evasion? It's secondary in flying, is the old home of Fear, and the current home of menace. How hard could it be?
Top 10 Mono-Black, One-Mana, Evasive Creatures
- Changeling Outcast
- Hope of Ghirapur
- Tormented Soul
- Vampire Cutthroat
- Signal Pest
- Forsworn Paladin
- Eye Collector
- Cabal Therapist
Oof, we're not even to the bottom of this list yet, and I'm already pretty underwhelmed. 0/1 fliers, 0/1s that can only be blocked by fliers, Skulk, and if you go down any further, all you see is a bunch of Swampwalk. I'm gonna have to buy an Urborg to even try to make this meme of a deck work.
How about instead we lean further into another meme?
Top 10 Mono-Black Shadow Creatures
Marginally old heads may remember Fear, but the true old heads will remember not only that a terribly parasitic mechanic ruled over Tempest block, but also that the black denizens of said Shadow mechanic had three different Shadow lords.
Okay, okay, Stronghold Overseer actually came out in Time Spiral, but try and tell me you don't wish it was legendary! Still, with Gix as the next best thing, we can at least include all of our Dauthi Warlords and go all-in on Shadow with this deck.
The only question is, what are the best black Shadow creatures?
Criteria: Creatures within the mono-black color identity that have Shadow, no matter how bad an idea that is to build a deck around. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.
10. Dauthi Cutthroat
(278 Inclusions, 0% of 907,354 Decks)
You may think that you'd never get to use Dauthi Cutthroat's ability, but luckily a trump card known as Dauthi Embrace exists! If we were drowning in 30 Shadow creatures to include in a Gix deck, then that wouldn't be so great as an inclusion. However, if we looked at the reality where there were only 14 black Shadow creatures total, and where some of them were extremely lackluster or even contained downsides that made them not as good with other Shadow creatures (lookin' at you, Faceless Devourer!), then we would be pretty happy to throw Dauthi Embrace in to make our fliers and menace-ers a bit more evasive. As for the rest, two mana for a 1/1 unblockable isn't the best rate, but it is one of the okay-est rates in black!
9. Dauthi Mindripper
(282 Inclusions, 0% of 907,354 Decks)
No matter how you look at it, four mana for a 2/1 unblockable is not a good rate. In formats where there are only two players, that can be somewhat forgiven, as it will get through for damage and then discard half of an opponent's hand. In multiplayer, though, that's half of one-third of the enemy players' hands, which is a sixth of the cards you'd want to affect. In other words, you'd have to be really hard up for a Shadow theme to be playing this card. Which, it turns out, we are!
8. Dauthi Ghoul
(357 Inclusions, 0% of 907,354 Decks)
Another card that goes great with Dauthi Embrace, Dauthi Ghoul will deliver on the "two mana for an unblockable 1/1" rate and then some, especially as your other Shadow creatures die. In short, it's one of the main and only reasons to be looking for a Shadow theme deck, and we'll be happy to snag it straight into the 99.
7. Stronghold Overseer
(374 Inclusions, 0% of 907,354 Decks)
Of course, there's also another reason to play a Shadow deck right here at six mana, and it's extra-extra unblockable! Stronghold Overseer's best part, however, is that if you're sitting on some excess mana, it can pump your team on your turn, and Fog go-wide decks when people swing back at you. We're talking about a lot of mana to do so, but look, we're short on Shadow lords, okay?
6. Dauthi Mercenary
(406 Inclusions, 0% of 907,354 Decks)
Three mana for a 2/1 unblockable is also on-rate, but luckily this Dauthi Knight Mercenary comes with Firebreathing, so it's actually solidly above our admittedly lackluster power/toughness rates so far! Without a doubt, Dauthi Mercenary is one of the best aggro creatures available in both Shadow and Mercenary decks.
5. Dauthi Slayer
(489 Inclusions, 0% of 907,354 Decks)
If you're looking for an even better rate for an unblockable creature, here's Dauthi Slayer. Two mana for a 2/2 Juggernaut that can't be blocked by Walls - or anything else - is just solid, so this mainstay of aggro decks will once again find employment.
4. Dauthi Horror
(2,524 Inclusions, 0% of 907,354 Decks)
If you'd also like the option to be able to block with your creature that can't block 99.999% of creatures, there's always Dauthi Horror! It's even good if you happen to run into a pesky copy of Soltari Visionary!
3. Stronghold Rats
(4,047 Inclusions, 0% of 907,354 Decks)
Stronghold Rats can't compete with the efficiency of Dauthi Slayer or Dauthi Horror, but, as previously covered, a 2/1 unblockable for three isn't the worst rate to begin with. What really allows this card to see play are all the discard decks out there. While many would see a Hypnotic Specter that also hits your own hand as a downside, a ton of decks want everyone discarding cards, because it keeps opponents' hands empty and helps with your own Madness spells or reanimating your Haunt of Hightower.
2. Nether Traitor
(16,108 Inclusions, 2% of 907,354 Decks)
While we've certainly seen better rates than 1/1 unblockables for two mana, none of them have had haste, and none of them have brought themselves back from the graveyard. Given how often your Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor will get targeted with removal, it will be a nice consolation prize to get your Nether Traitor back from the graveyard when it does. A 40-turn clock isn't anything to write home about, of course; the real reason Nether Traitor is this high on this list is because it features heavily in Aristocrats decks that are more than happy to sacrifice it, then sacrifice another creature, and bring it back. Rinse, repeat, profit!
1. Dauthi Voidwalker
(93547 Inclusions, 12% of 810,114 Decks)
There was never really any question about what card was going to be at the top of this list. Barely out a year now, Dauthi Voidwalker was pushed even for a Modern Horizons premium set. A 3/2 unblockable for two mana that also exiles every card that would go to your opponents' graveyards? Even without the option to grab the best spell exiled that way, Dauthi Voidwalker would be more than playable. Indeed, in any set that didn't also contain Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, it would easily be considered the best creature in the set. (As it is, the better question might be, should either of these chase creatures exist in the first place?)
We might as well throw in a Shadow decklist, right?
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Obviously, there are better versions of this deck that can be made by just deleting the whole Shadow thing and filling in more efficient removal and evasive one-drops, but overall this is a fun version of Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor that has a little bit more going on than your average Edric. After all, we don't need to push things to the limit to have a rad time.
With that said, the numbers from this week's list show that, while there might not be many, this is definitely not the first Shadow deck out there. It doesn't take much imagination, then, to think how many of them might be playing more than just black:
Top 10 Non-Black Shadow Creatures
- Looter il-Kor
- Thalakos Seer
- Soltari Visionary
- Soltari Foot Soldier
- Thalakos Deceiver
- Spirit en-Dal
- Soltari Champion
- Soltari Trooper
- Soltari Monk
- Augur il-Vec
25 years on from Tempest, Shadow still only sports 35 creatures total, all contained within the Esper shard (with the exception of Soltari Guerrillas). While it has been lightly revisited in Time Spiral block and Modern Horizons, it remains a difficult mechanic to build around. In fact, it's one of the main examples of a parasitic mechanic that is now used as a lesson in what not to do for aspiring designers. In other words, there's little hope that we'll ever see a large revisiting of this mechanic to fill in the cracks, although if there is one, I wager it would be tied up in Teferi reuniting with his phased-out homeland of Zhalfir. If you've been paying attention to the Brothers' War story, he was just marooned on a mysterious beach after once again messing with time too much, so there may yet be some hope!
Nuts and Bolts
There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.
What Do You Think?
As a hopelessly addicted brewer of decks, it's hard for me to remember sometimes that not everyone is wired that way. When I suggested a Shadow deck to a friend some years back, I was surprised when, after giving them a half-hour Scryfall lesson and letting them loose on an Anowon, the Ruin Thief brew, they instead showed up with a pretty pushed Sun Quan, Lord of Wu list they'd found online. I had to remember, endless researching wasn't their jam; they wanted to play Magic ASAP, and focus more on the playing than the brewing.
So, being someone who consistently makes lists and releases them online, I kind of have to ask:
Finally, what's your favorite Shadow creature? Are you excited that we finally have a Gix card? Are you brewing him?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the semi-circular architectural arrangement at the back of the commons that is both a table and not a table, depending on how desperate for a game you are.