Last updated on July 31, 2023
Blood Artist (Double Masters 2022) | Illustration by LA Draws
Black is the color of darkness, evil, and death in Magic, but also ambition and indulgence. The creatures that manifest from black mana embody these characteristics. From sewer vermin and rotting zombie corpses to nefarious demons and blood-sucking vampires, black has a large scope of iconic creatures.
Today we’re exploring the best of the best. Ready to take a look into the abyss? Let’s get into it!
What Are Black Creatures in MTG?
Dream Devourer | Illustration by David Rapoza
Let’s go over some exclusions first. These cards only have black in their color identity. Sorry Toxrill, the Corrosive, we all know you’re a Dimir () card at heart. I’ve excluded banned cards like Griselbrand and Braids, Cabal Minion, since you can’t legally play them.
Finally, I’m excluding black creatures whose relevance is tied to non-Commander formats. Dark Confidant, Hypnotic Specter, Grief, and Cauldron Familiar all have historical relevance in most Constructed formats, but don’t have a meaningful impact in Commander. This is a list of the best current black creatures, not the best of all time.
Even with these restrictions, it was hard to narrow this list down, and we’ve got plenty of heavy-hitting black creatures to discuss.
#62. Harvester of Souls
Harvester of Souls is emblematic of early Commander, but still racks up card advantage when it hits the board. 7-drops have fallen by the wayside in the present era of Commander dominated by fast mana, efficiency, and cheap interaction.
#61. Stitcher’s Supplier
#60. Dream Devourer
I’ll continue singing the praises of Dream Devourer until it catches on. It lets you stockpile foretold cards in exile, reducing their costs on a later turn and hiding them from discard effects. I highly recommend this card for demon decks, mono-black artifact strategies, or just any high-curve deck in general.
#59. Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed was an early two-card combo boogieman in Commander. Combined with Triskelion and later Walking Ballista, this “Mike & Ike” combo usually ends games on the spot. Mikaeus isn’t quite as popular now, but just as potent as ever.
#58. Custodi Lich
#57. Cavalier of Night
#56. Cemetery Desecrator + Noxious Gearhulk
The choice between Cemetery Desecrator or Noxious Gearhulk is a perfect “why not both?” scenario. Desecrator provides graveyard hate, planeswalker removal, and triggers a second time on death. Gearhulk gains life, hits creatures of any size, and has artifact synergies. Either way you get a menace creature that pops a threat on ETB.
#55. Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
#54. Geralf’s Messenger
Undying and persist are notoriously exploitable mechanics. If you can remove the +1/+1 counters from Geralf's Messenger, you can sacrifice it repeatably and keep triggering undying. This works with any undying creature, but Messenger’s ETB ability turns this combo into a win con.
#53. God-Eternal Bontu
God-Eternal Bontu lets you cash in superfluous permanents for extra cards. It’s also a scary threat on the battlefield and threatens to come back a few turns later if it dies or gets exiled.
#52. Witch of the Moors
#51. Herald of Anguish
Black artifact decks are somewhat niche, but Herald of Anguish is an absolute house in those decks. It comes down for as little as two mana, chews through your opponents’ hands, and threatens to take out small creatures. It complements the Necron Dynasties precon perfectly.
#50. Murderous Rider
Murderous Rider is what Hero's Downfall needs to look like to see Commander play. It eliminates a threat and rides into play as a creature later on. Add to that two well-supported creature types and you’ve got a solid role-player that easily slots into black decks.
#49. Dogged Detective
Dogged Detective has yet to receive the love it deserves. It’s a great value package that fills the graveyard, digs towards action, provides easy sac fodder, and comes back at the drop of a dime.
#48. Marionette Master
#47. Primaris Eliminator
#46. Author of Shadows
Author of Shadows is another card that I don’t see often enough relative to how good it is. It annihilates your opponents’ graveyards and snags a spell for later use. Plus, it’s a shade warlock. How cool is that?
#45. Nether Traitor
Ignore shadow on Nether Traitor, because this is a combo creature through and through. These combos often involve Phyrexian Altar, which will come up again later with some of the best black combo enablers.
#44. Vilis, Broker of Blood
Your pain is Vilis, Broker of Blood’s gain. Losing life draws you cards, whether that’s from Vilis’s activated ability or simply getting hit by a creature. 8-drops need to overperform to justify inclusion in your deck, but the Broker delivers.
#43. Erebos, God of the Dead
Barring opponents from gaining life can sometimes shut them out completely. That’s only part of what Erebos, God of the Dead offers. You also get the Greed ability, and we all know Greed is good. Erebos can also come to life and battle, although I’d advise against turning your Theros gods into creatures too often.
#42. Prowling Geistcatcher
Prowling Geistcatcher is a powerhouse card that’s never once been cast against me. A sac outlet lets you store creatures under the Geistcatcher. Then, when the time is right, you can bin the Geistcatcher to repopulate your board.
#41. Necron Deathmark
Regardless of whether you think Cemetery Desecrator or Noxious Gearhulk is better, I’m confident that Necron Deathmark is an upgrade over either. Flash tremendously changes the way a card like this plays out, and it comes with some free incidental mill. You can thank Warhammer 40k for busted cards like this.
#40. Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor
It took Gix over 30 years to get a proper card, and no, I don’t count that weird Gix Vanguard thing. Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor does the character justice, evoking Edric, Spymaster of Trest, but hurting people for drawing cards. The activated ability looks silly but exchanges your hand for a shot at some goodies from an opponent’s library.
#38. Puppeteer Clique
Puppeteer Clique still holds up, even though you can’t reanimate your own creatures with it. Persist is reasonably worse than undying, but opens up all the same exploitable loops I mentioned with Geralf's Messenger.
#37. Thieving Amalgam
I feel like “ape snake” is enough explanation for Thieving Amalgam. If quirky creature match-ups don’t sway you, perhaps I could interest you in a 6/7 that generates a 2/2 on every turn and punishes your opponents for dealing with them.
This slot goes out to all the universal edict creatures, which includes Fleshbag Marauder and Merciless Executioner. Plaguecrafter tends to be the best of the bunch since it can snipe planeswalkers or attack players’ hands if they have nothing to sacrifice.
#35. Great Unclean One
Despite the rumors, Great Unclean One is not what they used to call me in high school. It is, however, a sleeper hit from the 40K Commander decks. It’s a large solo threat, and with some life total navigation, you can spit out an army of Plaguebearer of Nurgles each turn.
#34. Grave Titan
There’s a real debate as to whether or not Grave Titan holds up in present-day EDH. It’s definitely fallen from a staple inclusion to a mere option, but army-in-a-can cards like this can still close out games.
#33. Pitiless Plunderer
Pitiless Plunderer snuck through the cracks before the era of “this ability triggers once each turn” rules text. An early proponent of the Treasure mechanic, the lack of limitations on this ability makes it a cornerstone of numerous infinite combos.
I’ve heard old-school Magic players refer to cards like Shriekmaw as “187 creatures,” 187 being the penal code for murder in California. Shriekmaw’s cheap evoke ability makes it more flexible than something like Nekrataal, although Ravenous Chupacabra is also in the conversation.
#31. Morbid Opportunist
Morbid Opportunist blows my mind as an uncommon because it holds up when compared to rares like Midnight Reaper or Grim Haruspex. It doesn’t have the same ceiling, but it triggers off opposing creatures dying, which results in a higher floor.
#30. Massacre Girl
If you see the word “massacre” on a black card you know something’s about to go down. It just so happens that with Massacre Girl, everything’s going down. It usually only takes a single X/1 on board to ensure that Massacre Girl’s the last creature left standing.
#29. Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia
Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia is a top-notch token generator. You can’t stockpile the decayed zombies the same way Bitterblossom would, but all it takes is a sac outlet to get your money’s worth. Jadar basically pays for a sacrifice cost once per turn and replaces that sacrificed token free of charge.
#28. Carrion Feeder + Viscera Seer
#27. Razaketh, the Foulblooded
Given the choice between Razaketh, the Foulblooded and Vilis, Broker of Blood, I’d rather have Razaketh’s tutoring ability. As long as you have life to spare and creatures to sac, you can tutor to your heart’s content.
#26. Vindictive Lich
There are so many moments where you can dangle Vindictive Lich over your opponents’ heads and threaten to clean them out of resources. It’s never the best card in your deck, and yet it’s always a problem on board.
#25. Opposition Agent
Opposition Agent, Jeweled Lotus, and Hullbreacher form a trifecta of offensive cards from Commander Legends. “Oppo” isn’t nearly as bad as the other two, but leads to some agonizing gameplay moments. Not-so-fun fact: did you know you can look at a player’s hand while controlling them with Opposition Agent?
#24. Massacre Wurm
There’s that “massacre” word again. As much as we like to think of Commander as a format full of over-the-top battle cruisers and combos, the reality is that most boards are cluttered with trinkets and dorks. Enter Massacre Wurm, which has been devastating token decks and small creatures since its first printing in 2011.
Ophiomancer is a top-tier token generator that excels in every deck except, ironically, snake decks. As long as you can make use of the extra snake token each turn, Ophiomancer’s happy to charm out another one on the very next upkeep. When you’re not sacrificing them, they make for surprisingly good blockers.
#22. Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Gonti, Lord of Luxury isn’t the first creature with this type of ability, but it is the progenitor of the “steal and cast with any color of mana” text we see so often these days. My friend group refers to this game action as “the Gonti ability,” and even in 2023 it still feels so, so good to resolve Gonti.
#21. Sepulchral Primordial
The Gatecrash Primordials have all seen casual Commander play at one time or another. Yes, even Sylvan Primordial, which was legal up until 2014. Most of them sit in the background now, but Sepulchral Primordial is still capable of warping games. It’s like three Puppeteer Cliques in one, and kudos to you if you manage to snatch a flicker effect with its ETB.
#20. Sadistic Hypnotist
Sadistic Hypnotist is great for two things: keeping your opponents’ hands empty and making your friends leave. If you want to win games of Magic at the expense of your social life, give Hypnotist a spin.
#19. Archon of Cruelty
I like to joke that Archon of Cruelty is Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath all bundled up into one card. The mana cost keeps this in check, but no one ever intends to play cards like this the fair way.
#18. K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth
Yawgmoth is a household name when you’re talking about black creatures. Turns out the Father of Machines left behind some offspring, including K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth. This card lets you substitute life for mana, a tradeoff you should always have your eye out for in Commander.
#17. Braids, Arisen Nightmare
When optimized, Braids, Arisen Nightmare is a real terror to play against. If you can land it early with a Dark Ritual or similar ramp effect, you’ll start out-carding everyone and pressuring life totals immediately.
#16. Tergrid, God of Fright / Tergrid’s Lantern
Players fear an active Tergrid, God of Fright, as they should. Sacrificing permanents and discarding cards becomes a liability, and you’d be surprised how often you take these actions with no coercion from the Tergrid player. Tergrid's Lantern doesn’t come up often, but I wouldn’t turn down the extra utility.
#15. Krav, the Unredeemed
When you’re sacrificing creatures, you’re usually hoping to gain life, draw cards, or grow a threat on board. Krav, the Unredeemed does all of the above and can sacrifice itself in a pinch. This card is so strong I’d look to run Regna, the Redeemer for no reason other than being a personal tutor for Krav.
Mindslicer falls into the same category of miser cards as Sadistic Hypnotist. It’s slightly easier to use, but leaves you hellbent as well. Have a plan when this happens, and expect retaliation from the rest of the table.
#13. Rune-Scarred Demon
What can I say, tutors are just really good in Commander. So good, in fact, that Rune-Scarred Demon still sees a healthy amount of play despite costing seven mana. They iterated on this card with Burning-Rune Demon, but I’m a bigger fan of the original.
#12. Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Exploit makes Sidisi, Undead Vizier trickier to use than Rune-Scarred Demon, but the sentiment is the same. Any creature that can unconditionally tutor as an ETB is going to make rounds in Commander, and Sidisi’s as good as they come.
If you’re looking for a recursive body and you play lands in your deck, look no further than Bloodghast. This creature comes back into play on any land drop and pairs especially well with fetch lands.
While I believe Bloodghast is a better recursive creature, I consider Gravecrawler a more universally powerful card, mostly due to its obscene combo potential. It’s one of the easiest cards to combo with Phyrexian Altar, which is one extra zombie away from a repeatable loop.
#9. Kokusho, the Evening Star
Kokusho, the Evening Star was banned during the early stages of EDH and later re-evaluated and banned only as a commander. It’s since been unbanned, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s any less powerful. One Kokusho death represents a 20-point life-swing, and Kokusho almost always comes back for seconds.
#8. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse proves that you don’t need a lot of words to make a powerful Magic card. Deathtouch is hilariously irrelevant on Sheoldred since the draw-and-drain ability and the oversized body already make the card a menace to deal with. Sheoldred actively punishes opponents for drawing cards to find an answer.
#7. Grim Hireling
A single hit from any creature represents two Treasure tokens from Grim Hireling, and this compounds with each opponent you hit each combat. Those tokens can be used to pick off creatures, or better yet, cashed in for mana to cast game-winning spells.
#6. Crypt Ghast
#5. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
The Father himself makes his appearance. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is one of the best sac outlets, discard outlets, and repeatable proliferate effects out there, which all adds up to one of the best black creatures in Magic.
#4. Syr Konrad, the Grim
Syr Konrad, the Grim damages your opponents for creatures dying, creatures being discarded, creatures leaving your graveyard, creatures being flipped over, creatures having drinks spilled on them, creatures wearing hats in their art—you get it. It’s a real kitchen sink of an effect, and an uncontested Konrad means a swift end to the game.
#3. Dauthi Voidwalker
Dauthi Voidwalker invalidates graveyard strategies, attacks through just about anything, and trades out for a card of your choice when the time is right. It can’t block, which is a minor downside compared to the long list of benefits it provides.
#2. Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Gray Merchant of Asphodel made its appearance in the original Theros set and has never stopped being a relevant Commander card since. It’s one of the most common win cons in black decks and often stabilizes your life total when it doesn’t flat-out win the game.
#1. Blood Artist
Blood Artist has become the blueprint for so many similar creatures, but none are quite as effective as the OG itself. Zulaport Cutthroat is a close second, but Blood Artist triggering on any creature dying puts it firmly into first place, making it the backbone of any aristocrats strategy.
Best Black Creature Payoffs and Synergies
Black creature-based decks can branch out into many different strategies. One of the most popular is sacrifice-themed decks, often dubbed “aristocrats” decks. These decks look to flood the board with expendable creatures, pair them with cheap sac outlets, and use Blood Artist-type effects to convert this into damage. Creatures like Carrion Feeder and Viscera Seer thrive in these strategies.
Devotion lends itself better to black decks than it does most other mono-color decks. Between Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Erebos, God of the Dead, and K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth, there are plenty of creatures that demand a heavy devotion to black.
Black creatures also tend to offer some of the best two-for-one interaction. Shriekmaw, Noxious Gearhulk, and Necron Deathmark are only a few of the “187” creatures mentioned here, and they’re all capable of building a board state while picking off opposing threats.
Greatness, At Any Cost
Dauthi Voidwalker | Illustration by Sidharth Chaturvedi
This has been an absolute marathon of black’s best creatures in relation to present-day Magic. There are many more cards that could’ve made the list, or historically significant creatures that have had their place and time. However, the list presented here includes the best of the best from among creatures that still have an impact on the Commander format.
If you think I missed any important ones (and surely a few slipped through the cracks), I’d love to hear about them in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.
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