Last updated on December 7, 2023

Liliana, the Last Hope - Illustration by Jaime Jones

Liliana, the Last Hope | Illustration by Jaime Jones

Tokens come in all shapes and sizes in Magic – part of the fun of playing MTG on paper is that we can use all sorts of cool trinkets to represent them, from dice to sleeves to pretty much anything you can think of that happens to fit onto a playmat in large numbers.

But, of course, you have to put those tokens in play first. And since we can't include them in our decks, we need cards for doing so: token generators. A type of MTG card that Wizards of the Coast is really happy to print, there are well over a couple thousand token generators when you consider all colors, and about 300 of them are pitch-black.

Let's shed some light on that group and find out which are the best black token generators in MTG.

What Are Black Token Generators in MTG?

Cryptbreaker - Illustration by Darek Zabrocki

Cryptbreaker | Illustration by Darek Zabrocki

Usually, black token generators refer to black cards that, as part of their effect(s), create one or more tokens; the token(s) themselves can be black, multicolored, or even colorless.

You could focus only on cards that create black tokens, but that would leave a lot of great token generators out of this ranking: Treasures are colorless tokens, Bastion of Remembrance creates a white creature token, Pawn of Ulamog gives you a colorless Eldrazi token, etc. Since some of the very best black cards that are token generators fall in this category, we'll go by “black” as an adjective for “generator”, rather than for “token”.

I mean, grammar matters for these matters!

And, just in case: The color of the created token does not affect the card's identity in Commander: Bastion of Remembrance‘s identity is just black, since its token's color is not a mana symbol.

Honorable Mentions: The Other Tokens

Tokens indeed come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. For example, Wilds of Eldraine has a lot of token generators in the form of roles, which are token auras.

When you look at the most popular token generators in black, though, there's a very clear bias towards two types of tokens: zombies and Treasures. With a couple of notable exceptions, most cards in this ranking will generate one of those two types.

#31 Open the Graves

Open the Graves

Open the Graves is a good example of the sort of mechanic that black token generators tend to have: When something dies, create something else (usually a zombie, who will probably die very, very soon. Most likely this very same turn, come to think of it).

This enchantment gets the job done, but we'll find plenty of better versions of this effect in cheaper cards, or with less restrictions, or that provide better keywords.

#30 Tormod, the Desecrator

Tormod, the Desecrator

Although an adequate partner in Commander decks (usually as Ghost of Ramirez DePietro‘s sidekick), Tormod, the Desecrator is most often found pulling its weight as a regular card. Its effect triggers when creatures leave the graveyard for any reason (not just when they return to the battlefield), so exiling them with effects like flashback or returning them from yard to hand will net you a token.

#29 Cryptbreaker

Cryptbreaker

Cryptbreaker’s first ability is a good fit for decks that want to delve into discard synergies – in those cases, the zombie token is usually just a nice upside, not the core mechanic we’re after. It’s a lot like Waste Not, about which we'll talk in a bit.

But the second ability does make it shine in zombie-infested decks, like black token decks tend to be. In this scenario, Cryptbreaker provides a very good payoff for having your board crawling with the walking dead, making it one of the stronger draw effects in black. Note that one of the three zombies you have to tap can be Cryptbreaker itself.

#28 Ghoulcaller Gisa

Ghoulcaller Gisa

If you need a lot of bodies on the board fast, and already have a big body willing to sacrifice itself for your noble cause, Ghoulcaller Gisa will spawn the army you need and will snowball from if left unchecked. You can even sacrifice one of Gisa's token zombies to make two.

Note that, as with all activated abilities that don't state otherwise, Gisa's works at instant speed as long as they don’t have summoning sickness, which means you can spawn blockers during your opponent’s turn.

#27 Crowded Crypt

Crowded Crypt

If you’re planning on playing the long, grindy game (which token-heavy black decks often don't have much trouble doing, given their access to removal, lifegain, and eager chump-blockers), Crowded Crypt will passively get fairly fat, and provide you with a large army in the late game.

In the meantime, it's a very serviceable black mana rock to ramp towards your big black spells.

#26 Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools

Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools

Fairly common as a partner commander (it's one of the very few planeswalkers that can play that role) and very popular as a regular card in EDH decks, Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools is a straightforward token generator that also includes a great payoff for terminating your fodder.

And I pity the fools facing you if Tevesh ever activates its ultimate.

#25 Waste Not

Waste Not

The majority of decks that focus on tokens also focus either on sacrifice synergies or on massing a huge army to pound your foes with. Waste Not works on a different axis, being an amazing payoff for attacking your foe's hand with discard effects.

For discard-heavy decks, the zombie token that Waste Not gives us is usually just a nice upside. But when combined with effects like Sadistic Hypnotist, we can blend the discard and sacrifice packages quite well.

By the way: If you’re looking for discard payoffs that also generate tokens, then you may want to look into Waste Not‘s mirror image, Bone Miser.

#24 Endless Ranks of the Dead

Endless Ranks of the Dead

As we're seeing, quite a few of the best token generators in black create zombies. Once you establish your small shambling squad, this aptly named enchantment makes sure your ranks keep swelling.

Endless Ranks of the Dead‘s drawback is that you need to already have more than a couple of (dead) bodies on the board, since it doesn’t do anything with less than two zombies in play. But as long as you can keep your dead walkers alive, or have other effects spawning them during your upkeep, you can grow a huge army really fast.

#23 Ruthless Technomancer

Ruthless Technomancer

As soon as you have any big creature on the board, Ruthless Technomancer can cosplay as a multicolor ritual (that's to say, cards that generate more mana than what they cost to cast), with the added benefit that you can spend the extra mana whenever you want.

And, in the same package, Ruthless Technomancer also provides a payoff for the created tokens – even allowing you to bring back the big creature you've just sacrificed.

#22 Cemetery Reaper

Cemetery Reaper

Cemetery Reaper is a bit clunky and expensive as a token generator, but its lord effect (in MTG lingo, effects that grant a board-wide buff to a particular type of creature) comes in handy – a lot of other token generators are die-hard fans of The Walking Dead, after all!

#21 Ogre Slumlord

Ogre Slumlord

Here we have an interesting departure from the usual 2/2 do-nothing creature tokens many cards in this ranking tend to produce: Ogre Slumlord‘s rats have deathtouch, a defensive keyword ability that will force go-tall attackers to pull the brakes.

Our lording Ogre is a bit expensive at 5 mana, but it triggers whenever nontoken creatures from any player (not just yours) die, and will be welcomed in any rat-focused deck.

#20 Toxrill, the Corrosive

Toxrill, the Corrosive

A slow-burning, one-sided board wipe that can eventually provide you with a chunk of tokens and card advantage, Toxrill, the Corrosive sneaks into Standard decks from time to time but sees most of its play in EDH decks, where it’s fairly popular both as one of the best Dimir commanders or as part of the 99ers in your deck.

It's not cheap, though, in any sense of the word: This slimy horror happens to be Magic's most expensive Slug, costing above $10 per copy.

#19 Liliana, Death's Majesty

Liliana, Death's Majesty

This is the first time we see Liliana Vess in this ranking, but it won't be the last – which probably comes as no surprise for someone who’d have an Instagram profile filled with quick tips for raising your zombie right.

In Liliana, Death's Majesty‘s case, the first ability does exactly what cards in this ranking want to do, while also stocking your graveyard for later use. And the ultimate, while not strictly a token payoff, does work in decks that seek to flood the board with zombie tokens.

#18 Diregraf Colossus

Diregraf Colossus

It's big in zombie decks. It's a zombie. And it makes more zombies.

Sometimes all you need is just a whole lot of big, bad zombies, and Diregraf Colossus is all about that. Not too impressive a threat all by itself early on, but able to flood the board if not dealt with soon.

But if you really need a bazillion zombies in one go, the next card may be right down your graveyard alley…

#17 Army of the Damned

Army of the Damned

Army of the Damned heard you like zombie tokens, and would like to create some zombie tokens on top of your zombie tokens.

And then do it again from the graveyard, flashback-style.

As far as no-frills, get-it-done token generators go, Army of the Damned can sure put in some hard work!

#16 Ophiomancer

Ophiomancer

Like Ogre Slumlord‘s rats, Ophiomancer‘s snakes have deathtouch, turning these little 1/1's into some serious speed-bumps against foes trying to run you over with big creatures.

Ophiomancer is much cheaper than Ogre Slumlord and spawns ophidians without anything needing to die. And as long as you have a way to send said snake to the slaughter, Ophiomancer will gladly beguile another one next turn.

#15 Grave Titan

Grave Titan

Grave Titan’s impactful enough to see some fringe play in Legacy as part of reanimator decks, and during its tenure in Standard it was among the strongest of the Titans. And it's very popular in Commander, providing both offense and defense in a single card.

This big boy is amazing as a token generator and equally great in zombie typal decks, although in the latter case don't be fooled by the artwork: Grave Titan is not itself a zombie, but rather a Giant.

#14 Westvale Abbey / Ormendahl, Profane Prince

Westvale Abbey Ormendahl, Profane Prince

As token generators go, Westvale Abbey is… not amazing, to say it politely. Paying five mana and a life for a 1/1 weenie just ain't it. And, really, this Abbey is not even black, it's colorless…

… until, of course, you flip the Abbey into one of the best black demons in Magic: Ormendahl, Profane Prince, who is very much a powerhouse of a payoff for sacrificing your creatures.

#13 Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia

Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia

As a Commander, Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia is nothing much to look at. But as one of your other 99 cards, Jadar is an excellent, aggressive team player who’s sort of a dead-walking Bitterblossom with a couple of extra steps. Notice that the zombie Jadar creates has the decayed keyword, which provides a form of self-sacrifice at the end of combat.

Printed in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia also sees a bit of play in Standard, Pioneer, and Arena's Explorer     , a testament to how flexible it is.

And it also has the (objectively!) best flavor text for any token-heavy deck:

“Rise, my pretty thing. Why rot in the river when you can serve at my bidding?”

#12 Pawn of Ulamog

Pawn of Ulamog

Pawn of Ulamog provides a somewhat similar effect as Pitiless Plunderer, giving us both a bit of ramp and self-sacrificing fodder.

As we'll see in a bit, Pitiless Plunderer is the better card (among other reasons, Pawn's trigger off nontoken creatures, while Plunderer counts any creature), which is not to say that Pawn of Ulamog isn't excellent. Many sacrifice outlets and payoffs care about us sacrificing creatures, and of course you can't send a Treasure to do a creature's job, like chump-blocking to buy you some time.

#11 Dreadhorde Invasion

Dreadhorde Invasion

Rather than directly creating tokens, Dreadhorde Invasion has the amass keyword, which creates a token if you have no army on the field, or grows one army bigger if you do, also making it a zombie.

Dreadhorde Invasion is no Bitterblossom (although it can get kinda close if you have a Hordewing Skaab on the board), but a constant stream of sacrifice fodder at the start of your turn will fuel your sacrifice outlets like Woe Strider and keep them chugging along.

Dreadhorde Invasion can also eventually provide a bit of lifegain, although your deck will need to be specifically tailored for that: Your odds of growing an army to 6/6 with only Dreadhorde Invasion are very slim.

#10 Woe Strider

Woe Strider

There's a lot going on here!

First of all, Woe Strider’sa little self-contained enabler-plus-payoff combo, providing both the sacrifice outlet and the brave volunteer that's willing to die for your deck's sake.

Of course, Woe Strider works all the better if you have additional fuel for its fire, something that any token deck worth its sac should have an easy time providing. And Woe Strider's payoff is quite on point for a relatively cheap card, letting you dig further down your deck for your bigger, meaner spells.

Cherry on top, this cute lil' horror can itself become a bigger, meaner threat in the late game, once your graveyard is well-stocked. Woe Strider is a nice case of the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

#9 Bitterblossom

Bitterblossom

If you’re in the market for an unending stream of tokens, Bitterblossom is exactly what you need. And these are not just any token: Fliers can bypass blockers (thus becoming the sort of saboteurs that Grim Hireling loves to support) or become hard-to-bypass blockers themselves, depending on what you need.

And, of course, Bitterblossom is a powerhouse in any faerie typal deck. Sadly, though, it's not a cheap card to buy: In spite of its very recent reprint in Wilds of Eldraine‘s Enchanting Tales bonus sheet, this enchantment's price hasn't dropped below $14-$15 per copy.

#8 Revel in Riches

Revel in Riches

If you’ve ever pondered whether or not you'd be rich by now if you had a nickel for every time you've killed one of your opponents' creatures, Revel in Riches is here to let you know that yes, by now you'd actually own that website which used to have a blue bird. Maybe you'd even had kept the cute blue bird, rather than changing it for the ugly X it now has. But I digress.

Jokes aside, Revel in Riches doesn't actually require you to get your hands bloodied – this enchantment won't inquire about the cause of death, so you’ll end up drowning in Treasure whenever enemy creatures happen to die for whatever reason (like, say, two of your opponents clashing against each other). That makes Revel in Riches one of the best enchantments available in Commander.

Then again, it’ll also line your pockets if you so happen to cast a board wipe and do get your hands dirty. Just saying!

#7 Grim Hireling

Grim Hireling

There’s something to be said about cards that provide both an effect and a payoff for said effect, and Grim Hireling’s among the best in that category: Tou get Treasures when your creature connect in combat, and you can kill enemy creatures with those Treasures.

And Grim Hireling‘s overall flexibility is amazing, giving you everything from removal that bypasses damage prevention to mana-fixing and ramping for whatever big wincon you’re aiming for.

#6 Liliana, the Last Hope

Liliana, the Last Hope

Seeing a good bit of play in Legacy, Liliana, the Last Hope‘s ultimate can turn the board into a particularly gruesome chapter of The Walking Dead. If we go strictly by token generation, Liliana, the Last Hope‘s emblem is as good as it gets.

The other two abilities are very useful, too, and the first ability in particular can be used for slaying your own X/1's if your deck is high on death triggers.

#5 Bastion of Remembrance

Bastion of Remembrance

It may not look like much, but Bastion of Remembrance puts a lot of honest work in sacrifice-heavy decks, and as such this humble uncommon is one of the most popular token-spawning cards in Commander. It provides a very nice lifegain-plus-burn payoff for sending tokens to meet their maker. Which would be you, so all is well.

And, being an enchantment, Bastion of Remembrance is harder to interact with than creatures offering similar effects.

#4 Pitiless Plunderer

Pitiless Plunderer

It sure is a shame to let good gold go to the grave!

If you're packing some sacrifice-hungry permanents like Mayhem Devil in your deck and you want to keep the sacrifices coming, Pitiless Plunderer provides an extra permanent to sac every time one of your creatures buys the farm. Our plundering friend's ability has no once-per-turn limitations, thus blending well with infinite combos, and the extra mana (of the color of your choice) always comes in handy.

Arguably among the best black creatures overall and a good fit for aristocrat decks in spite of its pirate-y manners, Pitiless Plunderer commands a hefty price tag for an uncommon. Originally printed in Rivals of Ixalan and included on one version of the List, Plunderer finally saw a more accessible reprint in one of the Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander precons.

#3 Orcish Bowmasters

Orcish Bowmasters

You may have heard of this one. Unless you only play Standard, and happen to have been living on a very isolated, very non-Magic island for the last couple of months.

Orcish Bowmasters has had a huge impact across formats, murdering X/1s everywhere from Vintage and Legacy to digital-only Alchemy and Historic, becoming an instant staple in all sorts of black decks. And, unsurprisingly for such a high achiever, pushing its price to above $40 per copy.

It also happens to make tokens, thus earning a spot in this ranking!

#2 Black Market Connections

Black Market Connections

Offering great flexibility for a price that black decks can usually afford given their relatively easy access to life gain, Black Market Connections has been an extremely popular Commander card since printed in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate. Remember, you don't need to choose all three options every turn!

A great black ramp option that also helps fix your mana, and an absolute monster in typal decks (since shapeshifters with the changeling keyword ability have all creature types) Black Market Connections is among the best black enchantments overall…

… but you'll really need some well-oiled market connections if you want to buy this powerhouse cheaply: as the second most expensive card in this ranking, Black Market Connections is close to $30 per copy.

#1 Deadly Dispute

Deadly Dispute

Deadly Dispute is amazing in black decks running artifact tokens (like Treasures), creature tokens (like a horde of zombies), or planning to sacrifice permanents. It's the most popular black card with “token” in its text in Commander decks, shines in Pauper, and is a staple of one of Pioneer's strongest decks, Rakdos Sacrifice.

And unlike the other two members of this ranking's top three, it's fairly cheap to buy, hovering around $1-$2.

Like several cards in today's list, Deadly Dispute‘s token-generation ability is by itself nothing jaw-dropping. But when you take the whole package into consideration, this is not just a great token generator but one of the best black instants, and one amazing black Magic card.

Best Black Token Generators Payoffs

Like tokens themselves, token payoffs come in all shapes and sizes!

To begin with, creature tokens can be their own payoff – sometimes all you really need is to massively outnumber your foe, and token generators facilitate precisely that.

But while there is strength in raw numbers, there's also a lot to be said for well-equipped troops. As we've seen, black excels at generating zombies, and black also happens to provide quite a lot of good synergies and payoffs for that specific creature type. We have a detailed article about zombie decks written by Sky Mason that you may want to check out if that's where your own brew is heading.

And then we have the Aristocrats. The name derives from a deck that, around 10 years ago, pummeled the field by sacrificing its own creatures. I mean, why hurl our creatures into combat and watch them die at the hands of our enemies' blockers, when we can kill our creatures ourselves? We're playing black, for crying out loud! We're not playing this game to just sit idly while our opponents get to have the most fun!

So, anyway: Master deck brewer Sam Black designed a deck around Cartel Aristocrat and Falkenrath Aristocrat that was all about sacrificing your own creatures, and since then “aristocrats” became the nickname for decks that rely heavily on sacrifice payoffs. Pedro Furtado has an article ranking the 18 best aristocrat payoffs, and as you may guess sacrifice-heavy decks tend to like having access to cheap, abundant token fodder.

Wrap Up

Tormod, the Desecrator - Illustration by Grzegorz Rutkowski

Tormod, the Desecrator | Illustration by Grzegorz Rutkowski

And that’s about it for our ranking of the best black cards in Magic that create tokens.

I hope you've found this article to be more than just a token effort! With tokens being so varied, trying to rank token generators is a bit like comparing apples to oranges – after all, you really can't send a zombie to do a Treasure's job, and vice versa. But all in all, I hope that in this list you've found the source of tokens your deck is looking for; and if that's not the case, do rummage through Scryfall a bit, since as noted black token generators are legion.

If you have any comments, feedback, or further questions about these token generators, do stop by the Draftsim Discord for a chat or ping me on the social network formerly known as Twitter.

And may your spawned tokens be legion!

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