Last updated on June 13, 2022
Griselbrand | Illustration by ZIUK
Demons are a pretty popular creature, so each MTG set is bound to have some powerful demons at higher rarities. They’ve been around ever since Alpha with Lord of the Pit. Each color in MTG has its characteristic creature type, which is usually a rare or mythic, and demons are the characteristic black creature.
Now we’re in Streets of New Capenna, which is literally run by demon families. Seems like a good time to talk about them, right? Today I’m going to discuss demons there are in MTG, which ones are the best, and if SNC’s new demons are any good.
What are Demons in MTG?
Razaketh, the Foulblooded | Illustration by Chris Rallis
Demons are a creature type in MTG. There are over 140 demon creatures printed, and they’re usually mono black. Rakdos () is the most common demon color pair.
Demons typically have high mana costs but offer a lot of power in return. They often cost more than just mana, so expect to pay a toll in the form of life points, cards from your library, or permanents you have in play if you’re playing with demons.
Best Demons in Black
#29. Abyssal Persecutor
A 6/6 flying trample for four is way above rate, so this demon has a downside: you can’t win the game while Abyssal Persecutor is in play. The idea is to bring your opponent’s life below zero and then find a way to remove Abyssal Persecutor to win.
#28. Demon of Catastrophes
#27. Shadowborn Demon
A 5/6 flier for five mana that immediately removes a piece of your opponent’s board isn’t the worst. Shadowborn Demon‘s sacrifice clause can even be an upside if your deck needs more sacrifice outlets.
#26. Blade of the Oni
Four mana to turn any creature into a 5/5 menace demon is interesting. Blade of the Oni can turn small creatures (usually fodder) or tokens into a relevant threat. This is a good way to raise your demon count if you’re playing demon tribal.
#25. Nightmare Shepherd
Nightmare Shepherd saw some Standard play in its format. It’s versatile, has decent stats, and it’s an enchantment creature if your deck cares about that. This also works when copying creatures with powerful ETB effects.
#24. Mindwrack Demon
Mindwrack Demon saw play in Standard for its stats and its self-mill component, which helped enable graveyard strategies.
#23. Ob Nixilis, Unshackled
#22. Harvester of Souls
Harvester of Souls‘s ability can draw you a lot of cards, especially if someone at the table is playing a sacrifice strategy. Just keep in mind that it only works for nontoken creatures.
#21. Burning-Rune Demon
Tutoring a card is already a powerful ability, and a tutoring ability attached to a relevant 6/6 flying body is even better. The problem is that you only get the worst option of two cards. But since the other card goes to the graveyard you might be able to turn it into a win-win scenario if you’re playing a reanimator deck or something similar.
#20. Abhorrent Overlord
Abhorrent Overlord never saw much Standard play, but it really shines in Commander. Making at least two flying tokens is already interesting, but it can be an army in a can in a dedicated devotion deck.
#19. Doom Whisperer
A 6/6 flying trample for just five mana is somewhat pushed, but unfortunately Doom Whisperer doesn’t provide any intrinsic card advantage. It has the potential to enable some graveyard-based strategies in EDH, though.
#18. Reaper from the Abyss
#17. Kothophed, Soul Hoarder
Kothophed, Soul Hoarder takes Harvester of Souls’ ability and dials it up to 11. It’s a stronger card and the ability applies to all permanent types, but unfortunately doesn’t apply to your own. And watch out for the life loss clause because that can land you in some trouble if you aren’t careful.
#16. Demonlord Belzenlok
#15. Kagemaro, First to Suffer
#14. Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos
A 4/4 for four that’s also a sacrifice outlet is a fine start. Add to that Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos comes with a red ability to boot, which means that it can be used as a Rakdos commander. The ability implies that you want to generate lots of mana to play expensive cards and deal tons of damage to your opponents or their creatures.
#13. Demon of Dark Schemes
Another card that messes with go-wide strategies while also being a good body. You can even reanimate some targets with enough energy coming from dying creatures. Demon of Dark Schemes is fine card to add to black decks in general.
#12. Archfiend of Ifnir
Archfiend of Ifnir is a good crowd control card. Other creatures get -1/-1 whenever you cycle or discard a card, so decks that have lots of looting, cycling, or even discard should play this demon. It even cycles itself if needed.
#11. Vilis, Broker of Blood
Vilis, Broker of Blood is like a balanced version of Griselbrand in the sense that you need to pay mana to lose life and draw cards, and it doesn’t have lifelink to make up for the loss of life. Fixed Griselbrand is still good, and you only need to pay one mana to draw two cards.
#10. Razaketh, the Foulblooded
An 8/8 flying trample for eight is ok, but Razaketh, the Foulblooded can be a tutoring machine as your commander. Pair it with sacrifice fodder and you’ll be on your way to victory.
#9. Herald of Anguish
Another card that saw some Constructed play, Herald of Anguish asks for artifact sacrifice which is somewhat different from most demons that want flesh and blood. The Herald can come into play for cheap via the improvise mechanic, and it generates card advantage by forcing your opponents to discard while on the battlefield.
#8. Desecration Demon
A Standard powerhouse of its time, Desecration Demon was part of the mono-black devotion deck, one of the most dominant decks in Theros Standard. It really does put your opponent in a lose-lose scenario.
#7. Taborax, Hope’s Demise
Taborax, Hope’s Demise is reasonably costed at three mana, can grow fast, and has synergy with clerics dying. You know what clerics want to die in a demon deck? Shadowborn Apostles. Having seen play in Constructed formats bumps this high on the list.
#6. Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire
You can effectively tutor a card thanks to the boast ability each time Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire attacks. It can be used as a card in a demon Commander deck or as a commander, from which you can assemble a game-winning combo.
#5. Archfiend of Depravity
Archfiend of Depravity limits your opponents to having only two creatures each if it survives, which really hurts go-wide strategies in particular.
#4. Rakshasa Debaser
Stealing a creature from your opponent’s graveyard is a powerful effect, especially in a format like Commander where expensive creatures hit the bin all the time. As if that wasn’t enough, Rakshasa Debaser‘s encore ability means that you get to do it three more times in a 4-player game.
#3. Spawn of Mayhem
Spawn of Mayhem is so high on the list because it’s an efficient creature that sees play in a lot of Constructed formats, all the way from Standard to Pioneer. It’s good to have a cheap beater that can be cast for three mana since demon costs are usually high.
#2. Westvale Abbey / Ormendahl, Profane Prince
Ormendahl, Profane Prince is the other side of Westvale Abbey, which is a land and a token generator at the same time. You’ll get Ormendahl into play if you sacrifice five creatures, an indestructible creature that can close games quickly.
Abbey was close to an auto-include in various decks because the downside of having a colorless land is negligible.
Griselbrand might be the most popular reanimation target across various formats, from Modern all the way to Vintage. Reanimating this demon means that you’ll draw upwards of seven cards and usually win the game on the spot. And if it attacks you gain some life and draw even more cards.
Best Demons in Multicolor
#12. Rakshasa Deathdealer
#11. Daemogoth Titan
#10. Lord Xander, the Collector
Seven mana in three colors is a lot for a 6/6 commander that doesn’t fly or allow you to sacrifice your whole board for advantage, but the triggers are what make this commander. Forcing an opponent to discard half their hand is interesting, but the real deal is attacking someone and milling half their library. And a target opponent loses half their nonland permanents if Lord Xander, the Collector.
Lord Xander is a good way to make enemies overall, though, so beware!
#9. Ziatora, the Incinerator
Ziatora, the Incinerator wants to sacrifice creatures for value. The blitz mechanic provides some of that good stuff, or creatures that have haste and last until the end of the turn like Ball Lightning variants. Definitely lots of ways to abuse this card.
#8. Jetmir, Nexus of Revels
Go wide with Jetmir, Nexus of Revels. Naya () colors already work well with combat strategies and tokens so you’ll have plenty of options in the 99 if you pick Jetmir as your commander. Your army will be one to be reckoned with once you have six creatures or more combined with other lord and anthem effects.
#7. Falco Spara, Pactweaver
Counters commander? Proliferate? It isn’t hard to build a commander around Falco Spara, Pactweaver, and adding that it’s the only non-black non-red demon ever, it’s very unique. Falco Spara’s shield counter can protect it from wraths (including your own) and removing counters can often be beneficial, like to reset persist and undying.
#6. Raffine, Scheming Seer
Besides being a cheap creature with some protection, Raffine, Scheming Seer combines some popular EDH mechanics: +1/+1 counters and looting. This demon opens up a lot of different deckbuilding options.
#5. Rakdos, the Showstopper
The main thing about Rakdos, the Showstopper is that its ability only applies to non-demons, so your army of demons will naturally survive while your opponents’ creatures likely won’t. Also, how cool is it to flip a coin for every creature to see who lives and who dies?
#4. Gyruda, Doom of Depths
Companions are one of the most broken mechanics released in recent years, and Gyruda, Doom of Depths had its spot in the sun. The deckbuilding restrictions are harsh, limiting yourself to only even-costed cards. But it usually means game over if you manage to cast this demon kraken. Unfortunately the nerf to all companions lowered a lot of Gyruda’s viability.
#3. Master of Cruelties
Leaving your opponent with one life is good enough in most circumstances, and it’s relatively easy to give Master of Cruelties evasion, be it with your commander or cards like Rogue’s Passage. Commanders like Kaalia of the Vast can also put it on the battlefield attacking for free. Not to mention Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, who can repeatedly resurrect this demon.
#2. Orcus, Prince of Undeath
A 5/3 flying demon for four is a very good card, but then you can pay Orcus, Prince of Undeath‘s X to either sweep the board with -X/-X or resurrect a bunch of small creatures, which Rakdos usually has a lot of. Board wipes in the command zone are usually great.
#1. Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Rakdos, Lord of Riots is really fun to build around. See, your other demons and big creatures (dragons, titans, what have you) are expensive. For a blood sacrifice, Rakdos will lower their cost. You can build a ramp Commander deck with Rakdos at the helm to cast bigger creatures, like Eldrazi and other demons.
Best Demon Payoffs
Kaalia of the Vast attacks and cheats demons into play.
Rakdos, the Showstopper can wreak havoc on enemy lines while keeping your demons and devils alive.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel is good in builds that follow a devotion route, which pairs well with demons since they’re typically heavy on black mana.
Shadowborn Apostle is ready to be sacrificed to tutor and put a demon into play.
Blood Speaker can tutor a demon each turn.
Who’s the Most Powerful Demon in MTG?
Whenever players think about demons in Magic, they think about Griselbrand. In terms of MTG lore, Griselbrand was defeated by Liliana Vess, and no demon seems to have matched his power since. Griselbrand certainly deserves this spot as the best demon in the game as a card worth banning in Commander and seeing heavy play in virtually every eternal format.
Is Ob Nixilis a Demon?
Ob Nixilis is a demon planeswalker. He was originally a human as seen on Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath. He was cursed and became a demon, which is shown on cards like Ob Nixilis, the Fallen. After that he recovered his planeswalker spark and is now a planeswalker once more. Ob Nixilis, the Adversary is his most recent iteration.
Do Devils Count as Demons?
Devils and demons are two different creature types. Devils are typically small red creatures associated with mischief. Demons are the big black flying creatures often associated with evil and corruption.
What is Rakdos?
Rakdos can mean two things: one of the Ravnica guilds, or a powerful demon. The demon Rakdos leads a Ravnica guild named after himself, associated with black and red. Rakdos has been represented in a few cards, like Rakdos the Defiler and Rakdos, Lord of Riots.
Archfiend of Ifnir | Illustration by Seb McKinnon
There have been a lot of powerful black demon creatures over the years, enough to establish them as one of the most feared tribes in Magic. They’re often printed at rare or mythic rarity since most of them are iconic in their respective sets, and their stats make them great for Constructed play. Be sure to add a few demons here and there if you’re building an EDH deck that has black among its colors.
That’s all for me today, and I hope to have shed a light on a dark subject. As always, let me know what you think of my rankings in the comment below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
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