The Scarab God | Illustration by Lius Lashido
Oh, gods! Literally.
For many players who began the game within the last eight years or so, the “god” creature type has just kind of been around. It fit wherever Wizards decided to put it, but they were always a fixture in Modern and the Standard environment.
But in Magic’s vast history gods are a recent addition. Especially the way that Wizards has handled how they work and how to make these truly powerful beings playable in the greater metagame. There was a time when gods ruled. Some places they still do.
But that’s enough exposition for now. Let’s take a look at gods!
Are You a God?
Nearly 40-year-old movie references aside (
god, I feel old), what is it that makes a god? Beyond the obvious creature type of the same name, of course.
What Makes a God?
In general it was two things: a) very hard to kill, and b) sometimes being a different type of permanent.
It used to be that all gods had mechanics that made them exceedingly hard to kill or allowed them to regenerate without the non-evergreen keyword. This was the case until Kaldheim at least, when the latter ability was removed and the former was made questionable at best. They also had an ability where they were used as a different permanent type until specific battlefield criteria were met.
It’s probably easier to describe what gods were using a few examples.
The Scarab God
Let’s use The Scarab God. It’s a decent 5/5 for five mana in Dimir, plus awesome abilities to boot. The main one to call out is the last one: “When The Scarab God dies, return it to its owner’s hand at the beginning of the next end step.”
Basically, it’s coming back without question next turn. The only way to truly get rid of this thing is to either exile it or make the battlefield such that having it alive and well would not be good for its controller.
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
Another example would be the gods from War of the Spark, like Ilharg, the Raze-Boar. This bad boy has the ability: “When Ilharg, the Raze-Boar dies or is put into exile from the battlefield, you may put it into its owner’s library third from the top.” Good luck getting rid of that thing!
Phenax, God of Deception
Next, let’s look at Phenax, God of Deception. A good 4/7 for five, again in Dimir. This one is indestructible, so again, exiling it or hoping you have some -1/-1s in your deck somewhere are your only options.
Also of note is its second ability: “As long as your devotion to blue and black is less than seven, Phenax isn’t a creature.” So it works as an enchantment to buff your other creatures even before you can use it as a creature to help beat face.
In the case of Amonkhet gods, they required other specifics to be able to attack or block, but those are easier explained by the cards themselves.
Alrund, God of the Cosmos
How about a more recent example with Alrund, God of the Cosmos? This god is a 1/1 for five that’s much bigger if you have a full (or fuller) hand and a lot of foretold cards. It also comes with a built-in pseudo-scry every turn.
This is more like a standard creature which can die and won’t be automatically resurrected. That doesn’t mean that it’s not still a threat with some truly fantastic abilities, though.
Let’s Talk About Devotion
If you’re not familiar with the mechanic, you might look at devotion and think, “wait, what is this? Am I selling my soul?”
In some capacity, yes. You have to sacrifice yourself at the altar of color identity. Devotion basically requires you to have a certain number of a specific color’s mana symbols in the mana cost on the other permanents you have on the battlefield.
In Phenax, God of Deception’s case you’d count the number of black and blue mana symbols on your permanents. If there are seven or more in total, Phenax is an enchantment creature. If it’s less than seven, Phenax is just an enchantment.
Generic mana, mana symbols in card text, and basic lands unfortunately don’t count. But hybrid mana counts as one of either color that could be used, as does Phyrexian mana. It also doesn’t matter what the permanent’s color identity is, so devoid creatures count toward devotion.
Once again, an example may be best. Let’s say you have Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Black Cat, Riddlesmith, and Volition Reins on one of your opponent’s creatures. If you count up all the mana symbols that comes to three black and five blue. So, Phenax would be a creature. However, should your opponent bounce the Reins off, then you would only have six devotion to Dimir, so Phenax would return to a simple enchantment.
List of All the Gods in MTG
Gods were included across eight different expansions: the Theros block (Theros, Born of the Gods, and Journey into Nyx), the Amonkhet block (Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation), War of the Spark, Theros Beyond Death, and Kaldheim.
Here they are, in all their glory!
- Erebos, God of the Dead
- Heliod, God of the Sun
- Nylea, God of the Hunt
- Purphoros, God of the Forge
- Thassa, God of the Sea
Born of the Gods
- Ephara, God of the Polis
- Karametra, God of Harvests
- Mogis, God of Slaughter
- Phenax, God of Deception
- Xenagos, God of Revels
Journey into Nyx
- Athreos, God of Passage
- Iroas, God of Victory
- Keranos, God of Storms
- Kruphix, God of Horizons
- Pharika, God of Affliction
Hour of Devastation
War of the Spark
Theros: Beyond Death
- Athreos, Shroud-Veiled
- Erebos, Bleak-Hearted
- Heliod, Sun-Crowned
- Klothys, God of Destiny
- Nylea, Keen-Eyed
- Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded
- Thassa, Deep-Dwelling
- Alrund, God of the Cosmos
- Birgi, God of Storytelling
- Cosima, God of the Voyage
- Egon, God of Death
- Esika, God of the Tree
- Halvar, God of Battle
- Jorn, God of Winter
- Kolvori, God of Kinship
- Reidane, God of the Worthy
- Tergrid, God of Fright
- Toralf, God of Fury
- Valki, God of Lies
Top 10 Gods
The best of the best is hard to decide when it comes to the gods of Magic. There are a lot of them. 47, to be exact. Which one you focus on is going to depend on what colors you want to run and what abilities you want and will have fun playing with.
All of that said, there’s enough data to look at these more empirically. Looking at the stats of each one of these on EDHREC’s commander tier list, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten. They’re legendary creatures after all, so you might as well use them for something fun!
There’s obviously some overlap of colors so it wouldn’t be surprising if one god commander has another god in the 99.
#1: The Scarab God
I think this one should be of no surprise to anyone who plays Commander. The Scarab God is a wildly popular Dimir commander and will be for some time. Given the zombie tribal theme that drives its decks, this god is the obvious pick for the top slot.
#2: The Locust God
Yep, the top two go to Hour of Devastation. The Locust God is a wonderful draw engine and token creator in Izzet that plays well with many of the cards in those colors.
#3: Phenax, God of Deception
Another great Dimir commander, and one I hold dear to my heart from when it was in Standard. Phenax, God of Deception takes the mill side of the pair for a spin. 99 is a lot of cards to mill, but with enough big defenders in the mix, it shouldn’t take too long.
#4: Karametra, God of Harvests
Our first Selesnya commander comes with a wonderful ramp ability that’s not at all typical for the color pair. Surprisingly, you don’t find an engine this powerful in Simic.
#5: Xenagos, God of Revels
As you can see from the numbers, the third, fourth, and fifth slots were really close. Xenagos, God of Revels is all about putting out big boys, making them bigger, and having them smash through. Every Timmy’s dream.
#6: Athreos, God of Passage
This Orzhov commander comes as a built-in regeneration engine. You may see your opponent’s taking the life ding early on for your smaller creatures and then not having much to let go of for your larger ones later on. My personal favorite is to have Athreos, God of Passage helm a sacrifice deck full of regenerators should they not want to pay.
#7: Kruphix, God of Horizons
Kruphix, God of Horizons is all about getting your lands down, tapping them early, and tapping them often. Pair this with tons of sorceries, instants, and enchantments that untap your mana and they’ll stick around.
#8: Tergrid, God of Fright
The first and only mono-colored commander on this list. Tergrid, God of Fright is all about graveyard love, and not just your own. Push a deck with regenerators on your side and sacrificial forces on your opponent’s to have a wide battlefield in your favor.
#9: Mogis, God of Slaughter
As the name implies, Mogis, God of Slaughter is all about death. Of your opponents, that is. Pair this with Tergrid and enchantments that cause damage whenever your opponents cast, well, anything, and then watch the fun.
#10: Esika, God of the Tree
Esika, God of the Tree is our WUBRG commander who loves all the other legendaries. You will be very hard pressed to want mana with Esika on the battlefield. There’s one really fantastic way to build this deck: fill it with the other gods, put down The World Tree and a bunch of legendaries, and tap them to fetch them out.
When Does a God Count as a Creature? When Doesn’t It?
This one is a weird question based mostly around the Theros gods, since they have the devotion ability. Per rule 604.2:
Static abilities create continuous effects, some of which are prevention effects or replacement effects. These effects are active as long as the permanent with the ability remains on the battlefield and has the ability, or as long as the object with the ability remains in the appropriate zone, as described in rule 112.6.MTG Rules
So, the Theros gods will be either enchantments or enchantment creatures on the battlefield. Where things can get complicated is when your god card is anywhere else. As per rule 604.3a:
A static ability is a characteristic-defining ability if it meets the following criteria: […] (5) it does not set the values of such characteristics only if certain conditions are met.MTG Rules
All this basically means that the card is considered a creature card in your hand, it’s a creature card on the stack when you play it, it’s a creature card in your graveyard, it’s a creature card in the Command Zone (it kind of has to be), and it’s a creature card in your library.
To make it simple: a god card could be an enchantment or an enchantment creature when it’s on the battlefield. Everywhere else, it’s just a creature.
How Many Gods Can You Have in a Deck?
Gods, while special, aren’t special enough to break the bonds of deck construction rules. Technically speaking, you can have up to four of any god card in your deck if you’re playing in Standard, Modern, Pioneer, Artisan, etc., and only one of each if you’re playing Commander (and it matches your color identity).
How to Kill MTG’s Gods
Can a god truly die? Existential questions aside, the answer depends. Yes, almost all of the god cards can be killed. Some, however, come with some wonderful little caveats.
Take the War of the Spark gods as an example. A creature being indestructible just means that “destroy” and damage don’t cause it to hit the graveyard. They’re still very susceptible to exile and -1/-1 counters, as the state of zero toughness isn’t a “destroy” trigger and will cause removal.
As for the other gods, like those in Kaldheim, they’ll go down just like any other creature if you hit them in the head hard enough.
Can a God Be my Commander?
Yes. No short or long to it.
The only criteria to have a card be your commander is if it’s legendary, and all of the gods most certainly are. I can see the confusion given the wording of the Theros gods, but they’re viewed as creatures everywhere except for (potentially) the battlefield.
What Was a “God Pack” in Journey Into Nyx?
Back in Journey into Nyx, Wizards said that there were some packs that contained one of each of the fifteen gods that came in that set. Cool idea! But what happened if you opened it during a draft? Technically speaking, nothing. It would up to the discretion of whoever was running the draft to decide. I like some chaos so having one of those packs involved would be great, but that’s just me.
Mogis, God of Slaughter | Illustration by Peter Mohrbacher
The gods have been a mainstay in the world of Magic for a while and will continue to be so for time immemorial. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or more appearing in the Dungeons & Dragons set coming this summer, or even in the Lord of the Rings or other Universes Beyond products that may come out in the future. Either way, playing with the way that gods interact with the game at large has always been fun to watch.
As always, if you enjoy stuff like this, please continue to watch our blog for more. If you’re an Arena player and looking for help in draft, give Arena Tutor a try. If you want to share any decklists or thoughts on gods’ effect on the game, we welcome them in our Discord or in the comments below.