Blight Keeper | Illustration by Ben Wootten
Magic loves its lore. It might be a card game first and foremost, but MTG’s fantasy and storytelling are always right there behind it all. Plenty of fantastical creatures from pop culture have made their way into the game we all love. Elves, dwarves, dragons, and vampires have all carved their place in the meta. I’ve always been partial to creatures that find their origins in folklore and superstition.
My first intro to imps was in Neverwinter Nights (need I remind you of my tattoo?). They’re annoying little buggers in that game, trickster devils that serve sorcerers and wizards. Which really isn’t that far off from their existence in Magic.
So what makes these little scamps so special? Where should you start if you’re looking to build a deck filled with tricksters and mischief-makers? Grab your summoning tomes and prep your protection circle, it’s time to find out!
Daggerdrome Imp | Illustration by Jack Wang
Imps are a creature type in MTG. Simple, right? But what do they do? What are they all about?
Before we get into that, let’s talk color pie. Imps exist almost entirely in black, with just one blue imp all on its lonesome, two mono red, and three that live in Rakdos (). The flavor of this tribe really shows off its mono black focus.
Imps, being tricky creatures typically resembling a cross between a faerie and a demon, have wings. And Magic doesn’t disappoint on this front, giving all imps save four flying. But what else do these tricky scamps do? A lot of what black loves:
- Creature sacrifice
- Life play
- Graveyard shenanigans
- +1/+1 counters
Blue doesn’t really have a lot going for it when it comes to imps. This part of the color pie doesn’t do what imps generally want to do, but this little helper is trying its absolute best. And, you know what? I think Teferi’s Imp is doing a pretty okay job for the only blue imp in the game.
Mystery Booster cards are always fun, and Chimney Goyf is no exception. It’s got the right flavor for imps, power and toughness relying on the number of cards in all graveyards. The card shenanigans are on-brand too.
Too bad it’s not legal.
Okay, so I feel kinda bad for Jumbo Imp. It’s all chained up, and it does not look comfortable hunched over there like that.
Maddening Imp, Nettling Imp, and Norritt all have long-winded tap abilities involving non-wall creatures. Are they good? Eh. The Maddening one is slightly better since it forces all non-walls to attack, not just one target. They’re all a bit expensive for what they do, and I’m not interested.
Thank you, next.
Moving on to the cards that I’ll actually deign to give their own ranking. First is Fledgling Imp, which is… I mean, just look at it. A 3-drop 2/2 that forces you to pay and discard to give it flying for just one turn? Yeah, I don’t think so.
Fledgling is right, and you’re better off going for an imp that knows what it’s doing.
Slinking Skirge is just too expensive. That’s the long and the short of it, really. The sac ability is nice if that’s your gameplan, but there are better cards to achieve your goals. Don’t waste a slot on this.
Pit Imp just seems overly complicated for something that could be very simple. It’s also too expensive thanks to power creep, and it’s limited which means you can’t even use it as a mana sink to get some proper use out of it.
That’s no fun.
Chimney Imp costs a lot, and its ability is just kind of mid. On-death triggers are only really worth it when the creature is useful while it lasts and it’s just a little bonus, or they do something that makes the card worth it on its own.
Neither of those are the case here.
If you’re looking to mess around with your own life total, you’ll like Foul Imp. But you really need to get your life loss payoffs to make this worth it. Otherwise, it’s just costing you more than it’s giving you.
Look, more life loss synergies! Tethered Skirge might be more expensive than Foul Imp, but its life loss opportunities are a bit more recurring than the one-off ETB of the latter. And it even acts as a deterrent to protect the little guy, assuming you’ve actually got a good life loss ecosystem going.
Another basic little flier with nothing else going for it. Bog Imp isn’t the worst card, and you do still need basic creatures to fill out your army. There’s merit to throwing this in your 99 if you’re running imp or flier tribal.
Okay, okay, look, hear me out. Cackling Imp may be expensive, but it fits right into a deck that likes to ping your opponent. Don’t we all love when tiny little bites of damage add up until they win you the game?
I know I do.
Assuming your opponents don’t have any fliers of their own (or a stubborn reacher), Ravenous Skirge can be an effective little attacker. It’s weak to removal, though, so don’t rely on it to make your strategy work.
Cards that rely on specific circumstances to be good are always a tossup by their very nature. Demon’s Jester is an impressive flier, if you’ve got no cards in hand. You better make sure you’ve got the mana and reason to cast your spells with this imp on the field. Otherwise, it’s entirely too expensive.
Vault Skirge might not actually be a Phyrexian, but that Phyrexian mana is likely gonna be pretty useful in Standard for the next little while. I think a Phyrexian/imp build would be pretty fun, don’t you?
I sort of wish that Kitchen Imp made a Food token or something, but I guess madness works too. I’m not really partial to this little guy, but I can see where it’d find some use. A good addition to your imp deck’s 99, if nothing else.
I don’t particularly like imps that don’t have flying, but I really don’t like the ones that ask you to pay for it. Putrid Imp only gets away with that little discard caveat since it’s a 1-drop, and threshold makes it a good card for graveyard-centric builds.
Getting creatures back is always nice, and Cadaver Imp is the perfect imp to do it. This definitely got a little boost because I like the flavor, but isn’t that part of the fun of building tribal anyway?
Exiling problematic cards to keep them from coming back to haunt you is always nice, and keeping your life total up is a good bonus. Carrion Imp would be a good addition to your next imp tribal deck, even if it’s just to pad out the flock.
Imps may not be the kind of tribe that likes spells-matter strategies, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Plus, like, look at this little guy. Infernal Pet is adorable, and you’re a monster if you leave it out of your imp builds.
Is there a player at your table running a deck with any color other than black in it? Take Soot Imp with you. Trust me, it’ll help you.
1-drops are always great. You need them to keep your curve low. You’ve gotta play something on your first turn, don’tcha? Blight Keeper has the extra advantage of also being a good mana sink if you draw it in the late game. It’s a win-win.
Plus, it’s also a bat. You know, sky puppies? It’s cute. Let it join your flock, come on.
Or, hell, just ping it. Sometimes all you need to cinch the win is just that one extra life.
Remember those other imps that had some creature sac synergies earlier? Well, Pilfering Imp is what you really want for those decks. Not to mention that it’s already a handy little 1-drop flier. That sac ability is just the icing on the cake.
Green is typically where you look when you’re fiending for mana dorks. Black just doesn’t compare, so it’s always nice when you get even a little crumb. Skirge Familiar isn’t the best dork you’ll find, even in black, but it’s got decent stats.
Oh, and look at that! It’s a Phyrexian.
Graveyard strategies just make sense for imps, don’t they?
Honestly? Don’t bother splashing red for this.
Chaos Imps may be expensive, but it’s got a lot going for it. This swarm of imps is much tougher and hit a lot harder than most of the other creatures in its tribe, and the potential for trample if you give it a +1/+1 counter makes it all the better.
See, now this is worth splashing red for.
Blistering Dieflyn is a bad imp. It’s ridiculously expensive for a flier with no power, and it’s way too easy to kill. That ability might be worth something if it gave +1/+1 counters, but as it stands….
This is not a good pitch for Rakdos imps.
Volcano Imp isn’t much better. It’s still just too expensive, but that’s just how it goes with older cards, isn’t it?
Power creep is a bitch.
This legendary imp is actually a good reason to stray away from mono black imps (demons and devils aside). It’s got some decent stats, and that ability could be fun to build around. Not necessarily the best, but still fun.
You’re probably gonna want to build a trio-tribal deck if you’re trying to make a halfway-decent imp deck. Demons, devils, and imps have a few cards that like them all. Raphael, Fiendish Savior, Rakdos, the Showstopper, and Tiefling Outcasts all offer a bit of synergy for these three creature types.
And, honestly? They definitely work together flavorfully, if not mechanically. This is a good strategy if your heart’s not set on imp solo tribal.
Your only real option to bolster your impish forces otherwise is Lurking Skirge. This enchantment-turned-creature can be a nice little addition to your imp flock as long as you’re efficient at removing your opponent’s creatures.
Blim, Comedic Genius | Illustration by Jason A. Engle
Have you had your fill of mischief yet? I hope none of the imps got a hold of anything shiny, because you’re definitely not getting it back.
What do you think of these impish fliers? Have you had any luck building an imps-only tribal build, or did you need to throw in some demons and devils to make it work? Let me know in the comments below or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
Well, I’ve got nothing left for ya. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make sure none of these guys blow my kitchen up. I’m pretty sure I saw one of ‘em slip in there earlier, and it’s starting to smell like charcoal. Watch yourself!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: