Last updated on April 26, 2023

Nirkana Revenant - Illustration by Livia Prima

Nirkana Revenant | Illustration by Livia Prima

The undead are no strangers to Magic’s multiverse. Spirits and zombies are some of the most common creature types throughout the game’s history.

But undeath can come in many different forms, and today I'm talking about a darker, more haunted form of undead creature: shades. Ready to dive into the darkness? Turn out your lights and adjust your eyes, lest they see you in the black…

What Are Shades in MTG?

Drifting Shade - Illustration by Tomasz Jedruszek

Drifting Shade | Illustration by Tomasz Jedruszek

In Magic terms, “shade” is a creature type. Most shades share a boosting ability (paying mana to give them +1/+1 until end of turn). 31 out of the 33 shades in Magic are mono-black, with one Rakdos () and one mono-white shade.

Flavor-wise, shades are dark ghosts that roam the worlds of the living. They usually appear cloaked in shadows (hence the name) and tend to be more haunted and resentful than the usual spirits.

#31. Mire Shade

Mire Shade

Mire Shade’s ability’s casting cost is way too high for its reward. If it could be activated at any time then it’d at least work as a way to dump your Swamps somewhere in case of some mass land destruction, but it sadly isn’t.

#30. Zof Shade

Zof Shade

The boosting ability’s cost on Zof Shade is higher than the one on other shades. It does double the boost, but it’s usually preferable to have a smaller boost for a lower cost.

#29. Veiled Shade

Veiled Shade

There isn’t too much that can be said about Veiled Shade. It’s a decent card for set filler.

#28. Nightwing Shade

Nightwing Shade

Nightwing Shade has a slightly higher mana value than other shades, but having flying along with the booster ability gives it a more concrete advantage.

#27. Hoar Shade + Fetid Horror

These two cards share the spot since they’re essentially the same card. Neither Hoar Shade nor Fetid Horror are particularly powerful, but they have a better cost-to-power ratio than some of the previous shades.

#26. Undercity Shade

Undercity Shade

Undercity Shade has a pretty high mana value, but its boost ability has a lower cost, which makes it a bit more interesting paired with fear.

#25. Tattered Apparition

Tattered Apparition

Tattered Apparition is basically a better Nightwing Shade thanks to costing one less mana.

#24. Shade of Trokair

Shade of Trokair

Shade of Trokair is basically a planar-shifted version of Hoar Shade and Fetid Horror. The thing that puts it ahead is its suspend ability, which makes it slightly more viable in white decks.

#23. Nakaya Shade

Nakaya Shade

I mostly think Nakaya Shade’s ability can be interesting as a way to force your opponents to waste their mana if you play it right.

#22. Slithering Shade

Slithering Shade

There are enough decks out there that keep their hands empty consistently enough that playing Slithering Shade might be worth it. And while it’s not a great defender it’s not the worst out there either.

#21. Looming Shade

Looming Shade

Looming Shade is another example of an archetypical shade. Its lower ability cost gives it an advantage over similar previous entries.

#20. Drifting Shade + Dungeon Shade

Similar to previous examples, Drifting Shade and Dungeon Shade share a spot for being functionally identical. They both make up for their extra mana cost by having flying, which can be useful on cards with boosting abilities.

#19. Crypt Ripper

Crypt Ripper

I mostly think Crypt Ripper is an interesting card because it has haste. This is an uncommon ability for black cards, and shades in particular.

#18. Perilous Shadow

Perilous Shadow

Perilous Shadow’s activated ability isn’t the best out there, but it stands out when compared to other shades that only get +1/+1 for the same cost.

#17. Whispering Shade

Whispering Shade

I for one think landwalk abilities were pretty viable ways of circumstantial evasion. Whispering Shade can be pretty useful against decks that play Swamps, or if there’s an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in play.

#16. Frozen Shade

Frozen Shade

Frozen Shade takes the honor of being one of the first shades to be printed, dating all the way back to Alpha. It may have fallen behind with the game’s ever-increasing power levels, but it’s honestly not terrible in the context of its original set.

#15. Darkling Stalker

Darkling Stalker

Darkling Stalker’s regeneration ability makes it an interesting variation on the shade formula, and it makes sense flavor-wise since shades should arguably be really hard to kill.

#14. Cinder Shade

Cinder Shade

Maybe this card could’ve been lower on the list, but I have some particularly fond memories of it. Cinder Shade’s art was in the Blowout precon’s box art from Invasion’s theme decks. That was the very first deck I ever played, and I remember actually thinking this card was pretty strong (I was eight years old; I didn’t know any better).

But nostalgic moment aside, being able to sacrifice this creature to damage another creature can be pretty useful at times.

#13. Ihsan’s Shade

Ihsan's Shade

Ihsan's Shade has the (dubious) honor of being one of the only three shade cards that don’t have a boost ability. It’s also the only legendary shade even if it’s not exactly a great card.

#12. Deepwood Legate

Deepwood Legate

You’re gonna be playing Deepwood Legate for free more often than not. It may not be that great of a card all around, but a free creature is always a good thing.

#11. Thirsting Shade

Thirsting Shade

This shade has the highest mana cost for a +1/+1 ability out of all the shades, but it having lifelink and only costing one mana makes up for that. Thirsting Shade can be a decent way to recover life in decks that use it as a resource often.

#10. Nantuko Shade

Nantuko Shade

Nantuko Shade has a pretty balanced mix of power, toughness, ability cost, and mana value, especially compared to the other shades.

#9. Chilling Shade

Chilling Shade

Chilling Shade is one of the few shades where you don’t necessarily need black mana to pay for its ability’s cost since you can pay for it with any snow mana source.

#8. Liliana’s Shade

Liliana's Shade

Liliana's Shade can be a good filler for almost any deck that runs black. It’s not the best card out there, but its land fetch ability lets you get any Swamp, not just basic ones, which is always a good thing in Commander.

#7. Evernight Shade

Evernight Shade

Undying is a great ability to have on any creature, but what puts Evernight Shade so far up the list is that it can work as a piece in Yawgmoth, Thran Physician’s infinite combos.

#6. Misery’s Shadow

Misery's Shadow

Having your opponents’ creatures going into exile instead of the graveyard can absolutely change a game in Commander. Misery's Shadow does not only that, you can also pay for its boost ability with mana of any color, making it a great addition in decks that run green.

#5. Gateway Shade

Gateway Shade

I may be giving this card more credit than it deserves, but I think Gateway Shade’s second ability can be super useful in any deck that runs gates. And I think decks centered around a gate strategy are an absurd but fun concept, so I’m a fan of any kind of support they might get.

#4. Dread Shade

Dread Shade

Dread Shade can be a viable addition to any mono-black deck thanks to its boosting ability and high base power and toughness.

#3. Skyclave Shade

Skyclave Shade

This is the second out of the three shades without a boosting ability. Skyclave Shade makes up for that by having a kicker ability that gives it two +1/+1 counters and having a great recursion landfall ability.

#2. Author of Shadows

Author of Shadows

Author of Shadows is the final shade without a boosting ability. Its effect is circumstantial, but it can net you some great spells or creatures to put pressure on your opponents if played right.

#1. Nirkana Revenant

Nirkana Revenant

I feel almost bad for how far ahead from the other shades Nirkana Revenant is. It's a must-have in almost any deck that runs black in Commander. Doubling the mana of your Swamps can give you absurd amounts of mana if there’s a Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in play.

Best Shades Payoffs

Ghostly Changeling

Ghostly Changeling is half payoff/support for shade tribal and half honorable mention for this list. This shapeshifter doesn’t have the shade creature type on the actual card, but it shares pretty much every characteristic with other shades, making a perfect addition for a shade-focused deck.


Filth is another good card to play alongside your shades to give them all some pretty great evasion and make good use of those boost abilities.

Basically any and all mono-black cards that benefit either tribal or mono-black play are good support for shades.

A Shady Conclusion

Author of Shadows - Illustration by Alex Brock

Author of Shadows | Illustration by Alex Brock

Shades are probably far from the best creature type out there. There aren’t that many of them to begin with, and most of them aren’t much more than filler and jank. That’s exactly why I think it’d be a really fun deck to build and play in EDH. I’d love to see more support for tribes like this one without pushing them into the more powerful levels of things like elves or vampires.

But enough about what I think. Do you agree with my rankings? Do you like shades as a tribe? What other underrated creature type would you like to see next? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to pay our Discord a visit to join our amazing community.

That’s all from me for now. Have a good one, and I’ll see you next time!

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