Last updated on March 31, 2023
Dauthi Voidwalker | Illustration by Sidharth Chaturvedi
Shadow decks were the next weenie/fliers deck when the Tempest block was released. The idea of attacking each turn with nigh-unblockable creatures and tempo-ing your opponent out of the game isn’t novel these days, and it’s usually an Azorius () strategy with fliers and bounce.
The Tempest block was released in 1997, so let’s keep in mind that these creatures have suffered a serious power creep. But they slotted naturally into several white weenie/unblockable creatures strategy. Not to mention that mono black/suicide aggro was a thing, and those decks greatly benefitted from shadow creatures.
Today we’re going to check the shadow mechanic out and see what it has to offer. Ready, set, go!
What Is Shadow in MTG?
Looter il-Kor | Illustration by Mike Dringenberg
Shadow is one of the main mechanics from the Tempest block which is comprised of Tempest, Stronghold, and Exodus. The mechanic is responsible for creating another layer on the battlefield.
Creatures with shadow can only block or be blocked by other creatures with shadow. Shadow is similar to cards like Welkin Tern and Changeling Outcast.
Shadow appeared in two blocks, the Tempest and Time Spiral blocks, and it has been printed in white, black, and blue. There are few cards in red and green that can block creatures as though they have shadow, like reach for flying creatures, so it fell on Gruul’s () shoulders to hate the mechanic.
The last card to be released with the shadow mechanic was in Modern Horizons 2, and it was powerful enough to see play. With that in mind let’s take a look at the best cards in the game with the shadow mechanic.
#17. Dauthi Trapper
Dauthi Trapper can grant other creatures shadow just like Dauthi Embrace, which is a form of evasion, but it needs to tap and it’s easily removable.
#16. Soltari Monk
Soltari Monk is almost a mimic of Dauthi Horror except that it costs instead of .
#15. Dauthi Horror
Dauthi Horror was good in aggressive shadow decks for two reasons. It’s a 2/1 evasive creature for two which is good even by today’s standards. It also can’t be blocked by white creatures, which was one of the shadow strategies (white shadow decks and black shadow decks).
#14. Dauthi Mindripper
A 2/1 for four isn’t the best of bodies, but you might be able to make your opponent discard three cards with Dauthi Mindripper, which is awesome.
#13. Drifter il-Dal
Drifter il-Dal is a 2/1 evasive body for one mana even though it charges you a blue mana every turn, which aggro decks usually need a ton of. Just don’t rely on having two or more Drifters at once.
#12. Nether Traitor
A reference from Nether Shadow, Nether Traitor is a 1/1 unblockable creature that keeps on returning, which is good in attrition matchups.
#11. Shadow Sliver
Shadow Sliver is a 1/1 shadow that grants slivers this ability. Granted, it’s very bad if you’re playing against enemy slivers or changelings, but this 1-drop can grant your sliver squadron an alpha strike.
#10. Soltari Guerrillas
You can redirect the three damage if Soltari Guerrillas attacks and isn’t blocked, which can be a form of repeatable removal.
#9. Stronghold Overseer
A 5/5 flier for six mana hasn’t made the cut in a long time, but hey, Stronghold Overseer is one of the few shadow lords available. You can at least defend yourself by giving -X/-0 to your opponent’s creatures if you have enough black mana.
#8. Soltari Champion
A lord for your creatures, a 2/2 unblockable for three is like a Wind Drake. But Soltari Champion granting all your other creatures +1/+1 is very nice, and it even stacks in multiples. Another white lord for a tokens deck.
#7. Stronghold Rats
Stronghold Rats at least does a decent Hypnotic Specter impression. You may want to include this in a tribal rats deck or something similar if you have it.
#6. Thalakos Deceiver
Thalakos Deceiver is very fragile as a 1/1 for four mana, but it’s a kind of Control Magic if it survives. And while this is a good effect, a lot of things need to happen for it to work.
#5. Temporal Isolation
A Pacifism variant with flash, Temporal Isolation is effectively locked down from combat when the creature is “isolated” because it can’t deal damage anymore and can’t even block, except against creatures with shadow. If you’re playing shadow, don’t play this.
Otherwise it’s a pseudo-flash removal. Restricted rarity formats with common and uncommons like Pauper and Pauper/Peasant Cube sometimes play this card.
#4. Soltari Visionary
Soltari Visionary has the Trygon Predator feel in that it’s evasive and can be repeatable enchantment removal (no artifacts this time, sorry).
#3. Dauthi Embrace
Dauthi Embrace is awesome because it can give any creature shadow.
#2. Looter il-Kor
Looter il-Kor is a Cube staple and one of blue’s finest 1-drops. Loot is already a good ability to have, and this loots on attacking. Just remember that Looter is nigh unblockable when attacking but can’t chump block.
#1. Dauthi Voidwalker
This Modern staple from MH2 is very good. Dauthi Voidwalker is an almost unblockable 3/2 for two which is already good. It’s graveyard hate against lots of decks in the format and you can even use a spell from your opponent against them like card draw or a dead planeswalker.
Best Shadow Payoffs
Look, it’s very common to have gold cards in each set nowadays, rares and mythics incentivizing you to build a deck with the mechanic in mind or synergizing with said mechanic. But there wasn’t a clear incentive to the shadow mechanic back then. That said, shadow can be used in scenarios where dealing damage to your opponents is important.
Cards like Edric, Spymaster of Trest, Toski, Bearer of Secrets, and Marisi, Breaker of the Coil can greatly benefit from creatures with shadow since they’re really hard to block.
Auras like Curiosity will also do the trick. And cards like Dauthi Embrace can work wonders with saboteur creatures and if you consider that shadow creatures are usually unblockable. The ninjutsu mechanic is also perfect since you need an unblockable creature to activate it. So pairing ninjas that have good ninjutsu abilities like Fallen Shinobi with shadow is an awesome idea.
Can Creatures with Shadow Block?
Creatures with shadow can only block other creatures with shadow. So it’s better to know that in advance if your shadow creature is on block duty. Basically, if your shadow creature is the only thing around with shadow, it can’t block but also can’t be blocked.
Nether Traitor | Illustration Vance Kovacs
I remember shadow fondly from my early times in Magic. Even now shadow has its uses, especially cards that grant it to other creatures. The thing is that there’s a high probability you’re the only one playing shadow creatures at a given time, which means they can be considered truly unblockable.
The next MTG set is Dominaria United, which returns to the Dominaria plane once again which is where the shadow mechanic was born. So there’s a possibility that we’ll see shadow again, but it’s a fairly small possibility because R&D avoids putting parasitic mechanics (i.e., mechanics that only work with themselves) in modern sets. Shadow is also hard to interact with, just like intimidate and fear, which were removed from MTG sets altogether.
What shadow card are you most willing to add to your Commander decks? Let me know in the comments below or join the discussion in the Draftsim Discord.
That’s all from me for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!
Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: