This post was last updated on January 22nd, 2023
Hello Magic lovers and welcome back to the series focused on Magic: The Gathering; in today’s article I’m going to analyze the MTG Shadow keyword.
In this article I’ll go over the official rules, I’ll share what I consider the best cards with the Shadow ability, the most useful cards that could help you raise your chances of victory, how to play against Shadow in MTG and some general tips that you’ll find spread here and there throughout the article.
What follows are thoughts based on my personal experience of playing the game since the late ’90s, I hope you’ll find something useful!
- What does Shadow mean in MTG?
- MTG Shadow Rules
- MTG Shadow Best Cards (Top 5)
- MTG Shadow deck examples
- Useful cards with Shadow in MTG
- How to deal with MTG Shadow
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What does Shadow mean in MTG?
MTG Shadow is an evasive ability defined by a keyword.
A creature with shadow can only block creatures with shadow and can be blocked only by creatures with shadow.
This is a niche and historical ability in the world of Magic: in fact, it is an ability that characterizes few creatures within the Magic universe itself.
It was first introduced in the Tempest Block expansion, 1997/1998, and picked up later with the 2006 Time Spiral expansion.
MTG Shadow Rules
I have briefly described what Shadow means but let’s have a look at what the official rules state:
702.28a Shadow is an evasion ability. 702.28b A creature with shadow can’t be blocked by creatures without shadow, and a creature without shadow can’t be blocked by creatures with shadow. (See rule 509, “Declare Blockers Step.”) 702.28c Multiple instances of shadow on the same creature are redundant
MTG Shadow Best Cards (Top 5)
Let’s quickly go over some of the best creatures that have the Shadow ability.
Perhaps the best creature with Shadow.
A 3/2 card at the cost of 2 black mana, great in attacking our opponent quickly, but also for removing threats from the graveyard.
Sacrificing the Dauthi allows us to play one of the exiled cards he has a counter on without having to pay any mana.
A 1/1 creature with haste, therefore ready to attack in the same turn you play it.
It can return to play by spending 1 black mana whenever another creature dies. Versatile for multiple strategies.
Dauthi Slayer & Dauthi Horror
I pair them up. They are the two great classics of the old Mono-black Suicide Shadow deck, which I will tell you about later.
Low-cost, fast creatures with the sole purpose of attacking. The slayer has the feature of not being able to be blocked by white creatures, their main antagonists from the Tempest Block.
While the Shadow ability is common to be found on creatures defined as small, this demon can help us deal massive damage.
In addition to being a 5/5, with its activated ability, we can enhance our small Dauthi creatures by greatly increasing the damage dealt in a single attack.
Not to be underestimated is the other addition of the above; shadowless creatures take -1/-0. Well, since we can’t block shadowless creatures, we can at least depower them to reduce the damage dealt.
MTG Shadow deck examples
As explained before this is a very special ability, not common to find, therefore creating a small deck based on the Horror creatures could surprise the opponent and give you a lot of fun.
Below is an example of a deck that can take advantage of some creatures with Shadow ability.
#1 | Mono-Black Suicide deck (Premodern format)
My favourite deck since forever, mono black real deck!
True, there are only 8 creatures with shadow, it may not be considered a true shadow-based deck, however, our top creatures possess this ability.
Let’s analyze it: fast, aggressive and violent deck. We can either win very quickly or commit harakiri, literally executing suicide.
The start must be as explosive as possible: swamp, rite, creature.
We must have our Shadow creatures on the field, attack, and empower them with Hatred, virtually paying all our life points to inflict lethal damage on the opponent. An all-or-nothing strategy, effective and surprising.
Of course, we have other creatures and interactions at our disposal that allow us to manage the game, should we not have been explosive early on.
Mono-Black Suicide deck analysis:
Dauthi Slayer and Dauthi Horror are two of our main creatures. They can literally win us the game by themselves.
We want to be fast, so they, in addition to Carnophage, must be played on the first turn of the game if possible.
Hatred is the card that gives the deck its name, and in combination with the two Dauthi creatures, which are often not easily blocked by our opponent, due to shadow ability, allows us to win the game in an attack.
We pay, as an additional cost, the right number of life points needed, so that in one attack we can reset all the opponent’s life points to zero.
Dark Ritual is the engine of every black deck and one of the strongest cards, in my opinion, in the black colour. You pay 1 and get 3.
On the first turn we can have either Carnophage or a Dauthi on the field; or even better Phyrexian Negator, a 5/5, with Trample. On the first turn?! What are we talking about?
This was an example of a deck that aims to take advantage of the shadow ability of a few creatures only, but also makes the sacrifice of those who play it their strength, giving it precisely its name.
Let’s have a look at another deck, purely mono-black, that strictly uses creatures with shadow abilities:
#2 | Mono-Black Shadow deck
- 4x Dauthi Cutthroat
- 3x Dauthi Ghoul
- 3x Dauthi Slayer
- 2x Dauthi Trapper
- 4x Dauthi Warlord
- 4x Nether Traitor
- 2x Stronghold Overseer
Mono-Black Shadow deck analysis
As we can see some cards are present in both lists. The engine, Dark Ritual, must always be included in a black colour deck.
Speaking of Hatred, we have it in monocopy, how come? Because our strength is the shadow ability. We always attack, we bet on that, we are an aggro deck and we will hardly find many blockers for our creatures with shadow.
Hatred is the icing on the cake to make it easier for us if needed.
With these 4 cards, we can wonderfully defend ourselves.
Imagine a scenario where we are attacked by the opposing creature and we can’t block it with our creatures with shadow, what can we do?
We can make the enemy creature gain shadow by using Dauthi Embrace or Dauthi Trapper, blocking it so that we can destroy it, or, again making it gain shadow, untap it with Maze of Shadows and not let it deal any damage, should it be too strong for our Dauthi.
Do we want to be even more cruel? We make a creature controlled by our opponent gain the shadow ability and we subsequently destroy it with Dauthi Cutthroat.
We also have some strong removals available to us:
Go for the Throat allows us to destroy opposing creatures, as long as they are not artifacts. In case they are, we can use the strategy mentioned above to defend ourselves.
Gravestorm is an interesting permanent Enchantment, which allows us to speed up our deck by making us draw if the opponent doesn’t remove a card in his graveyard from play.
Unlike the mono-black Suicide deck, here we have several creatures with shadow and among those already mentioned above, there are two notable ones:
Dauthi Warlord is empowered according to the creatures with shadow in play. The more we can get on the battlefield, the more he can do a lot of damage.
Stronghold Overseer is our king. It is a flying creature, that does a lot of damage and boosts our army.
Victory could easily be within our grasp.
Useful cards with Shadow in MTG
As seen from the creatures mentioned so far, this is an all-in ability.
We can enjoy doing a lot of damage, being almost unblockable, but we can risk taking a lot of damage too.
When we play a deck that revolves around this keyword, nothing prohibits us from having other creatures, lacking the shadow ability, in our deck.
We can have them interact with our best creatures or make them shadowy with some specially made cards:
- Traitor’s Clutch
- Dauthi Embrace
- Dauthi Trapper
Not a low-cost Instant, although the flashback ability comes our way.
Until the end of the turn, our creature, gets shadow, boosts with +1/+0 and turns black.
An Enchantment, not Aura, that stays on our battlefield.
By spending 2 black mana, we can make a creature gain the shadow ability until the end of the turn. Thanks to this permanent card, we can put more shadowless creatures in our deck, making them gain it later.
A minon that does not possess the shadow ability. Its activated ability allows a target creature to gain shadow until the end of the turn.
Mind you, as similarly to the Dauthi Embrace card, we are talking about a target creature. What do I mean?
We can have one of our creatures gain shadow in the attack phase, to make it difficult to block, or, should we have only creatures with shadow in the deck, have the opposing attacking creature gain this ability; thus being able to block it with one of our own creatures having shadow.
How to deal with MTG Shadow
We like the Shadow ability, we like mono-black decks, and we want to attack without fear of anything or anyone.
But how do we defend ourselves when faced with the Dauthi threat?
There are many white, blue and red cards that could help face a Shadow based deck.
Here we have some creatures:
- Augur il-Vec
- Jodah’s Avenger
- Zealot il-Vec
These are creatures that can be useful in any deck for the attack, but crucial if we want to defend against the Dauthi threat, the main card in a mono black shadow.
Taking a look at the endless cards in Magic, we find other very good defence solutions:
- Aether Web
- Aetherflame Wall
- Maze of Shadows
It has flash, +1/+1 on a creature, reach to block threats with flying, and can block creatures with shadow. It does a lot of things, costs only 2 mana, and it is a common card.
It is a wall, unfortunately. It can block creatures with shadow though and it has great toughness.
We can also give it a +1/+0 by spending one red mana when needed. Dauthi will stay away from this wall, trust me.
Maze of Shadows
In this case, it is a land that can save us from an attacking creature with shadow. Maze of Shadows untaps the attacking creature, with shadow ability, and until the end of the turn does not allow it to deal combat damage.
It is a very successful card against these types of decks.
These may be the best defensive interactions against shadow, but obviously, we can’t limit ourselves to that.
A shadow deck, primarily, we find it characterized by great speed, small and fast creatures, instants, sorceries and aura enchantments that can support the deck flow and boost the creatures very quickly.
Our most effective response always lies in sorceries that allow us to destroy creatures:
Old classic. Sorcery, 2 damage to everything that walks the battlefield. Every Dauthi threat has been resolved!