Last updated on October 15, 2023
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn | Illustration by Mark Tedin
Dozens of mechanics have come and gone without much impact in Magic’s nearly 30-year long history. There have been some bangers, some confusing ones, and even some mechanics that everybody absolutely hated. This mechanic didn't get any new cards for nearly 12 years, and the newest one is certainly a banger.
That mechanic is annihilator, and you’re probably facing down an Eldrazi attacker right now. The mechanic can be a little confusing and you should make sure you know exactly how it works before you start sacrificing your precious permanents.
Today I’ll do a bit of a deep dive on the mechanic and cover how it works, how it can be stopped, and what cards you need to look out for. Let’s get started!
How Does Annihilator Work?
It That Betrays | Illustration by Tomasz Jedruszek
Annihilator is a triggered ability on a lot of Eldrazi creatures that forces players being attacked by the creature to sacrifice a given number of permanents. It goes onto the stack when attackers are declared and resolves when the defending player sacrifices the necessary number of permanents.
The History of Annihilator in MTG
Annihilator was first introduced in Rise of the Eldrazi in 2010 on cards like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Hand of Emrakul. There haven't been any new annihilator cards since, with only 7 of the original 10 seeing a reprint of any kind since their release. The keyword is incredibly powerful and has a similar level of being “unfun”, hence the lack of new releases.
What Does Annihilator 6 Mean?
If a creature has “annihilator 6” then whenever a player is attacked by that creature they have to sacrifice six permanents. It’s a triggered ability that doesn’t target a specific player and has to resolve before blockers can be declared.
Does Annihilator Trigger Before Blocks?
Yes, annihilator triggers when attackers are declared, which is before blockers can be determined by the defending player. This makes the mechanic especially brutal because an opponent might be forced to sacrifice their strong blocker to the annihilator creature.
Does Annihilator Target?
Annihilator doesn’t target a specific player, it just refers to the player as “the defending player.” This is very important because it won’t trigger other abilities or be stopped by a player with hexproof.
How Does Annihilator Work if a Player Has Hexproof?
Annihilator still works even if a player has hexproof. Hexproof stops a player from being targeted by opponents, but the annihilator trigger doesn’t target it just specifies that the “defending player” has to do something.
Can You Respond to Annihilator?
Yes, you can respond to annihilator. It’s a triggered ability, which means it goes onto the stack. This means you can Stifle the trigger or use something like Teferi's Protection to insulate you from the effect.
Is Annihilator an Activated Ability?
No, annihilator is not an activated ability. It’s a triggered ability because it has no cost and activates whenever a creature with the ability attacks.
Does Annihilator Stack?
Yes, you can stack annihilator triggers as long as you have multiple creatures with the ability attacking. But they’ll still trigger one at a time. For example, if you have annihilator 6 and also annihilator 3, your opponent will do them one at a time rather than all nine permanents at once.
Does Annihilator Trigger if You Ninjutsu?
No, annihilator doesn’t trigger if you ninjutsu a creature with the ability in. Annihilator triggers when a creature with the keyword attacks, not does damage or just is attacking. The window for the trigger to occur (declaring attackers) will have already passed if you ninjutsu the annihilator creature in.
Can You Stifle Annihilator? Can You Counter It?
How Do You Stop Annihilator?
You can stop annihilator in a few ways. The easiest is to get rid of the creature before it can attack or prevent it from attacking in the first place by tapping it somehow. The ability is triggered when it attacks, so you’ll be good as long as you can prevent that step from coming to fruition completely.
If you’re past that and the annihilator trigger is already on the stack then you can either prevent it through protective measures like Teferi's Protection or use Stifle to counter the ability outright.
Gallery and List of Annihilator Cards
- Artisan of Kozilek
- Eldrazi Conscription
- Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- Flayer of Loyalties
- Hand of Emrakul
- It That Betrays
- Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
- Pathrazer of Ulamog
- Spawnsire of Ulamog
- Ulamog's Crusher
- Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Best Annihilator Cards
Annihilator is one of the most powerful and brutal mechanics in Magic, so it’s reserved for only a few cards. But only a few are actually good despite this and they’re the main Eldrazi Titans.
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is undoubtedly the most powerful of the three. It has a powerful on-cast ability to take another turn that helps ensure your ability to attack and trigger the annihilator 6 ability.
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth is also quite strong. You get four cards on cast and then annihilator 4 is there to help crush your opponents. As if the 12/12 body wasn’t enough.
Bonus: Sample Annihilator Deck
Kozilek, the Great Distortion | Illustration by Aleksi Briclot
Artisan of Kozilek
Bane of Bala Ged
Conduit of Ruin
Emrakul, the Promised End
It That Betrays
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Soul of New Phyrexia
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Rings of Brighthearth
Sensei's Divining Top
Staff of Domination
Eye of Ugin
Sanctum of Ugin
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Temple of the False God
Urza's Power Plant
While there certainly aren’t enough annihilator cards to warrant an entire deck, Kozilek, the Great Distortion is one of the most powerful colorless commanders, which naturally plays a lot of the best annihilator cards out there. It revolves around ramping out colorless mana to play heavy hitting Eldrazi and artifact creatures early while having some of the best late game imaginable.
You’ve got some prominent annihilator creatures like Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, It That Betrays, and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre in here. There’s also some other sweet Eldrazi tech like Eldrazi Conscription and Thought-Knot Seer for extra flavor.
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth | Illustration by Michael Komarck
That wraps up today’s deep dive into annihilator! One of the most powerful and one-sided mechanics in Magic, I’ve never been more annoyed being on the receiving end of a triggered ability before.
What do you think of annihilator? Is it a strong end-game mechanic, or is it too “un-fun” and dumb overall? I want to hear your thoughts, so let me know your opinions in the comments down below or come chat about it over in the official Draftsim Discord.
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