Corpse Blockade | Illustration by Lucas Graciano
What’s the good of having an army of monsters at your disposal if you can’t use them as cannon fodder to protect yourself? That’s what they’re for, right? Blocking.
Today we’ll be looking at exactly that! I’m taking a deep dive into blocking. It’s one of those mechanics in Magic that seems fairly simple at first glance but gets more and more complicated the more you look into it. And even more complicated because of a couple of tricky cards.
Let’s get started!
What Is Blocking?
Security Blockade (Return to Ravnica) | Illustration by James Ryman
Blocking is the act of using creatures you control to prevent damage from your opponents’ attacking creatures. It’s an integral part of the back-and-forth in Magic, and choosing whether you should block or not, and what to block with, can easily decide the outcome of a match.
There are also plenty of things that can affect how you can block, what you can block with, or even whether you can block at all.
How Does Blocking Work?
After your opponent declares their attackers you get the chance to “block” some of them with your untapped creatures. For each attacking creature you can choose one or more of your creatures to block it. A creature can’t block more than one attacking creature at a time outside of some very particular circumstances. This process is known as “declaring blockers.”
To indicate which creatures are blocking attacking creatures, you generally place the blockers in front of the attacker it’s blocking. This act is mimicked on digital clients like Arena and MTGO, where blocking creatures are similarly arranged.
What’s Double Blocking? How Do You Block with Multiple Creatures?
Double blocking is where you choose to block a particular creature with more than one of your own creatures. To do this, you just choose which creatures you’re going to block with and, if playing in paper, place them in front of the attacking creature. This is allowed, of course, and if the attacking creature has menace, it can’t be blocked by a single creature.
Of course, as always in Magic, there are exceptions to everything. Some cards prevent being able to block with multiple creatures, like Bristling Boar.
What’s Ordering Blockers? Who Chooses?
Ordering blockers is a bit of a shortcut for what actually happens when multiple creatures are blocking an attacking creature.
If resolving it “properly,” when a number of creatures are blocking an attacker, the player who controls the attacking creature assigns damage to the blocking creatures. This assigned damage has to be enough to be lethal to the first creature in the “order” before assigning damage to the next creature.
How Is Damage Dealt with Multiple Blockers?
As mentioned above, the controller of the attacking creature assigns how that creature assigns damage to the blocking creatures. The blocking creatures all deal their damage to the attacking creature together.
First strike and double strike still apply in the same way, and any creatures with first strike deal their damage before the creatures without first strike. One important point is that if the attacking creature has first strike and deals lethal damage to a blocking creature without first strike, that blocker nevers deal its damage to the attacker.
Can One Creature Block Multiple Creatures?
Usually? No. But there are always exceptions to any rule in Magic.
The classic example of this is Hundred-Handed One. This creature can basically block as many creatures as it wants (big up the flavor). This works in a similar way to if a single attacking creature is blocked by more than one creature, and the controller of Hundred-Handed One decides how to assign the damage among the attacking creatures just like you would when assigning damage to blockers.
Does Blocking Tap?
No, blocking doesn’t cause the blocking creature to tap. Tapping a creature when blocking with it is one of the most common mistakes I see newer players make (second only, perhaps, to forgetting to draw a card at the start of your turn).
Can You Tap a Blocking Creature?
Yes, you can tap a blocking creature.
Take a card like Razia, Boros Archangel for example. You can block your opponent’s attacker and then tap it to activate its ability before damage. When damage happens, despite your creature now being tapped, it’s still blocking the attacker, and those creatures deal damage to each other as normal.
Can You Block with Summoning Sickness?
Yes, you can block with summoning sickness. As long as the creature with summoning sickness is untapped, it can block!
Can You Sacrifice a Blocking Creature?
Yes, you can sacrifice a blocking creature. It’s great to do if your opponent’s attacking creature has lifelink or some other effect that happens when it deals damage to a creature since you can sacrifice your blocker before damage and the effect won’t happen.
One thing to note, though: if you sacrifice your blocker and the attacking creature has trample, all that creature’s power is dealt to you since there’s nothing to stop any trample damage.
Can You Destroy a Blocking Creature? What if the Blocking Creature Dies?
Yes! A blocking creature can be destroyed after blockers are declared (or exiled, or bounced, or some other way to remove it from the battlefield). If this happens the attacking creature is still classed as blocked but doesn’t deal damage unless it has trample or is being blocked by another creature.
What if You Block with a Creature with Protection from a Color?
If your opponent attacks with a creature and your creature has protection from that creature in some way (like if your opponent attacks with Coral Commando and you block with Bloated Toad), the blocking happens as normal, but the damage dealt by the attacking creature to your creature is prevented thanks to the protection.
Quick additional note: if this attack was the other way around, Coral Commando wouldn’t be able to block because of the protection. This doesn’t apply this way around, though!
Does Trample Work When Blocking?
No. Unfortunately, trample has no effect when blocking even though your trampling creature deals damage to one of your opponent’s creatures.
Does First Strike Apply to Multiple Blockers?
Yes. All you need to remember that any first strike damage is applied before any other damage. If the attacker deals enough first strike damage to a blocker and that blocker doesn’t have first strike, the blocker dies before being able to damage the attacker.
Does First Strike Work When Blocking?
Yes! If your blocker has first strike then it deals damage before the attacker without first strike. Just like in the above example, the attacker won’t deal any damage to your blocker if this first strike damage is enough to destroy the attacker.
Does Double Strike Work When Blocking? Does it Block Twice?
Double strike also works when blocking. If your blocker has double strike it deals damage to the attacker in both the first strike damage phase and the normal damage phase. This doesn’t mean that it blocks twice, though. And just like first strike you can destroy the attacker before it gets a chance to deal its damage.
What Are the Lifelink Rules for Blocking?
Any damage dealt by creatures with lifelink causes its controller to gain life, including damage dealt to or by blockers. But a key point to point out here is that if the blocker is removed somehow, no damage is dealt to it, so no life is gained.
If the attacking creature has lifelink and trample, the damage still tramples over and causes its controller to gain life from that damage.
Does Deathtouch Work When Blocking?
Yes! Deathtouch works when blocking, and any damage your blocker deals to your opponent’s attackers is enough to be classed as lethal.
But bear in mind that if you block a deathtouch creature with multiple creatures at once, that attacker only needs to deal one damage to each blocker to be classed as lethal, so be careful!
Can You Block with a Planeswalker?
Unless your planeswalker is somehow a creature (like most Gideons, or something else with a Luxior, Giada’s Gift equipped to it), you can’t block with a planeswalker. But you can block creatures attacking your planeswalker instead of you directly.
Is Blocking Combat Damage?
Yes, blocking counts as combat damage. Simple as that.
If a card cares about dealing combat damage to a player, like Moon-Circuit Hacker, this combat damage dealt to the blocking creature doesn’t count since the creature isn’t a player.
Is Blocking the Same as Preventing Damage?
No, preventing damage is different than blocking. The key here is that the damage is still being dealt, but it’s being dealt to the blocking creature rather than the player.
This means that cards that care about prevented damage, like Questing Beast, don’t interact with this damage.
Does Blocking Count as Attacking?
Nope! In a lot of ways, blocking is pretty much the opposite of attacking.
Do Defenders Deal Damage When Blocking?
Yep! As long as the defender has power above zero it deals damage when blocking.
Can You Cast Instants After Blockers Are Declared?
Yes, you can cast instants after blockers are declared. After blockers are declared and before the damage step, each player gets priority, allowing them to perform instant-speed actions.
What Is Chump Blocking?
“Chump blocking” is a slang term for when you block a large creature with a small creature. You’re using a small “chump” creature as cannon fodder to prevent a lot of damage coming your way.
Endless Horizons (Eventide) | Illustration by Joshua Hagler
Blocking is an integral part of the mechanics of Magic. It’s one of the things which sets it apart from a lot of the other TCGs out there. That said, it can be more complicated than it seems, so understanding it well can help you squeeze out a win when all hope seems otherwise lost.
Are there any unique interactions with blocking that weren’t discussed here? Are there any other aspects of the game you’d like to see a deep dive on? Let me know in the comments below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
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