Last updated on November 2, 2022
Dromoka’s Command | Illustration by James Ryman
For years, green players have had to look to other colors for interaction with opponents’ creatures. Green’s plan was to attack with a big creature, force some damage with trample, and maybe use a combat trick like Giant Growth. Other colors have direct damage, burn, and exile effects to interact.
What if the opponent has a utility creature that must be destroyed? Or a bomb that’ll take over the game? Enter fight effects, which have become one of the main characteristics of green and an essential tool in the color’s arsenal.
Blizzard Brawl | Illustration by Manuel Castañón
When a fight happens, you target one of your creatures and a creature from your opponent. Each one then deals damage equal to their power to one the other. Thematically, you’ll make your 3/3 elephant stomp your opponent’s 1/1 elf, or your 6/6 giant hit their 3/3 mammoth. There are more than 100 cards with the fight keyword printed, most of them green.
Fight effects started firmly as a green effect, with cards like Prey Upon. Green now has conditional removal, which is better than nothing. Green’s strength comes from its creatures being bigger than average, and fight effects leverage that. It’s imperfect interaction that requires you to have big creatures on the board, and it’s vulnerable to instant-speed removal or combat tricks. Although it’s secondary, there are also some red fight cards.
You can usually find fight effects on sorceries, instants, and creatures. Some sets have auras that enchant a creature and make them fight another creature, or planeswalkers that make your creatures fight.
Kraul Harpooner had its time to shine in Standard thanks to its efficiency in dealing with small flyers. It triumphs over an opposing 1/1 flier and can kill bigger threats thanks to its undergrowth ability. It’s a fine option to run in graveyard-centric decks and decks that abuse ETB effects.
An instant-speed fight that makes a Treasure is one of the best versions of this effect tied to an instant or sorcery. Fight is an ability that’s better when tied to a creature ETB, though.
Eight mana is a lot, but Ezuri’s Predation can shift the playing field. You get a bunch of 4/4’s to fight some creatures and grant you a board presence. This is a nightmare against token-heavy decks.
The first contact I had with Thorn Mammoth and many other MTG players was in Arena with the starter decks. It’s a 6/6 creature that can eliminate another threat, though seven mana is a lot. The good side is that the fight effect will be repeated if you play another creature.
This is the only card that cares about the outcome of a fight, and its upside is good. Fight, kill an opposing creature, and draw a card. Skyshroud Ambush was designed for the Jumpstart set in MTG Arena, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see this effect printed in more cards.
In EDH, Smell Fear has a multitude of uses. You get to combine two effects: fight and proliferate. You should play the card whenever the proliferate effect alone makes sense since you get something extra.
You should play Savage Stomp in EDH dinosaur decks, especially considering the enrage mechanic. The cost reduction matters a ton, and the +1/+1 counter is very important.
“Any number of target creatures fight” is a good sentence on an MTG card. This card was made to bolster heroic by giving lots of heroic triggers around the table. If you have a good board and some mana, Setessan Tactics will deliver kills.
Kogla is a 7/6 creature that fights on ETB. It’s almost guaranteed to remove an opposing creature. If it attacks, you’ll destroy an opponent’s artifact or enchantment. It has synergies with humans too, especially ones with good ETB effects.
This card let D&D people down because they expected it to be harder to handle. Still, it’s a 10/10 haste creature that fights, and it basically can’t be targeted by opponents. Play The Tarrasque in green decks looking to go big and you’ll wreak some havoc.
Apex Altisaur is a good dinosaur for the decks that want one. It can be an important part of dinosaur-themed EDH decks like Gishath and Ghalta.
Gargos, Vicious Watcher is a nice hydra to build around. It’s an 8/7 with vigilance that also discounts your future hydras. If you or your opponent target Gargos, its fight effect triggers. It’s almost guaranteed to kill something and pulls both offensive and defensive duties.
A 5/5 for four used to be the gold standard for green creatures. Territorial Allosaurus‘s kicker ability allows it to fight another creature. You get to choose between “only” the 5/5 for four mana or the two-for-one by paying seven mana.
The flexibility is what makes Inscription of Abundance so good, almost strictly better than Prizefight. You can fight at instant speed, place +1/+1 counters, or gain life. If you have the extra mana, you can do it all.
Primal Might is being played in Standard thanks to the huge tempo swing of growing a creature and fighting at the same time. It’s crucial to killing enemy planeswalkers or players.
Tovolar’s Huntmaster is an important part of Winota, Joiner of Forces decks since it’s a large threat on its own and can be both human and non-human. It’s a good threat to have in EDH human and werewolf-themed decks too. Expect the Huntmaster to return to Pioneer/Explorer if Winota is unbanned.
This card is a 3/3 that fights another creature on ETB, and it can grow into a larger threat with enough Food tokens. Wicked Wolf was an important part of Food decks in Standard. It’s also a good partner of Oko, Thief of Crowns and Gilded Goose.
Voracious Hydra is interesting because it’s a choice of bigger creature or a two-for-one. Do you prefer a 6/6 or a 3/3 that kills a 2/2? Having options is good, and this hydra has made it to various Standard decks and green EDH decks, especially with +1/+1 counters synergies.
This fighting effect is unique because you can have two opposing creatures fight each other, so you can ensure that at least one of your opponents’ creatures dies in the fight. The best scenario is, of course, the two-for-one.
Markov Enforcer is a 6/6 vampire that fights another creature and makes a Blood token. It’s a good ETB effect on a sizable creature. The more reasons you have to play vampires and Blood tokens, the merrier.
This dinosaur will fight another creature provided that you discard a non-land, non-creature card. The trick is to have discard outlets like Faithless Looting coupled with madness cards and flashback cards. You get another payoff for discarding cards with Surly Badgersaur, obtaining the benefits of a fight spell for free. Lots of things can happen with a wheel effect, from Treasure generation to +1/+1 counters on the Badgersaur.
This card is mostly here for the Prepare effect. The fight is totally secondary, but combining the two effects can be a massive life swing and board swing if you have six mana to spare.
The original Domri planeswalker can fight with the -2 ability and can provide card advantage with the +1 ability, although it sometimes misses. In the end, the permanent bonus and the ramp are usually preferred over the +1 ability.
Ulrich of the Krallenhorde works like Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves and Tovolar’s Huntmaster. You’ll get an immediate benefit to another creature by giving it +4/+4. If Ulrich transforms, you get a bigger creature and a fight effect.
This is a flexible card that has seen its share of play in Standard. Having to choose between a fight effect at instant speed and a conditional Negate is good for playing different matchups.
Domri sees play in Explorer/Pioneer as a good Gruul () threat. Giving +1/+0 to creatures permanently is very nice, and you can make them fight another creature or bypass counterspells.
Polukranos, Unchained can fight the opposition at will. You’ll pay for it and you have six counters to spend. Most of the time, Polukranos is a big creature that dominates the battlefield and can take on some small creatures. You can fight in response to removal, and it’s a way to avoid being exiled. Like all escape cards, it’s better if you can fill your graveyard.
Having two bodies in one is already very good, and you’ll get tempo advantage because the 3/3 wolf will fight and gain you some life. Tolsimir is very good when you’re winning or when you’re behind. If you play another wolf, you’ll get more life and more fighting!
Dromoka’s Command was one of its Standard’s pillars because the card is so flexible. You choose two among four effects: if you’re in the fighting market, you can fight and get a +1/+1 counter. The other modes and combinations are also effective, and all of that at instant speed too. This is an awesome card that is a staple of Selesnya () creature decks.
Big creatures pick off small creatures! That’s all you need! There’s space for more cards that have a perk for winning (see Skyshroud Ambush), but fighting still plays well with other strategies.
Lifelink is an obvious choice. Creatures that are 4/4 or greater benefit a lot from fighting effects because you’ll probably destroy a decently-sized creature, gain a bunch of life, and survive to join the combat step and gain even more life. Some fight effects like Savage Smash will give +2/+2 to the fighter for extra damage (and life!).
Infect creatures are interesting too, because they deal damage in the form of -1/-1 counters, including while fighting. Even though your creature probably won’t win the fight, it will leave a permanent mark. Blight Mamba can even regenerate to avoid death.
Neyith of the Dire Hunt draws you a card each time one of your creatures fights. It’s an interesting fight-matters commander.
The heroic mechanic is awesome with fight effects since you’ll target a creature, obtain heroic trigger, win the fight, and attack with a bigger creature. Good heroic creatures with fight effects can be a real beating.
Creatures that have strong “leave the battlefield” effects or dying triggers work well with fighting effects because you don’t care if they survive the fight. The best scenario is when you trade your creature with the opposing creature and get the death trigger.
The enrage mechanic present in various dinosaurs is perfect with the fight mechanic, since they’re usually big and want to be damaged. You’re not even that sad if you “lose the fight” because of the enrage trigger.
Fight is a keyword action to shorten the typical reminder text that reads, “Each creature deals damage equal to its power to the other.” Keywords are great to preserve card space and quickly communicate effects.
No, fighting isn’t the same as attacking. Everything that happens during a fight is considered noncombat actions or noncombat damage.
Can a Creature Without Flying Fight a Creature With Flying?
Yes, a non-flying creature can fight a flying creature. Fight doesn’t care about flying, shadow, menace, unblockable, or other mechanics that grant evasion. It may not be very thematic that a ground creature such as an insect is able to fight a bird, but not everything can be on theme.
Damage from a fight is noncombat damage. Combat damage only happens during the combat step.
Even if the fight happens during a combat step (some cards fight at instant speed like Pounce), the damage is still considered noncombat damage.
No, fight doesn’t tap. Fighting only cares about damage, power, and toughness.
Yes, the fight mechanic doesn’t care whether a creature is tapped or not. It’s not like blocking, where the creature needs to be untapped to block.
You can fight your own creatures, but the card text needs to make room for that, like Clash of Titans. Most fight cards specify that “target creature you control fights target creature you don’t control.” The only exception is if an opponent has taken control of one of your creatures, in which case you can fight a creature that you “own” but don’t “control.”
No. A creature can deal damage to itself but cannot fight itself. The act of fighting needs two different target creatures.
No, you cannot block fight. The only thing you can do is to kill or debuff the opposing fighting creature in response, or counter the fight spell or ability itself.
Yes, granting a creature hexproof will stop a fight spell from resolving, since fight spells or abilities need to target the two creatures involved.
What Happens When a Creature With First Strike Fights?
First strike and double strike don’t affect fight, since they’re abilities that only work during the combat step. Since fight is all about dealing damage, only power and toughness matter. Abilities that care about the damage dealt like lifelink and deathtouch will matter, though.
How Does Double Strike Work With Fighting?
As above, first strike and double strike only work during the combat step. They have no effect on fight effects.
Yes! If you make your 3/3 lifelink fight another creature, it will deal 3 damage and you’ll gain 3 life regardless if your creature survived the fight or not. The “lifelink” keyword text doesn’t care about dealing combat or non-combat damage.
Can You Fight a Creature With Protection?
It depends on the protection. A black spell or ability cannot target a creature with protection from black, so you can’t start a fight without using an ability of another color. For example, a green fight ability can target a creature with protection from black.
However, protection can still prevent the damage dealt during the fight. Staying with our black example, you’ve used a green ability to target two black creatures and have them fight. If one of them has protection from black, the damage dealt to that creature during the fight will be prevented.
How Does Fight Work With Deathtouch?
If a creature with deathtouch fights another creature and deals at least one damage, the opposing creature will die from deathtouch (unless indestructible) like it would in normal combat. It’s one of the abilities that matter for the fight mechanic, alongside lifelink.
Can a Creature With Defender Fight?
Yes, a creature with defender can fight. Defender is one of those mechanics that only matter for the combat step, so, a 3/3 creature with defender can deal damage by fighting.
Does Trample Work With Fight?
No. Trample only works in the combat step. According to official ruling 702.19:
The ability has no effect when a creature with trample is blocking or is dealing noncombat damage.
Winning a fight is when a creature you control fights a creature your opponent controls and kills the opposing creature without dying in the process.
The only card printed so far that uses this term is Skyshroud Ambush, a card that was released on MTG Arena in Jumpstart: Historic Horizons. It’s not impossible to see this printed in a physical set.
Two cards have effects that require your creature to survive, but don’t use the word “win” in their text. Boxing Ring can tap to create a Treasure token if you control a creature that has already fought, while Foe-Razer Regent puts two +1/+1 counters on your creatures during the end step after they fight.
No, the fight effect is only between one creature and another.
When multiple creatures are involved, MTG designers usually put in the card text that “multiple creatures deal damage” to other creatures, like in the card Band Together. That’s an entirely different effect.
Polukranos, Unchained | Illustration by Chris Rahn
Fight effects are part of green’s color pie, and they’re evergreen mechanics. Fight is very important for green as a color because it’s the main way that green interacts both in Limited and in Constructed formats. Creatures that fight when they ETB are a form of card advantage and tempo that the color desperately needs, and it’s usually nice to add to a big rare or mythic rare green creature.
What fight effects do you usually include in your green-based decks? Let me know in the comments section below or over on Twitter.
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