Last updated on May 25, 2023
Avacyn, Angel of Hope | Illustration by Jason Chan
There are plenty of mechanics and keywords in Magic. Some were short-lived, and some have survived for quite a long time. Some are inherently better than others. For the most part, though, any mechanic can be good if it’s paired with the right strategy.
A great strategy for traditional kill-you-with-creatures decks is keeping your creatures alive long enough to finish the job. There’s protection, sure, but what about straight up just tanking damage and destruction? Enter indestructible.
Let’s talk about that.
Good Mythical Morning
How Does Indestructible Work?
Athreos, Shroud-Veiled | Illustration by Igor Kieryluk
Indestructible is pretty simple, and it’s about what you’d expect from the name. It’s a static ability that prevents a permanent from being destroyed from damage or anything that says “destroy.” That’s… pretty much it.
Oh, and side note: don’t bother trying to stack indestructible on top of itself. I mean, you can if you want, but you’re just wasting your resources. Nothing new is gonna happen.
History of Indestructible
Our first introduction to this keyword was all the way back in 1993’s Alpha with Consecrate Land. Not a bad first use of indestructible, but we’ve seen better for sure. Guardian Beast was the next time this destruction-proof keyword was seen in Arabian Nights later that same year.
It’s also important to note that it wasn’t considered a keyword back then, just a normal descriptor of an attribute that some permanents had, starting with Darksteel. If this sounds kind of confusing to you, then you’d be right. Plenty of players were confused about it and R&D eventually just made indestructible an official keyword in Magic 2014.
The next notable event in indestructible’s history would be with Kaladesh in 2016 when regeneration was replaced with “gain indestructible until end of turn.” I’m not going to go over every set that indestructible has ever featured in since it’s been in quite a few. We’ll get to why that is in just a second, though.
First let’s talk about colors! Indestructible features on hundreds of cards, white being the main benefactor. Black and green have their fair chunk of indestructible baddies and, finally, blue and red boast pretty minor features. Little fun fact: white sometimes uses temporary indestructibility instead of protection.
Is Indestructible Evergreen?
Yes, indestructible is evergreen. In case you’re not familiar, a keyword being evergreen means that it’s one of the core keywords in Magic. Basically, this means the keyword can be used in every set.
What Things Does Indestructible Protect Against?
Indestructible doesn’t protect against everything, but it does protect against some things. The most concise way to explain it is to say that indestructible permanents can’t be destroyed by lethal damage. The fun thing is that there are a few different ways to deal lethal damage. Deathtouch, combat damage, spell and ability damage, and “destroy” effects are all covered in indestructible’s wheelhouse.
Does Damage Kill Creatures with Indestructible?
No, damage will not kill an indestructible creature. They wouldn’t be very indestructible if they were susceptible to something so simple as damage, now, would they? This of course includes both combat and any other types of damage like that from spells, abilities, etc.
How Can You Actually Kill Things with Indestructible?
Technically you can’t kill indestructible things. That’s what makes them indestructible. If we’re talking just getting them off the board, then you’re not completely out of luck. The most obvious way would be to exile the indestructible thing, be it a creature, artifact, enchantment, or land. Any effect that specifically says “send to graveyard” also gets around indestructible, since you’re not dealing lethal damage but simply moving the permanent from one zone to another. The same goes with sending permanents back to their owner’s hands or into their library.
You can also give an indestructible creature -X/-X with an effect like Toxic Deluge or Tragic Slip. If it has zero or negative toughness, it will die.
Indestructible creatures can also be sacrificed, so using something like Consuming Vapors or the Sandfall Cellroom of Tomb of Annihilation to force your opponent to sacrifice their indestructible permanent could solve your problem. You can also use negative counters or effects that reduce their toughness because this isn’t lethal damage or destruction.
Other ways to “do away” with indestructible permanents (while not technically killing them) would be artifacts or enchantments that prevent them from doing things. You could use Entrancing Lyre’s ability on an indestructible creature to keep them tapped or Pacifism to simply prevent them from attacking and blocking. You could also use cards like Damping Matrix and Torpor Orb to prevent certain abilities and triggers.
There are also cards that remove indestructible, even if only temporarily. Hour of Devastation is probably one of my favorites. Soul Sear is another one that does damage at the same time, if you were looking for a starting point to wreck your indestructible friends.
How Does Trample Work with Indestructible?
Trample works pretty much the exact same against indestructible creatures as with any other creature. If the attacker would deal more damage than the indestructible creature’s toughness, the excess damage is dealt to the blocking creature’s controller. The only difference is that the indestructible creature doesn’t die from the damage it’s dealt.
How Does Sacrifice Work with Indestructible?
Like I mentioned earlier, indestructible doesn’t protect against sacrifice. If you want to betray your precious indestructible permanent, you’re more than welcome to sacrifice it, and it will be sacrificed. To the graveyard it goes.
Can Deathtouch Kill Indestructible Creatures?
No, deathtouch can’t kill an indestructible creature. Just like with combat and other sources of damage, deathtouch is just not enough to circumvent indestructibleness.
Does Zero or Negative Toughness Kill Indestructible Creatures?
negative counters you want to reduce that pesky indestructible creature’s toughness enough to send it to its grave.
Can an Indestructible Creature be Killed by Counters?
I’ve already used it as an example, but yes, you can use counters to kill indestructible creatures. -1/-1 counters are obviously the first choice if you’re looking to just reduce their toughness, but you can get creative with it.
Age counters can force your opponent to sacrifice their precious indestructible baby if they can’t keep up with the cumulative upkeep cost. Xathrid Gorgon’s petrification counters are another fun way to nerf indestructible problems, even if you’re not outright getting rid of it.
Does Indestructible Survive “Destroy All Creatures”?
Yes, indestructible creatures survive “destroy all creatures” effects since they can’t be destroyed.
Can You Deal Damage to Indestructible Creatures?
You can deal damage to indestructible creatures. It just doesn’t kill them. Think of it like an action hero getting up after a huge explosion and dusting themselves off like nothing happened. They take the damage, it just doesn’t hurt them.
Can You Target Indestructible with “Destroy”?
You can most definitely target indestructible permanents with “destroy” effects. Unless you have some big-brain plan going on, though, it would be a waste since the targeted permanent won’t actually be destroyed.
Best Indestructible Cards
There are plenty of indestructible cards out there. If you’re familiar with my work then you’ll know that this list is about to be all about flavor, fun, and jank-filled nonsense. With my usual little spiel out of the way, let’s just get right to it!
Honorable Mention: Indestructibility
I couldn’t make a list of the best indestructible cards without mentioning Indestructibility, now, could I? It’s simple and it gets the job done without all the complicated nonsense. If you’re looking to keep one of your permanents on the battlefield come hell or high water, consider this namesake enchantment.
Modern Horizons 2 Duals
Dual lands are always in high demand. They make it easier to manage your mana base and can also provide some extra incentives. But what if your duals were also indestructible? Enter the artifact lands from Modern Horizons 2.
These bad boys included both the allied and enemy color pairs as indestructible lands. Sure, they enter the battlefield tapped, but your opponent has to work to get them off the battlefield if they’re looking to mess with your mana base. A solid choice if you’re up against some land-hate shenanigans or are maxing out on artifact and affinity synergies.
Mana and Lands
I know I just covered a full cycle of 10 dual lands, but I’m not quite done with mana-affecting cards yet.
First up is another land, Cascading Cataracts. This indestructible beauty can tap for a single colorless mana, or you can tap any 5 mana to get any combination of five mana to play with. Plus the art is absolutely stunning. I wasn’t exaggerating when I called these waterfalls a “beauty.”
Let’s do this alphabetically; Darksteel Ingot is up next. A very simple and yet indestructible 3-drop artifact that taps for one mana of any color. A good option for some mana fixing if you want to keep your opponent from messing with your mana.
And finally we have Terra Eternal, which is a very fitting name for this enchantment. Not interested in the MH2 lands but still want to keep your mana base protected from destruction? Maybe you’re just itching to get tri-lands in your deck instead of duals. Well, this enchantment will give all of your lands (and also your opponents’ lands, important little tidbit) the indestructible treatment.
There are plenty of gods in Magic’s history, some more recent than others. They’ve all got indestructible and they’re all good in their own right, but I’d like to highlight three in particular.
My personal favorite is Athreos, Shroud-Veiled. And before you ask, yes, it is because Orzhov is my favorite color combo. How did you know? Anyways, this god has a neat ability that lets you steal your opponent’s creatures when they lose them with coin counters. I like this.
Then there’s Iroas, God of Victory, a Boros god that gives all your creatures menace and protects your attacking creatures from damage.
Finally, we have Mogis, God of Slaughter. This god might not seem too intimidating at first glance, and you might be right. I just really enjoy forcing your opponent to take damage or sacrifice a creature. It’s just the kind of cruel chaos I strive to sow.
Avacyn and Her Memorial
This legendary angel may no longer be with us, but Avacyn, Angel of Hope is still a pretty boss card. Not only is it indestructible but it’s also got flying and vigilance, and it gives all of your other permanents indestructible. As long as it doesn’t get bounced and your opponent doesn’t have a gameplan to get around indestructible, you’re basically set once the Angel of Hope hits the battlefield.
And in the angel’s honor we have Avacyn's Memorial. This legendary artifact isn’t nearly as impressive as the creature it memorializes, but it’s still pretty sweet. Definitely pricey at , but the angel’s Memorial is indestructible and also blesses other legendary permanents you control with indestructible. Definitely nowhere near as good as when the Angel of Hope was still alive, but it’s not entirely useless.
Okay, I will admit that this one just brings me way too much joy to not include in this list. Dark Depths is a legendary snow land that basically hides a ridiculously powerful Avatar creature beneath 10 ice counters. These counters can be removed by paying for each one, which means a total of 30 mana to get that which lurks below onto the battlefield.
Now, before you go all, “but Dark Depths doesn’t even have indestructible. Why is it here?” That’s because the monstrosity that you’re trying to crack out of the ice has indestructible. The legendary 20/20 Marit Lage has both flying and indestructible. If you can manage to get it onto the battlefield, you’re about to have a really fun time.
I love the Eldrazi. The concept, the art, the story, everything about them makes the horror nerd in me really happy. Ulamog is one of my favorites, and it fits right in on this list. We have two indestructible versions of this legendary monster: Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre.
The Ceaseless Hunger allows you to exile two permanents the second it hits the battlefield on top of being a huge 10/10 with indestructible and a triggered ability that’s going to deck your opponent in a handful of turns. The Infinite Gyre, on other hand, destroys a single permanent when it enters the battlefield along with forcing your opponent to sacrifice four permanents whenever it attacks them. Oh, and it has a built-in “I’m just gonna reset my library” ability if your opponent ever manages to send it to the graveyard despite its indestructibility.
Iroas’ Indestructible Army of Destruction: A Decklist
Iroas, God of Victory | Illustration by Slawomir Maniak
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Heliod, God of the Sun
Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Tajic, Blade of the Legion
Fight to the Death
Day of Judgment
Hour of Reckoning
Retribution of the Meek
Waves of Aggression
Winds of Rath
Scourge of the Nobilis
Wanna be indestructible and also annoy all of your friends by constantly destroying all of their precious, destructible permanents? Well, look no further!
This pile of absolute ridiculousness led by the indestructible Iroas, God of Victory (writing on the wall right there) is sure to ensure a fun time. For you, at least. Packed with plenty of damage-dealers to round out your army of indestructible everythings, this deck is sure to get a rise out of everyone at your EDH table.
Avacyn's Memorial | Illustration by Kasia ‘Kafis’ Zielinska
I really like indestructible. There’s just so much nonsense that can happen with this keyword. Especially when you pair it with the destruction of everyone else’s permanents, just to rub some salt in the wound.
People love playing with me, I swear.
What are your thoughts on indestructible? Do you like it? Do you hate it? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below, or you can tweet us if you spend more time on the bird app. There’s also Arena Tutor if you’re a MTGA player and you want to make sure you’re on top of your game. That is in fact the best segue you’re getting from me today.
And I have nothing more for you for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll see you in the next one!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: