Last updated on October 21, 2020
Labyrinth Raptor | Illustration by Daarken
The ocean of change in MTG is as wide as it is deep, if not wider. What the waves carry to our shores varies. Sometimes you get something like power creep, and other times you get new mechanics.
In this case, we’re talking about menace: a mechanic that surfaced way back in 2015 as an evergreen keyword in the Magic Origins expansion. So what is menace?
A creature with menace can’t be blocked by just one creature during combat.
This means that if you swing at your opponent with a creature with menace, they’ll have to block using two or more creatures to deal with the incoming attack.
Menace can be a pretty intimidating mechanic, which is kind of funny considering it was introduced as the mechanic to replace intimidate.
Angrath, Captain of Chaos | Illustration by Slawomir Maniak
MTG Menace: How Does it Work?
So we know that a creature with menace has to be blocked by at least two creatures. But what else is there to know? Here’s the official rules:
- 702.110a Menace is an evasion ability.
- 702.110b A creature with menace can’t be blocked except by two or more creatures. (See rule 509, “Declare Blockers Step.”)
- 702.110c Multiple instances of menace on the same creature are redundant.
Now, while that’s the general ruling for menace, there are other rules and interactions with the mechanic that aren’t immediately apparent or that don’t always come up. So, let’s go over those.
Sky Terror | Illustration by Johann Bodin
Menace Rules FAQ
How is damage assigned to creatures that double block?
Double blocking is a little bit of a process, but the emphasis is on “little,” so don’t worry.
After blockers are declared, the attacking player chooses which blocking creature get smacked first (and second, third, fourth, etc. as needed). Then, they fight. The attacking creature deals damage to the blockers one at a time until it’s dealt damage equal to its power. You have to assign lethal damage to each creature in order.
Side note: If the attacking creature has deathtouch, it would only need to assign one damage to each blocker. After all of the damage is assigned, the combat phase proceeds normally.
Nullpriest of Oblivion | Illustration by Yongjae Choi
What happens if one of the creatures that blocks a menace creature is killed before the damage step?
If one of the creatures blocking the creature with menace dies before damage is dealt, the block doesn’t change. The creature is still considered blocked as described by the rules set for the combat phase.
What if a creature with menace has “can’t be blocked”?
If a creature has menace and also “can’t be blocked” then the creature just straight up can’t be blocked.
Bristling Boar | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov
What happens if a creature like Bristling Boar gets menace?
This sounds like a tricky bit, but you’ve probably already got the right answer. These two clashing clauses get wrapped up into a nice little bow with a tag that says, “This creature can’t be blocked.” Menace means the creature has to be blocked by more than one creature and the other ability makes that impossible. So, unblockable.
Stormfist Crusader | Illustration by Chris Rallis
The History of Menace
Menace, as I mentioned before, arrived as a keyword with the Magic Origins set in 2015. This isn’t the first use of the mechanic, however. Before Magic Origins, menace was around as a line of text that said, “This creature cannot be blocked by only one creature” or “This creature can’t be blocked except by two or more creatures”. In fact, R&D used to refer to the menace effect as the “Goblin War Drums” ability since the card was one of the first and most notable to make use of the effect.
Ever since it appeared on Magic Origins cards like Boggart Brute, Gilt-Leaf Winnower, and Goblin Glory Chaser, menace has been a mechanic that gets used in almost all (if not every) set that gets released. It’s also important to point out that, while you may see it in every set, its primary colors are black and red.
Menace itself hasn’t been errata’ed since its debut, but older cards with effects that are basically menace (think Gorilla War Cry, Demoralize, and Wind Spirit) have been errata’ed to add the keyword in replacement of the rules text and are easier to locate on Gatherer because of it. Goblin War Drums was even reprinted in Masters 25 with menace replacing the old rules text.
Goblin War Drums | Illustration by Wayne Reynolds
Not So Intimidating, Is It?
All right, that should sum it all up! Hopefully I’ve given you all the info you need to know about menace as a mechanic and how it interacts in the game. If you’ve got any other questions that weren’t answered, please take to the comments and I’ll do what I can to help you out! If you’re craving more arcane rule explanations, may I suggest the regenerate mechanic? Or perhaps mana burn? I hear it’s pretty neat.
As always, we appreciate it when you support us through Patreon. It allows us to keep creating more awesome content for you. I hope you enjoyed our chat today and hope to see you back for the next one!