Last updated on February 20, 2024

Ohran Frostfang - Illustration by Torstein Nordstrand

Ohran Frostfang | Illustration by Torstein Nordstrand

There are some keywords in Magic that those of us who’ve been playing for years can hardly remember ever not knowing how they work, while newer players may get confused in the details.

Trample is a great example of this, and today I’m going to give you an overview of what it is, how it works, and talk about some of the edge cases that might catch even the most seasoned of players. I’m also going to look at some funky stuff we can do with trample creatures.

Let’s get ready to rumble!

Table of Contents show

What is Trample?

Trample is an ability that let's you deal damage to your opponent if the blocking creature has less toughness than your attacking creature's power.

How Does Trample Work?

Craterhoof Behemoth - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Craterhoof Behemoth | Illustration by Chris Rahn

Trample works when your creature gets blocked and allows excess damage to get through. The reminder text you get on beginner sets reads, Trample (“This creature can deal excess combat damage to the player or planeswalker it's attacking.”

“Excess combat damage” means the damage that would be dealt to the blocking creature beyond what’s required to destroy it.

The History of Trample in MTG

Trample is one of the oldest keywords in Magic and has been around since 1993, appearing on five cards in the very first set, Alpha. It has since been in virtually all sets ever printed, taking a small break from core sets between Sixth Edition and Eighth Edition because designers worried it was too complex for beginners sets.

It was reintroduced in Ninth Edition with new reminder text and has been a staple, and an evergreen mechanic, ever since!

What is Trample Damage?

Trample damage is the damage dealt to the player by an attacking creature after lethal damage has been dealt to all creatures blocking it.

How Much Damage Does Trample Do?

Trample takes the remaining damage after blockers get their lethal damage and sends that much damage to the opponent or planeswalker. When you’re calculating trample damage, look at the power of the attacking creature and the toughness of the blocking creature.

If you attack with a 4/4 creature with trample and your opponent blocks with a vanilla 1/1, you deal one damage to the blocking creature to destroy it and three to the opponent. If they block with a 2/2, you’d have to deal two damage to the blocking creature and then there’s only two excess damage left over for the opponent. Similarly, if you were instead blocked by a 1/1 and a 2/2, you’d have to deal one damage to the 1/1, two to the 2/2 and you would be left with one damage for the defending player.

Can You Choose Not to Trample?

Trample only says that you have to assign lethal damage to the blocking creature as a minimum in the combat damage step, but you could assign all the damage to the blocking creatures if you want to.

What if the Creature Blocking Trample Dies?

If your attacking creature has trample and the defending creature was removed before combat damage, the total amount of damage is dealt to your opponent. Normally if your attacking creature is blocked, none of the damage would get through, even if the blocking creature died, returned to a hand or was removed from combat.

Does Trample Work When Blocking?

Trample has no effect when blocking, it’s only relevant when the trample creature is attacking.

Can You Block Trample with Multiple Creatures?

Yes, you can block an attacking trample creature with multiple of your own creatures. If you block their 5/5 trampler with a 1/1 and a 2/2, they’ll need to assign lethal damage to both creatures before they can trample you.

Does Trample Stack?

Trample does not stack, and multiple instances of it are redundant. Sometimes you can give a creature multiple instances of trample, like if you cast Crash the Ramparts on Colossal Dreadmaw. But, like I said, this is redundant and would have no effect on the damage calculations.

How Does Deathtouch Work with Trample?

Deathtouch is great with trample, a creature with both Trample and Deathtouch only needs to deal one point of damage to the defending creature to destroy it before dealing the rest of the deathtouch/trample creature’s damage to the defending creature.

Because of this combination, R&D seem to avoid printing creatures with both trample and deathtouch naturally. But that doesn’t mean you can’t manage to get this keyword combination with other effects.

Does Trample Beat Indestructible?

Yes, at least in the sense that the additional damage does successfully trample over a blocking creature. An indestructible creature can’t be destroyed by combat damage, but you only need to assign lethal-equivalent damage to that creature and then the excess damage can be assigned to the blocking player.

How Do Protection and Trample Work?

A creature with trample can still assign damage to the player if the creature with protection that is blocking has insufficient toughness to be assigned all of the damage. For example, if you're attacking with a 7/7 trampler into a 2/2 with protection, it will still assign 5 damage to the defending player. This is a pretty common misconception, but don't take my word for it, read up on rule 702.18b!

How Does First Strike with Trample Work?

An attacking creature with first strike and trample deals damage to your opponent's creature before they deal damage to yours, you assign lethal damage to your opponent’s creature, and you deal any excess damage to the opponent. And if you dealt lethal damage then the blocking creature is destroyed and it can’t deal damage back.

If your opponent has a blocker with first strike and your attacking trample creature doesn’t, their creature deals damage first and has the opportunity to destroy yours before it even gets a chance to deal regular or trample damage.

If both have first strike, they both deal damage in the first strike step and it resolves in pretty much the same was as if neither did.

Does Trample Apply to Double Strike?

Trample works really well with double strike, especially if you can destroy your opponent’s creature in the first strike step. Any excess damage your trample creature would deal is still dealt to the player/planeswalker it’s attacking, and this includes excess from double strike damage.

This is why Embercleave and Temur Battle Rage are super scary.

Does “Prevent All Damage” Stop Trample?

If all damage is prevented, this definitely stops any damage from trample. But if the damage is only prevented to the blocking creature, like with Blinding Fog, things work just like they do when the creature has protection and can result in damage getting through.

How Does Trample Work with Damage Modifiers Like Torbran?

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

Damage is assigned before modifiers like Torbran's ability adds damage. Torbran doesn’t help if your trample creature’s power isn’t enough to deal lethal on its own. This is because damage is assigned before modifiers like Torbran, Thane of Red Fell’s ability come into effect. So your trample creature assigns its damage to the creature(s) blocking it, and then Torbran’s ability adds that damage. Torbran doesn’t help if your trample creature’s power isn’t enough to deal lethal on its own.

This works in much the same way with other damage modifying effects like Fiery Emancipation, and even effects that reduce damage dealt like Valkmira, Protector's Shield.

Does Trample Work on a Planeswalker?

Yes, trample works on planeswalkers. Excess damage is still dealt to the planeswalker if you chose to attack it instead of the player.

Does Trample Work with Fight?

The key point here is that trample cares about combat damage, and fight effects don’t count as combat damage.

Does Trample Work with Infect?

Yes, trample works with infect. Any damage dealt to blockers by the trampling infect creature is replaced with -1/-1 counters, and damage dealt to players (excess or otherwise) is replaced by poison counters.

How Does Trample Work with Battles?

Trample can send excess damage through creatures to hit battles much like players or planeswalkers.

How Do You Give Creatures Trample?

There are lots of ways to give creatures trample. You can give it temporarily with cards like Berserk, one of the first cards with trample printed on it, or Rhonas the Indomitable’s activated ability.

If you want to permanently give a creature trample you can use ability counters with Fully Grown. And if just giving one of your creatures trample isn’t enough, then you might want to look at a card like Aggressive Mammoth.

There are tons of cards that give trample since it’s an evergreen keyword, and more are printed pretty much every set.

What is a Trample Counter?

If a creature has a trample counter on it, then it has trample! Ikoria introduced ability counters to Magic. These counters represent a permanent buff to the creature, granting a keyword to the creature based on the type of counter. If a creature has a trample counter on it, then it has trample!

What is Spell Trample?

Super-Duper Death Ray

Any excess damage from the spell is dealt to the target creature’s controller, similar to how regular trample works with combat damage. Super-Duper Death Ray was printed in Unstable. This card deals four damage to a creature, but has trample, meaning any excess damage from the spell is dealt to the target creature’s controller similar to how regular trample works with combat damage.

This was a cute one-off until Flame Spill and Ram Through were printed in Ikoria in 2020. The former works the same as the Death Ray, while the latter creates a fight effect with a clause that lets trample work even though it’s not combat damage.

We’ve had a few other cards that either have “spell trample” since then, like Pigment Storm, and other cards that care about excess damage in other ways, like Aegar, the Freezing Flame. It’s proving to be a new area of design for WotC that’s still being explored.

Is Trample Good?

In short, yes, trample is good. It’s generally held as one of the better keywords to give a creature, maybe behind flying, lifelink, and double strike. Obviously best on larger creatures, it’s often the addition of trample to a big beefy green creature that takes it from okay to great.

Just look at how little play something like Gigantosaurus sees, mostly because of the lack of trample.

Best Trample Cards

Here’s a quick nod to cards of various types that grant trample. Players that think they can hide behind their creatures could be in for an Overwhelming Stampede.

Since trample is tied to combat damage we’ll present a list of the best tramplers, these are not just any good creature looking to punish chump blockers. More points go to the creature if it is easier to play and if its trample ability makes you more likely to win the game.

#31. Akroma, Angel of Wrath

Akroma, Angel of Wrath

Are you a sucker for keywords? Akroma, Angel of Wrath has them in spades, but haste and trample are two things almost no one suspects from white.

#30. Bloodthirster 

Bloodthirster

It’s got a fever. And the only prescription for Bloodthirster, is more combat. Trample helps it get more combat.

#29. Giant Adephage

Giant Adephage

Giant Adephage is a nasty bug that makes more nasty bugs if it touches a player. Except these bugs are huge and will end the game quickly if not exterminated.

#28. Rakdos, Lord of Riots

Rakdos, Lord of Riots

When Rakdos, Lord of Riots hits, it helps you ramp into your creature spells, how about that for black and red! Efficient, deadly and iconically Rakdos.

#27. Primeval Spawn

Primeval Spawn

Incredible payoff for playing all five colors. Primeval Spawn is like a gift card of spells, play spells up to 10 mana, but that’s only after they deal with the vigilant, lifelinked, trampling, 10/10.

#26. Bloated Contaminator

Bloated Contaminator

Poison decks just need that first point of damage to get through, and trample helps that along beautifully. The proliferate trigger is what pushes the Bloated Contaminator onto this list.

#25. Nova Chaser

Nova Chaser

Nova Chaser is possibly the most power-per-mana card to have trample, though Ball Lightning came to mind. While the Chaser dies to any bear, dealing 10 trample damage is a lot.

#24. Blightsteel Colossus

Blightsteel Colossus

Blightsteel Colossus can win in one shot. It has some protection for itself and threatens to win if your opponent can’t untap and answer it.

#23. Pathbreaker Ibex

Pathbreaker Ibex

Few cards draw out screams and make combat tricks more exciting than Pathbreaker Ibex. At worst, you attack with an Overrun, somebody give this goat haste!

#22. Ghalta, Primal Hunger

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

The earlier you put this dino into play, the better your results. Oftentimes it means your opponent simply won’t have enough toughness on the board to block. Fun fact, if you pay to cast Ghalta, Primal Hunger you might have lethal damage in your 1v1 matchups.

#21. Kodama of the West Tree

Kodama of the West Tree

Punish your opponent with ramp, and the fact that Kodama of the West Tree makes it easier to ramp makes for some absurd plays.

#20. Arcbound Crusher 

Arcbound Crusher

The text, “Whenever another artifact enters the battlefield”, is simply asking for abuse and trample makes the dream work in this case. If you haven’t seen modular decks before, it’s scary how efficiently they keep power on the board. Plus, Arcbound Crusher is one of the easiest cards to cast on this list.

#19. Worldspine Wurm

Worldspine Wurm

Which is worse? The 15/15 trampler or three 5/5 tramplers? Only your opponent can answer, or do they have an answer? Worldspine Wurm makes this list thanks to excessive power and value.

#18. Toralf, God of Fury

Toralf, God of Fury

Red is so good at dealing noncombat damage, with Toralf, God of Fury, it’s like your spells and abilities have trample. So even if this god creature gets pacified, benefiting your noncombat damage earns it a spot on this list.

#17. Cultivator Colossus

Cultivator Colossus

Land ramp is one of the hardest mana accelerations to stop, and Cultivator Colossus ramps on its own. Slip a scry in before this enters the battlefield for your best landfall opportunity. This plant beast is hard to stop and will consume opponents if unchecked.

#16. Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Gishath, Sun's Avatar

The one dinosaur to lead them all. If you heard that trample damage resulted in you getting to play more dinosaurs you’d probably say it’s one of the best cards ever right? Well this is Gishath, Sun's Avatar.

#15. Kalonian Hydra

Kalonian Hydra

Any additional +1/+1 counters you add to Kalonian Hydra makes it absurdly big when it swings in. There won’t be enough toughness on the other side of the board to handle more than a couple attacks. It is one of the more efficiently costed creatures on this list.

#14. Earthquake Dragon

Earthquake Dragon

Many of these big tramplers don’t have a way to save themselves, much less have flying, but Earthquake Dragon has both. And with the ability to cost less than 15 mana, this biggen is worth it.

#13. Stonecoil Serpent

Stonecoil Serpent

So many decks are happy to have Stonecoil Serpent. It’s always one of the biggest threats you can play. Giving access to trample for blue, black and white decks is sssuper cool.

#12. Hydroid Krasis

Hydroid Krasis

Simic decks drool for having access to life gain, card draw and a massive evasive threat all on one card. Don’t forget, if you change the base power and toughness, those +1/+1 counters still make Hydroid Krasis stronger.

#11. Quartzwood Crasher

Quartzwood Crasher

The Quartzwood Crasher is a magnet for removal because one hit is too many for most opponents to handle. We’ve been talking about excess damage all article, few creatures make use of that damage better than this beast.

#10. Borborygmos Enraged

Borborygmos Enraged

The fact that it digs for lands after it connects and can blast individual targets is so good. Borborygmos Enraged can do lots of work without attacking, and when it does, seven power is a force to be reckoned with. There are less than 200 creatures in the history of Magic with more than 7 toughness, so chances are, one blocker will not be enough.

#9. Decimator of the Provinces

Decimator of the Provinces

Though you may lose one of your attackers, but you might win the game by sacrificing to play Decimator of the Provinces. Doesn’t it just make the combat math easier when a creature pumps itself up too?

#8. Atarka, World Render

Atarka, World Render

Atarka, World Render spells wincon, because while opponents may have flying blockers, rarely can those blockers handle twice the trample damage. Huge bonus points if any of your dragons have firebreathing which shines with double strike.

#7. Etali, Primal Conqueror / Etali Primal Sickness

Etali, Primal Conqueror Etali, Primal Sickness

Not many cards have free spells on one side and on the other side, put on multiple poison counters. Being on the receiving end of an Etali, Primal Sickness attack is just plain filthy.

#6. Phyrexian Dreadnought

Phyrexian Dreadnought

When this gets put into play by some of the most powerful decks of all time, you know it’s good. If playing Phyrexian Dreadnought feels like cheating the system, it probably is.

#5. Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder

Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder

Those that enjoy the occasional maelstrom understand what a joy it is to cast cascade spells. Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder allows any spell in hand to cascade, quite a powerful payoff for playing four colors.

#4. Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion

Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion

Rummaging and mana ramp? Red is often starving for mana ramp, and Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion serves it as a reward for dealing trample damage. Easily one of the most impactful cards from War of the Spark.

#3. Hellkite Tyrant

Hellkite Tyrant

You had me at “gain control of all…” Being hit by Hellkite Tyrant is simply too devastating for some decks to handle. As artifact tokens become more and more prevalent, this dragon gets greedier and greedier.

#2. End-Raze Forerunners

End-Raze Forerunners

Pumping the team and joining the attack adds up to lethal damage real quick with these boars. The End-Raze Forerunners spell the end by overwhelming opponents with trample damage.

#1. Craterhoof Behemoth

Craterhoof Behemoth

Commander games often end when Craterhoof Behemoth is played. Having four or five other creatures makes this ETB effect one of the best ways to close out a game. Ramp up to pay for this as soon as the opponent with blue is tapped out, and you’ll have a massive amount of damage to deal.

Best Cards to Pair with Trample Creatures

Toski, Bearer of Secrets

Toski, Bearer of Secrets

One of the best cards with trample is Toski, Bearer of Secrets. This squirrel draws you a card for each creature you get through. And you’ll draw a card for each strike if you have double strike!

Ohran Frostfang + Saryth, the Viper's Fang

Deathtouch goes amazingly well with trample since it means you only have to deal one damage for lethal. There are a few cards that give creatures you control deathtouch, and some of the better green ones are Ohran Frostfang and Saryth, the Viper's Fang. These allow you to get even more damage through, likely making your opponents not want to block at all!

Decklist: Stonebrow Trample in Commander

Stonebrow, Krosan Hero - Illustration by Ron Spears

Stonebrow, Krosan Hero | Illustration by Ron Spears

The best place to play around a mechanic like trample is, obviously, in Commander. Here’s an idea of how to abuse the extra damage you can deal to your opponent.

As we know, trample is best on big creatures. Well, the good thing about this deck is that Stonebrow, Krosan Hero is the perfect card to make your big tramplers even bigger! Cards like Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion can give you effects like ramp and card selection when you hit. And it’s filled with big beaters to attack in with!

Wrap Up

Toski, Bearer of Secrets - Illustration by Jason Rainville

Toski, Bearer of Secrets | Illustration by Jason Rainville

Trample has been around since the start of Magic. It’s a fantastically flavorful mechanic with a bit of a “simple to learn, difficult to master” vibe to it, which is great to learn the intricacies of the game. It makes big creatures useful by not being able to chump block them while being a touch less powerful than flying, which is good when it comes to designing and balancing the design of cards.

What do you think? Where does trample rank in your keyword power levels? What’s your favorite trample payoff? Let me know in the comments down below or join the discussion in the Draftsim Discord.

I’ll catch you in the next one. May all your creatures deal excess damage!

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2 Comments

  • Avatar
    guillaume July 12, 2022 11:34 am

    Does Trample Beat Indestructible?

    It does not beat indestructible, but lethal damage is defined as damage equals to the toughness. So any damage beyond that can still trample over.

    • Avatar
      Dan Troha July 12, 2022 12:17 pm

      Thanks, we fixed this mix-up 🙂

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