How to Block Effectively in Magic: The Gathering
How to Block Effectively in Magic: The Gathering
In Magic: The Gathering, players cast powerful spells, don Equipment, harness Artifacts, and summon powerful creatures in a battle of wits and creativity. Most MTG decks rely on creatures to establish a strong board presence and overpower the opponent, but for players to stand a chance in MTG’s increasingly competitive meta, a proper defense is key.
In MTG, players take turns attacking and blocking with the creatures they summon. It’s equal parts skill and strategy knowing not only when to attack, but also how to muster a formidable defense. Declaring blockers is a complex and vital part of MTG, so players of all skill levels are advised to get acquainted with not just the basics of blocking but also the intricacies of one of MTG’s most pivotal mechanics. Here’s exactly when to block in MTG, and when players are better off holding back instead.
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When to Declare Blockers in Magic: The Gathering
In MTG, declaring blockers is the third of four combat steps. It’s the only full step the defending player takes during the attacker’s turn. After the opponent declares which creatures are attacking, the defending player decides which creatures to block with, and in which order. Blocking creatures intercept the attacking creature of choice, taking damage equal to the attacking creature’s power. If the attacking creature’s power is equal or greater than the defending creature’s toughness, it is defeated in battle and sent to the graveyard.
It’s always better to block attacks without losing a creature wherever possible. For instance, if players have a 3/3 creature on the board and their opponent attacks with a 2/1, the 3/3 will block the creature and survive, preventing any damage taken and sending the opponent’s creature to the Graveyard. When an opponent attacks with a particularly large creature, players can choose to block its attack with multiple smaller creatures. However, players should be aware they may lose their creatures in the process. Those playing an aggressive or midrange strategy are unlikely to benefit from blocking the opponent’s creatures, as in these cases, it’s usually better to try to close out the game by attacking the opponent directly.
When It’s Better Not to Block In Magic: The Gathering
Combat in MTG isn’t as simple as blocking and calling it a day. Certain creatures have abilities that overcome blockers, like Trample, an ability that assigns all leftover damage after blocking to the defending player. This is particularly common in green decks. For players facing creatures with Trample, it’s almost never worth blocking, even with a creature as small as a 1/1, as it only prevents 1 damage out of 8 and the creature is destroyed in the process. Usually, creature-based decks win by having lots of creatures on the board, so prolonging the game by sacrificing creatures to avoid damage is rarely worth it.
Additionally, defenders should remember that when blocking an attack with two or more creatures, the attacker decides how to split the damage between blockers. Players should be prepared to lose their most valuable creatures while blocking, but this is sometimes worth it to stop a powerful threat in its tracks. Defenders should be sure to assign blockers with enough power to destroy the attacking creature, or the blockers will be lost, the attacker will survive, and the player will take the damage. For instance, assigning a 4/4 and a 5/5 to block an 8/8 is probably a good call.
MTG Is Far More Complex Than Just Attacking and Blocking
MTG has far more to it than just attacking and blocking, and more often than not, players will be better off preserving their creatures rather than using them haphazardly to soak up damage from enemy threats. The game is a mixture of intuition and guesswork, as players never know what kind of threats an opponent might have in their hand at any one time, but more experienced MTG players will know when to sacrifice creatures to defend against attacks and when to preserve them.
In MTG formats like Commander and Limited Booster drafts, creatures are pivotal and blocking is one of the most important mechanics in the game. However, formats like Modern and Legacy involve tend to less blocking, as they revolve more around cheap but powerful spells that enable crazy combos and creative win conditions, along with creatures that circumvent the opponent’s blockers.
MTG’s most skilled players know that the board state matters far more than either players’ Life totals. More often than not, trading creatures to block damage is a bad move, unless players truly need to sacrifice their creatures to ensure their survival. In formats like Limited and Commander, blocking is a staple of the format, but combat tricks are common too — so unless players are low on life, they should maintain their board presence at all costs. In MTG, a good offense is a good defense, and blocking too much can cost players the game.