MTG Keywords Explained: Defender

Card Kingdom Strategy

A game of Magic: The Gathering ends when you reduce your opponents’ life total from 20 to 0. And, consequently, many games of Magic are won and lost based on creature combat.

But sometimes the best offense is a good defense. If you like to play a slower and more defensive game, there’s a certain type of creature that might appeal to you.

What is Defender?

Defender is a static ability that appears on creature cards, and it’s fairly straightforward: “A creature with defender can’t attack.”

This may seem like a major downside in a game that, in many ways, is all about attacking with creatures. But creatures with defender more than make up for their shortcomings.

For one thing, creatures with defender typically have high toughness. This allows them to block nearly anything in their path and hold down the ground until you can win the game. Some creatures with defender even have flying or reach, which makes them even better blockers.

Additionally, some creatures with defender have useful activated or triggered abilities. Wall of Omens draws a card when it enters the battlefield and is an excellent target for “flicker” effects. Sylvan Caryatid is one of the best mana-producing creatures ever printed. And Thing in the Ice can transform from a harmless 0/4 defender into a raging 7/8 horror at a moment’s notice. Don’t count these defenders out!

When Walls Attack

While creatures with defender are incapable of attacking by design, there are some cards that allow them to get into the red zone.

There are two relatively recent cards that work well with defenders, and the best part is you can play them both in the same deck!

High Alert was a key uncommon in Ravnica Allegiance Draft, and it’s a fun card to build around in Constructed formats, too. High Alert allows your defenders to attack as though they didn’t have defender, AND it allows them to deal damage equal to their toughness rather than their power. So if you have an army of 0/4 walls, they’ll be attacking as 4/4’s before you know it!

Arcades, the Strategist is a legendary creature with the sample static abilities as High Alert. It’s also a 3/5 flying dragon that draws you a card whenever you play a creature with defender. If you’re looking to build a Commander deck with defenders, Arcades is your best bet.

LEARN MORE!

Check out the rest of our keyword ability primers:

Banding
Cascade
Companion
Cycling
Deathtouch
Enchant
Encore
Equip
First Strike & Double Strike
Flash
Flying & Reach
Haste
Hexproof
Indestructible
Kicker
Lifelink
Menace
Mill
Mutate
Partner
Phasing
Prowess
Prowl
Trample
Vigilance