One of the most challenging questions facing new Magic: The Gathering players is when to attack with their creatures. Sure, you may be able to deal heaps of damage to your opponent this turn, but how far will their counter-attack set you back? Get too aggressive and you could easily throw away a game you would have won otherwise.
Of course, that’s assuming your attacking creatures aren’t available to block the next turn. A useful ability called vigilance might be just what you need to get damage through without opening yourself up to an attack.
What is Vigilance?
Vigilance is a keyword ability that enables creatures to attack without tapping. If they survive combat, they’ll be available to block the following turn. Good on offense and on defense!
Vigilance has some other great uses besides protecting your life total. If you’ve played with cards from Guilds of Ravnica, you may be familiar with the ability convoke, which allows you to tap untapped creatures to pay the costs of certain spells. A creature with vigilance can easily attack and then attack to help you convoke a spell on your second main phase.
Creatures with vigilance are especially useful if they have other abilities that require them to attack. For example, Frondland Felidar can attack and then tap down a would-be blocker with its activated ability.
It’s worth clarifying that once a creature is declared as an attacker, it’s still attacking even if you tap it to activate an ability or pay the cost of a spell. In the Frondland Felidar example, your cat beast is still attacking even if you’ve tapped it to use its ability. A 3/5 has to be resourceful on the monster-world of Ikoria!
Examples of Vigilance
Vigilance isn’t the flashiest ability, but it does show up from time to time in Constructed play. Here are a few examples you may come across as you play Magic.
Haste is the most important keyword ability on Questing Beast, but vigilance doesn’t hurt, either. With its combination of abilities, Questing Beast can reliably get in for four damage and trade with a larger attacker the following turn.
Another green spell you’ve probably seen in Standard is Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Her ability to turn lands into creatures with vigilance allows players to use the mana she produces even more effectively by casting instants and creatures with flash on their opponents’ turns.
Remember that convoke example we talked about earlier? Unbreakable Formation proved itself especially useful in white creature-based decks not too long ago, since it allowed creatures to attack and convoke spells like Conclave Tribunal or Venerated Loxodon.
A few years prior, white aggro decks used Always Watching to give their creatures vigilance. This allowed creatures like Anointer of Champions to activate “tap” abilities that could make your creatures even stronger.
Check out the rest of our keyword ability primers: