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Evasive Maneuvers — Protection From…
Greetings sleuths, saboteurs, skulkers! Welcome to another installment of Evasive Maneuvers, where we examine keywords and strategies that help get our creatures through during combat.
This week we’ll be taking a look at none other than: protection. Originally developed in Alpha, the mechanic is about as old as Magic: the Gathering, itself. Unlike our previous keywords like Fear, Flanking, Horsemanship and Shadow, which racked up high Storm Scale numbers, protection is a keyword that is considered deciduous, which, other than invoking some tree- or tooth-related metaphor, means it’s bound to show up every once in a while.
The future of protection is best left to Mark Rosewater, who stated in his June 24, 2019 article about Core Set 2020:
I’m not quite sure about the future of protection, but it seems to be on one of two paths—either a return to evergreen status or a staying deciduous but with a heavier use in Standard-legal sets.
The big question remains: what does protection, a mechanic with a defensive connotation, have to do with evasion?
Mechanically speaking, protection has more to do than just shielding one’s self. In fact, any fellow college or grad student such as myself will have an easy time remembering the acronym for how protection works: D.E.B.T. Creatures with protection from [quality] cannot be:
- Damaged by sources with the specified quality
- Enchanted/Equipped by sources with the specified quality
- Blocked by creatures with the specified quality
- Targeted by spells or abilities with sources of the specified quality
Normally, I’m a big advocate for removing silent letters, even against historical etymology, but in this case, that silent B is just what we care about.¹ We’ll be diving headfirst into that very letter that dashed children’s hopes and dreams at their first ever spelling bee.
¹English unabashedly continues to hold on to its silent letters. Without a doubt, I think it’s pretty dumb.
The Best Offense Is a Good Defense
Little did I know that this maxim of many (all?) of my childhood soccer coaches would have turned out to be true. We can use protection offensively so long as the defending player has the qualities our protection specifies. Like Achilles having protection from non-ankle-aimed projectiles, he’s able to use that offensively against big bad Boagrius.
Of course, protection is also a fantastic mechanic for exactly what it indexes: protection. Committing to the board in EDH is always a risk, and protection effects help to mitigate against so much of the potential issues those of us who like to play with our cards face up (okay, and you Morph tribal folks) might encounter. It pulls double duty for us here, which is a big advantage.
Protection in Perspective
While not as insular as other keywords like Shadow, protection is generally quite specific in the quality it grants. Outside of something likeor — who have no ankles that went un-dipped in the River of Styx like their counterpart and therefore have protection from everything — most instances protection are accompanied by a specific quality.
Given the variability of protection in specifying a quality, it’s best to start by characterizing what types of protection are at our disposal. Here’s what we get:
Notably, some of the cards overlap between categories (e.g. gives protection from instants and sorceries, despite me separating them heuristically). Generally speaking, though, the vast majority of protection cards care about colors.
Anyone who has faced against andeck knows that having access to a combo machine/Eldrazi coupon with protection from 20% of the color pie can feel pretty frustrating. Given the majority of cards with protection care about colors, let’s focus on that a bit.
Well, Color Me Surprised
Similar to when we looked at Fear/Intimidate, we need to understand how the colors of our opponents’ commanders may pose a problem for us; in this case, as potential blockers. By summing the total number of decks for each non-planeswalker (since they can’t block) commander from EDHREC, we can then see how the weighted proportion of each color stacks up to the overall number of decks scraped by EDHREC. Doing so gives us a pretty good picture of what the color distribution of any given commander is that we might face. Here are the results:
This means having protection from blue will allow you to get past the commander of some ~46.26% of decks scraped by EDHREC. Having protection from red will allow you to slip past and go un-targeted by ~42.64% of commanders scraped by EDHREC, etc.
As for the colors of the top 100 creatures weighted by number of decklists, we see the breakdown is:
Unsurprisingly, green continues to boast the highest density of creatures, meaning protection from green is likely to go quite a long ways.
I want to caution that color here is not the same as color identity., though having protection from red, can still be blocked by because he is colorless, despite having a red color identity. In the case of protection from [color(s)], its best to treat that colorless bar, small as it may be, as an additional set of potential blockers.
For our purposes, protection is almost the inverse of Fear/Intimidate, which are hampered by opponents having access to more colors, as they are more likely to be blocked. Protection benefits from opponents having more colors — the more colors that your opponents’ creatures have, the more likely that your protection from a given color will work. As an example:can be blocked by , while cannot (plus, will prevent a lot of ‘s ridiculous bloating from doing something as simple as cracking an ).
The downside is: the color distributions of commanders are relatively even. How do we ensure ourwon’t just be useless if no one is running the color of necromancy? I’ll tell you how: grab your paint brushes.
Playing with Pigments
As any aspiring alter-ist or even Jumbo Commander’s DJ will tell you: if you can’t match the original paints, add your own. We’ll be taking a similar approach with color-‘hack’ing effects. ‘Hack’ decks use color-changing effects such as to alter the specific color words specified on a card to enable new effects and possibilities. Weirdly enough, ‘hack’ decks originate in name from , despite many of the decks not actually using it since it cares about lands rather than color.
Cards like this allow our‘s protection from black to be altered at instant speed to any color we see fit. With white’s affinity for creatures with protection from [color(s)], and blue’s potential to change said colors, I think an Azorius painting deck is just what we need.
Instead of just color-hosing and stax, we’ll be using(a.k.a dressed up like Raiden for Halloween) for evasive purposes. similarly allows us to mess with colors, and has as much potential for shenanigans as he has hyphens. and similarly have real artistic potential, and acts as another repeatable means of color-shifting. is an underappreciated card, and knowing now that 42% of commanders are green and 41% of the top creatures are green, we’re destined to draw some cards even if we don’t have to color-shift them with something like .
We’ll also include a heavy ‘palette’ of color-shifting instants, which all happen to come in at two CMC or less, making them perfect candidates for our paintbrush:. In addition to making our creatures evasive, we can ‘touch up’ some of the ‘blemishes’ on our opponents’ creatures:
A Touch of White for Blending…
While blue provides our artistic re-coloring, white provides us with more protection and closing potential.
, , and all give our creatures protection in one form or another ( is another neat consideration, albeit expensive mana-wise). , , , and act as some of our efficient pro-color beaters. , and act as some neat removal options, though could be pretty hilarious here as well. and can be used as beaters or blockers, and each comes with an upside of preventing damage-based blowouts from your resident in a pinch.
Finally,is basically the equivalent of keyword-soup-in-a-can, spreading keywords to the rest of our creatures every upkeep. Notably, it spreads the qualities specified by the protection clause, and they stack, so if we have a and a , all of our creatures will have first strike, protection from creatures, from black, and from red. Every. Upkeep.
Brushes and Palette: A Painter’s Swords and Shield
Thanks to some efficient beaters and color-changing, we can close out the game with the Swords of X+Y. Staring down abut we only have a out? No problem. We can use one of our color ‘hack’ spells either to change Korvold himself, or even just the protection color on the Sword.
In this shell, any of the Swords can get a fresh coat of paint at a moment’s notice to become Sword of Feast and Justice, or Sword of Sinew and Famine (yikes). Protection will make our creatures both difficult to remove and evasive, all while boosting our creatures and giving us some sweet combat damage triggers. The double-strike of, , and shouldn’t be overlooked — we get twice the damage and combat triggers when they’re Equipped!
For defense, we can lean on cards liketo protect our own life total by funneling the damage into a creature that has protections, and on to be able to swing in and protect against crack-back (as you’ll see shortly, it also synergizes with our commander). I emphasized Equipment rather than Auras, as the latter can fall off if the creature is granted protection from their same color.
The recently reprinted Stoneblade archetype’s namesake.will help us grab our brushes and paints when we need them, though a would also be welcome. After all, it’s half of the
Putting it all together, and voilà:
Bob Ross protec.dec
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As for the commander, I decided to havehelm the list. Honestly, there are a lot of options for commanders here. I like because he:
- Has additional protection in the form of hexproof,
- Is underplayed (and likely less threatening than, say, ),
- Becomes a 3-turn clock with any of our swords
- Provides card advantage from the command zone
What do you think? Is this enough to make Monet laugh maniacally, or Klimt to cackle considerably? Do you find yourself using protection more offensively than defensively? Sound off in the comments below!