Let's hop in our time machines back to the grand ol' year of 2004.
"Hey Ya!" is at the top of the Billboard charts. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is still playing in theaters. And Magic is about to release its brand-new set, the second part of what looks to be an immensely popular artifact block: Darksteel.
The previews are coming out. You're looking through the cards.
And then you see it.
The most broken card you have ever laid eyes on.
The card that you're sure is going to change the face of Standard, dominating the format and forcing Wizards to make bannings.
I mean, how could Wizards have even printed this?!
That card, of course, is this:
In my defense, I was thirteen years old.
As it turns out, Darksteel would go on to be known for featuring a wide slew of much more absurd and truly banworthy things. (Thanks, Skullclamp and Arcbound Ravager!) But the part of Darksteel Colossus that really caught my attention was the brand-new mechanic: indestructible.
At the time, indestructible was very distinct and restricted, featured on only a handful of artifacts. Over thirteen years later, it has become so beloved that it has supplanted regeneration and we have adopted indestructible to be something evergreen that we can use throughout the game!
You will see indestructible in most blocks, on a variety of cards.
So, why all the indestructible setup? Well, my mysterious yet perfectly timed segue creator, it's precisely because that's what we're going to cover today!
I've been doing a series covering individual mechanics. (You can check out my past ones, "The Invention of Flying," "Striking First," and "The Touch of Death" to see more.) After my last one on deathtouch, I received a specific request from reader Michael Pulley:
So here we are! (And as a reminder, if you ever have any topic suggestions, either mechanics or otherwise, please feel free to send them my way!)
What does it mean for a creature to not be able to die?
Magic is a game built upon interaction, with creatures both entering and leaving. (Yes, yes, I see you over there with the storm combo deck. You can sit down now.) Indestructible fundamentally changes that.
Whereas the other keywords I've covered have been combat keywords, indestructible is much more. And while those other keywords were basically only relevant inside of combat, indestructible is quite relevant outside of it as well.
Indestructible is strong against any deck that's trying to interact with your creatures—whether with creatures or with spells.
If you're playing against an aggressive deck, indestructible gives you a great blocker that can survive throughout the game. If you're playing against a control deck, indestructible can cause your opponent to gnash their teeth in agony as they struggle to deal with it. It is a potent mechanic against most strategies.
On the other hand, there are two places where indestructible isn't so hot.
Against any deck that isn't about interaction (you can now stand up again, storm combo player), indestructible isn't going to do much. And, since indestructible often comes with a pretty hefty premium on the mana cost, that means you're probably not going to reap the rewards out of that additional mana cost. It is weak against combo.
Secondly, unlike the other covered mechanics, indestructible is weak against specific classes of cards. Exile, bounce, sacrifice, -X/-X, and Auras can all shut down indestructible. If Murder is the format's removal spell of choice, indestructible is great! If Hour of Glory and Unsummon are showing up everywhere, then it's not nearly so wonderful. This means how powerful these cards are can really change depending on the format, and that's true for both Limited and Constructed.
Let's dive deeper into some of the situations that makes indestructible tick.
You know what the problem is with attacking with creatures? Sometimes they die.
Indestructible to the rescue!
Imagine you and your opponent each have a 4/4 flying creature, but yours is indestructible. If you are the aggressive player, your opponent really can't fruitfully block you: they are just throwing their creature away! I'd be happy to have them block in this situation.
Indestructible turns any similarly-matched aggressive fight into a one-sided bout.
Indestructible can also help you make attacks with a lot more options and safety nets. For example, let's say you have Seraph of the Suns and two 2/2s on the ground. Your opponent has a 5/5 flyer. If you attack with all of them, your opponent has to choose between blocking your 4/4 and not killing anything, or eating a 2/2 and soaking up 2 more damage.
Most often the boon that indestructible provides to aggressive decks, though, is not just through attacking into their creatures but being immune to removal spells. If control or midrange decks can't deal with your indestructible creatures, that's a great way to close out the game, even after your opponent has stabilized. That's part of why you see a card like Hazoret the Fervent be such an effective curve-topper in current Standard.
If you land a Hazoret, your opponent has to find a solution that deals with indestructible creatures or quickly run into trouble.
Of course, indestructible doesn't just show up on creatures—it shows up on spells as well! And those are a different element entirely.
These are not only great combat tricks to ensure your creatures survive the combat step, but also help fend off removal spells. Indestructible has the added bonus of allowing your creatures to survive through a targeted removal spell.
And from a Constructed deck-building standpoint, the occasional mass-granting of indestructible can be very potent against board-clearing effects.
While you have to be careful to not end up with all spells that protect your creatures and no actual creatures, indestructible is quite potent whether actually printed on the creature or granted some other way.
One of indestructible's main strengths is against control decks—but it can also be a huge asset to control decks!
As a control deck, you want to dissuade people from attacking you and protect your life total as much as possible. As such, having a creature that can block over and over again and successfully dissuade all attacks can make a tremendous difference. Take Kefnet, for example.
Long-game card-drawing advantage aside, Kefnet comes down early and, if set up properly, can deter people from attacking you for a good chunk of the game. Aggressive decks can't afford to just slam their creatures into your 5/5, and even midrange decks usually don't have creatures that top 5 toughness. Plus, even if your opponent does get something larger, Kefnet can just block it turn after turn.
Additionally, from a control perspective, it helps ensure you have a way to win the game. Control decks want to play very few actual win conditions in their deck—and having them be indestructible means you have to worry far less about them dying to a stray Abrade and making your ability to turn the corner and push toward winning that much harder.
Mutually Assured Indestruction
One final element that is crucial to mention with indestructible: you can really build around it!
There are a lot of cards that look symmetrical, as in affecting all creatures in some way. Well, they leave indestructible alone!
And that's just doing it lightly. You can set up some even more crazy situations. To take for example an even wilder level up, let's go back to something from closer to the Darksteel era: Obliterate!
If you Obliterate with an indestructible creature (or permanent!) on the battlefield, you are going to break the card that is supposed to reduce the entire board to nothing by keeping your creature around. You should be able to take things down from there!
Granting your permanents indestructible can also open all kinds of opportunities. To continue the board sweeping theme, imagine using a card like Heroic Intervention to give your Nevinyrral's Disk indestructible so you can use it again next turn!
There are all kinds of potential synergies with indestructible, especially with spells that add it on around. And as someone who has cast Boom // Bust on a Darksteel Citadel plenty of times, there are a lot of options to choose from. Go forth and find your favorite combos to work with!
We only make a handful of cards with indestructible because it can be so game-altering, but when you find yourself playing with them, they can make a huge difference. On creatures that permanently have the ability, usually there's a pretty sizable mana increase—but don't let that trick you. These creatures can make a really big difference in game play, which is often worth the extra cost.
And with that, we're at the end of this look at indestructible!
Hopefully this article helped expand your mind to the thoughts and possibilities indestructible can offer. It's one of Magic's most powerful mechanics. Use it well!
I'll be back next week with more Beyond the Basics. Talk with you again then!