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How to Remove Emblems in Magic: The Gathering

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

What Are Emblems in Magic?

Emblems are unique objects in Magic created by various planeswalker effects, usually the result of their "ultimate" loyalty-subtracting ability. Most give you ongoing benefits; for instance, the emblem from "Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants" creates three 1/1 cat tokens with lifelink during each of your end steps.

Or, some spells hand detrimental emblems to opponents, like the one from "Chandra, Awakened Inferno." Useful as they are, emblems often misunderstood—is there any way to get rid of them? Today we'll learn how to successfully remove emblems (and examine misconceptions that don't work) in Magic: The Gathering!

River's Rebuke mtg

River's Rebuke mtg

Are Emblems Permanents?

Since emblems grant ongoing effects, many players mistake them for permanents—which they're not. Permanents are cards like creatures, artifacts, and enchantments that remain on the field until removed by an effect.

Despite sharing a few similarities, emblems aren't permanents, meaning even if you cast a spell like "River's Rebuke" (which returns all non-land permanents to a player's hand), your opponent will keep any emblems they have. In fact, emblems actually exist in the command zone, which makes it easier to see how they're immune to field-based abilities.

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets Emblem

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets Emblem

Understanding Emblems

Here's a quick list of emblem characteristics to help you fully understand them:

  • Exist in the command zone
  • Don't count as permanents, cards, or spells
  • Are colorless
  • Can stack (you can have multiple emblems with the same effect)

Also, note that emblem "cards" (like the Jace token above) are optional in competitive play. In other words, like token cards, they're nice to have available, but you can represent them with other objects (like dice or even written notes) if you don't have the corresponding emblem.

This saves money since it means you don't have to buy the corresponding emblem for each planeswalker, although they're generally pretty cheap anyway.

Emblems in Multiplayer

Let's say you're playing a three-player game and one of your opponents tosses the unfavorable emblem of "Ob Nixilis Reignited" at you. But then they lose, leaving you to battle your remaining opponent. Does the emblem your first opponent gave you remain in the game?

Actually, yes. Whenever a player loses (or forfeits), any cards they owned leave the field, but whoever actually gets an emblem (whether it's helpful or harmful) is considered its owner, so it stays. This helps demonstrate how tricky emblems are to remove, but there's one card that can do it...

Karn Liberated mtg

Karn Liberated mtg

How to Get Rid of Emblems

As of this writing, no spells exist that can destroy emblems, and MTG's team has stated they don't plan to create any. But there's one card that can effectively eliminate them, ironically a planeswalker himself: "Karn Liberated."

Karn requires a big investment of seven mana, and his ultimate effect subtracts a whopping 14 loyalty. However, it restarts the game, giving you control of permanents exiled with Karn's other effects. This resets life totals, hands, the field, and even emblems, making Karn's ability the only effective anti-emblem countermeasure to date.

Thankfully, Karn is colorless, so you if you're lucky enough to have him (he's far from cheap), you can fit him in any commander deck.

Emblem-Like Effects in Magic

Hopefully today helped you learn how to utilize emblems; when facing them, there's little you can do besides using Karn or winning before their continuous effects defeat you.

While emblems are currently exclusive to planeswalkers, you can obtain emblem-like effects that last for the rest of the game from sorceries like "Praetor's Counsel." But for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of planeswalker ultimates, share your thoughts on emblem removals and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

© 2019 Jeremy Gill