Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Toughness Decks in Magic
Magic decks relying on toughness tweak damage mechanics with certain creatures or enchantments, then bulldoze through foes with buffed units. Most run green alongside white, blue, and/or black, and some alter your opponent's damage calculations in addition to your own.
With these themes, toughness decides how much damage a creature can take and how much it deals, making its power largely irrelevant. But how can you best employ this strategy? These are 10 awesome cards for toughness-based decks in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Runic Armasaur
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 3
Armasaur has five toughness, so if you've got your damage-tweaking spells in play, you've essentially got a 5/5 beatstick. And since his base power is two, he's strong enough to punish weak attackers even if you're not fully prepared.
To top it all off, Armsaur carries dinosaur synergies and the ability to draw a card whenever an opponent activates an effect of a land or creature that isn't a mana ability (meaning traits that don't generate mana).
9. Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive
Tetsuko's 1/3 stats deal three damage once you harness toughness, and since she doesn't have defender, she requires less support from other cards. Better yet, she makes your creatures with power or toughness 1 or less unblockable!
Even when you're calculating damage using toughness, most of your wall-like creatures (including Tetsuko herself) will still have one or less power and thus qualify for the effect, granting you an army of unblockable aces.
8. Tower Defense
This instant grants your entire army +0/+5 for the turn and reach, letting units block flyers. This offers a solid defensive ability, but with your damage-altering shenanigans, you can instead use Tower offensively for a massive damage boost to cement your win. Since it's an instant, be sure to wait until attackers and blockers are already locked before casting it.
7. Wall of Blossoms/Wall of Omens
Blossoms and Omens are both two-cost walls that let you draw when they arrive, keeping your hand stocked. With toughness-damage in play, they'll hit as 4/4s, and their colors mesh well with toughness strategies.
You'll need to find a way to let them attack since they have the defender trait, but it shouldn't be too hard with cards like...
6. High Alert
Most toughness decks want green, but High Alert grants the option of a pure blue/white theme. But whether you're running green or not, Alert has your creatures assign damage using toughness and lets your defenders attack.
That's two great bonuses in one, and Alert can also spend four mana to untap a creature, a nice outlet for leftover mana.
5. Assault Formation
For just two mana and one color, Assault Formation lets your creatures deal damage using toughness instead of power. Additionally, you can spend a green mana to let a defender attack that turn, and you can spend three to grant your creatures +0/+1 until the end phase. Of course, thanks to Formation's first effect, this effectively raises both damage and toughness at once.
4. Steel Wall
Steel Wall's a great card even outside this theme; in it, he goes from competitive to monstrous. For a single mana, Steel offers a 0/4 defender, quickly morphing into a fierce 4/4 when exploiting toughness. He'll also accept any mana type, a handy benefit when you're juggling three or more factions.
A frequent member of my own decks, Steel Wall is also surprisingly cheap, costing less than a single dollar!
3. Arcades, the Strategist
An excellent option for a toughness-based commander, Arcades works well alongside defenders. He carries impressive 3/5 stats plus flying and vigilance, and whenever a creature with defender enters the field under your control, he draws you a card.
Additionally, Arcades lets your defenders calculate damage using toughness and attack at will. Since he himself doesn't have defender, he'll still calculate damage using his power, but you're still getting a heap of sweet bonuses with this legendary dragon.
2. Tree of Perdition/Tree of Redemption
These plant defenders each bear enormous 0/13 stats! Yep, with your alterations in place, they'll hit for 13 with every blow. And that's not all; Perdition can tap to exchange its toughness value with an opponent's life total, while Redemption can do the same with your own.
Comparatively, I prefer Perdition's effect (especially in commander, where you can potentially exchange 13 toughness for 40), but Redemption's green color better suits toughness decks. No matter which you favor, they'll both swing with incredible might—once you nullify defender, that is.
1. Doran, the Siege Tower
Doran provides another great commander choice, especially if you prefer black over blue. He has all creatures (even opposing ones) assign damage using toughness, essentially making himself a 5/5 and hopefully weakening enemy troops.
Doran doesn't have defender, so he's free to swing for massive damage. He also has the useful treefolk subtype, giving you the option of a duo treefolk/toughness deck.
More Toughness Cards in Magic
Today we've explored many toughness-based cards, from sturdy creatures to enchantments that alter your damage, but they're just the tip of the iceberg; don't overlook units like "Grizzled Leotau" and "Looming Altisaur".
I enjoy toughness themes because they let you pick between several colors and their cards are generally fairly cheap, making them great decks for budget players. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of toughness-based spells, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill