Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Umbras and Totem Armor in Magic
In Magic, aura enchantments attach to creatures to grant a variety of bonus abilities. Some provide the totem armor trait, basically a single-use save; if the equipped creature would die, its totem armor aura is removed instead.
Many but not all totem spells stem from the blue, white, and green "Umbra" auras; which reign supreme? These are the ten best creature-protecting totem armor cards in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Snake Umbra
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 3
For its moderate price, Snake Umbra gives a minor power/toughness boost of +1/+1 as well as totem armor, saving the attached creature from a single death (and detaching Umbra in the process).
Plus, when the equipped unit deals damage to an opponent, you can draw a card. Use this with green's numerous tramplers to score easy hits, and note it also triggers from non-combat damage.
9. Indrik Umbra
Indrik Umbra requires two colors and several mana, so time it carefully. But its recipient gains +4/+4, first strike, totem armor, and forces all able creatures to block it. That's a great way to goad weak support units into unwanted combat, and the stat boosts alongside first strike helps Indrik's bearer avoid counterattack.
8. Umbra Mystic
Mystic is a creature, not aura, and her stats are a mediocre 2/2. However, she grants every aura you control totem armor, letting them sacrifice themselves to save their bearer from death. Remember, you'd lose the auras anyway if their carrier died, and the trait works on all your auras (not just ones enchanting creatures).
Now, multiple totem armors from the same aura are redundant—controlling Mystic won't give an Umbra two uses—but multiple totem armors from different auras aren't. In other words, if a creature with two auras that both have totem armor would die, you only detach one to prevent its death.
7. Spider Umbra
For a single mana, Spider Umbra grants +1/+1, totem armor, and reach, letting its bearer block flying units. For such little mana, that's a heap of modest but appreciated bonuses, and it's a nice way to compensate for green's lack of flying creatures.
6. Octopus Umbra
While Octopus Umbra requires several mana, it sets its bearer's base stats to 8/8, turning any weakling into a powerhouse. Of course, it also gets totem armor, and when it attacks, you can tap any creature with eight or less power, making it difficult for opponents to block.
5. Treefolk Umbra
Treefolk Umbra only grants a boost of +0/+2, but considering it has it creature deal damage using its toughness instead of power, it really serves as a +2/+2 boost. Throw in totem armor for a versatile aura perfect for toughness-focused wall decks.
4. Estrid, the Masked
Estrid's three starting loyalty is rather low for a four-cost planeswalker who needs three colors. However, her +2 quickly gains more and untaps all enchanted permanents you control: land, creature, or otherwise.
This stacks well with her -1, which places an aura on any other permanent you control, simply granting it totem armor. And her ultimate -7 mills the top seven cards of your deck, returns all non-aura enchantments among them to the field, then does the same for auras (doing them separately gives the auras more potential objects to enchant).
Interested players can find Estrid spearheading Adaptive Enchantment, one of the best prebuilt commander decks that builds around her enchantment-supporting effects.
3. Eel Umbra
Eel Umbra gives a small boost of +1/+1 and totem armor, which might seem underwhelming at first. However, it also has flash, letting you cast it at instant speed—use this to gain the advantage during combat once attackers and blockers have been declared.
2. Hyena Umbra
For a single white mana, Hyena Umbra grants a creature +1/+1, first strike, and totem armor, three helpful boosts in one. I enjoy using it in black/white decks for the lethal first strike + deathtouch combo; fortunately, it's surprisingly cheap, costing well under a single dollar!
1. Bear Umbra
The best Umbra of all, Bear grants a solid +2/+2 boost and totem armor. Better yet, when its equipped creature attacks, you get to untap all lands you control, essentially doubling your mana supply every turn!
That's a fantastic addition to any green deck, especially with commanders like "Omnath, Locus of Mana" who can stockpile leftover resources.
Using Totem Armor in Magic
Totem Armor provides creatures a valuable defense, but remember that units lose their aura (and any benefits) once the armor-save triggers, so think before attacking. Also, remember that totem armor only stops death; it can't prevent troops from returning to hand or being exiled.
Still, while not impenetrable, totem armor guards against the most common removal type and helps keep your most valuable units alive. But for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of creature-protecting auras, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill