Double strike is an evergreen ability keyword in Magic: The Gathering. A card with double strike deals combat damage twice. This article looks at what double strike means in the MTG rules and how it works with examples, the best double strike cards, double strike decks, how to play against double strike and common double strike questions.
MTG Double Strike Rules
What do the MTG Double Strike rules say?
This creature deals both first-strike and regular combat damage.Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules, 702.4. “Double strike”.
A creature with double strike will deal combat damage twice. First, it will deal it before all other creatures, as if it had first strike. Then it will deal its damage again along with all other creatures.
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Double strike is an evergreen keyword, so you can expect it to appear in every set. First featured on [c]Rockshard Elemental[/c] and [c]Ridgetop Raptor[/c], double strike was introduced in the Legions set. It has been an evergreen keyword basically ever since, due to how cool its design is.
Double Strike adds an extra combat step
Here’s how the combat phases look without and with double strike.
A combat phase in a typical turn of MTG looks like this:
- Beginning of combat
- Declare attackers
- Declare blockers
- Assign combat damage
- End of combat
Creatures with double strike or first strike (mentioned later in this article) effectively create two ‘assign combat damage’ steps. So the combat phase with double strike looks like this.
- Beginning of combat
- Declare attackers
- Declare blockers
- Assign combat damage (additional combat step for double strike and first strike creatures)
- Assign combat damage
- End of combat
A card with double strike will assign combat damage in the first combat damage step. Then, it will deal damage again in the regular combat step along with all other creatures as normal.
So if you attack or block with a creature that has double strike, that card will deal damage first and will not take into consideration any damage being dealt by the opposing creature.
If two creatures have the same power and toughness, the creature with double strike will destroy the other before it has a change to hit back. If it didn’t have double strike, the traditional rules would apply and both creatures would die.
Double Strike Example
For example, let’s say I attack with [c]Fireborn Knight[/c], a 2/3 double strike creature. My opponent blocks it with the 2/3 [c]Caged Zombie[/c]. Now, usually, Fireborn Knight wouldn’t have high enough toughness to kill its blocker. However, with double strike, that changes.
First, Fireborn Knight deals 2 first strike damage to Caged Zombie. Then during combat, it deals 2 damage to Caged Zombie again, which only now deals its own damage. This amount of damage kills the blocker.
Double strike works the same way when attacking a player directly. The creature will deal first strike damage to the player equal to its toughness, and then it’ll deal that same amount of damage again alongside all the other creatures.
So, if I attack again with [c]Fireborn Knight[/c] and it isn’t blocked, it will deal a total of 4 damage to the defending player. 2 of this damage is first strike damage and the other 2 is dealt in combat normally.
Double Strike and Blocking
Double strike creatures block and are blocked normally. Just because a creature has double strike doesn’t mean that it can block two creatures or needs two creatures to block it.
Double Strike Blocker vs Attackers
If a double strike blocker kills the creature it’s blocking with first strike damage, it can’t then block another creature again that same combat. Blockers are assigned at the start of combat. They can’t change halfway through.
For instance, let’s say my opponent attacks me with two creatures, [c]Celestial Enforcer[/c] and [c]Blood Glutton[/c]. I only control the double strike creature [c]Fireborn Knight[/c]. I can block either of the attackers, but not block both them.
Double Strike vs Multiple blockers
If I attack with [c]Fireborn Knight[/c], my opponent doesn’t need to use both [c]Celestial Enforcer[/c] and [c]Blood Glutton[/c] to block it. They could if they want to, but they could just block my double strike attacker with either creature or, maybe, none at all. Either way, my Fireborn Knight can only attack one creature.
Double Strike vs First Strike
Double strike is effectively first strike’s cooler, older brother. It’s twice as good. This doesn’t mean that the two keywords are identical, though. Cards that effect or check for first strike don’t care about double strike and vice versa.
Furthermore, first strike and double strike do not stack. Even if you give a creature both keyword abilities, it won’t deal its first strike damage twice and then deal normal damage again. A creature with both abilities will just deal damage as though it only had double strike.
See my First Strike Explained article for more about first strike.
Let’s look at this in practice. My opponent attacks me with the 2/3 first strike creature [c]Anaba Bodyguard[/c]. I block it with the 2/3 [c]Fireborn Knight[/c], which has double strike. An equal match so far?
Not really. Each creature deals 2 damage to the other at the same time, before all other creatures. However, afterwards, Fireborn Knight deals 2 damage again to Anaba Bodyguard because the former has double strike, while the latter only has first strike. Anaba Bodyguard is destroyed while Fireborn Knight (which has only taken 2 damage overall) survives.
But if a double strike creature is killed by a creature with first strike in the first combat step, it won’t deal regular combat damage too in the regular combat step because it’s dead. So, if I attack with [c]Fireborn Knight[/c] and it is blocked by the 5/5 first strike [c]Baneslayer Angel[/c], my creature will only deal 2 damage total, not 4.
Double Strike vs Double Strike
If both the attacking and blocking creature have double strike, they face off in both combat steps. For example, if the 2/3 [c]Fireborn Knight[/c] was blocked by another 2/3 Fireborn Knight, then in the first combat step they would deal 2 damage to each other. Then in the regular combat step, they would deal another 2 damage to each other and both would die.
Double strike vs Deathtouch
A creature with deathtouch allows a creature to instantly destroy any creature it deals damage to.
Let’s say now my opponent attacks me with the 1/4 deathtouch creature [c]Hooded Blightfang[/c] and I block it with the 1/4 [c]Efreet Flamepainter[/c], which has double strike. Usually, with those stats, both creatures would survive.
However, because Hooded Blightfang has deathtouch and its toughness is high enough to survive my Efreet Flamepainter’s first strike damage, this isn’t so. Instead, Hooded Blightfang destroys my blocker by dealing it just 1 damage.
Double Strike + Deathtouch
Double strike plus deathtouch allows a creature to instantly destroy any creature it deals damage to in the first combat step – before the blocking creature has a chance to deal any regular damage itself.
Imagine I cast [c]Alchemist’s Gift[/c] on the 1/2 double strike creature [c]Raging Redcap[/c] to give it deathtouch. Then, of course, I attack with it. My opponent blocks it with [c]Akoum Warrior[/c], a 4/5 creature that could usually kill Raging Redcap quickly. However, due to deathtouch, Raging Redcap kills its blocker before it even can deal regular damage.
If a deathtouch creature survives the initial first strike damage though, they can still one-shot the double strike creature. As such, watch out before engaging any deathtouch creatures if you know you can’t immediately destroy them.
Double Strike vs Indestructible
A creature with indestructible can’t be destroyed in the normal way with combat damage or by abilities that say ‘destroy’ on them. That means they aren’t killed in regular combat.
Say I attack with my [c]Efreet Flamepainter[/c]. It deals 1 combat damage in the first combat step which reduces the blocking [c]Brash Taunter[/c]’s toughness down to 0. However because it is Indestructible, the Brash Taunter is not destroyed.
In the second combat step, our Efreet Flamepainter hits the Brash Taunter again but it’s toughness remains at 0 and it continues to block. After this combat, the Brash Taunter and Efreet Flamepainter both survive, but I take 2 damage as controller thanks to Brash Taunter’s ability. This was not a smart move by me!
Double Strike vs Regenerate
Regenerate means that instead of a creature being destroyed, it becomes tapped, all damage is removed from it and it is removed from combat.
In this example, I use [c]Augur of Skulls[/c], a 1/1 with regenerate to block [c]Raging Redcap[/c], a 1/2 with double strike. In the first combat step, Raging Redcap deals 1 damage which is enough to destroy Augur of Skulls. However, I regenerate my skeleton wizard so I tap it, remove all damage and remove it from combat.
Even though Raging Redcap’s blocker has been removed for the second combat step, Raging Redcap is still considered blocked. Whenever a creature is blocked it remains blocked regardless of what happens to the blocking creature unless an ability says otherwise.
Because Raging Redcap doesn’t have trample, its damage in the second combat step cannot get through.
Double Strike vs Trample
Double strike easily overkills creatures. However, the excess damage doesn’t automatically carry over to the defending player. As such, your double strike creatures can be left with basically a whole spare attack but nowhere to direct it.
Trample allows you to get the best value out of double strike. By allowing the excess damage to be directed to the defending player, trample and double strike make a powerful combination.
For example, suppose I attack with [c]Zetalpa, Primal Dawn[/c]. This dinosaur is an impressive 4/8, with both trample and double strike. My opponent blocks it with their [c]Baneslayer Angel[/c]. Combat ensues.
Zetalpa deals 4 damage to Baneslayer Angel and takes 5 in return. Then Zetalpa deals another 4 damage to it as regular combat damage. Because this blocker only has 5 toughness and the attacker has trample, the excess 3 damage is dealt to the defending player. Nice.
Best MTG Double Strike Cards
[c]True Conviction[/c] (Double Strike – White Enchantment)
For only six mana, [c]True Conviction[/c] gives all your creatures double strike and lifelink. The effect of this cannot be overstated. This literally wins games. Not only do your creatures gain double damage, they also gain you astonishing amounts of life!
[c]Savage Beating[/c] (Double Strike – Red Instant)
With [c]Savage Beating[/c]’s first option you are effectively guaranteed to win this round of combat by giving all your creatures double strike. Its second option guarantees you a second attack phase for another round of beatdown. Pay the entwine cost to pick both options, and you’ve won the game!
[c]Shadrix Silverquill[/c] (Double Strike – White/Black Creature)
This legendary dragon is incredibly versatile. Not only does [c]Shadrix Silverquill[/c] have flying and double strike to tear down your opponent’s life total, it also lets you draw cards, create flying tokens, and buff your entire side with +1/+1 counters. For the bargain price of only 5 mana!
[c]Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion[/c] (Double Strike – Land)
Double strike, whenever you need it! In addition to coming in untapped the turn you play it, [c]Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion[/c] can give any creature double strike for a turn at the cost of four mana. Not only is this an excellent combat trick, but it has good political potential in multiplayer as well.
[c]Drogskol Reaver[/c] (Double Strike – White/Blue Creature)
[c]Drogskol Reaver[/c] is an absolute beast! With 3 power, flying, double strike, and lifelink, this creature can cause massive life swings every turn. Plus, whenever you gain life, you draw a card. Enjoy at least three cards per turn now, more if you have other life gain.
[c]Domri Rade[/c] (Double Strike – Red/Green Planeswalker)
[c]Domri Rade[/c] draws you creature cards and gives you some handy removal by letting your creatures fight your opponent’s creatures too. His emblem, though, is where it shines. As well as double strike, all your creatures permanently now have trample, hexproof, and haste. Pretty sweet!
MTG Double Strike Decks
Because double strike is an evergreen keyword, it’s available in every set. Double strike is most often found in red and white. As such, the red/white Lorehold theme booster from Strixhaven is a good choice if you’re trying to get a few double strike cards.
Boros Double Strike – Pioneer/Historic
Double strike is one of the strongest abilities in the game, and it is strong even in its deck’s budget form. This deck runs small and cheap double strike creatures and then boosts their power with many combat tricks.
Its access to white also allows it a host of protection abilities to help the double strike creatures get past blockers and removal, while red provides additional burn. As such, capable of three-turn wins, Boros Double Strike is not to be underestimated.
Cards frequently seen in Boros Double Strike include:
- [c]Kor Blademaster[/c]
- [c]Adorned Pouncer[/c]
- [c]Fabled Hero[/c]
- [c]Fencing Ace[/c]
- [c]Swiftblade Vindicator[/c]
- [c]Needle Spires[/c]
- [c]Boros Charm[/c]
- [c]Rubblebelt Maaka[/c]
- [c]Titan’s Strength[/c]
- [c]Consuming Fervor[/c]
- [c]Invigorated Rampage[/c]
- [c]Gods Willing[/c]
- [c]Brave the Elements[/c]
How to Play Against Double Strike in MTG
Get Around the Double Strike Creature in Combat
Double strike is one of the most dangerous abilities in all of Magic but it isn’t perfect. Creatures with double strike don’t typically have trample or evasion abilities. Thus, you can chump block them with weak creatures to protect your life total from being hit twice in the same attack.
Similarly, if a double strike creature is blocking, it can only block one creature per combat. Therefore, if possible, give your highest power creatures evasion abilities so that they can avoid being killed by a double strike blocker.
Combat tricks are your friend here. If you can pump up a creature’s toughness high enough, it can survive the initial first strike damage and hit back. Because most double strike creatures have low toughness, this will usually kill them outright.
Use Removal on the Double Strike Creature
Of course, double strike creatures die to removal too. So, why worry about how to block it or how much damage it’s going to do when you can simply destroy it instead? Use your burn, counterspells, and killspells to deal with that irritating double strike creature.
MTG is a game all about counterplay, and I’m not just talking about counterspells, but watch out for those too. A clever opponent might try and bait out your removal with a threatening double strike creature to make a more significant play later. Ensure you prioritize.
Destroy Whatever is Giving the Creature Double Strike
Sometimes, a creature doesn’t inherently have double strike but is instead being given it by another card. Destroy or counter that card instead, if possible. This way, you only have a regular creature to deal with! Hurrah!
MTG Double Strike FAQs
Which Artifacts Give Creatures Double strike?
Artifacts are a great way to give your creatures double strike. [c]Embercleave[/c] is a phenomenal Standard-legal Equipment that does this. For added value, you can even play it as a combat trick!
Similarly, [c]Grappling Hook[/c] and [c]Fireshrieker[/c] are also Equipment that can give your creatures double strike. [c]Battle Mastery[/c] is an example of an Aura that gives double strike as well.
What Do Double Strike Counters Do?
Certain cards in the Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths set place double strike counters on creatures. As long as a creature has a double strike counter on it, it has double strike. If the counter is removed, the ability goes away. This is true for all other keyword counters, too.
Does Double Strike Stack?
Unfortunately, double strike does not stack. This means that a double strike creature will only deal first strike damage and then regular combat damage once each, no matter how many instances of the keyword it has.
Can I Turn Off Double Strike?
You cannot choose to turn off double strike on a creature so that it only deals regular combat damage. Double strike is a static keyword, so it always applies as long as your creature has it.
How Does Double Strike Work on Planeswalkers?
A creature with double strike will deal damage twice to planeswalkers as normal. Remember that damage dealt to planeswalkers removes loyalty counters from them.
Since most planewalkers enter with low starting loyalty, a direct pair of hits from a double strike creature will take them out. As such, double strike creatures are good counters to planeswalkers if they can get an attack in. Similarly, many planeswalkers can give double strike too.
A note: Double Strike MTG
In conclusion, double strike is one of MTG’s best mechanics. It is a static keyword ability that allows a creature to deal damage twice, once as first strike damage and then again as regular combat damage. Double strike cards are most common in white and red, although certain artifacts can give other color creatures double strike too.
Typically, double strike is best when it allows your creatures to hit first, hit twice as hard, and survive combat while making sure your opponent and their creatures don’t. As such, double strike creatures are often severe threats.
Fortunately, combat tricks deal with them reasonably well, as does most removal. Regardless, double strike is evergreen for a reason. So put some double strike in your deck today!
More Magic: The Gathering Keyword Articles
- How to Build an MTG Deck
- How to Build a Commander Deck in MTG
- MTG Evergreen Keywords List
- MTG Counter
- MTG Counters (markers)
- MTG Deathtouch
- MTG Defender
- MTG Enchant
- MTG Equip
- MTG Fear
- MTG Fight
- MTG First Strike
- MTG Flash
- MTG Flying
- MTG Haste
- MTG Hexproof
- MTG Indestructible
- MTG Intimidate
- MTG Lifelink
- MTG Menace
- MTG Protection
- MTG Prowess
- MTG Reach
- MTG Regenerate
- MTG Sacrifice
- MTG Shroud
- MTG Tap and Untap
- MTG Trample
- MTG Vigilance
- MTG Ward