Flying is an evergreen keyword in Magic: The Gathering. A creature with flying can only be blocked by creatures with flying or reach. This article looks at what flying means in the MTG rules, how flying works with examples, the best flying cards, how to play against flying, answers common questions about flying plus gives winning deck ideas!
MTG Flying Rules
What do the Magic: The Gathering rules say about flying?
A creature with flying cannot be blocked except by creatures with flying and/or reach. A creature with flying can block a creature with or without flying.Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules 702.9. “Flying”.
A creature with flying is unblockable unless the defending player also controls a creature with flying or with the reach keyword.
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As a blocker, a flying creature can block other flying creatures as well as creatures that don’t have flying.
Flying is an evergreen keyword, so you can expect it to appear in every set. It’s a staple of MTG and has been used in almost every set since Alpha (the first-ever Magic: The Gathering card printing). In fact, it flying was the first keyword Richard Garfield ever designed for the game.
Flying is an evasion keyword, so it is focused on making creatures hard to block.
MTG Flying Examples
For example, I attack with the appropriately named Flying Men. At the same time, my opponent controls Faerie Guidemother, Tajuru Snarecaster, and Alpine Watchdog. What can my opponent do?
- Faerie Guidemother could block Flying Men because it also has flying.
- Tajuru Snarecaster could also block Flying Men because it has reach.
- Alpine Watchdog has neither flying nor reach and so cannot block a creature with flying.
In our second example, my opponent attacks with Demon of Loathing. I control only the Slaughter-Priest of Mogis, which does not have flying so I cannot block the Demon of Loathing. Therefore, the 7 damage is dealt to me directly.
Imagine I attack with Skaab Ruinator, not only because it’s a gigantic cool-looking zombie but also because it has flying so it’s hard to block. However, my opponent now controls Faerie Guidemother, another flying creature. They block Skaab Ruinator with it successfully and take no damage.
Flying vs Reach
Reach is a keyword ability that allows a creature to block as though it has flying. It does not actually give a creature flying, though.
For example, say I attack with Skaab Ruinator while my opponent controls Tajuru Snarecaster. Their creature can block my flier because it has reach.
The opposite is not valid, however. Reach isn’t an evasion ability and creatures with it can be blocked normally. Suppose my opponent attacks with Tajuru Snarecaster. I don’t need to use a creature with flying or reach to block it. I can block with whatever I want.
Flying vs First Strike and Double Strike
Unless the creature with first strike has flying or reach, it cannot block an attacking flier. The same is true for double strike.
If I attack with our friend Flying Men and my opponent only has Raging Redcap, and Youthful Knight on the battlefield, neither of their creatures can block it.
However, there’s nothing stopping a creature with both flying and first strike. For instance, if I attack with Flying Men while my opponent controls Battlefield Raptor, I’m in trouble. Battlefield Raptor has both keyword abilities and can block and destroy Flying Men safely.
Flying vs Defender
Creatures with defender cannot attack. Defender creatures do not have any particular interactions with flying creatures.
So, if I attack with Skaab Ruinator, my opponent cannot block it with the defender creature Wall of Runes, for example.
However, many Walls and other creatures with defender do have either reach or flying themselves, so they can block attacking fliers. For example, let’s say I attack again with Skaab Ruinator. Now my opponent could block it with the reach creature Brimstone Trebuchet or the flying Wall of Swords.
Best MTG Flying Cards
Avacyn, Angel of Hope – White Flying Creature
One of the best flying cards, without a doubt, is Avacyn, Angel of Hope. This genuinely phenomenal creature gives all permanents you control indestructible, including itself. Add in flying, vigilance, and a massive 8/8 body, and you have the kind of card that decides games.
Avacyn, Angel of Hope is a beloved commander card due to its game-breaking abilities and ability to single-handedly take out another player in only three attacks. The flying ability helps as well here, giving Avacyn some much-needed evasion to do so. The Commander format also makes Avacyn easier to cast due to longer games and easy ramp.
Inkmoth Nexus – Land
Inkmoth Nexus might not look like much. But remember that a player loses the game with only 10 poison counters. With both infect and flying, this simple manland can turn into a severe threat if left unattended.
Inkmoth Nexus has a lot of inbuilt protection due to only being a creature when you need it to be. Lands, conversely, are far harder to destroy. Not only that, it gives mana too, and it is a great way to spent excess mana late-game.
Bitterblossom – Black Enchantment
This gets out of hand very quickly. It’ll either take all your life or win the game for you! And Bitterblossom wins a lot of games. It’s a fantastic deal! For only two mana and one life, you get a 1/1 black Faerie Rogue creature token with flying on every single turn!
Bitterblossom’s strength lies in its versatility. If you play it early, you will have a consistent mass of evasive creatures to use! If you play it late, it is still helpful, and there’s a lower life penalty. So turn it on, forget, enjoy the free fliers!
Flying Crane Technique – White/Blue/Red Instant
This time, our card even has flying in the name. Flying Crane Technique is the kind of card that turns a game around in one turn and often wins it in that turn too. Not only does it give your creatures evasion, but it also lets them hit twice as hard!
Flying Crane Technique is a fantastic play in a creature-heavy deck that can produce its colors. It works exceptionally well in Commander due to the large number of creatures you’ll often have at once. It also saw play in Standard too as a way to close out an otherwise unmoving board state.
Descent of the Dragons – Red Sorcery
Although it has wraths and targeted killspells, red isn’t the colour that’s known for them by any means. However, this is what makes Descent of the Dragons so impressive. Not only is it effective target destruction for only four mana, but it also makes dragons! In multiplayer, this even has team synergy and great political potential.
Additionally, Descent of the Dragons can also be used to buff for your side of the battlefield. It can turn a modest token collection into a serious threat in only a single turn. And what’s a better threat than a mass of 4/4 flying dragons?
Ethersworn Adjudicator – Blue Artifact Creature
Ethersworn Adjudicator is an excellent flying card, too. Not only is it accessible to search, being both an artifact and a creature, but it is also removal on a stick. Well, a stick with wings that can untap itself at instant speed!
Furthermore, Ethersworn Adjudicator is also a great way to destroy enchantments. Both blue and black struggle to deal with them otherwise. Its ability to destroy multiple cards per turn if you have enough mana is also brutal, and it demands an immediate answer.
MTG Flying Decks
Because flying is an evergreen keyword, it’s available in every set.
Flying is often in white and blue, although red and black will usually have some flying cards in each set as well. As such, look out for theme boosters with white or blue for flying cards.
As you’d expect, creatures with wings like dragons, birds and angels tend to have flying too.
Decks built around the flying mechanic (Flying tribal) is Commander viable, too. Often known as Flying Matters, these decks typically have Isperia, the Inscrutable or Alela, Artful Provocateur as commander for a control-style deck with flying beatdown as a win condition.
Other good cards to include in a Flying Matters Commander deck are:
- Radiant, Archangel
- Radiant, Serra Archangel
- Pride of the Clouds
- Archon of Redemption
- Gravitational Shift
How to Play Against Flying
Block with Your Own Fliers or Reach Creatures
The easiest way to deal with flying creatures is to block them, either with your own fliers or with creatures with reach. This is exactly why reach was invented.
Remember – flying creatures are rarer than normal creatures. It is often a bad idea to waste your flying or reach creatures on blocks that won’t destroy the other creature. This is especially the case with fliers, which you can often use to target the opponent directly.
Fliers are Destroyed to Removal
Fliers are destroyed 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 pesky flier.
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 flier to make a more significant play later on. Ensure you prioritize.
Take the Damage Yourself
The last option is to just take the damage head-on. Rather than sacrificing blockers for minimal effect, you can simply refuse to block. This is often a good strategy if you want to play aggressively or have life to spare. Remember, you have 20 life or 40 in Commander, and you can keep going until it is at 0.
Even if you’ve lost the first game, there’s still hope for the rest of the match. Flying is most prominent in white and blue, so add cards against these colors if you have them. Similarly, sideboard in more removal and hand discards to deal with the flying creatures, too.
If you’re playing green against flying creatures, you’re in luck. Although green has the fewest fliers of any color, it has the best solutions to them. Green has many creatures with reach and spells to destroy flying creatures, such as Plummet.
Which Artifacts Give Creatures Flying?
Artifacts are a great way to give your creatures flying. Like the keyword itself, this is an old combination that dates back to MTG’s earliest days, with Flying Carpet. As I’m writing this, Wings of Hubris, Zephyr Boots, and Maul of the Skyclaves all give the equipped creatures flying as well as other buffs.
Does Black Have Flying Creatures?
Although black doesn’t have as many flying creatures as blue or white, it does have some. The flagship black creatures, Demons, typically have flying. They’re often larger creatures that can win you the game if used properly. Burning-Rune Demon and Eradicator Valkyrie are powerful black fliers that are currently Standard-legal.
What Do Flying Counters Do?
Certain cards in the Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and Kaldheim sets place flying counters on creatures. As long as a creature has a flying counter on it, it has flying. If the counter is removed, the ability goes away. This is true for all other keyword counters, too.
How Do Planeswalkers Work With Flying?
Planeswalkers are not creatures so they cannot have flying. They also count as players that creatures can target. As such, it doesn’t matter whether or not your creature has flying if you want to target an opponent’s Planeswalker.
Fliers are also a good way of dealing with enemy Planeswalkers, which are usually significant threats. Planeswalkers have low loyalty compared to a player’s life total. Therefore, they go down fairly quickly.
Can Fliers Block Creatures Without Flying?
Unless the card’s text says explicitly otherwise, fliers can block creatures without flying. Remember, flying is an evasion keyword. It only determines which creatures can block a creature with flying. It doesn’t change what creatures a flier can block.
Can I Disable Flying?
You cannot choose to disable flying on a creature so that it could then be blocked normally. Flying is a keyword ability that is permanently active. Any creature with flying can only be blocked by creatures with flying or reach when it attacks.
However, through the effects of other cards, fliers can still lose their flying ability. In this case, they attack and block normally. Green specializes in doing this as the anti-flying color, although blue can do it too. Colossus Hammer, Gravity Well, and Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer can all cause a creature to lose flying.
If a creature loses or gains flying after blockers have been declared, the blockers do not change. Similar to other evasion abilities, flying only affects which creatures can be assigned as blockers. After this step, flying doesn’t apply any more and combat proceeds as usual.
Do Fliers Still Deal Combat Damage?
Flying creatures deal combat damage normally, even if they attack directly. The flying keyword doesn’t change what kind of damage a creature does. If it attacks, it will deal combat damage equal to its power, either to whatever blocks it or to a player directly.
A note about MTG Flying
Flying is one of Magic: The Gathering’s best and oldest mechanics. It is an evasion keyword ability that allows a creature to only be blocked by other creatures with flying or reach.
Flying cards are most common in white and blue, although black has many good flying creatures as well. Decks in any of these three colors can easily include flying cards. Many artifacts also give flying to creatures as well.
Typically, flying is best when it allows you to use your creatures to their full potential and let them deal damage when they otherwise couldn’t. As such, flying creatures are often severe threats. Fortunately, green deals with them effectively, as does most removal. Put a flier in your deck today!
For a guide on How to Build your MTG Deck, see our article! Playing Commander? See our full guide on How to Build a Commander Deck it’s packed full of tips!
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 Double Strike
- MTG Enchant
- MTG Equip
- MTG Fear
- MTG Fight
- MTG First Strike
- MTG Flash
- 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
Hi, I’m Emily, the tabletop gamer behind My Kind of Meeple. If this article helped you, I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.