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MTG Intimidate Explained + Rules, Best Cards & Decks!

Intimidate is an evasion ability keyword in Magic: The Gathering. A creature with intimidate can only be blocked by artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a colour with it. This article delves into how intimidate works in MTG, lists the best intimidate cards, gives intimidate deck ideas, strategies to play against intimidate, and common intimidate questions.

MTG Mikaeus, the Unhallowed with Intimidate card illustration. Image: Wizards of the Coast. Artist: Chris Rahn.
MTG Mikaeus, the Unhallowed with Intimidate card illustration. Image: Wizards of the Coast. Artist: Chris Rahn.

How Intimidate Works

What does the MTG reminder text say for intimidate?

This creature can’t be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a color with it.

See Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules, 702.13. “Intimidate” for more information.

Creatures with intimidate are unblockable by everything but artifact creatures and creatures of the same color.

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So, your green creature with intimidate can only be blocked by other green creatures and artifact creatures. When used correctly, this mechanic can be powerful and hard to stop!

A Brief History of Intimidate

Intimidate came about as a replacement for another keyword, fear. Fear was a similar ability to intimidate. Creatures with fear could only be blocked by artifact creatures or black creatures. Fear was almost exclusively an ability used in black-colored cards.

Intimidate came about in 2010 and was first seen in the Zendikar block. It lasted roughly five years, making its last appearance in Magic 2015 when the Magic creators decided to replace intimidate with the menace ability.

Intimidate is a deprecated evasion ability, which means it has been replaced and is no longer printed on new cards. However, you may come across players who use intimidate in casual play, so it’s good to know how it works, how to use it, and how to beat it!

Intimidate Example

MtG cards Krenko's Enforcer and Adaptive Automaton. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG cards Krenko’s Enforcer and Adaptive Automaton. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Intimidate narrows the field of potential blockers for creatures with the ability. Let’s use an example to see how this works.

If Krenko’s Enforcer, a red creature with intimidate attacks you, you cannot block it unless you control a red creature yourself or an artifact creature such as Adaptive Automaton.

So, if you are playing a mono-coloured blue deck without any artifact creatures, you could be in a lot of trouble facing a different colored deck utilizing intimidate!

Intimidate vs Colourless Creature (Non-Artifact)

MtG cards Bladetusk Boar and Barrage Tyrant. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG cards Bladetusk Boar and Barrage Tyrant. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

In Magic: The Gathering, creatures generally belong to at least one of the five colours represented in the game. However, some creatures are colourless.

Suppose you attack your opponent with a Bladetusk Boar, a 3/2 red creature with intimidate. They only have a Barrage Tyrant, a 5/3 colourless creature. Because colourless creatures can’t block creatures with intimidate (unless they are also artifact creatures), your opponent’s Barrage Tyrant can’t block your Bladetusk Boar, and would take three damage.

Notice that Barrage Tyrant requires a red mana to cast it, but even though a player must use red mana to play the card, it is still a colourless creature. It cannot block a red creature with intimidate because they do not share a colour.

However, if Barrage Tyrant were somehow able to gain intimidate, the Bladetusk Boar would also be powerless to block it. This is because, again, the two cards do not share a colour.

Intimidate vs Colourless Artifact Creature

MtG card Steel Wall. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Steel Wall. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Artifact creatures are colourless, but they can block creatures with intimidate. This makes artifact creatures valuable when facing decks that use intimidate.

For example, if you attack your opponent with your Bladetusk Boar, but they have a Steel Wall, an 0/4 artifact creature, the wall will block your boar. This is simply because the Steel Wall is an artifact creature.

Intimidate + Menace

MtG cards Alley Strangler and Grisly Transformation. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG cards Alley Strangler and Grisly Transformation. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

If a creature you control has both menace and intimidate, then two creatures that share a colour with the attacking creature or are artifact creatures would be needed to block it.

For example, you play the black creature Alley Strangler, a 2/3 creature with menace. Then you enchant that creature with the aura spell Grisly Transformation; now you have a 2/3 creature with both intimidate and menace.

Menace requires that a creature be blocked with two or more creatures. Therefore, a player would have to have two creatures that either share a colour with your Alley Strangler or are artifacts. Menace plus intimidate is a tough combination to beat!

 

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Intimidate vs Fear

MtG card Intimidation. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Intimidation. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

If a black creature has intimidate, it is basically the same thing as having a black creature with fear. But intimidate is dependent on your creature’s colours, and fear isn’t.

If you play casually and have access to an enchantment from the Masques Block called intimidation, you can give fear to creatures that aren’t black. Obviously, you have to play black considering the enchantment requires three black lands, but if you are playing another colour in combination with black, you can give a green, blue, white, or red creature fear.

If a red creature is given fear, it cannot be blocked except by artifacts or black creatures.

If a multicoloured creature has fear, it still can only be blocked by artifact or black creatures.

In contrast, if a multicoloured creature, like a black/green creature, has intimidate, then it can only be blocked by black, green, and artifact creatures.

Intimidate + Fear

Bladetusk Boar, Fear, Acidic Sliver and Adaptive Automaton MTG cards. Images: Wizards of the Coast.
Bladetusk Boar, Fear, Acidic Sliver and Adaptive Automaton MTG cards. Images: Wizards of the Coast.

What happens if a creature you control has intimidate and fear?

We enchant our Bladetusk Boar with Fear making it a creature with intimidate and fear. Then we attack with it. What can block it?

The blockers need to meet the requirements of both intimidate and fear.

To meet the requirements of intimidate, the blockers must share a colour with Bladetusk boar or be an artifact, and to meet the requirements of fear the blocker needs to be black or an artifact.

So, the blocker can either be a black/red creature like Acidic Sliver or an artifact like Adaptive Automaton.

Intimidate vs Protection

If a creature has ‘protection’ from a certain colour, it can block creatures of that colour without taking damage. However, intimidate negates that rule unless the creature with ‘protection’ shares a colour with the attacking creature with intimidate.

Creatures with a protection ability can’t block a creature with intimidate, unless the two cards share a colour. On the other hand, spells with protection can prevent damage from creatures with intimidate. See the example below.

MtG cards Bladetusk Boar, Auriok Champion and Circle of Protection: Red. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG cards Bladetusk Boar, Auriok Champion and Circle of Protection: Red. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Suppose you attack your opponent with your trusty Bladetusk Boar, and your opponent has fielded an Auriok Champion, a white 1/1 with protection from red. In that case, the Auriok Champion cannot block your red boar even though the card has protection from red. It cannot block the boar because it does not share a colour with the boar.

‘Protection from’ means that Auriok Champion can’t be the target of red spells or abilities used by your opponent, not that it can ignore any ability on a red card.

On the other hand, if your opponent has a spell like Circle of Protection: Red, when your Bladetusk boar attacks, your opponent can tap a land and prevent all damage from a red source, which would be your boar. That’s because intimidate only places restrictions on blockers used, it doesn’t place restrictions on what your opponent can use to stop damage in other ways.

Best MTG Intimidate Cards

Elbrus, the Binding Blade // Withengar Unbound (Legendary Intimidate Artifact // Legendary Creature)

MtG cards Elbrus, the Binding Blade and Withengar Unbound. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG cards Elbrus, the Binding Blade and Withengar Unbound. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

On the surface, this card may not look like it is worth it, but it is one of the most powerful cards that showcases the intimidate ability. This is a double-sided card, and it is played as an Artifact Equipment called Elbrus, the Binding Blade. It is an expensive seven mana to cast and then costs an additional one mana to equip a creature.

Once it is equipped, the creature gets +1/+0; however, once that creature deals damage to an opposing player, you can transform Elbrus, the Binding Blade, to Withengar Unbound!

Withengar Unbound is a massive black 13/13 demon with flying, trample, and intimidate! Your opponents are in trouble if they don’t have a way to deal with your giant demon creature quickly! Intimidate, flying and trample all on the same creature makes it really difficult for your opponent to block all damage!

Executionar’s Hood (Intimidate Artifact)

MtG card Executioner's Hood. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Executioner’s Hood. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

The Executioner’s Hood card is also an artifact equipment card like Elbrus, the Binding Blade. But, this piece of equipment is much cheaper, costing only two mana and an additional two mana to equip a creature.

Any creature equipped with Executioner’s Hood has intimidate. This can be a very effective card in any deck that can create problems for your opponents. Even if your opponent somehow removes the creature it is equipped to, the equipment will stay on the battlefield.

Placing four Executioner’s Hoods into a deck can help ensure your most potent creatures can have the intimidate ability on the battlefield.

Vela the Night-Clad (Blue/Black Intimidate Creature)

MtG card Vela the Night-Clad. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Vela the Night-Clad. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Vela, the Night-Clad is a devastating card for your opponents. She is a blue/black 4/4 creature that costs six mana. She has intimidate, but more importantly, she gives all other creatures you control intimidate as well.

Even having the Vela on the battlefield for one turn can turn the game in your favour. Depending on which colours your opponent plays, you could have a bunch of creatures that your opponents won’t be able to block!

Bellowing Tanglewurm (Green Intimidate Creature)

MtG card Bellowing Tanglewurm. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Bellowing Tanglewurm. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

The Bellowing Tanglewurm is a 4/4 green creature with intimidate. But, it also gives other green creatures you control intimidate as well. If you like to play with the large, powerful creatures of green, then the Bellowing Tanglewurm will fit right in and potentially make your massive monsters hard to block!

Heirs of Stormkirk (Red Intimidate Creature)

MtG card Heirs of Stromkirk. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Heirs of Stromkirk. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

The Heirs of Stormkirk is a powerful red creature card. For four mana, this creature enters the battlefield as a 2/2 with intimidate. It is the second ability of the Heirs of Stormkirk that makes it incredibly potent. Each time they damage your opponent (which they can likely do regularly with intimidate), they get a +1/+1 counter.

So they start as a 2/2, but they grow more and more powerful every time they deal damage. Putting several of these in a red deck can provide worrisome pressure to opponents.

Hideous Visage (Black Intimidate Sorcery)

MtG card Hideous Visage. Image: Wizards of the Coast.
MTG card Hideous Visage. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

While the vast majority of cards that use Intimidate are creatures, using a card like Hideous Visage can be incredibly effective. This black sorcery only costs three mana and can win you the game when played at the right time!

Hideous Visage gives all your creatures intimidate until the end of turn. Save this spell until an opportune moment when you can get as many of your creatures through your opponent’s defense as possible!

How to Play Against Intimidate

Playing against intimidate can be difficult. However, remember that this mechanic is basically creature-dependent. Therefore, there are some strategies that you can take to beat an intimidate deck.

Perhaps the most straightforward strategy is to play a control deck that emphasizes removing your opponent’s creatures. This can be accomplished through red burn spells like Lightning Strike, black creature destruction spells like Befoul, or blue counters or bounces like Bone to Ash.

Another strategy that can be effective against intimidate is damage prevention. Generally, this is accomplished through white spells like Harmless Assault or green spells like Fog. But, negating your opponent’s offence through spells or enchantments is another way to combat decks utilizing intimidate.

MTG Intimidate Decks

The colours that generally use intimidate are black, red, and green. White does have some cards with intimidate, and Blue only has Vela. This is mainly because blue often has creatures that are all together unblockable and therefore do not need the intimidate ability.

If you are looking for any pre-made decks or tournament decks to purchase, it is best to check out the decklists of the sets that used intimidate. Intimidate was a mechanic from roughly 2010 until 2015, starting in the Zendikar block.

Another great strategy is to reference some of the potent cards mentioned in this article and find decks built around Vela, the Nightclad, or the Bellowing Tanglewurm.

Intimidate FAQ

What can block a colourless creature with intimidate?

A colourless creature with intimidate can only be blocked by artifact creatures.

What can block a multi-coloured creture with intimdate?

Multi-coloured creatures with intimidate can be blocked by any creature that shares a colour with it. For example, a black/red creature can be blocked by either mono-colored black creatures or mono-colored red creatures.

Can a coloured artifact creature block a creature with intimidate that’s a different colour?

Even if an artifact creature has a colour, it can still block any creature with intimidate.

Can I change the colour of my intimdate creature to evade blockers?

Changing a creature with intimidate’s colour can only take help a creature evade blockers if it is done before blockers are declared, not after.

A note: MTG Intimidate

In summary, intimidate is a deprecated evasion keyword ability that restricts what your opponent can use to block. They can only use artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a colour with your creature with intimidate. It makes it very tricky for your opponent!

Intimidate was replaced by the menace keyword ability.

Intimidate is most common in black, red, and green. Intimidate decks built around Vela, or artifacts that give intimidate are interesting options to add some variety to your casual play. Your opponent probably won’t see it coming!

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Emily
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