Menace is an evergreen ability keyword in Magic: The Gathering. Creatures with menace must be blocked by two or more creatures. This article looks at what menace means in the MTG rules and how it works with examples, shares the best menace cards, awesome menace decks, how to play against menace, and covers common menace questions!
MTG Menace Rules
What do MTG menace rules say?
This creature can’t be blocked except by two or more creatures.Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules, 702.111. “Menace”.
Whenever a creature with the menace keyword ability attacks, it can’t be blocked by only one creature. If the defending player wants to block it, they must use at least two creatures.
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The menace mechanic has been in the game since Fallen Empires, where it appeared on [c]Goblin War Drums[/c]. However, the menace keyword itself was only introduced in the Magic Origins set to replace the intimidate keyword. Since then, many older cards with this ability have retroactively been errated with menace.
Since its introduction, menace has been considered an evergreen keyword. You can expect it to appear in every set on at least a few creatures. Although it is most common in black, red also has it as a primary keyword ability.
The menace keyword was introduced to replace intimidate, which had already replaced the keyword fear. Because intimidate meant that a creature could only be blocked by an artifact creature or a creature that shared a colour with it, games including the intimidate keyword became very swingy.
To make decks more reliable and consistent, especially for tournament play and fairness in general, the developers replaced intimidate with menace starting with Magic Origins. Additionally, as colour-changing wasn’t a common mechanic anymore, intimidate had lost a lot of its counterplay. Menace, which counts blockers, will never have this problem.
Lastly, menace counters were introduced with the Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths set. As long as a creature has a menace counter on it, it has menace. If it loses the counter, it loses the ability too. Pretty simple.
MTG Menace Examples
For example, let’s say I attack with [c]Belle of the Brawl[/c], a creature with menace. My opponent only controls [c]Blood Age General[/c]. Because my creature has menace, the defending player can’t block with Blood Age General alone. As a result, Belle of the Brawl isn’t attacked at all and deals direct damage to my opponent.
However, if my opponent controls another creature, things are very different. Now my opponent has [c]Bayou Groff[/c] in addition to Blood Age General. As such, if I attack again with Belle of the Brawl, my opponent can block it. They will need to block it with both of their creatures, though.
It’s similar if I attack with multiple menace creatures. As well as Belle of the Brawl, imagine I also attack with [c]Relic Sloth[/c], another menace creature. Usually, my opponent, who has two creatures, could block both of my attackers. However, now, they can only block one.
Lastly, if I attack with Belle of the Brawl or any other menace creature while my opponent controls at least two untapped creatures, they don’t have to block if they don’t want to. Menace doesn’t force an opponent to block the creature when they’re able to.
Menace vs Double Strike
Menace doesn’t have any special interactions with double strike. Even though it will deal damage twice, a double strike creature can’t block an attacking menace creature on its own. It needs another creature in order to do so.
For instance, my opponent attacks me with the menace creature [c]Bone Pit Brute[/c]. I only control the double strike creature [c]Fireborn Knight[/c], so, unfortunately, I can’t block their creature.
Menace + Double Strike
Menace and double strike work well together.
Double strike lets a menace creature put out a ton of damage. Because double strike enables a creature to deal damage before regular combat damage, a creature with both abilities can also save itself from being overwhelmed by its blockers and dying.
Imagine my opponent attacks me again with [c]Bone Pit Brute[/c]. Only now they cast [c]Raking Claws[/c] so that it has double strike. Even if I have two creatures, it’s effectively like Bone Pit Giant will deal full damage to each one individually.
Best MTG Menace Cards
Grief (Menace Black Creature)
A phenomenal card. You can cast [c]Grief[/c] like a sorcery if you just want the hand attack ability. You don’t even have to pay mana to do so. Instead, just exile another black card from your hand.
However, Grief’s actual stats aren’t to be underestimated either. With more mana and fewer cards in the late game, hardcasting a 3/2 Grief with menace is still a powerful choice and a disruptive play overall.
Iroas, God of Victory (Menace Red/White Enchantment Creature)
Arguably the best of the original Theros Gods, [c]Iroas, God of Victory[/c] enters as an indestructible enchantment that gives all your creatures menace and prevents them taking damage while they’re attacking.
With high enough devotion to red and white, Iroas turns into a huge 7/4 beater. Furthermore, Iroas’ abilities now apply to it as well. Your opponents will struggle to handle the massive indestructible God you just attacked them with!
Lucille (Menace Black Artifact)
The infamous bat from The Walking Dead series, [c]Lucille[/c]’s MTG incarnation isn’t any less potent. Not only does it buff the equipped creature with +2/+0 and menace, but it also forces your opponent to sacrifice potential blockers and gives you 2/2 zombie creature tokens.
This is a must for zombie tribal in Commander. As well as that, a Voltron deck playing black will also benefit from the evasion Lucille gives the equipped creature. The zombies make good blockers too, especially since your opponents keep losing creatures to make them.
Gorilla War Cry (Menace Red Instant)
A lot of cards give menace, but not all do it at instant speed. Even there, [c]Gorilla War Cry[/c] stands out for giving all attacking creatures menace for a turn and drawing you a card too.
Gorilla War Cry’s strength also lies in its political potential. Because this instant doesn’t care about which creatures are attacking, you can use it in multiplayer games to buff other attackers if you feel like ganging up on a specific opponent.
Nissa of Shadowed Boughs (Menace Black/Green Planeswalker)
Gaining loyalty whenever you play a land, [c]Nissa of the Shadowed Boughs[/c] is a seriously underrated planeswalker. Essentially, Nissa’s loyalty will tick up every turn as long as you’re playing land and, since Nissa is black/green, playing a lot of land is very easy. As such, Nissa can quickly fire off multiple ultimates or resist a few incoming attacks.
As well as untapping them, Nissa turns your lands into powerful menace creatures. Better yet, Nissa’s ultimate either lets you play a creature for free from your hand or reanimate it from your graveyard. That creature gets buffed as well!
Blight Mound (Menace Black Enchantment)
Whenever a nontoken creature you control dies, you get a Pest. [c]Blight Mound[/c] then gives your Pests +1/+0 and menace whenever they attack. These abilities make for an excellent addition to any aggro deck, especially in Limited.
In an aristocrats deck, this is brutally strong, too, as Blight Mound lets you double the number of creatures you sacrifice. Even in normal aggro, an endless supply of evasive attackers isn’t to be underestimated and I’m sure somebody will try to play [c]Blex, Vexing Pest[/c] with this.
MTG Menace Decks
Menace is most common in black and red. As such, if you want menace cards, buy the appropriate theme boosters. For Strixhaven, the Witherbloom and Silverquill theme boosters are excellent choices as both factions have several menace cards.
Faceless Menace – Commander
Regardless of what the name might say, Faceless Menace is not a menace tribal deck. This 2019 preconstructed Commander deck is instead themed around the morph ability. Granted, it does this very well to make for a unique and surprising playstyle.
However, since none of the deck’s potential commanders have red, you’ll miss out on many good menace cards if you want to change the keyword this deck is built around and add in actual menace cards. Instead, keep Faceless Menace as a morph tribal deck.
The Faceless Menace deck comes with [c]Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer[/c] as its primary commander and, if you want to place morph, this is the perfect card for it. Kadena lets you cast one morph creature for free each turn, and turns you a card whenever you do.
Rakdos Menace Tribal – Arena Standard
For an actual menace deck, you don’t have to look any further than Standard. Easy to build on a budget, Rakdos Menace Tribal focuses on playing low-cost menace creatures and strong support cards to damage race the opponent to victory.
Not only that, the current Standard meta has a couple of menace lords, such as [c]Labyrinth Raptor[/c] and [c]Sonorous Howlbonder[/c]. Running these gives you even more value for your deck. Additionally, Labyrinth Raptor has a fantastic combo with [c]Tengrid, God of Fright[/c] too.
Cards played in Rakdos Menace Tribal include:
- [c]Labyrinth Raptor[/c]
- [c]Stormfist Crusader[/c]
- [c]Tengrid, God of Fright //Tengrid’s Lantern[/c]
- [c]Sonorous Howlbonder[/c]
- [c]Tentative Connection[/c]
- [c]Castle Embereth[/c]
- [c]The Bloodsky Massacre[/c]
How to play against Menace
Kill the Menace Creatures in Combat
Whenever your opponent attacks with a creature with menace make sure to block it with what will add up to lethal damage, even though you put your creatures at risk, it is worth it in order to kill a threatening creature.
Besides, you have to block menace creatures with multiple blockers anyway, so you might as well assign those blockers properly to prevent another round of attacks from the menace creature. If you have any, play combat tricks as well.
Use Removal on the Menace Creatures
As annoying as they are to play against, most creatures with menace don’t have hexproof, ward, or protection. As such, they’re vulnerable to removal. So instead of using your burn to attack your opponent directly, instead use it to kill their menace creatures.
Similarly, prepare your counterspells, killspells, and hand attacks. If your opponent is using creatures with menace, they’re playing black or red. Both of these colours are vulnerable to control cards. Similarly, tapping down menace creatures also works well.
Remember though that an opponent might try and bait out your removal using menace creatures so that they can play a more significant threat later on. Make sure you prioritize using these valuable cards properly.
Destroy the Card Giving the Creature Menace
Often a creature doesn’t have menace inherently but is instead being given menace by another card. Usually, this is an aura or another creature, but the other card types can give menace.
If you have the chance, destroy or counter whatever gives the creature menace if you can’t kill it directly. This tactic is particularly wise if you’re playing a colour like blue or green, both of which struggle to remove creatures themselves.
Tokens can Hold Off Menace
Although it isn’t a permanent solution, as tokens typically have fairly low stats, creating creature tokens is a good way to stall menace decks. Because you usually get multiple tokens with each spell, you’ll quickly end up with enough blockers to hold off the menace creatures.
Similarly, tokens are also an excellent way to swarm menace decks. Because menace creatures have to attack to be effective, your opponent won’t have many blockers themselves. Trying to race a menace deck is a viable strategy if you can play aggressively enough.
Can Menace Block Menace?
Creatures with menace can block each-other, as long as you have at least two blockers total. Menace doesn’t cancel itself out. You can block menace attackers with your own menace creatures, but you’ll need two blockers either way.
How Does Menace Damage Work?
The menace keyword doesn’t change how combat damage is assigned. If the defending player assigns at least two blockers to the menace creature, they get to choose the order the menace creature deals damage to them.
Can Menace Creatures Attack Twice?
Usually, there is only one combat phase per turn. Each creature can only attack once per combat phase, including menace creatures. Even if the creature is untapped after combat is over, it can’t attack again. Menace only affects blocking, not the number of attacks itself.
Does Menace Stack?
Multiple instances of menace do not stack. If you give a creature menace twice, this doesn’t make any difference. The minimum number of creatures that can block it remains two, not four.
Can I Choose to Disable Menace?
Menace is a static keyword ability, which means you cannot disable it. Whenever a menace creature attacks, only two or more creatures can block it. Unfortunately, you can’t let your menace creatures be blocked by only one creature if you want.
A note about Menace MTG
Menace is a great ability. Creatures with menace are powerful cards that require two or more creatures to block them. Furthermore, menace is also an evergreen keyword so that you can find menace cards in every set.
Menace is most common in black and red, and it supplements an aggressive playstyle very effectively. However, it has a few weaknesses, namely that menace creatures don’t have inherent protection abilities and, so, they die to removal.
Regardless though, it is no surprise many current decks use menace cards. They shape the battlefield like no others can. I hope this article has helped you out understanding what menace does. Put a creature with menace 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 Double Strike
- 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 Protection
- MTG Prowess
- MTG Reach
- MTG Regenerate
- MTG Sacrifice
- MTG Shroud
- MTG Tap and Untap
- MTG Trample
- MTG Vigilance
- MTG Ward