5, Sep, 23

What is Annihilator in MTG?

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First printed all the way back in 2010, Annihilator is an MTG mechanic that’s more than deserving of that name. Capable of utterly devastating opponents, spells with Annihilator don’t come cheap but they’re well worth it. Typically found on Eldrazi creatures, Annihilator isn’t printed very often. When it is, however, it always makes a splash.

Currently, Annihilator sits at a 9 on the Storm Scale. For better or worse, this means that the mechanic likely won’t be returning anytime soon in a premier set. That being said, however, a new Eldrazi Commander deck that arrived alongside Commander Masters did feature the powerful ability. This is nice to see, as Annihilator is one of my personal favorite mechanics in MTG.

While new cards with Annihilator are rather rare, it’s not uncommon for them to be reprinted. This was the face for Double Masters 2022, which reprinted the three Eldrazi Titans. Alongside these recent reprints, the Eldrazi Unbound Commander deck also features some Annihilator reprints.

Whether you enjoy playing with the Eldrazi Unbound deck or are building a new themed deck in the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about Annihilator in MTG!

What is Annihilator in Magic: the Gathering?

Annihilator is a triggered ability found on Eldrazi creatures that forces a defending player to sacrifice permanents upon being attacked. Annihilator abilities trigger and resolve during the declare attackers step. The defending player must sacrifice the required number of permanents before declaring blockers. 

Due to Annihilator being triggered during the declare attackers step, it is tough to deal with. Creatures with protection from colorless won’t stop the effect, nor will Settle the Wreckage. To deal with Annihilator effectively, a player must use a spell such as Disallow that counters activated or triggered abilities or stop the Eldrazi before it attacks.

Annihilator is only found on 11 cards, all of which are colorless and one of which is an Aura. Bane of Bala Ged features a similar mechanic that causes permanents to be exiled instead. The strength of the Annihilator ability on currently printed cards varies from one to six.

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How to use Annihilator in Magic: the Gathering

As an ability on some of Magic: the Gathering’s biggest creatures, Annihilator practically plays itself. By making attacking with giant creatures even more devastating, players are encouraged to do just that. Despite this brutal simplicity, creating an effective Annihilator deck still requires a little work. 

While Emrakul, the Aeons Torn may be banned in the format, Commander is the best place for an Annihilator beatdown. Unfortunately, MTG Annihilator cards don’t come cheap. However, that’s not a problem that ramp can’t solve. 

Alongside Commander staple ramp cards such as Cultivate, Eldrazi creatures also get their own unique lands. By reducing the cost of Eldrazi creatures and adding more mana to cast them, Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple are effectively mandatory. 

With the high CMC of Eldrazi creatures, cards such as Planar Bridge and Champion of Rhonas are also handy. Similarly, Polymorph and Sneak Attack are also effective means to get Eldrazi creatures onto the battlefield for cheap. These cards allow you to put permanents (or creatures) from your hand and library onto the battlefield without paying their full mana cost. 

Once they’re down on the field, all you need to do to ruin your opponent’s day is start attacking. From there, things only get better, as if you have It That Betrays, you’ll gain control of sacrificed nontoken permanents.

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Will Annihilator return to Magic: the Gathering?

Unfortunately for fans of Eldrazi creatures and this devastating mechanic, MTG Annihilator is unlikely to return in future premier sets. Magic: the Gathering’s head designer Mark Rosewater has previously stated that Annihilator is a nine on the “Storm Scale.” The Storm Scale is Rosewater’s representation of how likely a mechanic is to return to Magic: the Gathering. This means the return of Annihilator ”would require a minor miracle.”

This high Storm Scale rating is due to the mechanic having a small design space and problematic development that made balancing Annihilator cards difficult. Despite this, Annihilator is viewed as a popular mechanic, with cards subsequently often being reprinted for Modern and Commander-focused sets. 

“The mechanic is hard to design, hard to develop, and was miserable to play against. The fact that it didn’t come back in Battle for Zendikar is a big sign saying its chances of returning are low,”

Mark Rosewater

While this statement means we may never see Annihilator in another Premier Set, there is still hope for Commander products. As we mentioned before, the Commander Masters set features the Eldrazi Unbound reconstructed deck. This new deck showcases ten brand-new cards, one of which is the face Commander, Zhulodok, Void Gorger.

As it turns out, one of the ten new cards does, in fact, have Annihilator, and it’s a doozy. At ten mana, Flayer of Loyalties is rather expensive. The powerful Creature also requires two mana to be specifically colorless, much like Kozilek, the Great Distortion. Luckily, the card pays you off in a big way if you are able to cast it.

The Creature itself is a ten-power Trampler with Annihilator two. While that alone likely isn’t worth the investment, it comes with a strong ability attached. When you cast Flayer of Loyalties, you get to gain control of another Creature, except that Creature becomes a ten-power Trampler with Annihilator and Haste itself! Talk about a massive threat.

The Eldrazi Unbound deck has a lot of other goodies too, such as Darksteel Monolith, which lets you cast colorless spells for free once each turn. Combined with massive Creatures with Annihilator, this can be devastating. It’ll be interesting to see if Annihilator ends up appearing in a premier set again the future, but for now, it’s nice to see the ability getting some additional love in the Commander format.

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