Protection is a former evergreen keyword ability that grants several different effects to the permanent or player it is affecting. The definition of protection, and the rules backing it, have changed over the course of the game's history.
This ability represents a magical resistance to certain types of magic, often a specific color. It was introduced in Alpha and saw frequent use through Magic Origins. It is found most often in white, but all colors have some cards with protection. It frequently appears as protection from a permanent's enemy colors, or other thematically appropriate qualities.
Protection is commonly misunderstood as complete exemption from permanents, and effects created by cards, with the specified quality. However, protection is defined by a relatively narrow set of rules, which are often communicated using the mnemonic acronym DEBT. The object with protection cannot be:
- Damaged by sources with the specified quality. (All such damage is prevented.)
- Enchanted or equipped by permanents with the specified quality.
- Blocked by creatures with the specified quality.
- Targeted by spells with the specified quality, or by abilities from sources of that quality.
The current (as of Magic Origins) reminder text for protection largely reflects this, reading “This [object] can't be blocked, targeted, dealt damage, or enchanted by anything [quality].”
Despite intuitive expectations for the keyword, protection was recognized as potentially complicated even prior to the game's release. Early attempts to define protection led the Alpha designers to invent the fundamental concept of targeting. However, even the original rulebook described it informally, offering only examples of things that protection would prevent.
A creature with protection from one or more colors of magic cannot be affected by any magic of those colors. For example, a creature with protection from blue cannot be blocked by blue creatures, dealt damage by blue creatures, or enchanted, damaged, or otherwise affected by blue cards. Damage done by such a creature cannot be prevented using blue cards. Note that the creature does not have this ability until it is successfully summoned. If, for example, you are summoning a creature with protection from blue magic, your rival can still cast a blue interrupt that affects the summoning spell.
Protection was excluded from core sets beginning with Sixth Edition and returned to them in Ninth Edition, reflecting concerns about its complexity for newer players. With the release of Magic Origins, protection was demoted from evergreen to deciduous, relegating it to only occasional use. In the three blocks following that decision, it was used only once, on Emrakul, the Promised End.
From the Comprehensive Rules (Aether Revolt (January 20, 2017))
- 702.16. Protection
- 702.16a Protection is a static ability, written “Protection from [quality].” This quality is usually a color (as in “protection from black”) but can be any characteristic value. If the quality happens to be a card name, it is treated as such only if the protection ability specifies that the quality is a name. If the quality is a card type, subtype, or supertype, the ability applies to sources that are permanents with that card type, subtype, or supertype and to any sources not on the battlefield that are of that card type, subtype, or supertype. This is an exception to rule 109.2.
- 702.16b A permanent or player with protection can’t be targeted by spells with the stated quality and can’t be targeted by abilities from a source with the stated quality.
- 702.16c A permanent or player with protection can’t be enchanted by Auras that have the stated quality. Such Auras attached to the permanent or player with protection will be put into their owners’ graveyards as a state-based action. (See rule 704, “State-Based Actions.”)
- 702.16d A permanent with protection can’t be equipped by Equipment that have the stated quality or fortified by Fortifications that have the stated quality. Such Equipment or Fortifications become unattached from that permanent as a state-based action, but remain on the battlefield. (See rule 704, “State-Based Actions.”)
- 702.16e Any damage that would be dealt by sources that have the stated quality to a permanent or player with protection is prevented.
- 702.16f Attacking creatures with protection can’t be blocked by creatures that have the stated quality.
- 702.16g “Protection from [quality A] and from [quality B]” is shorthand for “protection from [quality A]” and “protection from [quality B]”; it behaves as two separate protection abilities. If an effect causes an object with such an ability to lose protection from [quality A], for example, that object would still have protection from [quality B].
- 702.16h “Protection from all [characteristic]” is shorthand for “protection from [quality A],” “protection from [quality B],” and so on for each possible quality the listed characteristic could have; it behaves as multiple separate protection abilities. If an effect causes an object with such an ability to lose protection from [quality A], for example, that object would still have protection from [quality B], [quality C], and so on.
- 702.16i “Protection from everything” is a variant of the protection ability. A permanent with protection from everything has protection from each object regardless of that object’s characteristic values. Such a permanent can’t be targeted by spells or abilities, enchanted by Auras, equipped by Equipment, fortified by Fortifications, or blocked by creatures, and all damage that would be dealt to it is prevented.
- 702.16j “Protection from [a player]” is a variant of the protection ability. A permanent with protection from a specific player has protection from each object the player controls and protection from each object the player owns not controlled by another player, regardless of that object’s characteristic values. Such a permanent can’t be targeted by spells or abilities the player controls, enchanted by Auras the player controls, equipped by Equipment the player controls, fortified by Fortifications the player controls, or blocked by creatures the player controls, and all damage that would be dealt to it by sources controlled by the player or owned by the player but not controlled by another player is prevented.
- 702.16k Multiple instances of protection from the same quality on the same permanent or player are redundant.
- 702.16m Some Auras both give the enchanted creature protection and say “this effect doesn’t remove” either that specific Aura or all Auras. This means that the specified Auras can legally enchant that creature and aren’t put into their owners’ graveyards as a state-based action. If the creature has other instances of protection from the same quality, those instances affect Auras as normal.
From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (Aether Revolt (January 20, 2017))
- A keyword ability that provides a range of benefits against objects with a specific quality. See rule 702.16, “Protection.”
- White Knight -
Creature — Human Knight
First strike (This creature deals combat damage before creatures without first strike.)
Protection from black (This creature can't be blocked, targeted, dealt damage, or enchanted by anything black.)
Protection is written in the form “protection from...”, followed by one or more qualities or characteristics. The first examples of protection are from colors, but many other variants have been printed.