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Mtga defender.png
Keyword Ability
Type Static
Introduced Alpha (mechanic)
Champions of Kamigawa (keyword)
Last Used Evergreen
Reminder Text Defender (This creature can't attack.)
263 cards
{W} 20.5% {U} 23.6% {B} 9.1% {R} 12.2% {G} 13.7% {W/U} 1.1% {U/B} 0.4% {W/B} 0.4% {U/R} 1.1% {B/G} 0.4% {G/U} 1.1% {M} 0.4% {artifact symbol} 16%
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This article is about the ability Defender. For the player, see Defending player.

Defender is a static ability that renders a creature unable to attack.


The keyword was introduced as a replacement for the baggage that the creature type Wall carried. Walls could not attack. Much later, the decision was made to keyword the "cannot attack" ability and make sure that all Walls had defender so that functionality wouldn't change. Defender was introduced with Champions of Kamigawa and was retroactively added to all Walls.[1] Ninth Edition was the first core set after that change was made. Once the keyword existed, it allowed the ability to be put on non-Wall creatures.[2]

All colors can have defender. It used to be primary only in white as it is the most defensive color.[3] Lately, blue has also become primary.[4]

While most defenders are still toughness-oriented, blue defenders with higher stats that can attack in certain contexts have become more common.


From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (April 29, 2022—Streets of New Capenna)

A keyword ability that prohibits a creature from attacking. See rule 702.3, “Defender.”

From the Comprehensive Rules (April 29, 2022—Streets of New Capenna)

  • 702.3. Defender
    • 702.3a Defender is a static ability.
    • 702.3b A creature with defender can’t attack.
    • 702.3c Multiple instances of defender on the same creature are redundant.

Walls and Defender[]

Before defender was introduced all Walls were unable to attack as a definition of their creature type. Now creatures with Defender can potentially lose the ability and attack - this would have been a rules-hassle before. However, Defender has introduced some confusion as well because not all cards that refer to Walls or non-Walls have been changed.

Example 1

Erhnam Djinn has the text: "At the beginning of your upkeep, target non-Wall creature an opponent controls gains forestwalk until your next upkeep."

  • It is perfectly legal to choose a non-Wall creature with Defender, such as Carven Caryatid, even though that was not the original intent.

Example 2

Norritt has the text: "{T}: Target non-Wall creature attacks this turn if able. If that creature doesn't attack, destroy it at end of turn unless it came under its controller's control this turn. Play this ability only during that creature's controller's turn before the declare attackers step."

  • This ability is clearly designed to work on non-Defenders, but that is not the case. It is legal for Norritt to target any non-Wall creatures with Defender, such as Carven Caryatid.

Whenever confusion arises, always see the Oracle Card Reference or Gatherer for clarification.


  • Changing a creature's type no longer affects whether it can attack. A Wall that becomes a non-Wall will still have the defender ability. Likewise, a non-Wall that becomes a Wall won't have the defender ability.



Wall of Stone {1}{R}{R}
Creature — Wall
Defender (This creature can't attack.)

Cards that grant defender[]




Cards that circumvent defender[]

Creatures with defender that may be able to attack[]

Creatures with defender and haste[]

For Future Sight, R&D explored the idea of putting haste on blue creatures with defender and 0 power, where the haste was about using the activated ability right away rather than attacking (Bonded Fetch).[5] After 16 years of floating this idea, the second blue haster with defender was printed in Streets of New Capenna with Errant, Street Artist.


  1. Mark Rosewater (October 04, 2004). "Change For the Better". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater (June 8, 2015). "Evergreen Eggs & Ham". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (June 5, 2017). "Mechanical Color Pie 2017". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater (October 18, 2021). "Mechanical Color Pie 2021 Changes". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Mark Rosewater (May 17, 2021). "Future Sight Design Handoff Document". Wizards of the Coast.

External links[]