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Totem armor MTG
Bear Umbra

Bear Umbra Russian

Last Modified 08.02.2018

Totem armor is an aura ability that allows the enchanted permanent to dodge destruction. We shall study its mechanics in detail by looking at an aura from “Rise of Eldrazi” set, Bear Umbra, as an example.

Bear Umbra

Oracle Text:

Enchantment — Aura

Enchant creature

Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has “Whenever this creature attacks, untap all lands you control.”

Totem armor (If enchanted creature would be destroyed, instead remove all damage from it and destroy this Aura.)

Bear Umbra is a green aura that can enchant creatures. A creature to which Bear Umbra is attached gets +2/+2 and a triggered ability. If the enchanted creature somehow loses all abilities, that will cover this one as well:

Bears
Bear Umbra
Turn to Frog

Take a Bear and enchant it with a Bear Umbra, we get a 4/4 creature with the ability “Whenever this creature attacks, untap all lands under your control”. If the cunning opponent casts Turn to Frog at our Bear, it will lose all abilities (and along that it will become a 1/1 blue frog). As a result we get a 3/3 blue frog without abilities.

Bear Umbra’s effect isn’t lost: the amphibious carries on getting its bonus of +2/+2, but the trigger has been removed, since it had been granted to the Bear in person.

How does this ability function?

Whenever this creature attacks, untap all lands you control”.

  • Whenever is a signal word for triggered abilities, which reacts to the triggering event:
  • this creature attacks — we have scrutinized abilities of this type when inspecting Hero of Bladehold and Geist of Saint Traft.
  • untap all lands you control
  • is the trigger effect that we get when it resolves. It’s simple here: we need to untap all lands under our control. If any of these lands are creatures and are attacking along with the enchanted creature, untapping them will not change their combat state, they carry on being attacking creatures.

    Now we can activate the lands’ abilities whose cost involves tapping them, or use an "animated" untapped land later on as a blocker.

Mutavault

An attacking Mutavault can render some mana after getting untapped.

Mishra’s Factory

By untapping Mishra’s Factory we could activate its last ability and have it “pump” itself!

Dryad Arbor

An untapped Dryad Arbor may block during an opponent’s turn.

Totem armor

702.88a. Totem armor is a static ability that appears on some Auras. "Totem armor" means "If enchanted permanent would be destroyed, instead remove all damage marked on it and destroy this Aura."

Totem Armor’s rule text does not contain “you may”, so it is compulsory to apply when the enchanted creature is to be destroyed.

A creature may be destroyed through effects that contain the word “destroy”, and as a result of two SBA:

704.5g. If a creature has toughness greater than 0, and the total damage marked on it is greater than or equal to its toughness, that creature has been dealt lethal damage and is destroyed. Regeneration can replace this event.

704.5h. If a creature has toughness greater than 0, and it’s been dealt damage by a source with deathtouch since the last time state-based actions were checked, that creature is destroyed. Regeneration can replace this event.

Note, in the case involving replacement effects, the event that is replaced, never happens.

Day of Judgment

Day of Judgment’s effect instructs to destroy all creatures.

Char

If a creature has taken lethal damage, it is destroyed as SBA are performed.

Acidic Slime

A creature that has taken damage from a source with Deathtouch is destroyed as SBA are performed.

Totem Armor’s replacement effect only comes in action when destruction impends a creature. One instance of Totem Armor replaces all possible destructions that are affecting the creature as the effect is applied. For example, if a Bear enchanted with Bear Umbra clashes with a 4/4 creature with Deathtouch, two SBAs are affecting the bear at once. One Umbra’s effect will be enough to save this Bear.

Totem Armor’s effect removes all damage marked on the creature and destroys the aura with Totem Armor. Nothing else happens with the creature itself. It remains in the same state it was in before the lethal incident. The creature doesn’t leave the battlefield, not even for an instant!

Destroying the aura isn’t a cost, it is the effect. So if it cannot be destroyed for any reason, the game just leaves it be. This is possible through Magic Golden Rule #3. In this lucky case we will remain proud owners of both the creature and the aura.

Reknit

if the aura with Totem Armor has a regeneration shield active, its destruction will be replaced by a tap.

That Which Was Taken

If we place a divininty counter on Bear Umbra, our Bear will be really hard to kill.

Totem armor and Regeneration

Totem armor is often confused with another effect replacing destruction — Regeneration. Let us figure out what these effects have in common and how they differ.

Totem armor

Is a destruction replacement effect.

Removes all marked damage.

Permanent remains on the battefield.

Doesn’t tap the permanent.

The creature remains in combat, if it was in it.

The aura with Totem Armor is destroyed.

Works with "Can’t be regenerated" effects.

Regeneration

Is a destruction replacement effect.

Removes all marked damage.

Permanent remains on the battefield.

Taps the permanent.

The creature is taken out of combat if it was in it.

Cannot work when "Can’t be regenerated" effects are applied.

Now let’s take some practical examples.

Example one:

Bear Umbra
Blessing of Leeches
Wrath of God

Suppose we have two Bears. One is enchanted with Bear Umbra, another is enchanted with Blessing of Leeches for some reason (maybe we just like Rebecca Guay art). We have activated Blessing of Leeches’ ability just in case (it’s not too hard to pay {0}, and who knows what the cunning opponent is up to!)

The cunning opponent is up to a Wrath of God.

The first Bear survives but loses the aura. The second Bear goes to the graveyard (followed by its aura very soon).

Example two:

Bears
Lord of Atlantis
Minotaur Aggressor

Our cunning opponent attacks us with a Minotaur Aggressor, we block with a Bear enchanted with Bear Umbra.

During the first combat damage step, the Minotaur deals 6 damage to the Bear. This damage is lethal for our creature, so when SBA are checked it must be destroyed, but Totem Armor’s replacement effect comes in action: damage is removed from the Bear, and the Umbra is destroyed.

During the second combat damage step, the Bear deals 2 damage to the Minotaur and sends it straight to the graveyard. And performs a ritual dance of victory.

Now, if we replace Totem Armor with Regeneration, it will be like this:

Bears
Bear Umbra
Minotaur Aggressor

The cunning opponent attacks us with a Minotaur Aggressor, we block with a Bear enchanted with Blessing of Leeches. Immediately after the block, we activate the aura’s ability, creating a regeneration shield.

During the first combat damage step, the Minotaur once again deals 6 damage to the Bear. This time destruction is prevented by regeneration’s replacement effect: all combat damage is removed from the bear, it gets tapped and is taken out of combat.

Nothing happens during the second combat damage step because our bear is exhausted, it is resting in the rearguard camps.

If our creature falls under multiple effects replacing destruction, it is up to us to choose which effect to apply:

  • If our creature is enchanted with two (or three or eight) of our auras with Totem Armor, we are to choose which one takes the hit. One aura is destroyed, the other rest (there is nothing to apply after the first has had its effect, destruction has already been replaced with destroying the chosen aura).
  • If a creature enchanted with a Totem armor aura also has a regeneration shield on it, we may choose either when destruction is impending (the one that’s more profitable to us). The other effect won’t be consumed at this point.

Do not confuse effects replacing destruction with effects replacing the creature being put in a graveyard. You need to remember that “dying” is a result of destruction, and if none took place, there is no “dying”. In the above table we can see “Remains on the battlefield” for both Regeneration and Totem armor.

Magma Spray

If the cunning opponent decides to kill our Bear off with a Magma Spray, he is misplaying.

When SBA are checked it turns out the Bear needs to be destroyed. But! the Bear basks in the aura with Totem Armor which says “Nope, hands off the Bear. Instead remove all damage and destroy me”. So the Bear isn’t really going to die, which means Magma Spray’s effect can’t really exile it.

By the way, if this Bear does die this turn after that, it does get exiled through Magma Spray’s effect.

When does Totem armor not work?

SBA that send a creature straight to the graveyard (zero toughness, zero loyalty counters on a Planeswalker), and also sacrificing, exiling etc. do not fall under the definition of “destroy”, so they are not related to Totem armor’s effect.

Path to Exile

Path to Exile exiles a creature. This is not destruction! Totem Armor is useless here.

Black Sun's Zenith

If under an effect, or by placing -1/-1 counters, a creature’s toughness is reduced to less than 1, it is put into the graveyard as SBA are performed. This process is not destruction.

Smallpox

Smallpox’s effect instructs to sacrifice a creature. Again, this is not destruction, and it cannot be remedied with Totem armor.

Tajic, Blade of the Legion

Finally, Totem armor’s effect is not applied when the creature cannot be destroyed.

If Tajic, Blade of the Legion falls under a destruction effect, it is prevented by his Indestructible ability. Totem armor simply has nothing to do in this situation.

Three interesting Totem armor situations to conclude:

Planar Cleansing

If the cunning opponent casts a spell that simultaneously destroys the creature and the aura with Totem armor, the aura will save the creature. In this case, the creature’s destruction is replaced by that of the aura, and it turns out that the aura has to be destroyed twice at the same time.

Karmic Justice

An effect that attempts to destroy a creature enchanted with an aura with Totem armor doesn’t destroy the aura (unless it’s an effect like the one in previous example). The aura is destroyed through its own ability. As a result, our Karmic Justice won’t trigger when Totem armor is applied.

Umbra Mystic

The effect of Umbra Mystic’s static ability grants all auras attached to permanents we control Totem armor. This results in Totem armor being able to save other permanents, not only creatures.


Translated by Witas Spasovski