Rise of the Eldrazi Rules Primer

By Brian Hellevang

For my first article, I thought I’d go over all the new abilities and keywords in Magic’s newest expansion, Rise of the Eldrazi. With Launch Party weekend ahead of us, making sure you know how everything works will be very beneficial.


Annihilator is a triggered ability that appears on some Eldrazi creatures. It is allowed followed by a number, and “Annihilator N” means “Whenever this creature attacks, defending player sacrifices N permanents.” This triggers immediately after attackers are declared, and the defending player sacrifices permanents before they can declare any blockers.

If a creature has multiple instances of Annihilator, each one will trigger separately. For example, if Ulamog’s Crusher in enchanted with Eldrazi Conscription (enchanted creature gets +10/+10 and has trample and annihilator 2) and attacks, it will generate two triggered abilities, causing the defending player to sacrifice two permanents and then sacrifice two more permanents. If a creature with Annihilator attacks a planeswalker, the planeswalker’s controller is still the defending player and will have to sacrifice permanents. If they sacrifice the planeswalker, any unblocked creatures that were attacking the planewalker simply won’t deal combat damage to anything.


Level Up in an activated ability that shows up on a number of creatures. Like all activated abilities, Level Up follows the format of  “[cost]: [effect]”. For Level Up, the effect is to put a level counter on that creature. Level Up may only be activated when you could cast a sorcery (during your main phase, with the stack empty).

Level Up creatures have very unique text boxes, with three striped bands each with their own power, toughness, and abilites. They all start with the power/toughness in the top box, and have the Level Up ability as their only ability. As you add level counters to your creature, you will gain access to more abilities and different power and toughness numbers. The second and third stripes in the text box reference the what level the creature is at. A creatures level is determined by counting the number of level counters on it. That means it enters the battlefield at level 0. With Knight of Cliffhaven, it starts as a 2/2. While it has 1 to 3 level counters on it, it becomes a 2/3 with flying. Finally, when it has 4 or more level counters on it, it becomes a 4.4 with flying and vigilance.


Rebound is a static ability that appears on some instants and sorceries. When a spell with Rebound resolves, if you cast it from your hand, exile it instead of placing it in your graveyard. At the beginning of your next upkeep, you may cast that card from exile without paying its mana cost. If you choose to cast it form exile, when the spell resolves place it in your graveyard.

If a spell with Rebound is countered (due to a spell like Cancel), it will not resolve and Rebound will have no effect. It will simply be placed in your graveyard. If you do not cast a Rebound form your hand (such as cascading into it with Bloodbraid Elf) it will also not be exiled. If you do exile your Rebound spell, but are unable or choose not to cast it during your next upkeep, it will simply remain exiled and it will not trigger again.


Totem Armor is a static ability that shows up on some Auras. It means that if the enchanted permanent would be destroyed, instead remove all damage from it and destroy this Aura. This effect is mandatory, and will apply whether the enchanted permanent would be destroyed by lethal damage or by an effect that says to “destroy” it (like Doom Blade). It specifies that it removes all damage from the permanent, but damage is not necessary for the Totem Armor to take effect.

Totem Armor will not prevent the enchanted permanent from being placed into the graveyard by other effects such as sacrifice or being a creature with zero or less toughness (such as a –X/-X effect). If a permanent enchanted with multiple Auras with Totem Armor would be destroyed, its controller chooses any one of them and sacrifices it. The rest remain unchanged.

Totem Armor creates a replacement effect that happens in place of the enchanted permanent being destroyed. This means that the enchanted permanent does not go to the graveyard and won’t trigger any effects that care if it does, just like regeneration. Unlike regeneration, when the Totem Armor ability goes off the enchanted creature is not tapped and is not removed from combat. If first strike damage would destroy the creature, the Totem Armor is destroyed instead and the creature sticks around to deal its regular combat damage.

Hopefully this primer helped you understand how all the new abilities in Rise of the Eldrazi work. If you have any questions about these rules or any other Magic rulings, ask them in the comments section. If I get questions, I’ll make rulings answers a regular part of these articles. Next week: Cubepocalypse!