One of the most misunderstood abilities in Magic is Protection. The problem with it is that most people tend to think of Protection as a total immunity - which it isn't. To make matters worse, 99% of the time thinking of Protection that way will get the right result but for the wrong reason - which means most people who misunderstand it never realize it (they'd probably make good Managers).
But like Nair on Chewbacca, I'm here to reveal things to you! I'll show you exactly what the Protection ability really is, and I'll point out common misconceptions about it. I've also included several "real-life" examples detailing just what can and cannot "get around" the Protection ability.
So, your first question is probably "if Protection isn't a total immunity, then what is it?" Well, simply put, it's actually four different abilities in one. For clarity, let's use a real world example - Thermal Glider Buy. I could rewrite Thermal Glider's rules text so that instead of reading "Flying. Protection from Red" it read "Flying. Prevent all damage dealt to Thermal Glider by Red sources. Red creatures cannot be assigned to block Thermal Glider. Thermal Glider cannot be the target of Red spells and abilites. Thermal Glider can't be enchanted by Red enchantments."
Those four abilities are exactly what the protection ability grants - and nothing more. While that might seem to be a total immunity, there are weakpoints. For example, red spells or abilities that don't target and don't do damage will affect a "Pro Red" creature just like any other - like Flowstone Slide Buy. Flowstone Slide says all creatures get +X/-X - it doesn't use the word target (that means that Flowstone Slide doesn't target the creatures that it affects because in order for a spell or effect to target something it must actually use the word "target" in it's text) and since Flowstone Slide doesn't do damage either(+X/-X isn't damage, it's just a direct change in toughness) it doesn't target or damage any creatures at all - so Pro Red creatures are affected just like any other.
When blocking, Thermal Glider has better luck|
with salamanders than with basilisks.
Once again, you have to understand what it means for a spell or ability to be "targeted." Basically, if the actual word "target" is used - then the effect is targeted - if the actual word "target" isn't used - then the spell or ability is not targeted. Pretty simple. Since neither Flowstone Slide nor Wrath of God use the word "target" - they aren't targeted spells and can thus get around the Protection ability (since Protection from Red doesn't prevent an effect from affecting a creature - it just prevents an effect from targeting that creature).
The other parts of Protection are easier to understand. If I attack you with a Thermal Glider - you can't block it with a red creature. But, if you attack me with a red creature - I can choose to block it with my Thermal Glider. Any damage that your creature deals to mine would be prevented - but non-targeted abilities could still be used. For instance, if your red creature had the ability "Any creature blocking or blocked by this creature is destroyed at end of combat" - then my creature would be destroyed at end of combat just like any other. However, if your creature had this ability instead "2: Target creature blocking or blocked by this creature is destroyed at end of combat" - then my Thermal Glider would be safe since you couldn't target it with your red creature's ability.
Thermal Glider also cannot be enchanted by Red Enchantments. This may seem like a strange ability since if Thermal Glider can't be the target of Red Spells - then how would a Red Enchantment ever end up on it anyways? Well, in Magic - strange things can happen all the time! A good example is what if instead of a Thermal Glider I had a Grizzly Bears Buy. I could enchant my Grizzly Bears with a red enchantment no problem - but what if I then play a spell that gives my Grizzly Bears protection from red? Well, the fourth ability of Protection kicks in the enchantment is destroyed. The important thing to remember about this is that Thermal Glider can't be enchanted by any Red enchantment - not even your own. So, you can forget about putting that Firebreathing Buy on it. Likewise, you can't Blood Lust Buy your Thermal Glider because it can't be targeted by Red spells.
If you still have any questions about Protection, then feel free to visit our Rules Questions Forum (which just happens to have a Protection FAQ). Our rules gurus are always happy to answer any questions you have about Protection (or anything else for that matter).
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Special thanks to the rest of the eM Rules Team.