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Tons of creatures have flying in Magic:The Gathering, but I noticed Treetop Rangers have this ability:

Treetop Rangers can't be blocked except by creatures with flying.

Obviously this means that Treetop Rangers can't be blocked by creatures with Reach, which can block creatures with flying. Is that the only difference? When else would this distinction matter? Is Treetop Ranger's ability generally 'better' than flying?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

I know it's the "simple answer", but I have to add it for completeness' sake!

A creature that "can't be blocked except by creatures with flying" has about half the functionality of a creature with flying. In terms of its evasive power, it's quite similar to a creature with flying; a little better because it can't be blocked by the likes of Giant Spider, and "super-high-flyers" such as Cloud Elemental.

In terms of its defensive capabilities, however, it's much worse than a flyer, since it can only block ground creatures, never a flyer! And as David Z rightly points out, it is susceptible to a different class of spells such as Earthquake, while laughing at the likes of Hurricane and Plummet...

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One difference is with cards like Hurricane that affect only creatures with flying, or those like Earthquake that affect only creatures without flying. If flyer removal is common in your metagame, something like Treetop Rangers can be pretty good because you can easily get rid of the creatures that can block it without removing the Rangers themselves.

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+1 - that's what I get for looking for the link for Moat. Well, actually +1 when I get my votes back in 22 hours. – LittleBobbyTables Oct 2 '11 at 3:02
Also, perhaps it is obvious, but another difference is the rangers cannot block flying creatures on defense. – Affe Oct 2 '11 at 7:22
@Affe, +1 - since this is by far the most obvious and important difference between a creature with Flying and a Treetop Ranger, I'm amazing that two answers so far hadn't mentioned it! – thesunneversets Oct 2 '11 at 17:21
Yeah, I completely forgot about that... :-/ – David Z Oct 2 '11 at 18:48
@thesun -- it was too obvious, but I should have included it for completeness. Oh well. – LittleBobbyTables Oct 3 '11 at 2:06

Creatures with "Can't be blocked except by creatures with flying" essentially have the same evasion as flying, without the downside of being affected by cards that affect flying creatures, such as Wing Puncture and Hurricane.

On the downside, it can still be affected by cards such as Earthquake and Moat, since it doesn't have flying.

Is it "better" than flying? Depends on the situation.

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Unless the rules have changed recently (which is entirely possible), treetop rangers can be blocked by creatures with reach, since reach allows a creature to block as if it had flying.

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The rules have indeed changed, Simon - in the old days creatures had the ability "can block as though it had flying", which enabled the blocking of Treetop Rangers. Since the keywording of "Reach", which explicitly means "this creature can block creatures with Flying" - the Rangers are unblockable. – thesunneversets Oct 7 '11 at 10:25
Compare Treetop Rangers with Orchard Spirit – ghoppe Oct 7 '11 at 14:21

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