Total War is the idea of taking the battle to the masses.

In the past, in the case of battles between established nations, wars were generally fought between armies. Furthermore, there were some kinds of unspoken rules to be followed: Don't butcher civillians. Don't raze cities. (well, unless you really, really have to, of course) In fact, in the past, war offered, in a way, some amusement for spectators: civillians might go up on a high hill and have a picnic while watching the two armies fighting it out from the distance. Fighting in wars was never really a civilized thing, but, like many unpleasent and nasty professions, it had some kind of unspoken set of rules.

Total war is just the opposite of this; there are no rules. In total war, civillians are butchered, cities are razed to the earth. Sometimes, the ground is even burnt and salted so nothing can ever grow again. The purpose is three fold: firstly, to destroy the war making abilities of the enemy. If their cities, factories, and the like are burnt to the ground, they can't produce any new equipment. Secondly, if their civillians are thrashed and beaten and tortured enough, they will ultimately lose their will to fight and surrender. Thirdly, it also effects the enemy's army: it can cause a great deal of fear and terror in the opponent's ranks because all of his troops are worried about their family, friends, and home.
The idea of so-called civilized war is actually a relatively recent idea. For most of history, total war, if not the genocide of the opposing people, has been the goal of open battle, except for empire-building nations such as the Persians and the Romans. Even with them, the concept of total war was not unknown.

Just off the top of my head, I can think of:

  • The Israelites and their conquest of Canaan, not to mention the Biblical command to exterminate the Amalekites.
  • The Trojan War may be semi-mythical, but the death of all the males and the enslavement of the women was standard procedure for the victors in the battles between the Greeks.
  • The Roman Empire and its second conquest of Carthage - the inhabitants were slaughtered and the fields were salted so no crops could grow for years.
  • Genghis Khan routinely asked for the surrender of a city and slaughtered everyone, women and children included, if it was not given and the Mongols managed to take the city anyways.

So really, the concept of total war is not anything new. And even when considering the European countries who claimed honor in war, realize that only applied to valiant and honorable enemies. Rebels and barbarians were to be simply slaughtered, not striven against in the field of battle. War is ugly, and it will always be ugly, no matter what rules or agreements are made.

Total war, by definition, is war fought by any and all means available.

The subject of total war was first treated theoretically by the Prussian military theorist Karl von Clausewitz, who used the term absolute war and pointed out that the stronger the motivation for war is, the more the resulting war will approach totality.

However, von Clausewitz denied the likelihood of truly total war ever occurring; any war approaching totality would be modified by the fact that war is not an isolated act, and does not consist of a single battle, where all strength can be committed at a particular instant and a specific location. Because of the possibility of retaliation, von Clausewitz argued, reserves will always exist, and war will never achieve true totality.

Total war, as a propaganda concept, recurs in the Nazi rhetoric during World War II. That war, however, was never close to total, because both sides refrained from using all means available (e.g., mustard gas, so loathed after the experiences of World War I that neither side wanted to be the first to use it).

Similarly, the prevalence of nuclear weapons makes total war unlikely, because the extreme destructiveness of the weapons, and their global impact, ensure that their use is tantamount to suicide - national if not racial.

Magic: The Gathering card. Information from Magic: The Database

Card Title: Total War
Card Type: Enchantment
Color: Red
Edition(s): Ice Age
Artist(s): Drew Tucker
Casting Cost: 3R
Rarity: Rare 1

Card Text: Whenever any player declares an attack, destroy all untapped non-wall creatures that player controls that don't attack. Do not destroy creatures the player did not control at the beginning of the turn.


  • Info: Color=Red Type=Enchantment Cost=3R IA(R1) + Text(IA+errata): Whenever a player declares one or more attackers, destroy all untapped non-Wall creatures that player controls that didn't attack, except for creatures the player hasn't controlled continuously since the beginning of the turn. [ Oracle 00/02/01 ]
  • Destroys creatures as a triggered ability on the declaration of attackers. [ D'Angelo 00/03/09 ]
Card Rulings as of March 20, 2002
Card Evaluation:

I have never seen this card played, and I was surprised to find that I own one.
When it was in print, it did not see play. Now that it is out of print, it really doesn't see any play. BUT! It is actually a pretty cool card.

Lets look at the drawbacks, and fixes:

If you want to attack, you have to attack with everything, or you lose the ones that hang back untapped.
-This precludes non-aggressive utility creatures in the deck, such as Birds of Paradise, or Soldier of Fortune. Essentially, every creature in your deck must be an attacker, unless you can tap them before your attack.
-You have no defense for when your opponent swings all his creatures at you.

These disadvantages are easily remedied:
-Don't put any non-aggressive creatures in your deck, or make sure that they are tapped before you declare your attack.
-Walls are not affected by Total War, so if you put walls in your deck you will have defense against the opponent's attack.

How will your opponent react to this card?
More than likely he will choose not to attack at all, at least until he thinks that he has the upper hand. Most people don't play with walls, so when he does finally attack, he will be left totally open against your own full swing.

How to take advantage of this:
Use Arcum's Whistle or Bullwhip to force an attack. These work better than Nettling Imp or Norrit because they can't be destroyed by Total War.

Here are a few other cards (mostly white and green) that work well with Total War.
Good attackers/blockers:
Flowstone Charger, Apes of Rath
"Fog" effects:
Holy Day, Fog, Spore Frog, Respite, Moment's Peace, Constant Mists, Darkness
Cards that laugh at massive attacks:
Orim's Prayer, Worship, Briar Patch
Good Walls:
Angelic Wall, Wall of Razors, Wall of Resistance, Wall of Stone, Wall of Dust, Wall of Essence, Wall of Glare, Wall of Swords, Wall of Nets, Wall of Shadows, Wall of Tears
Punishment for attacking:
Powerstone Minefield, Caltrops
Cards that force/prevent attacks:
Oracle en-Vec, Arcum's Whistle, Bullwhip, Siren's Call, Festival, Keldon Twilight

Here is a deck listing. This hasn't been tested, so be forewarned.

This is a Red/White deck that combines aggressive red creatures with white defenses.
13 Plains
7 Mountain
4 Battlefield Forge or Plateau

4 Flowstone Charger
3 Shivan Dragon
2 Angelic Wall
4 Wall of Resistance
4 Wall of Glare

4 Total War
4 Powerstone Minefield
3 Glorious Anthem
4 Worship

4 Bullwhip

You decide. This is made for casual play.

The first few rounds will be spend consolidating your defense with the mana-cheap walls. By turn four play Total War if you've drawn it, or a Flowstone Charger if you haven't. After that, instigate attacks with Bullwhip and handily repulse them with your walls or let them get outright killed with one or more Powerstone Minefields. The Flowstone Chargers will die to your Minefield unless you have a Glorious Anthem in play, but that isn't such a big deal once the Shivan Dragon hits the board. He should be able to mop up what is left of your opponent. I put a slighly higher Mountain count that this deck needed so that you can pump him just a little bit bigger. Worship will keep you in the game, even if your opponent makes it through the Minefield.

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