List of Magic: The Gathering keywords
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (February 2012)|
This is a list of keywords in the trading card game Magic: The Gathering. A keyword in Magic: The Gathering is a word or phrase (usually one or two words) appearing on a card, used to indicate that the card possesses a certain attribute or ability. These keywords are used in place of the full explanation of the attribute or ability, and are instead explained in detail in sections 701 and 702 of the Comprehensive Rules. However, in certain sets some keywords are immediately followed by italicized, parenthesized text (known as "reminder text") fully explaining the meaning behind the keyword. Every keyword in a Core Set has reminder text. Since the release of Tenth Edition, however, premium (foil) cards in core sets no longer contain reminder text.
Keywords are typically created to summarize abilities or other attributes which are reasonably common in an individual expansion, expansion block, or in the game as a whole. Many keywords summarize abilities or attributes which are sufficiently complex such that the full explanation would fill the "rules text" area of the card; the smaller, one- or two-word keywords allow cards to be printed with a number of complex abilities, yet still be easily readable by players.
Keywords may also be used to summarize "block mechanics", certain card abilities or types of cards which are only designed and intended for use within a specific collection or "block" of expansions. While these keywords are almost always exclusive to their specific expansion block, they nonetheless become part of the official Magic: The Gathering game rules. Examples of block mechanics that have received keywords include bushido, flashback, and suspend.
This list also includes ability words, which are italicized words that have no rules meaning but are used on cards with similar abilities. Ability words are usually used for non-keyworded block mechanics.
- 1 Evergreen keywords
- 2 Keyword actions
- 3 Keywords from Expert-Level expansions (mechanics)
- 3.1 Absorb
- 3.2 Affinity
- 3.3 Amplify
- 3.4 Annihilator
- 3.5 Aura swap
- 3.6 Banding
- 3.7 Bands with other
- 3.8 Battle cry
- 3.9 Bestow
- 3.10 Bolster
- 3.11 Bloodthirst
- 3.12 Bushido
- 3.13 Buyback
- 3.14 Cascade
- 3.15 Champion
- 3.16 Changeling
- 3.17 Cipher
- 3.18 Clash
- 3.19 Conspire
- 3.20 Convoke
- 3.21 Cumulative upkeep
- 3.22 Cycling
- 3.23 Dash
- 3.24 Delve
- 3.25 Detain
- 3.26 Devour
- 3.27 Dredge
- 3.28 Echo
- 3.29 Entwine
- 3.30 Epic
- 3.31 Evolve
- 3.32 Evoke
- 3.33 Exalted
- 3.34 Exploit
- 3.35 Extort
- 3.36 Fading
- 3.37 Fateseal
- 3.38 Fear
- 3.39 Flanking
- 3.40 Flashback
- 3.41 Flip
- 3.42 Forecast
- 3.43 Fortify
- 3.44 Frenzy
- 3.45 Graft
- 3.46 Gravestorm
- 3.47 Haunt
- 3.48 Hideaway
- 3.49 Horsemanship
- 3.50 Infect
- 3.51 Kicker
- 3.52 Level up
- 3.53 Living weapon
- 3.54 Madness
- 3.55 Manifest
- 3.56 Miracle
- 3.57 Modular
- 3.58 Monstrosity
- 3.59 Morph
- 3.60 Multikicker
- 3.61 Ninjutsu
- 3.62 Offering
- 3.63 Overload
- 3.64 Persist
- 3.65 Phasing
- 3.66 Poisonous
- 3.67 Populate
- 3.68 Proliferate
- 3.69 Provoke
- 3.70 Prowl
- 3.71 Rampage
- 3.72 Rebound
- 3.73 Recover
- 3.74 Reinforce
- 3.75 Renown
- 3.76 Replicate
- 3.77 Retrace
- 3.78 Ripple
- 3.79 Scavenge
- 3.80 Scry
- 3.81 Shadow
- 3.82 Soulbond
- 3.83 Soulshift
- 3.84 Splice
- 3.85 Split second
- 3.86 Storm
- 3.87 Sunburst
- 3.88 Suspend
- 3.89 Totem armor
- 3.90 Transfigure
- 3.91 Transform
- 3.92 Transmute
- 3.93 Typecycling
- 3.94 Undying
- 3.95 Unearth
- 3.96 Unleash
- 3.97 Vanishing
- 3.98 Wither
- 4 Ability words
- 5 Discontinued keywords
- 6 References
- 7 External links
These are keywords which may appear in any Magic set, particularly the Core Sets where they are usually the only keywords (though some expert-level keywords may appear occasionally in Core Sets; each Core Set beginning with Magic 2011 has included one expert-level keyword as the "returning mechanic"). They are also used in many expert-level expansions, but in those sets they are printed without reminder text.
Deathtouch is a static ability that causes a creature to be destroyed as a result of having been dealt damage by a source with deathtouch. In this way, for a creature with deathtouch, any nonzero amount of damage it deals to another creature is considered enough to kill it. One of the creatures with death touch is the common typhoid rats, available in m15, or in other sets.
Similar abilities have appeared mostly on green and black cards, but in most cases those abilities were functionally different (typically triggering on combat damage and/or at end of combat). This ability was first printed on a single timeshifted creature from Future Sight, Thornweald Archer. Older cards with this ability, such as Cruel Deceiver, were not changed to gain deathtouch.
Creatures with defender can't attack. This ability was formerly associated with Walls, as the creature type Wall had implicit "rules baggage" that prevented such creatures from attacking. One of the walls is coral barrier.
Creatures with first strike deal damage before other creatures in combat. Therefore, if a creature with first strike deals sufficient damage to kill an opposing creature without this ability, it will not suffer any combat damage from that creature in return.
A creature with double strike deals both first strike and normal combat damage. For instance, a 1/2 creature with double strike such as Boros Swiftblade would defeat a 2/1 creature in combat and survive,. due to destroying it with first strike damage. It would also destroy a 2/2 creature, though be destroyed itself because the opposing creature survived the first strike to deal its own damage.
This ability is written Enchant (quality) and appears on Auras, a subtype of enchantments. An Aura enters the battlefield attached to a permanent with the quality of its Enchant ability, and can only be attached to a permanent with that quality. If an Aura is not attached to a permanent with the required quality (such as if the object it enchants leaves the battlefield), it is put into its owner's graveyard. Like protection, the quality can be almost anything, but it normally has a permanent type associated with it, such as "Enchant creature." This ability was formerly seen in the type line instead of "Enchantment — Aura." The wording changed in the Ninth Edition core set, which introduced the Aura subtype.
This ability is written Equip (cost). It is found only on Equipment, a subtype of artifacts that first appeared in Mirrodin. A player may pay the Equip cost as a sorcery (only during his or her own main phase when the stack is empty) to attach it to a creature he or she controls. That creature becomes "equipped" and can then be referenced by the Equipment as the "equipped creature." If the Equipment is already attached to a creature, its controller may pay the Equip cost again to move it to another creature. However, the Equipment cannot simply be "dropped" by the equipped creature by paying the Equip cost. When a creature leaves the battlefield or stops being a creature by some effect, any Equipment attached to it "falls off," becoming unattached but remaining on the battlefield. Similarly, an Equipment that becomes a creature will "fall off" a creature it is attached to. On the other hand, Equipment does not "fall off" if another player gains control of either the creature or the Equipment. In the first case, the original controller still controls the Equipment, and so can pay the Equip cost to move it to a creature he or she still controls. In the second case, the original controller still controls the creature, but the other player can pay the Equip cost to move the Equipment to a creature he or she controls.
Flash is the keyword of an ability that has existed as far back as Mirage. Artifacts, creatures or enchantments with flash may be played any time their controller could play an instant. Older cards with that ability have been updated via rules errata to have flash; this allows them to work with cards such as Mystical Teachings.
Creatures with flying can't be blocked except by other creatures with flying and/or reach. Flying is the most common Magic keyword, and appears in all five colors, but chiefly in blue and white. Creatures with flying are often Dragons, Angels, Birds, and other creatures that have wings.
Creatures with the haste ability are able to attack and use abilities that involve the tap symbol (so cards that have abilities that simply say "tap" may be used on the turn they are played even if they don't have haste e.g. Heritage Druid) on the turn a player gains control of them, instead of waiting until their controller's next turn (an effect dubbed "summoning sickness" prevents a creature from attacking or using abilities with the tap symbol unless its controller controlled it since the start of their most recent turn). Haste is an example of a retroactive keywording, as cards from almost every earlier set have possessed "may attack the turn [they] come into play" or "unaffected by summoning sickness," which was replaced by the word "haste." It was later changed to include untapping to activate abilities as well. Creatures with haste are most often red.
Hexproof is a static ability of permanents and players. A player or permanent with hexproof cannot be the target of spells or abilities controlled by that player's opponents (or that permanent's controller's opponents). This is similar to shroud, but it does not deny the player (or his or her allies) the ability to target his or her own hexproof permanents. Cards that previously had or granted this ability, such as Troll Ascetic and Imperial Mask, were errataed to have hexproof with the release of the Commander decks.
A permanent with indestructible can't be destroyed by effects that say "Destroy" (such as Doom Blade or Wrath of God) or by lethal damage. They can still be countered, exiled, returned to the hand or library, sacrificed, or killed with effects that give negative toughness. Indestructible is now a keyword, not anymore a quality that's true about a permanent, meaning that the indestructible ability can now be removed from a card, making it susceptible to being destroyed(23). Indestructible first appeared in Darksteel, chiefly among artifacts made of the titular metal, and has appeared in colored creatures in subsequent sets.
A creature with intimidate can't be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a color with it. It first appeared in Zendikar. In 2009, Intimidate was announced as an evergreen keyword to replace fear, though it did not appear in a Core Set until Hideous Visage was printed in Magic 2012.
Permanents with lifelink cause their controller to gain life whenever they deal damage. Lifelink as a keyword was introduced in Future Sight, though the ability itself already existed on numerous cards, which were all issued rules errata to have or grant lifelink. Cards with similar abilities, such as Spirit Link, were not changed in this way. Lifelink was a triggered ability when it was issued but is now a static ability due to the Magic 2010 rules changes. Cards that previously had a lifelink-like ability have been issued further errata to return them to their original functionality (the lone exception to this is the Mirrodin card Loxodon Warhammer, which, since it was reprinted in Tenth Edition with the lifelink keyword, retains that rather than the original functionality on all editions). Lifelink is found mostly on white cards.
Reach is an ability which allows a creature to block creatures with flying. The keyword was introduced in Future Sight, and the flying rules themselves were changed to clarify this interaction. Older cards with the ability to "block as though [they] had flying" were issued rules errata to have reach instead. Reach is found primarily in green creatures, especially Spiders.
To scry X, a player looks at the top X cards of his library, then puts any number of them on the bottom of his library and the rest on top of his library in any order. Scry originally appeared in Fifth Dawn as a keyword ability, primarily on instants and sorceries as "Scry 2," though it was designed to allow other values. Future Sight added values "Scry 1" through "Scry 4" and redefined scry to be a keyword action, allowing it to be placed in the middle of an ability rather than as a "tack-on" to other abilities. Scry then appeared in the Core Set Magic 2011, becoming the first mechanic to be revisited in a core set. Scry also returned in Theros Block before becoming an evergreen keyword in Magic Origins.
A player or permanent with shroud cannot be the target of spells or abilities (even his or her own). While the keyword "shroud" was introduced in Future Sight, the ability itself existed long before, first appearing on Spectral Cloak; cards which featured this ability were all issued rules errata to have or grant "shroud." Creatures with shroud are most often blue or green. Today it has been supplanted completely by the more flexible Hexproof.
Creatures with trample may deal "excess" damage to the defending player if they are blocked. For example, under normal circumstances, if a 6/3 attacker is blocked by a 1/1 creature, the attacker's 6 damage is all directed at the defending creature, despite it being only able to take 1 damage before being killed. If, however, the attacker has trample, the attacking player may choose to have the difference (in this case, 5) between the attacker's power and the defenders' total toughness "trample over" and be assigned to the defending player; this choice is to be made by the attacking player, and circumstances can arise in which "overkilling" the blocking creature is a more advantageous move. Even if the blocker does not take the damage (if it is prevented, for instance) the trample damage is still assigned to the defending player. Trample only applies when a creature with trample is attacking; if a 6/3 creature with trample blocks a 1/1 attacker, the blocker's extra 5 damage cannot be assigned to the attacking player. Creatures with trample are most often green or red.
Vigilance is a keyword of an ability that existed as far back as Limited Edition Alpha with Serra Angel, but was retroactively keyworded beginning with the Kamigawa block. Creatures with vigilance do not tap to attack (Prior to being keywording, these creatures' rules text read "Attacking doesn't cause this creature to tap"). Most creatures with vigilance are white.
This section contains the most common keyword actions, namely those that occur in the Core Sets. Other keyword actions are listed with the other keywords from expert-level expansions.
The term attach is used primarily on cards which can provide effects to certain other cards for an indeterminate amount of time, particularly Auras (see Enchant), Equipment (see Equip), and Fortifications (see Fortify). These types of cards are used by designating something (usually a permanent) for them to be "attached" to.
To counter a spell or ability is to remove it from the stack, usually placing it in its owner's graveyard. This prevents the spell or ability from resolving. A spell can be countered in one of two ways. First, another spell can resolve that explicitly counters it. A spell that can "counter" another spell in this way is often referred to as a "counterspell," after the original Counterspell. Or, if all the targets of a spell or ability have become illegal (for example, a creature targeted by a black spell gained protection from black), the game rules counter the spell. A spell that is countered this way is said to have "fizzled." Some cards specify that they "cannot be countered by spells or abilities." This only prevents the explicit method of countering spells; such a spell can still be countered by the game rules.
To exile a card is to put it into the exile zone, usually as part of a card's effect. With few exceptions, exiled cards can no longer have an effect on the game. Starting from the Magic 2010 rules changes, cards that "remove [something] from the game" or "set [something] aside" were issued errata to say "exile [something]" instead.
When two creatures fight each other, each creature deals damage equal to its power to the other creature. Multiple creatures may fight each other at the same time. Fight is a keyword action that has been sporadically printed in some form since the card Gargantuan Gorilla, but it was not keyworded until Innistrad.
Regenerate describes a replacement effect for destruction, is generally written as "Cost: Regenerate (this permanent)", and is an ability only held by permanents. When the ability is activated, a "regeneration shield" is set up on the permanent. The next time that permanent would be destroyed, instead (if applicable) all damage is removed from it, it is removed from combat, it is tapped, and a regeneration shield is removed from it. Otherwise, the regeneration shield remains until the end of the turn. This ability is generally found on creatures, though any permanent can be regenerated.
To sacrifice a permanent is to put it into its owner's graveyard. A player can only sacrifice a permanent he or she controls. Note that this term is separate from other ways permanents can be put into their owners' graveyards, such as destruction (meaning regeneration has no effect on sacrifice) and state-based actions (a creature having 0 toughness, for example). Players are not allowed to sacrifice unless prompted to by a game effect. When a spell or ability requires a sacrifice, that sacrifice is paid as part of the casting of the spell, not as part of the activation of the spell.
To tap a permanent is to rotate the card 90 degrees. This indicates it is being used, often as a cost, or to indicate that a creature is attacking (except for creatures with vigilance). Creatures a player controls that have not been under his or her control since the beginning of his or her most recent turn are said to have "summoning sickness" and cannot be tapped for their abilities that include the "tap symbol," nor can they attack, but they can be tapped for costs that use the word "tap" (for example, "Tap two untapped creatures you control").
To untap a permanent is to return it to a vertical orientation, allowing it to be tapped again. A tapped permanent must be untapped before it can be tapped again. However, as introduced in the Shadowmoor block, untapping can also be a cost for activated abilities. It has its own special untap symbol (often called "Q"), and is separate from normal untapping. To pay a cost including the untap symbol, the permanent must be already tapped. If that permanent is also a creature, then, as with the tap symbol, that ability can only be used if the creature has been under its controller's control since the beginning of his or her most recent turn.
Keywords from Expert-Level expansions (mechanics)
The following are keywords currently in use in the card sets other than the Core Sets and the Un-sets (parody card sets; See Unglued). Internally, expert-level keywords would appear in one block and are never used again; a major exception is the Time Spiral block, which re-used many keyword mechanics from Magic's history due to its "nostalgia" theme.
Since then the design and development teams have reconsidered this policy and have made it habit to re-use old mechanics that they feel they can explore in new ways, contribute to flavor, or fix old mechanics and make them better. Examples being the Innistrad block, which used Flashback; and the Theros block, which uses Scry and remade the Chroma mechanic as Devotion.
This ability is written absorb X. If a creature with absorb would be dealt damage, X of that damage is prevented. This ability appears on a single timeshifted creature from Future Sight, Lymph Sliver. Older cards with this ability were not changed to grant absorb.
This ability is written Affinity for (quality). A card with affinity costs 1 generic mana less to cast for each permanent with that quality under the caster's control. For instance, a Frogmite, which is an artifact creature that costs 4 generic mana and has 'Affinity for artifacts', would be free if the player casting it controls four or more artifacts, whereas Thoughtcast, a sorcery with a printed cost of 4 generic mana and 1 blue mana, will cost a single blue mana regardless of whether its caster controls four or five (or more) artifacts. Affinity appeared throughout the Mirrodin block, usually for artifacts. A cycle of five cards in Darksteel had affinity for each of the basic land types.
This ability is written Amplify X. As a creature with amplify enters the battlefield, its controller may reveal any number of creature cards in his or her hand that share a creature type with the creature. That creature enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it for each card so revealed. Amplify only appears in Legions.
This ability is written Annihilator X. Whenever a creature with annihilator attacks, the defending player sacrifices X permanents. Annihilator abilities trigger and resolve during the declare attackers step. The defending player chooses and sacrifices the required number of permanents before he or she declares blockers. This is a triggered ability that appears exclusively on colorless Eldrazi cards from Rise of the Eldrazi.
This ability is written Aura swap (cost). By paying the aura swap cost, the player may exchange the Aura with this ability with an Aura card in his or her hand, if he or she controls and owns the Aura with aura swap. This ability appears on a single timeshifted Aura from Future Sight, Arcanum Wings.
Banding is an ability that has two parts. First, a defending player determines how combat damage is dealt by an opposing creature if at least one of the creatures blocking the opposing creature has banding; normally the controller of the creature dealing the damage determines this. Second, an attacking player may form "bands" of creatures with banding, though one non-banding creature can be included in a band. If one creature in the band becomes blocked, the whole band becomes blocked as well, whether or not the defender could block other creatures in the band. This can allow many small creatures to "gang up" on a single bigger creature that would survive blocking any one of these smaller creatures.
Banding appears primarily in white. Weatherlight was the last set to print cards with banding; Mark Rosewater has since indicated that the ability was retired because "even [the top players in the world] were confused by banding."
Bands with other
This ability is a limited version of banding, written as Bands with other (quality). A creature with this ability has banding, but can only band with creatures that have the same ability, e.g. are of the creature type or sub-type (quality), are of the color (quality), and so on. Unlike normal banding, in an attacking band only one creature is required to have the bands with other (quality) ability, so long as all other creatures in the band have the specified quality. All other banding rules apply.
Prior to the rules revisions made with the release of Magic 2010, "bands with other" worked in a significantly different manner. Rather than limiting a creature with this ability to banding with other creatures with the specified quality, the ability instead required all creatures in the band to have the same "bands with other (quality)" ability or regular banding. The limitations (and counter-intuitiveness) of the ability under these rules led to "bands with other" being called "possibly the worst keyworded ability of all time" by Magic rules manager Mark Gottlieb in the article "Absurd or Ridiculous? You Decide".
"Bands with other" appears on only nine cards – eight in Legends and one in Unhinged. The only objects that natively have the ability are Wolves of the Hunt tokens created by the card Master of the Hunt and the Unhinged card Old Fogey.
When a creature with battle cry attacks, all other attacking creatures get +1/+0 until the end of the turn. Battle cry was introduced in Mirrodin Besieged and appears on Mirran cards.
A creature with bestow gives the player the option to cast it as an Aura that enchants a creature, granting that creature its power, toughness, and abilities, such as Chromanticore. A bestow card cast for its bestow cost will enter the stack as a creature spell. By choosing to pay the alternative cost, which is a static ability, it becomes an Enchantment-Aura spell, meaning cards like Aurelia's Fury can't prevent the damaged player to cast a bestow card for its bestow cost. It's an Aura spell with enchant creature, so you have to target a creature to cast it. If the creature it targets leaves the battlefield before the bestow card resolves, or after the bestow card is already enchanting the creature, the bestow card enters the battlefield as an enchantment creature, unlike a regular aura card which would become unattached and go to the graveyard. This mechanic first appeared on some enchantment creatures from the Theros block.
The ability is written Bolster X. When Bolster is activated, the player puts on the stack an action to choose one of his creatures with the lowest toughness among them and put X +1/+1 counters on it. The choice is done at the resolution of the ability. It first appeared in Fate Reforged.
This ability is written Bloodthirst X. A creature with bloodthirst X enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it if an opponent had been damaged during that turn. Bloodthirst appears in Guildpact and is the ability associated with the Gruul Clans. It is the returning mechanic in Magic 2012, where it can be found mostly on black and red cards.
This ability is written Bushido X. When a creature with bushido blocks or becomes blocked, it gets +X/+X until end of turn. Bushido appears on all Samurai in the Kamigawa block, and only on Samurai. Earlier cards with this ability were not given errata to have bushido.
This ability is written Buyback (cost). It appears on instants and sorceries and is an additional, optional cost when casting the card. If the buyback cost was paid, the card returns to its owner's hand upon resolving, instead of going to the graveyard. Buyback first appears in the Tempest block.
When a spell with cascade is cast, its controller reveals cards from the top of his or her library until a nonland card that has a lower converted mana cost is revealed. In addition to the original spell, that player may then cast the revealed spell without paying its mana cost; all other revealed cards are put on the bottom of the library in a random order. Cascade was introduced in Alara Reborn and is the main feature of the "Chaos Reigns" deck from the Planechase 2012 expansion.
This ability is written Champion a (type). It is an evolution-style mechanic that mimics a creature changing into a "new improved version." When a creature with champion enters the battlefield, its controller must exile a card he or she controls of the appropriate type, or sacrifice the champion. When the creature with champion leaves the battlefield, the creature it "championed" (the exiled card) is returned to the battlefield. Most creatures with champion replace a creature that shares their own creature type, but those with the changeling ability have the generic "Champion a creature." Champion was introduced in Lorwyn.
Cipher is printed on sorceries and represents two effects. When a spell with cipher resolves, its controller may exile the spell "encoded" on a creature he or she controls. Then, whenever that creature deals combat damage to an opponent, its controller can cast a free copy of the encoded spell. Cipher appears in Gatecrash as the guild keyword of House Dimir.
Clash is a keyword action that determines the results of a spell. When a card says to clash, its controller chooses an opponent to clash with, and each player involved in the clash reveals the top card of his or her library, and then puts it on the top or bottom of that library. The winner of the clash is the player who revealed the card with the highest converted mana cost. If there is a tie, there is no winner. All cards with clash grant a bonus effect if their controller wins the clash. Clash was introduced in Lorwyn.
As a player casts a spell with conspire, he or she may pay the optional, additional cost of tapping two creatures that share a color with the spell. He or she then copies the spell and may choose new targets for the copy. Conspire appears on instants and sorceries in Shadowmoor.
As a spell with convoke is cast, its controller may tap any number of creatures. Each creature tapped reduces the card's mana cost by 1 colorless mana or 1 mana of the tapped creature's color. For example, a player may pay for Conclave's Blessing, which costs 3 colorless and 1 white mana, by tapping four creatures, at least one of which must be white. Convoke appears in Ravnica: City of Guilds and is the ability associated with the Selesnya Conclave. Convoke is also the returning keyword mechanic for the Magic 2015 core set, where it appears in all colors.
This ability is written Cumulative upkeep (cost). At the beginning of each of its controller's upkeeps, an "age counter" is put on the card. Then the player must either pay the cumulative upkeep cost for each age counter on the permanent, or sacrifice it. The ability was originally designed to represent an ever-climbing cost, eventually forcing the player to sacrifice the card and lose its benefits, although later incarnations provide a benefit for the number of age counters on the card. The ability first appeared on the card Cyclone from Arabian Nights, but was first keyworded in Ice Age. The mechanic also appeared in Mirage block, with Weatherlight offering a number of twists on the upkeep cost, and in Coldsnap.
This ability is written Cycling (cost). A player with a card with cycling in hand may pay the cycling cost, discard the card, and draw a new card. Cycling cards appeared in the Urza block, the Onslaught block, and the Alara block. A variant of this keyword is typecycling.
This ability is written Dash (Cost), on creature spells. A player casting a card with Dash may opt to pay its Dash cost instead of the normal cost. If the Dash cost is chosen, the creature gains Haste until the end of turn, and is returned to its owner hand at the end of turn. The mechanic first appeared in Fate Reforged.
When playing a card with delve, its controller may exile any number of cards in his or her graveyard. For each card exiled, the spell costs 1 colorless mana less to play. This ability first appeared on timeshifted cards from Future Sight, but was brought back for the set Khans of Tarkir .
Detain is a keyword action introduced in Return to Ravnica that appears on blue and white cards of the Azorius guild. When a player detains a permanent, until the start of his or her next turn, the detained permanent can't attack, block, or activate abilities.
This ability is written Devour X. As a creature with devour enters the battlefield, its controller may sacrifice any number of creatures in order to put X +1/+1 counters on the devouring creature for each creature sacrificed. Devour appears on Jund cards in the Alara block.
This ability is written Dredge X. Any time a player would draw a card, if a card with dredge is in his or her graveyard, the player may instead put the top X cards of his or her library into the graveyard and return the card with dredge to his or her hand. A player can't do this if there are fewer than X cards in his or her library. Dredge appears in Ravnica: City of Guilds and is the ability associated with the Golgari Swarm.
This ability is written Echo (cost). Cards with echo require their echo cost to be paid at the beginning of their controller's upkeep, the turn after the card was played or gained control of. If the echo cost is not paid, then the card is sacrificed.
In the Urza block, this ability was written only as "Echo" with the echo cost always equal to the card's mana cost. The rules were altered for echo's return in Time Spiral to be written as echo (cost) instead, and all previous echo cards were issued rules errata to have their echo cost be equal to their mana cost. Additionally, although all echo cards in Time Spiral had echo costs equal to their mana costs, Planar Chaos introduced permanents with echo costs different from their mana costs, and Future Sight introduced echo costs that are not simply mana payments.
This ability is written Entwine (cost). All cards with entwine are modal spells with two choices. Normally, a player chooses one mode or the other. If the card's entwine cost is paid in addition to its regular cost, both effects happen. Entwine appears in the Mirrodin block.
Epic has two effects: first, after a player casts a spell with epic, he or she can no longer cast spells for the remainder of the game. However, at the beginning of each of his or her upkeeps for the rest of the game, the player puts a new copy of the epic spell on the stack. This doesn't count as "casting" it (so it doesn't become a useless ability) and no mana payment is required. Epic appears only on a cycle of five rare sorceries in Saviors of Kamigawa.
Evolve is a keyword on creatures which allows them to grow larger. Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, if that creature has larger power or toughness than your creature with evolve, you can put a +1/+1 counter on your creature with evolve. Evolve was designed by a contestant during The Great Designer Search II and appears in Gatecrash as the guild keyword of the Simic Combine.
This ability is written as Evoke (cost) and is an alternate cost for a creature, generally a far lower cost, with the condition that the creature must be sacrificed upon entering the battlefield. All cards with evoke have additional effects upon entering, or leaving, the battlefield. The creature's controller may choose whether the sacrifice occurs before or after the additional effect(s). Evoke appears in Lorwyn and Morningtide.
Exalted appears on Bant cards in the Alara block and is a returning mechanic in Magic 2013. When any creature a player controls attacks alone, it receives +1/+1 until end of turn for each permanent with the exalted keyword that player controls.
Exploit is an ability that appears on creatures. It gives the player who casts it the option to sacrifice a creature they control when it enters the battlefield, and that if they do so, an ability will trigger dependent on what the creature specifies. Exploit appears in Dragons of Tarkir.
Extort is a keyword which allows you to slowly drain life from your opponent. Whenever you play a spell, you may pay one white or black mana for each permanent you control with extort. For each mana you pay, each opponent loses one life, and you gain that much life. Extort appeared in Gatecrash as the guild keyword for the Orzhov Syndicate
This ability is written as fading X. A permanent with fading enters the battlefield with X fade counters on it. At the beginning of its controller's upkeep, a fade counter is removed; if a counter cannot be removed, the card is sacrificed. Fading is exclusive to Nemesis. It is extremely similar to the Planar Chaos keyword vanishing.
This keyword action is written Fateseal X. To fateseal, a player looks at the top X cards of an opponent's library, and may put any number of those cards on the bottom of that player's library. Thus, this ability is functionally a scry on the opponent's library; fateseal was dubbed "evil scry" while in design. Fateseal exclusively appears on timeshifted cards from Future Sight.
Fear is an example of "retroactive keywording," meaning it was an ability that had existed long before it was given a keyword; its eponymous card, Fear, was in the original set Limited Edition Alpha. Creatures with fear can't be blocked except by black creatures and by artifact creatures. Fear has, with few exceptions, always appeared on black creatures. Fear was replaced as a viable keyword by intimidate.
When a creature with flanking is blocked by a creature without this ability, the blocking creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn. The effect is cumulative; multiple instances of flanking will effect a greater penalty, though a blocking creature only needs one instance to avoid the effect. Flanking first appears in the Mirage block.
This ability is written Flashback (cost) and appears on instants and sorceries. When a card with this ability is in a player's graveyard, that player may pay its flashback cost and cast the card from the graveyard. Then, instead of the card going to the graveyard, it is exiled. This allows a player to get a second use from a card. Flashback was introduced in the Odyssey block, where cards with an ability that acted from the graveyard have small headstone markers in front of their names. They reappeared in Time Spiral and Innistrad blocks; these subsequent releases do not use the headstone marker.
Flip is a keyword action that deals with specially printed cards known as "flip cards." Each of these cards has two sets of normal card attributes (e.g. name, rules text, power and toughness): one right-side-up above the card's image and one upside-down (with no mana cost) below the image. Flip cards enter the battlefield unflipped, with only the former set of attributes applying. Once certain conditions are met, the player flips the card (by rotating it 180 degrees) into a different version—the latter set of attributes are now in effect. Once flipped, a card cannot be unflipped (except by leaving the battlefield and returning), and effects that would "flip" a card that is already "flipped" do nothing. Flip cards appear in the Kamigawa block. Although morphing and transforming cards is often colloquially referred to as "flipping", they are distinct mechanics.
This ability is written Forecast — Cost: Effect. During a player's upkeep, if he or she has a card with forecast in his or her hand, he or she may pay the forecast cost to activate its forecast ability. The cost always includes revealing the card until the end of the upkeep. A player can only do this once per turn per forecast card. Forecast appears in Dissension and is the ability associated with the Azorius Senate.
This ability is written Fortify (cost). It is found only on Fortifications, a subtype of artifacts. A player pays the Fortify cost as a sorcery (only during their own main phase when the stack is empty) and attaches it to a land he or she controls. That land becomes "fortified" and can then be referenced by the Fortification as the "fortified land." Other than attaching to lands instead of creatures, the rules for Fortifications are similar to those for Equipment. Fortify appears on a single timeshifted artifact from Future Sight, Darksteel Garrison.
This ability is written Frenzy X. When a creature with frenzy attacks and is not blocked, it gets +X/+0 until end of turn. This ability appears on a single timeshifted creature from Future Sight, Frenzy Sliver.
This ability is written Graft X. All creatures with graft are 0/0 creatures that enter the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on them. Whenever another creature enters the battlefield, a player may move one +1/+1 counter from any number of creatures with graft he or she controls onto that creature. Graft appears in Dissension and is the ability associated with the Simic Combine.
When a player casts a spell with gravestorm, he or she puts a copy of that spell on the stack for each permanent that was previously put into a graveyard this turn. This ability is similar to storm. This ability appears on a single timeshifted card from Future Sight, Bitter Ordeal.
Haunt appears on creatures, instants, and sorceries. When a creature or spell with haunt would be put into a graveyard from the battlefield, instead it is exiled "haunting" a creature. Haunt allows a player to use an effect twice: once when the spell is played (or the creature enters the battlefield), and once when the creature it haunts is put into a graveyard. Haunt appears in Guildpact and is the ability associated with the Orzhov Syndicate.
When a card with hideaway enters the battlefield, its controller chooses one card from the top four of his or her library and exiles that card face-down. Each card with hideaway also has another ability that allows its controller to play the "hidden" card, without paying its mana cost, under certain conditions. Hideaway appears only on a cycle of lands from Lorwyn.
Horsemanship parallels flying in that creatures with horsemanship can only be blocked by other creatures with horsemanship. However, no analogue to reach exists that allows creatures without horsemanship to block creatures with the ability. Horsemanship is unique to the Portal Three Kingdoms set, so very few cards make use of the keyword.
Creatures with infect deal damage to other creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters, similar to wither, and to players in the form of poison counters. Infect appears on Phyrexian cards in the Scars of Mirrodin block. A player who receives 10 poison counters loses the game.
This ability is written Kicker (cost). The kicker cost is an additional and optional cost that can be paid when the card is cast. If the card is "kicked," an ability of the card takes effect. Some cards have multiple kicker abilities; a player may choose to pay any, all, or none of these. Kicker was introduced in the Invasion block and is the returning mechanic in the Zendikar block.
This ability is written Level up (cost). Any time he or she could cast a sorcery, a player may activate the level up ability of a "leveler" creature to put a level counter on it. Leveler creatures increase in power and gain new abilities as they accumulate level counters, as indicated by the three striped bands in the text box. Level up appears in Rise of the Eldrazi.
When an Equipment with living weapon enters the battlefield, its controller puts a 0/0 black Germ creature token onto the battlefield then attaches that Equipment to the token. All cards with living weapon give the equipped creature a toughness increase to compensate for the Germ's 0 toughness; the player may attach the Equipment to a different creature, but the Germ will be instantly sent to the graveyard. Living weapon was introduced in Mirrodin Besieged and appears on Phyrexian cards.
This ability is written Madness (cost). At the time a player discards a card with madness, he or she may pay its madness cost and cast the card. Madness first appeared in Torment, and the rules for madness were subtly shifted for the reappearance of madness in Time Spiral block (see Too Cool for Rules), where the vast majority of madness cards were black. A madness cost is usually cheaper than the normal mana cost of a card, but the Future Sight set introduced a card whose madness cost is more expensive than its normal cost (Ichor Slick).
This ability is written Manifest the top card of your library. When you manifest a card, you put it onto the battlefield face down. This disguises its true identity from your opponents. While face down, it's a 2/2 colorless creature with no name, no abilities, and no creature types. Face-down creatures are creatures in every way. They can attack and block, and spells and abilities that target creatures can target them. They can be enchanted by Auras and equipped by Equipment.
However, if the face-down creature's card is a creature card then it can be turned face-up for its full mana cost whether it has this ability on its own or not. This is a function of it being a manifest-ed creature card as opposed to a manifest-ed card of another type. If the card (of any type) happens to have the morph ability, the controller has the choice of using the morph ability on the card can turn the card face-up. Megamorph is treated the same way. These uses of morph and megamorph are considered 'special actions' and do not hit the stack.
As always, any face down card must be revealed to go to any zone. This includes the 'out of game' zone used with exile or the end of a game. Also, manifested cards are treated identically to morph cards in that they are distinct from one another and must be distinguishable from other manifested cards throughout the game.
This ability is written Miracle (cost). If the first card a player draws during any turn has miracle, he or she may reveal the card. If the card is revealed, the player may then cast the card for its miracle cost. Miracle appears in Avacyn Restored. Cards with miracle have a special border that appears as the art is bathed in light. So far, there have never been any black cards printed with miracle.
This ability is written Modular X and only appears on artifact creatures with "Arcbound" in the title. A creature with modular enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it, and when that creature is put into a graveyard, its controller may put all the +1/+1 counters on that creature onto a target artifact creature. Modular appeared in Darksteel and on one card in Fifth Dawn (Arcbound Wanderer).
This ability is written (Cost):Monstrosity X. If a creature is not monstrous yet, this ability makes that creatures monstrous and it gets X +1/+1 counters.
This ability is written Morph (cost). A card with morph may be cast face-down by paying 3 colorless mana. While face-down, the creature is a colorless, nameless and typeless 2/2 creature. At any time, a player may pay the creature's morph cost and turn the creature face-up. Many cards with morph have additional abilities when they are turned face-up. Morph was introduced in the Onslaught block.
Only creatures with morph may be played face-down. If a card without morph is turned face down by an effect, it can't be turned face up, because it has no morph ability with which to do so. At the end of the game, or whenever a face down creature would leave the battlefield, it is revealed to all players. In addition to providing information to players, this ensures that players don't cheat by playing cards without morph face-down.
Multikicker is a variant of the kicker keyword, written Multikicker (cost), where the cost can be paid any number of times when the card is played, as opposed to the limit of one as defined in the original kicker ability. Cards with multikicker have an ability that references the number of times the card was "kicked." Multikicker appears in the Worldwake set.
This ability is written Ninjutsu (cost). If a player has a Ninja in hand and controls an attacking creature the opponent has declined to block, he or she may pay its ninjutsu cost, return the unblocked creature to his or her hand, and put the Ninja onto the battlefield tapped and attacking. Ninjutsu appears only in Betrayers of Kamigawa and only on Ninja creatures.
This ability is written (Creature type) offering. A player may cast a creature with the offering ability as if it were an instant (see flash) if he or she sacrifices a creature with the appropriate creature type, then pays the difference in mana costs between the sacrificed creature and the creature with offering. Offering only appears on a cycle of five legendary Spirits in Betrayers of Kamigawa.
Overload is a keyword for instants and sorceries used by the Izzet League in Return to Ravnica. By paying the more expensive Overload cost instead of the regular mana cost, the spell can affect all possible targets, rather than just a single one.
When a creature with persist is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, if it had no -1/-1 counters on it, it is returned to the battlefield under its owner's control with a -1/-1 counter on it. Persist appears in Shadowmoor and Eventide.
Phasing introduced a new rule to the game. Cards with the status "phased out" are treated as though they do not exist except for cards that specifically interact with phased-out cards. At the beginning of each player's turn, all permanents the player controls which have phasing become "phased out", along with anything attached to the phasing cards. Any cards the player controls which were phased out become "phased in" and return to the battlefield at the same time. Phasing in or out does not tap or untap the permanent. A token that phases out ceases to exist, while anything attached to it phases out and does not phase in on the token's controller's next turn. Phasing appears in the Mirage block. The earlier cards Oubliette and Tawnos's Coffin were reworded to use phasing as well for a time; however, these errata were removed in 2007.
This creature ability, written Poisonous X, is an old ability originating from the Legends set. Whenever a creature with poisonous deals combat damage to a player, that player gets X poison counters. A player with ten poison counters loses the game. Cards with the ability appeared in small quantities up to the release of Fifth Edition, after which the ability was retired until Time Spiral block. Poisonous was keyworded in Future Sight, though older cards with the ability have not been changed to have poisonous due to minor text variations between cards. This ability was supplanted by the infect ability of the Scars of Mirrodin block.
Populate is a keyword action introduced in Return to Ravnica that appears on green and white cards of the Selesnya Conclave. To populate, a player puts a token onto the battlefield that’s a copy of a creature token he/she controls.
Proliferate is a keyword action introduced in Scars of Mirrodin. To proliferate, a player chooses any number of permanents and/or players with a counter (Examples are: A Planeswalker Loyalty Counter, +1/+1 Counter, Poison Counter), then gives each exactly one additional counter of a kind that permanent or player already has.
When a creature with provoke attacks, its controller may have target creature the defending player controls untap (if it is tapped) and block the attacking creature if the chosen creature is able to do so. The ability can choose a creature that can't block the creature with provoke. Provoke is cumulative, though no creature has more than one instance of it. Provoke only appears in Legions.
This ability is written Prowl (cost) and is an alternate cost. A player can cast a card for its prowl cost if a creature controlled by that player shares a creature type with the prowl card, and dealt combat damage to a player that turn. Most cards with prowl have an additional effect if cast for their prowl cost. Prowl appears in Morningtide exclusively on cards that contain the Rogue subtype.
This ability is written Rampage X. When a creature with rampage becomes blocked, the creature gains +X/+X until end of turn for each creature beyond the first assigned to block. Mirage was the last set to print new cards with rampage (although Time Spiral reprinted Craw Giant), and 5th Edition was the only Core Set to ever include cards with rampage.
The rebound ability allows a player to cast an instant or sorcery spell more than once. When a spell with rebound is cast from a player's hand, that player exiles it, and during his or her next upkeep may cast the spell again without paying its mana cost (similar to suspend). Rebound was introduced in Rise of the Eldrazi and was brought back in Dragons of Tarkir.
This ability is written Recover (cost). Whenever a creature is put into your graveyard from the battlefield, all cards with recover in that player's graveyard trigger. That player may then pay each card’s recover cost; if the cost is paid, the card is put into the player's hand, but if it is not paid, the card is exiled. Recover appears in Coldsnap.
This ability is written Reinforce X — (cost). A player may discard a card with reinforce from his or her hand, pay its reinforce cost, and put X +1/+1 counters on a target creature. Reinforce appears in Morningtide.
This ability is written Renown X (When this creature deals combat damage to a player, if it isn't renowned, put X +1/+1 counters on it and it becomes renowned.) Renown appears in Magic Origins.
This ability is written Replicate (cost). When a player casts a spell with replicate, he or she may pay the replicate cost any number of times, then put a copy of the spell on the stack for each time the replicate cost was paid. Replicate appears in Guildpact and is the ability associated with the Izzet League.
Retrace appears on instants and sorceries. It allows players to replay a spell from the graveyard by paying its mana cost and all associated costs with the additional cost of discarding a land card. Unlike with flashback, a card cast from the graveyard with retrace is not exiled, and returns to the graveyard after it resolves. Retrace appears in Eventide.
This ability is written Ripple X. When a spell with ripple is cast, its controller may reveal the top X cards of his or her library. If any of them have the same name as the spell with ripple that was cast, then he or she can cast those cards without paying their mana costs (this triggers their ripple abilities, so a player can ripple again). Any cards not thus cast are then put on the bottom of that player's library. Ripple appears in Coldsnap, where all cards with the mechanic have ripple 4.
This ability is written Scavenge (cost). Any time he or she could cast a sorcery, a player may exile a card with scavenge from his or her graveyard to put a number of +1/+1 counters onto target creature equal to the power of the creature with scavenge. Scavenge appears on green and black cards of the Golgari Swarm in Return to Ravnica.
To scry X, a player looks at the top X cards of his library, then puts any number of them on the bottom of his library and the rest on top of his library in any order. Scry originally appeared in Fifth Dawn as a keyword ability, primarily on instants and sorceries as "Scry 2," though it was designed to allow other values. Future Sight added values "Scry 1" through "Scry 4" and redefined scry to be a keyword action, allowing it to be placed in the middle of an ability rather than as a "tack-on" to other abilities. Scry also appeared in the Core Set Magic 2011 as the game's first ever "keyword cameo," (i.e. returning mechanic), meaning it will not become evergreen and a different mechanic will appear in the next Core Set. Scry returns also in Theros Block.
Creatures with shadow can only block or be blocked by other creatures with the shadow ability. Shadow was introduced in the Tempest block.
Creatures with soulbond can be paired with other creatures (with or without soulbond) when either creature enters the battlefield. When paired, each of the paired creatures receives the ability printed on the soulbond creature's card (if both creatures have soulbond, they each receive both abilities). Creatures remain paired as long as they remain under the control of the caster. Soulbond appears in Avacyn Restored.
This ability is written Soulshift X. When a creature with soulshift is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, its controller may return a Spirit card with converted mana cost X or less from his or her graveyard to his or her hand. Almost all cards with Soulshift are Spirits with a soulshift number one less than their converted mana cost (to prevent them from returning themselves); a notable exception is Promised Kannushi. Soulshift appears in the Kamigawa block.
This ability is written Splice onto (quality) (cost). As a player casts a spell with a given quality, he or she may reveal any number of cards in his or her hand with splice onto that quality, and pay their splice costs; each splicing card's effects are added to those of the spell cast, while the cards spliced onto the spell are kept in the player's hand. These effects are placed after the played spell's effects. One card, Evermind, has no mana cost (meaning it can't be cast normally), but it does have a splice cost. Splice appears in the Kamigawa block, where the quality was limited to Arcane.
As long as a spell with split second is on the stack, players can't cast spells or activate non-mana abilities. Triggered abilities, as well as certain special actions that don't use the stack (such as un-morphing a face down permanent), can be played as normal while the spell is on the stack. Split second is similar to the defunct interrupt card type, except that one card with split second cannot be cast while another card with split second is on the stack, whereas one interrupt card could be played in response to another. Split second appears in the Time Spiral block.
When a player played a spell with storm, he or she puts a copy of that spell on the stack for each spell cast before the storm spell this turn. For example, if the storm spell was the fifth spell played in the turn, four copies of the spell are put on the stack, so the player gets five instances of the spell. Storm was introduced in Scourge.
A permanent with sunburst enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter (if it's a creature) or a charge counter (if it's not a creature) for each different color of mana spent to pay its mana cost. Sunburst appears in Fifth Dawn and only on artifacts.
This ability is written Suspend X — (cost). Any time a player could cast a spell with suspend, he or she may instead pay its suspend cost to exile it with X time counters on it. The player removes a time counter every time his or her upkeep step begins. (Note that other spells or effects can add or remove time counters from suspended cards.) When the last counter is removed, the spell is cast without paying its mana cost and, if it's a creature, it gains haste. Cards may be given suspend and have time counters put on them when they are exiled by an effect. In particular, a cycle of cards from the Future Sight set can "re-suspend" themselves after they resolve. Suspend appears in the Time Spiral block.
Totem armor is an ability which appears on Auras. When the enchanted creature would be destroyed, an attached Aura with totem armor is destroyed instead. Totem armor appears in Rise of the Eldrazi.
This ability is written Transfigure (cost). A player who controls a creature with transfigure, any time a sorcery could be cast, may pay its transfigure cost and sacrifice it to search his or her library for a creature with the same converted mana cost as the sacrificed creature and put it directly onto the battlefield. It is a variant on the transmute ability. This ability appears on a single timeshifted creature in Future Sight, Fleshwrither.
Transform is a keyword action that appears on double-faced cards. Each double-faced card has a front face, with a sun symbol in the upper-left-hand corner, and a back face with different card text and a corresponding moon symbol instead of a standard Magic card back. Each transform card enters the battlefield with its front face up, and when certain conditions are met, the player turns the card over to its other face to transform it. Only double-faced cards can transform. Transform and double-faced cards were introduced in Innistrad block. All Werewolf cards from Innistrad and Dark Ascension, among other cards (mostly creatures), have the ability.
This ability is written Transmute (cost). A player who has a card with transmute in his hand may, as a sorcery, pay its transmute cost and discard it to search his library for a card with the same converted mana cost as that card and put it in his hand. Note that it is the converted mana cost of the card, not the transmute cost, that is used when finding another card. Transmute appears in Ravnica: City of Guilds and is the ability associated with House Dimir.
Typecycling is a variant of cycling that is worded (card type)cycling (cost). When the ability is used the player discards the card, then may search his or her library for any card containing the indicated subtype and put it in his or her hand. It first appeared in Scourge as "Landcycling," indicating cards which could search for basic lands. Typecycling was redefined with the release of Future Sight to allow searching for other types of cards, and also appears in Alara block. Typecycling is considered a form of cycling, and thus triggers anything that would trigger on cycling.
When a creature with undying is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, if it had no +1/+1 counters on it, it is returned to the battlefield under its owner's control with a +1/+1 counter on it. Undying first appeared in Dark Ascension. This keyword is very similar to persist.
This ability is written Unearth (cost). If a creature with unearth is in a player's graveyard, any time a sorcery could be played, that player may pay its unearth cost to return that creature to the battlefield. The creature gains haste and is exiled at the beginning of the next end step, or if it would otherwise leave the battlefield. Unearth appears on Grixis cards in the Alara block.
A player may choose to have a creature with unleash enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it. If a creature with unleash has a +1/+1 counter on it (whether put there by its own ability or another source), that creature can't block. Unleash appears on red and black cards of the Cult of Rakdos in Return to Ravnica.
This ability is written Vanishing X. A permanent with vanishing enters the battlefield with X time counters on it. At the beginning of its controller's upkeep, a time counter is removed. When the last counter is removed, the card is sacrificed. Vanishing was introduced in Time Spiral and is an updated version of an older mechanic, fading. Vanishing uses time counters to interact with other Time Spiral cards.
Wither is a replacement ability that modifies damage. Normally nonlethal damage marked on a creature goes away at the end of the turn. However, whenever a source with wither deals damage to a creature, that creature receives a number of -1/-1 counters equal to the amount of damage dealt to it. Unlike infect when it deals damage to a player, that player will receive regular damage. Wither was introduced in Shadowmoor.
Some special keywords are not keywords in the sense used by the keywords listed above. These words are used simply to tie cards with similar abilities together. The first tournament-legal cards with ability words were printed in Saviors of Kamigawa, but the concept was first introduced in Unhinged with the Gotcha cards.
Ability words always appear in italics and are followed by an em dash (—) before the ability they describe.
Battalion is a creature ability word which gives you an advantage whenever the creature attacks with at least two other creatures. It was designed by a contestant during The Great Designer Search II and appears in Gatecrash as the guild keyword of the Boros Legion
Bloodrush is an ability word which allows you to pay a cost and discard a creature card to give a temporary boost to an attacking creature. It has appeared only on creatures and gives the attacking creature a boost equal to the discarded creatures power and toughness as well as temporarily granting the discarded creatures abilities. Bloodrush appeared in Gatecrash as the guild-keyword of the Gruul Clans
All cards with channel have the ability to be discarded for a cost to yield a specified effect. Channel appears in Saviors of Kamigawa, where it only appears on creatures with the "Spirit" type. The mechanical reason behind this was to interact better with soulshift.
Chroma is an ability of a permanent or spell that checks for specific mana symbols of cards in specific zones. When a card with chroma is played, it will indicate a specified effect or characteristic defining ability and repeat it for every color symbol in the checked zone. Chroma was first introduced in Eventide, though a card from Future Sight, Phosphorescent Feast, was issued errata to have the ability word.
Domain refers to an effect that may be stronger or weaker depending on the number of basic land types (Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, and/or Forest) among lands a player controls. The mechanic first appeared in Invasion without the keyword printed on the cards. Domain officially became an ability word in the Conflux set.
Cards with the fateful hour an ability word gain an additional ability if controlled by a player with 5 life or less. This ability first appeared on Human-themed cards in Dark Ascension.
Cards with ferocious gain an additional ability if their controller controls a creature with power four or more. This ability appears on cards belonging to the Temur clan in Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged.
Grandeur is an ability written as Discard another card named (name of card): (effect). Grandeur is an ability word which has only appeared on legendary creatures, and was designed as a means of reducing the drawback of drawing multiple copies of the same legendary permanent. This ability appears exclusively on timeshifted legendary cards from Future Sight.
Cards with the hellbent ability word have greater effects if their controller has no cards in his or her hand. Hellbent appears in Dissension and is associated with the Cult of Rakdos; many other cards pertaining to the Cult function better while their controller has fewer cards in hand.
Cards with the Heroic ability gain an advantage when you target them with a spell. Although there are many Heroic effects, the most common use of this mechanic is to give a creature a +1/+1 counter. This mechanic first appeared with creatures from the Theros block.
Imprint is an ability word which only appears on artifacts and creatures. All cards with imprint have either an activated (Cost: Effect) or triggered (When/ever/at trigger condition, effect) ability which allows the player to exile a card to grant abilities to the artifact with imprint. Imprint was introduced as a keyword in the Mirrodin block and became an ability word in the Scars of Mirrodin block.
Join forces is an ability word geared toward multiplayer variants. An effect denoted with join forces allows all players to contribute to it, usually by paying mana, though that effect might not be mutually beneficial. For example, Minds Aglow has each player draw a number of cards equal to the total amount paid by all players (so each player will draw the same number of cards), while Mana-Charged Dragon will gain power equal to that amount (which is usually beneficial only to the dragon's controller and his or her teammates). Join forces appears in Commander.
Kinship is an ability word that appears in Morningtide. All cards with kinship are creatures that check, at the beginning of their controller's upkeep, whether the card on top of that player's library shares a creature type with the creature that has the kinship ability; if it does, the player may reveal it for a bonus effect.
Landfall is an ability word is associated with bonuses given to players for playing lands. Landfall first appeared in Zendikar with abilities of the form Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, (effect). The follow-up set, Worldwake, introduced a modified form of landfall on instant cards written as If a land entered the battlefield under your control this turn, (effect).
Cards with the metalcraft ability word gain an additional effect as long as their controller controls three or more artifacts. Metalcraft appears in the Scars of Mirrodin block and is associated with the Mirran faction.
Cards with the morbid ability word gain an additional effect during a turn in which a creature died. Morbid was introduced in the Innistrad block.
The radiance ability word denotes abilities that target one permanent, but affect all permanents of the same type that share a color with the target. Radiance appears in Ravnica: City of Guilds and is associated with the Boros Legion.
A card with raid gains an additional effect if their controller attacked the turn they are played. Raid is associated with the Mardu and appears in Khans of Tarkir.
Sweep is an ability word used on spells with effects which can be strengthened by returning any number of lands of a single basic land type to their owners' hands. Sweep only appears on four cards in Saviors of Kamigawa. Mark Rosewater has opined that labeling this mechanic with an ability word was "a mistake."
This ability was originally written Threshold — ability. Whenever a player has seven or more cards in the graveyard, his or her cards gain any threshold abilities they might have. A player can't activate an ability tied to threshold unless he or she has seven or more cards in the graveyard. Threshold appears in Odyssey block and on some timeshifted cards in Time Spiral.
With the release of Time Spiral, Threshold ceased to be a keyworded mechanic. It was instead redefined to be an ability word with no rules meaning attached to it. For instance, Nomad Decoy was originally written:
- W, Tap: Tap target creature.
- Threshold — WW, Tap: Tap two target creatures. (You have Threshold as long as you have seven or more cards are in your graveyard.)
And was changed to:
- W, Tap: Tap target creature.
- Threshold — WW, Tap: Tap two target creatures. Activate this ability only if seven or more cards are in your graveyard.
As Magic: The Gathering has progressed some keywords have been deemed unsuitable for continued use within the game and have been discontinued. While the abilities these keywords represent are still functional (with one visible exception and one exception that never physically appeared on a card) within the rules of the game, it has been strongly indicated that they will never appear on any cards printed in future sets.
The term bury or buried was used in some early sets, where it served as shorthand for a two-part effect: destroying a permanent, and preventing that permanent from regenerating. Functionally it is still present in the game, with newer cards using a complete explanation for each part of the effect. (e.g. "Destroy target creature. It cannot be regenerated.") Bury is found only in sets prior to Tempest; all cards which contained the term have been issued new wording to use either a "destroy" or "sacrifice" effect. (e.g. Wrath of God or Abyssal Gatekeeper or abu jafar, respectively)
This ability is written as (land type)home. A creature with landhome may only attack a player who controls a land of the specified land type, and must be sacrificed if its controller does not control at least one land of that same type. The ability has been present since the Limited Editions of the game, but was first keyworded in Mirage with Kukemssa Serpent. The keyworded ability was only printed on blue cards, and in the "islandhome" variety. The last card to be printed with a keyworded landhome ability was Manta Ray from Weatherlight.
Landhome is unique in that it is the only printed keyworded ability to later be retroactively removed from the rules. While cards which previously had landhome still feature the associated restrictions, they have been issued errata replacing the keyword "landhome" with rules text describing the abilities.
This ability is written as (Land type)walk. A creature with this ability can not be blocked as long as the defending player controls at least one land with the printed land type (e.g. a creature with swampwalk can not be blocked if the opponent has a swamp on the battlefield). This ability is somewhat rare, with swampwalk and plainswalk being the most common and least common, respectively. Landwalk is not limited to the five basic lands; for example, cards with legendary landwalk, snow landwalk, and nonbasic landwalk have been printed. Landwalk was discontinued starting in Magic Origins.
This ability is written as Protection from (quality). A creature with protection from a quality cannot be enchanted, equipped, blocked, or targeted by anything with that quality, and all damage that would be dealt by a source of that quality is prevented, barring exceptions which explicitly state otherwise. For example, a creature with protection from red cannot be enchanted by red Auras, blocked by red creatures, targeted by red spells and abilities, or take damage from red sources. A common mnemonic for which effects are prevented by protection is the acronym DEBT, standing for "Damage, Enchant (or Equip), Block, Target". Note that the protection ability does not prevent effects that do not target. For example, though Black Knight has protection from white, it would still be destroyed by Wrath of God since Wrath of God does not target a creature.
If a creature gains protection while some of these effects are present, different things may happen. Any Aura, Equipment, or Fortifications attached to it that are no longer legally attached to it "fall off", becoming unattached (for example, a creature with a red Aura gains protection from red or a creature with an Equipment attached gains protection from artifacts). Auras that are not attached to anything are then put into their owners' graveyards, while Equipment and Fortifications stay on the battlefield. Any spells of that quality (or abilities of permanents of that quality) that target it lose that creature as a target (for example, a creature gained protection from red in response to being targeted with Lightning Bolt). If they no longer have any legal targets, the spell "fizzles" and is countered by the game rules. However, a creature gaining protection in response to being blocked by a creature does not cause it to become unblocked, though it will prevent all damage that blocking creature would do to the creature with protection.
Initially this ability was limited to "Protection from (color)," but was later expanded to allow "Protection from artifacts" in Urza's Legacy, and officially expanded to allow "Protection from (quality)" in Invasion with the printing of Shoreline Raider. In Conflux, a card called Progenitus has "Protection from everything"—meaning it cannot be blocked, cannot be equipped or enchanted, cannot be targeted by spells or abilities, and cannot be dealt damage. Most cards with protection are either white or an enemy color from the color of protection offered (i.e. most cards with protection from blues are blue's enemies of red and green). Since the release of Magic Origins, Protection has been called a deciduous effect, meaning that it's a tool in WOTC's toolbox that they are allowed to use, but it's not something they expect to use in every set.
Substance was a static ability with no effect which was never printed on a Magic card. It was originally created for the Magic: The Gathering Online release of Mirage, as a cycle of cards such as Armor of Thorns did not work as originally intended under the rules established with the release of 6th Edition. These cards were all enchantments that could be played as instants, but only lasted for a turn if played as an instant. Under the newer rules, the original wording would cause the enchantment to leave the battlefield before damage was removed from creatures. The creation of substance restored the cards' intended functionality. With the rule changes announced in July 2009, all cards edited to use this keyword were re-edited to no longer use it. The official text of such cards now reads: "If you cast [this card] any time a sorcery couldn't have been cast, the controller of the permanent it becomes sacrifices it at the beginning of the next cleanup step." This maintained the same functionality as the substance keyword, but without some unintended rules quirks.
- Buehler, Randy (2004-10-07). "Ask Wizards – October 2004". Ask Wizards. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
One of the big differences between Core Sets and Expert-level sets is that every single keyword in the Core Set gets reminder text every time. That way new players will get to learn what all the basic Magic abilities (like flying, first strike, fear, and vigilance) actually do.
- "The Premium Foils of Tenth Edition". Magic Arcana. Wizards of the Coast. 2007-07-12. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
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- Forsythe, Aaron (2010-06-28). "Magic 2011 Has Big Shoes to Fill". Feature Article. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2011-04-24.
...it's likely you'll see additional "keyword cameos" in future core sets.
- Buehler, Randy. "Double Damage, Double Fun". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
- "Gatherer search for cards with the text any time you could play an instant". Mtg.com. Retrieved September 26, 2006.
- "July 2009 Update Bulletin". Wizards of the Coast. 8 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
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- Rosewater, Mark (2003-12-01). "The Baby and the Bathwater". Retrieved 2007-07-24.
One such project was working at the 1995 Magic World Championships. As a judge, I had the opportunity to answer a large number of rules questions. The most popular one was essentially “How does banding work?” These were the top players in the world and even they were confused by banding.
- "Absurd or Ridiculous? You Decide : Daily MTG : Magic: The Gathering". Wizards.com. 2002-03-06. Retrieved 2013-12-12.
- Rosewater, Mark (2007-10-01). "And the Rest". Making Magic. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
- "Return to Ravnica Mechanics : Daily MTG : Magic: The Gathering". Wizards.com. 2012-09-02. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
- Karsten, Frank (2007-09-19). "Threshers and Blades". Online Tech. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2007-09-19.
- Rosewater, Mark (2007-01-15). "Utter Chaos". Retrieved 2007-02-24.
We came up with a new keyword. That’s what vanishing is. It’s fading 2.0.
- The Scrying Game by Mark Rosewater, MTG.com, Monday, May 14, 2007
- Gottlieb, Mark (2007-08-29). "Masters Edition Update Bulletin". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
- Forsythe, Aaron (2005-05-20). "The Sky is Falling". Latest Developments. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2007-07-22.
“Why 'keyword' these abilities at all?” The answer is for ease of communication. It's easier to talk about and understand cards as a group if there is some verbal link that ties them together.
- Rosewater, Mark (2005-05-23). "Choosing a Channel". Retrieved 2007-02-26.
The mechanical reason was to tie the cards into soulshift. By being spirits, the cards could be brought back when soulshift creatures were put into the graveyard.
- Rosewater, Mark (2005-06-06). "One with One With Nothing". Retrieved 2007-02-26.
Sweep fails as a keyword on a number of levels... keywording sweep was a mistake.
- Gottlieb, Mark (2007-09-20). "Too Cool for Rules". Feature Article. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2007-10-16.
- Knutson, Ted (2006-09-09). "Magic Jargon". Magic Academy. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2008-08-17.
- Gottlieb, Mark (2006-03-07). "Ask Wizards – March 2006". Ask Wizards. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2007-09-05.
- Gottlieb, Mark (2009-07-08). "July 2009 Update Bulletin". Retrieved 2009-12-07.