There are four main types of abilities: Activated, Triggered, Spell and Static. Examples of Static abilities include shroud, first strike, and flying. Activated abilities include any abilities that require tapping or some sort of cost. For example, the card Royal Assassin has an activated ability that reads: "Tap: destroy target tapped creature." Triggered abilities require a specific event to happen, like paying upkeep.
These are the most common abilities in Magic. Although some abilities are used more than others, it's still important to understand all the abilities in Magic.
Deathtouch is an incredibly deadly ability. A creature with death touch works like this:
Creatures dealt damage by this creature are destroyed. You can divide this creature's combat damage among any of the creatures blocking or blocked by it. Deathtouch functions as a spell cast by a creature.
This means that if you attack with a 1/3 Deathtouch, if your opponent blocks with, for example, an 8/8, the 8/8 dies anyway, because all creatures dealt damage by a creature with Deathtouch (blocked or block by) are destroyed. Generally, this means that power is usually not important if the creature has Deathtouch. Even if two (or more) creatures block a creature with deathtouch, they all die if the creature with Deathtouch deals at least 1 point of damage to each other creature. However, if a deathtouch creature, say, a 1/1 (such as Sedge Scorpion,) deals damage to a player, it deals damage equal to its power and does not make the player immediately lose the game.
Defender is a fairly common ability, mostly found on Walls, and is very, very simple.
This creature can't attack.
Creatures with defender often have a power of 0, but they may have a power higher than that. Even though they can't attack, they still can deal combat damage when blocking.
This creature deals both first-strike and regular combat damage
Attach to target creature you control. Equip only as a sorcery.
You cannot unequip from a creature without equipping it to another.
Automatically unequips when the equipped creature dies.
First Strike is one of the strongest abilities.
This creature deals combat damage before creatures without first strike.
This means that if you are attacking with a 2/2 first strike creature like Rockslide Elemental, and your opponent has a 5/2 creature like Summit Apes, since your creature has first strike, it deals its damage first. Therefore, the Summit Apes would die and your creature would not, because Summit Apes never got to deal its damage. However, if the blocking creature is a 5/3, then Rockslide Elemental deals its 2 damage, but 2 does not eliminate 3, so the 5/3 does not die. Then the 5/3 deals its damage to Rockslide Elemental, killing it. Also, if both creatures have first strike, then they deal their damage at the same time.
Flying is probably one of the most common abilities in the game.
This creature can't be blocked except by other flying creatures.
It says it all. Flying creatures can't be blocked by non-Flying creatures. But there is one exception, creatures with Reach can block Flying creatures without having Flying themselves. Most creatures with Reach are Spiders, Archers or walls.
Haste is a simple ability. If you have been around Magic for a while, you will know that creatures have a disability called summoning sickness. This means that they cannot attack or tap on their first turn on the battlefield. For example, cards like Vithian Stinger and Prodigal Pyromancer can't use their ability until the controller's next turn after they come into play.
This creature can attack and tap as soon as it comes under your control.
This means that creatures with haste don't have summoning sickness. They can attack and tap the instant they come under your control.
Hexproof is a usefull ability, as it doesn't allow your creature to be targeted.
This creature can't be the target of spells or abilities your opponents control.
The only ways to get rid of a creature with hexproof would be to kill it in combat, kill it with removal that doesn't target (such as Wrath of God), or force an opponent to sacrifice it. Spells such as Murder or Fireball can't be played on it, and abilities such as Mist Raven's wouldn't be able to target it.
Regenerate is a life-saving ability for many cards. Regenerate does what it sounds like. If you have a card that would normally be destroyed, you can "regenerate" it and it doesn't die. This is exactly what regenerate does:
The next time this creature would be destroyed this turn, it isn't. Instead tap it, remove all damage from it, and remove it from combat.
This means next time the creature would be destroyed, you tap it and it doesn't die. If it is in combat, then after being regenerated, the creature is removed from combat. When you regenerate when attacking, the creature is tapped as if it never entered combat. When you regenerate when blocking, you still must tap it though. Like Unearth, you usually have to tap mana to regenerate. Most regenerate cards need only one mana to regenerate, but some need two or more. Some cards, like Vagrant Plowbeasts, allow you to regenerate other cards besides themselves. Regeneration can be casted like an instant.
Lifelink is easy to understand. It means that for any amount of damage your creature deals, you gain that much life.
Damage dealt by this creature also causes you to gain that much life.
So if you block or attack with a 5/4 creature with lifelink, when damage is resolved, you gain 5 life unless damage is prevented or your creature is removed from play. The life gain and life loss from combat happen simultaneously, so if you have 5 life, are hit for 6 damage, but gain 2 life via lifelink, you will survive with 1 life point remaining.
This creature can't be blocked, targeted, dealt damage, or enchanted by anything [quality].
The permanent or player with protection can't be:
- Damaged by sources with the given quality (all such damage is prevented)
- Enchanted or equipped by permanents with the given quality
- Blocked by creatures with the given quality (if it's a creature)
- Targeted by spells of the given quality, or abilities with sources of the given quality.
Trample is a static ability. It's effect is that during combat damage, any leftover damage tramples past the opposing creature to the player.
If this creature would deal enough damage to it's blockers to destroy them, you may have it deal the rest of its damage to defending player or planeswalker.
This means that if you're attacking with a 4/4 trample, and your opponent blocks with a 2/2, the 2/2 would die, but the 4/4 would not. However, since the 4/4 is dealing 4 damage to the 2/2's 2 defense, the 4 "tramples" over the 2, dealing the remaining 2 damage to the player. If the creature was attacking a planeswalker, then the damage goes to the planeswalker. Trample only takes effect when your creature is attacking AND blocking.
Vigilance is an easy ability to use, and may mean the difference between winning or losing the game.
Attacking doesn't cause this creature to tap.
If you had only a Sentinel Spider on the battlefield, you could attack for 4 damage, then block with it the next turn. This is because it has vigilance, making it a good, all-around attacker/blocker creature.
Less Common AbilitiesEdit
Devour is an ability in the Alara Block. Although the meaning is always the same, the actual ability can vary.
Say I cast a 5/5 creature with devour like Gorger Wurm. Once it resolves and starts to come into play, I can sacrifice any number of creatures. Since Gorger Wurm has Devour 1, and I sacrifice 3 creatures, it comes into play with 3 +1/+1 counters on it. If it has Devour 2, it comes into play with 6 counters. Devour works regardless of what zone the creature comes into play from, for example if Rise from the Grave was cast targeting a creature card with devour, you would still be able to sacrifice creatures to give it counters. Some creatures with devour have abilities with effects based on how many creatures they devoured.
A creature with Unearth enables it to be played from the graveyard. When you play the Unearth ability the creature will gain haste and will be exiled at the end of the turn.
Shroud is an ability that is easy to understand.
This creature can't be the target of spells or abilities.
That's simple. Cards with shroud cannot be targeted by any player. But spells that do not target specific creatures, such as Glorious Anthem, still affect shrouded creatures.
Exalted is a triggered ability first introduced Shard of Alara and the ability returns in the Magic 2013 Core Set. The ability states that:
Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, that creature gets +1/+1 until the end of turn
Exalted is popular with White and Black, there is a theme deck based on the Exalted ability in the Magic 2013 Core Set, named Sole Domination.
Soulbond is an ability released in Avacyn Restored. It is very useful, and can do a variety of things.
You may pair this creature with another unpaired creature when either enter the battlefield. They remain paired for as long as you control both of them.
Creatures such as Stern Mentor or Galvanic Alchemist give both themselves and the creature they're paired with an extra ability when paired, while creatures such as Wolfir Silverheart or Druid's Familiar give themselves and the paired creature more power and toughness.