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 posesses 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 501 and 502 of the Comprehensive Rules.
These are keywords that are used most often in Magic cards. Although some are still not used much, they are used more than others. Also, each one of these are still used in modern sets, while other abilities are not.
Battle Cry, introduced in Mirrodin Besieged, is an ability similar to exalted. Whenever a creature with battle cry attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn. Your creatures don't need to attack alone.
Creatures with Defender can't attack. This is a keyword of an ability that was formerly associated with Walls, as the creature type Wall had implicit "rules baggage" that prevented such creatures from attacking. Some Walls had the reminder text (Walls can't attack.) to make this clear. After the release of Champions of Kamigawa, where the keyword was introduced, all Walls were retrofitted with the Defender keyword; however, the keyword isn't restricted to Walls.
This ability is written "Enchant (quality)". All Auras (Aura is a subtype of Enchantments) have this ability, and only Auras have this ability. An Aura comes into play attached to a permanent with the quality of its Enchant ability. An Aura can only be attached to a permanent with that quality. If an Aura is attached to a permanent that has lost the required quality or if the Aura is in play but not attached to anything (this most often occurs when the object it enchants leaves play), 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 (most commonly creatures), with exception of Spellweaver Volute, which targets instant cards in a graveyard. This ability was formerly seen in the type line instead of "Enchantment — Aura".
This ability is written "Equip (cost)". It is found only on Equipment, a subtype of Artifacts that first appeared in Mirrodin. A player pays the Equip cost as a sorcery (only during their own main phase when the stack is empty) and attaches 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 creature it is attached to by paying the Equip cost. Only if the creature leaves play or stops being a creature (some noncreature cards can temporarily become creatures), or if the Equipment itself becomes a creature, the Equipment will "fall off" whatever it is attached to, but remain in play.
A creature with exalted is interesting because it applies to all your creatures. It has, whenever a creature you control attacks alone, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn. In large numbers, exalted is deadly. It doesn't just work with the creature that has it, but all of your creatures.
Creatures with first strike deal damage before creatures without first strike in combat. Because this damage "resolves" before other creatures deal their damage, a creature with first strike can potentially enter combat and kill an opposing creature before it can deal its damage.
Creatures with flying can't be blocked except by other creatures with Flying and/or Reach. This ability is generally blue, though white has many creatures with flying as well. Black and red have relatively few flying creatures. Very few green creatures have flying, but often have the Reach ability, which permits them to block flying creatures without actually having flying.
Creatures with this ability can't be the target of spells or abilities your opponents control. They are affected normally by spells and abilities that do not use the word 'target.'
A creature with infect deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters instead of normal damage. A -1/-1 counter permanently gives a creature -1/-1 until it leaves play. Since they are counters, however, you can proliferate to add more -1/-1 counters. It's the same with poison counters. You can proliferate. Infect creatures can come out at a player twice as fast because a player with ten or more poison counters loses the game. Even small 1/1 infect creatures can win the game so fast because of pump spells like Giant Growth.
A genericized version of Fear, creatures with Intimidate can't be blocked except by artifact creatures and creatures that share a color with the creature.
This ability is written as (land type)walk. A creature with this ability is unblockable if the defending player controls a land with the printed land type (e.g. a creature with swampwalk is unblockable if the opponent has a swamp in play). 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; cards with Legendary landwalk, nonbasic landwalk, Snow landwalk, and landwalk for specific land cards have been printed.
Whenever a creature with Lifelink deals damage, its controller gains that much life.
Everything has protection from that color or creature. If a card has protection from red the player and creatures have protection from red.
Proliferate is a new ability made in the set Scars of Mirrodin. You may choose any number of permanents and/or players with counters on them, then give each another counter of a kind already there. This was designed to work with Poison, but can be utilized to speed up Enchantments or power up your creatures.
Creatures with trample may deal "excess" damage to the defending player if they are blocked. Under normal circumstances, if a 6/3 attacker is blocked by a 1/1 defender, the attacker's damage is all directed at the defender, despite it being only able to take 1 damage before being killed. If, however, the attacker should have trample, the attacking player may choose to have any excess damage (in this case, 5) "trample" over and be assigned to the defending player; this choice is allotted to the attacking player, and circumstances can arise in which "overkilling" the blocking creature is a more advantageous propositon. Furthermore, trample does not work when blocking; if a 6/3 trampling defender blocks a 1/1 attacker, the defender's extra 5 damage cannot be assigned to the attacking player.
Trample and cards which give creatures trample are most often green, but there are a few black and red creatures with trample.
Vigilance is a keyword of an ability that already existed before it was keyworded, as far back as Alpha with Serra Angel. Creatures with Vigilance do not tap to attack.
Keyword actions are not keyword abilities, but rather specialized game terms used to indicate a special action a player should take. This category of keywords was created with the release of Future Sight. All keyword actions are used as verbs.
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 attaching them to other cards.
"Clashing" is an action that determines the results of a spell. When a card says to clash, each player involved in the clash reveals the top card of his or her library, and then puts them on the top or bottom of their respective libraries. 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 you win the clash.
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.
A counter can also refer to a marker put on a card for various reasons (giving a bonus or penalty to a creature, or marking a change to a permanent.)
This ability is written as "Fateseal X" and is used as a verb. To fateseal, the controller 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. In fact, fateseal was dubbed "evil scry" while in design.
This term describes a replacement effect for destruction, and is generally written as "Cost: Regenerate", and is an ability only held by permanents. When the ability is played, a "regeneration shield" is set up on the permanent. The next time that permanent would be destroyed, instead all damage is removed from it, it is tapped (if it is untapped), and it is removed from combat (if it is in combat). This ability is generally for creatures, though any permanent can be regenerated.
To sacrifice a permanent is to put it into its owner's graveyard, usually as a cost. This can only be done by the player that controls the permanent to be sacrificed. Note that this term is separate from other ways permanents can be put into their owners' graveyards, such as destruction or state-based effects (a creature having 0 toughness). You are not allowed to sacrifice without an ability or spell telling you to do so.
Scry originally appeared in Fifth Dawn as a keyword ability, primarily on instants and sorceries as "Scry X," where X is a number. The player looks at the top X cards of his library, puts any number of them on the bottom of his library and the rest on top of his library in any order. In Future Sight, Scry was redefined 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. In Fifth Dawn, the only version of scry was "Scry 2," though it was designed to allow other values. Future Sight included variations "Scry 1" through "Scry 4."
To "tap" a permanent is to rotate it 90 degrees to indicate it is being used, often as a cost, or to indicate a creature that is attacking (except for creatures with Vigilance). Most players tap their cards 90 degrees clockwise, though it is a matter of personal preference, and not specified by the game rules. Creatures a player controls that have not been under his or her control since the beginning of his or her turn cannot be tapped for their abilities that include the tap symbol, nor can they attack (regardless of whether they have Vigilance; however, they can be tapped, or attack, if they have Haste), 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 as a cost. As of the Shadowmoor block, untapping can also be a cost for creature abilities.
Keywords from Expert-Level ExpansionsEdit
This ability is written as "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.
This ability is written "Affinity for (quality)." A card with affinity costs 1 colorless mana less to play for each permanent with that quality under its controller's control. For instance, a Frogmite would be free if its controller controls 4 or more artifacts. Affinity appeared throughout the Mirrodin block, usually for artifacts. A cycle of 5 cards in Darksteel had affinity for each of the basic land types.
This ability is written "Amplify X", where X is a number. As a creature with Amplify comes into play, its controller may reveal any number of creature cards in his or her hand that share a creature type with the creature. That creature comes into play with X +1/+1 counters on it for each card so revealed.
This ability is written as "Aura swap (Cost)". By paying the 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.
Bloodthirst is the ability associated with the Gruul. It is written "Bloodthirst X", where X is a number. A creature with Bloodthirst X comes into play with X +1/+1 counters on it if, at the time it came into play, an opponent had been damaged during that turn.
This ability usually is written "Bushido X," where X is a number. When a creature with Bushido blocks or becomes blocked, it gets +X/+X until end of turn. Unlike rampage, this happens only once, no matter how many creatures block it. The ability is on all Samurai in the Kamigawa block, and only on Samurai.
This ability, limited to instants and sorceries, is written as "Buyback (cost)", representing an additional and optional cost when playing the card. If the buyback cost was paid, the card would return to the player's hand upon resolving, instead of going to the graveyard.
Champion, written "Champion a (Type)", is an evolution-style mechanic that mimics a creature changing into a "new improved version." When a creature with champion enters play, its controller must remove a card in play of the appropriate type from the game or sacrifice the champion. When the creature with champion leaves play, the creature it "championed" (the card removed from the game) is returned to play. Most creatures with champion name a specific type of creature that they can replace, but those with the changeling ability have the generic "Champion a creature".
Changeling is a keyword that gives a card all possible creature types, similar to the ability of Mistform Ultimus. It appears on creatures and tribal spells in Lorwyn.
Convoke is the ability associated with the Selesnya Conclave. As a player plays a card with Convoke, he 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 a spell with Convoke and a mana cost of 3 colorless and 1 white mana by tapping four creatures, at least one of which must be white.
Conspire is an ability introduced in Shadowmoor. An instant or sorcery with conspire has the optional additional cost of tapping two creatures that share a color with the spell. If a player pays the additional cost, he or she copies the spell, and may choose new targets for that spell.
This ability is written as "Cumulative Upkeep Cost". At the beginning of each of its controller's upkeep, an "age counter" is put on the card. Then the player must 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 when it is put into a graveyard.
The ability first appeared on the card Cyclone from Arabian Nights, but was first keyworded in Ice Age. The mechanic was used in both the Ice Age and Mirage blocks (with Weatherlight offering a number of twists on the upkeep cost). Cumulative upkeep was used in Coldsnap as well, where it was redesigned to use age counters..
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 card. Cycling cards were introduced in the Urza's Saga block
A variant of this keyword, Typecycling, was introduced in Scourge. This allows the player to discard the card from their hand to search through their library for a card of the indicated type and put it into their hand.
Cycling was brought into the game again as part of the Alara Block. this included some Basicland Cycling cards.
Deathtouch is a creature ability. Whenever a creature with deathtouch deals damage to a creature, the damaged creature is destroyed. 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, but has reappeared on several cards in Lorwyn. The only two older cards with this ability, Cruel Deceiver and Venomous Fangs, were issued rules errata to gain deathtouch.
Delve is a static ability that can appear on any card with a cost. When playing a card with delve, its controller may remove any number of cards in his or her graveyard from the game. For each card removed, the spell or creature costs less to play. This ability first appeared on timeshifted cards from Future Sight. It has become the special ability of the Sultai clan in Kahns of Tarkir.
Dredge is the ability associated with the Golgari Swarm. It is written "Dredge X," where X is any number. Any time a player would draw a card, if he has a card with Dredge in his graveyard, he may instead put the top X cards of his library into his graveyard and return the Dredge card to his hand. A player can't do this if he doesn't have at least X cards in his library.
Cards with echo require an additional cost, their echo cost, to be paid in their controller's following upkeep phase after being played. If the echo cost is not paid, then the card is sacrificed.
In the Urza's Saga block, this ability was written only as "Echo" with the mana cost always being the second payment. 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. 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 effect or the other. If the card's Entwine cost is paid in addition to its regular cost, both effects are played.
Epic is an ability that only appears on non-permanent spells. It has two effects: first, when a player plays a card with Epic, he or she can no longer play spells. However, at the beginning of each upkeep phase for the rest of the game, the player puts a (new) copy of the epic spell on the stack. This doesn't count as "playing" it (so it doesn't become a useless ability) and no mana cost is required.
A cycle of five rare sorceries in Saviors of Kamigawa have the Epic keyword.
Evoke is an alternate cost for a creature, with the condition that the creature must be sacrificed upon entering play. All cards with evoke have additional effects upon coming into, or leaving, play. The creature's controller may choose whether the sacrifice triggers before or after any other comes-into-play effects.
When a creature with this ability is blocked by a creature without this ability, the blocking creature gains "-1/-1 until end of turn". The effect is cumulative; multiple instances of flanking will provide a multiplied penalty, though a blocking creature only needs one instance to avoid the effect.
This ability is written "Flashback — Cost". When a card with this ability is in a player's graveyard, that player may pay its flashback cost and play the card from the graveyard. Then, instead of the card going to the graveyard, it's removed from the game. This allows a player to get a second use from a card. Cards with Flashback, as well as any card with an ability that acted from the graveyard in the Odyssey block, have small headstone markers in front of their names. Later cards with Flashback did not have this marker.
Forecast is the ability associated with the Azorius Senate. It is written "Forecast — Cost: Ability" where the cost always includes revealing the card from the player's hand. A player with a card with Forecast in his hand during his upkeep may pay the Forecast cost (revealing the card from his hand until the end of the upkeep) to play its Forecast ability. He can only do this once per turn per Forecast card in his hand. Forecast was inspired by the Unglued card Infernal Spawn of Evil, which has a similar ability.
This ability is written as "Fortify (cost)". It is found only on Fortifications, a subtype of Artifacts new to Future Sight. It works exactly like Equip and Equipment, but the card is attached to a land the player controls, rather than a creature.
This creature ability is written as "Frenzy X". When a creature with Frenzy attacks and is not blocked, it gets +X/+0 until end of turn. This ability is similar to that of Murk Dwellers, which lasts until end of combat.
Graft is the ability associated with the Simic Combine. It is written "Graft X", where X is any number. All creatures with Graft are 0/0 creatures that come into play with X +1/+1 counters on them. Whenever another creature comes into play, a player may choose to put one +1/+1 counter from any number of creatures with Graft he controls onto that creature. These creatures have abilities pertaining to +1/+1 counters.
Haunt is the ability associated with the Orzhov Syndicate. It is placed on creatures and instant and sorcery spells with an ability that happens twice: Once when the spell is played (or the creature comes into play), and once when the creature it "haunts" is put into a graveyard. When a haunt creature or spell would be put into a graveyard, instead it's removed from the game "haunting" a creature.
Hideaway is an ability that appears only on a cycle of lands from Lorwyn. A land with hideaway is brought into play tapped, and its controller chooses one card from the top four of their library and removes that card from the game face-down. Each card with hideaway also has another ability that allows its controller to play the "hidden" card under certain conditions.
Horsemanship is similar to flying in that creatures with horsemanship can only be blocked by other creatures with horsemanship. However, there is no analogue for reach. Horsemanship is unique to the Portal Three Kingdoms set and was designed to be a evasion ability similar to flying that fit the theme of the set.
This ability is written "Imprint — (text)". The text can be either an activated (Cost: Ability) or triggered (When something happens, ability) ability. Imprinting allows the player to remove a card from the game to grant abilities to the permanent with the Imprint ability.
This ability is written "This permanent is indestructible". A permanent which is indestructible can't be destroyed, either by spell effects or lethal damage. Such a permanent can still be removed from the game, returned to a player's hand, sacrificed, put into the graveyard due to having 0 toughness, or be put into a graveyard because it's one of two legendary permanents with the same name. A creature that is indestructible still receives damage, and so a 3/3 indestructible that has taken 7 damage will remain in play as a 3/3 with 7 damage on it.
Indestructibility appears most prominently in Darksteel and Champions of Kamigawa (where it was used to represent divine beings). It has seen occasional usage since in other sets, as well as in the rules errata of a few older cards such as Guardian Beast and Consecrate Land
This ability is written "Kicker (cost)". The kicker cost represented an additional and optional cost that could be paid when the card was put into play. If the cost is paid, an ability printed on the card is activated. Some cards have multiple kicker abilities, of which any or none can be activated.
This ability is written "Madness (cost)". At the time a player discards a card, he or she may pay its madness cost and play the card. When madness first appeared on cards, the madness cost was often cheaper than, or, in many cards with converted mana cost 1, the same as the normal casting cost of the card. The rules for how Madness works were subtly shifted for Time Spiral.
In Torment, Madness appeared in two cycles that spanned each color, one of 5 commons and one of 5 uncommons. In the Time Spiral block, the vast majority of Madness cards have been Black, with the only exceptions being two timeshifted Red cards.
This ability is written "Modular X," where X is a number. A creature with Modular comes into play with X +1/+1 counters on it. When a Modular creature is put into a graveyard, its controller may put all the +1/+1 counters on that creature onto another artifact creature. The second ability is targeted, so the counters can't be put on an artifact creature that can't be targeted. Note that this applies to all counters, not merely the counters granted by the Modular ability; thus, +1/+1 counters from previous dead Modular creatures or the abilities of cards like Arcbound Ravager or Arcbound Crusher would also be transferred. Modular first appeared in Darksteel. It has only appeared on Artifact creatures so far and is extremely unlikely to ever appear on a normal creature due to its flavor.
This ability is written "Morph (cost)". A creature with morph may be played 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. Only creatures with Morph may be played face-down. At the end of the game, or whenever a face down creature would leave play, 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.
This ability is written "Ninjutsu (Cost)." The ability is on all Ninja in Betrayers of Kamigawa, and only on Ninja. If a player has a Ninja in hand, he or she may pay its ninjutsu cost and return an unblocked attacking creature they control to their hand to put the Ninja into play tapped and attacking. (A creature is only unblocked if no creatures are blocking it after the declare blockers step has been completed.) Ninjutsu appears only in Betrayers of Kamigawa and only in the colors blue and black.
This ability is written "(creature type) offering." A cycle of five Patron Spirits in Betrayers of Kamigawa has the Offering ability. A player may play a creature with the offering ability as if it were an instant (see Flash) if they sacrifice a creature with the type of the offering, then pays the difference in mana costs between the sacrificed creature and the creature to be played. Only one creature may be sacrificed during this offering. Offering appears only in Betrayers of Kamigawa.
When a creature with persist is put into a graveyard from play, if it had no -1/-1 counters on it, it returns to play under its owner's control with a -1/-1 counter on it. Persist appears in Shadowmoor.
This ability introduced a new zone to the game, the phased-out zone. Cards in the phased-out zone are treated as though they have been removed from the game, with some exceptions. At the beginning of each player's turn, all permanents the player controls which are in play and have phasing move to the phased-out zone, along with any Auras attached to the phasing cards. Any cards the player controls which were previously in the phased-out zone return to play at the same time. Phasing is different from removing a permanent from the game and returning it: comes-into-play effects to not trigger when a permanent phases in (though leaves-play effects trigger when it phases out), cards and tokens attached to or placed on the permanent remain, effects that change the permanents characteristics or controller (such as Magical Hack or Persuade) are not reset, and creatures phasing in do not suffer from summoning sickness. Phasing appears in the Mirage block.
The previously printed cards Oubliette and Tawnos's Coffin were reworded to phase cards out for a time, however, this errata was eventually removed.
This creature ability, written as "Poisonous X", is an old ability originating from the Legends set. It was keyworded with the release of Future Sight. 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.
When a creature with Provoke attacks, its controller may have a creature the defending player controls untap and block that creature if it is able to do so. This is a targeted ability, so it can't choose a creature that can't be targeted by the ability. Provoke only appears in Legions.
Prowl, written "Prowl (cost)", is an alternate cost. A player can play a card for its Prowl cost if a creature controlled by that player dealt combat damage to a player that turn and shares a creature type with the Prowl card. Cards with Prowl either are cheaper or have an additional effect if played for their Prowl cost.
This ability is written as "Rampage X", with "X" being a number. 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. This ability was introduced in Legends, and 5th Edition included cards with Rampage (the only core set to do so).
Recover is a triggered ability that triggers when a card is in its owner's graveyard. It is written "Recover (cost)". Whenever a creature card is put into a graveyard from play, 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 back into their hand. If it is not paid, the card is removed from the game.
This ability is written "Reinforce N — (cost)". A player with a card with Reinforce in their hand may discard that card, pay its Reinforce cost, and put N +1/+1 counters on a target creature.
Replicate is the ability associated with the Izzet League. It is written "Replicate — Cost". When a player plays a spell with Replicate, he may pay the Replicate cost any number of times. He puts a copy of the spell on the stack for each time he paid the Replicate cost.
Ripple is a triggered ability that triggers when a card is played. It is written "Ripple X" where X is a number, however all cards currently in print with Ripple have Ripple 4. When a spell with Ripple is played, its controller may reveal the top X cards of his or her library. If any of them are copies of the Ripple spell that was played, then he or she can play those copies without paying their mana costs (this triggers their ripple abilities, so a player can ripple again.) Any cards not played are then put on the bottom of that player's library. One card, Thrumming Stone, grants Ripple 4 to all spells a player plays.
Creatures with this ability can only block or be blocked by other creatures with the shadow ability.
This ability is written "Soulshift X," where X is a number. When a creature with Soulshift is put into a graveyard from play, its controller may return a Spirit card with a converted mana cost X or less from his graveyard to his hand. Most creatures with Soulshift had a Soulshift number one less than their converted mana cost, to prevent them from returning themselves. Almost all cards with Soulshift are Spirits (the only non-spirit is Promised Kannushi}). One card, Forked-Branch Garami, was printed with two different instances of Soulshift 4; these triggered separately (thus, two spirits of casting cost 4 or less could be retrieved, but a spirit with casting cost 8 could not be). Another card, Kodama of the Center Tree, had a variable Soulshift number, and could conceivably retrieve itself if enough Spirits were in play.
This ability is written "Splice onto (quality) (cost)." During the Kamigawa Block, the quality was limited to Arcane. As a player plays a spell with the given quality, he may reveal a card in his hand with Splice onto that quality and pay its Splice cost. If he does, the splicing card's effects are added to those of the played spell, 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 played normally, as opposed to a card with a mana cost of 0, which can be played for free), but it does have a splice cost.
Split Second is a static ability for spells. As long as a spell with Split Second is on the stack, players can't play spells or non-mana activated abilities. Triggered abilities, as well as effects that don't use the stack that can be played at instant speed (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 spell type, except that one card with Split Second cannot be played on the stack on top of another card with Split Second, whereas one Interrupt card could be played in response to another.
When a player plays a spell with Storm, they put a copy of that spell on the stack for each spell played 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. Generally, these spells have expensive casting costs.
Gravestorm is a variant that appeared on a timeshifted Future Sight card, Bitter Ordeal. Gravestorm creates a copy of the spell for each permanent placed into a graveyard that turn.
Substance was a static ability with no effect. 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 new rules, the original wording would cause the enchantment to leave play before damage was removed from creatures. The creation of substance returned the functionality of these cards to what they were originally intended to do. Substance was later added to cards such as Waylay to close loopholes caused by playing cards that expired "at end of turn" as a response to the end-of-turn step (causing them to stay in play until the end of next turn)
Substance has never been printed on a Magic card. The only cards with substance received it as errata long after they were printed.
When Magic 2010 was released, substance was removed from these cards and was replaced with "At the beginning of the cleanup step" to solve the problems substance previously solved.
A permanent with Sunburst comes into play with a +1/+1 counter (if it's a creature) or a charge counter (if it's not a creature) for each color of mana spent to pay its mana cost. Sunburst appears in Fifth Dawn and only on artifacts.
Suspend is a combination ability for spells. It is written "Suspend N — (cost)". Any time a player could play a spell with suspend, he may pay its suspend cost to remove it from the game and place N time counters on it. One time counter is removed from a suspended card during its controller's upkeep, and when the last counter is removed the spell is played with no need to pay its mana cost. (Timing restrictions don't apply, but effects that forbid a player from playing spells can.) If the card is a creature, it gains haste when played with suspend.
Cards may be given suspend when they are removed from the game by an effect. This effect always puts time counters on the card as well. In particular, a cycle of cards from the Future Sight set can "re-suspend" themselves after they're played.
Transmute is the ability associated with House Dimir. It 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.
Transfigure is a variant on Transmute. A player who has a creature with transfigure in play may, any time a sorcery could be played, pay its transfigure cost and sacrifice it to search his library for a creature with the same converted mana cost as the sacrificed creature and put it in directly into play. This ability appears on a single timeshifted creature in Future Sight, Fleshwrither.
This ability is written as "Vanishing X", where X is a number. A permanent with vanishing comes into play with X time counters on it. Every upkeep, a time counter is removed. When the last counter is removed, the card is sacrificed .
Wither is a replacement ability introduced in Shadowmoor. A creature with wither deals damage in the form of -1/-1 counters. Whenever a creature with wither deals damage to another creature, a -1/-1 counter is put on that creature instead for each point of damage dealt. This ability is different from other abilities, such as flanking, as wither is a replacement ability. A creature with more than one instance of wither does not deal twice the amount of -1/-1 counters in damage.
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 Odyssey, with Threshold. Ability words always appear in italics and are followed by an em dash (—) before the ability they describe.
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. Wizards has stated that the mechanical reason to only use Spirits was to interact better with soulshift.
This ability is written as "Grandeur — 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.
Hellbent is the ability word associated with the Cult of Rakdos. Cards with the Hellbent ability have greater effects if their controller has no cards in his or her hand. Many other cards pertaining to the Cult function better while their controller has fewer cards in hand.
Kinship is an ability word for effects that check whether a card (often the top card of a player's library) shares a creature type with the creature that has the Kinship ability. If that card does share a creature type with the card with Kinship, the player may reveal it for a bonus effect.
This ability is written as "level up-"cost" you pay the required mana and put a level counter on that creature the creatures abilities and power / health will change depending on the amount of level counters on the creature the card will state the power / health and abilities when it reaches the required amount of level counters
Radiance is the ability word associated with the Boros Legion. It denotes abilities that target one permanent, but affect all permanents of the same type that share a color with the target.
Spells with sweep have effects which can be strengthened by returning any number of basic lands (of a single type) to their owners' hands.
A card with Threshold has an additional effect when the controller has 7 or more cards in their graveyard. Threshold was originally a keyword mechanic, but it was changed to an ability word with no specific rules meaning with the release of Time Spiral.
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 exception) within the rules of the game, it has been strongly indicated that they will never appear on any cards printed in future sets.
Banding is a keyword that indicates two similar abilities. First, a player determines how combat damage is dealt by an opposing creature if at least one of the creatures blocking or blocked by 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 (one non-banding creature could be included in a band). If one creature becomes blocked, the whole band becomes blocked as well, whether or not the defender could block other creatures in the band. 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 is a limited form of Banding. A creature with this ability has banding, but can only band with creatures that also have "Bands with other", provided the creature type listed matches. Creatures with banding can join the attacking band, and all other banding rules apply. Counter to the name of the ability, creatures with "Bands with other" cannot simply band with any creature that has the same type as the one listed in the ability; all creatures involved in a band must have the same "Bands with other" ability or normal Banding. No creatures besides Old Fogey from Unhinged have been printed with the Bands with Other ability; the ability is granted to Legendary creatures by a cycle of lands, and the cards Master of the Hunt creates tokens that can band with each other. Bands with Other was called "possibly the worst keyworded ability of all time" by Magic rules manager Mark Gottlieb.
This ability is written as "Fading X", where X is a number. A permanent with fading comes into play with X fade counters on it. Every upkeep, a fade counter is removed. If a counter cannot be removed, the card is sacrificed . Fading is exclusive to Nemesis. It was replaced by Vanishing in Planar Chaos which Wizards of the Coast has said will replace Fading.
This ability is written as (land type)home. A creature with this ability 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 keyworded in Mirage Block. The keyword has since been discontinued; the last card to be printed with a keyworded landhome ability was Manta Ray from the Weatherlight expansion.
Landhome is unique in that it is the only keyworded ability to be retroactively removed from the rules. While cards which previously had landhome still feature the associated restrictions, they have been issued errata removing "landhome" as a keyword, leaving merely the reminder text.