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KEYWORD GLOSSARY

Welcome! This page helps with common keywords and phrases from Magic: The Gathering. From "haste" and "trample" to "exile" and figuring out "flying", you'll find quick answers for exploring the world's greatest TCG!




# - D

To (TAP)

This symbol means “tap this permanent” (turn it sideways to show that it has been used). It appears in activation costs. You can’t pay a cost if the card is already tapped, or if it’s a creature that still has summoning sickness.

 

ADDITIONAL COST

Some spells say they have an additional cost. To cast such a spell, you must pay both the mana cost in the upper right corner of the card and its additional cost.

 

AURA

Aura is a subtype that appears on an enchantment that can be attached to a permanent. Each Aura has the keyword “enchant” followed by what it can be attached to—for example, “enchant creature,” “enchant land,” and so on. When you cast an Aura spell, you choose its target. When the Aura resolves, it’s put onto the battlefield attached to that permanent. The Aura stays there until it’s destroyed or until the permanent it’s attached to leaves the battlefield. If the permanent leaves the battlefield, the Aura card is put into your graveyard.

 

BASIC LAND

There are five types of basic lands: Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, and Forest. Any land with the Plains subtype has the intrinsic ability “: Add ” (white mana). Similarly, Islands tap for (blue mana), Swamps tap for (black mana), Mountains tap for (red mana), and Forests tap for (green mana). If an effect refers to a “basic land card,” it’s referring to a card with the words “basic land” on its type line (basic is a supertype). Other lands are often referred to as “nonbasic lands.”

 

COLOR

The five Magic colors are white, blue, black, red, and green. If a spell or ability tells you to choose a color, you must choose one of those five. A card’s color is determined by its mana cost. For example, a card that costs is blue, and a card that costs is both red and white.

 

COLORLESS

Lands and most artifacts are colorless. Colorless is not a color. If something tells you to choose a color, you can’t choose colorless.

 

COMBAT DAMAGE

Creatures deal combat damage by attacking and blocking. Each creature deals combat damage equal to its power. This damage is dealt during the combat damage step. Any other kind of damage doesn’t count as combat damage, even if it’s dealt during the combat phase or as the result of a creature’s ability.

 

CONTROL

You control spells you cast and permanents that enter the battlefield on your side. You also control abilities that come from permanents you control. Only you can make decisions for things you control. If you control a permanent, only you can activate its activated abilities. Some spells and abilities let you gain control of a permanent. Most of the time, this means the card will move from your opponent’s side to yours.

 

CONTROLLER

A spell’s controller is the player who cast it. A permanent’s controller is the player who cast it—unless another spell or ability changes who controls it.

 

COST

A cost is something you have to pay to take most actions. You must pay a cost to cast a spell or activate an activated ability. Sometimes a spell or ability will also ask you to pay an additional cost to cast or activate it. For example, in addition to its mana cost, Village Rites requires you to sacrifice a creature in order to cast it. You can’t cast it if you have no creature to sacrifice.

 

COUNTER A SPELL OR ABILITY

Countering a spell or ability causes it to have no effect. If a spell is countered, it’s removed from the stack and put into its owner’s graveyard. Once a spell or ability starts to resolve, it’s too late to counter it. Lands aren’t spells, so they can’t be countered.

 

COUNTER ON A PERMANENT

Some spells and abilities tell you to put a counter on a permanent. The counter marks a change to the permanent that lasts for as long as it’s on the battlefield with the counter on it, or a Planeswalker’s loyalty. A counter usually changes a creature’s power and toughness. You can use anything you want as counters: many players find that glass beads and dice work best.

 

DAMAGE

Damage reduces a player’s life total and destroys creatures. Attacking and blocking creatures deal damage equal to their power. Some spells and abilities can also deal damage. Damage can be dealt only to creatures, players and planeswalkers. Damage dealt to a player is subtracted from the player’s life total. If a creature is dealt damage equal to or greater than its toughness in a single turn, it is destroyed. Damage dealt beyond a creature’s toughness is “excess damage.” Damage dealt to planeswalkers is subtracted from the planeswalker’s loyalty.

 

DEATHTOUCH

A keyword ability found on creatures. A creature dealt any amount of damage by a creature with deathtouch is destroyed. Deathtouch has no effect on players or planeswalkers.

 

DEFENDER

A keyword ability found on creatures. Creatures with defender can’t attack.

 

DESTROY

When a permanent is destroyed, you move it from the battlefield to its owner’s graveyard. Creatures are destroyed when they have taken damage equal to or greater than their toughness. Many spells and abilities can also destroy permanents without dealing damage to them.

 

DISCARD

To discard, take a card from your hand and put it into your graveyard. If a spell or ability forces you to discard, you get to choose which card(s) to discard unless the spell or ability says another player chooses the cards or you have to discard “at random.” If you have more than seven cards in your hand as your turn ends, you have to discard until you have seven.

 

DOUBLE STRIKE

A keyword ability found on creatures. Creatures with double strike deal their combat damage twice. When you reach the combat damage step, check to see if any attacking or blocking creatures have first strike or double strike. If so, an extra combat damage step is created just for them. Only creatures with first strike and double strike get to deal combat damage during this step. After that, the normal combat damage step happens. All other attacking and blocking creatures that survived, as well as the ones with double strike, deal combat damage during this second step.

 


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E - L

ENCHANT

All Auras have this keyword ability, and it is always followed by the kind of permanent that the Aura can be attached to (for example, “enchant creature” or “enchant land”). When you cast the Aura, you must target that kind of permanent. When an ability of an Aura says “enchanted creature” (or “enchanted artifact,” “enchanted land,” and so on), it means “the creature the Aura is attached to.” See the glossary entry for “Aura.”

 

ENTERS THE BATTLEFIELD

Some triggered abilities start with “When [this permanent] enters the battlefield, . . .” When a permanent with an ability like this is put onto the battlefield, the ability triggers right away. Some abilities also trigger when certain other permanents enter the battlefield.

 

EQUIPMENT

Equipment is a subtype that appears on an artifact that can be attached to a creature. Most Equipment cards have the activated ability “equip” followed by a cost—for example, “Equip .” An equip ability can be activated only any time you could cast a sorcery. When you activate an equip ability, you choose a creature you control as its target. When the ability resolves, the Equipment artifact becomes attached to that creature. The creature is then “equipped.” The Equipment remains attached until it’s destroyed, or until the creature it’s attached to leaves the battlefield, or until you activate the equip ability again and move the Equipment to a new creature.

 

EXILE

Some spells and abilities can exile permanents on the battlefield or cards in other zones. Exiled

cards are set apart from the rest of the game. You can’t interact with cards in exile unless an ability specifies otherwise.

 

FIRST STRIKE

A keyword ability found on creatures. Creatures with first strike deal all of their combat damage before creatures without first strike or double strike. When you reach the combat damage step, check to see if any attacking or blocking creatures have first strike or double strike. If so, an extra combat damage step is created just for them.

Only creatures with first strike and double strike get to deal combat damage during this step. After that, the normal combat damage step happens. All other attacking and blocking creatures that survived, as well as the ones with double strike, deal combat damage during this second step.

 

FLASH

A keyword ability found on cards. A spell with flash can be cast any time you could cast an instant.

 

FLASHBACK

A keyword ability found on instants and sorceries. A spell with flashback can be cast from the graveyard by paying its flashback cost. The spell’s effects will happen as usual. A spell cast using flashback will be exiled afterward, regardless of whether it resolves or is countered.

 

FLYING

A keyword ability found on creatures. A creature with flying can be blocked only by creatures with flying or reach.

 

GOAD

A keyword action. If you goad a creature, that creature has to attack and has to attack a player other than you during its controller’s next combat, if able. The creature’s controller still chooses who it attacks. If a creature is somehow goaded by all players on the table, it must still attack, but its controller may choose whomever they please.

 

HASTE

A keyword ability found on creatures. A creature with haste isn’t affected by summoning sickness. It can attack as soon as it comes under your control. You can also activate its activated abilities with in the cost right away.

 

HEXPROOF

A keyword ability that prevents a permanent or player from being the target of spells or abilities an opponent controls.

 

INDESTRUCTIBLE

A keyword ability found on creatures, artifacts, and other permanents. An indestructible permanent can’t be destroyed by damage or by effects that say “destroy,” but it can still be put into the graveyard for other reasons—such as an effect that reduces its toughness to 0.

 

LEAVES THE BATTLEFIELD

A permanent leaves the battlefield when it moves from the battlefield zone to any other zone. It might return to a player’s hand from the battlefield, go to a graveyard from the battlefield, or go to some other zone. If a card leaves the battlefield and later returns to the battlefield, it’s like a brand-new card. It doesn’t “remember” anything from the last time it was on the battlefield.

 

LEGENDARY

Legendary is a supertype, so you’ll find it written on the type line before the card type. If a player controls two or more legendary permanents with the same name at the same time, that player must choose one of those permanents to keep and immediately put the rest into their graveyard. Different players can control legendary permanents with the same name. All Planeswalkers are legendary, but you can control two different versions of the same Planeswalker at the same time (e.g. Jace, Mirror Mage and Jace, Arcane Strategist).

 

LIFELINK

A keyword ability found on creatures. When a creature you control has lifelink and deals damage, you simultaneously gain that much life.

 


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M - S

MANA

The magical energy you use to pay for spells and some abilities is called mana. Most mana comes from tapping lands. There are five colors of mana: (white), (blue), (black), (red), and (green). Some nonbasic lands make (colorless mana), which can be spent to pay costs that don't require mana of a specific color. Unspent mana vanishes between turns and phases, so you can't 'save' mana from one turn to use during a later turn.

 

MANA ABILITY

An ability that generates mana. Mana abilities can be activated abilities or triggered abilities. Mana abilities don’t go on the stack or wait to resolve— you simply get the mana immediately.

 

MANA VALUE

The total amount of mana in a mana cost, regardless of color. For example, a card with a mana cost of has a mana value of 5. A card with mana cost has a mana value of 2.

 

MENACE

A keyword ability found on creatures. A creature with menace can’t be blocked except by two or more creatures.

 

MULLIGAN

At the beginning of a Magic game, you draw the top seven cards of your library. That’s your starting hand. If you don’t like your starting hand for any reason, you can take a mulligan. The choice to take a mulligan is made after the starting player is determined, but before doing anything else. To take a mulligan, shuffle your hand back into your library and draw a new hand of seven cards. If you are satisfied with that hand, put one card from it on the bottom of your library. If not, you can take another mulligan. You can take a mulligan as many times as you want, but you put one card on the bottom of your library for each mulligan you’ve taken this game.

 

OPPONENT

A person you’re playing against is your opponent. If a card says “an opponent,” it means one of its controller’s opponents.

 

OWNER

The person who starts the game with a card in their deck is that card’s owner. Even if your opponent gains control of one of your permanents, you’re still its owner. (If you loaned your friend a deck, they’re the “owner” of all the cards in it during the game.) The owner of a token is the player who controlled it when it entered the battlefield.

 

PERMANENT

A card or token on the battlefield. Permanents can be artifacts, creatures, enchantments, or lands. Once a permanent is on the battlefield, it stays there until it’s destroyed, exiled, sacrificed, or otherwise removed according to the game rules. You can’t remove a permanent from the battlefield just because you want to, even if you control it.

 

PLANESWALKER

Planeswalkers are formidable allies you can summon to fight alongside you. Planeswalker cards are shuffled into your deck at the start of the game, just like any other card. You can cast a Planeswalker during your main phase like any other permanent. (Note that Planeswalkers are not creatures.) Once a Planeswalker is on your side of the battlefield, you can start using their abilities right away. If you control a Planeswalker, your opponent can choose to attack either you or your Planeswalker (or both, with different creatures). Then, you can choose to have your creatures block for your Planeswalkers just as they would block for yourself. Excess damage dealt to planeswalkers does not carry over to the player. When a Planeswalker’s loyalty is reduced to zero (by either activating its abilities or taking damage), it is sent to the graveyard.

 

PLAYER

You and your opponents are all players. If a spell or ability lets you choose a player, you can choose yourself. You can’t choose yourself if the spell or ability says “opponent.”

 

PUT ONTO THE BATTLEFIELD

When a spell or ability tells you to put something onto the battlefield, you move that card into the battlefield zone. This is different than casting it—you just put it onto the battlefield without paying its costs.

 

REACH

A keyword ability found on creatures. A creature with reach can block a creature with flying. Note that a creature with reach can be blocked by any kind of creature.

 

SACRIFICE

If a spell or ability tells you to sacrifice a kind of permanent, choose one of your permanents of that type on the battlefield and put it into its owner’s graveyard (usually your graveyard, but some spells and abilities allow you to gain control of cards owned by an opponent). You can sacrifice only permanents you control. Sacrificing a permanent is different from destroying it. You can sacrifice a permanent only if a spell or ability tells you to, or if it’s part of a cost.

 

SCRY

A keyword action that allows a player to see the future! “Scry N” means you look at N cards from the top of your library. You can put any number of those cards on the bottom of your library, then you put the rest back on top of your library in any order.

 

SHUFFLE

Some cards will instruct you to shuffle. This is a keyword action that has you randomize the cards of your library, so that no one knows the order of its contents.

 

SOURCE

Damage and abilities each come from a spell or permanent—the source of that damage or ability. Once an ability is on the stack, removing its source doesn’t stop it from resolving.

 

SPELL

All types of cards (except lands) are spells while you’re casting them. For example, Angler Turtle is a creature card. While you’re casting it, it’s a creature spell. When it resolves, it becomes a creature. Spells can only be cast during your main phase, except for instants, which can be cast anytime.

 


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T - Z

TOKEN

Some spells and abilities can create tokens. Tokens are always permanents, and they’re affected by all the rules, spells, and abilities that affect permanents. If one of your tokens leaves the battlefield, however, it moves to the new zone (such as your graveyard or your hand) and then immediately vanishes from the game.

 

TRAMPLE

A keyword ability found on creatures. Trample allows a creature to deal excess combat damage to the player it’s attacking, even if the creature is blocked. If you’re attacking with a creature that has trample and it is blocked, you have to assign its combat damage to the creatures blocking it first. If it destroys all of those creatures, then you can assign any excess damage to the player it’s attacking. If an attacking creature with trample is blocked, but there are no creatures blocking it when damage is assigned (for example, if you used a spell to destroy the blocking creature), then all of its damage is assigned to the player it’s attacking. Trample does not work on Planeswalkers, unless the creature has “Trample over planeswalkers”.

 

VIGILANCE

A keyword ability found on creatures. A creature with vigilance doesn’t tap to attack. Vigilance doesn’t allow a tapped creature or a creature that entered the battlefield this turn to attack.

 

X

When you see in a mana cost or an activation cost, you get to choose the number that stands for. For example, Pull from Tomorrow is an instant that costs . Its text reads, “Draw X cards, then discard a card.” When you cast Pull from Tomorrow, you choose what number X is. If you pick one, for example, Pull from Tomorrow costs , and you will draw one card, then choose and discard a card from your hand. If you pick eight, Pull from Tomorrow costs , and you will draw eight cards, then choose and discard a card from your hand.

 

YOU

The word “you” on a spell or ability refers to the current controller of that spell or ability.

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