The third installment in the Modern Horizons series releases June 14, 2024, and with it comes new twists on battle-tested strategies, favorite characters like you've never seen them, and some mechanic remixes thrown in for fun. In all, over 40 keyword abilities, keyword actions, ability words, and unnamed mechanics return in the Modern Horizons 3 set. We're going to review most of them here. There's a pretty good chance you've seen them before, and you may want a refresher, but 40 is a lot, so you never know. Your new favorite mechanic may be just around the corner.

The rules for these mechanics haven't changed for this set, although in some cases, the rules for the game have changed since you may have last seen them.


The card type previously known as tribal returns, with a bit of a terminology glow-up. It's been rebranded as "kindred." Note that this is a change in vocabulary only; none of the rules governing how these cards work have changed.

0004_MTGMH3_Main: Echoes of Eternity

Kindred allows noncreature cards to have creature types. This doesn't make them actual creatures or anything, but it does allow them to benefit from some typal effects. Say something allows you to search your library for an Eldrazi card or return an Eldrazi card from your graveyard to your hand. Well, you're in luck, as Echoes of Eternity is an Eldrazi card. And sometimes you want additional card types in your graveyard. You know, for reasons.

And yes, all previous tribal cards will be updated to kindreds.

0168_MTGMH3_CommRep: Crib Swap

Umbra Armor

"Umbra armor" is also a new name for a returning mechanic. This is the keyword previously known as totem armor. Existing cards with that keyword will be updated with the new term.

0022_MTGMH3_Main: Dog Umbra

Umbra armor appears on Aura cards, infusing them with the spirits of various animals and allowing them better protect the creatures they're attached to. If a creature enchanted by an Aura with umbra armor would be destroyed, instead that Aura is destroyed and all damage dealt to the creature is removed. Handy!

It doesn't matter why the creature would be destroyed. It could be damage, or it could be an effect that says to "destroy" it. Either way, any damage dealt to it so far that turn is healed. If the creature is fortunate enough to be enchanted by multiple Auras with umbra armor, only one of them is destroyed. The controller of the creature chooses which one. Just remember that umbra armor won't help if the creature's toughness is 0 or less, if it's being sacrificed, or if it's trying to leave the battlefield in any way other than by being destroyed.


Energy counters are a kind of counter that players can have. Most cards that give you energy counters also give you a way to spend them for various bonuses.

0083_MTGMH3_Main: Chthonian Nightmare

Unlike mana, which you can't keep for very long if you don't spend it, energy counters stay with you turn after turn until you spend them or an effect causes you to lose them. All energy counters are interchangeable, so ones given to you by one card can be spent on another.


Bestow is a keyword found on enchantment creatures that offers you a choice as you cast them. On one starry hand, you can ignore the keyword completely and cast them as enchantment creatures. They'll enter the battlefield, hopefully attack and block for you, and maybe even stick around long enough to witness your epic victory. On the other glittering hand, maybe you already control a creature that could use some divine inspiration. You can also cast a spell with bestow as an Aura. If you do, it gains enchant creature.

0116_MTGMH3_Main: Detective's Phoenix

If you choose to cast a spell with bestow as an Aura, it's not a creature spell at all. It's only an Aura enchantment spell. Usually, Auras can be risky—if you lose the enchanted creature, the Aura goes with it. Bestow is different and has your back in two ways: First, if the Aura spell ends up having an illegal target, rather than not resolving like other Aura spells would, Aura spells with bestow will instead stop being Aura spells, go back to being enchantment creature spells, and continue to resolve. You'll end up with the same enchantment creature you would have had you just cast the spell without bestow all along. Second, once an Aura with bestow is on the battlefield, if the enchanted creature leaves the battlefield, the Aura stops being an Aura, it loses enchant creature, it becomes an enchantment creature, and it stays on the battlefield. So, you can load up one of your creatures with a little more peace of mind.

If a card with bestow is put onto the battlefield any way other than by being cast, it'll be an enchantment creature. You won't have the option to make it an Aura.


"Build awesome monsters" is one of the core principles of game design. Okay, I never took that class, but if it isn't, it should be. Several cards in the set refer to modified creatures and reward you for making your presumably already awesome creatures awesomer. The awesomest.

0039_MTGMH3_Main: Pearl-Ear, Imperial Advisor

A creature you control is modified if it has one or more counters on it, if it's equipped, and/or if it's enchanted by an Aura. For counters, it doesn't matter who put the counters on the creature or what kind of counters they are. For Equipment, it doesn't matter who controls the Equipment—your opponent's Equipment ending up on your creatures is unusual, though not unheard of. Your opponents are free to enchant your creatures with Auras (like maybe ones that stop them from attacking because they're no fun) without fear of causing them to become modified.

And now, a bunch of other mechanics in (mostly) alphabetical order!


Adapt is a keyword action that enables your creatures to do what it takes to survive—namely, get bigger. Stats are often the name of the game, and adapt supplies +1/+1 counters so your creatures can attack and block without concern.

As a creature adapts, check if it has any +1/+1 counters on it. If it does, nothing happens. If not, put a number of +1/+1 counters on it equal to the number after adapt. You can always activate an ability that instructs a creature to adapt. The check to see if that creature has +1/+1 counters happens as that ability resolves. If a creature somehow loses its +1/+1 counters, it can adapt again.


The Eldrazi are not all about their foes having … you know, stuff. If a creature with annihilator attacks, the defending player will be forced to part ways with a number of permanents. Annihilator is a triggered ability that triggers whenever the creature that has it attacks. The number after annihilator tells you how many permanents the defending player will have to sacrifice as that ability resolves. Any permanents will do, including lands, tokens, or even the planeswalker being attacked! The sacrifice happens before blockers are declared, so any creatures fed to the Eldrazi won't be around to try and stop them by blocking.


Paying full price for spells? Nah. Affinity for [something, often artifacts, but it can be anything] means the spell costs {1} less for each [something, often artifacts, but it can be anything] you control.


Afterlife gives the dearly departed one final chance to haunt (not that haunt) your enemies. When a creature with afterlife dies, you create a number of 1/1 white and black Spirit creature tokens with flying. Boo! Yay!


Climb once again to the fabled city of Orazca with the return of ascend. If the keyword appears on an instant or sorcery, it checks as that spell is resolving to see if you control ten or more permanents. If you do, you get the city's blessing. That's a designation you keep for the rest of the game. More on that in a second. If ascend appears on a permanent you control, it will look for you to control ten or more permanents. As soon as you do, you get the city's blessing.

Having the city's blessing will unlock various bonuses and enhanced abilities of some cards. Remember, once you have the city's blessing, you can't lose it, even if you no longer control ten or more permanents or any permanents with ascend.

Collect Evidence

Mysteries abound, but the keys to unlocking them all may be in your graveyard. Collect evidence, followed by a number, is a cost that you pay by exiling any number of cards from your graveyard with total mana value equal to that number or greater. Previously, collect evidence appeared as an additional cost to cast spells, an activation cost, and even a ward cost. It appears only once in Modern Horizons 3, but in a form you haven't seen before.


If a creature you control connives, draw a card, then discard a card. The creature would sure appreciate it if you discarded a nonland card, because if you did, it gets a +1/+1 counter. If you didn't, no worries. It'll still attack and block for you. Probably die for you. But you couldn't give it one measly +1/+1 counter. No problem. It's fine.


Sometimes the card you have is not the card you need. Cycling can help. Pay the cycling cost, discard the card with cycling, and you get to draw a card. It's one more opportunity for that clutch topdeck.


Devoid is a keyword popularized by the Eldrazi. It makes whatever card that has it colorless, no matter what mana symbols appear in the card's mana cost. Devoid applies in all zones, so, for example, if an effect referred to colorless cards in your library or graveyard, cards with devoid would count. Note that devoid doesn't change a card's color identity if you're building Commander decks. A devoid card with blue mana symbols in its mana cost can still appear only in decks with a commander that includes blue in its color identity.


The gods of Theros aren't the only ones who appreciate a little love. If a card refers to your devotion to a color, it means the number of mana symbols of that color among permanents you control. In case it comes up, and it actually might in this set, Phyrexian mana symbols count as their color and contribute 1 toward devotion to that color. Hybrid mana symbols count as both colors and contribute 1 to each devotion. (Devotion to two colors doesn't show up in this set, but it has appeared on previous cards. That counts any mana symbol that's the first color, the second color, or both, and hybrid symbols count only for 1.)


Sometimes the card you really want to draw is already in your graveyard, so why not fish it out, dry it off, and get to work? If a card with dredge N is in your graveyard, any time you would draw a card, you can instead mill exactly N cards and put the card with dredge into your hand. Note that you can do this only if there are least N cards left in your library.


Unleash (we really have used a lot of words for keywords) the horrors within with emerge, a keyword that lets you cast some creature spells for an alternative cost if you also sacrifice a creature to cast it. However, your creature's sacrifice is not in vain, as you do get a discount—that alternative cost is reduced by the sacrificed creature's mana value. A new variant of this ability, emerge from artifact, appears in this set. The only difference is you sacrifice an artifact rather than a creature, and the discount is based on the sacrificed artifact's mana value.


This classic twist on modal spells allows you to pay an additional cost to choose both offered modes. Choosing more than one mode may be old hat to players nowadays, but back on Mirrodin, before everything went … um, wrong, this was living.


Speaking of modal spells where one mode just may not be enough, welcome back, escalate. This ability is an additional cost found on modal cards that allow you to choose one or more modes. You pay the escalate cost for each mode you choose beyond the first.


The glory of the God-Pharaoh graces us even here, as eternalize makes an appearance. Eternalize is an activated ability that you can activate if the creature card with eternalize is in your graveyard. Pay the eternalize cost, exile the card from your graveyard, and be richly rewarded with a 4/4 copy of that card, except it's a black Zombie in addition to its other types and it has no mana cost (and thus has mana value 0).


Evoke is an alternative cost that gives you an incredibly affordable way to cast some creature spells. Save an unbelievable amount of mana. Cast some spells for no mana at all! There is one tiny catch: you'll sacrifice the creature when it enters the battlefield. That's okay though—each of them has another ability that will have you benefitting from it entering or leaving the battlefield. You can always cast these creatures for their mana costs as normal and make sure they stick around for a good time and a long time.


Give your forces a little nudge toward magnificence with evolve, a returning triggered ability. It triggers whenever a creature with greater power, greater toughness, or both enters the battlefield under your control. As the evolve ability tries to resolve, compare the stats again. If the new creature still has greater power, greater toughness, or both, you put a +1/+1 counter on the creature with evolve. Remember, always compare power to power and toughness to toughness.

If multiple creatures enter at the same time, evolve will trigger for each of them, and you'll perform each comparison separately. For example, say you control a 2/3 creature with evolve and two 3/3s enter the battlefield under your control. Evolve will trigger twice. The first ability to resolve will see that the first 3/3 has greater power than the 2/3, so you'll put a +1/+1 counter on the 2/3 creature with evolve, making it a 3/4. The next instance of evolve will see that the 3/3 creature that entered no longer has greater power or toughness than the creature with evolve, which is now a 3/4, so that ability won't do anything.


How about instead of me telling you what extort does, you pay me 1 life?

That's extort.

(It's a triggered ability that triggers whenever you cast a spell. As the ability resolves, you can pay {W/B}. If you do, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain 1 life. Interestingly, that white/black hybrid mana symbol appears only in reminder text, so if extort appears on a black card, that symbol doesn't add white to its color identity for Commander deck-building purposes.)


Let's build stuff. "Fabricate N" is a triggered ability that triggers when the permanent with fabricate enters the battlefield. As that ability resolves, you choose to either put N +1/+1 counters on the creature or create N 1/1 colorless Servo artifact creature tokens. If you can't put +1/+1 counters on the creature, probably because it's no longer on the battlefield, you'll just get the Servos.


Some spells are so fun you simply must cast them again, and flashback allows you to do just that. If an instant or sorcery card with flashback is in your graveyard, you may cast it from there for its flashback cost rather than its mana cost. If the resulting spell would leave the stack for any reason—it resolves, it doesn't resolve because its targets are illegal, it's countered, and so on—it's exiled instead. It's a flashback, not a recurring nightmare.


An ability that is the foundation of many other abilities, kicker offers a simple proposition: pay more, get more. Kicker represents an optional additional cost. As you cast a spell with kicker, you can choose to "kick" that spell by paying the kicker cost. If you do, the spell is "kicked." There will usually be an additional or alternative effect if a spell is kicked. Sometimes a spell will require targets for part of its effect that apply only if it's kicked. If you cast such a spell without kicking the spell, you can ignore those targets.

Living Weapon

Phyrexian weaponry is so lethal, it practically wields itself. When an Equipment with living weapon enters the battlefield, you create a 0/0 black Phyrexian Germ creature token, then attach the Equipment to that token. Of course, each Equipment with living weapon will provide that Phyrexian Germ with some toughness to keep it alive, and much more. You can use the equip ability to move the Equipment around to your other creatures as normal, but at 0/0, the Phyrexian Germ would appreciate it if maybe you didn't?


Did you think if you discarded a card, it was lost? Gone forever? Madness! If you discard a card with madness, it goes to exile rather than your graveyard. An ability triggers. In the distance, a wolf howls. Wait, no wolf. But as that ability resolves, you can then cast the card for its madness cost rather than its mana cost. If you don't cast it, put the card into your graveyard. The card still counts as discarded, so if you discarded it to pay a cost, that cost is still paid. If you discarded as the effect of a spell or ability, that effect is satisfied, and so on.


So many creatures are so focused on merciless killing that they don't take the time to teach the next generation. Whenever a creature with mentor attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on target attacking creature with lesser power than that creature. You'll have a battlefield full of masters in no time.


Creatures die all the time in games of Magic, so it's best to not get too attached. Morbid abilities are ready to take advantage though. Morbid is an ability word, so it doesn't have any rules meaning, but it appears before any ability that somehow gets better if a creature died this turn. For example, morbid triggered abilities may trigger only if a creature died earlier in the turn.


You definitely want your creatures staying alive 'til this horror show is past. If playing for the long game is more your speed, outlast might be the ability for you. Outlast is an activated ability that you can activate during your main phase to put a +1/+1 counter on the creature.


Overload takes a spell with pinpoint precision and just blows it all up. Each spell with overload has a target, but if you cast it for its overload cost rather than its mana cost, you can change the word "target" to "each," or what the Izzet used to call "restraint." Remember that a spell with targets can fail to resolve because its targets become illegal, but once you overload it, it no longer has targets, so it can no longer fail to resolve this way.


Counters are great. Some are good. Some are bad. Permanents get them. Players get them. I think we can all agree we want more of them. Proliferate is a keyword action that's doing its part. When you're told to proliferate, you choose any number of players and/or permanents that already have counters and give them one more of each kind of counter they have. You don't have to choose every player and permanent with a counter, so no need to buff your opponent's +1/+1 counter–laden threat. But if you do choose to add counters to a player or permanent, you add one of each kind already there. So, if your opponent has both poison and energy counters, you can give them one more of each or none. You can't just poison them.


Prototype represents machines of war in two very different stages of development. Each prototype card has two sets of characteristics. First, a larger default mana cost, power, and toughness. Inside the text box, you'll find a second set as part of the prototype ability. As you cast a prototype card, you choose which set of characteristics you're using. Either way, the artifact creature will have any other abilities in its text box. If you cast a card for its prototype cost, it'll have the second set of characteristics both as a spell and as a permanent on the battlefield. That means its mana value will be lower and it will pick up a color, whereas the larger version of the artifact creature is colorless.


Some spells are so fun, you simply must cast them again, and flashback allows you to do just that. If an instant or sorcery card with flashback is in your graveyard, you may cast it from there for its flashback cost rather than its mana cost. If the resulting spell would leave the stack for any reason—it resolves, it doesn't resolve because its targets are illegal, it's countered, and so on—it's exiled instead. It's a flashback, not a recurring nightmare.


The futuristic plane of Kamigawa pioneered some very versatile weapons, and it's possible other planes took notice. Reconfigure is an activated ability that takes the place of equip on some Equipment that are also creatures. If an Equipment has reconfigure, you can pay its reconfigure cost as a sorcery to attach it to a creature you control. This causes the Equipment to stop being a creature as long as it's attached. You can pay the reconfigure cost again (still as a sorcery) to either attach it to a different creature you control or remove it altogether, meaning it will become a creature again.


Reinforce is an activated ability that makes cards in your hand a little more versatile. To activate a reinforce ability, discard the card, pay the reinforce cost, and target creature you control will soon be receiving some help in the form of the indicated number of +1/+1 counters.

Shield Counters

The battlefield, as it turns out, is a pretty dangerous place. Give your creatures a little more security with shield counters. If a creature with one or more shield counters on it would be dealt damage or destroyed, a single shield counter is removed from it instead.


Okay, this one isn't real. I am kind of curious how many of you are still reading though. I mean, if this were a real mechanic, it would have been in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, right? It was a card name there but not a keyword or anything. Maybe this is one of those Future Sight gags where I'm teasing a keyword from the future. (It's not.)


The keyword behind the infamous "storm count," storm returns to terrorize both opponents and the stack itself. Whenever you cast a spell with storm, copy it for each spell cast before it that turn. Storm will count spells cast by any player, including ones that were countered or failed to resolve. It won't count copies that were put directly onto the stack without being cast, such as the ones storm itself creates.


Support is a straightforward keyword action. Support N means put a +1/+1 counter on each of up to that many target creatures. Creatures can't support themselves, which is kind of sad, but it means that if the ability that tells you to support is found on a permanent, the support ability can't target that permanent.


Out of threats? Dig up some more! Unearth is an activated ability that gives the dead one last chance to harangue your foes. If a card with unearth is in your graveyard, you can activate its unearth ability as a sorcery. It shambles back to life, returning to the battlefield and gaining haste. Make it count, because the creature is exiled at the beginning of the next end step or if it would leave the battlefield before then.

Modern Horizons 3 will hit stores worldwide on June 14, 2024, and you can preorder products now through your local game store, online retailers like Amazon, and elsewhere Magic is sold.