Keyword abilities

Keyword ability cheatsheet


Since its so-called "new world order" initiative, Magic the Gathering puts reminder text after important mechanics. However, there are some core keywords (called "evergreen" by Magic R&D). These keywords are explained in section 702 of the [official rules document]( but it's pretty dense, and until you learn them the game can be all the more obtuse.

Here's a handy list of the core keywords of Magic the Gathering and what they mean in most cases. For complete rules, of course, refer to the rules document.

  • Deathtouch: Any damage from this creature destroys its target.
  • Defender: This creature cannot attack.
  • Double strike: This creature deals both first-strike and regular combat damage.
  • Enchant: This "tags" a card as the target for whatever (usually detrimental) effect this card imposes.
  • Equip: This "tags" a card as the target for whatever (usually beneficial) effect this card grants.
  • Flash: This card can be cast as an instant.
  • Flying: This card cannot be blocked except by another card with Flying or Reach.
  • Haste: This creature doesn't suffer from summoning sickness.
  • Hexproof: This card can't be targeted by your opponent's spells or abilities.
  • Indestructible: This card can't be destroyed.
  • Intimidate: This card can't be blocked except by artifact creatures or creatures that share a color with it.
  • Islandwalk: See Landwalk.
  • Landwalk: This card can't be blocked as long as you control land with the specified land type (for example, Islandwalk).
  • Lifelink: Gain life equal to the damage dealt by this card.
  • Protection from [thing]: This card can't be targeted by spells (or abilities) of the type [thing].
  • Reach: This card can block Flying things.
  • Shroud: This card can't be the target of spells or abilities.
  • Trample: After destroying its blockers, any excess damage dealt by this creature is assigned to your opponent.
  • Vigilance: Do not tap this card when it attacks.

The list of evergreen abilities can change, but this is representative of the most common ones, or ones I feel most often lack explanation in the rules text of cards. Magic uses keywords ase shorthand for new mechanics, and a new set typically has two or three new mechanics. Keep the rules handy when playing!

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