Early on in spoiler season of Modern Horizons, Mark Rosewater announced that the set would contain more than 40 non-evergreen keywords. For newer players, evergreen mechanics are keywords that are present in every set and do not need reminder text. (Reminder text is italic text in parenthesis that explains a mechanic, like this.)
While some of these mechanics are recognizable, like Proliferate and Convoke, most of these keywords reach back throughout Magic‘s history. With so many lesser-known mechanics re-entering the game, we wanted to quickly catch players up in time for pre-release. This article will be split up to group the keywords based on their effects.
The following mechanics typically boost the effectiveness of creatures on your board. These effects mainly consist of increasing the power and toughness of creatures either statically (see Level Up and Evolve) or via a short-term effect (See Battle Cry or Exalted). Buffing also comes in the form of protection abilities like Shroud and Protection. Here is the list of Buff effects in Modern Horizons, along with a short explanation of each:
Battle Cry: While attacking, other attacking creatures get +1/+0.
Devour: Upon entering the battlefield, sacrifice creatures to give this creature +1/+1 counters.
Evolve: Gets a +1/+1 counter when another creature with greater power or toughness enters the battlefield.
Exalted: When a creature attacks alone it gets +1/+1 for each Exalted trigger.
Land Walk: Creature cannot be blocked if defending player controls land of that type.
LevelUp: Pay mana to increase a creature’s level giving it better power/toughness and or effects.
Modular: Enters the battlefield with a number of +1/+1 counters then distributes counters among other creatures when it dies.
Monstrosity: Pay mana to put a number of +1/+1 counters, and while the creature is “monstrous” it gets a bonus effect.
Outlast: Pay mana and tap the creature to put +1/+1 counters on the creature.
Protection: Permanent cannot be Damaged, Enchanted, Blocked, or Targeted by effects of what it has protection from.
Proliferate: Increase the number of counters on any number of permanents or players in the game.
Shroud: Cannot be the target of any spells or abilities.
Totem Armor: If enchanted creature were to die, sacrifice the enchantment with this keyword instead.
Recursion effects utilize cards from the graveyard by playing them or returning them to the field or hand. Effects like this will either immediately recur the card at the time it enters the graveyard (i.e. Buyback or Undying) or can be triggered while the card is in the graveyard (i.e. Dredge or Flashback). Modern Horizons recurred the following keywords:
Buyback: Players may pay extra mana at the time of cast to return the card to hand when it enters the graveyard.
Dredge: Instead of drawing a card during their draw step, players may remove cards from the top of their deck to put this card in their hand.
Flashback: While the card is in the graveyard, players may pay the flashback cost to play the card again then exile it.
Persist: When the creature dies, if it had no -1/-1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield with a -1/-1 counter.
Rebound: When casting a spell with rebound from the hand, the player exiles it then casts the spell again for free next upkeep.
Retrace: Player can cast the spell from their graveyard by discarding a land card in addition to paying its other costs.
Undying: When the creature dies, if it had no +1/+1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter.
Unearth: Pay mana to return the creature to the battlefield with haste then exile it at the end of turn or if it were to leave the battlefield.
Spell Augment Effects
The following Mechanics showcased in Modern Horizons have effects that augment what different cards do. Most of these effects require some criteria to be met. Effects like Overload and Replicate only ask for players to spend extra mana, while Morbid and Fateful Hour check the game state to trigger their augmentation effects. Boost or change up what your spells do with the following keywords:
Cascade: When cascade triggers, reveal cards from the top of your deck until you find a spell that costs less than the card played; you may cast that spell for free if you want to.
Entwine: If a card has multiple modes like Active Volcano, entwine allows the player to pay a little extra mana to get both effects from the card.
Exploit: As a creature with exploit enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice another creature to gain a bonus effect.
Fateful Hour: The spell gets improved or extra effects if the controller is at five or less health.
Hellbent: If the player has no cards in hand, the spell’s effect is enhanced or a creature gains an effect.
Kicker: As the player casts the spell, if they paid the kicker cost on top of the mana cost, bolster the card’s effect.
Morbid: If a creature died this turn, the card has extra benefits.
Overload: A card with the word “target” can change that text to “all” if a player pays the overload cost instead of the normal mana cost.
Replicate: Copy the spell for each time you pay the Replicate cost.
Storm: Copy the spell for each other spell played this turn.
Threshold: The spell or creature gains bonus effects if there are seven or more cards in the owner’s graveyard.
Alternate Cost Effects
Some spells or creatures in Magic can be played for an alternate cost, usually with some other effect taking place. Modern Horizons not only created a cycle of cards dedicated to one form of this alternate cost but also brought back some fan-favorite alternate cost keywords:
Convoke: Tap creatures to reduce the cost of cards.
Dash: Pay less mana to cast this creature, it gains haste and then returns to your hand at the end of the turn.
Delve: Exile cards from your graveyard to reduce cost of cards.
Evoke: Pay less to cast the card then sacrifice it as it enters the battlefield.
Ninjitsu: You may play this creature for less mana during the attack phase if you swap it out for an unblocked attacking creature.
Splice: Pay a little bit of extra mana to add this card’s effect to another card and keep it in your hand.
Suspend: Pay a different cost to play the card, but with the card’s effect delayed a set amount of turns.
Pitch Effects: The force cycle in Modern Horizons allows you to exile a card of the same color rather than pay the casting cost if it is not your turn.
Card Advantage Effects
Putting extra cards in your hand greatly improves your chance of winning the game. Modern Horizons brought back two major card advantage mechanics in the following:
Cycling: Discard the card and pay mana to draw another card.
Hideaway: As this permanent enters the battlefield, look at the top four cards of your library and put it under this card. That card can be used when certain circumstances are met.
The following mechanics appear in Modern Horizons, but do not fit into the above categories.
Changeling: A creature with Changeling possesses all creature types.
Echo: Cast a creature for less mana now, but player must pay extra mana to keep it next turn.
Snow: A super-type that can boost the effects of other spells or creatures.
Vanishing: The creature sacrifices itself when all vanishing counters disappear.
During draft, you may find yourself looking at these potentially unknown mechanics. This article hopefully provides a quick guide to the many unique mechanics in the set. For a more in-depth look at each mechanic, Wizards released an article explaining each keyword in more detail. Take time to review your keyword soup before diving into draft this weekend at pre-release.
Good luck at the draft, and make sure to stay tuned to Daily Esports for all the latest on Magic: The Gathering!
Hi I’m Kyler Plackowski! I am a huge fan of eSports in all regards with a main focus in League of Legends and Magic: the Gathering. I am one of the founding members of the eSports Council at my college and an avid player of many games. I am a die hard TSM fan but if I am watching good games of League or playing an enjoyable game of commander or prerelease events I am extremely happy.