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This page is for tropes that apply to Magic: The Gathering's gameplay and mechanics. Tropes which apply to the flavor and story should be placed here: Flavor And Story Tropes. (Some tropes may warrant placement on both, but please be judicious.)


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  • Action Bomb: Blowing oneself up is a favorite tactic of red cards, particularly among goblins. Examples include but are not limited to Mudbutton Torchrunner, Mogg Bombers, War-Torch Goblin, Ember Hauler, Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician's suicide troops, and whichever schmuck ends up carrying the Goblin Grenade.
  • Adaptive Ability: Creatures with the "evolve" keyword gain a +1/+1 counter whenever their controller plays a creature that has higher power and/or toughness. In other words, it grows bigger in response to a bigger creature arriving.
  • Airborne Mook: Small creatures with the Flying ability often provide difficulties for opponents who use mostly "ground" creatures. They cannot be blocked unless the blocker has Flying or Reach abilities, but most can still block the "ground" creatures from attacking their owner. Small fliers are usually depicted as birds or bats.
  • Alpha Strike: The trope name is used as shorthand for attacking with every creature you have. This doubles as a Death-or-Glory Attack since you won't have any creatures left to defend yourself if your attack fails to take down your opponent.
  • All There in the Manual: The Gatherer Web site includes all rulings on cards. As the game goes on and rules get refined, the company almost constantly changes the way game abilities are printed on cards:
    • Every set introduces new rules terms and long-standing parts of the game may have their names or the related rules changed if necessary. The concept of the "exile" zone, for example, has been in the game since the very first set, but did not receive its current name until 2009. (Exiling cards is a way of removing them from play that's more final than most methods. It used to be called "removed from the game" but was renamed, partly because so many design ideas wanted to interact with cards that had been exiled or be used while the card itself was exiled, so "removed from the game" seemed more and more inaccurate.)
    • The general rule is to rely on the most recent printed text of a card to determine what it does, even if someone is playing with an older copy on which its abilities are phrased differently. Without that rule, for example, casting three versions of exactly the same card with an ability summed up as "only this card and copies of it can attack" would mean none of them could actually attack.note 
    • Subverted by the joke card R&D's Secret Lair, which explicitly bans using later printed text, errata, or the rules to 'update' cards. It's, naturally, illegal in all competitive play, and rapidly makes friendly games very unfriendly.
  • All Your Powers Combined:
    • A number of cards, such as Experiment Kraj and Cairn Wanderer, can take on the abilities of other cards on the battlefield or in the graveyard, respectively.
    • Concerted Effort allows all of your creatures to combine their powers with each other. Odric, Lunarch Marshal later came around as a more modern version of it.
    • The Un-set card Urza, Academy Headmaster takes this Up to Eleven — the website listed on the card randomly selects an ability from any other planeswalker in the game when you activate one of Urza's abilities.
    • Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God copies the loyalty abilities from every other planeswalker on the field, on top of having a list of his own.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Reef Worm is just a 0/1 creature, but when it dies, it creates a 3/3 Fish token. When the Fish dies, it creates a 6/6 Whale token. When the Whale dies, it creates a 9/9 Kraken token.note 
  • Animated Armor: Haunted Guardian is a creature that's an empty suit of armor. Haunted Plate Mail goes a step further and can actually be worn by your creatures, only getting up to fight when nobody is looking.
  • Animate Dead: Is a card, and there are many others with similar effects as well.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: March of the Machines, as well as other cards like Karn's Touch and Tezzeret the Seeker.
  • Anti-Air: Typically, creatures with the "Flying" ability can only be blocked by others with Flying. However, creatures with the "Reach" ability are able to do so as well. This, along with spells and enchantments which are particularly effective against creatures with Flying, is a staple of green mana. Several examples: Femeref Archers, Deadshot Minotaur, Plummet, and so on.
  • Anti-Magic: Protection, various forms of untargetability (such as the Shroud and Hexproof mechanics), and counterspell and anti-counterspell effects often work this way.
  • Anti-Regeneration: Regenerate is an effect which acts as a Single-Use Shield for a creature, allowing it to survive (though become tapped) when it receives damage that would normally destroy it. Numerous spells and creature effects exist which specifically state that the creature "cannot be regenerated" including, for example, Big Game Hunter, Disintegrate, and Execute. Cards with this effect typically represent methods of death that the target would not logically be able to recover from.
  • Armored But Frail: Mechanics like Regenerate (now deprecated) and keywords like Totem Armor are in this vein if they are applied to creatures with 1 life. These creatures would typically be destroyed by an attack from anything, even the cherriest of taps, but these abilities allow them to survive a hit from almost anything, even the game's ultra powerful Eldritch Abominations.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: Creatures with the "Trample" ability will deal any unblocked damage to the opposing player. (Normally, any excess damage is wasted if a creature is blocked.) There are also several creatures and spells which can attack opponents directly, regardless of if he has any creatures to block.
  • Army of the Ages: The basic premise of the game, with you as the summoner.
  • Art Evolution:
    • The art for the cards has evolved over the years due to both a preference for more detailed, elaborate art, and much more meticulous guidance given to the artists. For example, when the company commissioned the art for the card Lord of the Pit, they reportedly gave the artist a one-word instruction: "balrog". (This was years before the Lord of the Rings movies were made.) Under the circumstances, it came out pretty well, but today artists get multi-paragraph descriptions of what the image on the card should look like, generally designed taking into account both exactly what the card itself does and the flavor and description of the world of the current set. Nowadays comprehensive style guides and concept art are made for each set, or consecutive block of set that share the same setting: for example, the goblins of the Scars of Mirrodin block have a large round head with a sharp snout and long pointed ears.
    • The cards' frames themselves have been updated. All frames have become less blocky and are no longer of an equal width all the way around, and the texturing used in each has been changed.
    • Even the "new" frames released in 2003 have changed. For example, the frames used for Artifacts in 8th Edition and Mirrodin proved too difficult to tell apart from white cards at a glance, and were darkened for Darksteel in 2004. Subtle tapering was added to two-color multicolor cards for Ravnica: City of Guilds in 2006 (although, in fairness, only one two-color gold card had existed in the new frames before that) to show which colors were involved.
    • The first colored artifact in the game was Transguild Courier, from Ravnica, which was printed on the normal 3-or-more-color gold card frame. Future colored artifacts, starting with Sarcomite Myr from Future Sight (which is the first artifact to be colored by actually having colored mana in its cost), introduced a new colored artifact frame that combined the outer frame of an ordinary artifact with a colored inner frame. The first card to use this in the normal modern card frame was Reaper King from Shadowmoor. (Sarcomite Myr was a timeshifted card on a "futuristic" card frame; by the time it was reprinted on the modern card frame in Planechase, the colored artifact frame had made its proper debut in Shadowmoor and, more extensively, in Shards of Alara.)
    • In addition, white card borders (previously used to distinguish core sets from Expert-level block expansions) have been entirely discontinued.
    • As of the Magic 2015 core set, the frames have changed again, narrowing the borders slightly to allow more focus on the art, changing the font to one that is unique to WotC and adding a foil dot on rares and mythic rares to help fight counterfeiting.
  • The Artifact:
    • Every card has to be indistinguishable from the backnote . As a result:
      • The word "Deckmaster" still appears on new card backs, even though the Deckmaster brand ceased to exist in the mid '90.
      • The word 'Magic' is (and always will be) blue, despite the fact that the official logo has been yellow for years.
      • There's a faint purple line on the back of every card, running through the word Deckmaster. Someone made a stray pen mark on the original card backs, and so now every card needs to have that mark reproduced exactly. (Vanguard cards, being larger and not part of the deck, didn't need to have uniform backs, so the mark is mostly absent on those.)
    • Many card abilities. When the game was new, colors were very ill-defined. Many cards were placed in colors based only on where the creature in question lives or what it does, even if its abilities as a card are completely different from most cards of that color, but cards like that remain in that color now just because of the earlier ones. Look at a list of cards from most sets and compare it to descriptions of the colors and you'll always find a few cards that don't fit the description, but they're there because they are similar or identical to really common or famous or powerful cards that were printed back when the company was still figuring this stuff out.
    • The Gatherer text for Winter Orb returned to it an old, old rule; in old editions of Magic, any Artifact could be tapped to "switch off" its effects, a rule intended to emphasise their status as sorcerous machines.
    • Templating changes have made some older cards counterintuitive. For example, when the card "Auramancer" was printed in 2001, the word "aura" was often used to refer to enchantments. In 9th Edition, local enchantments were re-templated to use the subtype, "Aura." This has caused a lot of confusion in more recent printings, since Auramancer can interact with any Enchantment, not just Auras.
    • Graveyard order: Some old cards care about the specific order of cards in your graveyard. Even though the last such card was printed in 1998, there are still specific rules defining the order that cards are placed in the graveyard, just in case.
    • Braid of Fire was designed and balanced around mana burn, where you would take damage if you had unused mana empty from your mana pool. This meant that the longer you kept Braid of Fire around without the ability to spend the mana it was making, the more damage you would take until you choose not to let it make mana. With the mana burn rule phased out, there is no downside to the card's cumulative upkeep, which left newer players confused over why such a beneficial "upkeep cost" would be printed. The only thing keeping this from being a full-on Game Breaker is that said mana is restricted for use only during your upkeep phasenote , limiting its use to abilities, instants, or anything with flash.
  • Artifact of Death: Jinxed Idol is a good example. There are others.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • The AI in Duels Of The Planeswalkers generally knows what to do with each of the decks, excepting a few mistakes it'll consistently make. However, in 2013, it has no idea what to do with the Plane cards in Planechase. It'll throw mana at rolling the planar die even when a success won't actually do anything, or when the current plane favors their deck, or when it really ought to attack before doing so, or in a few cases when a success would be actively detrimental (say, bringing them closer to death by milling).
    • The '97 game by MicroProse can be even stupider-occasions abound of the AI committing suicide. Mana Flare being played against a deck that's not built to take advantage of said enchantment (which causes all lands to produce one extra mana of the same type for EACH Mana Flare in play) will result in the AI's slow death from Mana Burn. The AI will play cards like Howl From Beyond and Giant Growth on YOUR creatures and give you free kills/damage for no reason, enchant your creatures for no reason, and generally play like it's drunk.
  • The Assimilator: A common tactic of the Phyrexians. In terms of game mechanics, this manifests as them turning a target creature into an artifact, and then having their controller assume control of it.
  • Asteroids Monster: Mitotic Slime
  • Asymmetric Multiplayer: The Archenemy format pits a team of three against one, who is designated as the Archenemy. To help even the odds, the Archenemy starts with 40 life instead of 20, and draws from a special Scheme deck at the start of each turn.
  • Attack Animal:
  • Attack Reflector: many cards (usually white) work as damage reflectors for you or your creatures.
    • A few other cards (usually red or blue cards) allow you to redirect nasty spells off your permanents or yourself, and sic them onto your opponent or their stuff. (Alternatively, you can redirect beneficial spells from their targets to yours.)
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Konda, Lord of Eiganjo, The Emperor of most of Kamigawa, is literally indestructible (for plot reasons), and fights as an 8/8. (For comparison, a typical dragon is in the 5/5 range.)
  • Auto-Revive:
    • Lich's Mirror allows you to start the game over with 20 life if you die with it in play. Of course, you start over with nothing in play, but your opponent gets to keep all the cards they already have out.
    • Shadowmoor block had Persist, and Innistrad has Undying, both of which are abilities that return dying creatures to play with a counter on it (-1/-1 and +1/+1 respectively), if it didn't already have one.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Many cards have spectacular, awe-inspiring effects that will almost certainly win you the game — if you ever get enough mana to actually cast them before your opponent kills you, and your opponent doesn't have a counterspell or some other cheap, efficient answer. There are so many specific examples that they have their own page.
  • Awesome, but Temporary:
    • There are a number of powerful creatures who can be summoned initially for relatively low mana, but require some form of cumulative upkeep in order to keep them in play. A prominent example is Aboroth, a 9/9 creature for six mana but who gets a -1/-1 counter per turn AND requires you to pay an upkeep cost for each counter. Essentially, you pay more as it gets weaker.
    • Age Counters are another method of accomplishing this. Many creatures and artifacts can be summoned for less initial mana relative to their power, but have an age counter added each turn. You must pay upkeep equal to the amount of age counters on it (usually in mana, but sometimes in life) or else sacrifice it. Eventually, no matter how powerful the card, the upkeep cost no longer becomes worthwhile.
  • An Axe to Grind: As seen here
  • Back Stab: The "Prowl" ability of Rogues in Morningtide functions as one of these.
  • Badass Normal: "Human" creatures tend to be this, especially white mana humans. In sets that focus on them, they're usually up against all manner of supernatural and super powered entities (werewolves, vampires, mages, etc.) and are perfectly capable of coming out on top thanks to focuses on teamwork and various means of empowerment.
  • Banishing Ritual: There is more than one mechanic that works like this. Summoned creature cards can be, for example, returned to their owner's hand or forced to be shuffled back into the deck. The most permanent one of these is the "exile" mechanic, that removes a card completely from the game. None of these mechanics are, however, limited to any certain type of creatures.
  • Battlecry: A keyword ability in Mirrodin Besieged. For example: Hero of Bladehold.
  • Big Eater: There's been some debate about which creature in Magic is the hungriest. Some candidates are Doomgape (so hungry it even eats itself!), Worldgorger Dragon (immediately eats all of your permanents), and the more traditional Big Eater, Fat Ass (whose hunger is contagious, compelling any mages who summon him to become Big Eaters themselves).
  • Big Damn Heroes: Several cards qualify. Some notable examples:
  • Bigger Is Better:
    • Personified in the Rise of the Eldrazi expansion, where gigantic monsters are the theme of the set.
    • See also Serial Escalation.
  • Blessed with Suck: Many of the extremely mighty creatures (Darksteel Colossus, Serra Avatar, ...) have an ability that puts them back into the deck every time they hit the graveyard. Sounds great, until you realize that this is a deliberate safety measure to prevent players from discarding and reanimating them, thus circumventing paying their steep cost.
    • Back in the days of Mana Burn, generating a large amount of mana could turn into this if you weren't careful.
  • Blood Knight: Blood Knight. There's also his predecessor, Black Knight.
  • Boogie Knights: Knight of the Hokey Pokey gets a bonus if you do the Hokey Pokey!
  • Boring, but Practical: Several examples:
    • Some of the best cards in the game have very simple effects, but are absurdly cheap. (The latter two are banned in competitive play.)
    • The metagame has long been dominated by big flashy spells and creatures. At some point, someone had the idea to build a deck focusing on cheap, easy to summon creatures that most serious players ignored, known as "Weenies." The idea being that a big, flashy spell which takes a long time to set up is no good if that player has already been defeated by a Zerg Rush of weenies. A few nearly one-sided tournaments later, the "weenie" archetype that we (Magic players) all know and love was born.
    • Blue-White control decks takes this trope to its most literal meaning. With a slew of cheap blue counterspells and white removal, you effectively render your opponent impotent throughout the entire match while either digging up your own combo or pinging him with consistent yet hard to remove damage. As expected, when your opponent has to face the likes of Render Silent and Silence every single turn, it gets hilariously annoying and boring for them, especially if you just wiped the field (so they don't have any existing stuff to use either).
  • Boss Battle:
    • Most decks will include at least one (if not a few) extremely powerful creatures which require a lot of mana and/or other difficult-to-meet summoning conditions to use as late-game closers, invoking an idea similar to a boss battle at the end of a match.
    • The Archenemy format pits a team of players against a single opponent. To even the odds, the Archenemy has a larger amount of life and a separate deck of schemes to give himself and advantage or impose a disadvantage on the team.
  • Brainwashing: A staple of blue cards (such as Mind Control) is to gain control of your opponents' creatures (and other permanents). Red features a temporary version of this (e.g. Act of Treason) that allows you to attack with your opponents's creatures.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory:
    • While it's entirely possible to build decks on a budget, Magic is expensive for the serious player or collector. Prices for tournament-winning, in-print single cards have routinely exceeded $20, and sometimes even approached/exceeded $100. On top of that, the most popular and common tournament formats rotate new sets in and old sets out each year, serving the dual function of keeping the game fresh and keeping Wizards in business selling new cards.
    • Duels of the Planeswalkers and its sequels. While you can unlock any and all of the cards in the game through gameplay, you can also buy DLC that unlocks the thematic decks of the planeswalkers featured in the game. Doing this unlocks all the cards in that deck, meaning you can now use them to customize yours. And since the latest (and now perseistent) version is Free to Play, this borders on Allegedly Free Game territory.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Numerous cards exist which remove the abilities of target creatures. For instance, Crash Landing targets creatures with flying while Blood Moon turns all non-basic lands (which notably can do things like create more one one type of mana, or have special powerful effects) into basic, mundane mountains.
  • Calling Your Shots:
    • You must do this for every card you play in accordance with the rules. The first step in casting a spell is to announce it which includes naming all its targets, costs, and modes. Not announcing your spells properly is a rules violation since it is considered public information that you need to present to your opponent fully.
    • Several cards reward you for doing this in specific ways, including Conundrum Sphinx, Mindblaze, and Mise, among others.
    • A famous example of a Called Shot is Gabriel Nassif's Cruel Ultimatum from the quarterfinals of Pro Tour Kyoto in 2009. With no cards in hand and on the brink of losing the game, he picked up the top card of his library without looking at it and arranged his lands to produce two blue, two red, and three black mana: "My Cruel Ultimatum mana." Lo and behold, he flipped the card over to reveal...Cruel Ultimatum, the one card he needed to win the game and advance to the finals.
  • Came Back Strong:
    • Tuktuk the Explorer, combining this trope with Magikarp Power. As a three mana 1/1, Tuktuk is well below the power curve. However, if he is sent to the graveyard, you place a 5/5 token into play called "Tuktuk the Returned".
    • "Undying" is a keyword with this effect. If a creature with "undying" is sent to the graveyard from the battlefield, it returns to the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter. (If it is sent to the graveyard again, it stays dead.) Undying Evil is a spell which grants any creature "undying".
  • Cannibalism Superpower: Implied with Mimeoplasm. When it enters play, you exile two creatures from your graveyard. Mimeoplasm becomes a copy of one of the cards (power, toughness, abilities) with a number of +1/+! counters equal to the power of the other card.
  • Card Battle Game: Most video game adaptations, including the MicroProse Shandalar game and Duels of the Planeswalkers.
  • Cast from Hit Points:
    • Aside from the infamous Channel-Fireball combo, planeswalkers fall under this as well: Some of their ability require the removal of loyalty counters. These same counters effectively act as their life totals; once they're out of counters, they're gone. Most also invert this trope by having abilities that give them loyalty counters as well, as well as a few with abilities that do nothing to their counter totals.
    • Phyrexian mana symbols from New Phyrexia: For each Phyrexian mana symbol in a cost, you can pay 1 mana of the specified color, or 2 life.
    • Some spells and abilities work like this by default, or as a way to enhance their effects.
  • Cast From Sanity: This is the case for decks built around the keyword abilities Hellbent, Madness, and, to a lesser extent, Dredge. Sanity is represented by the cards left in your hand and in your library; an empty hand is unstable, an empty library is when a planeswalker is going to completely lose their mind. Madness allows you to sacrifice short-term sanity to play the card you're discarding cheaplynote ; Hellbent denotes cards that gain an advantage when your hand is empty; and Dredge allows you to affect your long-term sanity to recur things from your graveyard.
  • Cave Mouth: The card Howling Mine looks like this most of the time, Depending on the Artist.
  • CCG Importance Dissonance:
    • Gerrard Capashen is the hero of the Weatherlight saga, which spanned across years of the storyline. When he was eventually printed as a card, it was laughably underpowered.
    • Karona, False God, who emerges in Onslaught block as a physical manifestation of Dominaria's mana formed from the fusion of the powerful and iconic legends Phage the Untouchable and Akroma, Angel of Wrath, is far less useful than she has any right to be as well—so much so that head designer Mark Rosewater publicly apologized for how lame she was:
      That card is an embarrassment to card design. I actually had zero to do with the card and I'm still embarrassed. We took two iconic beloved cool legends and combined them into a pile of, well a word I'm not allowed to use on this site. Of all the balls dropped with the design of legendary characters, this is one near the top of the list. My humblest apologies.
  • Chain Lightning:
    • Chain Lightning itself is an interesting example in that the spell's first target (or the target's owner) gets to choose the next target. As long as each player is willing and able to spend red mana on the spell, the process repeats itself.
    • Arc Lightning allows the caster to spread a set amount of damage to multiple targets. The card art shows a lightning bolt arcing from one target to the next.
  • Changeling Tale: Crib Swap exchanges a creature for a 1/1 changeling.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • You know those useless snow-covered lands from Ice Age? Not so useless as of Coldsnap — 11 years later!
    • Poison counters. Nearly pointless at first, given a bit more oomph in Future Sight, then turned into a powerful threat (and plot point!) in Scars of Mirrodin.
    • In an example that borders on Brick Joke: Steamflogger Boss references Riggers and Contraptions, but no other such cards were printed (barring one that was retconned to have the Rigger subtype)... until the Unstable joke set, which was released ten years after Steamflogger Boss's debut!
  • Clucking Funny: Unglued had a lot of fun with chickens, which would be out of place in any normal expansion.
  • Collectible Card Game: Trope Maker, Trope Codifier, and Genre Popularizer.
  • Color-Coded Item Tiers: It eventually coded the card rarities. Black means common, silver means uncommon, gold means rare, and orange means mythic rare.
  • Combined Energy Attack: Employed in numerous ways:
    • Affinity: The card's cheaper for every X you control, where the card has affinity for X. A variant exists with three cards in Urza's Saga where they count a particular card type.
    • Domain: There are five basic land types. Control 1, you get an effect of 1. Control 2, you get the effect of 2. Et cetera.
    • Last Stand (and similar): These cards count the number of a given basic land type. (Last Stand counts all five.)
    • Exalted: Like the aforementioned cards, only it only applies when exactly one creature attacks, and it gets stronger for every other creature.
    • Allies: Allies have abilities that activate when an ally comes into play, count your allies, or both.
    • "Lords" invert this, granting more power to each creature of the same tribe, or something similar.
  • Combining Mecha:
    • The four Chimerae of Visions (Iron-Heart, Brass-Talon, Lead-Belly, and Tin-Wing) emulate the "expansion pack" variety. You can sacrifice one to add its stats and abilities to another Chimera. Amusingly, this includes Changelings and Theros's biological Chimerae.
    • Artifact creatures with the modular ability are 0/0 creatures that enter the battlefield with +1/+1 counters. When they die, they can transfer those counters to another artifact creature to power it up.
  • Comeback Mechanic: The randomness inherent in a shuffled deck of cards provides a natural comeback mechanic when combined with the mana system: it's always possible for your opponent to hit a string of unlucky draws.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard:
    • The boss characters in the Duels of the Planeswalkers games often have decks that are considerably stronger than the default characters' decks (most of them can't be unlocked either). Karn in particular uses several cards that are outright banned in nearly every format in the physical card game and is capable of killing you on turn 3 in a game where most games tend to go more than 10 turns. If you manage to win against him, it's likely because you got lucky.
    • The encounters in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 take it even further. Given that the opponents in these games follow a certain pattern, you can expect them to have more than four copies of a card in their deck. In some cases, their decks literally only consist of basic lands and one type of creature card.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: In a weird way, the Exalted effect can become this. Cards with exalted give +1/+1 to attacking creature the player controls, but only when it's attacking by itself. Many cards with this ability are mere 1/1s — not very scary by themselves, but get a handful and you can attack with a nice big 10/10 in no time.
  • Continuity Drift: as Wizards' understanding of the game is refined, some classic spells are retired and replaced by (generally) less-powerful versions. Counterspell has been phased out in favor of Cancel, Lightning Bolt for Shock, and Terror for Doom Blade. (In the case of the final two, it's hard to answer which is strictly worse, because one has versatility and the other permanence.) In some cases this can even result in cards moving colorDisenchant (formerly a signature White spell) to Naturalize, Prodigal Sorcerer for Prodigal Pyromancer.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Creator Cameo: Richard Garfield himself has a card in Unhinged. Former art director Jeremy Cranford has one too, albeit less flattering.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Many combo decks can fall prey to this. Each is generally built to set up one specific combination of cards, but if one of those cards is destroyed, they are left with a sub-par deck. Combo decks are strong vs. "raw power/aggro" decks because comboed cards will dismantle an equal number of individual cards without synergy (even though said cards tend to be stronger individually), and are vulnerable to control decks that systematically block or remove the components of a combo.
  • Critical Existence Failure: A common adage among players is that the only life point that matters is your last one. It was this revelation that made Necropotence decks powerful.
  • Critical Status Buff: The Dark Ascension expansion has some cards with the Fateful Hour mechanic. These cards have additional effects which activate if you have 5 or less life remaining.
  • Counterspell: Loads and loads of examples, including the Trope Namer. Each card in a player's deck is considered a spell, and cards with the types "Interrupt" or "Instant" may be played in response to other spells — such as those your opponent tries to play. The modern standard for counterspells in Magic is Cancel — as in, "I cancel your spell."
  • Cursed with Awesome: Skullclamp was originally +1/+2 and "When equipped creature dies, draw two cards." Then it became +1/+1. Then it became +1/-1, meaning you can turn any creature with one toughness into two cards. Players took notice.
  • Cute Is Evil: Played for Laughs with the Unglued card Infernal Spawn of Evil, along with its sequel from Unhinged, Infernal Spawn of Infernal Spawn of Evil. As a bonus, it's also a joke about card artist Ron Spencer only drawing hideous monsters.
  • Damage-Increasing Debuff: Plenty of cards, including Wound Reflection and Curse of Bloodletting, which double your opponents' pain.
  • Damage Over Time: Several cards deal damage during a player's "Upkeep" step, in contrast to most cards which can only deal damage once at a time.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Applies to a few combo decks, especially combos that are Cast from Hit Points. (Channel-Fireball is a good old-school example: you pay all of your life, but the resulting fireball kills your opponent in one shot.) What makes them so dangerous is the likelihood that if they fail to kill the opponent dead then and there, the Cherriest of Taps will be your doom.
  • Death Is Cheap:
    • Or rather, "being removed from the game is cheap". Most permanents and spells that are destroyed, discarded or otherwise gotten rid of go to the graveyard zone by default, but ever since the game was new a few abilities here and there send their targets or themselves to the "removed from game" zone. But such effects have slowly become more common over the years, and two cards were printed that retrieved any card that had been removed from the game, and variations on the effect like suspend have proved very powerful and popular. So in a 2009 rules change, the description of the "remove from game" effect was changed to "exile", to reflect the fact that there's a good chance it hasn't been "removed from the game" at all.
    • Parodied by the unhinged card "AWOL", which first removes an attacking creature from the game, and then takes that creature from the "removed from the game" zone and puts it in a state called "absolutely-removed-from-the-freaking-game-forever".
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: While damage is removed from creatures during each turn's cleanup step, it is possible to destroy a creature with multiple instances of 1 damage over the course of a turn. The same is true of dealing with players or planeswalkers, which don't recover their Hit Points (life and loyalty, respectively) each turn. The card Death of a Thousand Stings references this trope almost verbatim, dealing 1 point of damage per use but recyclable potentially infinitely.
  • Defeat Means Playable: In each edition of Duels Of The Planeswalkers, you unlock each deck by defeating an AI opponent using it in campaign mode, except two starting decks.
  • Defend Command: Defensive Stance, an enchantment which adds -1/+1 to the target creature.
  • Depending on the Writer: Or rather, Depending On The Design Team. For entire sets. The company is always struggling to deal with Gameplay and Story Segregation, and exactly how the game is supposed to represent an actual wizards' duel. At the moment they seem to have settled on a balance the company likes, but it still changes a little with every new set, partly as they iron out tiny details and partly as another potential way to add variety to the game. A few examples of the ways this goes back and forth:
    • Early in the game, many big blue creatures (like Sea Serpents) could attack players that didn't control any islands only with difficulty, if at all, to symbolize that they were natural aquatic monsters and therefore couldn't leave the water. That effect still appears occasionally, but is much rarer now, partly because designers have decided it's less fun to have creatures with such severe restrictions on attacking and partly because the idea that lands actually represent physical terrain on which creatures are fighting raises more questions than it answers. (For a time, Merfolk were taken out of the game for this flavor reason, until they decided to use the Fredericka Bimm Method of merfolk shapeshifting.)
    • Creature types have come and gone and been standardized several times. At the moment, humans are the Jack-of-All-Stats: represented more or less equally in all colors, but with no Human-specific racial bonuses. Most colors have one characteristic racenote  full of small, cheap, quick and/or utility creatures, each color has one iconic racenote , and a few other creature types are much more common in one or two colors than the rest. The thing is, this leaves many creature types from fantasy stories or previous Magic sets unused just because that design space is already taken. Orcs, for example, appeared in early sets, but they eventually fell into the niche of "like goblins, just a little taller" and stopped being used soon after that. Merfolk didn't appear for a long time for the same reason that sea monsters' inherent weakness was dropped, but as soon as designers figured out that they could be bipedal — sort of like Fish People, but not as ugly — they were brought back.
  • De-Power: Numerous cards exist which weaken creatures and/or remove their abilities. Humility is an especially notable one, as it reduces all creatures to 1/1 and strips their abilities.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Combo decks, especially ones you've devised yourself. They can very easily be hampered by Crippling Overspecialization if something goes wrong, but if it works out, you can expect a quick and decisive victory.
  • Discard and Draw: the Trope Namer. Many effects cause you to both draw and discard cards.
  • Disc-One Nuke: Throughout the game's history, cards like Tolarian Academy, Sol Ring, and Black Lotus that allow you to play other, more powerful spells in the early turns have been consistently dominant, comprising a large portion of the game's banned cards.
  • Dispel Magic: "Disenchanting" (destroying enchantments and artifacts) is a standard effect seen often on green and white spells. Just about every expansion has a Naturalize and Demystify variant.
  • Ditto Fighter: A standard ability often seen with the Shapeshifter creature type.
  • Doppelgänger Attack: Nacatl War-Pride, which when it attacks makes a temporary copy of itself for each creature the defending player controls.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Alpha and the first few expansions contained...
  • Elephant Graveyard: Is a card. Ironically, it keeps them from dying.
  • Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors: The Color Wheel is probably the most well-known non-traditional version in gaming.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: The card Muraganda Petroglyphs from the "Future Sight" expansion grants a large bonus to creatures without abilities. Also shown by the power creep in cards such as Woolly Thoctar, a 5/4 for a mere 3 mana.note 
  • Energy Ball: Ball Lightning is an interesting example in that it's actually a creature, but plays more like a spell. It has both trample and haste, which allows it to hit hard with its 6 power on the turn you play and the damage can't be negated with a chump block. However, it has only one toughness, and even if it survives its attack, it is sacrificed at the start of your next turn.
  • Equippable Ally: Many cases:
    • Artillerize involves basically turning a creature into a missile (in-game, this translates as sacrificing a creature to fuel a direct-damage spell).
    • Another way to invoke this trope involves Bludgeon Brawl, which causes all non-creature artifacts to be treated as equipment. When combined with Liquimetal Coating, which turns a non-artifact permanent into an artifact, it's possible for a creature to literally pick up a Planeswalker and smash things with him/her.
    • There's also the Living Weapon mechanic from the Scars of Mirrodin block, where Equipment cards with the ability enter the battlefield already attached to a newly-created 0/0 Germ token. Moving the Equipment "kills" it (that is, causes the Germ token attached to it to die). With the current policy that creatures can't be Equipment, this mechanic is the closest we're likely to get.
    • The Theros block, based on Classical Mythology, has introduced the "Bestow" mechanic. Creatures with Bestow can be "hard-cast" as mooks, or bestowed as a Status Buff on a pre-existing mook, who gains the bestow-creature's power, toughness and abilities. This can result in a totem-pole of enchantments riding around on a single creature. And, if that creature is killed, all the bestow guys "fall off" and become creatures in their own right.
  • Equivalent Exchange: A key part of the game, every spell you cast or ability you activate has some sort of exchange going on. Even the most simple of cards require you to generate mana and fill precious deck slots with the given cards to work. Some more elaborate spells ask for more tangible costs such as life payments, discarding cards, or sacrificing permanents. Most of the game's problems have come from cards doing far more in return for what you paid for them...
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: Unhinged brings us the rather unusual Curse of the Fire Penguin, which turns a creature into a penguin. And it's contagious.
  • Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods:
    • When the folks in charge got tired of Merfolk, they decided to try replacing them with the Cephalid squid-folk for a while in the Odyssey block. Squids are cool, right?
    • Mark Rosewater's description of the origin of Lorthos, the Tidemaker (the legendary Octopus from Zendikar) fits the trope quite well.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • The entire Shadowmoor block is this to the preceding Lorwyn block. As a result, several cards from the former are darker versions of cards from the latter (as an example, Incremental Blight and Incremental Growth).
    • Evil Twin copies a creature on the battlefield and has the ability to kill the original.
  • Evil Plan: The casual format "Archenemy" has one player as the, well, Archenemy who sets Schemes in motion, against a coalition of players.
  • Exact Words: The game practically runs on this trope. Many rules depend on exactly how things are worded, and slight changes will completely change the effect of the card. Expect tons of Loophole Abuse if the wording on the card is vague enough to be open to any sort of interpretation.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: the enchantment cards Fear, Lifelink, Vigilance, and Indestructibility give the enchanted creature the abilities Fear, Lifelink, Vigilance, and Indestructible, respectively.
    • Fear is a special case, as the ability was originally unnamed — when the designers decided to create a keyword for the common "this creature can only be blocked by artifact and/or black creatures" ability, they named it after the original card that granted the ability.
  • Expansion Pack: Each set is an expansion to the ever-widening game, though each block can be played independently as well. Within a block, each subsequent set is an expansion to the first.
  • Exponential Potential: With over 10,000 unique spells/permanents to use in deckbuilding, and new ones created every time a new Expansion Set is released, there's always some new spell or permanent that does something unique to change the face of the metagame, whether overtly like a Power card, or subtly like some of the more common-yet-effective cards.
  • Faction Calculus: The allied color pairs can be fitted into five factions rather neatly:
    • White-blue is the Powerhouse. Among the allied color pairs, it's the one most inclined towards Control, a strategy that focuses on slowing the game down and not summoning units or attacking until mid to late game. Moreover, the units these decks do summon tend to look like what would be called "elite" in other games: since the units these decks use are few in numbers, the said units are usually either large or hard to stop, often both;
    • Blue-black is the Subversive. They're the colors most associated with evasive creatures, and they're also the sole colors capable of messing with their opponents' hands and libraries. As a result, they are able to undermine their opponents' plans in ways that no other color can;
    • Black-red is the Glass Cannon. They're the colors that frequently power up their spells and abilities via paying life or sacrificing stuffs. This gives them incredible firepower at times, but the fact that their spells and abilities often damage themselves can markedly reduce their longevity;
    • Red-green is the Horde in a sense. They're the color combo that favors Aggro the most: Aggro can be summed up as a strategy where the player just says "I'll throw all of my spells and creatures out as quickly as possible and overwhelm my opponent. This will probably screw up my late games, but whatever." Because of this, they tend to lose if they fail to leave their opponents dead (or at least close to dead) within the first five turns;
    • Green-white, situated between White-blue and Red-green, is the Balanced. They tend to put out lots of creatures, and have many spells and enchantments that buff or protect those creatures. They can't go fast like Red-green, but are certainly nowhere as sluggish as White-blue. There's a reason why mid-range decks are so strongly associated with these two colors.
    • Each enemy color pair, meanwhile, tends to in some way resemble the allied color pair that opposes its shared ally, but does what the said allied color pair does in a different way:
      • White-black has blue as their common ally, and tends to be like blue - slow and subversive. Being the faction pair with some of the strongest lifegain also allows them to establish a Gradual Grinder style by way of Life Drain effects. It can be aggressive like Red-green, but while Red-green goes Aggro via lots of damaging spells (Red) and creature pumps (Green), White-black goes aggressive... mainly via Weenie, a strategy that involves summoning lots of small creatures to overwhelm opponents.
      • Blue-red has black as their common ally, and is often subversive and cannon-ish. Much like Green-white, it can go Balanced and play the game of "let's focus on putting my stuffs onto the board and protect/buff them". For Green-white, the "stuffs" in question are usually creatures and supportive enchantments, while for Blue-red, the "stuffs" tend to be weak creatures (that have good abilities) plus artifacts backed with spells, and often with the goal to set off unstoppable combos.
      • Black-green has red as their common ally. Like red, it's often self-destructive and overly aggressive, which tends to result in lots of its cards ending up in the graveyard very quickly. Unlike red (and like White-blue), it is capable of a good Powerhouse strategy... since they're the colors most able to exploit the cards that got sent to the graveyard earlier, not to mention all the black or green creatures that grow as their controller gets more cards in graveyard.
      • Red-white has green as their common ally. It, utterly unlike Blue-black, loves combat (while blue and black prefer to just bypass defense using their evasive abilities). Unlike green, who prefers to pump up its creatures' stats to overpower its opponents, Red-white favors combat tricks: It's no coincidence that first strike is mainly a red-white ability. Of course, red and white both seem to have a love for equipment...
      • Green-blue has white as their common ally. It is, in a way, much like Black-red, having a lot of powerful units and effects (for starters, green and blue are the colors that, on average, have the most oversized creatures). But while Black-red prefers to access its powerful things by paying its life and sacrificing stuffs, Green-blue accesses its powerful things using green's ability to gain extra mana and blue's ability to draw extra cards. Result? Green-blue has access to spells and abilities powerful like Black-red's, but unlike Black-red, it doesn't cut its own arm off while accessing them. To be fair, Black-red is amazing at removal, while Green-blue is often too busy getting mana and drawing cards, not to mention it doesn't have as many removal options to begin with.
  • Fake Balance: An ongoing issue for the series since its very inception. To note:
    • "Balance by Rarity" was the initial plan for the series. When the game was first released, it was known that cards such as Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, Timetwister, and the Moxes were game-breakingly powerful if present in sufficient quantities. However, they believed that since most players would only buy a starter deck and a couple of boosters, their power would never become an issue. This is especially evident when you look at the initial deck construction rules: 40-card minimum for decks, and no maximum for any individual cards. The deck of nothing but Black Lotus/Channel/Fireball was 100% legal, and that's not even the most powerful deck you could build. Constructed tournament later evolved to have a 60 card minimum limit and a maximum of 4 individual non-land cards, thus effectively removing the fake balance.
    • Modern Magic still has balance by rarity as a rarity level above rare, called mythic rare, was added in the Shards of Alara expansion. It should be noted that rarity balance exists in limited formats, such as booster draft and sealed deck, where certain powerful cards could easily help the player to win but they may well not get one of these cards, let alone multiple copies, but does not exist in constructed play where people will spend whatever it takes to win.
    • In limited formats, there is the BREAD principle, which describes what card to draft - Bombs, Removal, Evasion, Advantage, and Dregs. While Removal, Evasion, Advantage, and Dregs cards are available in every rarity, Bombs are usually in the rare slot. A deck with a good amount of bomb and removal cards usually has a considerable upper hand. Whether a player obtained those cards by luck or by skills is something that is often discussed in MTG boards. Large amounts of removal can make up for a lack of bombs by ensuring you can always get rid of whatever overpowering creature is thrown out by your opponent. The greatest of bombs tend to be cards which are immune to removal, either non-creatures which thus naturally evade anti-creature removal spells, creatures which are somehow immune to removal due to protection, shroud, regeneration, or similar effects, or bombs which act as removal themselves. On occasion, some uncommons can be bombs as well, the most common example being spells which deal X damage to target creature or player, making them both removal and potentially capable of finishing off an opponent in the late game out of nowhere; Fireball is perhaps the most infamous such example, due to its ability to split up its damage, allowing it to act as mass removal as well.
    • A cause of "Situational Advantage" also frequently arises. As cards "rotate" (new ones are printed, older made illegal in most common formats) for a good portion of environments, there will arise one or two "tier 1" decks that prompt development of counter-decks aimed to specifically hurt those dominants. Said rogue decks are less powerful overall, so any (semicompetent) deck but the dominant actually has a good chance against it - but will likely fall to the tier 1. The resulting rock-paper-scissors deck choice process is known as metagaming.
    • The "Luck-Based" balance gets a bit worse when one considers cards like Enlightened Tutor, which lets you reshuffle your deck, with the artifact or enchantment of your choice on top. When you consider that many of the big game breakers are artifacts or enchantments, and Enlightened Tutor costs one white mana and can be played just before you draw, yeah. Enlightened Tutor, by the way, is legal in Legacy.
    • Early MTG was characterized by overestimating the power of creatures. Because, naturally, you had to kill people with creatures, it was assumed they would be the dominant force in the card game. Because of this, creatures were relatively overcosted, meaning that in the earliest "fair" tournaments (that is, cards printed with "organized card game" as opposed to "limited product experiment" in mind), "control" decks, which featured heavy counter-spells and removal, all of which cost much less mana than the creatures they destroyed, dominated the game.
    • Another infamous case of "Underestimated Power" occurred when players realized that no matter how much life they lost, they could still win as long as they didn't hit 0. Enter Necropotence. When they designed this card, they thought that players would value their each life point they had and was expected that you'd balance out the life loss with life-gaining cards, never overuse them. Players, on the other hand, realized that 1 life for 1 card is a hilariously good trade, especially since you could use Necropotence's ability indefinitely and draw an obscene amount of cards, digging out complex combos whose lack of consistency (due to needing to draw them one by one) was their only real flaw. Wizards has since learned from this and any subsequent cards that gave you draws had either obscene mana costs, required some other cost (such as sacrificing creatures), or could only give you one extra card per turn. Life payments in general has seen a massive decrease in the stuff they allow you to do, as any effect that is triggered by them is also usually tied to some other cost (mana, sacrifices, or discards) or generally are not that game-changing.
    • The power of drawing cards and free mana were also comically "Underestimated" in early game design. For Drawing, Wizards originally released a cycle (a set of 5 cards with an overarching theme across all five colors) called "boons" that granted you 3 things for the cost of 1 mana. The blue one gave you 3 draws while the others only did damage, buff creatures, a little extra mana, or gave life. To this day, Ancestral Recall (the blue boon) remains the only one to have never been reprinted and is part of the infamous Power Nine. As for free mana, the most well known example is the Black Lotus, but even attempts at balancing it have been met with failure; Lion's Eye Diamond, a heavily Nerfed version of the Black Lotus that was considered completely unusable due to making you discard your entire hand, was still heavily restricted in the formats where it was legal. Wizards has since given up trying to make a balanced version of the thing.
  • Fake Ultimate Mook:
    • Anything really big has Awesome, but Impractical written all over it, though this just makes for players finding ways to cheaply get it into play (Animate Dead is popular method).
    • Mana cost aside, there are numerous ways of having a creature turn into this. Many potentially powerful creatures are ruined by drawbacks like echo (pay their casting cost again on the turn after you play them or sacrifice them), cumulative upkeep (pay an increasing cost every turn or sacrifice them), and many, many more.
    • Creatures also have the built-in disadvantage of being killable. Most creatures, whether they cost one mana or nine, can be killed with a removal spell that only costs two or three mana. This is why the most successful creatures in Magic are either relatively cheap, resistant to removal, or have an impact on the board even if they're killed right away.
    • There are also creatures that have intimidating-looking art but are subpar in terms of stats. Hill Giant is a good example.
    • A zig-zagged example is Segovian Leviathan, a card whose artwork shows it being so large, its eyes dwarf nearby whales. Its statline? 3/3, the same as a mundane elephant and completely unremarkable, especially compared to most Leviathans. A later expansion would reveal that, in fact, Segovia is about 1/100 the size of most planes, and the Segovian Leviathan is indeed roughly the same size as an elephant - it only looks big because it's next to whales the size of goldfish.
  • Fan Nickname: Lampshaded. Morphling earned the nickname "Superman" for its high power level at the time. So when the designers made an enchantment that could give Morhpling's abilities to any of your creatures, they called it Pemmin's Aura—an anagram for "I am Superman."
  • Fan Speak: Magic players have created an extensive vocabulary of slang terms and technical jargon. This Useful Notes pages has some examples.
  • Fastball Special:
    • Stone Giant, among others, can be tapped to hurl a creature into the air to attack your opponent directly or block an enemy flyer. This is generally not a survivable experience for the creature.
    • This is the entire concept behind Fling and similar cards.
    • Slaying Mantis combines this with a Dynamic Entry as you throw it onto the battlefield from at least 3 feet away. Any enemy creature it touches on the way down, it fights — potentially a suicide mission, but it can really make a dent on a crowded board.
  • Field Power Effect: Dozens of such spells which boost and debuff creatures, most often based on color or creature type.
  • Fight Like a Card Player: As the cards basically represent spells and actions in wizard duels.
  • Fireballs: The iconic red direct damage card. It has been reprinted in some form in most sets and was part of one of Magic's earliest game-breaker combos - the Cast from Hit Points based Channel Fireball Deck.
  • Flavor Text: Famous for it.
  • Foreshadowing: Renowned Weaponsmith has an ability that references two specific other cards from the Tarkir block. At the time of release (Fate Reforged was in between Khans of Tarkir and Dragons of Tarkir), Vial of Dragonfire didn't even exist.
  • Fragile Speedster: Some "weenie" decks, particularly Green Weenies. Zerg Rush your opponent to win quickly or else bear witness to how fragile your deck really is.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Some spells and abilities can inflict this effect, exchanging players' cards-in-hand, permanents-in-play, or even life totals, the last one being a popular trick in combo decks.
  • Gambit Pileup: Due to the nature of the stack, players can find themselves fighting a mini battle in which they're undoing each other's move, for example:
    Player 1: Shock on Player 2's Merfolk Looter.
    Player 2: Unsummon on Player 2's Merfolk Looter.
    Player 1: Counterspell on Player 2's Unsummon.
    Player 2: Counterspell on Player 1's Shock.
    Player 1: Counterspell on Player 2's Counterspell.
    And so on. If they do this by piling the cards onto each other (or playing online), then the trope is being played literally.
  • Game-Breaker: Invoked.
  • Game Lobby: Magic The Gathering Online works with a lobby. Since it's relatively popular, and only up to two players can play a single game (so far), this is a pretty good way to work.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration:
    • Early sets tried to enforce this to a degree with mechanics such as islandhome, which stopped sea-based creatures from attacking opponents who don't control an island, and causing them to cease to exist if their controller controls no islands.
    • The evolution of block and block design has also begun to reflect this. Later blocks may introduce new mechanics (Fateful Hour) to reflect the plot (From Bad to Worse), or for that matter remove them (Devotion going largely absent from the third Theros set to reflect muggles' growing disaffection with their pantheon of gods). Heck, "Rise of the Eldrazi" completely changed the environment and is intended to be drafted as a stand-alone set!
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • Islandhome is gone. First off, they decided they didn't want it keyworded and would prefer just to spell out the sentences. Secondly, it was a rather clumsy and unpopular mechanic, and Wizards' current policy is to ignore moments of Fridge Logic in favour of gameplay. (After all, you are a wizard!)
    • Another common example are Equipments, a subtype of Artifacts that can be, well, equipped to your creatures. Sometimes it works well, but at others it results in humongous axes being wielded by a little bird, or a creature wading into battle wearing a chair, or magical armor being worn by a tree. Indeed, under the right circumstances you can put Cranial Plating on a mountain.
  • Gathering Steam: Under normal circumstances, each player is only allowed to play a single Land card per turn, and your most powerful spells might even take multiple combinations of multiple mana to perform.
  • Glass Cannon:
    • Many combo decks, as well as many linearly-focused decks like the Affinity deck of the Mirrodin era, are incredibly powerful if the opponent has no way to interact with them, but vulnerable to being completely shut down by a single "hoser" card that can disrupt them in the proper way.
    • Lots of creatures have large power, but only one toughness. There's also a literal Glass Golem. (While not exactly one toughness, most direct damage cards deal 2 or more damage, and it's not uncommon to see a 1 mana creature have enough attack to take a Glass Golem down)
  • Glory Seeker: Is a card.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: The Gods of Theros block only unleash their full power as long as you maintain sufficient "devotion" to that God's colors.
  • Golden Snitch: Alternate win condition cards can be sprung without warning. Even decking can be considered this, if the winner was at 1 life and the loser was at a whole lot more. Many of these alternate wins are hilariously impractical and for all the time and resources you spend setting one up it's usually just easier to win the old-fashioned way, but Rule of Cool means people love these things anyway and will often bend over backwards to pull one off. A partial list of individual cards that create alternate win conditions can be seen below under Instant-Win Condition.
  • Gradual Grinder:
    • Many, many decks use this method to win, much to the dismay of players forced to sit there and slowly get whittled.
    • A less "meta" example is the Orzhov guild from Ravnica block, whose primary strategy is to gradually "bleed" the opponent by combining lifegain effects with repeatable incremental damage.
  • Griefer: The New Phyrexia expansion was intentionally designed with Griefing in mind, and contains many cards that are intended to make your opponent feel bad. For example, Shattered Angel takes something they normally feel happy about (getting more mana) and makes them feel bad about it (by making you gain life every time they play a land); there's a similar dynamic with cards like Consecrated Sphinx, Suture Priest, Invader Parasite, and so on.

    And while most sets have spells that kill or disable your opponent's stuff, in New Phyrexia they have added effects that rub your victory in their face, as with Numbing Dose, Victorious Destruction, Psychic Barrier, Glissa's Scorn, Enslave, Phyrexian Ingester, etc.

    Or, as development team member Tom LaPille puts it:
    Our vision of New Phyrexia—as created by Aaron Forsythe and Ken Nagle, the two players in R&D with the strongest griefing tendencies—is one of all-upside griefing that leaves your opponent not knowing what they're supposed to do and feeling a little bit violated. Phyrexia doesn't destroy all the creatures on the battlefield; it destroys all the creatures on the battlefield and rips some out of your library to boot. Phyrexia doesn't just exile a permanent. It disallows the opponent from casting every other copy.
  • Healing Potion: Life gaining effects frequently take the form of positions or elixirs. Examples include the Alabaster Potion and the Elixir of Vitality.
  • Hellfire:
    • Hellfire itself is a card. It wipes out all non-black creatures (being a black spell, it's assumed that most if not all of your own creatures will be exempt) at a price.
    • Demonfire is in the same vein. If it kills a creature, that creature is rendered Deader Than Dead.
  • Heroic RRoD: Cards like Berserk, which make a creature stronger for one turn, then destroy it at the end of that turn.
  • History Repeats: Literal example in the Time Spiral block, which brought back lots of old cards and themes as part of its "time" gimmick.
  • Hit Points:
    • 20 for each player to start, though it can get very low, very high, and some cards even let the player keep going with 0 or less.
    • Creatures have these in the form of toughness, which resets each turn as long as they take less-than-fatal damage.
    • Planeswalkers have Loyalty points which work a lot like the player's hit points.
  • Hive Mind:
    • The sliver race. Slivers don't just have Haste, their abilities generally read like "All Slivers have Haste"; there is at least one sliver for every ability with a name and even some slivers with no ability, they just exploit others'. Naturally there was also the Sliver Queen, to which succeeded the Sliver Overlord, to which succeeded the Hive Mind itself, with its newfound consciousness.
    • The Selesnya Conclave apparently also has a weak Hive Mind of some sorts. Hinted at by the Convoke mechanic.
    • The Hive Mind card causes players to share spells.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: A signature of white mana. To note:
    • The creators went full blown Old Testament when it comes to white direct damage and mass removal. To note some specific examples:
    • Several white "spot removal" spells also qualify, such as Devouring Light (which exiles a target creature) and Smite (which destroys an attacking creature when it is blocked). The card art really drives the connection home.
  • Homage:
  • House Rules: If you can imagine it, someone somewhere has likely tried it. Some of the more popular house rules have even been elevated to official status, such as rules governing games involving more than two players at a time.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • Village Cannibals, a Human creature which gets a +1/+1 counter when another Human creature dies, "eating" their corpse.
    • Spike Cannibal, which eats all the other Spikes when it enters the battlefield.
  • Improbable Power Discrepancy: Countless examples with respect to a creature's stats being disproportionately high or low in relation to other cards. To note a few specific examples:
  • Improvised Weapon: Bludgeon Brawl allows your creatures to use any non-creature artifact as improvised weapons.
  • Increasingly Lethal Enemy:
    • Since as a game goes on players tend to have more and more mana, cards with activated abilities that only require mana can become problematic if the game drags on. A common example are shades, which can be pumped for mana.
    • Primordial Hydra has power and toughness that double every turn, and after it has been on the field long enough to get 10 power, it has trample, making it impossible to chump block.
    • Kalonian Hydra doubles the number of +1/+1 counters on it and every other creature you control whenever it attacks, potentially applying this trope to your entire board if it keeps attacking unhindered.
  • Instant Awesome: Just Add Dragons!: One of the unwritten rules of Magic expansions is that there must be dragons in every set. Even in Ravnica, where dragons are extinct, there's dragons anyway. Why? Because dragons are awesome.
  • Instant-Win Condition:
    • While there's plenty of combos and such that can win in one good punch, there's a fair amount of individual cards that provide you with alternate win conditions.
    • "Decking" is the original instant win condition. If a player must draw a card but has an empty library, they lose. Under most circumstances, this is harder to accomplish than simply getting your opponent's life to 0, so "decking" is a rare occurrence. However, there are plenty of ways to set up your deck to deliberately cause this for your opponent (a tactic generally known as "milling"). Cards such as Millstone, Halimar Excavator, Rise of the Eldrazi's Keening Stone, and any other Ally card are all useful unless your opponent has a card that allows them to shuffle their graveyard back into their hand. (Even if they do, the original Feldon's Cane has to be exiled from the game after use, and the fancy mythic rare Eldrazi that can do this for free are, well, mythic rare.)
  • Intangibility:
    • Creatures with the "shadow" keyword. In function, they can only block and be blocked by other creatures with shadow.
    • Turn to Mist is a spell which causes a temporary version of this to an attacking creatures. The creature is exiled and returned to play on its controller's next turn.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: The name of the game itself. You can either call it "Magic" (and risk confusion) or "Magic: The Gathering" (which is harder to say). The reason it's called "The Gathering" is for trademark reasons; the word Magic is too generic to be trademarked, and magic card tricks are pretty common, so the name was to apply to the Alpha/Beta/Unlimited sets. Richard had planned sequels named "Magic: Ice Age" (which was eventually released as Ice Age block) and "Magic: Menagerie" (which was released as Mirage block). However, the game was so popular that the company demanded an expansion pack much earlier than expected, resulting in Arabian Nights and, eventually, the "sets" we know and love today; the requirement that every card have identical back sides means that we're still stuck with "Magic: The Gathering" as the full name. (Not to mention a million angry fans would descend upon Wizards' offices in hordes if they ever changed it.)
  • Interface Screw:
    • The preview of the Rise of the Eldrazi set did this to your browser!
    • Reality Twist creates a version of this in-game by switching the colors of mana produced by lands, making it difficult or impossible to cast spells.
  • Invisibility:
  • Joke Character: Each block typically contains at least one entirely awful card, deliberately put there just for the people who love to try and make it work. (One such card is Norin the Wary, a creature that "runs away" whenever any player does anything.) The game is such that they usually can. (As is the case for Norin, when combined with Confusion in the Ranks.)
  • Junk Rare: There are a lot of these, usually on purpose. Mark Rosewater, the head designer, wrote a lengthy justification of the practice titled "Rare, but Well Done", in which he discusses in great detail why this trope exists. invoked
  • Keystone Army: Many creatures which generate tokens qualify. In many cases, such as Master of Waves, the tokens disappear when the generating creature is destroyed.
  • Killer Rabbit: There are a number of "cute" creatures who boast power enough to be playable, with some even appearing at the tournament level:
    • Deranged Hermit summons four 1/1 squirrel tokens when it enters play.
    • Squirrel Nest enchants a land so that when you tap it, you put a 1/1 squirrel token into play. Not a bad way to ensure that you always have a chump blocker ready to play.
    • Jackalope Herd is a 4/5 creature for a mere 4 mana, but has the drawback of being returned to your hand if you play a spell. Naturally, clever players have found a way to turn this into an advantage - if it gets hit with removal, just cast whatever utility spell you have handy to snatch it back to your hand. Alternatively, use its "drawback" in conjunction with post-attack spellcasting to give it a sort of jury-rigged "vigilance" ability.
    • Vizzedrix is a bunny/piranha. Though a 6/6 creature, its high mana cost and lack of an ability make it pretty impractical. Still, it can defeat most dragons and angels in a straight up fight.
  • A Kind of One: It was common in the game's early days for creatures to have unique creature types based on their names, leading to types like "Aladdin" or "Uncle Istvan". Most of them are now defunct, but a couple of these odd one-of types had the honor of later being upgraded into their own races: notably, Atog and Lhurgoyf. Some just stayed as one-ofs, like the solitary Brushwagg.
  • Kill the God: The aptly named Deicide, which doesn't specifically kill Gods but is especially good at it.
  • Kingmaker Scenario: Frequently crops up in multiplayer games when Bob's position is too weak to win the game, but strong enough to pick a side and swing the game in favor of either Alice or Carl at his whim. And, of course, Bob can improve his position quickly when down to a duel, culminating in a Dark Horse Victory if he chooses wisely.
  • Klingon Promotion: A downplayed example with the Monarch mechanic from Conspiracy: Take the Crown. After a player is crowned the monarch through a specific set of card effects, the next player to deal any amount of combat damage to them, be it Scratch Damage or lethal amounts, becomes the new monarch. This doesn't stop the previous monarch from trying to take it back if they're still in the game.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Any player may concede the game at any time, often due to the belief that one will soon or ultimately lose. This can happen during competitive tournament play, when a player may forfeit so they can play other games during their match in the time allotted. This rule even trumps cards whose ability prevents a player from winning or losing in a given situation (such as Abyssal Persecutor or Angel's Grace).

    L to Z 
  • Lampshade Hanging:
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia:
    • Jace, the Mind Sculptor's ultimate ability wipes the target's mind clean by deleting their entire library and temporarily blocking access to their hand.
    • Cards like Surgical Extraction and Memoricide. The latter allows you to name a card and exile all of your opponent's copies of that card—out of their hand, graveyard, and library. The former allows you to do the same with a card already in that player's graveyard.
    • Amnesia discards all the spells in your opponent's hand.
    • Lobotomy let's you choose a card in your opponent's hand other than a basic land. The you search your opponent's graveyard and library for cards with the same name and exile them all.
  • Lethal Harmless Powers: Due to the Exponential Potential of the tens of thousands of cards in the game, certain combinations of otherwise non-lethal cards can be used to destroy your opponent. To note:
    • "Mill deck" is a catch all term used to describe a deck that negates damage and forces the opponent to discard cards from their deck. This is their entire win strategy. Generally speaking, both of these are viable tactics, but are used to hinder the opponent rather then outright destroy them. Combined, however, these effects quickly deplete your opponents deck to zero (which is an automatic loss) all the while countering, negating, and generally obstructing all sources of damage they attempt to put out. Only certain cards can even hinder this strategy in any form and most decks won't be running those since they are so situational. Made even more terrifying by the fact that being "milled" canonically equates to being Mind Raped into an Empty Shell - what with lovely spells like Glimpse the Unthinkable and Traumatize, and the Eldritch Abomination Nemesis of Reason.
    • Many "instant win" decks revolve around drawing several specific cards and using them to essentially nuke your opponent before the match even begins. Needless to say the key cards tend to be pretty unassuming at a glance. One infamous example is the "Vault Deck" - a combo which uses Protean Hulk (which summons creatures from your deck when it dies) and Flash (a cheap spell which summons creatures that instantly die if you don't pay a reduced cost). You Flash the Hulk, let it die, then use it's ability to summon up four Disciple of the Vault, four Shifting Wall, and four Phyrexian Marauder. Since you're paying 0 mana, the Walls and Marauders become eight 0/0 artifact creatures. The 0/0s die immediately due to having 0 toughness which causes each of the Disciples to deal 8 damage to the enemy for 32 damage (starting hp is 20) killing the opponent instantly. With the right back up cards this can be done on "turn 0" (essentially the setup phase before the fight begins) ensuring your enemy can't even respond to it.
  • Lethal Joke Character: Completely awful cards can turn into Game Breakers with later releases:
    • Lion's Eye Diamond was originally designed to be a Black Lotus that was watered down to the point of unplayability. Not only is it playable, but it's now banned or restricted in almost every format.
    • Grindstone started as an oddball Millstone variant that saw little to no serious play. Many years later, Wizards printed Painter's Servant, and a turn-one Vintage or turn-two Legacy combo-kill was born.
    • Dark Depths saw little play when it was originally released. In the Zendikar expansion, Vampire Hexmage was printed and within weeks, Vintage and Legacy players discovered the combo that netted a player an inexpensive, indestructible, flying 20/20 creature that could win the game for them the following turn.
    • Tarmogoyf was printed in Future Sight so that its reminder text could be used as Foreshadowing for the then-unreleased Planeswalker and Tribal card types. However, it turned out to be so effective that it's now the most expensive card printed in the last ten years.
    • Norin the Wary, a creature that's exiled until the end of the turn whenever anyone casts a spell and whenever any creature attacks. Since "any creature" includes Norin itself, it looks like a useless joke card at first glance, but it can be extremely powerful when combined with effects that trigger whenever a creature comes into play, especially Confusion in the Ranks. And because of how easy it is to trigger his ability, he's notoriously difficult to deal with permanently.
    • Illusions of Grandeur was originally an expensive and mostly-useless stalling card; it gives you twenty life when it comes into play, but has a cumulative upkeep and costs you twenty life when it leaves play, so it didn't do much. Then Wizards printed Donate, which let you give the card to your opponent, saddling them with the upkeep and making them lose twenty life (and usually the game) when they fail to pay it.
    • Cards from the silly, silver-bordered sets Unglued, Unhinged and Unstable aren't tournament-legal, but can be surprisingly effective at the kitchen table.
  • Lightning Bruiser:
    • Anything big with haste. Consider Predator Dragon, Hellkite Charger, and Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund for three draconic examples. (Admittedly, the "lightning" part only applies on the first turn you summon it, but the "bruiser" will remain indefinitely.)
    • Alternatively anything big with first strike also qualifies, such as Akroma, Angel of Wrath. (Though she has haste too, so she fits by either metric.)
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards:
    • In a metagame sense, this is present in with regards to the color system. For casual players, the five colors are more or less equally good. At the competitive level, blue (the color most associated with magic and "wizards") is typically viewed as the best color while green (the color most associated with creatures and hence, "warriors") is typically viewed as the worst. This is hotly contested, though, and the game is constantly being updated with an eye toward balance.
    • Played relatively straight in terms of creature cards themselves. "Warrior" creatures typically cost less mana to summon than "wizard" creatures of relative power and toughness. However, the "wizards" often have abilities or effects beyond simply power/toughness which make them more powerful. "Warriors" are much more likely to have limited abilities, or may not have them at all. Compare, for instance, Grizzly Bears, a staple two mana green 2/2 "warrior", and Academy Journeymage, a five mana 3/2 "wizard" with the added ability to return a creature to their controller's hand.
  • Living Weapon:
  • Loads and Loads of Loading:
    • The Magic Online client takes a while to start up if there's an update to download, and still has a substantial loading screen otherwise.
    • If you count shuffling as a loading screen, the paper game has its share as well, especially if using a deck (usually blue) with a lot of "Pull X from your library and then shuffle it" cards.
  • Loads and Loads of Rules:
    • The game rules themselves. The Comprehensive Rulebook is available for download from Wizards of the Coast in PDF form. The document is 185 pages long and grows a little with each new set released.
    • Some cards really, really stretch the limit of readability with complicated one-off abilities. Like Tempest Efreet and Ice Cauldron.
    • The infamous Mindslaver card created a whole new section of the rulebook dictating how to handle taking control of your opponent's turn. To date only it, Sorin Markov, Worst Fears, Emrakul, the Promised End, Word of Command and Cruel Entertainment use said rules.
    • Time Stop has an effect that uses three words: "End the turn." The rest of the card is filled with reminder text on what this actually entails and how it interacts with unresolved actions.
    • Parodied with the Bureaucracy card in Unglued, though it's probably easier to understand than any of the ones above.
    • Wizards generally has complexity increase with rarity (but not power), so casual players playing each other won't be exposed to so many such cards.
  • Lobotomy: Lobotomy.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Some of the more creative strategies border on or flat-out are this. Most infamously, and maybe apocryphally, the player who multiplied the effect of Chaos Orb by ripping it into pieces and scattering it over his opponents side.
    • Or the player who brought to a tournament a deck based around Wall of Roots, whose ability you can activate only once per turn... and convinced the judges that he could use it infinite times by activating it between turns.
    • The staple White Power Limiter Oblivion Ring exiles a card when it enters play, and returns that card to play when it leaves. As the entry itself states, "If Oblivion Ring leaves the battlefield before its first ability has resolved, its second ability will trigger and do nothing. Then its first ability will resolve and exile the targeted nonland permanent forever." This was problematic enough that they designed an Obvious Rule Patch version called Banishing Light, and used that card's wording for most subsequent similar cards.
    • Lich's Mirror causes you to, on death, shuffle everything you own into your library and start over from scratch at 20 life with a fresh hand. If you control someone else's Mirror, though, it's not a permanent you own and so you actually keep the Mirror when you "start over". It's not foolproof, though: while you do become unkillable, there's nothing stopping your opponent from milling you out. That, and the fact that you start over with nothing while your opponent keeps their board makes it harder to stage a comeback.
  • Lost in Translation:
    • The Japanese version of Yawgmoth's Agenda was mistakenly translated as Yawgmoth's Day Planner.
    • The Spanish version of M10's Jackal Familiar mistranslated "Jackal Familiar can't attack or block alone" as "Jackal Familiar can't attack or block." That would make the card significantly worse, wouldn't it?
    • The Spanish version of the M11 card Disentomb mistranslated "Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand" as "Return target creature card from your graveyard to play". That would make the card significantly better.
    • The Portuguese version of Stoic Rebuttal does... well, nothing. Stoic Rebuttal is a simple counterspell that costs 1 less mana to cast if you have 3 or more Artifacts. Too bad when they translated it, they forgot the whole "counter a spell" part. Ooops.
    • Luckily, cards use their English oracle text, no matter what is printed on the actual card.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me:
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic:
    • Krark's Thumb and Goblin Bookie, allow you to re-flip a coin if you lose the flip.
    • Rearranging the top few cards of your library is a staple ability that appears most commonly on blue cards (like Sage Owl). Related abilities include Scry, Fateseal, and Clash.
    • Sensei's Divining Top has one that's so good (and slowed down games so much with constant rearranging and shuffling), it was banned in multiple formats.
    • Unstable includes a slew of cards that involve die rolls. Naturally, there are several cards that let you reroll dice and pick the result you want, and others that add to the roll result, which can end in rolls going higher than 6.
  • Luke Nounverber: A common naming convention.
  • Made of Indestructium: Anything made of Darksteel metal is indestructible.
  • Magic Is Mental: How the game mechanics translate to the actual idea of a "wizard duel". The library and your hand full of spells represent your mind and knowledge, and cards which affect them (discarding, drawing, searching, etc.) are implied to be affecting your mind directly. The graveyard is your memory, and spells which affect it (bringing things back from it, exiling, etc.) are implied to be affecting your memory.
  • Magikarp Power:
    • The Kamigawa block had a number of "flip cards" which are fairly weak, relatively useless creatures when first summoned, but can be "flipped" (rotated 180 degrees) when certain conditions are met, generally becoming a powerful legendary creature. The conditions required to flip these cards are sometimes quite easy. Student of Elements, for example, becomes Tobita, Master of Winds as soon as it gains flying, a task fairly easily accomplished with blue spells. Others are considerably more difficult to flip, but the results are worth it. For instance, Bushi Tenderfoot must first contribute to the death of another creature to flip, but as a puny 1/1 it isn't likely to kill much of anything without help, and will surely die if sent into combat without some sort of outside boost or protection. However, if you do manage this feat, that puny Tenderfoot becomes the immensely powerful Kenzo the Hardhearted, who is capable of dishing out a whopping 10 damage to an enemy creature in combat.note 
    • The Eldrazi set has brought along creatures that gain 'Level Counters' when ever you pay to do so. Their stats increase takes a while and it takes up resources that could be put toward other uses instead, but some of them get REALLY good powers at max level. For example, take Lord of Shatterskull Pass. Leveling it to max requires spending mana on it for 6 turns, and the levels between level 1 (which grants +3/+3) and level 6 don't add anything.
    • The Innistrad set introduces double-faced cards and the transform mechanic. Most of them are werewolves but one in particular, Ludevic's Test Subject, is an egg. It has zero attack power, and is in fact completely unable to attack. However, once you use its ability to give it five "hatch" counters, it becomes Ludevic's Abomination, a 13/13 creature with trample, which is much better for attacking.
    • The Theros block adds the Heroic mechanic. Heroic creatures gain a special effect when you target them with a spell, usually placing +1/+1 counters on them. It is quite easy to turn a 1/2 Favored Hoplite into a Juggernaut that simply doesn't take damage and can bulldoze through enemy defenses.
    • The Serra Ascendant starts out as a 1/1 with lifelink. If you manage to get your life total >= 30 (you start with 20) and keep it that high, the Serra Ascendant becomes a 6/6 creature with flying and lifelink. Naturally, Serra Ascendant is a solid addition to any deck that specializes in life gain.
    • Jace's Phantasm is normally a puny 1/1 flyer. It becomes a respectable 5/5 flyer (making it as powerful as the average dragon) if an opponent has ten or more cards in his or her graveyard. Conveniently, a lot of blue cards (especially those related to Jace Beleren like the Phantasm) force players to discard cards.
    • Tuktuk the Explorer starts out as a measly 1/1 with haste that costs three mana to summon. If he dies, he is replaced by a legendary 5/5 goblin golem artifact creature called "Tuktuk the Returned". Since the opponent probably isn't going to be in any hurry to kill Tuktuk for you, you'll need to find a way to hasten his demise yourself.
    • Primordial Hydra starts out relatively weak, with power and toughness equal to the X value when summoning it, which could conceivably be as low as 1. Every turn, though, it doubles its power and toughness, which, through the power of exponents, can make it unstoppable in, at most, 5 turns, and even less if extra mana is used when summoning it.
    • In a metagame sense, this applies to numerous decks. Multi-color decks have extremely slow early games since most of the lands they rely on for their mana base enter tapped. Then, when they have those lands out, they start casting multi-colored spells, which are usually more powerful than equivalently costed monocolor spells as a balancing effect for their requiring multiple colors of mana. Delve decks, which have underwhelming early games since delve cards are very expensive to hardcast, but once they've spent the early game filling their graveyard, they can start exiling those cards to pay the colorless part of delve spells' costs, letting them cast multiple otherwise expensive spells in a turn.
  • Magitek: Many artifacts qualify, especially artifact creatures. Colossi, Golems, Clockwork creatures, and many Phyrexian creatures are common examples. They are essentially inanimate objects given life through magic. They typically have higher mana costs than non-artifact creatures of relative power, but that is offset by them very rarely requiring specific types of mana, so they are playable in any deck.
  • Make Them Rot: There are spells like Putrefy, Decompose, Krovikan Rot, Abrupt Decay, Brainspoil and Rapid Decay, among others.
  • Mana Burn:
    • It's possible to attack your opponent's lands, denying them their mana.
    • The "Mana burn" mechanic that left the game with the Magic 2010 rules changes is, ironically, not an example.
    • Obsidian Fireheart puts a twist on this trope by allowing the controller of Obsidian Fireheart to put "burn counters" on a target land. That counter has a built in ability stating that that land deals one damage to its controller at the beginning of their upkeep, even if Obsidian Fireheart is no longer in play.
  • Mana Drain: Mana Drain, Drain Power, and Mana Short, among others.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Carnivorous Plant.
  • Master of All: The closest to the spirit of the trope is probably Progenitus, which at 10/10 is among the largest naturally-occuring creatures and has Protection from Everything. (Protection effects are usually limited to a single color or creature type.) Fittingly, it costs two of every mana type to play, requiring the player to be something of a Master of All just to get it on the field.
  • Mathematician's Answer: In order to avoid giving accidental advice or information, Judges are required to answer rules questions this way during tournaments, which can sometimes result in dangerously misleading responses if you word your question carelessly. The classic example is asking if you can target an indestructible creature with a spell intended to destroy it. The judge will say that yes, you can do so (since, taken literally, it is possible to take that action if you really want to do so), and will not be allowed to tell you that the spell will be wasted and won't accomplish anything.
  • Maximum HP Reduction: Creatures with the Wither or Infect abilities deal damage to other creatures in the from of -1/-1 counters. Unlike regular damage, which creatures heal from at the end of each turn, -1/-1 counters represent a permanent reduction in both power and toughness (having toughness reduced to 0 will kill a creature) for as long as the creature is in play.
  • Metamorphosis: Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration. Starts as a human scientist, morphs into an insectile aberration. According to Word of God, it was inspired by The Fly (1986).
  • Metagame: Probably the best-known instance; decks that dominate one tournament can get curbstomped in the next due to metagame changes.
  • Microtransactions: Later Duels games let you pay money for things like full deck unlocks or turning cards into foil versions. The free-to-play Magic Duels lets you buy in-game currency with real money.
  • Mind-Control Device: Helm of Possession and Vedalken Shackles for creatures, and Mindslaver for players.
  • The Minion Master:
    • Weenie decks turn you into one of these. A Fragile Speedster in deck form, they typically focus around getting as many low mana cost creatures into play as fast as you can in order to Zerg Rush your opponent. Particularly effective against "Control" decks, as their reliance on blocking and removal spells can't keep up with the sheer amount of creatures you're throwing at them. Weak against Aggro decks, however, as their fewer-but-stronger creatures will annihilate your weenies (or trample over them) with ease.
    • Token decks are another form of this. Tokens are creatures not represented by an actual card in your deck, but are generated by numerous cards (including other creatures). There are also numerous spells and creature abilities which further strengthen tokens as well. The various Black-White Token decks are some of the most famous.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: In Unstable, Crossbreed Labs features the host and augment mechanic, where you can splice an augment onto a host, creating a bizarre combination of both cards' abilities and creature types. From the same set (but not the same faction), Grusilda, Monster Masher combines any two creatures into one, resulting in even more complex results.
  • Mook Commander: Two major types:
    • There is a general type of creature informally referred to by both creators and players as a "Lord". Typically, the name applies to a creature that grants a bonus to the power and toughness (attack and defense) of all creatures of its own race or class (but not to itself), as well as granting an additional ability that varies from Lord to Lord. For instance, Knight Exemplar grants a P/T boost to all other Knights, and also makes them indestructible. Variations exist; for instance, Lord of the Unreal is a human, but functions as an Illusion Lord, as he gives a P/T boost to Illusions and also makes them immune to their opponents' spells and abilities.
    • The Slivers could be considered an entire species of Lords/Mook Commanders that recursively enhance each other; with incredibly rare exceptions, every Sliver grants bonuses to all other Slivers.
  • Mook Maker: A staple effect. Examples included but are definitely not limited to: Breeding Pit, Kjeldoran Outpost, Thallid, The Hive, Riptide Replicator, Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII, Myr Turbine, and many, many more.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: The minds behind Magic R&D have actually created three psychographic profiles — "Johnny/Jenny", "Timmy/Tammy", and "Spike" — representing three different demographics for the game. See Timmy, Johnny and Spike Revisited. Simply put: Timmies/Tammies love to play cool cards, Johnnies/Jennies love to design cool decks, and Spikes love to win. Since then, the flavor gurus created two more profiles — "Vorthos", who likes the flavor aspect of a card, and "Mel/Melvin/Melanie", who likes the mechanical aspect of a card.
  • Mundane Utility: Inverted in the case of several equipment cards from Innistrad block, which are everyday tools and farming implements used by the otherwise helpless peasantry to defend themselves from the setting's zombies, werewolves, and vampires. As an added bonus, these equipment cards become stronger when wielded by humans.
  • My Defense Need Not Protect Me Forever: It's common for slower strategies to establish defenses in the early game just to buy time to reach the later stages.
  • Nerf: Cards which prove to be too overpowered are banned or limited. In the past, Wizards would also use errata to curb the power of problematic cards, until they decided to exclusively use this to clarify what a card is supposed to do. A list of various nerfs can be found on the trope page.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Both played straight and averted. Played straight because each player can only have one copy of the same legend or one version of a particular planeswalker at once. Averted because each player can have their own copy. Some characters like Nicol Bolas allow a single player to avert this due to being printed both as a legendary creature and a planeswalker.
  • No Ontological Inertia:
    • If you are playing in a multiplayer game and you die, all the cards you own disappear from the game. This is primarily so that you don't have to stick around until the end of the game just to get back the enchantment you put on somebody else's creature.
    • Many white removal spells (such as Oblivion Ring and Journey to Nowhere) work like this on a smaller scale, only functioning for as long as the removal card itself stays in play.
    • Abilities themselves avert this; they exist independent of their source, so that destroying the source does nothing to stop the ability.
  • Non-Elemental:
    • Artifacts, with a few exceptions, are colorless.
    • Eldrazi. Again. Is there any trope they don't fall under?
  • Not the Intended Use: Rampant. Destroying your own creatures, countering your own spells, using a War Barge on your opponents' creatures and then destroying the barge to kill the creatures, ripping up your Chaos Orb before you activate it... On rare occasions a player will use a harmful spell on themselves or helpful spell on their opponent because the game has reached a weird point so they actually want to do what would normally be bad. Very often, players will cast spells just for side effects that are normally minor, but happen to be incredibly important at the time.
  • Not Using The D Word: References to demons were removed after a few Moral Guardians complained; this carried on for a while with cards being called "horror" or "beast," before demons started appearing again (Mark Rosewater goes into more detail about this here). This is why the Unglued card "Infernal Spawn of Evil" has the text "Summon Demon" with "Demon" struck out and replaced with "Beast" and vice versa for the Unhinged card "Infernal Spawn of Infernal Spawn of Evil."
  • Oathbound Power: The Cycle of Pacts, one for each color. Pacts are spells that can be cast for free. However, the caster must pay a cost at the beginning of their next turn, or else they immediately lose the game.
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo:
    • The Portal expansion was followed by Portal Second Age and Portal: Three Kingdoms.
    • Head Designer Mark Rosewater has a little fun with it here, with a fake announcement for Homelands 2: Grandmother's Return. He also laments that his suggestion for Portal 2: Electric Boogaloo was rejected.
    • The cancelled sequel to Unglued was tentatively named Unglued 2: the Obligatory Sequel.
  • Old Save Bonus: The Duels of the Planeswalkers games from 2013 onwards give you a small bonus, like a deck unlock key or premium booster pack, if you played the previous year's game.
  • One Size Fits All: Those Swiftfoot Boots can be equipped to any creature card, ranging from humans to elves to snakes to fish to spiders to dragons... Justified in the meta sense since printing rules on each card about what creature types can and can't use a piece of equipment would overwhelm a single card.
  • Overrated and Underleveled: Any cards with too high of a mana cost relative to their abilities/powers qualify. Planeswalker cards can be notorious for this, such as Chandra Ablaze and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. It's not that can't be impressive if you get them into place, it's just that there are more effective ways to spend that mana (such as Cruel Ultimatum for Bolas).
  • Painting the Medium: A popular gag in both Unglued and Unhinged. For example, Frazzled Editor is making corrections to his own rules text, and Latin Pig's card is written entirely in Pig Latin.
  • Paper Tiger: The Paper Tiger card ironically averts the trope, though it does provide the page image.
  • Play Every Day: Magic Duels has daily quests you can complete for additional currency. You can have up to three unfinished quests at once. There's also community quests to shoot for.
  • Played for Laughs:
    • Some cards, while still useful, have the ability to cause some much-needed hilarity amid all of the chaos and destruction. For example, Turn To Frog.
    • There's also Goatnapper. In addition to being silly, it had the perplexing quality of being able to target only two cards in the whole game... until you remember that the new Changeling creatures released in the same set count as having every creature type simultaneously.
  • Playing with Fire: A large portion of Red, described in detail throughout this page. Also, Jaya Ballard and her pupil, the lesser planeswalker Chandra Nalaar.
  • Poor, Predictable Rock: In general, each of the five colors lends itself well to a few specific strategies, but also has weaknesses that cause it to fall into this trope. This can be resolved by adding more colors to the deck to cover the weaknesses, but this can make it hard to play spells reliably. In tournament play, matches last for three-rounds and each player is allowed to have a side deck of 15 cards which they can use to tweak their deck to counter whatever strategies the opponent is using, helping to avert this.
  • Portmanteau: Seen occasionally in card names like Blightning and Deadapult.
  • Power at a Price: A major theme for Black. Phyrexian Negator, Cosmic Horror, Xathrid Demon... one commentator here describes the entire Suicide Black ethos as "tearing off your own arm so you can beat your opponent over the head with it."
  • Power Born of Madness:
    • The aptly named "Madness" keyword. Sanity is represented by the cards left in your hand and in your library; an empty hand is unstable, an empty library is when a planeswalker is going to completely lose their mind. Madness allows you to sacrifice short-term sanity to play the card you're discarding cheaply. Decks built around Madness naturally see significant discarding.
    • The "Hellbent" keyword similarly denotes cards that gain an advantage when your hand is empty.
    • "Dredge" allows you to affect your long-term sanity to recur things from your graveyard.
    • Laboratory Maniac is a specific card example. Normally, you lose the game if you must draw when your library is empty. As long as Laboratory Maniac is in play, you win the game instead.
  • Power Copying:
    • Experiment Kraj copies all the abilities of creatures that have +1/+1 counters on them.
    • Necrotic Ooze and Havengul Lich all directly copy the abilities of creatures in any Graveyard.
    • Majestic Myriarch gains the abilities flying, first strike, double strike, deathtouch, haste, hexproof, indestructible, lifelink, menace, reach, trample, and vigilance at the beginning of combat if its controller controls another creature with one of these abilities. For example, if Majestic Myriarch's controller also controls one creature with haste and another creature with double strike, Majestic Myriarch gains haste and double strike at the beginning of combat.
    • Several shapeshifters can copy the abilities of defeated foes; Dimir Doppelganger and Cairn Wanderer, for example.
  • Power Creep:
    • Happens so frequently that the term "strictly better" has entered the Magic lexicon to describe the phenomenon. Card A is "strictly better" than Card B when they are identical in most parameters, and in the ones where they're different Card A has a clear advantage, meaning that Card A is preferable to Card B in almost all situations. Specific example: Lightning Bolt costs 1 mana and deals 3 damage where Shock does only 2. (An incomplete list of cards that fit the "strictly better" comparison can be viewed [[here.) In total fairness, the game is over 20 years and 15,000+ cards old, which simply suggests that Power Creep is inevitable.
    • There is also deliberate creep on the part of Wizards. The overall pattern has been creatures growing in strength while spells get weaker. When the game first came out, Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards was in full effect. The infamous Power Nine were early cards considered to be the most powerful effects in the game (despite all but one of them being fairly boring in effect). Six of them are mana sources while the other three are all spells. There are no creatures in the Power Nine. Meanwhile, Force Of Nature was originally the biggest creature in the game, an 8/8 (for 6 mana) that you need to keep paying mana to in order to keep alive. Nowadays, Terra Stomper - a "strictly better" version with a more flexible casting cost, the upkeep drawback removed, and a small perk added - is considered too weak to play in competition. Additionally, compare Serra Angel, a creature that was at one point removed from the core set for being too powerful, to Baneslayer Angel, which lacks one of Serra Angel's traits (Vigilance) but replaces it with a metric crap-ton of other stuff. The generally-agreed-upon theory as to why creatures suddenly became extremely useful around 2003-2004 was that, for the first 10 years of the game's life, creatures were largely a total waste of mana. While a few were actually considered "good", such as Morphling and Psychatog, the vast, vast majority were considered plainly useless compared to Enchantments, Instants, Sorceries, and even Lands... to the point that most top-tier Type 1 and Type 1.5 decks (now called Vintage and Legacy Formats) were creatureless. Wizards vastly overestimated the effect that creatures had on the game outside of Limited and Standard, and around 8th Edition, realized that they needed to make creatures relevant. What ensued was massive power creep of creatures that were intensely mana-efficient, so that they would be considered just as useful as other card types. It worked: it is now very rare for Modern, Legacy, and Vintage decks to contain no creatures, but at the same time they aren't the bulk of most decks, either, with most decks playing between 8 and 18 creatures.
    • Wizards has also identified complexity creep as an issue. The rules needed to deal with thousands of different cards make for an imposing document. The spiraling increases in complexity put the game at risk of being impossible for any potential customer to understand. To combat this, they createdthe Type 2 (or Standard) format, which is theoretically immune to both power creep and complexity creep as only the last two years of cards are allowed, so that power creep/seep relative to older cards doesn't matter.
    • Wizards also takes measures to avoid the level of power creep that other CCGs suffer by temporarily increasing the power of one type of effect, but scaling it back later to focus on another aspect.
    • Finally, it should be pointed out that "strictly better" cards almost always have another downside: they're strictly more expensive, especially in cases like Lightning Bolt vs Shock where the more powerful card was deliberately Nerfed. How much more? In this case, ten times more (25¢ vs $2.50). And let's not even talk about the value difference between the aforementioned Serra and Baneslayer Angels.note 
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: A staple of black cards. The whole concept of black mana is sacrifice for selfish, personal gain — even to the point of sacrificing bits of yourself. All colors have some sort of ubercard that's cheap to use but has some drawback. Black, however, is the king of this, with a hideous number of cards that allow one to do quite a lot of awesome things, but cost you creatures, land, life, cards in hand, cards in graveyard (a viable resource for black, so not something to be sneezed at), or something else. One makes you lose the game if you don't win by the end of your next turn. Some especially notable examples:
    • Lich is a classic. It essentially turns you into a Lich - you lose all life, but do not immediately lose the game. Instead, you can discard cards in place of damage taken. If you are unable to discard, then you lose.
    • Another notable early example is Lord of the Pit, an extremely powerful creature for its cost that requires a sacrifice of one creature per turn or it turns on you.
    • The infamous Necropotence allows the player to trade life for more magical power and knowledge (i.e. draw cards). One common combo is creature removal (i.e. killing creatures), discard spells, and the Avatar of Woe, a huge creature which costs eight mana (two of which have to be black), but only costs the two black mana if there are a total of ten or more creatures in all graveyards. This card was so powerful it has been banned or restricted in most formats.
  • Power Fist: Popular as a source of power for red. Examples include Granite Grip, Stonehands, and Fists of the Demigod. Similarly, the latest art for Kird Ape has powerfists made of rock.
  • Power Equals Rarity: An interesting case. Although many rares are more powerful than their common or uncommon counterparts, powerful cards are not exclusively rare. Additionally, rarity is used to balance Limited formats (in which players build decks out of a random or semi-random pool of cards). And this is only scratching the surface—whole essays can (and have) been written on the guidelines the designers use to determine rarity.
  • The Power of Friendship: The aptly-named Ally creature mechanic, which benefits from the presence of other Allies.
  • Power of the God Hand: Not In-Universe, but used as fanspeak. A different definition of "hand" than most uses of this trope, but a "God Hand" is generally considered seven cards that, when drawn, will defeat an opponent in the first round. The exact definition of a God Hand can sometimes be a source of great contention.
  • Power Nullifier: There are a number of different Power Nullifiers depending on exactly what you want to nullify - Null Rod for artifacts, Arrest for creatures, Pithing Needle for any one card, Back to Basics for non-basic lands, etc.
  • Powers as Programs: Creature enchantments are this. As are equipment; yes, it's possible for a bird to carry three swords, a shield, and armor clearly designed with humans in mind. Could they be Morph Weapons? It sounds like something a Planeswalker could do, but we might never know.
  • Practical Taunt: Taunting Elf causes all of the defending opponent's creatures to block it when it attacks.
  • Production Throwback/What Could Have Been/Production Foreshadowing: Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, and Future Sight, in that order.
  • Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage: Wizards tends to give these out, not as BS "cash grabs" like many other CCGs, but as one-of-a-kind prizes. Several have been given out as unique prizes within books. One unique card was given at the opening of Wizards' first store in Japan. One was given to the 1997 World Champion. Three more were given to Richard Garfield to commemorate his proposal, wedding, and the birth of his first child, respectively. Wizards has also given its employees silly, "Unglued"-style foil promotional cards at Christmas.
  • Press X to Die: A handful of actions will do nothing useful and just harm you or your creatures. For example, normally, when you cast Progenitor Mimic, you target another creature and the Mimic become a copy of that creature that makes more copies. However, the ability responsible specifies "may", which means you don't have to do any of that, in which case "Progenitor Mimic enters the battlefield as a 0/0 Shapeshifter creature and is probably put into the graveyard immediately."
    • Mana in Magic pays for almost anything a player wants to do. In Magic's early days, the mana pool emptied at the end of each phase of a turn as well as before and after combat. Mana is almost always voluntarily generated by a player by using their land, artifacts, and creatures. In early editions, having unspent mana in your pool when it emptied resulted in mana burn, or loss of life.
  • Psychic Powers: A staple of blue magic, especially anything relating to the (in)famous planeswalker Jace Beleren. In terms of game mechanics, "psychic" abilities most often take the form of forcing your opponent to discard from their hand and/or directly from their deck (attacking their mind and knowledge), removing cards from their graveyard (their memory), and even playing their own cards against them (landing somewhere between Mind Control and Mind Rape).
  • Purposefully Overpowered:
    • "Archenemy" decks, intended for a 3-vs-1 format, which are played with more life, tougher creatures, and a separate library of spell-like effects that are played one per turn at random. Naturally, these would be completely devastating in a standard game.
    • Many cards from the various "Un-" sets would be horrifically broken if used in standard play. Naturally, these cards are illegal for tournament play. Particularly notable examples include the Mox Lotus, which gives you infinite mana, and Cheatyface, which you can sneak on to the battlefield for free as long as your opponent doesn't catch you.
  • Quad Damage:
  • Random Effect Spell:
    • Magic: The Gathering Online's "Vanguard" has several Vanguard avatars which pull random effects like these. Most prominently, Momir Vig allows you to pay X mana to make a copy of a random creature that also costs X mana, spawning an entire alternative format called Momir Basic, where players build a deck using only mana sources and a Momir Vig avatar and battle with randomized creatures from all over Magic. Jhoira of the Ghitu has a similar effect for instants and sorceries; likewise with Stonehewer Giant and equipment.
    • The Cascade ability from the Alara Reborn expansion allows you to cast a random spell from your deck for free. There are a variety of spells with similar randomizing effects.
    • Strategy, Schmategy has you roll a six-sided die to determine which of five totally unrelated abilities you'll get when you cast it. To up the ante, one of the options is "Roll the die two more times."
    • Unexpected Results has you reveal the top card of your library. If it's a land, you put it into play and recycle Unexpected Results. If it's a nonland, you cast that card for free, which can result in crazy Sequence Breaking. And just to ensure that you can't rig the result, your library is shuffled before you reveal the top card.
    • The original MicroProse video game tried to take advantage of the format, with several cards that were created that had effects that were random.
    • The Unstable set has a plethora of cards that require their player to roll six-sided dice to determine various outcomes. Usually it's the magnitude of a statistic, like power, toughness, or damage dealt, but some cards offer perks for particularly good results.
    • Urza, Academy Headmaster from the Unstable set is one of the more extreme examples. Every one of his activated abilities directs the player to a website which randomly picks one activated ability of a printed planeswalker in all of Magic's history thus far!
  • Random Power Ranking: Experienced in several ways:
  • Rated M for Manly: They tried to do this by kicking Rebecca Guay, one of the artists who draws the portraits for the cards, because her art was "too girly". After widespread criticism from fans, they reinstated her. This was lampshaded in the Unhinged joke set with the cards "Persecute Artist" and "Little Girl".
  • Reality Warper: Planeswalkers, of course. Being able to travel the Multiverse, summon creatures of massive power (including, as of the Theros set, gods), use ancient artifacts, and even create their own universe aside from rewriting others. You, the player, are a Planeswalker having a little scuffle with others. The cards represent creatures, spells, and artifacts you can summon into existence using Mana.
  • Reclaimed by Nature: This is a fairly common trick for Green magic, due to its focus on nature and growths. Numerous Green spells and instants are themed around natural growth reclaiming article structures and artifacts and nature's eventual ability to wear down and overtake anything built within it. Notable examples include the often-reprinted card Naturalize, which can destroy any artifact or enchantment in play and symbolizes the byproducts of civilization being reabsorbed into the natural environment, or Creeping Mold, based on the idea of natural growth overtaking artificial structures.
    Garruk Wildspeaker: When your cities and trinkets crumble, only nature will remain.
  • Recursive Acronym: K.O.T.H. for Koth of the Hammer.
  • The Red Mage: As each color has some fairly significant weaknesses, one strategy to cover for them is to add more colors to the deck. For example, if your mono-Green deck is getting trounced by your opponents "big" creatures, add in some White "removal" to take them out. However, adding additional colors requires adding mana sources (typically basic lands) for those colors as well, and a common result is not being able to play your spells reliably. (You might have the perfect White removal spell in your hand, but only Green-mana producing Forests on the field...) As such, it can be very tricky to find that sweet spot between predictable mono-colored deck and a cripplingly overspecialzed multi-color deck.
  • Redshirt Army:
    • Weenie decks can be this sometimes, as your weak creatures take heavy losses but continue trying to swamp the opponent anyway. This is particularly true in the case of tokens; cheap, disposable creatures usually generate en masse from other cards. As an inversion, a particularly successful weenie or token attack with few casualties becomes a Zerg Rush instead.
    • A interesting example is the Eldrazi who use mobs of Eldrazi Spawn Tokens to provide the mana needed for summoning bigger creatures.
  • Retcon: The rules of Magic have undergone many changes, the largest having been the complete overhaul of the game's timing system with the release of Classic Sixth Edition. Cards are frequently given new official wordings ("errata") so that they continue to work properly after each change of rules.
  • Riddling Sphinx: This is a standard mechanic for sphinxes:
    • The original sphinx, Petra Sphinx, had players guess the top card of their libraries. This same guessing game was also used for Conundrum Sphinx.
    • Sphinx of Uthuun gives your opponent choice of which cards to put into your hand. Unesh, Sphinx Sovereign does the same, but also does it again when you summon other Sphinxes.
    • Isperia the Inscrutable rewards you if you can correctly guess a card in your opponent's hand. Of course, since they have to reveal their hand if you guess wrong, the riddle is a lot easier the second time.
    • Sphinx Ambassador secretly chooses one of your opponent's creatures, and if they can't guess which one, you get to steal it.
    • Master of Predicaments forces your opponent to guess whether a card in your hand has a high or low mana cost. If they guess wrongly, you get that spell for free.
    • Even sphinxes who don't have riddle-related gameplay will often reference riddles in their Flavor Text, because hey, that's what sphinxes do.
  • Ring of Power: Rings are very common artifact items and can grant immense power. The Sol Ring, being a powerful mana source, is on the banned list. Oblivion Ring is a favored white "removal" spell. Aladdin's Ring, despite providing the page image, is Subversion in that it's a terrible card. (Four damage for 8 mana is hilariously underpowered.)
  • Rule of Cool:
    • Both Johnnies and Timmies will play cards just because they do something cool, though for different reasons. Timmies favor individual cards with impressive stats or abilities, while Johnnies favor accomplishing feats deemed Awesome, but Impractical.
    • Also sometimes used to justify breaking the rules of card design. Form of the Dragon does a lot of things that, in terms of game mechanics, Red spells don't normally do. It's okay, though, because the card TURNS YOU INTO A DRAGON!
    • This quote regarding Dragon Roost sums things up:
      "Is there a downside?"
      "It's pretty expensive."
      "Who cares? You're making DRAGONS!"
    • According to Mark Rosewater, the game has squirrels because the designers thought they were cool. On the flip side, the inherent silliness of squirrels has gotten them repeatedly vetoed by the creative team in later expansions.
  • Sacrificial Revival Spell: Doomed Necromancers, which are sacrificed to bring back another card from the graveyard.
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • Choice of Damnations
    • Cards like Skullscorch, Dash Hopes, and Lava Blister give your opponents the ability to jump in front of them to stop the spell's effect, taking heavy damage instead.
    • Perplex: if you want to keep your spell, you'll have to discard your hand...
    • Effects that cause your opponents to sacrifice a creature (Or any permanent, really). One of them must die...make your choice.
    • Played with in the card It That Betrays, which possesses an ability that forces your opponent to sacrifice two permanents whenever it attacks. While this is true of all Eldrazi, It That Betrays resurrects said permanents under your control. Now not only do they choose who they have to let go of, but also watch as it's reborn into your service.
    • A number of schemes in Archenemy allow the villain to offer an opponent a choice between "you take a big effect" and "each of your allies takes a smaller effect."
    • There are a few blue cards, such as Fact or Fiction and Gifts Ungiven, that invert this to an extent—instead of forcing your opponent to choose what they want to lose, it forces them to choose which of a selection of cards they want you to gain.
    • Even before New Phyrexia, the Mirrans had Painful Quandary, which, every time an opponent casts a spell, requires he either discard a card or lose five life. Remember, that's a quarter of your starting life.
    • Born of the Gods introduces the Tribute mechanic, which gives an opponent two options: Either buff your new creature or let it do something nasty.
    • Hour of Devastation has two different flavors of this. The first is a repeated bonus added on the end of a spell, where your opponent loses life unless they discard a card or sacrifice a nonland permanent, giving them the choice of losing a card in hand, card in board, or life. The other is the Afflict mechanic, where you either block it and take damage (and likely lose the blocker), or you don't block it, and take perhaps a little less damage, and probably let your opponent have some beneficial effect.
    • Conspiracy: Take the Crown presents the Council's Dilemma mechanic, where each player votes between two choices, with each choice having an incremental effect for each time it was voted for.
  • Samurai: Seen in the Kamigawa block.
  • Scunthorpe Problem: The problem with Assault Strobe and Cumulative upkeep on the Gatherer site. Yes, they're going that far.
  • Sequence Breaking: The most fundamental "sequence" in Magic is the generation of mana. Each turn, you may play one basic land which generates one mana of its associated color when tapped. This generally limits the power of the cards you can get into play early on in the game. Certain cards other than lands sometimes allow for the generation of extra mana, but it is rarely a significant amount and they often have other drawbacks to balance them out. Many of the cards which make up Magic's banned list are cards which put a disproportionately high amount of mana into the game for a low cost. This includes the infamous Black Lotus, which brings 3 mana into play for zero cost (as well as it's numerous "watered down" clones like many of "Moxes" and Lion's Eye Diamond, which despite being weakened, were still unbalanced to the point of being broken). The extra mana allows you to play much more powerful cards much earlier than your opponent could reasonably counter.
  • Serious Business: Tournament Play. This makes sense, because Wizards of the Coast provides some serious prize support. A single tournament can net the winner upwards of $40,000, and they've given away over $25 million in total cash prizes since they started running major tournaments. Several players have lifetime winnings in excess of $100,000, and that doesn't count minor tournaments or free plane trips to exotic foreign locales (though admittedly, you're there to play Magic, so perhaps "dreary foreign convention center floors" would be more accurate). Of course, this trope often appears in full force even when there isn't a pile of cash at stake.
  • Serial Escalation:
  • Set Bonus:
    • The Urzatron, a set of three lands (Urza's Mine, Urza's Tower, Urza's Power Plant) first printed in Antiquities. If you control one or two of the set, they each produce one colorless. Control all three, and two of them produce two colorless and the Tower produces three.
    • The Empires artifacts in M12.
    • If you have all three Kaldra equipment in play, you can summon Kaldra to wield them.
    • From the Fifth Dawn set comes the four Stations (Blasting Station, Grinding Station, Salvaging Station, and Summoning Station), which can deal infinite damage when you have them all in play. According to Magic's R&D, it was the first "I win" combo they ever made intentionally.
    • Festering Newt, Bogbrew Witch, and Bubbling Cauldron. The Newt's effect is stronger with the Witch, can be fetched by the Witch, and can be specially sacrificed to the Cauldron... just like in a witch's brew.
    • If you use Maze's End to get all 10 different Guildgates on the board, you automatically win the game.
    • The ‘Module’ cycle of artifacts from Kaladesh, while not explicitly tieing into each other, apart from the names, do directly feed into each other. The Animation Module allows you pay mana to create a colorless 1/1 Servo token artifact creature whenever you create a +1/+1 counter while allowing you to pay mana to duplicate any counter on any card or player (including energy counters). The Decoction Module produces an energy counter whenever a creature enters the battlefield while letting you pay mana to return a creature to a player’s hand. The Fabrication Module creates a +1/+1 counter whenever you gain energy counters and allows you to pay mana to gain an energy counter. This can lead you to produce beefed up Servos and a store of energy counters in a near endless assembly line, as long as you have the mana and turns (or a repeatable untapping ability) to pay for it. And that doesn't include having multiple copies of each module. Even the cards' flavor text draws attention to the connection:
      Design leads to progress.
      Progress leads to inspiration.
      Inspiration leads to design.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Simple, yet Awesome:
    • While the game has numerous big, flashy spells and humongous, powerful creatures, the very best cards tend to be low in mana cost with very simple effects such as "draw three cards", "add three mana to your mana pool", "take an extra turn after this one", or "deal 3 damage to target creature or player". Even creatures with no abilities at all can be awesome.
    • A general rule for the metagame, especially the Legacy format, is that the best spells are the ones with cheap costs and good effects. Due largely to the effects of Power Creep over the game's 20+ years of existence, this means that the vast majority of "playable" or "optimal" spells in Legacy cost either 1 or 2 mana. In all these cases, the effects are generally simple yet absurdly devastating: 1 Black Mana: Lose 2 life, look at your opponent's hand, and they discard any one non-Land card you choose; 2 Blue: Counter target spell; etc.
    • There is an entire deck archetype based on this principle: Mono-Red Burn. The deck contains exactly 17 Mountains, 3 Mountain-like lands that can burn, and no less than 24 effective copies the same card - spend 1 red mana to deal 3 damage to your opponent. Remember Lightning Bolt up there? The main reason Magic even has the four-copy limit for an individual card was to keep people from playing what was dubbed "The 40 Lightning Bolt Special" which is this trope taken to its logical conclusion.
  • Single-Use Shield: The regeneration mechanic. Regenerating a creature gives it a single-use shield that saves it the next time it would be destroyed.
  • Skill Gate Characters: Pre-packaged starter and event decks qualify. While they're perfectly functional when played against other such decks, they'll get absolutely crushed on the competitive scene, where custom decks rule the day.
  • Sliding Scale of Objective vs. Subjective Games: Wizards makes every attempt to keep the game as close to the "objective" side as is humanly possible. However, subjective elements still sneak in once the sets are in the hands of thousands of players around the world. Abuses of loopholes and "Exact Words" are especially prominent. Essentially, actually breaking the rules would be cheating, but there is nothing to stop you from pushing your interpretation of the rules for an advantage.
  • Solo Tabletop Game: The Theros Block has three self-operating Challenge Decks: Face the Hydra, Battle the Horde, and Journey into Nyx. These could be faced either co-cooperatively or solo.
  • Spell My Name with a Blank: _____
  • Splat: Magic initially just called its splats "subtypes", and that term is still in common use, but with 8th Edition it also instituted a more formalized system of "races" and "classes". Every creature card has a race subtype (Human, Goblin, Elf, etc.), and those printed before this rule have been errata'd to have a race; many also have a class subtype (Wizard, Warrior, etc.), but this is optional. Interestingly, some noncreature cards also have splats, such as tribal noncreature cards that have a creature type, or lands that have a land type (Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, or Forest).
  • Standard Status Effects: Many of the basics are covered appear as spells, ablities, or keywords including but not limited to Silence, the keyword "Fear" or "Menace", and the (primarily white) "Removal" cards.
  • Star Power: A few "Star" artifacts offer this power in the form of mana. For example, Chromatic Star adds one mana of any color while North Star allows you to cast a spell by paying its cost with any type of mana.
  • Stone Wall: Creatures with the defender ability can't attack, and generally have low power and high toughness. Most examples from Magic's history are actual Wall creatures, and for a long time Wall of Stone was the most extreme example, having 0 power but a whopping 8 toughness.
  • Straight for the Commander:
    • Built into the game. You cannot command your creatures to attack your opponent's at all. Instead, you can only attack your opponent (or planeswalkers) directly. Your opponent then has the choice to use their creatures to block your attack. Numerous methods exist to help you ensure that your creatures' attacks hit your opponent without being blocked by the enemy creatures. Even just for keyword examples alone, there is flying, landwalk, intimidate, trample, shadow, unblockable, and protection. And keywords are hardly the only options.
    • On the creature-level, this is the counter to so-called "tribal" decks - the "Lords" (creatures that give a boost to all friendly creatures of a given type, so-called because they used to have the type "Lord") provide stat boosts, cost breaks, special abilities, or some combination of the above to their allies. Eliminating them produces a meaningful reduction to the power of the remaining enemy creatures.
  • Strategy Guide: Very common online; as the game constantly changes, it's essential for even the most basic Tournament Play.
  • Strategy Schmategy: This card is the Trope Namer.
  • Summoning Artifact:
  • Summoning Ritual:
  • Summon Magic:
    • This is what is represented when you play creature cards. Essentially, you are using mana to summon them into existence.
    • Specific cards can further summon additional creatures, usually in the form of tokens. For example, when Deranged Hermit comes into play, it further summons four 1/1 squirrel tokens.
  • Super Smoke: Several examples:
    • Gaseous Form is a creature enchantment which prevents the target creature from taking damage, but also makes it unable to deal damage as well. This may sound like a bum deal, but its helpful to cast on creatures who you need more for their abilities than as attackers.
    • Urborg Phantom is a creature who can activate this ability at will.
    • Turn to Mist takes it to the next level, temporarily exiling the creature from the game and returning it at the end of the turn.
  • Support Party Member: Creatures with the "Defender" keyword cannot attack, but often have abilities that grant you bonuses or weaken your opponent. For example, see One-Eyed Scarecrow, Orator of Ojutai, etc.
  • Surplus Damage Bonus:
    • Typically averted when attacking with creatures. No matter how much power your creature has, it can be blocked by any creature your opponent controls. The defending creature will be destroyed if it has lower toughness than your attacking creature, but the surplus damage is lost. Blocking particularly powerful creatures with low toughness creatures is known as "chump blocking" on the competitive scene.
    • One major exception are creatures with the "Trample" ability. Creatures with Trample deal surplus damage directly to their opponent's life.
  • Switch-Out Move:
    • The "Ninjutsu" mechanic, which lets you swap one attacker for another, mid-combat.
    • AEtherplasm does this whenever it blocks.
    • Creatures with the "champion" ability exile other creatures you control when they enter the battlefield. When the champion creature dies, the original critter is returned to the field.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: Present in the three standard categories of tournament decks: aggressive, combination, or control (aggro, combo, and control). Sometimes decks can play as either of two roles, but not as well as a deck truly dedicated to that role. The three roles fall into a rock-paper-scissors scenario: Aggro decks play multiple redundant threats to keep the pressure on and overwhelm Control decks. Combo decks use cards that are individually relatively weak but synergize to create powerful effects that can overcome even the strong threats from an Aggro deck. Control decks focus on defense foremost and use card-removal effects to dismantle combos — if a Control deck removes one part of a three-card combo, it cripples the whole combo, while removing one of three Aggro deck cards will leave the other two to continue attacking. So basically: Control < Combo < Aggro < Control.
  • Taking You with Me: Any spell that deals damage to both you and an opponent such as Earthquake or Pestilence can be used for this. Additionally, there are creatures which can kill themselves to take out other creatures, or to hurl damage directly at an opponent.
  • Technopath: A common trait of "artificer" creatures, whose abilities typically allow them to manipulate, modify, and/or create artifacts using magic. Mishra, Artificer Prodigy and Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer are notable examples.
  • Tech Tree: The Level up mechanic from Rise of the Eldrazi functions as a Tech Tree, allowing you to invest additional resources into one of your creatures to upgrade it with new abilities.
  • Teleportation Sickness: Summoning sickness, which prevents creatures from tapping and attacking on the turn they're summoned. The story justifies it as a form of great nausea. Averted by creatures with Haste.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
  • Time Stands Still: Time Stop. Some versions of blue's Extra Turn spells work like this as well.
  • Too Awesome to Use: The very first edition included the ante system, which allowed the winner of the match to take some of the loser's cards. This made players very reluctant to add very rare, powerful cards to a deck.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Flip cards, Figure of Destiny, and leveler creatures turn it into a game mechanic. Double-faced transform cards in Innistrad also fit the bill.
  • Touch of Death:
    • Hand of Death, naturally. It allows you to destroy any non-black creature.
    • Touch of Death subverts it, as it is unlikely to actually kill anything.
    • The Awesome, but Impractical Phage the Untouchable has this. Anything she attacks is not only destroyed, but also cannot be regenerated.
    • Any damage done by a creature with the keyword "Deathtouch" is automatically destroyed, no matter how tough it is.
    • The keyword "Wither" is a downplayed example. Creatures with Wither don't deal damage normally. Instead, any damage they deal is delivered in the form of -1/-1 counters on the target creature. For example if a 1/1 creature with Wither attacks a 2/2 creature, that 2/2 creature has a -1/-1 counter placed on it.
  • Tournament Play: Sponsored by the game's creators.
  • Transformation Is a Free Action: The Morph capacity. Free in term of timing as it don't use the stack so one can't do anything to respond its use.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder allows you to easily produce large numbers of Thrull tokens. However, if you have too many at once, they revolt and kill him.
  • Turns Red: Dark Ascension features Undying (for creatures), and Fateful Hour (for players).
  • Turtle Power: Turtles are classic low power/high toughness creatures which, unusually for most creatures, can be found as both Blue and Green with regularity. Horned Turtle is a classic example, while others include the plain ol' Giant Turtle and Giant Tortoise. The slowest turtle is the Meandering Towershell, which moves so slowly that whenever it attacks, it takes a turn to actually reach your opponent.
  • Unblockable Attack: The "fear" and "intimidate" keywords cause this. Fear, most common on black creatures, prevents non-black and non-artifact creatures from blocking its attacks. Intimidate works similarly, preventing creatures other than those who share a color with the attacking creature (and, again, artifact creatures) from blocking.
  • Underrated and Overleveled: Psychatog is a mere uncommon, three mana, 1/2 creature...who can also quickly become one of the devastating creatures in the game. By discarding cards from your hand, removing cards from your graveyard, or a combination thereof, you can beef Psychatog up with +1/+1 counters. Its superb offensive and defensive potential let it assert aggressive pressure all by itself, which frees up space for more reactive cards to shut down an opposing deck before it can get rolling—and since it synergizes well with card draw and mill, it also fits well into decks designed to "go off" very quickly. Further, since it can consume an entire graveyard and hand, it can easily reach 20/20 late in the game (drop an Upheaval and you have a One-Hit KO on your hands). Finally, if all of that power potential alone doesn't do it for you, its abilities to discard and/or remove at will benefit all sorts of decks, including those built around the Madness keyword or Animate Dead, just to name a few.
  • Unholy Nuke: Numerous black spells qualify. Damnation is the most straightforward example, being the black Evil Counterpart to the white Holy Hand Grenade Wrath of God. Plague Wind is similar, but destroys only your opponent's creatures (and thus costs a lot more mana).
  • The Un-Reveal: Mark Rosewater loves to do this. For example, he once replaced most of the words in a spoiler laden paragraph with the word "goblin".
    Goblin of the Goblins is going to be a goblin built around the Goblin goblins, all of which have no goblin and are goblin. For example, there are two Goblins at goblin, the goblin of which is 7/7. All of the Goblins have a new goblin called goblin. Goblins with goblin have a goblin; whenever a goblin with goblin goblins, the goblin goblin must goblin that many goblins. The Goblins are very goblin but there are goblins that can create 0/1 goblins called Goblin Goblin that can be goblin to goblin one goblin goblin to your goblin goblin and will help you be able to goblin the Goblins. In addition, the goblin has a new goblin called goblin goblin. You may spend goblin on goblin with goblin goblin to improve their goblins and goblins. This Limited goblin is much goblin than the one in Goblin.
    This is what it actually says
    Rise of the Eldrazi is going to be a set built around the Eldrazi creatures, all of which have no color and are giant. For example, there are two Eldrazi at common, the smaller of which is 7/7. All of the Eldrazi have a new keyword called annihilator. Creatures with annihilator have a number; whenever a creature with annihilator attacks, the defending player must sacrifice that many permanents. The Eldrazi are very expensive but there are cards that can create 0/1 tokens called Eldrazi Spawn that can be sacrificed to add one colorless mana to your mana pool and will help you be able to cast the Eldrazi. In addition, the set has a new ability called level up. You may spend mana on creatures with level up to improve their stats and abilities. This Limited environment is much slower than the one in Zendikar.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Possible to build "raw power" decks in this fashion. They're typically full of strong creatures but little else. If allowed to get up a full head of steam, they can be surprisingly difficult to counter.
  • Urban Legend of Zelda:
    • Throat Wolf, a creature that supposedly had "firstest strike". This was before cardlists were available...
    • A joke article in Inquest Magazine offered some crude mock-ups of "purple mana" cards. This didn't stop people from calling card stores demanding to buy them. (Wizards would later flirt with the idea of purple cards as part of a special set, but it never got off the drawing board.)
    • The guy who tore up his Chaos Orb, inspiring the Unglued card Chaos Confetti.
  • Uriah Gambit: Abyssal Persecutor prevents its controller from winning the game as long as it's in play, so you'd better have one of these planned.
  • Utility Party Member: The creatures in most "Combo" and "Control" decks qualify. Rarely are they chosen for their power and toughness. Instead, they are included for the abilities they possess to synergize with the other cards in the deck.
  • Vendor Trash:
    • The series has many "Junk Rares"; cards that are indeed rare but have no real competitive value. Their rarity means they can still be sold for a pretty penny, but they usually go to collectors looking to fill out their collection rather than competitive players seeking to actually use them.
    • In the Shandalar computer game, this is the only realistic source of early-game gold; always accept cards when winning a battle, then find the nearest town and sell the bad ones.
  • Walking Wasteland:
    • Phage the Untouchable is a prominent example. Bringing her into play by any means other than casting her from your hand causes you to lose the game immediately. Whenever she deals damage to a creature, even if said creature would have enough toughness to survive, it is destroyed and cannot be regenerated. Finally, if she deals damage to a player, that player automatically loses the game.
    • Cabal Patriarch adds -2/-2 counters to target creatures, which is activated by sacrificing creatures or by exiling cards from your graveyard.
    • Creatures with the keywords "deathtouch" and "wither" also qualify. Those with deathtouch automatically kill any creature they damage. Those with wither add -1/-1 counters to creatures they damage on top of whatever damage they do.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Some of the best, most useful creatures in the game are this. They may have low power and low toughness, but have abilities (draw extra cards, add additional lands to the field, search your deck for specific things, etc.) which make them invaluable.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The reason that most large creatures ultimately fall under Awesome, but Impractical is because they can easily be dealt with simple, cheap, and ubiquitous spells like the one-mana Unsummon. A great specific example is Marit Lage, an ancient Eldritch Abomination summoned from Dark Depths who, at 20/20, is capable of killing a planeswalker in a single hit, and who requires 30 mana to summon under normal circumstances, can be undone with a simple Unsummon.
  • Weapon of X-Slaying: The Hedron Blade grants its wielder the Deathtouch ability in combat with colorless creatures. Flavor-wise this is likely meant to deal with the Eldrazi, but in practice it works just as well against the vast majority of artifact creatures (Eldrazi and most artifact creatures are colorless).
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?:
    • Shelkin Brownie's special ability is to remove the "Bands with other" ability from creatures. In the history of Magic, there are two cards with the "Bands from other" ability: the 1/1 tokens created by Master of the Hunt, and the Unhinged card Old Fogey, which is illegal in every format and only has the ability as a joke (the only creatures he can band with, aside from creatures that have the regular Banding ability, are other copies of himself). Oh, plus a cycle of lands that are serious contenders for "Worst card in the game" and probably shouldn't count. Good old Shelkin Brownie, keeping the world safe from four-mana 1/1s and legendary lands that don't produce mana!
    • The infamously bad card Great Wall is an enchantment that stops creatures with the Plainswalk ability. At the time of its printing, this included exactly two cards, both of them craptastic: Righteous Avengers, a 3/1 for 5 mana with no other abilities; and Giant Slug, which could only gain Plainswalk by paying 5 mana a turn. Good thing we built that wall, right?
  • When I Was Your Age...: The Unhinged Parody set has Old Fogey and its accompanying flavor text.
    These kids today with their collector numbers and their newfangled tap symbol. Twenty Black Lotuses and 20 Plague Rats. Now that's real Magic.
  • White Magic: A specialty of white magic, naturally. Many white cards are geared toward healing and protection, without the nasty side-effects or drawbacks other colors have for the same effects, as well as non-fatally disabling or pacifying opponents (typically referred to as "removal"). It also contains its fair share of Holy Hand Grenades to eliminate threats.
  • Wooden Stake: Wooden Stake adds +1/0 to the creature equipping it, and also allows it to One-Hit KO vampire creatures.
  • The Worf Effect: On a metagame level. When new sets are released, they frequently contain cards which exist to counter the dominant strategies of the previous set. A player trying to use the old strategy against a player with the new cards will quickly find that their strategy has become a Worf Barrage.
  • Xanatos Gambit:
    • Rhystic Study / Mystic Remora: If they pay the mana, they have that much less. If they don't, well, you get another card.
    • Standstill: They play spells, you draw a whopping three cards. They don't play spells, you get an advantage provided you built your deck around this being beneficial.
    • Choice of Damnations: Your opponent chooses a number, and you then decide whether he loses that many life points or keeps that many permanents, while the rest is sacrificed. (A low number would mean that your opponent loses almost all of his cards, and a high number would mean a large life loss.)
    • Mass creature removal, such as Wrath of God: Control decks use these mostly against aggro, so aggro players will find themselves having to restrain their use of creatures, lest they all be wiped by a single card. But if he doesn't Zerg Rush, he may be heading for a long game, which is when control decks excel.
    • Various creatures have effects if they're blocked, punishing the blocking player. Of note is Slith Strider, which has an ability that triggers when it's blocked, and one that triggers when it deals combat damage to a player.
    • Ichorclaw Myr: Take the attack and gain a poison counter (possibly more if it gets buffed), sacrifice a low-toughness creature to absorb the attack, or have a big beastie suffer a sizable, permanent power/toughness loss.
    • Phyrexian Obliterator cruelly employs this trope. While its earlier counterpart, Phyrexian Negator, actually encouraged the opponent to deal damage to it so that the controller would have to sacrifice something, Obliterator turns that around and makes it so that whoever's responsible for the damage has to sacrifice permanents. It can be a pain for your opponent to get rid of without causing its ability to go off. Oh—it's also an undercosted trampler, so they'll have to block it and/or destroy it, or it'll destroy them in 4 turns flat.
    • Vexing Devil gives the enemy player a choice of either being punched in the face by a uber-lightning bolt, or having to face down a 4/3 on turn 2. For the record, a creature was considered tournament-worthy if it could get down as a 3/2 on turn 2.
    • Zulaport Cutthroat is popular for its ability to create these, especially during the final stages of the game: Either your opponent blocks your creatures and takes lethal damage from Cutthroat's effect or they don't block and take lethal damage from attacks. Of course, one can Take a Third Option by killing Cutthroat with a removal card before combat.
  • "YEAH!" Shot: Used in a photo from the official coverage of Day 3 of the Pro Tour: Dark Ascension tournament; it's a group shot of the Top 8 all in mid-jump.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: The entire point of the Illusion tribe of creatures. They can kill other creatures and deal damage to players and planeswalkers just like any other creature, but if they are targeted by anything, they die.
  • You're Nothing Without Your Phlebotinum: Some cards, such as the Primalcrux for example, have variable power and toughness which change based on things like the power of the other cards you have on the field or the amount of lands you have played.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • As mentioned above, aggro decks, especially "weenie" decks. Most (in)famous are Goblins (the Little Red Men), White Weenie (soldiers, knights, and birds of prey), and the Mirrodin block's Ravager Affinity (a rapid-fire Game-Breaker-laden deck which can inflict sudden death very rapidly on a good opening hand).
    • Kuldotha Red. Capable of (potentially) producing as many as seven creatures in turn one.
    • Single-card examples include Swarm of Rats, among others.
    • Token-based decks revolve around cards that create multiple creatures at once. After gathering a large enough army, the little minions are usually either given a mass buff or sacrificed for a positive effect in order to finish the opponent.
    • Relentless Rats. Not only do they gain power and toughness for every other Relentless Rats card in play, you can have as many of them in your deck as you want. With ten of these things, that's enough to completely overwhelm most opponents.
  • Zombie Gait: Evoked with some of the Innistrad zombies. Diregraf Ghoul is a good example—it comes into play tapped to represent its slow gait. M11's Rotting Legion does the same thing. Parodied with Extremely Slow Zombie, which is so slow that it suffers from an inverse Action Initiative — nearly anything can hit it before it hits back.
  • Zombify the Living: The card Skeletonize burns away a creature's flesh and (assuming three damage will kill it) leaves behind an undead skeleton under your command.


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