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An ability word is a word that thematically groups cards with a common functionality, but has no special meaning in the Comprehensive Rules.[1]

Description[ | ]

Because they indicate flavor rather than rules text, ability words are printed in italics and are separated from their corresponding rules text by an em-dash. Ability words are used to label mechanics that cannot be keyworded.[2] From a design standpoint, the important thing to note about an ability word is that you can't refer to it mechanically.[3]

History[ | ]

Ability words were introduced with Unhinged's gotcha, and were first printed on tournament-legal cards in Saviors of Kamigawa with channel and sweep. Some earlier unnamed mechanics, such as Invasion block's domain, have retroactively received ability words. Odyssey block's threshold was errataed during rules changes in Time Spiral block to be an ability word, rather than a keyword, as was Mirrodin block's imprint with the release of Scars of Mirrodin.

Ability words are distinct from keyword actions and keyword abilities. Collectively, they are described as mechanics.

Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms adopts a very loose approach to ability words called flavor words, which are used to represent themed actions, character feats or magic, or monster abilities, instead of grouping similarly functioning cards.

As of 2023, R&D started experimenting with doing more one-of existing ability words in sets, as the card text explains everything and thus an ability word comes at less of a mental cost.[4]

Rules[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

Ability Word
An italicized word with no rules meaning that ties together abilities on different cards that have similar functionality. See rule 207.2c.

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 207.2c An ability word appears in italics at the beginning of some abilities. Ability words are similar to keywords in that they tie together cards that have similar functionality, but they have no special rules meaning and no individual entries in the Comprehensive Rules. The ability words are adamant, addendum, alliance, battalion, bloodrush, celebration, channel, chroma, cohort, constellation, converge, council’s dilemma, coven, delirium, descend 4, descend 8, domain, eminence, enrage, fateful hour, fathomless descent, ferocious, formidable, grandeur, hellbent, heroic, imprint, inspired, join forces, kinship, landfall, lieutenant, magecraft, metalcraft, morbid, pack tactics, paradox, parley, radiance, raid, rally, revolt, secret council, spell mastery, strive, sweep, tempting offer, threshold, undergrowth, and will of the council.

Examples[ | ]

Examples of ability words are:

  • Metalcraft — {Additional or alternate effect} if you control three or more artifacts.
  • Sweep — Return any number of {basic land types} you control to their owner's hand. {An effect based on the number of lands returned.}

List of ability words[ | ]

Acorn ability words[ | ]

See also[ | ]

References[ | ]