MTG Wiki
Keyword Ability
Type Static
Introduced MTG Arena
Last Used MTG Arena
Reminder Text Backbone (This creature assigns combat damage equal to its toughness instead of its power.)
13 cards
{C} 7.7% {W} 30.8% {G} 15.4% {W/U} 7.7% {G/W} 15.4% {B/G} 7.7% {M} 15.4%
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Backbone is a MTG Arena-specific keyword ability that causes creatures to deal damage based on their toughness.


Backbone was introduced in the March 12, 2020 Game Update ([1] According to Matt Tabak, the term will not be appearing on printed Magic cards now or in the foreseeable future.[2] It isn't part of the Comprehensive Rules.

Doran, the Siege Tower was the first card to have this effect, and uniquely amongst other Backbone cards affected all creatures, which had an impact on Standard and Extended decks by being a midrange's deck haymaker against aggressive decks.

Due to the design principles of making defenders, those that allow defenders to attack often pair with Backbone. Some of these effects are printed as draft build-arounds, and sometimes cross over into constructed. As toughness scaling cost less per point and tends to prolong a game, Backbone decks have some advantages over other build-arounds.

A related and unique effect is Zilortha, Strength Incarnate, where it receives damage through its power.

Cards granting backbone[]


  1. MTG Arenea Admin (March 12, 2020). "MAR 12 - Game Update".
  2. "New" keyword for Ikoria?. Reddit (March 12, 2020).