MTG Wiki

The term "evergreen", as in the context of "an evergreen keyword", refers to keywords or keyword actions that are regularly seen in premier sets.[1] This is in contrast to deciduous, which are also available for sets but not always called upon. If not a set mechanic, most creature keyword abilities are evergreen.

As the core set has always been the place for new players to start, as of Eighth Edition it was decided to include reminder text with the evergreen creature keywords.[2]

Primary/secondary/tertiary[ | ]

When talking about which colors get which evergreen creature keywords, R&D tends to talk about a system called "primary/secondary/tertiary". In their quest to differentiate the colors in the color wheel, each should have strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, not every color gets every keyword.[3][4][5]

  • Primary — This is the color (or colors) the ability is seen most in as-fan.[6] That means it shows up in the highest volume and usually at the lowest rarity that the type of effects get used at. The primary color will almost always get this effect in a set if it's an ability we do every set. It also tends to be the color that most often pushes the power level, if it's an effect we push the power level on. There's a wide range on what primary means, because different types of effects exist at different levels. A color secondary in flying can show up way more than a color primary in taking extra turns, for instance, because there are more flying cards than extra-turn cards.
  • Secondary — This is the color (or colors) that an ability shows up in on a somewhat regular basis, but not as often as the primary and not always in as low of rarity as the primary. If the effect is something we do a lot of, the secondary color will usually get the ability in most sets. Sometimes a secondary color will have restrictions. For instance, red is secondary in flying, but only on Dragons and Phoenixes.
  • Tertiary — This is the color (or colors) that get the ability occasionally. It's not every set. For some abilities, we could go years without seeing a tertiary color using it. Tertiary colors can often come with rules, meaning it's a very narrow subset that makes use of the mechanic. For example, black is tertiary in first strike and gets it primarily on Knights, most often when paired against a mirrored white Knight.

Current evergreen keywords[ | ]

Keyword Type Found in First used in First keyworded in
Activate Action All colors Alpha Sixth Edition
Attach Action All colors Mirrodin Mirrodin
Cast Action All colors Alpha Alpha
Counter Action {PU} Alpha Alpha
Create Action All colors Alpha Kaladesh
Destroy Action All colors Alpha Alpha
Discard Action All colors Alpha Alpha
Exchange Action All colors Alpha Sixth Edition
Exile Action All colors Alpha Magic 2010
Fight Action {PG}{SR} Visions Innistrad
Mill Action {PU}{SB} Antiquities Core Set 2021
Play Action All colors Alpha Alpha
Reveal Action All colors Sixth Edition Sixth Edition
Sacrifice Action All colors Alpha Revised Edition
Scry Action {PU}{SW}{SB}{SR}{SG} Alliances Fifth Dawn
Search Action All colors Alpha Alpha
Shuffle Action All colors Alpha Alpha
Tap/Untap Action All colors Alpha Alpha

Multiplayer only[ | ]

One keyword is evergreen in multiplayer games only.[7]

Keyword Type Found in First used in First keyworded in
Goad Action All colors Commander 2017 Commander 2017

Abilities[ | ]

New Icon Old Icon Keyword Type Found in First used in First keyworded in
Mtga deathtouch Duels Deathtouch symbol Deathtouch Static ability {PB}{SG} Future Sight Future Sight
Mtga defender Duels Defender symbol Defender Static ability Walls in all colors[notes 1][8] Alpha Betrayers of Kamigawa
Mtga double strike Duels Double Strike symbol Double strike Static ability {PW}{PR} Legions Legions
Enchant Static ability Auras of all colors Alpha[notes 2] Alpha
Equip Activated ability Equipment


Mtga first strike Duels First Strike symbol First strike Static ability {PW}{PR}{TB} Alpha Alpha
MTGA Flash Flash Static ability {PU}{SG}{SW}{SB}{TR}[4][9] Visions Time Spiral
Mtga flying Duels Flying symbol Flying Static ability {PW}{PU}{SB}{TR} Alpha Alpha
Ability-Haste Duels Haste symbol Haste Static ability {PR}{SG}{TB}[10]


Sixth Edition
Mtga hexproof Duels Hexproof symbol Hexproof Static ability {PU}{SG}{TW}{TB}[11] Portal Three Kingdoms Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012
Mtga indestructible Duels Indestructible symbol Indestructible Static ability Artifacts and {PW}{SG}{SB}{TU}{TR} Alpha Darksteel
Mtga lifelink Duels Lifelink symbol Lifelink Static ability {PW}{SB} Arabian Nights, Mirrodin[notes 3] Future Sight
Menace Menace[12] Static ability {PB}{SR}{TG} Fallen Empires Magic Origins‎
Duels Protection symbol Protection Static ability {PW}{SU}{TB}{TR}{TG} Alpha Alpha
Mtga reach Duels Reach symbol Reach Static ability {PG}{SR}{TW}[13][14] Alpha Future Sight
Mtga trample Duels Trample symbol Trample Static ability {PG}{SR}{TU}{TB} Alpha Alpha
Mtga vigilance Duels Vigilance symbol Vigilance Static ability {PW}{SU}{SG} Alpha Champions of Kamigawa
MTGSymbols-Ward Ward Static ability All colors Magic 2011 Strixhaven: School of Mages

Former evergreen keywords[ | ]

Actions[ | ]

Icon Keyword Type Found in First used in First keyworded in Last used in Supplanted by
Ante Action Artifacts, black, red, green Alpha Alpha Homelands Nothing
Bury Action All colors Revised Edition Revised Edition Fifth Edition Destroy [something]. It can't be regenerated.
Duels Regenerate symbol Regenerate Action {PG}{SB} Alpha Alpha Oath of the Gatewatch Indestructible (until end of turn)[15]

Abilities[ | ]

Icon Keyword Type Found in First used in First keyworded in Last used in Supplanted by
Banding Static ability {PW} Alpha Alpha Weatherlight Nothing
Duels Fear symbol Fear Static ability {PB} Alpha Onslaught Doctor Who Intimidate
Duels Shroud symbol Shroud Static ability {PG}{SU} Legends

Future Sight

Fallout Hexproof
Duels Intimidate symbol Intimidate Static ability {PB}{SR} Zendikar Zendikar Fallout Menace
Duels Landwalk symbol Landwalk Static ability {PU} (islandwalk)
{PB} (swampwalk)
{SR} (mountainwalk)
{SG} (forestwalk)
{TW} (plainswalk)
Alpha Alpha Doctor Who Nothing
MTGA Prowess Prowess Triggered ability {PU}{PR}{SW} Khans of Tarkir Khans of Tarkir Modern Horizons 3 Nothing, but this mechanic is now deciduous.

Most these have been obsoleted, but protection was considered to be deciduous. It is a tool in R&D's toolbox that they're allowed to use, but it's not something they expect to use in every set.[12]

However, protection was reinstated as Evergreen in Core Set 2020.

Evergreen keywords by color[ | ]

Color Primary Secondary Tertiary Obsolete
{W} White Defender, double strike, first strike, flying, indestructible, lifelink, vigilance Scry Flash, hexproof, reach, trample Banding
{U} Blue Counter, flash, flying, hexproof, scry Defender, vigilance Indestructible, trample Landwalk, shroud
{B} Black Deathtouch, menace Defender, flash, flying, indestructible, lifelink, scry First strike, haste, hexproof, trample Fear, intimidate, regenerate
{R} Red Double strike, first strike, haste Defender, fight,[16] menace, reach,[13][14] scry, trample Flash, flying, indestructible Intimidate
{G} Green Fight, reach, trample Deathtouch, defender, flash, haste, hexproof, indestructible, scry, vigilance Flying, menace Regenerate, shroud
{C} Colorless Equip, indestructible

Of particular note are the evergreen creature keywords that are each shared between two colors.[17] Prowess formerly served as the red/blue keyword before it lost its evergreen status.

Evergreen keyword matters[ | ]

A small set of cards reward having multiple evergreen keywords amongst one's cards, usually on the battlefield or in the graveyard. One case is from drafting (Animus of Predation) and one is from the library (Selective Adaptation). These cards are an unusual class of mechanical relevance as "Evergreen Keyword" is not a defined term, so they often list eight or more abilities in its rules text. This list has a tendency to change every printing as evergreen mechanics are introduced or are deprecated and can't be updated with errata as it would make a functional change to the card. A brief list of interesting results follows:

  • The first "instance" of this, Escaped Shapeshifter, only had flying, first strike, trample and protection amongst its options, as common keywords double strike, haste, deathtouch, vigilance, menace, reach and lifelink were not keyworded yet. It also required the opponent to be the one with the keyworded creatures.
  • Death-Mask Duplicant and Concerted Effort included fear and landwalk, which later were deprecated. Death-Mask Duplicant excludes vigilance as it was keyworded in Champions of Kamigawa, while Concerted Effort excludes haste as it is an upkeep trigger. Later keyword-granting effects do so at beginning of combat as to keep haste relevant.
  • Cairn Wanderer is the only one of these that has Shroud, being the only design of this style made in the four years between Future Sight keywording it and Hexproof replacing it in Magic 2012.
  • Odric, Lunarch Marshal lists Skulk, suggesting that it was intended to be an evergreen keyword before reception and gameplay determined otherwise. Curiously, it is also the only one to use first strike as the example rather than flying.
  • Thunderous Orator gains abilities when attacking, so the defensive keywords hexproof and reach are left out, as are haste and vigilance, for obvious reasons.
  • Odric, Blood-Cursed is the only one of these whose keyword counting has nothing to do with combat, instead creating a blood for each keyword.
  • Indominus Rex, Alpha gains keyword counters, which introduces the haste keyword counter, in contrast to Kathril, Aspect Warper. It also inexplicably switches the order of hexproof and haste in its listing.

Notes[ | ]

  1. Originally the creature type "Wall" carried the special rule that the creature couldn't attack. This was removed with the release of Champions of Kamigawa. Walls printed prior to that set have received errata giving them defender. Additionally, Wall of Junk, which used to be able to attack, was given defender and the Wall subtype.
  2. By errata as of Ninth Edition. Originally cards that now have the subtype Aura were "local enchantments", with a type including what it could enchant, such as "enchant creature" or "enchant land".
  3. Some older cards were received errata to have lifelink, but then the change was reverted after the M10 rules update. The oldest card that ever had lifelink was El-Hajjâj in Arabian Nights. The oldest card that currently has lifelink post-errata is Loxodon Warhammer in Mirrodin.

References[ | ]

  1. Mark Rosewater (June 18, 2007). "Keyword Play". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater (August 05, 2013). "Twenty Things That Were Going To Kill Magic". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (November 6, 2015) "Primary/Secondary/Tertiary". Drive to Work # 276
  4. a b Mark Rosewater (June 5, 2017). "Mechanical Color Pie 2017". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Mark Rosewater (October 18, 2021). "Mechanical Color Pie 2021". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Mark Rosewater (November 10, 2021). "What exactly does it mean for a color to be "primary in a mechanic?"". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  7. You'll Be Seeing MORE of this Mechanic! (Video). Good Morning Magic. YouTube (March 2, 2022).
  8. Mark Rosewater (October 04, 2004). "Change For the Better". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Mark Rosewater (January 14, 2018). "Flash has been upgraded to secondary in black.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  10. Mark Rosewater (December 09, 2018). "Is vengvine a bend in green having haste and all?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  11. Mark Rosewater (April 03, 2016). "What was the thought process behind not giving Elusive Tormentor a blue activation cost?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  12. a b Mark Rosewater (June 8, 2015). "Evergreen Eggs & Ham". Wizards of the Coast.
  13. a b Mark Rosewater (2015-07-05). "How do you feel about the red Giant in orgins having reach?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  14. a b Mark Rosewater (2017-04-14). "Is Reach in Red's pie now?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  15. Mark Rosewater (2016-09-16). "Rush of Vitality?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  16. Mark Rosewater (2015-09-10). "Could colours other than green have fight effects?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  17. Mark Rosewater (February 17, 2019). "What are the color pairings’ evergreen mechanics?". Blogatog. Tumblr.