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A mechanic is a card ability or element that can be repeated on multiple cards. The word mechanic has no meaning in the Comprehensive Rules, it's merely a design concept.[1][2]

Categories[ | ]

Mechanics are typically categorized as follows:

  • Keyword abilities or often shortened to "keywords": words attached to rules text, that represent an ability that is constant. They come with reminder text, except if they are evergreen.
  • Keyword actions: verbs that have a special rules meaning. Sometimes reminder text summarizes their meanings.
  • Ability words are words that group cards that have a common functionality and do not imply any particular rules.
  • Miscellaneous mechanics: mechanics that are not clearly classified. They don't have to be named.[2]

Keyword abilities and keyword actions are closely related. Both represent a longer segment of rules text and may allow variable costs and effects. Because they have a specific rules meaning and are listed in the Comprehensive Rules, keywords of either type can be referenced from other cards. They differ in that keyword abilities are either characteristics of objects or are objects themselves, whereas keyword actions describe game-related actions.

For example, the keyword ability enchant, as in Enchant creature, states a restriction on the valid targets for an aura. The related keyword action attach describes the process of physically putting such an aura onto its target.

Ability words have no rules meaning, but exist to name and flavorfully link otherwise unnamed mechanics. Like flavor text, ability words are italicized. Because they have no rules meaning, and are not listed in the Comprehensive Rules, ability words are never referenced on other cards.[3]

Parasitic[ | ]

A mechanic is considered parasitic when it only interacts with other things in a particular set rather than the rest of Magic. Examples are horsemanship and splice onto Arcane.[4][5][6] It’s the opposite of a backwards-compatible mechanic: mechanics whose depth in building and playing increase with prior printed cards.[7]

Linear[ | ]

R&D talks about things being “linear” in that they dictate other cards mechanically.[8][9] Colorless matters is very linear in that it dictates having cards to provide the colorless mana.[10] As the cost for adding colorless mana is rather severe, the player is encouraged to maximize on colorless costs to reap the most benefit. Tribal cards tend to fall into this category.

  • Anti-linear” means the opposite. The more cards with the same mechanic you have, it gets worse, as multiple cards compete for the same fuel, and said fuel is constrained by the game engine. Examples are Atogs, processors, delve and heroic.[11][12]

Modular[ | ]

Modular design elements are not dependent on other design elements.[13][14][15]

Scalable[ | ]

A scaling mechanic is any mechanic that can exist at different levels and thus must be designed to have its effects work at a variety of magnitudes.[16][2]

An effect that scales by number is something where the effect involves a number and some element can change what that number is. Examples of scaling by number are domain, an X spell or party. An effect that scales by volume is one where a basic effect can be copied numerous times. Examples of scaling by volume are replicate or multikicker.

Smoothing[ | ]

A "smoothing mechanic" either helps a player draw cards or manipulates the top of the library to increase the quality of the card draws.[2] The costs are usually low in mana as the primary function of smoothers are to allow access to the first few lands. High synergy sets tend to require a smoothing mechanic to help ensure the various card combinations occur often enough. Examples are cycling, scry and foretell.

See also[ | ]

External links[ | ]

References[ | ]

  1. Mark Rosewater (January 21, 2002). "Finding a Good Mechanic". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. a b c d Mark Rosewater (January 10, 2022). "Even More Words From R&D". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (July 28, 2008). "Ability Word To Your Mother". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater (December 29, 2013). "Where is Horsemanship on the Storm scale?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  5. Mark Rosewater (December 12, 2015). "I am worried that C as a mana cost will end up being a parasitic thing". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  6. Mark Rosewater (December 12, 2015). "It seems like people constantly misunderstand what counts as parasitic or not.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  7. Mark Rosewater (July 21, 2021). "Is there a reason that magic has been using...". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  8. Mark Rosewater (May 10, 2015). "What is a linear mechanic?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  9. Mark Rosewater (October 6, 2003). "Come Together". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Mark Rosewater (December 12, 2015). "How do you define something that is "parasitic" in its own set?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  11. Mark Rosewater (December 12, 2015). "Is there a word for the opposite of a Linear mechanic?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  12. Mark Rosewater (January 03, 2016). "You have previously used the term "anti-linear"...". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  13. Mark Rosewater (October 18, 2016). "Do modular spells have more or less design space than normal spells?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  14. Mark Rosewater (May 10, 2015). "For clarity, can you give an example of a modular mechanic?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  15. Mark Rosewater (August 25, 2016). "Do you find it funny that modular is a linear mechanic?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  16. Mark Rosewater (September 14, 2020). "Zendikar Rising Stars". Wizards of the Coast.