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Keyword Ability
Type Static
Introduced Ravnica: City of Guilds
Last Used Alara Reborn
Reminder Text No official reminder text
Statistics Never printed on a Magic card
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Substance is an obsolete keyword ability that had no inherent effect. It existed only in Oracle rules text, and was never printed on a Magic card. It was created by then-Rules Manager Mark Gottlieb in order to fix some cards for the Magic Online release of Mirage.[1]


From the Comprehensive Rules (May 1, 2009—Alara Reborn)

  • 502.49. Substance (Obsolete)
    • 502.49a Substance is a static ability with no effect.

Old Rulings[]

  • If you play one of these at a time you could normally play an Aura, or it is put directly into play without being played, it will behave as a standard Aura. You can ignore its entire first ability.
  • If you play one of these at a time you couldn't normally play an Aura, it will create a delayed triggered ability that forces you to sacrifice it when the turn ends. You'll sacrifice it after "until end of turn" abilities end and damage is removed from creatures. That means if you play Soar as an instant to save your 1/1 creature from Flare, your creature will survive even after Soar is sacrificed.


Substance was introduced in the rules update for Ravnica: City of Guilds in 2005. It restored the original functionality to a set of cards that no longer functioned as they had when first printed, due to timing rules changes in the Sixth Edition rules update.

The rules changes for Fourth Edition, Mirage, Fifth Edition, and Sixth Edition all sought to simplify the turn structure. In particular, each update modified the timing of what became the modern ending phase.

Most of the cards that eventually received the substance keyword were printed under timing rules that were introduced in Mirage. During this period, the main phase was followed by a discard phase, and then a cleanup phase. In the cleanup phase, effects with the wording "until end of turn" expired at the same moment that damage on creatures was erased. Afterwards, at the end of the cleanup phase, effects with the wording "at end of turn" took effect.

The Sixth Edition rules update altered that procedure subtly by introducing the modern turn structure. The cleanup phase was renamed the end phase, and split into an end step, followed by a cleanup step. However, at the same time, effects that occurred "at end of turn" were moved forward to the beginning of the end step, while "until end of turn" effects expired along with damage during the cleanup step.

For most cards and scenarios, this changed little. However, a small number of cards now expired before intended, causing them to lose their intended purpose. For example, Armor of Thorns, which grants a creature +2/+2, was printed to be sacrificed "at end of turn" when cast as though it had flash. At the time, the added toughness allowed the card to be used to save a creature which would otherwise die from damage, as the damage would expire before the aura. Under the Sixth Edition rules, however, the Armor would be sacrificed prior to damage being removed from creatures.

Substance resolved the issue by adding a triggered ability to the cards and permanents affected in this way. The Oracle text for those cards granted the objects in question substance until end of turn, along with a delayed trigger ability that triggered when substance was lost, at the beginning of the next cleanup step, thereby letting the cards work the same way that players expected them to. With that change, the trigger occurred simultaneously with the removal of damage, and the permanents which had had substance were sacrificed slightly later, when the triggered ability resolved.

Substance was removed from the cards which had used it as part of the Magic 2010 Rules Changes. Rather than using substance, the permanents all gained a delayed triggered ability that occurred "at the beginning of the next cleanup step". This wording is slightly misleading, as several things can happen during the cleanup step before these abilities trigger, but it has same net effect as was accomplished with substance.[2]

Cards affected[]


  1. Wizards of the Coast (March 1, 2006). "Ask Wizards - March, 2006". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark L. Gottlieb (July 8, 2009). "July 2009 Update Bulletin — Sweeping Card Changes". Wizards of the Coast.