Lexicon: Common Keywords and Abilities
Keywords are abilities that many cards, usually creatures, have. They're abilities common to many cards, and so they are given a single keyword to save space on the card for other text. Keywords can be activated abilities or they can be passive abilities, and new keywords are released with every set. This list is the common keywords that appear in most every set. For a more comprehensive list, check out this wikipedia page.
Deathtouch - A creature ability, Deathtouch means when a creature is dealt damage by a creature with Deathtouch, it is destroyed. This allows a puny 1/1 to destroy a huge 8/8 creature, although the 1/1 will be destroyed itself.
Defender - Formerly the passive ability that wall-type creatures had, Defender is "Creatures with Defender cannot attack." Just as it sounds, it is usually used on creatures with high toughness but little or no power; purely defensive creatures.
First Strike, Double Strike - These two abilities are similar. In combat, damage is dealt in two phases. First, creatures with first strike deal their damage, and that damage is resolved. Any creature without first strike, if it is dealt lethal damage by a first strike creature, will die before it can deal damage in return. Second, normal creatures deal their damage. The advantage is obvious; a first strike creature can kill a standard creature with no harm to itself. Double Strike is "This Creature deals both first strike damage and regular damage." This effectively doubles the creatures power.
Flying, Reach - These two abilities are adversarial. Creatures with flying can only be blocked by other creatures with flying or by creatures with Reach. Creatures with Reach are creatures that are not flying themselves, but can block creatures with flying. A flying creature can attack over the heads of non-flying, non-reach blockers, but a creature with Reach can be blocked normally.
Haste - Formerly "This creature is unaffected by summoning sickness." Haste means the creature can attack or use tap abilities the turn it comes into play under your control, instead of having to wait a turn.
Landwalk - Usually written with a specific land, such as Forestwalk or Mountainwalk, the Landwalk ability means that the creature cannot be blocked if the defending player controls that type of land. A creature with Mountainwalk cannot be blocked by a player who controls a mountain, and so on.
Lifelink - Creatures with Lifelink benefit their controller. Any damage that a creature with lifelink deals is given to that creature's controller in the form of life. A 1/1 with lifelink will deal one damage and it's controller will gain 1 life.
Protection - Written as Protection from (quality), a creature with protection cannot be harmed or targeted by something with that quality. Usually this is a color; for instance, a creature with Protection from Red cannot be damaged by red creatures and cannot be targeted by red spells. The quality can be other things as well; Protection from Artifacts, Protection from Creatures, and so on. One notorious card even has Protection from Everything.
Shroud - A creature or other card with Shroud is untargetable. Shroud means "This card cannot be targeted by spells or abilities." This shows up most often on creatures, but sometimes appears on other cards.
Trample - A creature with trample is usually a large one, 4/4 or more. Trample means that if the creature is blocked by a creature with less toughness than the attacker has power, it will deal the rest of it's damage on to the defending player. A 7/7 blocked by a 4/4 will deal 4 damage to the defending creature and 3 damage to the defending player.
Vigilance - "Attacking does not cause this creature to tap." This allows the attacking creature to still be able to block and use tap abilities even during or after it's attack.
Regenerate - Regenerate is a creature ability with a cost, usually in mana, but sometimes in the form of sacrificing cards. A creature with regenerate, if it is dealt lethal damage, can shrug off the damage and remain alive if the regenerate cost is paid.
Set Keywords - Every new set of Magic cards printed has a few new keywords created specifically for that set, usually to enhance the flavor of a specific cycle of cards. These are many and varied, but they always have explanation text next to them detailing their ability.
So there you have it, a good glossary of keywords for this Beginner's guide to Magic the Gathering Rules of Play. Hopefully this will help you learn just how to play Magic the Gathering.
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