The wait is over, after Maro gave us all a little teaser the other day there was lots of speculation going around as to what that new evergreen keyword ability was going to be when Magic: The Gathering Strixhaven hit later this year. Now we know, Ward is a keyword ability that protects creatures from being targeted by spells and abilities, but it works in a very different way to Hexproof.
Ward Should Bring Some Interesting Dynamics To Magic: The Gathering Strixhaven
New mechanics are always the most fun part of any new Magic: The Gathering set, and Strixhaven is no exception. It's even more exciting when the new mechanics are part of an evergreen keyword, and will almost certainly go on to change how we play the game for years to come. Ward seems like it's an interesting new addition to the formula, preventing creatures from being targetting by spells or abilities unless the caster pays extra mana to get those effects through. The actual template is:
Ward [COST] (Whenever this permanent becomes the target of a spell or ability an opponent controls, counter it unless that player pays [COST].)
Basically, it's Hexproof but you can ignore it if you've got enough mana on the board. That's really what makes it so interested though. Rather than just straight-up shutting down any card interactions unless they're board wipes, this effect gives offending players options to choose from. Sure, you could use a hand attack to remove that annoying Ward creature, but is it worth it with that extra mana cost? Even if it is worth it, that might leave you completely empty of mana with no way to respond on your opponent's turn.
Still Got Hexproof
Ward is part of an ongoing experiment at Wizards of the Coast to try and figure out a decent way of handling protection-type effects. Back in the day, giving a creature protection against a certain color was the go-to solution, but that's a bit of a janky answer that only works in very specific situations. Shroud was the first keyword iteration of the ability, but since it also prevented the controller's abilities from getting through it wasn't the most popular keyword ability in the game.
Hexproof solved most of those issues for the caster, but sometimes the result could be incredibly annoying to play against (I'm looking at you Fleecemane Lion.) Ward seems like a good answer to that issue, allowing some cards to be Hexproof without them becoming incredibly annoying to deal with or play around. Don't worry though, Ward won't actually be replacing Hexproof, it's just another weapon in Wizards' arsenal to make Magic even more interesting.
New Details on Mystical Archive and The List
Luckily, there are even more details than just the new mechanic on display. We also learned that Strixhaven's Mystical Archive will total 63 cards in all broken up as following:
- 18 uncommon,
- 30 rare,
- 15 mythic rare cards.
It's important to note that inclusion in the Mystical Archive does not change format legality - with the exception of Historic on Arena, and even that has a caveat as 7 cards of the Mystical Archive will be banned in that format. The uncommons are currently all legal in Standard, but that may change when Standard rotates in the Fall.
There are also 55 new cards that have been added to "The List" for Strixhaven. The List is a series of cards from Magic: The Gathering history that can be found in the final slot of Set Boosters about 25% of the time. These cards aren't about to be legal in Standard play, but it's still a great opportunity to get your hands on some older cards. Of course as new cards come, old cards go, and 55 cards also had to be dropped to see these new additions.
If you're interested you can check out our preview of Magic: The Gathering Strixhaven right now. The new set is expected to hit shelves on April 23rd.