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The Pen is Mightier than the Ward | MTG Ward Mechanic

Ok, the title doesn’t make any sense but if you haven’t guessed already this article is about Magic’s ward ability. Ward has been in the game for years but it was only just added as an official keyword in Strixhaven.

Ward Mechanic in MTG

Ward’s a pretty simple ability but it’s one that can be easily forgotten about or misunderstood. Let’s take a look at what ward does and how you can use it to your advantage.

Ward gives a creature the ability to “ward off” damage from spells and abilities. When the warded creature would be dealt damage, that damage is instead redirected to the creature with ward.

Ward is simply an abbreviation of:

whenever this permanent becomes the target of a spell or ability an opponent controls, counter it unless that player pays X.

You can see how much of a mouthful the old-style text was on cards like Frost Titan, that would read ‘Ward 2’ instead if they were reprinted, which is where the mechanic got its older namesake, ‘frost armor’ from.

Let’s be honest, ward isn’t the most exciting keyword in the game—it just slightly stops stuff from killing your stuff. It’s not on a part with, say, double strike or indestructible for that matter. It doesn’t have much of a wow factor, no matter how high the ward cost gets (see Octavia, Living Thesis).

I’m not even going to try and argue that ward is one of the most important mechanics in Magic because it just isn’t. So why am I writing this article about ward?

Why Should We Care About Ward?

Well, because I think it’s an underrated and often overlooked ability that has a lot of potential. It can be used in a lot of different ways, and it’s something that I think more players should be aware of.

Hexproof and shroud, the grandaddies of ward, are too strong to be as ubiquitous as flying, trample, first strike or menace. Even a lowly 1/1 like Slippery Bogle can become an unstoppable threat with enough enchantments piled on it because it has hexproof.

Ward enables creatures to have a little protection without making them outright unfair. It enables a  finer spectrum of protection than hexproof, shroud or even protection too. Ward can be anything from discarding cards, to paying mana or life. It enables the game designers to fine-tune the resistance of specific cards without risking them getting out of hand.

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