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Abilities and Mechanics – Scars of Mirrodin


Good day, all! Now we are finally into the set that most people should be pretty familiar with, since it is currently in Standard! For each mechanic, I’m still going to highlight cards that are key in Modern and Legacy. Scars of Mirrodin block continues the resurgence in set quality that I talked about in Zendikar. It has been universally popular and has had quite a few powerhouse cards that have been important in formats from Legacy to Standard. Let’s get to those mechanics!

Scars of Mirrodin


Infect is a new property of damage. A source with Infect deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters. A source with Infect that deals damage to a planeswalker deals damage normally—it results in the loss of loyalty counters. Poison counters haven’t been seen since Future Sight, and I didn’t go into the mechanic there because they weren’t tournament-playable. However, Infect cards have been taking Modern by storm (until the banning of Blazing Shoal), and in Legacy, creatures with Infect are being pumped by cards like Invigorate. Poison counters don’t really mean anything while on a player, except that there are a few cards with added effects if your opponent is “poisoned,” which means that he has at least one poison counter on him. If a player has 10 poison counters on him, he loses the game as a state-based action. Popular Infect cards are Blighted Agent and Inkmoth Nexus in Modern and Legacy. In Standard, mono-Black Infect is very popular right, and it uses cards like Plague Stinger, Phyrexian Crusader, Inkmoth Nexus, and Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon.


Metalcraft is a mechanic . . . not really an ability. It is a word that indicates that a spell or permanent becomes better if you control three or more artifacts. Some great examples of cards with Metalcraft are Stoic Rebuttal, Galvanic Blast, and Dispatch. As you can see, these spells all become better if you have Metalcraft as they resolve. It’s important to note that if Metalcraft is on a creature such as Auriok Sunchaser, it is checked continuously, and as soon as you control fewer than three artifacts, the effect ends. On spells with Metalcraft, the game only checks on resolution . . . with the exception of cards like Stoic Rebuttal, which has a cost reduction while Metalcraft is active. Stoic Rebuttal checks when you total the costs, which is Step 5 of casting the spell.


Proliferate is interesting. When you proliferate, you choose any number of objects or players that have counters on them, and for each one, you add one more counter of a type it already has. For instance, if you have an Arcbound Worker with a +1/+1 counter on it and a charge counter on it, and you choose to proliferate it, you can only add another +1/+1 counter or another charge counter, but not both. The other interesting thing about this mechanic is that this is a choice made on resolution—it doesn’t actually target, so it gets around Shroud, Hexproof, and Protection! This mechanic was popular with a deck that abused Lux Cannon. It used cards like Contagion Clasp and Throne of Geth to proliferate counters on the Lux Cannon and Everflowing Chalice, and then it would just blow up all of the opposing permanents. The most popular proliferate card now is Tezzeret's Gambit, used in the Infect deck as a way to refill the player’s hand and deal out extra poison.


Emblems are a new type of object, but you can’t really interact with them. Currently, only three cards produce emblems; these cards are Koth of the Hammer, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and Venser, the Sojourner. Emblems are kind of like enchantments—they have an ability that constantly modifies the game state, but they are not permanents, and they exist in the command zone. This means that there is currently no way to remove an emblem. When you get an emblem, you keep it for the rest of the game.

Mirrodin Besieged

Battle Cry

Battle Cry is like a reverse Exalted. It affects every other attacking creature by giving it +1/+0. Having multiple creatures with Battle Cry means that they will all trigger and resolve independently. If a creature with Battle Cry attacks more than once in a turn, perhaps because of something like Relentless Assault, Battle Cry will trigger in both combats. Popular Battle Cry cards are Accorder Paladin, Signal Pest, and the stone blade herself, Hero of Bladehold. One important thing to note about Hero of Bladehold is that she places tokens into play, and she also has Battle Cry. You can make the tokens benefit from Battle Cry if you place the Battle Cry ability onto the stack first. At competitive REL, your opponent might ask you how you stack the triggers, hoping that you do it incorrectly and only get 1/1 tokens. Remember to place the token-making trigger onto the stack last so that it resolves first.

Living Weapon

Living Weapon is a triggered ability that is found on Equipment cards. It means, “When this Equipment enters the battlefield, put a 0/0 black Germ creature token onto the battlefield, then attach this Equipment to it.” You might be thinking to yourself, “But, Turner! You said creatures with 0 toughness die due to state-based actions! How does this even work?” Well, the state-based action that places a creature with 0 or less toughness into its owner’s graveyard isn’t checked in the middle of resolving a triggered ability; the next time it is checked, this 0/0 has an Equipment on it that pumps its power and toughness up into the safe zone. The most popular card with Living Weapon is clearly Batterskull, the best friend of Stoneforge Mystic players in all formats in which she is still legal. Another somewhat popular card with Living Weapon is Bonehoard, and Flayer Husk made its way into a lot of Puresteel Paladin–based lists.


Mirrodin Besieged has a cycle of cards called Zeniths. Each one has a clause at the end of its text that causes it to be shuffled back into its owner’s library. This does not apply if the spell is countered—either because of a lack of legal targets or because of an actual counterspell. Popular Zenith cards are Green Sun's Zenith and Black Sun's Zenith.

New Phyrexia

Phyrexian Mana

Phyrexian mana looks like a Phyrexian symbol inside of a color circle. Phyrexian mana can either be paid with 2 life or the appropriate color mana. Phyrexian mana symbols only appear in costs, and they still count for color identity, even if the player pays the 2 life. For example, Gitaxian Probe is Blue even if you choose to pay for the spell with 2 life. Phyrexian mana symbols count as 1 for determining converted mana cost. For example, Gitaxian Probe has a converted mana cost of 1. You choose whether you are going to pay life or mana for a Phyrexian mana symbol in Step 2 of casting a spell. You can’t pay 2 life if you have less than 2 life or negative life (even if you’re being kept alive by a Platinum Angel).

Well, friends, that was the last block in Modern. Stay tuned next week, when we go back to general rules and policy articles. Another series of articles I’m thinking of doing is “How to Become a Judge” and some more of the interesting things judges do at events. This series has been a blast to write; thank you for sticking with it to its conclusion. I’ll have something even better lined up for next time! We’ll return to abilities and mechanics when the full block of Innistrad is out sometime around May next year. Thanks again for reading!

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