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Mechanics in Modern: Mirrodin Block


Hey, guys! This is the first in a series of articles I have planned where we visit one or two blocks at a time and go over all of the abilities and mechanics in each block. Some of these abilities have some wording in the comprehensive rules that is pretty different from that on the original card; reminder text is intended to just put the important stuff on there, but things are missed or change over the years. These articles are going to focus on the current Comprehensive Rules for each of these abilities and mechanics. Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Mirrodin – Set 1 of the Mirrodin Block


Most current Magic players are pretty familiar with equipments. They have been in basically every set since Mirrodin, but this set was where they made their debut! Equipments function like a blend between artifacts and enchantments. You cast the equipment and you activate its equip ability to equip a creature. The creature then usually gets some benefit out of the deal.

Some important notes about equipments are that when the equipped creature is destroyed or leaves the battlefield, the equipment stays in play. If your equipped creature changes controllers, you still maintain control of the equipment and can pay to equip that equipment to a different creature you control even though it’s currently attached to a creature you don’t control anymore. The equip ability is an activated ability and can only be activated when it is your turn, you’re in one of the main phases, and the stack is empty. Basically, it uses the same rules for casting a sorcery or a creature without Flash.

The equip ability also targets, so Phantasmal Dragon won’t like a Darksteel Axe very much. That also means that you cannot attach an equipment to a creature that has protection from one of the qualities of the equipment (e.g., protection from artifacts will stop you from equipping a Bonesplitter onto a creature). Protection also means that even if you had some way of attaching equipment without activating the equip ability, and you attempt to attach it to a creature with protection, it still would not attach and would stay where it is.


Affinity was a neat mechanic back in Mirrodin that took into account a certain number of permanents you controlled and reduced the mana cost of certain spells by that amount. They had affinity for artifacts, Plains, Mountains, etc. Be on the lookout for common Affinity cards like Frogmite in your Modern testing.

Some rules notes for Affinity are that Affinity only lessens the generic mana cost of a spell; it cannot reduce the colored-mana portion of a cost. Affinity is cumulative. If your spell somehow has two instance of Affinity, both instances will count the qualifying permanents for the purposes of cost reduction.


The favorite of Tooth and Nail players everywhere, and even seeing some play in 12 Post with Reap and Sow, Entwine spells have two effects, and you can pay the Entwine cost to use both effects instead of just choosing one.

Important rules notes are that if you choose to entwine the spell, you must pay that cost along with the normal costs of the spell, and you then must follow the directions in the order written on the spell you are casting. You don’t get to use the second effect before the first effect. You choose to entwine in the “Choose modes” step of casting the spell. If you decide not to entwine, in this same step, you choose which of the spell’s modes you are going to use.


When Mirrodin came out, Imprint was its own keyword ability and had rules meaning that has since been taken out of the Comp Rules. Now, cards with Imprint have Oracle text that tells you what to do. The basic mechanic is that you are going to exile a card when the card with Imprint enters the battlefield. There will be a linked ability on the Imprint card that references characteristics of the exiled card. Chrome Mox is the go-to example here, but since that card is banned, we’ll look at Isochron Scepter.

When Isochron Scepter enters the battlefield, you may exile an instant card with converted mana cost 2 or less from your hand. You may then activate the ability on Isochron Scepter to copy the exiled card and cast it without paying its mana cost. It’s important to note that once that Isochron Scepter changes zones, it loses track of what was exiled by its Imprint mechanic. If my opponent casts Into the Roil on my Isochron Scepter imprinted with Shock and I recast that Scepter, I will may exile a new card and will only be able to make copies of that new card.



When a permanent is indestructible, that means that rules and effects cannot destroy that permanent. The permanent can still change zones, but it cannot be placed into the graveyard due to a “destroy” effect. Some indestructible permanents you might see in Modern include our pal Blightsteel Colossus. The rules text “Blightsteel Colossus is indestructible” is an ability; however, being indestructible is not an ability, but rather is something that is just true about the permanent. This is important because Sudden Spoiling will cause Blightsteel Colossus to lose the ability that made it indestructible, but if an emblem from Elspeth is making your creatures indestructible, Sudden Spoiling will not take that away, since just being indestructible is not an ability by itself.

Other important notes are that the “Legend rule” and “0 toughness” methods of killing creatures get around indestructibility because the state-based action that would place those cards into the graveyard is not a “destroy” effect.


Modular was a really neat mechanic; some cards with Modular that you are likely to see in a Modern match are Arcbound Worker and Arcbound Ravager. Essentially, Modular is an ability that functions at two separate times. When the permanent that has Modular comes into play, it comes into play with X modular counters (this number is written on the card; Arcbound Worker has Modular 1, for instance). The ability also functions when the permanent with Modular is put into a graveyard. When that happens, you may move the +1/+1 counters onto a different artifact creature. This portion of the ability targets, so once again, Phantasmal Image and things with protection from artifacts will not play nicely with this. However, if your opponent is copying your artifact creature with Phantasmal Image, you can try to put the Modular counters onto his Image to destroy it!

Fifth Dawn


Scry is a great mechanic. Popular Modern cards with Scry are Serum Visions and Condescend. “Scry X” means, look at the top X cards of your library; you may put those cards back on the top or bottom of your library in any order. It’s a great way to shuffle bad things to the bottom and set up the next few turns!

Some important rules notes are that while you are looking at the top cards, the top card of your library actually doesn’t change until the scry is completed. For instance, if you control Oracle of Mul Daya, you do not have to reveal the third card down while scrying 2; you will reveal the new top card once the scry has been completed.


Sunburst is kind of awkward. To break it down, it means if a permanent is entering the battlefield from the stack and that permanent is a creature, it enters with a +1/+1 counter on it for each color of mana spent to cast it. If the permanent is not a creature, it enters the battlefield with a charge counter on it for each color of mana spent to cast it. The quintessential sunburst card in Modern is Engineered Explosives.

Important rules notes are that Sunburst counts the types of colored mana you use to cast the spell; colorless mana does not count. If you cast Engineered Explosives with 2ub, it will enter the battlefield with 2 charge counters on it. Also, it counts how many different colors you used to cast the spell, not how much colored mana you used. If you cast Engineered Explosives for gguuu, it will enter the battlefield with 2 charge counters as well.

This was a fun trip through Mirrodin. Tune in next week for Kamigawa!

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