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Innistrad Mechanics

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If you're new to Magic or looking for a refresher on the basic rules, check out the Learn to Play page.

Innistrad is a plane filled with savage monsters, strange transformations, and sinister magic. This article will walk you through the major new and returning mechanics of Innistrad, as well as a new evergreen rules term debuting in the set.

Double-Faced Cards

For the first time ever, Innistrad brings double-faced cards to Magic.

That's right. It's a card. With two faces. (Not sure what we're talking about? Try clicking the "transform" button!)

...So what does that mean exactly?

For the nitty-gritty details (including how to draft with double-faced cards) and weird corner cases, check out the Double-Faced Card Rules Page. We'll cover the basics here.

Double-faced cards in general

A double-faced card has, as you'd expect, two faces. It has no regular Magic back. Its front face, which is marked with a sun symbol and has a mana cost, is the default. A double-faced card always enters the battlefield with its front face up. This is true whether it enters the battlefield from the stack as the result of being cast, or from anywhere else, such as your graveyard (due to a card like Zombify, for example).

The back face of a double-faced card is marked with a moon symbol, lacks a mana cost, and has a color indicator—that's the dot on its type line—that tells you what color it is. The two faces of a double-faced card are often the same color, but not always. The back face's characteristics matter only if the card is on the battlefield and its back face is showing. Otherwise, only the front face's characteristics count. (For example, Gatstaf Shepherd's converted mana cost when it's in your deck is 2, not zero.)

Each double-faced card has at least one ability that causes it to transform. To transform a double-faced card, you turn it over so that its other face is showing.

Putting double-faced cards in your deck

To put a double-faced card into your deck, you have two options: You can put your entire deck in opaque card sleeves, as many players already do, or you can use the checklist card provided in many Innistrad packs. If you're using checklist cards to represent any of the double-faced cards in your deck, you must use checklist cards to represent all of them.

If you're using sleeves, it's pretty straightforward. You'll want to put the double-faced card in the sleeve with its front face showing, and take it out of the sleeve when it transforms. (Putting it back in is optional, at least until it leaves the battlefield.)

The checklist card has a regular Magic back, and its front looks like this:

Innistrad Checklist Card

To use the checklist card, set your double-faced card aside and make a mark on each checklist card next to the name of the double-faced card it represents. (Be sure to use a writing implement that won't be visible through the back of the checklist card, and to mark only one double-faced card name on each checklist card.)

You'll use the checklist card when the card is in your library, in your hand, or exiled face down, and the double-faced card when the card is on the stack, on the battlefield, in the graveyard, or exiled face up.

Transforming

After a double-faced card transforms, it's still the same card, so any Auras, counters, or other effects stay right where they are (unless the double-faced card's characteristics have changed such that an Aura can no longer legally enchant it).

The word "transform" applies no matter which side is currently showing. In other words, Gatstaf Shepherd might transform into Gatstaf Howler, then Gatstaf Howler might transform into Gatstaf Shepherd.

All Innistrad Werewolves have the same transform conditions as Gatstaf Shepherd and Gatstaf Howler. But not all double-faced cards are Werewolves, and not all double-faced cards transform in both directions. Check out Ludevic's Test Subject, for example:

Those are the basics. If you still have questions about how double-faced cards work, check out the Double-Faced Card Rules Page!

Morbid

In Innistrad, the death of one may be an opportunity for others.

Hollowhenge Scavenger

The morbid ability word indicates an ability that checks whether a creature died this turn. (Remember, "die" is the new terminology for a creature being put into the graveyard from the battlefield, introduced in Magic 2012.)

Hollowhenge Scavenger's ability triggers when it enters the battlefield if a creature died at any point in the same turn prior to that. If no creatures have died, it doesn't trigger. It doesn't matter if a creature dies later in the turn; the ability triggers either when Hollowhenge Scavenger enters the battlefield, or not at all.

Other morbid abilities may be triggered abilities, activated abilities, or abilities that change what an instant or sorcery spell does.

Flashback

The flashback mechanic makes its return in Innistrad. Flashback appears only on instants and sorceries.

Moan of the Unhallowed

You can cast a spell with flashback from your hand as normal. When it's in your graveyard, regardless of how it got there, you can cast it by paying its flashback cost instead of its mana cost. You can do this only at a time you could normally cast the card.

If you cast a spell for its flashback cost, it's exiled as it leaves the stack.

Curses

A Curse is an Aura that enchants a player and does something nasty to them.

Curse of the Bloody Tome

There aren't any special rules for Curses—they follow all the normal rules for Auras that enchant players—but there are some cards in Innistrad that refer to the Curse subtype. Note that Curses have enchant player, not enchant opponent, so you can enchant yourself with a Curse if you want to.

"Fight"

In addition to its block mechanics, Innistrad introduces a new evergreen rules term, fight.

For a creature to fight another creature, each deals damage equal to its power to the other. A few finer points:

  • The damage is dealt simultaneously, and it is dealt by the creatures themselves, so abilities like deathtouch, lifelink, and infect will work as normal.
  • Damage dealt while fighting is not combat damage, so abilities like first strike won't have any effect.
  • Fighting doesn't cause the creatures to become tapped.
  • Only creatures can fight.
  • No more than two creatures can fight.
  • If a creature somehow fights itself, it will deal damage to itself equal to its power twice simultaneously.

A few old cards with the same functionality, such as Rivals' Duel, will receive updated Oracle wording using the new terminology. Cards with similar, but not identical, functionality will not use the word "fight."

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