In Magic: The Gathering , the term spell has three meanings; one technical, one casual and one flavorful.
Technical: Comprehensive Rules[edit | edit source]
A spell is any card that has been played and thus placed on the stack. A card is only a spell when it is on the stack.
Any text on an instant or sorcery spell is a spell ability unless it's an activated ability, a triggered ability or a static ability.
From the Comprehensive Rules (Rivals of Ixalan (January 19, 2018))
- 112.3. There are four general categories of abilities:
- 112.3a Spell abilities are abilities that are followed as instructions while an instant or sorcery spell is resolving. Any text on an instant or sorcery spell is a spell ability unless it’s an activated ability, a triggered ability, or a static ability that fits the criteria described in rule 112.6.
- 112.3b Activated abilities have a cost and an effect. They are written as “[Cost]: [Effect.] [Activation instructions (if any).]” A player may activate such an ability whenever he or she has priority. Doing so puts it on the stack, where it remains until it’s countered, it resolves, or it otherwise leaves the stack. See rule 602, “Activating Activated Abilities.”
- 112.3c Triggered abilities have a trigger condition and an effect. They are written as “[Trigger condition], [effect],” and include (and usually begin with) the word “when,” “whenever,” or “at.” Whenever the trigger event occurs, the ability is put on the stack the next time a player would receive priority and stays there until it’s countered, it resolves, or it otherwise leaves the stack. See rule 603, “Handling Triggered Abilities.”
- 112.3d Static abilities are written as statements. They’re simply true. Static abilities create continuous effects which are active while the permanent with the ability is on the battlefield and has the ability, or while the object with the ability is in the appropriate zone. See rule 604, “Handling Static Abilities.”
Except for land, all of the original basic kind of card (summons, enchantments, sorceries, instants, interrupts and artifacts) are spells from the time they are cast until they resolve. However, non-permanents are collectively referred to as "spells" in common language. This includes sorceries and instants, along with the obsoleted mana sources and interrupts. This is because, under normal circumstances, these types of cards never exist in play except while they're on the stack.
In the storyline, spells are the effect of a ritual that involves mental activity and a varying amount of both physical activity and the channeling of mana.
- ↑ Reid Duke. (August 31, 2015.) “When to Cast Your Spells”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- ↑ Pocket Players' Guide (Revised Edition), p. 53
- ↑ Matt Cavotta. (April 19, 2007.) “Spelling It Out”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- ↑ Doug Beyer. (December 5, 2007.) “Magic in Stories”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- ↑ Doug Beyer. (August 5, 2009.) “Keeping Spells Spellish”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- ↑ Doug Beyer. (November 30, 2011.) “The Only Constant”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.