MTG Incubate – Rules and Interactions Explained

Incubate is a new MTG keyword action, introduced with March of the Machine. In this article, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about it, including:

  • How does incubate work?
  • What are Incubator tokens?
  • What interactions does incubate and Incubator tokens enable?
  • And more!

We’ll try to keep everything simple and straightforward. So we’re starting with typical scenarios, and then we’ll explore the edge cases. Let’s get to it.

How Does Incubate Work?

Various types of cards can instruct you to incubate X. When you do so, you create an Incubator token and put X +1/+1 counters on it.

An Incubator token is a colorless token artifact. It has an activated ability, which lets you pay two mana, to transform it. It transforms into a 0/0 colorless Phyrexian artifact creature with as many +1/+1 counters as it had before.

Incubator Phyrexian Transformed Token Incubate Rules


Here’s Injector Crocodile, a simple common, that uses the incubate mechanic.

When it dies, you get to incubate 3. This means that you create an Incubator token, and you put three +1/+1 counters on it.

Whenever you want, you can pay two mana in order to transform the Incubator into a 0/0 Phyrexian, which will now be a 3/3 thanks to the counters on it.

Another example would be Tiller of Flesh.

Tiller of Flesh

This card can make multiple Incubator tokens during the course of the game. Whenever you cast a spell that targets at least one permanent, you get to incubate 2.

If you have Tiller in play, when you Murder your opponent’s creature, you’ll get an Incubator token with two +1/+1 counters on it. At any time you want, you can pay two mana to transform it into Phyrexian, which will be a 2/2 due to the counters.

MTG Incubate & Incubator Token – FAQ

In this section, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions players have about the incubate mechanic. Some answers are recaps of what we talked about before, and some touch on interactions that we didn’t mention before.

How do you incubate X?

You do so by creating an Incubator token and putting X +1/+1 counters on it.

What is an Incubator token?

An Incubator token is a colorless token artifact, with predetermined characteristics. (Similar to Food, Clue, Blood token.) It has an activated ability, which lets you pay two mana, to transform it into a 0/0 colorless Phyrexian artifact creature.

When can I transform an Incubator token?

You can transform it whenever you have priority – provided you have the two mana to pay for it. There’s no “activate only as a sorcery” part, so keep that in mind if you’re considering an attack into an opposing Incubator token and open mana.

Can I destroy an Incubator token with “destroy artifact” effects?

Yes, you can destroy it with something like Shatter, as Incubator token is an artifact. You can also destroy

Can I destroy an Incubator token in response to my opponent transforming it?

Yes, you can.

What happens if an Incubator token is return to my hand?

It ceases to exist. Thus, bounce spells like Unsummon are great against them.

If you didn’t find the answer to your question, you should write it in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you as fast as we can.


The flavor here is pretty straightforward, and quite a good fit. The Phyrexians are invading the planes, and they need more forces, so they’re making new Phyrexians. They emerge from their incubators, but they require so help in doing so.

MTG Incubate – Interactions

In this section, we’ll touch on some interesting interactions that can come up with this mechanic. Either some general in-game interactions, or format specific things.

Transforming for Free

Some cards allow you to transform your Incubator tokens without paying the mana to do so. One example, would be Glissa, Herald of Predation.

Glissa, Herald of Predation

Once you have some Incubators in play, this card can save you some mana, and transform all of them. On the other hand, if you do have lots of mana, you might want to just make more Incubators with the first choice.

Token Doubling & Proliferate

Since Incubators are tokens, you can take advantage of cards like Parallel Lives and Anointed Procession. This way you’ll get twice the number of Incubators, then you would otherwise.

The tokens also play well with various +1/+1 counters themes. For example, if you have some Incubators (either transformed or not) in play, and you proliferate with a card like Thrummingbird, they’ll all be able to get another +1/+1 counter.

Incubate in Commander

If you really like the mechanic, and you want to build a deck around it in commander, you certainly have some options to do so. Besides, the previously mentioned Glissa, Herald of Predation, you also have Brimaz, Blight of Oreskos. It gives you an Incubator token, whenever you cast a Phyrexian or artifact creature spell.

Brimaz, Blight of Oreskos March of the Machine Commander Decks

Brimaz is the main commander of the Growing Threat precon, which is one of the five March of the Machine Commander decks.

As you can see, Brimaz, Blight of Oreskos also takes the advantage of the proliferate interaction, which we mentioned earlier.

Incubate in Draft

It’s always interesting to predict how a new mechanic will play in draft or sealed. Of course, the mechanic is rarely inherently bad or good for Limited. It all depends on how aggressively cards with the mechanic are costed. Nevertheless, we can still predict how they will play out.

Incubators are essentially delayed creatures. Creatures are typically the most important cards in Limited, as they affect the board, so that’s a plus for the incubate mechanic. The cost of two mana is not that high, so that’s also good.

One simplified way of evaluating incubate cards in limited is to just add two mana to a card, imagine it just comes with a creature with stats equal to the incubate number, and see if it’s still a playable card. If it is, then it’s probably a very good card, as it’s going to be better than that. You’ll be able to decide when you want to transform the Incubator token, based on what’s going on in the game.

If you want to find more information about how this will play in a draft, you can check our March of the Machine Draft Guide.

Example Evaluation

Phyrexian Awakening

So, with Phyrexian Awakening, our evaluation would go something like this. At its worst, this is a five mana 4/4 vigilance. That’s not great, and it’s missing a little something. However, the card is better than that, as you can play it on turn three, and next turn pay two mana, and have a 4/4 in play on turn four. (Plus, your Phyrexians get the vigilance bonus.) You could also do all that while you’re stuck on three lands, which is also great.

The card could also get other benefits from the other cards you include in your deck. All things considered, such a card looks pretty good for the draft.

You’ll be able to learn more about the March of the Machine draft in our draft guide, which is coming out in a week or so.


That’s all about the incubate mechanic. Hopefully, you now know how it works, and you’ll be able to use it to your advantage.

March of the Machine is certainly an exciting set, not only due to the incubate mechanic, but thanks to all the packs coming with a guaranteed legendary card. You can find all so-called Multiverse Legends here, and find out what are your odds of opening a Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer in a March of the Machine booster.

Until next time, have fun and may you always have enough mana to transform your Incubator tokens.

2 thoughts on “MTG Incubate – Rules and Interactions Explained”

  1. I noticed that when I summon an incubated token creature that sometimes I can attack right away, sometimes it’s summoned with summoning sickness. How can I tell when it’ll essentially have haste vs summoning sickness?

    • You probably mean that when you transform an incubator token, that it sometimes has summoning sickness, right? So, the thing is that when you transform an incubator token, it’s still the same object. So, if you transform it on the turn you created the token, it will be summoning sick. If you transform it on one of you later turns, it won’t be summoning sick. Hope this helps.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.