MTG Ward – Rules and Interactions Explained

Ward is a new MTG mechanic in Strixhaven: School of Mages. In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know about this new mechanic, including:

  • How does ward works
  • Examples of ward cards
  • Some frequently asked questions about ward
  • And more!

Let’s get to it.

How Does MTG Ward Work?

Ward is a triggered ability that appears on permanent cards. Whenever a permanent you control with ward becomes a target of a spell or ability an opponent controls, that opponent has to pay its ward cost (specified on your card). If they don’t, their spell or ability gets countered.

Let’s look at some examples.

MTG Ward – Examples

Owlin Shieldmage How does Ward work MTG?

One card with the ward ability is Owlin Shieldmage. It is a 3/3 creature with flying and ward. In the case of Owlin Shieldmage, the ward ability requires your opponent to pay three life to resolve a spell or ability that targets it.

Here is another example:

Waterfall Aerialist Ward Rules

Waterfall Aerialist also has the MTG ward ability. It costs four mana and is a 3/1 creature with flying. While on the battlefield, it also has the ward ability. However, for Waterfall Aerialist, the ward ability requires your opponent to pay two mana if they want their spell or ability targeting it to resolve.

I hope that those examples have cleared up how the MTG Ward ability works. If you have any further questions, they will hopefully be cleared up in our FAQ section.

MTG Ward – FAQ

If I target something that has ward with two spells, will I have to pay for Ward twice?

Yes. The ward ability will trigger each time a card with ward is targeted by a spell or ability an opponent controls.
For example, if a Sedgemoor Witch is targeted by two of your opponent’s Spikefield Hazard‘s, your opponent will have to pay six life in total. Three for each spell or ability targeting the warded card.

If I target something with ward with a spell, do I still have to pay the spell’s mana cost?

Yes, the ward ability is an additional cost, not a replacement cost.
For example, targeting your opponent’s Owlin Shieldmage with a Murder requires you to pay three mana and three life.

Do I have to pay the ward cost for my spell/ ability to resolve if it can’t be countered?

No. If you cast an uncounterable spell or ability targeting a creature with ward, you don’t need to pay the Ward cost.
This is because of the wording of the ward ability. “Whenever this Creature becomes the target of a spell or ability an opponent controls, counter it unless that player pays x.” Since the spell or ability can’t be countered, the ward ability has no effect.

What happens if a creature has multiple instances of ward?

Yes they do. If your creature somehow has ward 1 and ward 2 and your opponent targets it, then two triggers will go on the stack. Your opponent will have to pay three mana total in order to go around ward.

How does the ward on Sauron, the Dark Lord work?

Sauron, the Dark Lord (a card from LotR MTG set, Tales of Middle-earth) has an unusual ward cast. If your opponent casts a spell targeting it, it will be countered unless they sacrifice a legendary artifact or a legendary creature. If they don’t have one in play, they will have a hard time dealing with Sauron.

Do you have any specific questions about Ward? Feel free to ask us in the comments, and we will answer as quickly as we can.

MTG Ward – Flavor

One thing that is important about Strixhaven university is a degree of privacy. You don’t want anyone stealing potions from your locker or copying your test. The ward ability represents this, making sure that your enemies pay an extra price for trying to copy your test results, or in this case, targeting your Creature with their spells and abilities.

MTG Ward – Interesting Interactions

MTG Ward cards and Sphinx of the Final Word

Sphinx of the Final Word Ward Interactions

If your opponent is bringing a deck full of ward cards, one way to crush them is Sphinx of the Final Word. This card negates a large part of your opponent’s Ward effects, making Ward cards useless against Instant and Sorcery spells that you control.

As previously mentioned, this is due to the wording of ward, which states that if the Ward cost is not paid, then the spell or ability will be countered. Since Sphinx of the Final Word makes your Instants and Sorceries uncounterable, the Ward ability will have no effect. (It will still affect abilities.)

MTG Ward cards and Strionic Resonator

Strionic Resonator

Another interesting interaction with the MTG ward ability gives you the opportunity to make your Ward cards more impactful. Since ward is a triggered ability, you can copy Ward abilities with Strionic Resonator. This can make your opponent pay double the price for targeting one of your Ward creatures with a removal spell.

Warding Off

Thanks for reading about the ward ability. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how ward works and how to use it to your advantage in game. If you still have questions about ward that you’d like answered, make sure to ask them in the comment section.

If you’re looking for more articles to improve your MTG knowledge, maybe you’ll like some of the following ones:

Until next time, and keep protecting your creatures!

64 thoughts on “MTG Ward – Rules and Interactions Explained”

  1. Does multiple instances of ward on a single creature stack? For example, using a new card from modern Horizons 2, Svyelun, God of Sea and Sky equipped with Helm of the Host to create multiple non-legendary copies of it, since it says “Other merfolk you control have Ward 1” if you have 3 of this card, does the Ward ability mean that they each increase to Ward 2 (due to multiple cards giving ward) or do they each just have Ward 1 because it doesn’t stack?

    • Yes, there would be two instances of ward. So you’d have to pay two mana for the first instance and then one mana for the second instance.

  2. Question about the new D&D creatures “Terrasque” with Ward (10). If it’s cast, attacks and fights another creature, would Ward still work or would it get through if the (10) can’t be paid?

    • Ward would only triggers if an opponent targets Terrasque with a spell or ability. In that case opponent isn’t targeting it (and neither are you, since the ability never targets Terrasque.)
      So the ward doesn’t trigger in your case.

  3. Iymrith, Desert Doom {3}{U}{U}
    Legerndary Creature — Dragon

    Iymrith, Desert Doom has ward (4) as long as it’s untapped.

    Whenever Iymrith deals combat damage to a player, draw a card. Then if you have fewer than three cards in hand, draw cards equal to the difference.

    When does the ward cost actually resolve? Can I, in response to someone targeting this card, use an untap effect to potentially counter the spell?

    • The question here probably isn’t when does the ward ability resolve, but when does ward ability trigger.
      The ward ability would trigger immediately when an opponent targets an untapped Iymrith.

      If you have an untap effect, and use it in Iymrith in response to your opponent targeting it, you’re already past the potential ward trigger and ward won’t trigger.
      So the only use for an untap effect would be to use it when your opponent doesn’t have mana available, so it will have ward (4), when they get to their untap step.

  4. My opponent plays a Terminate on my Wood Elves – in response I cast Meddle to change the target from Terminate to a creature with ward – does my opponent has to pay the ward costs (in best case Terminate gets countered) or is it to late?

    Thanks very much for the great article!

    • Great question! At first, I thought it won’t trigger – but when I dug a bit deeper, I found out I was wrong.

      Ward triggers whenever a permanent with ward becomes the target of a spell or ability an opponent controls. So if you redirect the opponent’s spells target, a permanent with ward becomes the target of it, and the ward triggers. So yes, you’re opponent will have to pay the ward cost to not get their spell countered. Nice interaction.

      • Thank you very much for figuring it out – I am tinkering with the ability and this answer makes a lot possible 🙂

        Have a great day!

  5. Is the ward ability already active when the spell is cast? So, if I cast my Terrasque, will my opponent have to pay the 10 mana extra in order to counter it?

  6. Thanks for writing the article! Really Great and informative! Ok, I have 1 question that I think I know the answer to but I want to be sure. One of my favorite EDH decks is Scion of the Ur-Dragon. I think you know where I’m going with this. My opponent cast Path to Exile Targeting an Untapped Scion of the Ur-Dragon, in response, I activate Scion’s ability for 2 mana and turn Scion into Iymrith, Desert Storm that has a built-in Ward 4 ability. So, does Scion, who has become an Iymrith until end of turn get the Ward 4 mechanic? I’ve looked for this answer but cannot find it. I’m thinking he wouldn’t get it since Scion has been targeted already, despite becoming Iymrith but again, I’m not sure. Thanks in advance for your help!

  7. Kind of know the answer but still…

    If a spell or ability has multiple targets and one of them has ward. Does the whole spell or ability get countered or just the effect on the target?

      • If you use an ability that effects different creatures for all opponents and one player has one with ward – does it counter it for all players of just the player with ward?

        • If an ability or spell targets different creatures, and one of them has ward, the whole ability or spell will be countered if ward cost isn’t paid. It’s not possible to counter just some part of a spell or ability.

  8. Thanks for the article and answering all the questions so far, very helpful!

    I’ve got one.. If I target my opponents creature that has Ward with an Act of Treason effect, Price of Loyalty, I need to pay the Ward cost there obviously, but what happens when it then comes on my side of the board? I “gain control of the creature until end of turn”.

    1) If I then want to target the same creature with another spell, do I still need to pay the Ward cost?
    2) What if my opponent then targets that creature (now under ‘my control’), do they need to pay a Ward cost?
    3) If I want to sacrifice the creature, do I need to pay a Ward cost? I’m assuming no, since most of the sacrifice wording is just ‘sacrifice a creature’, not really ‘target creature’.


    • 1) No, you don’t. Your opponent is now considered the opponent for the ward ability.
      2) Yes, they have to.
      3) You don’t need to pay, since you’re the creature’s controller and the effect doesn’t target.

  9. If i use two dragons disciple does the ward effect stack where dragons you control have ward 1….and become ward 2 colorless since there are two in play…?

    • In practice that’s how it works.
      If we get technical the dragons now have: Ward 1, Ward 1
      So whenever one of your dragons is targeted by opponent, they have to pay one mana twice.

    • Yes, you can. The ward trigger goes on the stack. They pay 3 life, as they don’t want their spell to get countered, then before the removal spell actually resolves, you sacrifice the Sedgemoor Witch for value. That’s quite a nice play.

  10. So if I use Henrika’s effect where each player sacrifices a creature. And my opponent has only a Sledgemoor on the field does the ward counter the effect?

  11. Hi, say tarasque was on the board and a player played a gelatinous cube which then when enters the battlefield it uses engulf is that effect blocked by wards 10 mana cost ?

  12. Hi

    If I have Bronze Guardian and Liquimetal Torque out. My opponent targets one of my Non Land Permanents so in response I instantly turn the target into an artifact for the turn do they have to pay an additional 2 for the Bronze Guardians Ward effect?

    • Yes, they would have to pay the ward cost. Ward triggers whenever the permanent with ward becomes a target of a spell or ability your opponent controls. using a Redirect in a way that you described would work in such way.

  13. If I have my Tarrasque fight a creature with ward 3, do I have to pay the extra 3 mana? Ward can be so confusing with its wording of “spells and abilities”

    • Ward triggers only if an opponent targets a creature with ward. If you target your own creature, ward doesn’t trigger. SO, if you were to use a fight spell on your Tarrasque and one one of your opponent’s creatures without ward, you wouldn’t have to pay any extra mana.

  14. What happens if I redirect a spell of my opponent from one ward creature to another ward creature. Does he have to pay the ward cost twice to not get the spell countered?

  15. Using the new Sauron, and I’m assuming that if he gets targeted and my opponent needs to sacrifice the permanent to pay the ward cost, can I destroy their legendary permanent in response to the trigger?

    • Yes, you can. However, if they have another legendary permanent, they can decide to sacrifice that one. On the other hand, if they only have one legendary in play, and you remove it in response to the trigger, they won’t be able to pay the ward cost, and your Sauron will survive.

  16. I have a question. If a card with Ward, has a prepaid prey counter, when Tetzimoc Primal Death does ” when ETB destroy each creature with prey counter, do I have to pay Ward?

  17. Lets say my opponent casts a spell like Hex. Destroy six target creatures. And now lets say my opponent chooses not to pay the cost for ward. Will the warded creature be the only card to stay on the field? or would the spell be countered entirely?

  18. Hello. Mu oponent control sedgemoon witch, and take control of my turn witch emrakul. His can play spell target witch and play ward cost if my life is 2?

  19. Hypothetical situation:

    • My opponent controls Tivit, Seller of Secrets [Ward {3}].
    • He targets my creature with StP.
    • I Divert or Misdirected those StP to his Tivit.

    Do I have to pay for Ward cost {3}, or spell is still considered controlled by opponent and passed around Ward exiling Tivit?

    • Great question, and an interesting interaction. You don’t have to pay the ward cost, as your spell never targets Tivit. Divert could also be used to remove an opponent’s creature with hexproof, so that’s neat.

  20. If a step of an enchantment saga (for example, “exile target creature”) is directed at a creature with ward, must the owner of said enchantment pay its ward cost? Thanks

  21. If I am attacking opponent and they choose to block with Archive Dragon (ward 2), do I need to pay the ward cost if I play on a stack an instant that helps me increase power and toughness until end of turn like Giant Growth?

    • No, you are targeting your own creature with Giant Growth, so you don’t need to pay ward costs. However, if you’d want to target an opponent’s Archive Dragon with Giant Growth for some reason, you would have to pay the ward cost.


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