MTG cycling is, fittingly, one of those Magic keywords that keeps coming back around. It debuted in 1998, and you’ll still find cycling cards popping up in recent sets. It’s such a staple of the trading card game that no one colour ‘owns’ cycling. Instead, it can appear in a variety of decks – meaning it pays off to have a good grasp of what the keyword means. Below you can find out what MTG cycling is and which cards wear it best.
Before we jump in, here are a few extra guides to help out keen Magic: The Gathering fans. Our MTG 2023 release schedule will help you keep on top of all the major launches. Meanwhile, digital fans of Magic can get started with MTG Arena codes and MTG Arena decks.
But now, it’s time to get on your bike and learn about MTG cycling.
What is MTG cycling?
If a Magic card has the cycling keyword, you can discard that card from your hand in order to draw a new card. There’s usually an additional cost for the card draw, meaning you may need to pay extra mana (or even lands and life) as part of the cycling process.
Cycling is an activated ability. This means that anytime you have priority, you can kickstart the cycling process. In other words, any time you could cast an Instant, you can cycle your card.
There have been a few variants of cycling throughout Magic history. The big one is Typecycling, which lets you search your library for a specific card type and add it to your hand instead of drawing a card as normal. Landcycling and Basic Landcycling operate in a similar way, just for lands. A few select cards even let you cycle from the battlefield rather than from your hand.
Best MTG cycling cards
Below are some of the best Magic cards that use the cycling keyword:
Street Wraith offers you an alternative way to pay for cycling – with your life. It’s unsurprising that a black Wraith card wants to sup on your vitality, but hey, there are plenty of times when paying two life to draw a card is preferable to using up your precious mana. Street Wraith also comes with the Swampwalk keyword, which means it can’t be blocked as long as your opponent controls a Swamp.
Edge of Autumn
In a 2020 blog post, MTG head designer Mark Rosewater said a reprint of Edge of Autumn was unlikely “because it’s too strong” – which says everything, really. This is a Sorcery that’s all about land management. If you’ve got plenty to spare, you can pay one land as a cycling cost. Alternatively, if you’re running short, you can play Edge of Autumn to search your library for a basic land and immediately play it tapped.
Raugrin Triome is just one example of a Triome card. These are three-colour lands that all possess the cycling ability. They enter the battlefield tapped, and their three-mana cycling cost is on the slightly more expensive side, but the chance to access three different mana pools and card draw with one card is worth it for many different decks.
Alright, Zenith Flare doesn’t actually have the cycling ability; what it does have is a pretty neat Instant effect that relies on that keyword. Pay the four-mana cost for the card and, at any time, you can deal damage and gain life equal to the number of cards with cycling in your graveyard.
Another card with some tasty synergy is the artifact creature, Hollow One. This card originally costs five colourless mana, but it costs two less for every card you’ve already cycled or discarded on your turn. A 4/4 isn’t too shabby, especially if you can play it mega cheap. Oh, and Hollow One can also be cycled itself.
Gavi, Nest Warden
According to the deck-building database EDHREC, Gavi, Nest Warden is the most popular choice of Commander for those who want to play with the cycling keyword. Gavi essentially makes the first cycle you perform on a turn free (though you’ll still have to discard the card). Additionally, when you draw a second card on your turn, you can create a 2/2 Dinosaur Cat token, allowing you to bulk out your battlefield as well as your hand.
Shark Typhoon is wonderful for its art alone. It’s Sharknado: the card – do you really need to know what it does? If you answered yes, then you’re in luck – Shark Typhoon’s delightfully silly flavour is also accompanied by some useful mechanics. Cycling this card costs one blue mana, one colourless mana, and as many other mana as you wish. Pay the cost, discard Shark Typhoon, and you can create a flying shark token with attack and defence equal to that extra mana you paid.