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MTG Vigilance keyword guide

In MTG, Vigilance is a useful keyword which lets your creatures both attack and block. Here's how this Magic: The Gathering ability works.

Magic: The Gathering Vigilance - a ginger angel holding a sword.

In Magic: The Gathering, Vigilance can be a truly invaluable keyword. One of the most challenging parts of any MTG game is determining when it’s safe to attack with your creatures and when you need to hold them back to block for you. After all, you need to chip away at your opponent’s life total to win the match, but there’s no point dealing damage to your rival if they can just kill you on the clapback.

That’s where the MTG Vigilance keyword comes into play. Normally in Magic, when you declare a creature as an attacker, you have to tap it, turning it sideways. That means it can’t block (or use activated abilities that require tapping the card) until the untap step of your next turn.

But if a creature has Vigilance, you do not tap it in the ‘declare attackers’ step. A creature with the Vigilance keyword can therefore be used to attack on your turn and defend on your opponent’s. This is handy if you need a way to pressure your opponent’s life total, but are low on life yourself. It’s also a great ability for Commander decks, where having a blocker to prevent the rest of the table getting free attacks off on you is pretty vital.

Magic: The Gathering Vigilance - A t-rex like dinosaur with three heads.

When was MTG vigilance created?

Vigilance is technically one of the oldest mechanics in Magic: The Gathering, though it wasn’t codified as a proper keyword until the MTG set Champions of Kamigawa, in 2004.

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While Champions of Kamigawa was the first time the ability appeared under the name Vigilance, cards that don’t tap when attacking have been in Magic since the very beginning. Serra Angel, from Alpha, is technically the first MTG creature with Vigilance. Indeed, before 2004, Magic’s R&D referred to Vigilance as “the Serra ability”.

Magic: The Gathering Vigilance - The shieldmage planeswalker Teyo creating magical shields.

What colour is MTG Vigilance?

As you’re probably aware, not every Magic: The Gathering colour can do everything. Blue is great at card draw, for instance, while green is the best at making giant creatures. Different MTG keywords belong in different parts of the ‘colour pie’.

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Vigilance is a primary keyword for white, and the vast majority of creature cards with Vigilance, or instant or enchantment cards that grant Vigilance, are found in this colour. It’s also secondary in Green and found (though pretty sparingly) in Blue. There are very few Red or Black cards with the Vigilance keyword.