For example, let's take a look at Arbor Elf, which has the ability "T: Untap target Forest"

Which types of dual lands count as a Forest and thus can be untapped by Arbor Elf?

Is there a comprehensive heuristic I can use for this? I've never actually seen the rule anywhere and these lands never mention that fact, nor have I seen it in errata or card rulings. But apparently it's a thing because I heard it mentioned in forums and cards that mention basic lands have worked on some dual lands before in MTGA.

2 Answers 2


There's an assumption you're making that's a bit off here, that assumption being that you are looking for something by name. Voltaic Key has the ability "{1}, {T}: Untap target artifact." that does not untap a card named artifact, but a card with the type artifact.

In the case of Arbor Elf, untap target forest refers to cards with the subtype forest, Dual lands such as Breeding Pool and Scattered Groves both have forest on their type line, and can be targeted. Even a few single colored non basic lands like Dryad Arbor and Sapseep Forest count, as they have forest in their type line.

We can see this method more clearly in cards like Nissa's Pilgrimage, which specifies basic forests, or Cabal Stronghold which specifies basic swamps. Specifying the supertype basic in addition to the subtype forest/swamp/etc means you can only find this info on the type line, though they could have said lands named forest or lands named swamp and got roughly the same result.

In addition to cards like this, there are effects that change the type of land, or turn things into lands, effects like Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth would make all lands swamps, so they would count for anything that looks at swamps, such as Cabal Coffers, and Life and Limb makes all creatures with the subtype saproling into forests (and vice versa) turning them all into creature land - saproling forest.

Currently there are 25 cards that are printed as forests, 2 of these are the basic lands (regular and snow covered) the other 23 are non-basics. For the other 4 basic land types, there are: 23 Plains, 23 Islands, 23 Swamps, and 23 Mountains. Generally these cards exist in cycles that have the same number of each, Dryad Arbor and Murmuring Bosk are the 2 exceptions, forests without a matching cycle in other colors.

  • 1
    I like this answer for the emphasis it puts on the difference between "Forest" as a card name and "Forest" as a subtype. One thing that might be nice to have, but is certainly not necessary, is an example of how an ability that untaps a card named "Forest" would be worded, e.g. "T: Untap target land named Forest". (I don't think there's an actual example of this, but I'm extrapolating from other abilities that reference cards with specific names.)
    – David Z
    Sep 19, 2018 at 23:31
  • 6
    @DavidZ Not targeting, but Nissa's Encouragement has "Search your library and graveyard for a card named Forest [...]" versus Nature's Lore having "Search your library for a Forest card [...]". Sep 20, 2018 at 2:16
  • It seems to me that if a card says "target something, something" or "a something, something", unless otherwise specified the "something, something" refers exclusively to colour or (sub)type. Common specifications are "card / permanent / spell named something, something" or "card / permanent / spell with converted mana cost something, something". You don't see "with the colour red" or "with the type basic land" (or more correctly "the supertype basic and the type land"), they just say "red" or "basic land". I wonder whether that's specified in the rules somewhere.
    – Arthur
    Sep 20, 2018 at 6:04
  • 1
    @Andrew My point was that when they are specific about type or colour (or their own name), they don't specify that it is type or colour that they are specific about, but for basically any other characteristic they will specify what kind of characteristic they are referring to. That's why "search your library for a creature card" could never be used to find a card which has the name "Creature", but not the type (if R&D were short-sighted enough to ever print one), even though to anyone not used to the conventions of MTG wording it clearly would be a "creature card".
    – Arthur
    Sep 20, 2018 at 7:21
  • 1
    @DavidZ I believe he's saying that most cards that intend to be restricted to "cards named Forest" do so by restricting to "basic Forests", which is equivalent. This isn't quite correct, because of Snow-covered Forest, but it's usually true in standard and limited. Sep 20, 2018 at 14:13

Forest is a Subtype for the card Type "Land".

Thus, Arbor Elf can untap any land with the subtype Forest. Which include the Basic Land, Forest, its respective Snow-Covered version and some non-basic lands that include this subtype in their text line.

This Gatherer search shows a list of 17 lands with the subtype Forest:

These are all the lands that can be untapped by Arbor Elf. Note that some cards like Song of the Dryads can turn other permanent into Forests, thus allowing it to be untapped by Arbor Elf.

  • 3
    Worth noting that Forest is also the name of a card in addition to being a land subtype. Things that look for cards named Forest will not work on those other lands.
    – GendoIkari
    Sep 19, 2018 at 20:52
  • 2
    Also, if somehow any of those cards, including Forest, lost the Forest subtype, it would not be eligible to untap via Arbor Elf, even if it still has the T: add G to your mana. ability.
    – corsiKa
    Sep 19, 2018 at 23:07
  • @corsiKa it's the subtype that gives those lands "T: add G"
    – Caleth
    Oct 11, 2020 at 22:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .