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Ward, the new keyword introduced in Strixhaven, counters spells and abilities that target that creature unless you pay a cost.

Ward {2} (Whenever this creature becomes the target of a spell or ability an opponent controls, counter it unless that player pays {2}.)

The card Waterfall Aerialist. A 3 power 1 toughness Djinn Wizard for 3 generic and 1 blue mana. It has flying and Ward 2.

Now, Baral, Chief of Compliance says this:

Whenever a spell or ability you control counters a spell, you may draw a card. If you do, discard a card.

Does the Ward keyword count as an ability for the purposes of Baral's draw ability?

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    If I saw this card without context, here's how I would analyze it: this word is unfamiliar, so it must be an ability word, keyword action, or keyword ability. It's not an ability word, because it's not italics, and it's not a keyword action, because those always appear within the text of other abilities. Therefore, it must be a keyword ability, and those are all abilities by definition. The reminder text starts with the word "Whenever", which makes it specifically a triggered ability.
    – murgatroid99
    Mar 26 at 17:36
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Yes, this is confirmed by the Strixhaven mechanics guide:

Ward is a triggered ability.

More generally, a triggered ability is defined as (Comprehensive Rules 603.1):

Triggered abilities have a trigger condition and an effect. They are written as “[When/Whenever/At] [trigger condition or event], [effect]. [Instructions (if any).]”

The reminder text for Ward meets that pattern; while reminder text formally has no bearing on the game, it is intended to be helpful and it would be very unhelpful for the reminder text to meet the pattern of a triggered ability without being one.

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  • It might be worth pointing out that Ward will only trigger effects triggered by spells being countered if the opponent chooses not to pay the Ward cost.
    – nick012000
    Mar 31 at 6:30

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