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I was reviewing the a spreadsheet I created of the RTR spoiler to prepare my strategy for this coming weekend. In doing so, I noticed that here and on previous sets if a creature has flying, it is virtually always the first ability listed on the card.

Now, I see a strong parallel between Magic card abilities and Java class, method, and member modifiers. In the same vein that a public static int is syntactically the same as a static public int, a creature that is flying, deathtouch is the same as deathtouch, flying. But you never really see the latter, only the former.

A search of the official rules didn't indicate anything, nor did Google.

Is there a canonical, conventional, or official order by which I can expect cards to have their abilities listed on the card?

Edit: I take back one comment. Faerie Invaders has Flash before Flying. Perhaps Flash is 'more important' than Flying?

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  • iirc the ordering is usually: casting modifiers for this spell (flash, additional cost...), normal abilities, activated abilities, triggered abilities, alternate casting (suspend, cycling, kicker...) ,flavor text. – Colin D Sep 26 '12 at 17:03
  • Cairn Wanderer is a good place to start for keyword order. – WLPhoenix Sep 27 '12 at 21:22
  • too much forced the Java mention – Zhen Sep 28 '12 at 11:59
  • @Zhen It wasn't forced at all. It was the first thing I thought of when I began pondering the ability-order problem. – corsiKa Sep 28 '12 at 15:22
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This question has come up in the distant past, so there is no telling whether the design philosophy has changed. In the June 2006 Ask Wizards column,

Q: I've noticed on creatures with multiple keywords (flying, trample, etc.) that the keywords are in a certain order. For instance, Flying comes before First Strike and First Strike comes before Trample (Just look at Akroma, Angel of Wrath). My question is: Imagine that there was a creature printed with every keyword in Magic, what is the ordering of the keywords and is there any logical pattern to the ordering? --Matthew Burnaby, BC, Canada

A: From Del Laugel, Senior Editor: The short answer is that there's no fixed order for keywords. I check Oracle for similar cards whenever an unusual combination comes up, but my top priority is getting the individual cards to read well. But what fun is a short answer?

[Following is an example card with just about every keyword ever, Keyword Ultimus, cut from this answer for brevity]

In a now-disappeared thread from the shut down wizards community forum, a user magicalblender supposedly compiled a list of evergreen keywords, and which ones always proceed the other. I cannot verify the correctness of this claim, as I haven't updated my cards.mwsbase database with the most recent cards.

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From a rules standpoint, the order in which the abilities are written is of no importance. (The exception is spell abilities. They are performed in order. For example, Footbottom Feast has two spell abilities.)

From a clarity standpoint, placing abilities in a predictable order and placing certain abilities before others makes a difference.

The card designers spend considerable effort making the cards as clear as possible, so they adhere to some form of convention.

I do not know if they publish these conventions, and I'm sure they are fluid (changed as needed).

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  • 1
    Of course. The question is, have they ever posted their guidelines? – corsiKa Sep 26 '12 at 17:29
  • Don't know. You asked if there was. You also brought up the rules. I answered those, and that's all I can answer. – ikegami Sep 26 '12 at 17:33
  • They often talk about design decision on their blog, and might have published something there, but I doubt they would have published something comprehensive. – ikegami Sep 26 '12 at 17:34
  • Perhaps this is best asked on Maro's tumblr. :-) – corsiKa Sep 26 '12 at 17:36
  • Flash is important to know when in hand. That might be why it's first. – ikegami Sep 26 '12 at 17:38

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