What IS Ascend?!

Ascend – MTG Mechanics Explained

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Ascend is…odd. It can exist on any card type, but works a little differently if it’s on an instant or sorcery as opposed to a permanent. On a permanent, it’s a static ability, while on an instant or sorcery, it’s a spell ability that check the game state upon resolution. In either case, Ascend means if you control ten or more permanents and don’t have the City’s Blessing, you get the City’s Blessing for the rest of the game.

Now to explain that part. The City’s Blessing is a designation, like Monarch or Initiative. Unlike those two, the City’s Blessing has no rules that inherently go along with it. Once you have the Blessing, you will have it for the remainder of the game. No one can take it or remove it, and multiple players can have it in the same game. It does nothing on its own…but there are other cards that do different things based on whether or not you have the City’s Blessing. Arch of Orzaca (which is the city in question, for you lore hounds out there) has an ability that can only be activated if you have the City’s Blessing.

Got that so far? Good, because now, notes!

  • As noted before, instants and sorceries with ascend check you permanent count upon resolution. If you would have ten permanents but one gets removed in response to the spell, you will not end up getting the City’s Blessing.
  • On permanents, Ascend isn’t a triggered ability and doesn’t use the stack. If you have a permanent with ascend, then the moment you get ten permanents on the battlefield, no matter for how short a time (for example, if you cast a legendary creature you already have a copy of), you will get the City’s Blessing for the rest of the game.
  • Some cards have triggers that check if you have the City’s Blessing. When those abilities are worded with an intervening if clause (like the one on Deadeye Brawler) no trigger will occur if you don’t have the City’s Blessing. If they don’t have an intervening if (meaning the part the card that says “if you have the city’s blessing” is its own sentence), then the trigger will happen regardless of if you have the City’s Blessing or not, but will not do the part of the trigger that references the City’s Blessing (for example, Kumena’s Awakening).

There’s some other very edge-case stuff, but that should cover most situations. Ascend was very much tied to Ixalan, so it’s thematically unlikely to return as it is outside of that plane. Mechanics like this could pop up, although the track record would show them mostly occurring in supplemental sets designed for multiplayer.

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