Poisonous – MTG Keywords Explained

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Poison counters are an alternate win condition that has been around since the early days of Magic. Instead of dealing 20 damage to your opponent, you could give them 10 poison counters and win the game. But the keyword “poisonous” didn’t appear until Future Sight, where it codified the mechanic and gave tribal Sliver decks an even more powerful angle of attack.

What is Poisonous?

Written as “poisonous N,” poisonous means that whenever a creature with the ability deals any amount of combat damage to a player, that player gets N poison counters. Unlike older cards that gave players poison counters, poisonous it specifically applies to combat damage, not just any damage.

A few notes on poisonous:

  • Combat damage must be dealt for poisonous to trigger. If combat damage is prevented, or if the creature has zero power when combat is dealt, poisonous will not trigger.
  • Poisonous triggers each time the creature deals combat damage, so double strike works very well with poisonous.
  • Poisonous stacks, with each instance on a creature triggering separately.

Poison would make a comeback with Infect a little later, but that doesn’t mean the Poisonous mechanic is gone forever. Indeed, Virulent Sliver remains a popular win condition for Sliver decks — so popular, in fact, that it’s been reprinted a handful of times. If dealing regular combat damage seems too slow, give Poisonous and Infect a try!