MTG Keywords Explained: Sunburst

Card Kingdom Strategy

Last week, we discussed modular: an ability that adds counters to artifact creatures and allows players to move those counters around. Today, we’ll be talking about another mechanic you’ll find on artifacts: sunburst!

What is Sunburst?

Like modular, sunburst first appeared in the artifact-heavy original Mirrodin block, and it appears solely on artifacts. Both artifact creatures and non-artifact creatures can have sunburst, but it functions a little differently on these different types of cards.

When you cast an artifact creature with sunburst, it enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter for each color of mana spent to cast it. If you cast a non-creature artifact with sunburst, instead it enters with a charge counter for each color of mana spent to cast it. This remains true even if the non-creature artifact would enter as a creature somehow; sunburst only cares about what’s printed on the card’s type line.

Sunburst only works if the spell is being cast. If a card with sunburst entered the battlefield some other way (for example, if you put it directly onto the battlefield from the graveyard), it will get no counters from sunburst. You also can’t “overpay” for sunburst — if a Sunburst card has a total mana value of 2, you can’t try to pay 3 mana of different colors.

Sunburst is a mechanic that will reward you if you build your deck to take advantage of it. Many artifact decks are colorless or feature a single support color, but sunburst gets better and better the more colors you play.

While the mechanic itself has never been as popular as other artifact mechanics like affinity, a few cards with sunburst have become mainstays of older formats. The most popular card with sunburst is Engineered Explosives, which is a staple in Commander and in sideboards in formats like Modern.

Looking to add some cards with sunburst to your decks? Browse all the cards with sunburst here!