Regenerate is a Magic: The Gathering ability. Regenerate prevents a creature from being destroyed on that turn. This article looks at what regenerate does in MTG with rules and examples, the best regenerate cards, and covers an interesting regenerate deck idea!
MTG Regenerate Rules
What do the Magic: The Gathering regenerate rules say?
The next time this creature would be destroyed this turn, it isn’t. Instead, tap it, remove all damage from it, and remove it from combat.Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules, 701.15. “Regenerate”.
Whenever I regenerate a creature, that creature gets a “shield” against being destroyed for the rest of the turn. If it would be destroyed by damage or a card ability or whatever, it isn’t. Instead, I tap the creature and reset the amount of damage it has taken this turn. If it is in combat, I remove it from combat too. The “regenerate shield” is then used up.
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Regenerate has been a keyword action since Alpha. Initially, it was an evergreen keyword action. It appeared regularly in almost all sets until Oath of the Gatewatch, when its evergreen status was revoked. In Kaladesh, regenerate was finally retired as a keyword.
Although it began as an iconic keyword action, the rulings around regenerate quickly become overcomplicated and difficult for newer players. Rules changes also altered the flavor of regenerate, which made it harder to design cards with the action.
Originally, regenerate was an ability you activated in the damage step to save a creature from dying where it would otherwise take lethal damage. However, with updated rules, regenerate became a shield you activated pre-emptively to prevent a creature from being destroyed in the future.
Since Oath of the Gatewatch, there haven’t been any new regenerate cards printed, and there probably never will be. The niche this keyword action once filled has been replaced by the text “gain indestructible until end of turn,” which has appeared on cards from Kaladesh onward.
Due to regenerate being retired, you won’t find cards with “can’t be regenerated” in premier sets either. Initially, this addition was a way to nerf regenerate and make cards more powerful. Still, now it doesn’t serve a purpose anymore. However, you might find some cards with this text in non-premier sets, primarily for flavor reasons.
Suppose I attack with Ancient Silverback, a creature with an ability that lets me pay one green mana to regenerate it. Now, my opponent casts Defenestrate, targeting my Ancient Silverback. Usually, my creature would be destroyed.
However, instead, I can pay one green mana. Doing so regenerates Ancient Silverback. The next time my creature would be destroyed, it isn’t. So, Defenestrate has no effect. All that happens is that I tap Ancient Silverback and remove it from combat.
I can also regenerate a creature with spells, such as Boon of Erebos. Imagine my opponent attacks me with Goldspan Dragon, which is a 4/4. I block this attacker with my 1/2 Battlefield Raptor. Just like in the last example, my creature would die.
But I can regenerate it. I cast Boon of Erebos, targeting Battlefield Raptor. Now, even though Goldspan Dragon deals lethal damage to my Battlefield Raptor, it isn’t destroyed. Instead, I remove Battlefield Raptor from combat and tap it. Additionally, I remove all damage from it. Now my opponent has to deal two damage to it again if they want it dead.
Regenerate and Deathtouch
I can regenerate a creature to save it from being destroyed by a deathtouch creature. Doing so works like regenerating a creature in any other circumstance. I can even do it before my creature enters combat.
For example, suppose I regenerate Blight Mamba at the start of my turn. Because Blight Mamba wouldn’t have been destroyed yet, nothing happens. However, when I use it to block Egon, God of Death, the regenerate shield activates that same turn. Even though Blight Mamba takes damage from a deathtouch creature, it isn’t destroyed.
Regenerate and Board Wipes
Regenerating a creature can save it from most board wipes. For example, let’s say I cast Doomskar, which destroys all creatures. However, I want to save my Korlash, Heir to Blackblade, from this destruction. I can activate its regenerate ability to do so. Korlash will survive the board wipe.
However, regenerate doesn’t protect from board wipes that don’t destroy or deal damage. Regenerating Korlash won’t save it from Terminus, Languish, or All is Dust.
Certain cards will say “can’t be regenerated” in their text, often to ensure a creature that they destroy stays destroyed. An example would be Damn, which can either destroy a target creature or each creature on the battlefield as a board wipe. Damn isn’t the only board wipe that has this text. The original board wipe, Wrath of God, has it too.
So, if my opponent casts Damn targeting my Charging Troll, my creature will be destroyed. And Charging Troll will be destroyed even if I activated its regenerate ability earlier this turn since Damn specifically reads that a creature destroyed with it “can’t be regenerated.” As such, the “shield” regenerate gives doesn’t matter in this case.
Regenerate and Counters
Regenerating will not remove counters from a creature because that creature doesn’t leave the battlefield. Therefore, counters don’t get removed from it.
So, if I regenerate Isao, Enlightened Bushi, while it has a +1/+1 counter on it, that counter remains. If Isao would be destroyed this turn, it’s tapped instead. Nothing happens to its +1/+1 counter.
However, the same doesn’t apply for -1/-1 counters, specifically. If the 2/1 Isao gets a -1/-1 counter on it, its toughness becomes 0. Because of that, it’ll be put into the graveyard as a state-based action. I can’t regenerate Isao here to save it as it isn’t being destroyed by having 0 toughness. I can’t regenerate to save negative counter creatures from dying.
Regenerate and Summoning Sickness
You can regenerate a creature even if it has summoning sickness. You can do so because regenerate doesn’t need the creature to tap as part of one of its abilities. Instead, regenerate taps the creature as part of its rules, which don’t care about summoning sickness.
So, if I cast Experiment One, it’ll have summoning sickness until my next turn. Nevertheless, I can still activate its regenerate ability. If Experiment One were destroyed this turn, it would be regenerated as usual. Similarly, I can also regenerate it with a spell, like Butcher’s Glee. Either way, regenerating will tap Experiment One despite its summoning sickness.
Best MTG Regenerate Cards
Hellkite Overlord (Regenerate – Black/Red/Green Creature)
Hellkite Overlord is the perfect dragon. Coming in as an 8/8 with flying, haste, and trample, Hellkite Overlord demands an immediate answer, or the game ends in two turns. See, it has firebreathing, too, letting you pay one red mana to give it +1/+0 until the end of turn too.
If that didn’t convince you, maybe the ability on Hellkite Overlord will. If you set up your board right, you can get it out as soon as your turn three or four with Dragon’s Herald. And once it is out, it stays. You can regenerate Hellkite Overlord too.
Golgari Grave Troll (Regenerate – Green Creature)
An infamously broken creature, Golgari Grave Troll is a staple in every format it is still legal in. Golgari Grave Troll is a great way to mill cards in Dredge decks, enabling the deck’s primary strategy.
Golgari Grave Troll will always have great stats since its power and toughness scale with the number of creatures in your graveyard. The ability to regenerate Golgari Grave Troll is just icing on the cake at this point.
Golgari Charm (Regenerate – Green/Black Instant)
Golgari Charm is an incredibly versatile instant, letting me do everything I want to do when playing green and black. Not only does it remove enchantments and kill 1/1 creatures, but you can also use it to save one of your creatures by regenerating it.
Asceticism (Regenerate – Green Enchantment)
With Asceticism, your creatures are almost impossible to remove. In addition to giving them all hexproof, Asceticism also lets you pay two mana to regenerate any target creature. This combination of abilities saves your creatures from combat damage, targeted removal, board wipes, and everything in between!
Swarmyard (Regenerate – Land)
A deceptively powerful land, Swarmyard can tap to regenerate any target insect, rat, spider, or squirrel. In decks based around these trips, Swarmyard can become game-breaking as it turns into a free way to protect your best creatures consistently. Plus, it also taps for mana too.
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni (Regenerate – Black Creature)
Whenever Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, deals combat damage to your opponent, you can take a target creature card from that player’s graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. This ability can end a game on its own. Even a single hit from Ink-Eyes is disruptive. Two hits can swing the game in your favor and massively buff your board state.
Doing all this is only possible with Ink-Eyes’ extraordinary abilities, though. With regenerate, you can always protect Ink-Eyes from destruction and keep landing those devastating hits. Similarly, ninjutsu allows you to flash in Ink-Eyes when it’s least expected.
MTG Regenerate Deck Idea
Regenerate is most commonly found in green, black, and white. However, since it’s a retired mechanic, you won’t find cards printed with the ability nowadays. Because of this restriction, most regenerate cards are underpowered by today’s standards.
So, if you want to get regenerate cards, you should buy them individually or trade for them where possible. Because so few regenerate cards are still competitive, buying old booster backs to get them is a waste of time and money.
However, all isn’t lost if you still want to use this mechanic. Although building a competitive “regenerate tribal” deck will be impossible, specific individual regenerate cards are still powerful and do see competitive play.
Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon – Commander Regenerate
One of the best commanders with the regenerate keyword action, Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon is an impressive 4/4 creature with flying and infect. Not only that, but I can pay one black mana to give it haste until the end of turn, and I can pay two black to regenerate it.
With these abilities, Skithiryx can come down early and instantly take out a third of a player’s life with poison and dodge their removal too.
Skithiryx decks generally focus on powering up their commander, typically in a Voltron style. However, spamming combat tricks aren’t unheard of either. Since a player loses the game if they have ten poison counters, Skithiryx doesn’t need that much help compared to many other commanders. Give it a few buffs, and you can quickly close out the game.
How to play against Regenerate
Successfully playing against regenerate means that prioritizing your damage correctly. Because regenerate creatures can avoid destruction, focus your attacks when your opponent is out of mana and can’t regenerate their creatures.
Similarly, prepare extra killspells if the first one fails due to regeneration.
You can also remove regenerate creatures in ways that don’t involve destruction. Exiling them and countering them are both very effective, as anything prevents them from using their abilities.
Regenerate MTG FAQs
Can I Regenerate a Destroyed Creature?
You can’t regenerate a destroyed creature. Any creature destroyed goes to the graveyard, while regenerate only affects creatures on the battlefield. Instead, it would be best to regenerate a creature before it is destroyed to save it.
Learning how the stack works can help here. Even if your creature would take lethal damage or be destroyed by a card effect, it is possible to save it. You can activate a regenerate ability at instant speed, which will save the creature from destruction. However, if the spell or ability to kill it has already been resolved, you can’t regenerate anymore.
Does Regenerate Stop Combat Damage?
Regenerate does not stop combat damage. Even if I regenerate a creature, it will still take combat damage and deal it too. However, if that creature would receive lethal combat damage, it isn’t destroyed. Instead, I remove it from combat and remove all damage from it.
Damage removed due to regeneration is still dealt with, though. So, if my lifelink creature deals lethal combat damage to a regenerated creature, I will still gain life. But that regenerated creature won’t be destroyed.
Does Regenerate Target Graveyard Creatures?
Regenerate does not target a creature in your graveyard. It is impossible to regenerate a creature that is already dead because regeneration only affects creatures on the battlefield.
Due to this restriction, you cannot regenerate creatures in your graveyard back onto the battlefield. You can only regenerate creatures on the battlefield to stop them from being destroyed.
How Many Times Can You Regenerate a Creature?
There is no limit to how many times you can regenerate a creature. You can regenerate the same creature as many times as you want per turn. However, you will have to pay the regenerate cost each time you activate the ability or cast a new spell to regenerate the creature each time. You cannot regenerate a creature for free.
Does Regenerate Count as Dying?
Regenerate does not count as dying. Instead, regenerate counts as a destruction-replacement effect, which means that any creature that’s regenerated does not die. The game rules consider that creature to have been regenerated instead of dying.
Can You Regenerate Token Creatures?
You can regenerate token creatures like any other creature. You can do so because a token doesn’t go to the graveyard if you regenerate it. As such, it isn’t removed from the game. Instead, it stays on the battlefield.
A note about Regenerate in MTG
Regenerate is a retired ability that works like a shield to protect your creature from being destroyed on that turn. If it would be destroyed that turn by damage or an ability, instead of being destroyed it is tapped, the damage it took is reset and it is removed from combat. After that turn, the “regenerate shield” is used up.
The role that the regenerate ability left behind has been filled by the evergreen ability indestructible.
Regenerate is most common in green, black, and white. An interesting regenerate deck would be a Commander deck built around Skithiryx. To mix up your casual MTG sessions, give some regenerate cards a go. Your opponent won’t enjoy watching your creatures coming back again and again!
For a guide on How to Build your MTG Deck, see our article! Playing Commander? See our full guide on How to Build a Commander Deck it’s packed full of tips!
More Magic: The Gathering Keyword Articles
- How to Build an MTG Deck
- How to Build a Commander Deck in MTG
- MTG Evergreen Keywords List
- MTG Counter
- MTG Counter (Markers)
- MTG Deathtouch
- MTG Defender
- MTG Double Strike
- MTG Enchant
- MTG Equip
- MTG Fear
- MTG Fight
- MTG First Strike
- MTG Flash
- MTG Flying
- MTG Haste
- MTG Hexproof
- MTG Indestructible
- MTG Intimidate
- MTG Lifelink
- MTG Menace
- MTG Protection
- MTG Prowess
- MTG Reach
- MTG Sacrifice
- MTG Shroud
- MTG Tap and Untap
- MTG Trample
- MTG Vigilance
- MTG Ward
Hi, I’m Emily, the tabletop gamer behind My Kind of Meeple. If this article helped you, I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.