MTG Keywords Explained: What is Unearth?

Get up to date on the returning keyword in The Brothers’ War.

Introduced in Shards of Alara, Unearth is a keyword ability that returns a permanent from the graveyard to the battlefield with haste and then exiled at the beginning of the next end step. Unearth plays similarly to Flashback but only at sorcery speed, where you have another opportunity to cast the card but from the graveyard.

What is Unearth in Magic: The Gathering?

Mishra, Tamer of Mak Fawa (Borderless)

The Brothers’ War

Mishra, Tamer of Mak Fawa (Borderless) - The Brothers' War - Magic: The Gathering

Unearth also returns in The Brothers’ War where the artifact-focused set allows you to recur artifacts or permanents for more value. For example, if you have Mishra, Tamer of Mak Fawa on the battlefield, all artifacts you control in your graveyard come with Unearth for one Red, one Black, and one generic mana. If you happen to have a Mishra’s Bauble in your graveyard, you can pay the three mana to cast the card from your graveyard onto the battlefield, but the moment you sacrifice it, Mishra’s Bauble is then exiled. If you choose to do nothing with the Mishra’s Bauble, it is then exiled at the beginning of the next end step.

Scrapwork Mutt

The Brothers’ War, Common

Scrapwork Mutt - The Brothers' War - magic

This also applies if you successfully Unearth an artifact creature (such as Scrapwork Mutt) and it dies during the combat phase, it would also go into exile. In addition, Unearth only appears on creature cards, but some cards can grant Unearth to other non-creature permanents. 

How to Play With Unearth in Magic: The Gathering

Unearth is a powerful keyword but can cause complicated rulings due to time stamps. Let’s dig in on how to play with the recursive keyword.

  • You can activate the Unearth ability of a card in your graveyard regardless of how it ended up in your graveyard in the first place.
  • If you attempt to activate the Unearth ability but if that card is removed from your graveyard as the ability resolves (from an activated Unlicensed Hearse, for example), the Unearth ability will resolve but do nothing.
  • Unearth is an alternative cost which means it isn’t casting the creature card. As such, Unearth is put on the stack, but the creature card is not. For example, an opponent can’t cast Exclude to remove the Unearthed creature from re-entering the battlefield.
  • Unearth gives the creature haste that’s returned to the battlefield. However, none of the exile abilities are attached to that creature. For example, if the creature was to lose all of its abilities, it would still be exiled at the beginning of the next end step, and if it were to leave the battlefield before then, it would still be exiled. 
  • If a creature returned to the battlefield with Unearth and would leave the battlefield for any reason, it is exiled instead. However, if there’s a spell or ability that causes the creature to leave the battlefield by exiling it (such as an Flickerwisp-style effect), the card succeeds in exiling it. If the Unearth card returns to the battlefield at a later point, it will return as a new object with no attachment to its previous experience of being Unearthed. It is a new card.