Last updated on November 20, 2023

Charge Across the Araba - Illustration Dany Orizio

Charge Across the Araba | Illustration Dany Orizio

Hello planeswalkers! Let’s dive into a little-known mechanic that uses the same word as popular MTG slang. We’re talking about the sweep keyword today, not to be confused with the slang term for a board wipe. Board wipes are common, powerful, and ever-present in MTG. Sweep the mechanic, however, only appears on four older cards.

You’re here, which means you want to learn about this obscure keyword and what possibilities it may hold. Welcome! You’re amongst nerdy friends. At Draftsim we love to get into the weeds and explore all the keywords of MTG, no matter the prevalence.

So, if you’ve never heard of it or want to learn more about it, let’s take a look at the sweep keyword.

How Does Sweep Work?

Sink into Takenuma - Illustration by Pat Lee

Sink into Takenuma | Illustration by Pat Lee

The sweep keyword focuses on returning specific basic land types to your hand as it resolves to add strength to a spell, similar to an X effect. The more of that specific basic land type cards you return, the bigger effect your spell has.

Sweep is a straightforward mechanic, but I’ll note you can return lands with multiple basic land types if they share the same nonbasic land type as the sweep requires.

The History of Sweep in MTG

The sweep keyword was introduced and only printed in the Saviors of Kamigawa set in 2005. The four cards with sweep are all non-permanent arcane spells; three instants and one sorcery. There’s one red, two white, and one black sweep card, and they return specific basic lands of the corresponding colors (the black one returns swamps). This keyword never became evergreen or even reprinted because of the lack of popularity with limiting your curve and mana advantages.

Is Sweep an Additional Cost?

Technically, no. It feels like an additional cost because you return the lands as the spell is resolving. It’s not an additional cost because it doesn’t use the word “additional” and you return the lands as the spell is resolving, not before.

Is Sweep an Activated Ability?

No, sweep isn’t an activated ability. An activated ability is an ability you pay (mana, tap, etc.) to activate to get its effect. Sweep is an ability keyword and is applied when the card is cast. Ability keywords are thematically related, but there are no special meanings in the comprehensive rules.

What If You Return Zero Lands?

Well, then you just wasted a card and some mana. All the sweep cards have benefits depending on the number of lands you return to your hand. If you return zero lands, all the benefits become zero. You can return zero lands, but you get zero benefits.

Can You Counter a Card With Sweep After They’ve Returned Lands?

No, you cannot. The lands are returned after the spell is resolved, meaning the window to counter the spell has already closed. Returning lands isn't a part of the casting cost of the spell.

Gallery and List of Sweep Cards

Best Sweep Cards

Sink into Takenuma

Sink into Takenuma

Of the four cards with sweep, Sink into Takenuma barely makes it into the top half. You’re probably not going to use it, as discard is never a very overpowered strategy. However, I think it might be fun to control the board early with cards like Evolved Sleeper and then make your opponent discard their entire, or most, of their hand.

Charge Across the Araba

Charge Across the Araba

Charge Across the Araba is the only sweep card I can see any value in. It’s a mass pump that can push your aggressive white or Boros () swarm over the top. The true value here is this is a mass pump at instant speed. This is an aggressive and swarm player’s dream kind of card.

Decklist: Sweep aggro Modern

Myrel, Shield of Argive - Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Myrel, Shield of Argive | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

This deck uses two instant cards with sweep and midrange white creatures to destroy your opponent. It focuses on board presence with some weenie creature tokens and attacking often. It won’t provide much removal or protection, but you’re betting on having enough creatures to overpower your opponent. When you’re ready for a final strike, use your plains as pumps with Plow Through Reito or Charge Across the Araba.

Wrap Up

Plow Through Reito - Illustration by Ron Spencer

Plow Through Reito | Illustration by Ron Spencer

Thank you for taking the time to read about this obscure keyword in MTG. I absolutely love the immense amount of strategies, keywords, and possibilities in MTG. Sweep may not be that good of a keyword, and one we won’t likely see again, but it adds to the richness of this game we love.

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Have fun and keep exploring!

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