Early September 2009 Update Bulletin

Posted in Feature on September 3, 2009

By Mark L. Gottlieb

What's that? You weren't expecting me so soon? You may notice that this article is titled the "Early September 2009 Update Bulletin." That's right—you lucky duckies get two visits from your Uncle Evil Doctor Wombat this month!

The second update will coincide with the Zendikar Prerelease. That's when the Comprehensive Rules will be hit with a crowbar delicately tuned to incorporate all necessary Zendikariana, and I'll spend some time reviewing the more esoteric Oracle items clogging up my inbox.

This update, on the other hand, covers Planechase and Masters Edition III. The Planechase planes (plus four extra cards that don't seem to have come from any previously printed set .... Weird ....) are being entered into Oracle, and will thus show up in Gatherer. So, as long as we're doing an Oracle update, we might as well do an Oracle update. This is certainly nonstandard—Oracle is generally updated only when a new expansion is released—but the July Update Bulletin noted that it was coming.

Since this is an off-season update, I kept the futzing around to a minimum. Here's what's changing in Oracle:

  • The Planechase planes have been added.
  • The four Zendikar cards that appear in the Planechase decks have been added.
  • Since two of the cards in the Planechase decks have the new kicker template, all 73 previous cards that mention kicker have been updated. More on this after the jump.
  • 20 cards that appear in Masters Edition III got template changes to better reflect how they were originally printed. All details to come.
  • Two cards from Portal Three Kingdoms got the same change that one of the Masters Edition III cards got. Ditto for an Arabian Nights card and its Masters Edition III counterpart.
  • Reaping the Rewards got a typo corrected. ("Sacrifice" was misspelled in Oracle.)
  • Æther Rift got an obsolete wording updated. ("Discard a card from your hand" changed to just "Discard a card.")
  • Harm's Way got a minor wording correction to help alleviate some confusion. Shining Shoal and Shadowbane got the same fix.

Similarly, I wanted to keep the Comprehensive Rulebook changes low, covering only what needed to be changed, keeping in mind that there's another update coming. However, we're coming off the largest revision to the rulebook in a decade, so there were a number of errors and oversights to correct. Plus, if something is wrong in the rules, it's best to fix it sooner rather than later. I want to thank all the people who sent in items to correct, but I'm especially grateful to Sandro Manfredini, who translates the Comprehensive Rulebook into Italian(!), and Pao Yonemura, the Japan Netrep, each of whom sent along a hefty list of corrections.

The biggest change to the rulebook this time out was adding in the rules for Planar Magic. This included adding a new card type (plane), a new zone (command), a new category of card ("nontraditional" cards are oversized and have different backs, but are still cards), and a whole new rulebook section ("Casual Variants"). That section will be expanded a bit in a few weeks, but for now, Planar Magic is all alone.

There were a few other random updates to the rules. Details are linked below. Enjoy Planechase and Masters Edition III, and I'll be back before you know it with more Melvin minutiae!


As printed, kicker cards had abilities that did their thing "if you paid the kicker cost." This was inaccurate (since it didn't matter if you paid the kicker cost), so these long ago changed to say "if the kicker cost was paid." But that's still inaccurate. What matters is whether you choose to pay the kicker cost as you cast the spell, not whether you actually pay it. Imagine that there's a card that costs and has a kicker cost of . (Oh, wait—there is.) Now imagine that there's a card that reduces the cost you pay for creature spells you cast by . (Oh, wait—there is.) Now put them together. You cast Ardent Soldier, you choose to pay the kicker cost, but you wind up spending just because you control Planar Gate. Ardent Soldier's ability says that it gets a +1/+1 counter if the kicker cost was paid. Well, it wasn't ... but Ardent Soldier still gets the +1/+1 counter because the ability is lying. After the revision, these abilities check whether the spell "was kicked," not whether the cost was paid. It should be much clearer that that's based on the decision rather than the payment mechanics.

Harm's Way
This card has two major confusion issues working against it. One involves how it interacts with your opponent's planeswalkers (short answer: badly), which is not getting addressed at this time. The other involves how it interacts with Pyroclasm. If a single source is dealing damage to you and/or creatures you control and/or planeswalkers you control, you can redirect any 2 of that source's damage. You choose which bits of damage with pinpoint accuracy. So, for example, if you control two Runeclaw Bears and someone casts Pyroclasm, you can save both Bears by redirecting 1 damage Pyroclasm would deal to Bear A and 1 damage Pyroclasm would deal to Bear B. But that's really unclear from the wording, so we're tweaking it to help.

New wording
The next 2 damage that a source of your choice would deal to you and/or permanents you control this turn is dealt to target creature or player instead.

Angus Mackenzie
As printed, there was a restriction on when you could activate its ability.

New wording
{oGoWoU}, {oT}: Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn. Activate this ability only before the combat damage step.

Arcades Sabboth
This bad boy's third ability got rewritten for clarity.

New wording
At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice Arcades Sabboth unless you pay {oGoWoU}.
Each untapped creature you control gets +0/+2 as long as it's not attacking.
{oW}: Arcades Sabboth gets +0/+1 until end of turn.

The Oracle wording divided the damage evenly, but then rounded that damage in different ways. I don't think this should be a "divide" effect, so it's going back to something closer to its printed wording.

New wording
{oX}, {oT}: Banshee deals half X damage, rounded down, to target creature or player, and half X damage, rounded up, to you.

Burning of Xinye, Imperial Edict, & Wei Assassins
Burning of Xinye is the "Portal Three Kingdoms Wildfire." Except it's totally not. The printed wording is "You destroy four of your lands and your opponent destroys four of his or her lands. Then Burning of Xinye deals 4 damage to each creature. (This includes your creatures.)" This is quite different from Wildfire. The lands are destroyed, not sacrificed. And on other Portal cards, "your opponent" has been interpreted quite consistently as meaning "target opponent," so it'd be wildly arbitrary for this one to hit "each player" instead ... especially if your teammate gets caught in the crossfire.

New wording
You destroy four lands you control, then target opponent destroys four lands he or she controls. Then Burning of Xinye deals 4 damage to each creature.

Imperial Edict and Wei Assassins were also printed with "destroy" wordings that had migrated over to "sacrifice" in Oracle because of the similarity they bore to other cards (specifically Cruel Edict). But they're changing back too.

New Imperial Edict wording
Target opponent chooses a creature he or she controls. Destroy it.

New Wei Assassins wording
When Wei Assassins enters the battlefield, target opponent chooses a creature he or she controls. Destroy it.

Call to Arms & Jihad
A few issues here. As printed, Call to Arms referenced "cards," so it shouldn't look at tokens. More importantly, Call to Arms would be buried in the event of a tie for most common color; that's not true with the wording it's had in Oracle. And less importantly (but more pedantically), the printed card stopped granting the bonus as soon as the condition wasn't true. Jihad's getting the same fix on the third point.

New Call to Arms wording
As Call to Arms enters the battlefield, choose a color and an opponent.
White creatures get +1/+1 as long as the chosen color is the most common color among nontoken permanents the chosen player controls but isn't tied for most common.
When the chosen color isn't the most common color among nontoken permanents the chosen player controls or is tied for most common, sacrifice Call to Arms.

New Jihad wording
As Jihad enters the battlefield, choose a color and an opponent.
White creatures get +2/+1 as long as the chosen player controls a nontoken permanent of the chosen color.
When the chosen player controls no nontoken permanents of the chosen color, sacrifice Jihad.

Cosmic Horror
As printed, Cosmic Horror was destroyed, not sacrificed, if you didn't pay. The new wording also flows better (IMO) than what was there.

New wording
First strike
At the beginning of your upkeep, destroy Cosmic Horror unless you pay {o3oBoBoB}. If Cosmic Horror is destroyed this way, it deals 7 damage to you.

Dance of Many
This just had two instances of "creature token" get streamlined down to "token." The abilities still work if the token has somehow ceased to be a creature, so the wording might as well reflect that.

New wording
When Dance of Many enters the battlefield, put a token that's a copy of target nontoken creature onto the battlefield.
When Dance of Many leaves the battlefield, exile the token.
When the token leaves the battlefield, sacrifice Dance of Many.
At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice Dance of Many unless you pay {oUoU}.

Divine Intervention
This card was a victim of "Oracle drift"; it had functionally changed in Oracle for no discernable reason. It behaved differently if the last counter is removed by Æther Snap, for example. So it's being undriftified.

New wording
Divine Intervention enters the battlefield with two intervention counters on it.
At the beginning of your upkeep, remove an intervention counter from Divine Intervention.
When you remove the last intervention counter from Divine Intervention, the game is a draw.

Gauntlets of Chaos
All printed wordings of this card targeted both permanents, but the version in Oracle targeted only one (and didn't have you choose a second permanent until resolution). So that got changed back. Also, there was some discrepancy among the printed wordings as to whether the Auras would be destroyed if the exchange didn't happen. Usually we stick with the most recent printed functionality, but the Legends take on this issue was so much cleaner and more intuitive (the Auras are destroyed only if the exchange happens) that we made an exception and went with that.

New wording
{o5}, Sacrifice Gauntlets of Chaos: Exchange control of target artifact, creature, or land you control and target permanent an opponent controls that shares one of those types with it. If those permanents are exchanged this way, destroy all Auras attached to them.

Deleted an extraneous comma. This card's Oracle wording isn't quite the same as its printed wording, but the printed wording doesn't quite, y'know, work. This is as close as it gets.

New wording
At the beginning of your upkeep, Halfdane's power and toughness become equal to the power and toughness of target creature other than Halfdane until the end of your next upkeep.

Hazezon Tamar
With the printed wording, if Hazezon leaves the battlefield before the tokens are created, the tokens then show up and get to stick around forever. The Oracle wording has been hacked so that's not the case; the tokens would die immediately. That's getting changed.

The printed wording has Hazezon exile all Sand Warriors, but the Oracle wording has Hazezon's presence on the battlefield affect just the Sand Warriors it creates. That's getting changed.

Although the printed wording isn't very clear, I came to believe that the ability is supposed to create a delayed triggered ability when Hazezon enters the battlefield, not be a "beginning of upkeep" trigger that looks into the past (as it is in Oracle). The Oracle wording has the bizarre ramification that if I cast Hazezon Tamar, then on your next turn you Mind Control it, no one gets any tokens at all! And that just can't be right, so that's getting changed too.

New wording
When Hazezon Tamar enters the battlefield, put X 1/1 Sand Warrior creature tokens that are red, green, and white onto the battlefield at the beginning of your next upkeep, where X is the number of lands you control at that time.
When Hazezon leaves the battlefield, exile all Sand Warriors.

Illusionary Mask
What a weird, weird card. Under the original rules in place for this card, a face-down creature is what it actually is ... it was just face down. So, for example, if you had a face-down Lord of the Pit, and your opponent tried to Terror it (because how would she know it was black?) the Terror would be an illegal play. "It doesn't work." "Why not?" "It just doesn't." It would live through Infest. It would eat a creature during each of your upkeeps. This had some implementation problems, as you might imagine. Around the time the morph-filled Onslaught came out, the rules for face-down cards changed, and this card changed accordingly. But what it changed to was quite arbitrary, and didn't match what the card said at all.

The Oracle wording diverges pretty heavily from the printed wording. It ignored color considerations with the creature's mana cost (you originally had to pay the creature card's actual mana cost, plus whatever extra you wanted to disguise it), it put the creature directly onto the battlefield (you originally cast it), it used counters (which can be manipulated), and it allowed the creature to be turned face up whenever its controller wanted (such as when it's targeted with a -1/-1 ability), and it made the creature be 0/1 (which is imaginary; the printed card doesn't list a power and toughness because the creature was what it actually was).

There's no way we can mimic the original functionality; the rules regarding face-down creatures and hidden information are too strong and too logical. Instead, the card has been changed to come as close as possible to a modern-day interpretation (under the current rules system) of the printed card. This includes the notion that face-down creatures are 2/2, not 0/1.

New wording
{oX}: You may choose a creature card in your hand whose mana cost could be paid by some amount of, or all of, the mana you spent on {oX}. If you do, you may cast that card face down as a 2/2 creature spell without paying its mana cost. If the creature that spell becomes as it resolves has not been turned face up and would assign or deal damage, be dealt damage, or become tapped, instead it’s turned face up and assigns or deals damage, is dealt damage, or becomes tapped. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.

There are memory issues involved. You need to write down and keep track of what was spent on {X} for each creature (including both amount and type of mana). Then later, when the card is turned face up, you can compare that mana to see if it included the creature's actual mana cost. If not, all appropriate punishments for cheating—given the game, the setting, and the sadisticness of one's opponents—apply.

Ivory Guardians
The printed card referred to "cards," so this should refer to "nontoken permanents."

New wording
Protection from red
Creatures named Ivory Guardians get +1/+1 as long as an opponent controls a nontoken red permanent.

Kjeldoran Frostbeast
The Oracle wording is functionally different than its printed text. Taking the printed wording at face value, if the Frostbeast blocks or is blocked by a 4/4, for example, the Frostbeast is killed during the combat damage step so its end-of-combat trigger never triggers and the 4/4 lives. (The Oracle wording kills the 4/4.) That makes the ability very narrow: It's useful only against creatures with power 3 or less and toughness 3 or more (unless the Frostbeast's stats are changed, or its combat damage is prevented, in which case it can slaughter more creatures). So some interpretation has been applied here. But (of course) I think it should work literally as printed.

New wording
At end of combat, destroy all creatures blocking or blocked by Kjeldoran Frostbeast.

Kobold Overlord
The Oracle wording is functionally different than the printed wording with regard to subtype changing effects. As printed, Kobold Overlord would have first strike even if something caused it to stop being a Kobold; that's not true of the Oracle wording.

New wording
First strike
Other Kobold creatures you control have first strike.

Rohgahh of Kher Keep
More Oracle drift ....

  1. As printed, the control change affected all Kobolds of Kher Keep, not just the ones you control.
  2. As printed, the creatures became tapped before changing control.
  3. The intervening-unless clause is weird (as also seen on Cosmic Horror's Oracle wording that we're getting rid of).
  4. The reminder text doesn't need to be there. I like keeping it when it's on the original card, but see no reason to introduce it. Worse, it's misleading since it's next to "tap it."

New wording
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may pay {oRoRoR}. If you don't, tap Rohgahh of Kher Keep and all creatures named Kobolds of Kher Keep, then an opponent gains control of them.
Creatures you control named Kobolds of Kher Keep get +2/+2.

Spoils of Victory
And this is the Oracle driftiest card I've ever seen! The printed card had you search your library for a Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, or Forest card. The Oracle wording had you search for a basic land card, as if those were the same thing! Tundra has something to say about that ... .

New wording
Search your library for a Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, or Forest card and put that card onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.

Taking the printed wording at face value, if Stangg entered the battlefield, had its ability trigger, and then left the battlefield, you would get a Stangg Twin token. The Oracle wording closed that possibility by adding an "if Stangg is on the battlefield" clause. It makes flavor sense: you get both twins or none. But it's not what the printed card says.

New wording
When Stangg enters the battlefield, put a legendary 3/4 red and green Human Warrior creature token named Stangg Twin onto the battlefield. When Stangg leaves the battlefield, exile that token. When that token leaves the battlefield, sacrifice Stangg.

The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
"Destroy" on the printed card became "sacrifice" in Oracle.

New wording
All creatures have "At the beginning of your upkeep, destroy this creature unless you pay {o1}."

Voodoo Doll
Another sacrifice/destroy discrepancy. Also, the printed card implies that you don't destroy Voodoo Doll if the damage it would deal to you is prevented.

New wording
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a pin counter on Voodoo Doll.
At the beginning of your end step, if Voodoo Doll is untapped, it deals damage to you equal to the number of pin counters on it. If Voodoo Doll deals damage to you this way, destroy it.
{oXoX}, {oT}: Voodoo Doll deals X damage to target creature or player. X is the number of pin counters on Voodoo Doll.

Planar Magic
This was a pretty involved addition. It hit the 100s (since now some games require additional items to play), 103.6 (since there may be an additional start-of-game procedure), 107.10-11 (to cover the new symbols), 108.2 (since now there are two sizes of cards), 108.3 (since now some cards start the game not in a deck, and who owns them needs to be defined), 112.5k (to say that abilities of plane cards function from the command zone), 114.2f (since rolling the planar die is a special action), 202.1b (since planes have no mana cost), 202.4a (since plane is a card type, 204.3b (since plane subtypes, unlike all other subtypes, may be multiple words), 204.3m (to cover plane subtypes and list them), 206.4 (to mention the {C} symbol used as a rules-meaningless signifier in plane cards' text boxes), 309 (the rules for planes in the "Card Types" section), different bits of the 400s (since now there's a new zone and new card behaviors in that zone), 408 (the rules for the command zone in the "Zones" section), 603.6d (since the game has to look back in time to see if "when you planeswalk away from this plane" abilities trigger), 701.19 (which now defines the "planeswalk" action), 800.4i (to cover leaving-the-game procedure), and all of section 9 (which currently just covers Planar Magic).

The 104 section, 603.9, 801.17
While looking at Divine Intervention, I realized that the rules don't cover what happens if this card goes off during a multiplayer game with range of influence. In such a game, if an effect says you win, instead everyone within range loses and the game continues. But what happens if an effect says the game is a draw? We decided that everyone within range has their game end with the result of a draw, and they leave the game. Everyone else continues to play, and may still win or lose. This change required rules support (naturally), additional support for specialized multiplayer games like Emperor, and some redefinition of "leaves the game."

106.4, 500.4, 703.4n
There was some inconsistent terminology regarding mana pools emptying at the end of steps and phases. Now it's consistent (and uses the word "empties").

This rule talks about objects with multiple abilities, but was incomplete.

The source definition was incomplete.

This left out Circu, Dimir Lobotomist, whose abilities target a zone.

"an instant spell" was changed to "a spell"

"or ability" was deleted; abilities don't have alternative costs.

This is the overview of the damage rules, but it was written as though only objects (not players) could be dealt damage.

118.7, 608.7a
These rules, about choosing a source, were expanded to cover a source referred to by a prevention or replacement effect that's waiting to apply, as well as an object in the command zone.

Effects replace card draws, not abilities; the text was changed accordingly.

120.3, 704.5s
A new state-based action added just for Rasputin Dreamweaver. If it has too many counters, the excess ones are removed.

This said that core sets prior to Sixth Edition didn't have expansion symbols, but the Chinese Fifth Edition set did.

This rule said that rules 301.7a–d apply to Fortifications in relation to lands just as they apply to Equipment in relation to creatures. Taking that literally, 301.7b's sentence "An Equipment that's also a creature can't equip a creature" would translate as "A Fortification that's also a land can't equip a land." That's not the case, so this has been clarified.

Tweaked to mention the enchanted player (who is also different from the Aura's controller).

Added "he or she controls".

This rule had you track exiled card that might return to the battlefield, but it's just as important to track exiled cards that affect the game (such as cards haunting permanents).

The former rule had an erroneous clause ("an effect says that it becomes unblocked") deleted; that doesn't affect blocking creatures. The latter rule had a similar phrase moved from a parenthetical into the body of the rule.

509.2a, 509.3a
These were synched up; the latter was missing a clause the former included.

This referred to abilities that read "Whenever a creature blocks [this creature]". But no abilities say that; they say "Whenever [this creature] becomes blocked by a creature." So the rule was changed accordingly.

An erroneous "blocking" was changed to "attacking".

501.5, 704.2b, 702.7b
These rules didn't correctly cover what happens if a creature has double strike, deals damage in the first combat damage step, then loses double strike. It's not supposed to deal damage again, but a strict interpretation of the rule would allow it to do so. This has been addressed.

Two instances of "go on the stack" have been changed to "trigger," since that's the actual action taking place.

601.2a, 603.3
These rules didn't account for the possibility that some external effect might cause a spell or ability to leave the stack (like Time Stop or Venser, Shaper Savant).

The example erroneously said "color" rather than "type".

This rule was covering Sphere of Law (for example) just fine, but wasn't covering Daunting Defender correctly at all. It's been revised, and an example was added.

A reminder rule was added to the regeneration section to clarify that activating an ability that creates a regeneration shield is not the same thing as regenerating a permanent.

These rules now state that only untapped permanents can be tapped, and only tapped permanents can be untapped.

702.2, 702.13, 702.77
Deathtouch, lifelink, and wither work in all zones. That's because these keywords don't actually do anything; they're basically just markers. The rules for these abilities always work (since they're rules), and they just check the characteristics of objects to see if they have the static ability the rule in question cares about. Objects have those abilities in every zone (it's why Isperia the Inscrutable can let you search your library for a creature card with flying, for example), but it's a bit of a counterintuitive result. Some rules have been added to these sections to clarify that last known information is used in certain cases, and that the rules that govern these keywords function no matter what zone the object with the keyword is in.

702.4d, 702.7c
These rules still mentioned combat damage on the stack. Oops.

The landwalk rules have been reworked to properly handle the cases in which a landwalk ability references just a subtype, just a supertype, the lack of a supertype (nonbasic landwalk), and both a subtype and a supertype.

The kicker rules have been updated to cover the new kicker wordings on cards.

This part of the prowl rules is now obsolete, since combat damage no longer goes on the stack. It was deleted.

This rule covered certain types of improper attachment. It's been expanded to cover a creature that's attached to an object (regardless of what other card types that creature has). Also, the scope of this rule has been expanded from permanents attached to other permanents, to permanents attached to objects or players.

The second example has been expanded to include having creatures attack planeswalkers, and determining damage assignment orders.

This rule assumed the active player was involved in a fragmented loop, but shouldn't have.

This rule made some inappropriate assumptions about the source of an ability that mentions the "defending player."

Various examples
I changed "Grizzly Bears" to "Runeclaw Bear" because it's singular.

New entries were added for chaos symbol, {C} ability, command, nontraditional card, planar deck, planar die, Planar Magic, plane, planeswalk, planeswalker symbol, and traditional card.

Glossary: Additional Cost
This entry had improperly assumed that all additional costs were mandatory.

Glossary: Card
Updated to include traditional and nontraditional cards.

Glossary: Kicker
Updated to included "kicked".

There were other terminology fixes, typo corrections, cross-references that were cleaned up, and so on, but nothing that changed the meaning of anything.

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