Magic 2015 Update Bulletin

Posted in Feature on July 17, 2014

By Matt Tabak

Matt Tabak is the reigning, defending, and undisputed rules manager for Magic: The Gathering, Kaijudo, and Duel Masters. Matt Tabak is Gruul. Matt Tabak tries to laugh, think, and cry every day. Matt Tabak is hungry. Matt Tabak doesn't want you to sass him. Matt Tabak loves puppies.

Welcome to the Magic 2015 Core Set edition of the update bulletin, where we review all the Oracle and Comprehensive Rules changes that come with a new set. And it's a barnburner here at Matt's House of Clichés. Summer is here in my corner of the world and let me tell you, things are heating up. Batten down the hatches, because there's a storm a-coming.

Well, maybe not a storm. This core set includes a few rules tweaks and new templates for a few cards, but nothing too radical. Convoke makes its return in Magic 2015 with slightly new functionality, but those changes were actually made last year. Sneaky, huh? While convoke used to be a form of cost reduction, it now represents another way to pay the spell's mana cost. Practically speaking, the change means you can't tap extra creatures, a trick many players would be surprised to learn existed. While it was a relatively obscure bit of rules arcana before (why would I want to tap more creatures than I have to?), it made for some less fun moments with inspired abilities from Born of the Gods.

As I'm writing this, the Oracle updates for M15 just went live, and the Comprehensive Rules are undergoing their final edits and review. As you're reading this, well…who knows? Maybe you're reading this in the year 2074, a middle-school student learning more about this Magic phenomenon that secured world peace and prosperity. Greetings, future human. Did you go to school this morning in a flying car? Are the kids in your class enjoying the latest set, Ravnica XI: The Trial of Mason Beleren?

I offer a sincere thank you to all the players, judges, scorekeepers, tournament organizers, cosplayers, retailers, artists, and countless others who make Magic a great community to be a part of. I'm always interested in your thoughts. Please let me know if there's a card or rule you think needs a second (or eighth) look at. Have fun!

Introduction
Oracle Changes
Comprehensive Rulebook Changes

What is Oracle?

Magic is a game made up of more than 13,000 interchangeable pieces—the cards. Over the years, we've felt the need to update the wordings of older cards, whether because we've introduced a new keyword, or a card was printed with a mistake, or we have a clearer wording for what a card does, etc. Rather than sneak into your room at night and change your cards with a magic marker, we keep a database of the "modern wordings" (what the cards would say if we printed them today) of every tournament-legal card ever printed. These wordings are considered the official wordings of the cards, and accurately reflect their functions.

You can access a card's Oracle wording by looking it up in Gatherer.

Oracle Changes

Angel of Fury (functional)

Long before Akroma, there was the Portal Second Age card Angel of Fury. It has a similar printed wording to several Portal cards, such as Alabaster Dragon and Undying Beast. Some of those Portal cards have been reprinted using the standard template that allows for it to go to any graveyard from the battlefield and get shuffled into its owner's library. Because of this, and because we don't want players to have to guess whether a card's been reprinted to figure out its Oracle wording, all the Portal cards have transitioned to use "dies." Angel of Fury, being from Portal Second Age, got lost in the mix.

Old wording:

Flying
When Angel of Fury is put into your graveyard from the battlefield, you may shuffle it into your library.

New wording:

Flying
When Angel of Fury dies, you may shuffle it into its owner’s library.


Brago, King Eternal (nonfunctional)

Kicking off this bulletin's when/whenever trifecta is Brago, King Eternal. In most cases, we can expect that ability to trigger multiple times, so "whenever" is more appropriate.

Old wording:

Flying
When Brago, King Eternal deals combat damage to a player, exile any number of target nonland permanents you control, then return those cards to the battlefield under their owner's control.

New wording:

Flying
Whenever Brago, King Eternal deals combat damage to a player, exile any number of target nonland permanents you control, then return those cards to the battlefield under their owner's control.


Chimeric Sphere (nonfunctional)

Chimeric Sphere's second ability turned it into a creature "without flying." Amusingly, it's also a creature without trample, without bushido 2, and without protection from blue Weirds. We adjusted this slightly nonstandard way of saying this.

Old wording:

: Until end of turn, Chimeric Sphere becomes a 2/1 Construct artifact creature with flying.
: Until end of turn, Chimeric Sphere becomes a 3/2 Construct artifact creature without flying.

New wording:

: Until end of turn, Chimeric Sphere becomes a 2/1 Construct artifact creature with flying.
: Until end of turn, Chimeric Sphere becomes a 3/2 Construct artifact creature and loses flying.


Contempt (nonfunctional)

The second member of the when/whenever trifecta is Contempt. In most cases, its ability will remove it from the battlefield, so we can expect that ability to trigger only once.

Old wording:

Enchant creature
Whenever enchanted creature attacks, return it and Contempt to their owners' hands at end of combat.

New wording:

Enchant creature
When enchanted creature attacks, return it and Contempt to their owners' hands at end of combat.


Cytoplast Root-Kin (nonfunctional)

Buried deep within this card's 700 pages of rules text was a peculiar way to refer to a creature with a +1/+1 counter on it: "that has a +1/+1 counter on it." This was the only card to do this, so we brought it in line with the others.

Old wording:

Graft 4 (This creature enters the battlefield with four +1/+1 counters on it. Whenever another creature enters the battlefield, you may move a +1/+1 counter from this creature onto it.)
When Cytoplast Root-Kin enters the battlefield, put a +1/+1 counter on each other creature you control that has a +1/+1 counter on it.
: Move a +1/+1 counter from target creature you control onto Cytoplast Root-Kin.

New wording:

Graft 4 (This creature enters the battlefield with four +1/+1 counters on it. Whenever another creature enters the battlefield, you may move a +1/+1 counter from this creature onto it.)
When Cytoplast Root-Kin enters the battlefield, put a +1/+1 counter on each other creature you control with a +1/+1 counter on it.
: Move a +1/+1 counter from target creature you control onto Cytoplast Root-Kin.


Dragon Mage and the "Wheel of Fortune" effect (nonfunctional)

The act of discarding your hand and drawing some number of cards (usually seven) had a few slightly different templates floating around. We've brought these cards, including Dragon Mage and friends, in line with more recent versions like Wheel of Fate.

Old wording:

Flying
Whenever Dragon Mage deals combat damage to a player, each player discards his or her hand and draws seven cards.

New wording:

Flying
Whenever Dragon Mage deals combat damage to a player, each player discards his or her hand, then draws seven cards.

Similar changes were made to Reforge the Soul, Sensation Gorger, Wheel and Deal, and Wheel of Fortune.


Reconnaissance (functional)

Previously on Oracle Theater...the evil constable discovered a technicality that allowed him to turn the malt shop, so beloved by the townsfolk, into a hardware store, reviled by the townsfolk

"But we've always bought our malts here," they cried.

But the evil constable was undeterred. "This paperwork here says this location was originally designed to be a hardware store," he explained. The fun the townsfolk had been having at the malt shop seemed beside the point.

And so the malt shop became a hardware store. And the people were sad...

Reconnaissance was given a timing restriction in the last update to enforce the original intent of the card. You send your creatures out there, see how the blocks go, and then pull back the ones you want to. Changes to the turn structure since the card's printing had given it new, unexpected functionality: now you could untap your creatures after combat damage had been dealt, giving your creatures a sort of vigilance.

It seemed a pretty easy change to make at the time, but I screwed up in at least two ways. One, because the card had the "pseudo-vigilance" functionality for so long, it pretty much became the card's identity, and at some point you have to just respect that. Two, cards sprouted up around Reconnaissance that included cards that were designed and developed under the modern turn structure, like Ith, High Arcanist. Surely I wasn't going to errata Ith. Hrm.

Ultimately, I'm here to make Magic more net fun. The Reconnaissance change, while well-intentioned, made the game less fun for some people and more fun for almost nobody. So, as I suspected during the last Update Bulletin, I'm reversing course. Sorry for the scare everyone. Thanks to everyone who provided feedback (some hilariously colorful; oh, I wish I could share).

...after quite a lot of resistance, the evil constable tentatively sipped his malt. It was good, and in an instant the error of his ways was made clear. The malt shop would live again!


Topple (nonfunctional)

We added a helpful "among creatures on the battlefield" so you didn't have to get into arguments with your friends over what the greatest power is. (Spoilers: it's 6.)

Old wording:

Exile target creature with the greatest power. (If two or more creatures are tied for greatest power, target any one of them.)

New wording:

Exile target creature with the greatest power among creatures on the battlefield. (If two or more creatures are tied for greatest power, target any one of them.)


Wall of Junk (nonfunctional)

Completing the when/whenever trifecta is Wall of Junk. In most cases, its ability will remove it from the battlefield, so we can expect that ability to trigger only once.

Old wording:

Defender (This creature can't attack.)
When Wall of Junk blocks, return it to its owner's hand at end of combat. (Return it only if it's on the battlefield.)

New wording:

Defender (This creature can't attack.)
Whenever Wall of Junk blocks, return it to its owner's hand at end of combat. (Return it only if it's on the battlefield.)


Windscouter (nonfunctional)

The unexpected fourth part in the increasingly inaccurately named when/whenever trifecta is Windscouter. In most cases, its ability will remove…well, you know.

Old wording:

Flying
Whenever Windscouter attacks or blocks, return it to its owner's hand at end of combat. (Return it only if it's on the battlefield.)

New wording:

Flying
When Windscouter attacks or blocks, return it to its owner's hand at end of combat. (Return it only if it's on the battlefield.)


Convoke reminder text (nonfunctional)

The reminder text for convoke changed last year when the details of how the ability functioned changed, but we wanted to give it a little something extra for its return in Magic 2015. Any time we can use flavor to help convey rules meaning, I think it's great to do so. After testing many variations, we saw this text really help new players latch onto what the ability was trying to convey.

Old reminder text:

(Each creature you tap while casting this spell pays for or one mana of that creature's color.)

New reminder text:

(Your creatures can help cast this spell. Each creature you tap while casting this spell pays for or one mana of that creature's color.)

Thirteen cards received this update in Oracle. Five other cards received the update just by being reprinted in M15.


Base power and toughness (nonfunctional)

Cards that set a creature's power and/or toughness to specific values, like Turn to Frog, were always confusing because while the card said the creature "became 1/1," this was often not true because of other continuous effects. Things like Auras, +1/+1 counters, and Giant Growth still applied to the creature. It was definitely weird when your creature that just became 1/1 was actually 3/5. To help alleviate this confusion, we came up with a new term: base power and toughness. Cards that set a creature's power and toughness to a specific value will now use this new template to reinforce that you're essentially just changing the numbers in the lower right corner. Other effects may still apply. (Special shout-out to former Magic developer Max McCall for convincing us to get the ball rolling on this one.)

In all, 47 cards were updated. There are many variations, and it would be unwieldy to list them all here. If you search Gatherer for the rules text "base," you'll find 48 cards. Just ignore Phyrexian Debaser.

Notably, cards that animated themselves, like Mutavault, and cards that were likely to affect noncreatures, like March of the Machines, did not receive an update. Our research showed that very few people were confused about Mutavault was 3/3 if you activated its last ability while controlling Glorious Anthem, for example.


Scry (nonfunctional)

We established some guidelines throughout Theros block about the different variations of scry reminder text. These are based on not only the number of cards being looked at but also the distance between the word scry and its reminder text. In this update, I applied those guidelines retroactively and cleaned up the reminder text of older scry cards. Thirteen cards were updated.


"Dual Lands" (nonfunctional)

The original ten "dual lands" had no rules text in Oracle whatsoever. This is especially odd, considering the printed text on the original duals is like a small novel. Today, they'd have the same reminder text that the "shock lands" (the cycle of Ravnica lands including Sacred Foundry) have, so we added it. If anything, it may make the cards a little easier to understand in some views on Magic Online and in Gatherer.


Enchantments that animate themselves (nonfunctional)

There are three valid templates for an ability that turns a permanent into a creature while letting it keep all its previous supertypes, subtypes, and types:

  1. The ability can say it becomes a creature "in addition to its other types."
  2. The ability can say it becomes a creature followed by "It's still a [type]." Most lands use this template.
  3. The ability turns it into an artifact creature. This is a special exception given to artifact creatures because they represent the largest number of these kinds of abilities and it allows for a smoother template.

The four cards that turned an enchantment into a creature (Halcyon Glaze, Opalescence, Still Life, and Testament of Faith) used the second template like lands did. We felt it was clearer if they used the first template, which is more explicit about the retention of other types. This change is possibly the first step in a larger plan to standardize these types of abilities, but that probably won't happen before next year.


Ante (nonfunctional)

Playing for ante is the long-forgotten way your grandparents used to play Magic, in between sending telegraphs or whatever it was old people did. Remember that playing for ante is expressly forbidden in sanctioned Magic play and it may violate local laws. However, those cards of yesteryear still exist, so I'm responsible for their wordings. There was inconsistency in the way we used "ante" as a verb. This usage is defined in the Comp Rules, so I cleaned up a few of the cards that used it in nonstandard ways.

Old Amulet of Quoz wording:

Remove Amulet of Quoz from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante.
, Sacrifice Amulet of Quoz: Target opponent may add the top card of his or her library to the ante. If he or she doesn't, you flip a coin. If you win the flip, that player loses the game. If you lose the flip, you lose the game. Activate this ability only during your upkeep.

New Amulet of Quoz wording:

Remove Amulet of Quoz from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante.
, Sacrifice Amulet of Quoz: Target opponent may ante the top card of his or her library. If he or she doesn't, you flip a coin. If you win the flip, that player loses the game. If you lose the flip, you lose the game. Activate this ability only during your upkeep.

Old Contract from Below wording:

Remove Contract from Below from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante.
Discard your hand, add the top card of your library to the ante, then draw seven cards.

New Contract from Below wording:

Remove Contract from Below from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante.
Discard your hand, ante the top card of your library, then draw seven cards.

Old Jeweled Bird wording:

Remove Jeweled Bird from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante.
: Put Jeweled Bird into the ante. If you do, put all other cards you own from the ante into your graveyard, then draw a card.

New Jeweled Bird wording:

Remove Jeweled Bird from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante.
: Ante Jeweled Bird. If you do, put all other cards you own from the ante into your graveyard, then draw a card.
Additionally, Tempest Efreet received the same text Timmerian Fiends has to remind you that the exchange in ownership is permanent.

Old Tempest Efreet wording:

Remove Tempest Efreet from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante.
, Sacrifice Tempest Efreet: Target opponent may pay 10 life. If that player doesn't, he or she reveals a card at random from his or her hand. Exchange ownership of the revealed card and Tempest Efreet. Put the revealed card into your hand and Tempest Efreet from anywhere into that player's graveyard.

New Tempest Efreet wording:

Remove Tempest Efreet from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante.
, Sacrifice Tempest Efreet: Target opponent may pay 10 life. If that player doesn't, he or she reveals a card at random from his or her hand. Exchange ownership of the revealed card and Tempest Efreet. Put the revealed card into your hand and Tempest Efreet from anywhere into that player's graveyard. This change in ownership is permanent.

Introduction
Oracle Changes
Comprehensive Rulebook Changes

What are the Comprehensive Rules?Magic is complicated. No, really. When you have more than 13,000 interchangeable game pieces, you get some freaky interactions. The Comprehensive Rules cover everything the game has ever come up with, from basic game play structure, to every keyword ever, to entire pages dedicated to single bizarre cards (hello, Karn Liberated!). The Comprehensive Rules are, well, comprehensive…but they're also obtuse, unfriendly, and looooong. They're not intended to be a player resource—they're a judge resource, a rules guru resource, and a place to store definitive answers. In fact, I honestly recommend never reading them. For a much friendlier rulebook that is intended to be a player resource, check out the Rules Page and download the Basic Rulebook (2.1 MB PDF). It doesn't have sections about phasing or subgames… but you'll never miss them.

Comprehensive Rulebook Changes

Throughout the document, the style of URLs was updated to reflect our current preferences.

100.2b

This rule described deck composition in Limited play, but it failed to mention basic land cards, a pretty important part of most draft and sealed decks.

117.12a

This rule covered abilities in the form "[Do something] unless you [do something else]." Magic 2015's Indulgent Tormentor gives the optional ability to a target opponent, so we loosened the pronouns in this rule a bit such that any player may be involved.

208.4

This rule describes effects that set a creature's power and/or toughness to specific values. The term "base power," "base toughness," and "base power and toughness" are introduced in that context.

300.1

Conspiracy was mysteriously omitted from the list of card types in the last update. Who would do such a thing? And why?

303.4i

This new subrule in the enchantment section covers the case when an effect attempts to put an Aura onto the battlefield enchanting a specific object or player, but that Aura can't enchant that object or player. If that happens, the Aura doesn't move. The two subsequent subrules were renumbered.

303.4j

The previous 303.4i tells you that if an effect tries to move an Aura onto a new object or player, the Aura must be able to enchant that new object or player or it doesn't move. It was revised for clarity.

313.3

I added a note in the conspiracy section stating that conspiracy cards can't be brought into the game. Death Wish!

613.3b

This rule covers layer 7b and was expanded to mention base power and/or toughness.

701.13

A minor typo in the reveal section was corrected.

701.15f

Any abilities that trigger whenever a library is searched will trigger if a player searches only part of that zone due to a replacement effect. In other words, Ob Nixilis, Unshackled plays nicely with Aven Mindcensor.

702.16m

This new subrule in the protection section explains how the "Aura limitation" aspect of Spectra Ward's protection ability functions. If the creature enchanted by Spectra Ward picks up another instance of protection from white (not from another Spectra Ward), Auras will be removed.

Glossary

Entry added for "base power, base toughness"

Credits

Some humans moved around. Welcome to the editing team, Kimberly!

Introduction
Oracle Changes
Comprehensive Rulebook Changes

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