Attack of the Clones

Posted in Feature on September 18, 2002

By Ben Bleiweiss

We'll start off with a few questions, for which the answers will appear later:

  1. You have a Mishra's Factory in play. You decide to animate it, and then attempt to cast Copy Artifact and Clone, both to copy the Assembly Worker. Can you do this? What happens at the end of the turn to the copy cards?
  2. Your opponent casts Capsize with buyback on your mountain. You attempt to Fork the Capsize onto the same mountain. Does your Fork return to your hand upon resolution?
  3. You play Chaos Orb, and then animate it with a Xenic Poltergeist. On top of all this, you then play a Dance of Many copying the Chaos Orb, and want to use a pillow as the token. Can you flip the pillow onto your opponent’s play area in an attempt to destroy all his permanents?

Moving on…

Torment began a trend of reprinting classic creatures from Magic’s storied past in expansions by reintroducing Sengir Vampire to a new generation of players. Judgment continued with Erhnam Djinn. Now, Onslaught "copies" this act with the reappearance of a favored creature that has not seen print since the days of Revised. It’s my pleasure here at to reintroduce, for the first time since 1995, the fabulous and formless Clone.

Looking forward, looking back

Just looking at the card, the new artwork by Carl Critchlow pays homage to the original piece by Julie Baroh. This time, the soldier being cloned seems a little more aggressive (or defensive?) towards his imposter.

More importantly, you’ll notice that the text on Clone has gone from a massive seven lines of microscopic writing to a new, sleek four lines of readable rules. The rules team finally streamlined the complicated copy-card rules far enough that Clone could see print without causing massive rules headaches in and of itself, mostly by defining the term "copy" in the rules themselves as opposed to trying to do it on the cards.

Here are the relevant bits of the current copy rules (Full Comp Rules here):

503. Copying Spells and Abilities

503.1. A copy card is a card that creates or becomes a “copy” of another spell, permanent, or card. (Certain older cards were printed with the phrase “search for a copy.” These aren’t copy cards; they have received new text in the Oracle™ card reference.)

503.2. When copying a permanent, the copy acquires the printed values of the name, mana cost, color, type and subtype, expansion symbol, rules text, power, and toughness of the permanent being copied. Also, if the copied permanent was printed as legendary or as an enchant world, this is copied as well. Effects (including type-changing effects) and counters are not copied. (The exception is that copy effects are themselves copied; see rule 503.3.)
Example: Chimeric Staff is an artifact that reads “: Chimeric Staff becomes an X/X artifact creature until end of turn.” Clone is a creature that reads “As Clone comes into play, you may choose a creature in play. If you do, Clone comes into play as a copy of that creature.” After a Staff has become a 5/5 artifact creature, a Clone comes into play as a copy of it. The Clone is an artifact, not a 5/5 artifact creature. (The copy has the Staff’s ability, however, and will become a creature if that ability is activated.)

503.5. A copy card that comes into play “as a copy” of another permanent will come into play with any copied abilities of that permanent. If the copy gains any abilities that modify the comes-into-play event (such as “comes into play with” or “as [this] comes into play” abilities), those abilities will take effect. Also, any comes-into-play triggered abilities of the copy will have a chance to trigger.
Example: Skyshroud Behemoth reads, “Fading 2 (This creature comes into play with two fade counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a fade counter from it. If you can’t, sacrifice it.) / Skyshroud Behemoth comes into play tapped.” A Clone that comes into play as a copy of a Skyshroud Behemoth will also come into play tapped with two fade counters on it.
Example: Striped Bears reads, “When Striped Bears comes into play, draw a card.” A Clone comes into play as a copy of Striped Bears. The Clone has the Bears’ comes-into-play triggered ability, so the Clone’s controller draws a card.

503.6. When copying a permanent, the “choices” of the permanent aren’t copied. Instead, if a card comes into play as a copy of another permanent, the copy’s controller will get to make any “as comes into play” choices for it.
Example: A Clone comes into play as a copy of Chameleon Spirit. Chameleon Spirit reads, in part, “As Chameleon Spirit comes into play, choose a color.” The Clone won’t copy the color choice of the Spirit; rather, the controller of the Clone will get to make a new choice.

When in play, a Clone should be treated as a virtually indistinguishable copy of the card it duplicated.

Got it?

Sow how does that change the way Clone works now compared to how it worked "back in the day?" For one, the old Clone couldn’t be played if there were no creatures in play. (But what happened if you cast Animate Dead on a Clone without any other creatures in play? With the reworked Clone, that doesn’t matter.) Instead of being a */* creature, Clone is now a 0/0 husk which may copy a creature as it comes into play. This makes it possible to play a 0/2 Clone if there’s a Castle on the board, even without any other creatures for it to copy. Not that I’d recommend that course of action.

Thanks for all the Guma

When Clone attempts to copy a creature, it doesn’t target anything. This allows you to choose untargetable creatures and protection from blue creatures as the master copy from which you will xerox. Maybe you need an answer to that stray Guma beating you down, or need to stop Deadly Insect when your hand is full of bounce and counterspells. Clone is your answer to all these problems and more, including the very odd application of being able to copy Morphling in a blue on blue mirror match.

Speaking of Morphling

Where have all my copies gone?

For a long, long time, Wizards shied away from printing any sort of copy cards. After the original four in Alpha (Clone, Vesuvan Doppelganger, Copy Artifact, and Fork), it became clear that printing any sort of copy cards resulted in massive rules headaches.

Other attempts at copy cards proved no less frustrating to the rules team. Dance of Many, Echo Chamber, and Volrath's Shapeshifter all caused big problems, as did the simplified versions such as Unstable Shapeshifter. Finally, Wizards had it with trying to get copy cards to work, and threw them entirely out the window. The famous story of Morphling is that it was originally supposed to be a Clone variant, but the rules team couldn’t find a way to get it to work easily. Instead of getting rid of the card entirely, it was changed to a creature which could change into the form of other creatures by altering power, toughness, flying, targetability, and state of "tappedness."

Simple solutions

Wizards finally began re-exploring the copy mechanic in Prophecy, with the much overlooked Dual Nature. Instead of being able to copy any old card in play, it instead gave you a copy of a creature as the creature came into play. This simplified the mechanic quite a bit, since instead of having tons of corner cases which could arise about the nature of copying, it just gave you two of something instead of one. Mirari and Parallel Evolution continued this trend by creating copies which either gave you more of what you already had (or gave your opponent more tokens, in the case of Evolution) while Radiate took away some of the problem of Fork by hitting every legal target essentially at once.

So now we have the first copy creature to see print since Stronghold, and, thanks to some scrubbing of the rules, it’s one of the classic creatures of Magic at that. Whether you’re copying a Serra Angel, Shivan Dragon or Verdant Force, you’ll know that Clone proves the old adage about blue mages: “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine”

Oh, you want answers do you?

  1. Can Copy Artifact or Clone copy an activated Mishra's Factory? Yes, but if you read the rules above, you'd know that the copies would not be animated and therefore not creatures (unless you pay to animate them). Copying a card is almost exactly like playing the card, and when you play a Mishra's Factory, it isn't animated.
  2. Will a Forked Capsize return Fork to your hand? The answer is no. Fork puts a copy of the spell on the stack when it resolves, just like Mirari does. Fork has long since resolved and is in the graveyard by the time the copy of the spell resolves. And the copy of Capsize is not an actual physical card which can return to your hand. Refer to the Oracle for Fork's current wording.
  3. Can you use Dance of Many to create a copy of an animated Chaos Orb and represent the copy of the Orb with a pillow? The answer it yes. Under strict tournament rules, a token must be something which doesn’t disturb the field of play, but Chaos Orb is banned in DCI tournaments, so that point is kind of moot. In casual play, feel free to flip the biggest pillow you can find to take out your opponent’s permanents. (Warning: Flipping a cup of coffee as your Chaos Orb token might result in bodily harm.)

See, copy cards are rules headaches. And these are the cleaned-up versions! But before you can come up with any more questions, I leave you with the section from the forthcoming Onslaught FAQ on Clone:


Creature -- Clone
As Clone comes into play, you may choose a creature in play. If you do, Clone comes into play as a copy of that creature.

Paul Barclay won't return our emails about the interaction of Clone and Clone Officer. He's probably mad that we stole his tech.

• Clone doesn't copy any effects on the creature -- you just get exactly what's printed on the card and nothing more. So if you copy an animated land, for example, you get a normal, nonanimated land.

• Clone doesn't copy whether the original creature is tapped or untapped, or any enchantments or counters on the creature.

• Any comes-into-play abilities of the copied creature will trigger when Clone comes into play.

• If a Clone copies another Clone, it copies whatever the first one copied. That is, you get what was printed on the card that the original Clone copied.

• You can choose not to copy anything. In that case, Clone comes into play as a 0/0 creature, and is probably put into the graveyard immediately.

• If Clone copies a face-down creature, it's a 2/2 face-up creature, with no name, abilities, color, or creature types. The converted mana cost of the copy is . If the face-down creature is later turned face up, that doesn't affect the copy.

Cards that copy permanents Cards that copy spells
Card Expansion Card Expansion
clone Alpha Fork Alpha
Copy Artifact Alpha Mirari Odyssey
Vesuvan Doppelganger Alpha Radiate Torment
Dance of Many The Dark Spells that allow themselves to be copied
Echo Chamber Tempest Card Expansion
Unstable Shapeshifter Tempest Chain Lightning Legends
Volrath's Shapeshifter Stronghold Chain Stasis Homelands
Dual Nature Prophecy Five more in Onslaught
Parallel Evolution Torment    
Clone Onslaught    
Ben may be reached at

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