Ask Wizards: 9/25/2012

Posted in Feature on September 25, 2012

By Wizards of the Coast

Ask Wizards is a weekly feature that allows you to ask us questions! If you'd like to submit your question please email it to We aren't able to answer every question we receive but if your question is good then it might show up in the coming weeks!

Q: To my understanding, when a card has multiple activated abilities requiring mana, the abilities are listed in an ascending order of highest mana abilities to lowest (i.e. Staff of Domination). However, the soon-to-be-printed Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage has its 4GW ability placed above the 2GW ability, which is contrary to the history of ascending mana-costed abilities. Can you please explain why the order of abilities was decided to be placed in the way it was?


A: From Kelly Digges, Magic R&D Editor

Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage

You're correct that activated abilities are most often ordered by their costs, either by total amount of mana (as on Staff of Domination) or by color (as on Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage's old-school counterpart Selesnya Guildmage).

Unlike, say, the order of symbols in mana costs, there isn't really a rule that says what order multiple activated abilities should go in (although the color order thing is pretty consistent). The goal is for the card to read as intuitively and helpfully as possible, usually by showing the abilities in the order they're most likely to be activated in. All else being equal, that's going to be by cost, because you're probably going to activate a cheap ability before you activate an expensive one.

Sometimes, though, the card doesn't read intuitively in that default order. "Populate, then make a token" doesn't make sense, even if it's something you'll sometimes do in practice because you already got a token some other way. Looking at Vitu-Ghaz Guildmage in a vacuum, the logical thing to do with it is create a Centaur token for six mana, then populate to get a copy of the Centaur token. So that's the order we went with.

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