Dark Ascension Update Bulletin

Posted in Feature on January 25, 2012

By Matt Tabak

Senior editor. Game designer. Writer. Bon vivant. Matt wears many hats inside Magic R&D, but they're hard to see as he's so tall.

Dark Ascension is almost upon us, so it's time once again to go through the Oracle and Comprehensive Rules changes for the next update. These updates always feel like a reunion for the rules enthusiasts out there. We all get together, see what changes are on the horizon, and learn a bit more about our game and the structure that holds it all together. I talk to you. You talk to me. It's great fun.

Similarly, Wizards of the Coast has "all-hands meetings," where every employee gathers in an auditorium and members of the senior management team brief us on what's going on around the company. It's easy to wall yourself off from other departments and focus just on your little part of the world, so it's fun to reconnect and learn. Our president, Greg Leeds, usually hosts these meetings. I work pretty far away from Greg, both physically and on the chain of command, so I don't get to interact with him a lot. But he said something in a recent all-hands meeting that stuck with me, and I thought I'd share it (or a reasonable paraphrasing) with you: "What we do," he said, "matters to people. Games matter. Fun matters."

They definitely matter to me. If you're reading this, it's likely they matter to you, too. And although many of the changes I talk about here might not seem significant, they all add up to a framework for the fun we all share.

As always, many thanks go out to the players, judges, forum denizens, and others who helped contribute to this and every update. If you'd like to send me a message, you can do so through the forums. I'm WotC_MattT there and I've set up a thread in the Rules Theory and Templating forum for suggestions for the Avacyn Restored update. You can also reach me on Twitter (@TabakRules) or by responding to this very article. I read every tweet and email I receive, even the ones mocking me for my choice of sports teams.

The changes I've described here are going through a complete editing and review process, so they might differ from what actually happens. The Card Image Gallery is already up, and the set should be showing up in Gatherer on or around January 26, with the Comprehensive Rules following shortly thereafter. Have fun!

Acidic Dagger

Somewhere along the way, this card picked up an additional timing restriction: during combat. The printed card simply says "before defense is chosen," so we're opening up the beginning and precombat main phases as well.

New Acidic Dagger wording:

{o4}, {oT}: Whenever target creature deals combat damage to a non-Wall creature this turn, destroy that non-Wall creature. When the targeted creature leaves the battlefield this turn, sacrifice Acidic Dagger. Activate this ability only before blockers are declared.

Argothian Treefolk

This card and Artifact Ward had a similar printed wording, reducing damage from artifact sources to 0. Artifact Ward continued to apply to all artifact sources, Argothian Treefolk did not. We can line them up, staying true to the printed wording.

New Argothian Treefolk wording:

Prevent all damage that would be dealt to Argothian Treefolk by artifact sources.

Blaze of Glory

Similar to what we did with Acidic Dagger, we're making a small timing adjustment on this card. Now you can cast it during the beginning of combat step as well. It may not help you draw first, but it might help you draw first blood.

New Blaze of Glory wording:

Cast Blaze of Glory only during combat before blockers are declared.

Target creature defending player controls can block any number of creatures this turn. It blocks each attacking creature this turn if able.

Builder's Bane and Volcanic Eruption

The printed wording of these cards cared about artifacts and Mountains, respectively, that were put into a graveyard. The old Oracle wordings cared about artifacts and Mountains that were destroyed. Thanks to cards like Leyline of the Void, these aren't exactly the same thing, so we're making a small change to better match the printed wording.

New Builder's Bane wording:

Destroy X target artifacts. Builder's Bane deals damage to each player equal to the number of artifacts he or she controlled put into a graveyard this way.

New Volcanic Eruption wording:

Destroy X target Mountains. Volcanic Eruption deals damage to each creature and each player equal to the number of Mountains put into a graveyard this way.


This is probably going to the weirdest explanation I've ever had to write. Bear with me. Okay so, the old Oracle wording had a couple of issues to address. It prevented damage to Camel whether it was attacking or not, spitting in the face of the printed wording. Or is that llamas? Anyway, you never know when a Desert is going to pick up some other damage-dealing ability or just get up, attack, and be blocked by a Camel. It happens in Commander!* We also reworded it a bit to remove the frightening mental image of "creatures banded with Camel by Deserts." Spooky. We had quite the interesting debate about whether an attacking creature is in a band with itself. After discussing Camel, Albert Camus, and Candace Cameron, we decided it was.

* It never happens in Commander.

New Camel wording:

Banding (Any creatures with banding, and up to one without, can attack in a band. Bands are blocked as a group. If any creatures with banding you control are blocking or being blocked by a creature, you divide that creature's combat damage, not its controller, among any of the creatures it's being blocked by or is blocking.)

As long as Camel is attacking, prevent all damage Deserts would deal to Camel and to creatures banded with Camel.

Earthlore and Tourach's Gate

In my first update (the Scars of Mirrodin one) we gave Veteran's Voice, Krovikan Plague, and Nature's Chosen a new template to keep the ability on the Aura. We missed these two cards, probably because they enchanted lands. Oops! We'll bring them in line with this update.

New Earthlore wording:

Enchant land you control

Tap enchanted land: Target blocking creature gets +1/+2 until end of turn. Activate this ability only if enchanted land is untapped.

New Tourach's Gate wording:

Enchant land you control

Sacrifice a Thrull: Put three time counters on Tourach's Gate.

At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a time counter from Tourach's Gate. If there are no time counters on Tourach's Gate, sacrifice it.

Tap enchanted land: Attacking creatures you control get +2/–1 until end of turn. Activate this ability only if enchanted land is untapped.

Farrel's Mantle

One of my favorite cards from Fallen Empires drafts, Farrel's Mantle lets an unblocked creature deal damage to "target creature." But its printed wording said "other target creature," so creatures enchanted with Farrel's Mantle are going to have to find another way to deal damage to themselves.

New Farrel's Mantle wording:

Enchant creature

Whenever enchanted creature attacks and isn't blocked, its controller may have it deal damage equal to its power plus 2 to another target creature. If that player does, the attacking creature assigns no combat damage this turn.


Heroism was designed at a time where Two-Headed Giant was unheard of, and although its printed and old Oracle wordings are sensible enough in a one-on-one setting, in 2HG things go a little haywire. In that format, when a one-shot effect refers to the "attacking player," you choose one member of the attacking team (810.7b). So, if I was attacking with a red creature, you could require my teammate (who's not playing red) pay the {o2oR}. We think this makes a lot more sense if we instead ask the controller of each attacking red creature to pay for it.

New Heroism wording:

Sacrifice a white creature: For each attacking red creature, prevent all combat damage that would be dealt by that creature this turn unless its controller pays {o2oR}.


Um... well...

Infinite Authority and Stench of Evil

These two are similar to Builder's Bane, but in reverse. The printed wordings care about permanents that are destroyed. The old Oracle wordings cared about those permanents actually hitting the graveyard.

New Infinite Authority wording:

Enchant creature

Whenever enchanted creature blocks or becomes blocked by a creature with toughness 3 or less, destroy the other creature at end of combat. At the beginning of the next end step, if that creature was destroyed this way, put a +1/+1 counter on the first creature.

New Stench of Evil wording:

Destroy all Plains. For each land destroyed this way, Stench of Evil deals 1 damage to that land's controller unless he or she pays {o2}.

Marsh Viper

The Old Oracle text ignored more recent printings that included an ability that triggered whenever Marsh Viper deals damage to any player, not just an opponent. Nafs Asp and Pit Scorpion were in similar situations, but we've kept the "player" functionality there. Marsh Viper should line up with those. After all, the snake's poisonous (not the keyword) no matter who it's biting.

New Marsh Viper wording:

Whenever Marsh Viper deals damage to a player, that player gets two poison counters. (A player with ten or more poison counters loses the game.)


Okay so... argh...

Minion of the Wastes

When we last looked at this card, it was together with Wood Elemental. We changed Minion of the Wastes to be more consistent with its printed wording. But this time around, I started looking at Dracoplasm, originally thinking it would change to match Minion of the Wastes. But the more research I did, the more I became convinced that we might have made a mistake with Minion of the Wastes and maybe it was the card that needed to change. I found rulings going back to Dracoplasm's release supporting that if it entered the battlefield some other way, you could still sacrifice creatures. So, we're reversing course on Minion of the Wastes and calling it good.

New Minion of the Wastes wording:


As Minion of the Wastes enters the battlefield, pay any amount of life.

Minion of the Wastes's power and toughness are each equal to the life paid as it entered the battlefield.

Mogg Bombers

This card has an ability that is in the same family as the one on Impending Disaster and its Urza's Legacy brethren. The additional ability shouldn't be dependent on the sacrifice. It's now a little happier when multiple creatures enter the battlefield simultaneously.

New Mogg Bombers wording:

When another creature enters the battlefield, sacrifice Mogg Bombers and it deals 3 damage to target player.

Orcish Mine

The printed wording suggests that the check associated with the last counter being removed could be its own trigger. But it was all printed as one ability, so it's hard to tell. The issue is confused even further with effects like Vampire Hexmage's. Additionally, there's a significant difference between triggering when the last counter is removed and triggering when it becomes tapped with no ore counters on it (or at the beginning of your upkeep). Consider if it's enchanting an indestructible land. The old Oracle wording would have it dealing 2 damage repeatedly. After working through all the issues, we came up with a new wording.

New Orcish Mine wording:

Enchant land

Orcish Mine enters the battlefield with three ore counters on it.

At the beginning of your upkeep and whenever enchanted land becomes tapped, remove an ore counter from Orcish Mine.

When the last ore counter is removed from Orcish Mine, destroy enchanted land and Orcish Mine deals 2 damage to its controller.

Phyrexian Portal

The printed wording told you to ignore the effect if your library had fewer than ten cards in it. This became an activation restriction, but didn't account for the possibility that your library could dip down below ten cards in response to activating Phyrexian Portal. I think we can write an effect that's truer to the printed wording.

New Phyrexian Portal wording:

{o3}: If your library has ten or more cards in it, target opponent looks at the top ten cards of your library and separates them into two face-down piles. Exile one of those piles. Search the other pile for a card, put it into your hand, then shuffle the rest of that pile into your library.

Sword of the Ages

The use of "then" in the printed wording indicates to me that the Sword and creatures were clearly sacrificed and then exiled later. Other cards, like City of Shadows, do a similar thing but don't have this temporal delineation, so this time we're just addressing Sword of the Ages.

New Sword of the Ages wording:

Sword of the Ages enters the battlefield tapped.

{oT}, Sacrifice Sword of the Ages and any number of creatures you control: Sword of the Ages deals X damage to target creature or player, where X is the total power of the creatures sacrificed this way, then exile Sword of the Ages and those creature cards.


This card's ability is also in the same family as Impending Disaster's. The countering of the spell will no longer be dependent on sacrificing Hesitation.

New Hesitation wording:

When a player casts a spell, sacrifice Hesitation and counter that spell.

Adarkar Unicorn

Extraneous "either" eliminated. Excellent!

New Adarkar Unicorn wording:

{oT}: Add {oU} or {o1oU} to your mana pool. Spend this mana only to pay cumulative upkeep costs.

Ancient Ziggurat, Pillar of the Paruns, and Primal Beyond

These three cards add one mana to your mana pool and restrict what you can spend the mana on. Because you can't cast more than one spell using that one mana, the cards will get a slightly clearer template.

New Ancient Ziggurat wording:

{oT}: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. Spend this mana only to cast a creature spell.

New Pillar of the Paruns wording:

{oT}: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. Spend this mana only to cast a multicolored spell.

New Primal Beyond wording:

As Primal Beyond enters the battlefield, you may reveal an Elemental card from your hand. If you don't, Primal Beyond enters the battlefield tapped.

{oT}: Add {o1} to your mana pool.

{oT}: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. Spend this mana only to cast an Elemental spell or activate an ability of an Elemental.

Chromatic Armor

This Aura prevents all damage dealt by sources of the chosen color, but the use of "a source" misled some into thinking you had to choose a single source. We can clarify that.

New Chromatic Armor wording:

Enchant creature

As Chromatic Armor enters the battlefield, choose a color.

Chromatic Armor enters the battlefield with a sleight counter on it.

Prevent all damage that would be dealt to enchanted creature by sources of the last chosen color.

{oX}: Put a sleight counter on Chromatic Armor and choose a color. X is the number of sleight counters on Chromatic Armor.

Endless Whispers and Reincarnation

These two cards refer to "that graveyard," which made more sense when they said "put into a graveyard from the battlefield" and not "dies." We're adjusting their templates accordingly.

New Endless Whispers wording:

Each creature has "When this creature dies, choose target opponent. That player puts this card from its owner's graveyard onto the battlefield under his or her control at the beginning of the next end step."


Choose target creature. When that creature dies this turn, return a creature card from its owner's graveyard to the battlefield under the control of that creature's owner.

Gaze of Adamaro, Storm Seeker, and Sudden Impact

There are a few ways to template an ability that deals damage to a certain player equal to the number of cards in that player's hand. We think Runeflare Trap's template is a little clearer, so we're going to bring these three in line.

New Gaze of Adamaro wording:

Gaze of Adamaro deals damage to target player equal to the number of cards in that player's hand.

New Storm Seeker wording:

Storm Seeker deals damage to target player equal to the number of cards in that player's hand.

New Sudden Impact wording:

Sudden Impact deals damage to target player equal to the number of cards in that player's hand.

Ivory Tower

The Magic style guide for numbers tells us to use numerals when referring to life, including a calculation of how much life to be gained.

New Ivory Tower wording:

At the beginning of your upkeep, you gain X life, where X is the number of cards in your hand minus 4.


The two other cards with that activation cost say "from," so Leashling will be a good... er... Hound and follow suit.

New Leashling wording:

Put a card from your hand on top of your library: Return Leashling to its owner's hand.

Master Warcraft and Melee

The templates used on these cards just weren't as helpful as they could be. When you start factoring in multiplayer formats and planeswalkers, it was a little confusing who actually got to make what decision. Hopefully, these revisions are a little better. (Melee includes a small functional change in that it now, we feel correctly, affects only this combat.)

New Master Warcraft wording:

Cast Master Warcraft only before attackers are declared.

You choose which creatures attack this turn.

You choose which creatures block this turn and how those creatures block.

New Melee wording:

Cast Melee only during your turn and only during combat before blockers are declared.

You choose which creatures block this combat and how those creatures block.

Whenever a creature attacks and isn't blocked this combat, untap it and remove it from combat.


Whether or not the Merseine has a net counter on it is checked at a discrete time, so it should say "if," not "as long as."

New Merseine wording:

Enchant creature

Merseine enters the battlefield with three net counters on it.

Enchanted creature doesn't untap during its controller's untap step if Merseine has a net counter on it.

Pay enchanted creature's mana cost: Remove a net counter from Merseine. Any player may activate this ability, but only if he or she controls the enchanted creature.

Puppet Master

If you gain control of an opponent's Puppet Master, the old Oracle wording seemed to indicate you'd return it to your hand. While the rules are prepared to cover such an eventuality, we don't like relying on them in cases like this.

New Puppet Master wording:

Enchant creature

When enchanted creature dies, return that card to its owner's hand. If that card is returned to its owner's hand this way, you may pay {oUoUoU}. If you do, return Puppet Master to its owner's hand.

Shaman en-Kor

There's a pecking order between Clerics and Shamans. I can't explain why. Maybe it's the alphabet. Maybe it's something far more sinister. At any rate, Shaman en-Kor had it backwards.

New Shaman en-Kor creature types:

Kor Cleric Shaman

Winter's Chill

Winter's Chill has a somewhat-complicated effect that allowed you to pay mana to "prevent this effect." We rephrased to avoid this nonstandard usage of "prevent."

New Winter's Chill wording:

Cast Winter's Chill only during combat before blockers are declared.

X can't be greater than the number of snow lands you control.

Choose X target attacking creatures. For each of those creatures, its controller may pay {o1} or {o2}. If that player doesn't, destroy that creature at end of combat. If that player pays only {o1}, prevent all combat damage that would be dealt to and dealt by that creature this combat.


Due to an oversight, we had conflicting rules covering who controlled an emblem. 109.4 said only objects on the battlefield or the stack had a controller, with a few exceptions for command zone-based objects. Emblems are now included in those exceptions.


This rule covers triggered abilities that trigger off a player gaining life. It wasn't clear that gaining 0 life wouldn't trigger such abilities, so now the rule explicitly calls that out.


Color indicator was accidentally left off the parts of the card. Fixed!


This rule covers cases like Gutter Grime, where one object grants an ability to another object that refers to the originating object by name. In short, each Ooze knows which Gutter Grime created it. The change here is a clarification that copies of that Ooze will also look to the Gutter Grime that created the original.


We added fateful hour to the list of ability words.


We're beefing up this rule that covers Equipment legally attaching to objects. It wasn't explicit that an Equipment could equip only one creature, although there was massive evidence supporting it. Confusing the issue was the interaction of living weapon and Doubling Season, which seemed to suggest you'd create two tokens then attach the Equipment to both of them. In practice, you'd just pick one, and now the rule unambiguously tells you that.


For consistency and clarity, the changes made in 301.5 regarding Equipment were also made here regarding Auras.


This rule deals with cards that are exiled face down. It clarifies that face-down cards in exile have no characteristics (so they can't be targeted by Runic Repetition, for example) and gives a bit more detail about casting cards that have been exiled face down, namely that you turn them face up (unless you're casting them face down) just before starting the casting process.


This rule talks about certain triggered abilities having to "look back in time" to determine if they should trigger. It was streamlined a bit in this update.


This subrule is part of the layer system that handles the interaction of continuous effects. Specifically, it's part of layer 7, effects that affect power and/or toughness. More specifically, it's layer 7a, which applies effects from characteristic-defining abilities. We just expanded that to say "that define power and/or toughness" for clarity.


This rule covers the usage of "exchange" found on Tree of Redemption. It makes the Tree's toughness become equal to your former life total, but it wasn't totally clear how it did that. Now it is: by creating a continuous effect setting its toughness to that value.


This new rule handles the Dark Ascension keyword ability undying.


This new rule was added for clarification surrounding a very popular question since undying was previewed: What happens if a creature with undying and a +1/+1 counter receives enough -1/-1 counters at once (say, from Black Sun's Zenith) to cause it to die? Will undying trigger or not? The answer: No, it doesn't trigger and the creature won't return.

State-based actions all happen simultaneously, so one moment there's a creature on the battlefield with +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters, and the next moment that creature is in the graveyard. Undying asks "did that creature have a +1/+1 counter on it?" When you look back to that moment before state-based actions were performed, you see that it did, so undying doesn't trigger.

This was derivable from the rules before, but the number of questions I was getting certainly indicated that it could be clearer, so now this new rule exists.


While most things that copy a spell put that copy directly onto the stack, a few instruct you to actually cast the copy. It was never very clear where the copy existed before you cast it, so this rule now makes that clear. The copy is created in the same zone as the original object and cast from there. This information could be important to cards like Burning Vengeance.


This rule, governing how double-faced cards enter the battlefield, gets expanded to handle Loyal Cathar dying and transforming into Unhallowed Cathar.


Okay, here's a fun one. This new rule is in the section that handles a player leaving a multiplayer game. Say Mark Rosewater, Aaron Forsythe, and I are in a three-player game. I cast Bribery targeting Mark and put his Maro (what else?) onto the battlefield under my control. Aaron then casts Act of Aggression, taking control of it until end of turn. While Aaron controls it, I leave the game. Nothing happens to Maro at this point as I neither own nor control it. When Act of Aggression's effect wears off, what happens to Maro? Its original controller has left the game. It feels weird to just leave it under Aaron's control because the effect giving him control of it just wore off. It feels weird giving it to Mark because he never controlled it. I decided exiling it was the choice most consistent with other rules handling what happens to objects when a player leaves the game.


The cross-reference in this rule was pointing the wrong way.


This is the Commander mulligan rule. I inadvertently left off that you exiled the cards you don't like face down, so that bit was added.


Type-Changing Effect

The cross-reference in this rule didn't point you at a very informative place if you wanted to learn more, so I added some new ones that hopefully are more helpful.


Entry and definition added.

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