Masters Edition Update Bulletin

Posted in Feature on August 29, 2007

By Mark L. Gottlieb

What is Oracle?

Magic is a game made up of over 9,000 interchangeable pieces—the cards. Over the years, we've felt the need to update the wordings of older cards, 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.

As we announced on the web site, there will be a special Oracle update in advance of the release of the Masters Edition set on Magic Online. This update will take effect on Friday, September 7. This document details the functional changes that will be included in this update. There will also be some minor, nonfunctional changes to make Masters Edition cards simpler or bring them in line with more modern templates.

Oracle changes usually incur a wave of emails and message board posts pointing out the places where I contradicted myself, or violated our own stated policies, or the like. While we do have policies, updating Oracle is done on a case-by-case basis, and it's all judgment calls. What matters most for a card is different on different cards. Some things we consider:

  • How the card was originally printed
  • How the card was most recently printed
  • How the card originally worked (if the rules have changed since then)
  • What the original intent of the card was (if its printed wording was erroneous or confusing)

Ultimately, the goal of updating Oracle is to find a balance. We want the cards to work as sensibly and intuitively as possible, in terms of both doing what they say and fitting into the greater continuum. The Ice Age Seraph was functionally different from the Fifth Edition Seraph, and we're sticking with the most recent printing because that's our general policy. However, the Sixth Edition Animate Wall wording (or, more accurately, what it's become in Oracle) is so counterintuitive that we think it's more important to restore a sensible functionality than it is to stick with the current wording.

Animate Wall
Animate Wall has been through a long, strange trip. From Alpha through the Fourth Edition set, it said "Enchant Wall" on its type line. The Fifth Edition version said "Enchant Creature" on its type line, but instructed you in its text box to "Play only on a Wall." This restriction was deemed unnecessary on the Sixth Edition version, which merely said "Enchant Creature" and "Enchanted creature can attack as though it weren't a Wall." You could play it on any creature, which was bizarre for a card called "Animate Wall." A few years later, during the "defender" revision, Wall-ness no longer implied an inability to attack, so its Oracle text was changed to say "Enchanted creature can attack as though it didn't have defender."

All these changes meant that, in the modern day, putting Animate Wall on a decidedly un-Wall-like creature such as Opal-Eye, Konda's Yojimbo would allow that creature to attack. This was deemed "dumb" (and, more importantly, it was deemed unintuitive, confusing, out of flavor, and contrary to the first decade of printings of the card). We're ignoring the Sixth Edition card and changing its restriction back to "enchant Wall."

Oubliette and Tawnos's Coffin
Originally, these cards didn't phase creatures out. They were printed years before phasing was invented. Then, somewhere along the way, someone realized that using phasing was a concise, convenient way to mimic the (long, clunkily worded) functionality of these cards. The tricky part of Oubliette and Tawnos's Coffin isn't that they remove creatures from the game and return them to play later. The tricky part is that those creatures retain any enchantments and any counters on them. This is really hard to express, since it's the opposite of how any other zone-change effect works . . . except phasing. So hooray for shortcuts.

The problem is that phasing doesn't exactly mimic the functionality. What's different?

  • When a creature phases out, it won't trigger leaves-play effects. Based on these cards' wordings, it should.
  • When a creature phases in, it won't trigger comes-into-play effects. Based on these cards' wordings, it should.
  • When a creature phases in, it's treated as though it has haste. This rarely matters with Oubliette and Tawnos's Coffin since the creatures return to play tapped, but in case the creature becomes untapped, it shouldn't be able to attack or use abilities that turn.
  • When a creature phases out, any Equipment attached to it phases out too. Based on these cards' wordings, it shouldn't.
  • If Oubliette or Tawnos's Coffin leaves play and the phase-in effect is Stifled, the removed creature will phase in the following turn. Based on these cards' wordings, it should remain removed from the game forever.

Of course, Oubliette and Tawnos's Coffin predate comes-into-play effects, leaves-play effects, Equipment, and Stifle. But those things all exist now, and they need to work intuitively with the card that you're holding in your hand. Therefore, phasing is leaving these cards in favor of a wording that goes back to their original (long, clunky) wordings. They'll work as printed (or as close to it as modernly possible).

Paralyze
The Oracle wording grants the enchanted creature a triggered ability that allows its controller to untap it. That's not how any printed version of Paralyze has worked, and it makes a difference in interactions with cards like Humility and Muraganda Petroglyphs. The triggered ability is being put back on the Aura where it belongs.

Animate Dead
Animate Dead, Dance of the Dead, and Necromancy
Three issues with these cards are getting addressed.

Issue 1: As originally printed, Animate Dead and Dance of the Dead were local enchantments that said "Enchant Dead Creature" on their type lines. When it was realized that that wasn't really feasible, they had to become global enchantments that turned into local enchantments (Auras, nowadays) only after coming into play. You didn't choose a target when you played one. They weren't Auras except when in play.

Using Spellweaver Volute technology, these two cards are becoming Auras again, and they'll have the ability "enchant creature card in a graveyard" (which is as close to "Enchant Dead Creature" as we can get). Necromancy won't be getting this fix, since it was originally printed as an enchantment.

Issue 2: As printed, these cards could enchant only the "dead" creature that it brought back to life. When they left play, that creature would be buried. With the current Oracle wordings, however, you could move them to a fresh, healthy creature (using Aura Graft, for example), and then when they left play, whatever creature they were currently attached to would be destroyed. With the new wordings, you won't be able to move them to anything else—they can only enchant the "dead" creature. Also, we're more strictly enforcing the original "bury" effect by having the enchanted creature be sacrificed by its controller if the Aura ever leaves play.

Issue 3: The last time these cards got updated (during the Aura revision), a loophole was created. If you used Animate Dead to bring a creature with protection from black into play, Animate Dead couldn't become attached to it and would leave play—and, since the creature was never enchanted, it would be unaffected by Animate Dead's "destroy enchanted creature" ability. It would stay in play indefinitely. That loophole is being closed.

The new wordings are, um, crazy. They're still way too long to ever be reprinted on a physical card. But that's the beauty of Magic Online!

Eater of the Dead
Eater of the Dead was printed with the ability "{0}: Take one creature from any graveyard and remove it from the game. Untap Eater of the Dead." The untap bit was interpreted as a pseudo-cost, not as an effect. You could play the ability only if Eater of the Dead was tapped; this wasn't simply a way to wipe out all creatures from a graveyard for free. I agree with that; it seems like the printed wording was a technical error. Its current Oracle wording reflects this intent by saying "{0}: If Eater of the Dead is tapped, untap it and remove target creature card in a graveyard from the game." Still clunky, though.

The new wording streamlines things: "Untap Eater of the Dead: Remove target creature card in a graveyard from the game." Now that's a nice, clean ability, if a bit weird. The important thing to realize is that if Eater of the Dead is already untapped, you can't pay the ability's cost.

Baron Sengir
It's becoming a Vampire! Finally!!! There's more information on the creature type changes below. Note that since Baron Sengir has never been able to regenerate itself, its last ability will now allow it to regenerate "another target Vampire."

Clockwork Beast
Clockwork Beast comes into play with seven +1/+0 counters on it. Its original Alpha wording allowed you to "buy back" its "lost counters" during your upkeep, so you could refill it up to the original seven. The Fourth Edition and Fifth Edition wordings of this ability allowed you to put X +1/+0 counters on Clockwork Beast, but specified within this ability that "you may have no more than seven of these counters" on it.

Then the card appeared in the Beatdown boxed set, and a funny thing happened to it. The "can't have more than seven +1/+0 counters" clause was pulled out of the "refill its counters" ability and became a separate ability. This was strange. This prohibited external effects from putting +1/+0 counters on it beyond the limit, which no previous version had ever done. It set up a nonintuitive interaction with cards such as Doubling Season (when Doubling Season was eventually printed). And it wasn't clear what happened if you simply paid too much for X—would you get part of the effect and stop when you hit seven, or would the effect do nothing because it was impossible to fulfill?

The new wording collapses the limitation on the number of +1/+0 counters back into the "refill" ability, so it won't affect anything else. It also makes it clear what happens if you overpay on X. (It'll wind up with seven counters.)

Forcefield
The wording is getting a facelift (the words are getting rearranged, but most of them remain the same) that should make it much clearer. It's also changing to specify that it affects only the next time the unblocked creature would deal combat damage to you this turn (in case someone plays Relentless Assault or the like).

While I'm Here...

Because this is an oddball Oracle update, it's not being used for typical maintenance. On the whole, the only cards getting polished are the ones that appear in the Masters Edition set and their direct adjuncts (like Dance of the Dead and Necromancy). But there are a couple of other exceptions.

Artificial Evolution and Unnatural Selection
In the Tenth Edition Oracle update, Imagecrafter, Mistform Mutant, and Standardize were brought closer to their printed wordings, which didn't allow you to choose the creature type Wall. Artificial Evolution and Unnatural Selection should have been included in this group but weren't; they're being updated now.

Arcum's Whistle, Maddening Imp, and Nettling Imp
In the Tenth Edition Oracle update, Norritt's wording was updated so it, y'know, worked. These three cards, to varying extents, also needed some of the same help that Norritt got.

Dracoplasm
This needs a fix right away because its Oracle wording doesn't work. As printed, it was clear that you sacrificed creatures when it came into play, and its power and toughness was set at that time. Its current wording has a characteristic-defining ability—in other words, it looks like Maro and Tarmogoyf. The power and toughness of those cards changes over the course of the game, but Dracoplasm's power and toughness does not. It shouldn't (and, actually, can't) continually check the total powers and toughnesses of the sacrificed creatures. Therefore, Dracoplasm is getting a new wording that makes it clear that its power and toughness is set as it comes into play and does not change.

Creature Type Update

Since the cards in the Masters Edition set are getting reprinted Online, their creature types are being updated to modern standards. This includes adding creature types to legendary creatures and artifact creatures that don't have any, adding "Human" to the creatures that need it, giving creatures the creature types that appear in their names (Goblin Mutant will soon be, yes, a Goblin Mutant), and knocking out obsolete singleton types such as Speaker, Eater, and Singing-Tree in favor of modern creature types. This is especially relevant considering the Lorwyn tribal theme. Below are all the Masters Edition cards whose creature types have been updated.

CreatureOld Creature TypeNew Creature Type
Adun Oakenshield[none]Human Knight
Angry MobMobHuman
Apprentice WizardWizardHuman Wizard
Argivian ArchaeologistArchaeologistHuman Artificer
Autumn Willow[none]Avatar
Balduvian HordeBarbarianHuman Barbarian
Ball LightningBall-LightningElemental
Baron Sengir[none]Vampire
Benalish HeroHeroHuman Soldier
Black KnightKnightHuman Knight
Brothers of FireBrotherHuman Shaman
Carnivorous PlantWallPlant Wall
Centaur ArcherCentaurCentaur Archer
Chub ToadToadFrog
Clockwork Beast[none]Beast
Cuombajj WitchesWitchHuman Wizard
Dakkon Blackblade[none]Human Warrior
Death SpeakersSpeakerHuman Cleric
Dragon Engine[none]Construct
Dwarven SoldierDwarfDwarf Soldier
Eater of the DeadEaterHorror
Elder Land WurmWurmDragon Wurm
Erg RaidersRaiderHuman Warrior
Fyndhorn ElvesElfElf Druid
Giant TortoiseTortoiseTurtle
Goblin ChirurgeonGoblinGoblin Shaman
Goblin MutantGoblinGoblin Mutant
Goblin WizardGoblinGoblin Wizard
Goblins of the FlargGoblinGoblin Warrior
Hungry MistMistElemental
Hyalopterous LemureLemureSpirit
Icatian LieutenantSoldierHuman Soldier
Illusionary WallWallIllusion Wall
Jacques le Vert[none]Human Warrior
Keldon WarlordLordHuman Barbarian
Khabál GhoulGhoulZombie
Knights of ThornKnightHuman Knight
Lord of Tresserhorn[none]Zombie
Márton Stromgald[none]Human Knight
Onulet[none]Construct
Order of LeitburClericHuman Cleric Knight
Order of the Ebon HandClericCleric Knight
Phantom MonsterPhantasmIllusion
Phelddagrif[none]Phelddagrif
Phyrexian War Beast[none]Beast
PreacherPreacherHuman Cleric
Righteous AvengersAvengerHuman Soldier
Shambling StriderStriderYeti
Singing TreeSinging-TreePlant
Spectral BearsBearBear Spirit
Spinal VillainVillainBeast
Su-Chi[none]Construct
The FallenFallenZombie
Thunder SpiritSpiritElemental Spirit
Varchild’s War-RidersWar-RiderHuman Warrior
Vesuvan DoppelgangerDoppelgangerShapeshifter
Vodalian KnightsMerfolkMerfolk Knight
Yavimaya AntsSwarmInsect
Serpent Generator tokensPoison-SnakeSnake

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