May 2011 Update Bulletin

Posted in Feature on May 4, 2011

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.

The New Phyrexia rules update is upon us, and one theme kept popping up as I worked through the last few months: history. Our game has tremendous history, stretching from the early days of wondering why Moxes were any good to the proliferation (ha!) of the new Magic media. The history of the position of rules manager is also long. Fewer than a dozen men and women have held the position (even taking into account those who held it before the term "rules manager" was in use). Going through the Oracle and Multiverse databases, you can see clearly that each one put tremendous effort into improving our game, and I hope to follow in their footsteps.

I've come to learn that being in charge of Oracle updates mean you're in charge of a lot of history. Many different forces can impact rules and templating philosophy. Consistency, clarity, brevity, and game play are all important, and they often conflict. History also plays a role, as we want to remain true to the game's early roots even as we race toward Magic's indisputably bright future. In this update we reach back and change some cards from Magic's initial release in 1993, we introduce some rules to support its latest cards in 2011, and we pay tribute to the brave Mirrans, who are definitely history.

I get the honor and pleasure of informing you about these changes, but by no means do I act alone. Again, I'd like to thank the various players and judges who have submitted cards and rules for consideration. Thanks also to my select group of rules guru ninjas... you know who you are. A special thanks to forum user adeyke for dumping about a billion cards on me for consideration. If you're on IRC, please check out the EfNet channels #mtgjudge and #mtgrules (for rules questions only). Follow me on Twitter (@TabakRules). Please tip your server. Don't tip your judge. That's probably bribery.

New Phyrexia has already been included in Gatherer. The remainder of the update is scheduled to go live on May 5. The Comprehensive Rulebook updates will follow shortly thereafter, likely before May 13. As always, the CR is going through a full editing and review process as I'm writing this, so the final results may differ from what you see here.

The legacy of my tenure as rules manager may be that I will find something new to tweak on Cocoon every Oracle update. This time, I address the fact that the printed card gave a bonus in the form of a +1/+1 counter, and the Oracle wording strayed from that.

New wording
Enchant creature you control
Enchanted creature doesn't untap during your untap step if Cocoon has a pupa counter on it.
When Cocoon enters the battlefield, tap enchanted creature and put three pupa counters on Cocoon.
At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a pupa counter from Cocoon. If you can't, sacrifice it, put a +1/+1 counter on enchanted creature, and that creature gains flying. (This effect lasts indefinitely.)

Winter Orb
In the first versions of the Magic rules, the static abilities of an artifact turned off if the artifact was tapped. When this rule changed, three cards (Winter Orb, Static Orb, and Howling Mine) were issued errata to maintain this functionality. Since then, Static Orb and Howling Mine have been reprinted with this errata, but Winter Orb never was. If you pick up this card somewhere and you understand modern Magic rules, you'd never guess it would have to be untapped to function, and the once-common "tap my own Winter Orb at the end of my turn so I get to untap my lands" play would be utterly baffling. Well, we can't have that.

New wording
Players can't untap more than one land during their untap steps.

Phantasmal Sphere
As printed, this targeted the opponent about to receive the Orb token. There's no reason why it can't also do that now.

New wording
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a +1/+1 counter on Phantasmal Sphere, then sacrifice Phantasmal Sphere unless you pay {o1} for each +1/+1 counter on it.
When Phantasmal Sphere leaves the battlefield, put a blue Orb creature token with flying onto the battlefield under target opponent's control. That creature's power and toughness are each equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on Phantasmal Sphere.

Rebel Informer & Mercenary Informer
As printed, these two cards only affected "Rebel cards" and "Mercenary cards" respectively. Like we did with Brutal Suppression—which was also from Prophecy and affected "Rebel cards" as printed—we're adding "nontoken" to the two Informers.

New Rebel Informer wording
Rebel Informer can't be the target of white spells or abilities from white sources.
{o3}: Put target nontoken Rebel on the bottom of its owner's library.

New Mercenary Informer wording
Mercenary Informer can't be the target of black spells or abilities from black sources.
{o2oW}: Put target nontoken Mercenary on the bottom of its owner's library.

Continuing our Mercenary theme, we come to this gem from Ice Age. Under the original wording, players would have to activate the ability each time they wanted to prevent damage to themselves. The Oracle wording lumped this into only needing to activate the ability once per turn. We're going to restore the original ability here.

New wording
{o3}: The next time Mercenaries would deal damage to you this turn, prevent that damage. Any player may activate this ability.

Master of Arms
Just like Winter Orb, Master of Arms had a mystifying Oracle wording intended to replicate original functionality. The rule that changed this time was the one saying that tapped blockers didn't deal combat damage. Boy, tapped things used to be a lot worse! Additionally, the errata Master of Arms was given didn't do a great job of replicating the original functionality, given the number of things out there that could potentially untap the blocking creature after the activated ability resolved.

My general philosophy is that I'm okay with rules changing out from underneath cards and changing their functionality. Heck, just look at the Magic 2010 rules changes. It wouldn't be reasonable to try and make all previous cards work exactly the same way they did before those rules changes. Take heart, Master of Arms fans—it's still a combo with Royal Assassin!

New wording
First strike
{o1oW}: Tap target creature blocking Master of Arms.

Nonfunctional Oracle Changes

Liliana Vess
Over the last few updates, we've been moving to the standard "from a graveyard" when talking about zone changes from a graveyard.

New wording
+1: Target player discards a card.
-2: Search your library for a card, then shuffle your library and put that card on top of it.
-8: Put all creature cards from all graveyards onto the battlefield under your control.

Conditional effects: Goblin Caves, Goblin Shrine, Essence Leak, and Lavamancer's Skill
If an ability continuously checks a condition to see whether it has a particular effect, we generally say "as long as" the condition is true. If the check is only performed at a specific time, such as whether a creature can attack or block, we still use "if."

New Goblin Caves wording
Enchant land
As long as enchanted land is a basic Mountain, Goblin creatures get +0/+2.

New Goblin Shrine wording
Enchant land
As long as enchanted land is a basic Mountain, Goblin creatures get +1/+0.
When Goblin Shrine leaves the battlefield, it deals 1 damage to each Goblin creature.

New Essence Leak wording
Enchant permanent
As long as enchanted permanent is red or green, it has "At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice this permanent unless you pay its mana cost."

New Lavamancer's Skill wording
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature has "{oT}: This creature deals 1 damage to target creature."
As long as enchanted creature is a Wizard, it has "{oT}: This creature deals 2 damage to target creature."

Natural Selection
I thought it was im-Portent to line this up with Portent. Actually, that horrible pun reminds me to speak briefly about one reason to line up templates like this: it makes searching for certain rules text easier and more reliable. Oracle isn't always consistent about this, and we don't want to introduce needless functional changes, but it's worth it to tighten up when we can.

New wording
Look at the top three cards of target player's library, then put them back in any order. You may have that player shuffle his or her library.

Simultaneous instructions: Crumbling Sanctuary & Bone Mask
These two cards proved especially tricky. Here's the problem: let's say you control a Crumbling Sanctuary and your opponent cruelly aims a Lightning Bolt at your face. The Sanctuary prevents 3 damage, so you exile the top three cards of your library, right? Not exactly. The old wording could be interpreted such that there would be three instructions of "exile the top card of your library" being processed simultaneously. I believe this new wording clears up the functionality. If there are fewer cards in your library than the damage being prevented, you'll simply exile all the cards in your library.

New Crumbling Sanctuary wording
If damage would be dealt to a player, that player exiles that many cards from the top of his or her library instead.

New Bone Mask wording
{o2}, {oT}: The next time a source of your choice would deal damage to you this turn, prevent that damage. Exile cards from the top of your library equal to the damage prevented this way.

Skyshroud Forest
The two mana symbols in the last ability were in the wrong order.

New wording:
Skyshroud Forest enters the battlefield tapped.
{oT}: Add {o1} to your mana pool.
{oT}: Add {oG} or {oU} to your mana pool. Skyshroud Forest deals 1 damage to you.

Star Compass
This template was missing a "that" we use on several other cards, including Fellwar Stone.

New wording
Star Compass enters the battlefield tapped.
{oT}: Add to your mana pool one mana of any color that a basic land you control could produce.

Gloomwidow has a blocking restriction, also seen on cards like Cloud Elemental, that is sometimes described as "high flying," so we opted not to use the same wording on the earthbound Gloomwidow. After consideration, we're going to line them up.

New wording
Gloomwidow can block only creatures with flying.

Leaping Lizard
Several cards, including the adorable Hyalopterous Lemure, have a similar ability and reverse the order of the two bonuses, so Leaping Lizard should follow suit.

New wording
{o1oG}: Leaping Lizard gets -0/-1 and gains flying until end of turn.

Energy Storm
When talking about the controller(s) of multiple creatures, we usually use the singular possessive if we can reasonably assume that the affected creatures will have the same controller. With cards like Energy Storm, it's more possible that multiple players will each control a creature with flying, so the plural possessive is used. There isn't a functional difference between the two (this is the nonfunctional changes section, after all).

New wording
Cumulative upkeep {o1} (At the beginning of your upkeep, put an age counter on this permanent, then sacrifice it unless you pay its upkeep cost for each age counter on it.)
Prevent all damage that would be dealt by instant and sorcery spells.
Creatures with flying don't untap during their controllers' untap steps.

Delaying Shield & Nefarious Lich
These two cards both said "if you would be dealt damage," the only two cards to do so. We're adjusting it to the slightly more popular "if damage would be dealt to you."

New Delaying Shield wording
If damage would be dealt to you, put that many delay counters on Delaying Shield instead.
At the beginning of your upkeep, remove all delay counters from Delaying Shield. For each delay counter removed this way, you lose 1 life unless you pay {o1oW}.

New Nefarious Lich wording
If damage would be dealt to you, exile that many cards from your graveyard instead. If you can't, you lose the game.
If you would gain life, draw that many cards instead.
When Nefarious Lich leaves the battlefield, you lose the game.

Icy Prison
The Oracle wording tried to return the "exiled creature" to the battlefield. It's not even a creature at that time. Weird. Let's try it Oblivion Ring-style:

New wording
When Icy Prison enters the battlefield, exile target creature.
At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice Icy Prison unless any player pays {o3}.
When Icy Prison leaves the battlefield, return the exiled card to the battlefield under its owner's control.

Revelation & Wandering Eye
The use of "all" here seems unnecessary. The cards are very clear without it. Let the players play, player.

New Revelation wording
Players play with their hands revealed.

New Wandering Eye wording
Players play with their hands revealed.

Defiant Stand
Portal was trying to be helpful here, but checking to see if the creature was tapped before trying to untap it added unnecessary words to this card. Let's try the more modern template seen on Veteran's Reflexes.

New wording
Cast Defiant Stand only during the declare attackers step and only if you've been attacked this step.
Target creature gets +1/+3 until end of turn. Untap that creature.

Pure Intentions
The second ability, which triggers off Pure Intentions itself being discarded, can only trigger once, so it should use "when."

New wording
Whenever a spell or ability an opponent controls causes you to discard cards this turn, return those cards from your graveyard to your hand.
When a spell or ability an opponent controls causes you to discard Pure Intentions, return Pure Intentions from your graveyard to your hand at the beginning of the next end step.

Through the Breach
Like Gruesome Encore, this card should state that the creature gains haste, not just has it.

New wording
You may put a creature card from your hand onto the battlefield. That creature gains haste. Sacrifice that creature at the beginning of the next end step.
Splice onto Arcane {o2oRoR} (As you cast an Arcane spell, you may reveal this card from your hand and pay its splice cost. If you do, add this card's effects to that spell.)

Goblin Ringleader & Grave Defiler
In a previous update, the other cards in this cycle from Apocalypse added a helpful "in any order" to the instruction to put cards on the bottom of your library. I'm not sure what these two cards were doing at the time, but they missed out. Fortunately, we have make-up day.

New Goblin Ringleader wording
When Goblin Ringleader enters the battlefield, reveal the top four cards of your library. Put all Goblin cards revealed this way into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.

New Grave Defiler wording
When Grave Defiler enters the battlefield, reveal the top four cards of your library. Put all Zombie cards revealed this way into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.
{o1oB}: Regenerate Grave Defiler.

This rule was expanded to accommodate New Phyrexia's cycle of Chancellors. Like the Leylines and Gemstone Caverns, the Chancellors have an ability that is applicable in your opening hand. Unlike those other cards however, the Chancellors are not being put onto the battlefield. Subrules now handle the different types of abilities that are relevant in a player's opening hand.

The title of this section is changing from "Winning and Losing" to the more inclusive "Ending the Game." A rule was added (104.6) to state that a game could be restarted, which ends the current game. More on that later!

This rule was added to cover the case where mana represented by a Phyrexian mana symbol is added to your mana pool. In this case, you add the appropriately colored mana to your mana pool. This could happen if, for example, you controlled a Thundering Tanadon enchanted by Elemental Resonance; you would add to your mana pool.

The five Phyrexian mana symbols were added to the list of mana symbols.

This rule was added to define how Phyrexian mana symbols work.

This rule was added to define the use of the Phyrexian symbol in the rules text of Rage Extractor.

This new addition to the list of rules explaining where abilities work says that if an object has an ability that says counters can't be placed on it, that ability functions while the object is entering the battlefield. "Placed" carries double duty, meaning adding counters while an object is on the battlefield and also having an object entering the battlefield with counters, so the ability of Melira's Keepers, and Tatterkite before it, has to work in both situations.

In fact, the dual nature of "placed" leads to some pretty interesting interactions. Take Melira, Sylvok Outcast. Her second ability effectively means "-1/-1 counters can't be put on creatures you control as they enter the battlefield." This is awesome if that creature is Etched Monstrosity.

I added a sentence to this rule concerning choosing one target per use of the word "target" in a spell or ability to clarify that it applied both when originally choosing targets and when changing targets. You can't change all six targets of Hex to Spellskite, for example.

The rule was added to explain how Spellskite's "change a target" template functioned.

This rule was added to clarify that you only look at the final set of targets when changing targets of a spell or ability to determine if the change was legal. For example, it was ambiguous whether you could change the first target of Arc Trail to the second and vice versa. Well, you can!

This rule was added to define what happens when a cost is reduced by an amount of mana represented by a Phyrexian mana symbol: it's reduced by one mana of the appropriate color.

120.4, 608.2d
These rules referred to a player attempting to draw a card from an empty library losing the game. Thanks to spells like Oblation, it's possible that a token could be in a library while a card draw happens before going poof. Clearly, we meant an empty library to mean a library with no cards in it, so we might as well just say that.

It turns out that no rule really explicitly stated what happens to counters on an object when that object changed zones. In practice, we know that a Runeclaw Bear on the battlefield becomes a different object when it goes to the graveyard, and counters it had on it cease to exist. But it seemed appropriate to actually spell that out.

We clarified that a placing a counter on a permanent also refers to that permanent entering the battlefield with a counter as the result of a replacement effect.

This rule formerly stated that paying a mana cost involved matching the color of any colored mana symbols as well as paying the generic mana indicated in the cost. Well, the Phyrexians have kind of blown that whole "you must match the colors" idea out of the water, so this rule was adjusted.

Phyrexian mana symbols in a mana cost also define color.

A new rule to say that each Phyrexian mana symbol in a mana costs contributes 1 toward the converted mana cost.

Karn is added to the list of planeswalker types. Hi Karn!

Praetor is added to the list of creature types. Hi Praetors!

The Scars of Mirrodin block is now complete, so the rule can just refer to faction insignias in the whole block rather than individual sets. They still have no effect on game play.

301.7, 303.4i
Okay, here's a fun one. Let's imagine you have a Myr Welder that's exiled a Demonspine Whip and a Transmogrifying Licid. (Someone in the rules forum actually imagined this.) You activate the Licid's ability to attach the Myr Welder to another creature. The Myr Welder is no longer a creature at this point and is just an Aura enchantment, so this works nicely. It still has the Demonspine Whip's ability, which says ": Equipped creature gets +X/+0 until end of turn." Is the creature Myr Welder's attached to the "equipped creature?"

For even more fun, imagine the creature above is a Kor Duelist. There isn't an Equipment attached to it, so it's not equipped, so it doesn't have double strike. But at the same time, if Myr Welder's ability sees it as the "equipped creature," it would give it a bonus. Well, that's weird. So we drew some harder lines.

Enchanted, equipped, and fortified are all ways for one object to be attached to another, but they are not interchangeable. For an ability that refers to the "equipped creature" to function, that ability must be on an Equipment. The same is true for Auras and abilities that refer to the "enchanted creature." Ditto Fortifications and "fortified land." These two rules address this issue.

Now, if an object is moving to a public zone, all players (not just its owner) look at it to determine if it has any abilities that would affect the move, like an enters-the-battlefield replacement ability. For example, I'm able to see the card you're putting onto the battlefield with Show and Tell and name that card with the Runed Halo I'm putting onto the battlefield.

506.3c, 508.4a
These rules explain that a creature put onto the battlefield attacking a player no longer in the game or a planeswalker no longer on the battlefield (or no longer a planeswalker) is simply put onto the battlefield but is never an attacking creature. Mostly this happens in response to a ninjutsu ability, as it defines who the newcomer is attacking by rule.

Some spells and abilities, like that of Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed, state that they may only be cast or activated during your turn, before attackers are declared. If this never happens because the combat phase is skipped, you must cast these spells or activate these abilities before the precombat main phase ends.

Sometimes we give players a choice using flavorful, but otherwise meaningless, terms. For example, some Archenemy schemes ask a player to choose between "self" or "others." This ability and any ability that refers to this choice are linked.

This is a new rule to cover effects that replace an object entering the battlefield by adding an additional event that moves other objects out of the zone the original object came from. Perhaps an example is in order: a Sutured Ghoul entering the battlefield from the graveyard can't be exiled due its own ability.

A brand-new section on restarting the game! We played around with a long, complicated algorithm to basically put everything back where it started and make it look like the beginning of the game. Ultimately, there were just too many complications and we found it much easier to just end the game and start over. For purposes of reporting game wins in a tournament (and Shahrazad!), it's still the same game.

This is a rule about range of influence and how it affects what spells and abilities can "see" and get information from. The problem is, there was an example that didn't follow logically from the rule. Imagine a game where each player has range of influence 1. Alex is in between Frank on his left and Rob on his right. Alex controls Coat of Arms, so its bonuses will be calculated by everything within Alex's range of influence. Rob's creatures will get bonuses for Frank's, even though those two players are not within each other's range of influence.

A new rule that states Karn Liberated pwns the Grand Melee format, so someone better stop him. This may be edited down to "effects that restart the game are exempt from range of influence" or somesuch.

901.3. and others
In rules documents, the planeswalker symbol will now be denoted as {PW}. The Phyrexians muscled their way in and claimed {P} for their very own.

This is the rule for putting your commander into the command zone at the start of the game. We clarified that you put it from your deck into the command zone, neatly answering what happens if Karn Liberated exiles a commander and then restarts the game. The commander isn't in your deck, so it stays in exile, waiting to be put onto the battlefield.

Glossary: Definitions added for Phyrexian Mana Symbol, Phyrexian Symbol, and Restart the Game.

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