Oath of the Gatewatch Update Bulletin—Oracle Text

Posted in Feature on January 29, 2016

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.

What is Oracle?

Magic is a game made up of more than 14,000 interchangeable pieces—the cards. Over the years, we've felt the need to update the wordings of older cards, whether 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.


The colorless mana symbol

Oath of the Gatewatch introduces the colorless mana symbol, denoted as {C} in rules documents. Anything that added {1} to your mana pool now adds {C}. We talk more about this change in the Oath of the Gatewatch Release Notes. In all, 316 cards were updated.


Blocking more than one creature (nonfunctional)

We made some updates to the templates used to convey that a creature can block additional creatures. Specifically, we added "each combat" to cards mentioning the ability to block a finite number of additional creatures. Without it, it sounded like an ability you could use once. As in, "I get one additional creature. Better make it count!"

Old rules text:

Creatures you control have vigilance.

Each creature you control can block an additional creature.

New rules text:

Creatures you control have vigilance.

Each creature you control can block an additional creature each combat.

Also affects: Cenn's Tactician, Echo Circlet, Foriysian Brigade, Foriysian Interceptor, Foriysian Totem, High Ground, Kemba's Legion, Lairwatch Giant, Selesnya Sagittars, Two-Headed Dragon, Two-Headed Giant of Foriys, Vanguard's Shield


Erayo's Essence (nonfunctional)

Erayo's Essence sounded like it only applied to one spell each turn. The printed wording doesn't conform to the known styles of abilities, so it was made into a triggered ability. But it was pretty unclear on the "each opponent, each turn" bit, so we adjusted the template to make that clearer.

Old rules text:

Whenever an opponent casts a spell for the first time in a turn, counter that spell.

New rules text:

Whenever an opponent casts his or her first spell each turn, counter that spell.


Golgari Grave-Troll (nonfunctional)

Of all the creatures that are a Skeleton and some other creature type, Golgari Grave-Troll was the only one that had Skeleton first. This has turned out to mostly troll the editing team, because every time a new one pops up, we spend time debating which order they should be in because precedents are mixed. WE'RE UNMIXING THEM.

Old type line:

Creature—Skeleton Troll

New type line:

Creature—Troll Skeleton


Homarid (probably not functional)

The last ability on this sine wave of a card wasn't explicit about whether it triggered if I somehow got to five or more tide counters but skipped four. It doesn't say "exactly" like the other abilities on the card, so we determined the tide would reset no matter how high it had gotten.

Old rules text:

Homarid enters the battlefield with a tide counter on it.

At the beginning of your upkeep, put a tide counter on Homarid.

As long as there is exactly one tide counter on Homarid, it gets -1/-1.

As long as there are exactly three tide counters on Homarid, it gets +1/+1.

Whenever there are four tide counters on Homarid, remove all tide counters from it.

New rules text:

Homarid enters the battlefield with a tide counter on it.

At the beginning of your upkeep, put a tide counter on Homarid.

As long as there is exactly one tide counter on Homarid, it gets -1/-1.

As long as there are exactly three tide counters on Homarid, it gets +1/+1.

Whenever there are four or more tide counters on Homarid, remove all tide counters from it.

Also affects: Tidal Influence


Marjhan (functional)

Say, since we're monkeying around with weird sea creatures, Marjhan came up in a search for some unfathomable reason, and we noticed the type line wasn't quite right. It was printed as a Serpent, but was made into a Leviathan at some point. This made sense because the card is clearly inspired by the card Leviathan. But Serpent is a perfectly valid creature type, currently supported and appropriate to the card. So we're going back to that.

Old type line:

Creature—Leviathan

New type line:

Creature—Serpent


Pygmy Hippo (nonfunctional)

In addition to the {C} update, we tweaked the trigger condition on the delayed triggered ability. This gets the potentially confusing word "postcombat" off the card and reads a bit better.

Old wording:

Whenever Pygmy Hippo attacks and isn't blocked, you may have defending player activate a mana ability of each land he or she controls and empty his or her mana pool. If you do, Pygmy Hippo assigns no combat damage this turn and at the beginning of your postcombat main phase, you add {X} to your mana pool, where X is the amount of mana emptied from defending player's mana pool this way.

New wording:

Whenever Pygmy Hippo attacks and isn't blocked, you may have defending player activate a mana ability of each land he or she controls and empty his or her mana pool. If you do, Pygmy Hippo assigns no combat damage this turn and at the beginning of your next main phase this turn, you add an amount of {C} to your mana pool equal to the amount of mana emptied from that player's mana pool this way.


Shadow Rider (functional)

Shadow Rider. A knightly flight into the dangerous world of a card that does not exist. Wait, it does exist. Okay, so it was printed as a Knight and later picked up the Zombie creature type. One problem: it's not a Zombie. The creative team tells me there's actually some evidence that it really should be a Dauthi, but nothing on the card really tells you that. So it will return to just a Knight. It can now continue being a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent. Or attack for 3. Whatever.

Old type line:

Creature—Zombie Knight

New type line:

Creature—Knight


Introduction

Oracle Changes

Comprehensive Rules

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