Returning Home: A Guide for Returning Magic Players

Posted in Feature on April 24, 2018

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for DailyMTG.com, making him the one you should email if you have thoughts on the website, good or less good (or not good). He's a longtime coverage reporter and hasn't turned down a game of Magic in any format ever.

Dominaria is a set full of memories, both literal and figurative. For me, it reminds me of afternoons on the floor of my friend's house, playing Skeleton Ships and Lim-Dûl's Paladins against whatever nonsense he was piloting.

Like my taste in decks, much has stayed the same since we last visited Dominaria eleven years ago. Much has also changed. If you're just returning to Magic after some time away, drawn back in by the familiar faces and places of Dominaria, here's a guide to what's new, what's the same, and how you can get back in the game.

We won't be going over every single new thing in the game—every block introduces new keywords, after all—but we'll tackle many of the big ones. If I miss any, be sure to mention them to me on Twitter @blakepr, and I'll add them to this list! The changes are separated into five-year increments below—so if it's been seven years since you've played, you should check out the five- and ten-year sections. If it's been eighteen years, you should read them all. If it's been 30 years since you've played, you're either a time traveler or a liar and none of this applies to you.

Or just read it all and take a trip down memory lane with the rest of us. There's a lot of that going around right about now.

Welcome home.

Magic

For Everyone

Formats – There are a bunch of formats you can play! Standard, Modern, Draft, and Commander are the most played, but Sealed, Pauper, Legacy, Vintage, Canadian Highlander, and even newcomer Brawl are all available to play. Click on any of the links above to learn more about that format.

Events – We've shuffled around our events somewhat in recent years. Depending on how long you've been away, you'll certainly recognize some of these, but others may be new to you.

  • Open House – These events are ideal for new or returning players. Experienced players come to teach, new players come to learn, and everyone can walk away with a little something.
  • Prerelease – In my humble opinion, these are the most fun events around. It's the first chance to play with a new set, everyone is excited, and stores even run events at midnight to get started early.
  • Draft Weekend – This was previously known as Release Weekend, but everyone pretty much just wants to draft then, so we made it official.
  • Friday Night Magic – The old classic. Every Friday night, game stores around the world host Magic play events. Standard, Modern, and Draft are the norm, but stores can host any type of format they want!
  • Magic League – You can play in store or at home, but either way Leagues are a fun way to play with a few packs and build your deck up over time by adding a pack each week.
  • Standard Showdown – Bring a Standard deck and compete for special Standard Showdown Prize Packs. It really is that simple.
  • Store Championship – This used to be called Game Day, but got moved around and had its name changed. Either way, bragging rights at your local store are up for grabs!

Twitch.tv/magic – Over the past few years, we've created a central channel for all official Magic streaming: twitch.tv/magic. There you'll get everything from Grand Prix and Pro Tour events to announcements, special digital events from Magic Online, and special Prerelease events.

Five Years

If you've just taken a small break, there's still news for you! In the past five years we've mostly added some cool new bits to the game, but we've also made some rules changes you should be aware of.

Dominaria Rules Changes – We made a number of changes, both cosmetic and rules-based, with Dominaria. You can read all about the changes here, but the short version is that we've added a new card frame for legendary creatures and sorceries (those are new too!) and a small separator between flavor text and game text, dropped "to your mana pool" from "add G to your mana pool," moved to a singular "they" rather than "he or she," dropped the planeswalker redirection rule and issued errata on a ton of cards to match, and cleaned up some wording. For the crunchy details and all the cards that received errata, check out this article from Rules Manager Eli Shiffrin.

Planeswalkers Are Now Legendary – This means the old planeswalker uniqueness rule goes away, and you can have multiple versions of Jace in play at the same time.

Single-Set Blocks – We moved from two-set blocks to single-set blocks for improved drafting and greater story flexibility. Dominaria will be the only set in the Dominaria block. That means no more mixed-set drafting (unless you want to have some fun—then you do you).

Vancouver Mulligan – We've slightly tweaked the mulligan rule. As before, you can choose to mulligan a hand at the start of any game (does anyone else remember when you could only mulligan with zero or seven lands in hand?) and draw one fewer card each time you do. The new wrinkle is that keeping any hand with fewer than seven cards to start allows that player to scry 1 before the game begins.

Digital GamesMagic: The Gathering Arena is the latest expression of Magic in digital form, and it's currently in Closed Beta. But we also have a Puzzle Quest game and several other digital games in the early stages of design. Magic: The Gathering Online, meanwhile, just celebrated its fifteenth anniversary!

Prowess – New evergreen mechanics make their way into the game here and there, and one of the most recent to be introduced was prowess, which made its debut in Khans of Tarkir. Prowess is a blue-red ability, typically, that gives a creature +1/+1 until end of turn any time a noncreature spell is cast by that creature's controller. Cards such as Monastery Swiftspear and Monastery Mentor have made waves across multiple formats.

The Gatewatch – For the past few years we've been closely following a group of five Planeswalkers called the Gatewatch. Nissa, Jace, Gideon, Chandra, and Liliana have been battling their way across the Multiverse together, more or less, since Oath of the Gatewatch. Ajani later joined them. The characters were all introduced prior to that, but the current squad of six (well, now seven, thanks to Teferi in Dominaria) has been at the forefront of the story since then. You can find more information on Planeswalkers here, and on the story generally here.

The Eldrazi – You might recall the Eldrazi from Zendikar block. Well, they came back, but they were defeated by the Gatewatch. Kind of. Check out the stories from Shadows over Innistrad and Battle for Zendikar for more on that.

New Card Types – We've introduced a number of new card types and subtypes along the way. Some of the more interesting are Vehicles, which are artifacts that need creatures to pilot them, and Gods, a creature type for some of the most powerful, mythical creatures in the game.

Ten Years

As we jump back further in time, we'll get a little less granular and a bit bigger-picture. The past ten years have had a few notable rules changes and introduced some new products and keywords. The two biggest rules changes were the 2010 and 2014 core set rules changes

Magic 2010 Core Set Rules Changes – This set of changes cleaned up a lot of weirdness for the game and streamlined our terminology. "In play" became the "battlefield" and "removed from the game" became "exile," cleaning up a lot of weirdness around the word "play." Similarly, you now "cast" spells and "activate" abilities. This rules change also removed mana burn from the game entirely (good riddance) and took combat damage off the stack (Sakura-Tribe Elder and Mogg Fanatic were less than pleased), and declaring blockers was updated. Deathtouch and lifelink also got updates. I suggest reading the whole document if you ducked out before then.

Magic 2014 Core Set Rules Changes – We had another large update in 2014, though not quite as monumental as 2010. The legend rule was updated (it only now applies to individual players, so we could both have Sivitri Scarzam in play. Finally!) and the now-defunct planeswalker uniqueness rule was introduced (since replaced by planeswalkers being legendary). There were a few other smaller updates, but those were the big ones.

Mythic Rarity– WithShards of Alara, we introduced a rarity above rare: mythic rare. The exact ratio can shift, but, generally speaking, mythic rares appear about one-sixth as frequently as regular rares. Give or take. Planeswalkers tend to be mythic rare, but beyond that the needs of a particular set will shape what the other mythic rares look like. You can always look on our card search engine,Gatherer, to see more examples of mythic rare cards.

Transform Cards – Starting with Innistrad, we introduced double-faced cards that transform during the course of gameplay. Check out Huntmaster of the Fells as an example. We don't do these all the time—though there are some currently in Standard from Rivals of Ixalan and Ixalan—but it can be pretty jarring to see a card that has two playable sides to it. These cards are totally real, and awesome.

Hexproof – Remember Troll Ascetic? That became a keyword. Speaking of Troll Ascetic . . .

Regeneration – We're not really using regeneration anymore. The rules still support it, but newer cards tend to make something indestructible instead.

New Products – We're always introducing new products, but there are two notable ones to keep an eye out for. First, every year we release Commander products aimed at that format. Second, last year we revisited silver-bordered cards, which many of you may remember from Unglued and Unhinged. This past year we released Unstable, and the people rejoiced.

Phyrexia Is Back!– Remember when Gerrard, Urza, and Karn saved Dominaria from Yawgmoth and the Phyrexians? Yay! Phyrexia's gone! Story over, right? Not so fast. Karn has a bit of Phyrexian oil on him, and that helped create the plane of New Phyrexia. Yawgmoth appears to be gone, but the Phyrexians are alive and wreaking havoc on the Multiverse to this day.

  • Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
  • Urabrask the Hidden
  • Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
  • Sheoldred, Whispering One
  • Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur

Fifteen-Plus Years

We get it. Life happens and, before you know it, you're walking past a store wondering about that game you played as a kid when you recognize the word "Dominaria" and get curious. The fun thing is, although there is plenty of rules minutiae to catch up on, it's not really that hard to jump back in. That Serra Angel you remember fondly? It's in Standard, and you can even play with your old version if you like. But there are a few things I should prepare you for.

The Sixth Edition Rules Changes – This was the most comprehensive rules overhaul of the game in its history, and it truly did make everything better. It happened a while ago, so resources are a touch old, but this article covers a lot of what changed. This article (not by us) is also a good overview of what changed. You no longer have to repeat to yourself "last in, first out," and, trust me, that's a good thing.

Planeswalkers– Did you know Planeswalkers were playable cards now? I suppose we skipped that step above. Introduced inLorwyn, planeswalkers are now a major part of the game. If you're new to planeswalkers, I recommend checking outthis page.

Equipment – Introduced in Mirrodin, Equipment is a type of artifact that you can attach to creatures. They represent weapons or tools that creatures use, like hammers or swords or shields. Unlike creature enchantments (we call those "Auras" now), when a creature wielding one of these dies, the Equipment stays in play for another creature to pick up later.


And that is your quick trip through the changes Magic has undergone in the past fifteen or so years. Sure, there's a ton more to dive into, but that's what makes Magic great—it's as deep as you want it to be. Soon enough you'll be fretting over Fblthp, making fun of Tibalt, extolling the virtues of PGO, and asking for Splinter Twin to be unbanned.

Welcome home. You're among friends.

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