September 2010 Update Bulletin

Posted in Feature on September 22, 2010

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.

Welcome to my first Update Bulletin, giving you the heads-up on all the wonderful improvements to the Comprehensive Rulebook and Oracle database we've arrived at over the past few months. As Mark Gottlieb mentioned in the last Update Bulletin, he's off vacationing in developer-land for a while, and in his absence I've been tasked with managing the rules. Or ruling the managers. One of those.

The Magic rules have long been an area of interest to me, going back to my level 1 judge exam about a billion years ago. I marvel at the infinite (I mean arbitrarily large) combinations possible in our game. I can't wait to see what twists and turns the R&D department has in store us and how they fit into the past, even as they define the future.

Writing this article was one of the things I was most looking forward to in my new position. A few days ago, Magic Senior Editor Del Laugel advised me to just be myself and to try not to just be a watered-down version of Mark Gottlieb. Apparently she'd never met me before that day. Sigh. Well, ready or not, here we go.

Melvins everywhere can look forward to the following changes this time around:

  • An update on Contraptions and what they mean to you
  • The long-awaited return of the damage prevention window
  • Some adjustments to Grand Melee in anticipation of next year's Pro Tour schedule
  • Some new rules terms: burdle and durdle

Okay, those aren't the real changes, but I'll keep them in my back pocket, just in case. (I'm not evil enough, eh Mark?) Don't worry, the real changes aren't nearly that revolutionary. In fact, it's kind of a light update this time around.

The Oracle updates will be going live Friday, September 24, and the Comprehensive Rules will follow shortly thereafter. As always, the Comprehensive Rules will go through editing and a full review before being posted, so the changes mentioned here may be different from what actually appears in the update.

Functional Oracle Changes

Caller of the Hunt
As printed, you chose the creature type "as you play" Caller of the Hunt. This is relevant if you want to respond to it, so we're going back to that functionality. Rule 400.7c conveniently lets Caller of the Hunt reference choices made about it during its short time as a spell.

New wording
As an additional cost to cast Caller of the Hunt, choose a creature type.
Caller of the Hunt's power and toughness are each equal to the number of creatures of the chosen type on the battlefield.

Celestial Sword
The word "bury" continues to be a thorny issue for ... well, for me I guess. Often, including with Celestial Sword in our estimation, the intent was what we now know as sacrificing: putting into the graveyard with no way to get around it. When they were included in Magic Online, both Krovikan Elementalist and Goblin Ski Patrol were updated to have the controller sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step. Celestial Sword, their Ice Age compatriot, should work the same way.

New wording
{o3}, {oT}: Target creature you control gets +3/+3 until end of turn. Its controller sacrifices it at the beginning of the next end step.

Chaos Lord
True its name, Chaos Lord's wording seemed to just wander off in random directions, far away from its printed functionality. While the haste / "enters the battlefield" ability was clever, that's not really what the card ever did. Also, it's back to targeting an opponent to potentially gain control of it, again following the printed wording.

New wording
First strike
At the beginning of your upkeep, target opponent gains control of Chaos Lord if the number of permanents is even.
Chaos Lord can attack as though it had haste unless it entered the battlefield this turn.

Hollow Warrior
If you have a creature with vigilance that attacks, and then you pick up an extra combat phase, you should be able to tap that creature to allow Hollow Warrior to attack. This injustice ends now!

New wording
Hollow Warrior can't attack or block unless you tap an untapped creature you control not declared as an attacking or blocking creature this combat.

For Kismet, the Legends wording (the original) and the Sixth Edition wording (the most recent) are in agreement, only affecting artifacts, creatures, and lands played by an opponent. The Fourth Edition and Fifth Edition wordings targeted a specific opponent and affected all artifacts, creatures and lands that entered the battlefield under that player's control, played or not. The Oracle wording had the not-targeting part right, but got extended to include artifacts, creatures and lands entering the battlefield somehow other than being played. Weird.

New wording
Artifacts, creatures, and lands played by your opponents enter the battlefield tapped.

Krovikan Plague, Nature's Chosen, & Veteran's Voice
These three Auras from Alliances all said "tap enchanted creature to" do something. We've interpreted this as the cost of an activated ability. However, somewhere along the way these became abilities granted to the enchanted creature. This is relevant for you Muraganda Petroglyphs fans out there but in the case of Nature's Chosen, the differences are even more dramatic: the once-a-turn restriction didn't follow the ability if the Aura gets moved to a new creature. We can put that back and make Krovikan Plague's last ability a bit easier to parse.

New Krovikan Plague wording
Enchant non-Wall creature you control
When Krovikan Plague enters the battlefield, draw a card at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep.
Tap enchanted creature: Krovikan Plague deals 1 damage to target creature or player. Put a -0/-1 counter on enchanted creature. Activate this ability only if enchanted creature is untapped.

New Nature's Chosen wording
Enchant creature you control
{o0}: Untap enchanted creature. Activate this ability only during your turn and only once each turn.
Tap enchanted creature: Untap target artifact, creature, or land. Activate this ability only if enchanted creature is white and is untapped and only once each turn.

New Veteran's Voice wording
Enchant creature you control
Tap enchanted creature: Target creature other than the creature tapped this way gets +2/+1 until end of turn. Activate this ability only if enchanted creature is untapped.

Ah, Lich. A first-ballot lock for the Rules Confusion Hall of Fame (hey, can I make one of those?), I determined Lich had some wrinkles I could smooth out. Actually, I think Mark Gottlieb left this one for me as punishment.

Anyway, let's start with ability #1: I don't believe "You lose all life" means you should gain life if you're at a negative life total. Secondly, the printed card says you lose when Lich is destroyed, but that was broadened to Lich leaving the battlefield. Thirdly, we've interpreted "cards" to mean just that, although they're now known as nontoken permanents. Fourthly, you're supposed to lose if you don't send a card to the graveyard. This has a few possible interpretations, but I think the card cares more about the attempt to send a card to the graveyard than the card actually ending up there. ("Officer, I sent the card to the graveyard. How was I supposed to know Leyline of the Void would replace it?") Add it all up, and we have a new wording.

New wording (I said that already)
As Lich enters the battlefield, you lose life equal to your life total.
You don't lose the game for having 0 or less life.
If you would gain life, draw that many cards instead.
Whenever you're dealt damage, sacrifice that many nontoken permanents. If you can't, you lose the game.
When Lich is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you lose the game.

Transmute Artifact
Transmute Artifact includes a word not found on any other printed Magic card: "fails." This gives it some street cred for being unique and qualifies it for several Internet blogs, but makes figuring out what this card is supposed to do without context that much more challenging. Sacrificing the artifact used to be part of the cost, but that doesn't jive with what we believe the intent of the printed wording was. You shouldn't have to sacrifice the artifact if Transmute Artifact is countered, for example. However, we also believe that searching your library should be contingent upon the sacrifice. And we're taking "fail" to mean the searched-for artifact card never makes it onto the battlefield if you have to pay the difference and don't. Rules management is often more art than science.

New wording
Sacrifice an artifact. If you do, search your library for an artifact card. If that card's converted mana cost is less than or equal to the sacrificed artifact's converted mana cost, put it onto the battlefield. It it's greater, you may pay {oX}, where X is the difference. If you do, put it onto the battlefield. If you don't, put it into its owner's graveyard. Then shuffle your library.

Voodoo Doll
There's nothing in the printed wording that indicates Voodoo Doll should have to deal damage to you to be destroyed, so now it's destroyed simply when the second ability resolves. Don't forget to tap it and hit something for 0 the turn you cast it!

Also, using X both in the cost and effect of the last ability led to ambiguity if the number of pin counters changed between the ability being activated and resolving, say because someone proliferated. Now, the amount of damage dealt is clearer.

New wording
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a pin counter on Voodoo Doll.
At the beginning of your end step, if Voodoo Doll is untapped, destroy Voodoo Doll and it deals damage to you equal to the number of pin counters on it.
{oXoX}, {oT}: Voodoo Doll deals damage equal to the number of pin counters on it to target creature or player. X is the number of pin counters on Voodoo Doll.

Word of Command
Completing the unholy trifecta of my first month as rules manager (along with Transmute Artifact and Lich), we have Word of Command. Mark Gottlieb realized that we could employ the new "controlling another player" technology being rolled out for Mindslaver and Sorin Markov (which lets you control another player instead of just his or her turn, opening up the possibility of controlling a player at some time other than his or her turn). It's not perfect, but it's really close, and more sensible under the current rules.

New wording
Look at target opponent's hand and choose a card from it. You control that player until Word of Command finishes resolving. The player plays that card if able. While doing so, the player can activate mana abilities only if they're from lands he or she controls and only if mana they produce is spent to activate other mana abilities of lands he or she controls and/or play that card. If the chosen card is cast as a spell, you control the player while that spell is resolving.

Nonfunctional Oracle Changes

Copy Artifact & Sakashima the Impostor
To play nicely with the changes to the copy rules mentioned on the next page, these two cards are getting a tweak to their templates.

New Copy Artifact wording
You may have Copy Artifact enter the battlefield as a copy of any artifact on the battlefield, except it's an enchantment in addition to its other types.

New Sakashima the Impostor wording
You may have Sakashima the Impostor enter the battlefield as a copy of any creature on the battlefield, except its name is still Sakashima the Impostor, it's legendary in addition to its other types, and it gains "{o2oUoU}: Return Sakashima the Impostor to its owner's hand at the beginning of the next end step."

This card mentioned "creatures" returning to the battlefield instead of the standard "cards."

New wording
Exile each creature you control. Return those cards to the battlefield under their owners' control at the beginning of the next end step.

Oathkeeper, Takeno's Daisho
The card in the graveyard is never just a Samurai.

New wording
Equipped creature gets +3/+1.
Whenever equipped creature is put into a graveyard, return that card to the battlefield under your control if it's a Samurai card.
When Oathkeeper, Takeno's Daisho is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, exile equipped creature.
Equip {o2}

Sorin Markov
Our favorite bloodsucking planeswalker gets an update to his "ultimate" to go with Mindslaver's update.

New wording
+2: Sorin Markov deals 2 damage to target creature or player and you gain 2 life.
-3: Target opponent's life total becomes 10.
-7: You control target player during that player's next turn.

Uphill Battle
Although not a functional change, we're making this card look like Kismet. It was its destiny.

New wording
Creatures played by your opponents enter the battlefield tapped.

War Tax & War Cadence
The "this turn" is moving to beginning on these cards for clarity.

New War Tax wording
{oXoU}: This turn, creatures can't attack unless their controller pays {oX} for each attacking creature he or she controls.

New War Cadence wording
{oXoR}: This turn, creatures can't block unless their controller pays {oX} for each blocking creature he or she controls.

Woolly Razorback
In Oracle, this card used the nonstandard "any combat damage" and the passive voice. Well, not any more.

New wording
Woolly Razorback enters the battlefield with three ice counters on it.
As long as Woolly Razorback has an ice counter on it, prevent all combat damage it would deal and it has defender.
Whenever Woolly Razorback blocks, remove an ice counter from it.

Comprehensive Rulebook Changes

This rule is being broadened so the relevant abilities function outside the game, not just in game zones. This matters if you change Spawnsire of Ulamog to affect Knight cards and you want to cast Haakon, Stromgald Scourge from outside the game, which you really shouldn't be able to do.

These rules didn't change, but they did get a more natural order to them. Now, the two that handled a spell or ability that "targets (only) [something]" are together.

A new rule that governs exchanging life totals and payment of life if a player can't lose life (due to Scars of Mirrodin's Platinum Emperion, for example). The previous 118.8 got bumped to 118.9.

The rules for damage being dealt to players and/or creatures got the infect update.

An ambiguity in the second example was removed.

It's really the effect that grants an ability to an object, not an ability.

204.3i, 204.3k
These rules contain the lists for planeswalker types and creature types, respectively. Welcome to the party, Koth, Venser, and Hippogriffs!

This rule contains the list of ability words. Welcome to the party, metalcraft!

Originally, this rule covered the Ravnica block guild icons, but promo card watermarks and Scars of Mirrodin faction insignias want rules significance (if not game play significance), so the rule was rewritten slightly.

207.2, 207.2a
How to handle * in power and/or toughness calculations (such as Tarmogoyf) was clarified.

An exception was added so damage dealt to a creature by a source with infect doesn't cause damage to be marked on that creature.

This rule states that abilities of permanents that require information about choices made as that permanent was cast as a spell can find the needed information. It wasn't very clear that the mana used to cast the spell was such a choice, so that's now specifically stated.

A new criterion for an ability to qualify as a mana ability was added: it can't be a loyalty ability. Without this addition, the timing rules for mana abilities would have conflicted (and overrode) the timing rules for loyalty abilities. This ensure's that Koth of the Hammer's second ability is not a mana ability.

This rule got a slight tweak to emphasize which replacement abilities apply to an object entering the battlefield. For example, a Volrath's Shapeshifter entering the battlefield after being cast from your hand while Myojin of Cleansing Fire is the top card of your graveyard would result in the Shapeshifter getting a divinity counter.

This new rule explains the new keyword action, proliferate. Welcome to the party, proliferate!

A new phasing rule was added (believe me, exactly what I wanted to do for my first update) stating that abilities that trigger when a permanent becomes attached or unattached won't trigger if that permanent phases in or out. Subsequent rules were renumbered. And Grafted Wargear gets that much stronger.

This new rule explains the new keyword, infect. Welcome to the ... wait, who invited you?

706.8, 706.8a-c
This rule was broken into three subrules that handle exceptions or modifications to the copying process. There are now three categories of this:

  1. Abilities gained by the copy: For example, Sakashima the Impostor's "{o2oUoU}: Return Sakashima the Impostor to its owner's hand at the beginning of the next end step."
  2. Characteristics not copied by the copy: For example, Sakashima the Impostor's "except its name is still Sakashima the Impostor."
  3. Modifications or additions to copied characteristics: For example, Sakashima the Impostor's "it's legendary in addition to its other types." This is different than category 2 as Sakashima shouldn't also be a Human Rogue (unless it's copying a Human Rogue).

711, Glossary entry of "Controlling Another Player"
This section was dedicated to controlling another player's turn, and now to just controlling another player. No functional changes; just some tweaked terminology.

800.4a, 800.4b
If you leave a multiplayer game, you should immediately stop controlling any other players. Also, if you are due to control another player on a future turn but you've left the game by then, nothing should happen.

Thanks to Platinum Emperion, now your entire team can't lose life or pay life (other than 0) if your life total can't change.

Entries added for infect, proliferate.

I give up my spot in the editing fiefdom and assume command of this starship as of Stardate 58143.7.

  1. Introduction
  2. Functional Oracle Changes
  3. Nonfunctional Oracle Changes
  4. Comprehensive Rulebook Changes

Latest Feature Articles


January 24, 2022

Where to Find Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Previews by, Wizards of the Coast

It's time for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty previews! To help our readers and preview seekers, we've created this handy guide to preview season. January 27 at 9 AM PST is when everything begins...

Learn More


January 21, 2022

Boseiju Reaches Skyward by, Emily Teng

In the heart of Towashi is Boseiju, the oldest living tree on Kamigawa and the only remnant of Jukai Forest left within city limits. Boseiju Reaches Skyward | Art by: Zezhou Chen At th...

Learn More



Feature Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All