Shadows over Innistrad Update Bulletin—Comprehensive Rule Changes

Posted in Feature on April 6, 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.

Comprehensive Rules Changes

What are the Comprehensive Rules?

Magic is complicated. No, really. When you have more than 14,000 interchangeable game pieces, you get some freaky interactions. The Comprehensive Rules cover everything the game has ever come up with, from basic gameplay structure, to every keyword ever, to entire pages dedicated to single bizarre cards (hello, Karn Liberated!). The Comprehensive Rules are, well, comprehensive...but they're also obtuse, unfriendly, and looooong. They're not intended to be a player resource—they're a judge resource, a rules guru resource, and a place to store definitive answers. In fact, I honestly recommend never reading them.

For a much friendlier rulebook that is intended to be a player resource, check out the Rules Page and download the Basic Rulebook (4.37 MB PDF). It doesn't have sections about phasing or subgames...but you'll never miss them.


This rule covers spells and abilities that produce mana with restrictions on how it can be spent, additional effects when the mana is spent, or delayed triggered abilities that trigger when the mana is spent. We updated the example to use more contemporary effects. Cumulative upkeep is so 1973.


This is the rule that tells you that all instances of X on a card are the same value. While that's normally true, now that we have a Clone variant with X in its mana cost (Altered Ego), we have a solid reason to change it. Now, with respect to gained abilities, Xs are evaluated in context. If an object gains an ability that refers to X, it refers to the appropriate one. An Altered Ego cast with X equal to five copying a Hangarback Walker will enter with five +1/+1 counters. The X in Hangarback Walker's own ability will be 0.


A creature token that isn't a copy of something else has the same name as its creature types. We want this rule to apply to tokens of all types, like Clues, so we eliminated the "creature" part of the rule.


This rule tells us that abilities whose cost or effect specifies that it moves the object with that ability out of a zone functions only in that zone. This makes sense and means that we don't have to write "Activate this ability only if Reassembling Skeleton is in your graveyard" on Reassembling Skeleton. You just know how that ability works. Anyway, Prized Amalgam almost does this, but instead of moving Prized Amalgam out of your graveyard, what the last ability technically does is create a delayed triggered ability, and it's that ability that does the moving. So we broadened this rule to account for that.


The example in this rule still had a player "paying {1}," which since the introduction of {C} isn't something a player can do.


This rule, previously known as 401.5, explains what happens if you draw a card while a spell is being cast or an ability is being activated. The rule isn't changing. We're just taking it out of the "Library" section and putting it in a slightly more appropriate place: the "Drawing a Card" section.


This rule defines what it means for a counter to be "placed" on an object. It breaks down to 1) the obvious, a counter being put on an object, and 2) an object entering the battlefield with counters. The rule had a slightly unusual wording to dodge a specific card: Skullbriar, the Walking Grave. It felt weird to have abilities like Corpsejack Menace's apply to a Skullbriar entering the battlefield with the same counters it had in its previous zone. Unfortunately, the language used to exclude Skullbriar was a little too broad, specifying enters-the-battlefield replacements. Because it's very possible for a creature to enter the battlefield with +1/+1 counters through means other than a replacement effect, such as undying, we tightened up the wording.


This rule tells you how to calculate the converted mana cost of an object. It now includes the exception for back faces of double-faced cards and copies of back faces of double-faced cards and copies of copies of back faces of double-faced cards and am I at my word count yet?


The list of artifact types didn't have a Clue. Now it does.


The list of planeswalker types didn't have an Arlinn. Now it does. (This line doesn't work as well as the one above....)


The list of creature types didn't have a Mole. Now it does. We've got Internal Affairs on the case.


Delirium is added to the list of ability words, joining parley. Forgot about that one, didn't you?


The list of exceptions to the rule that says an object moving from one zone to another becomes a new object with no connection to its previous existence grows to eight: if an effect allows a nonland card to be cast, other parts of that effect can find the new object that nonland card becomes on the stack. Among other things, this rule clarifies that the exiling bit of Jace, Telepath Unbound's second ability works correctly.

The previous 400.7g was bumped down the list to the new 400.7h and revised. It states that if an effect causes an object to move to a public zone, other parts of the effect can subsequently find the new object. Similarly, if the cost of a spell or ability causes an object to move to a public zone, that spell or ability's effect can find that new object.


Some housekeeping cleanup here. We're far enough removed from "damage on the stack" that we no longer need to clarify that damage off the stack is a change from previous rules.


Substantial changes to the transform rules, including:

  • Only double-faced cards can transform.
  • If anything other than a double-faced card is instructed to transform, nothing happens.
  • A triggered ability that triggers when something "transforms into [a specified characteristic]" works exactly like you'd expect: it triggers after a permanent transforms and then has the specified characteristic.
  • Clarified how a permanent's activated, triggered, or delayed triggered abilities behave if the permanent has already transformed. See the Shadows over Innistrad FAQ for more information.


New rules for investigate.


A new reminder rule in the lifelink section, stating that multiple sources with lifelink dealing damage simultaneously (such as two attacking creatures) cause separate life-gain events. The Ajani's Pridemate example from 118.9 was relocated here.


Discarding a card with madness into exile is now mandatory. It was previously optional. If you don't cast the card as the madness triggered ability resolves for any reason, it's put into your graveyard.


Some inconspicuous rules to support skulk.


Originally, the sun and moon symbols you saw on Innistrad block double-faced cards were Important™. They were the rules' way of knowing which face was front and which was back. Then, Magic Origins came along with its Planeswalker icon and its modified Planeswalker icon. It was weird to have two symbols mean the same thing, so we just called the face with the mana cost the front face. But this solution had a timer (as I jokingly alluded to at the time), because Westvale Abbey was en route. So now the rules just go ahead and stipulate that the front-face symbol looks different on different cards, and ditto the back-face symbol.

711.4, 711.5, 711.6, 711.8a

All the changes referenced above in the transform rule (701.25) are reflected here in the double-faced cards section.


New entries for investigate and skulk, and Eli added to the rules management line.


Oracle Changes

Comprehensive Rules

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