Thanksgiving in Dominia

Posted in Feature on November 27, 2002

By Ben Bleiweiss

Ah, Thanksgiving. It’s that time of year when ye olde family gathers round the crock pot to spoon out copious quantities of Beefaroni to the young’uns. Not every family shares that rich tradition, so this week I’m going to give you all a special treat: a look at Thanksgiving in Dominia.

People often write me emails. Here’s a random sample from my current inbox:

“Dear Ben:

I couldn’t help but notice that you’ve become more and more insane as time marches on. We’re sending over the paddy wagon right now to confiscate your computer and replace you with a more efficient, robotic columnist.

Yours Truly,
Coach A.F., Editor”

Reading between the lines as only I can, I think this ‘reader’ is really asking me to explain the difference between Dominia and Dominaria. Dominia is the entire multiverse in which Magic: The Gathering takes place. Dominaria is the world where most of the sets have taken place, aka Urza’s Saga, the Legacy Quest, and the current storyline.


Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon the past year (or your entire life) and give thanks for all the blessings you’ve had in your life. This week I’m giving thanks for a couple of rules changes that have made Magic a game of even more strategy and fun.

Coming into the release of Classic: Sixth Edition, it was clear that many Magic rules needed cleaning up. Some interactions between cards were counterintuitive, and some rules were so convoluted that you needed to carry around the Magic Team rulings in a binder about the size of Gibraltar. To clean up the game a bit, the following aspects of the game of Magic changed:

Torture Chamber


Change: Tapped artifacts no longer turned off. (Read more about this change here.)

Why: Intuitively, there’s no reason why this should happen. If two people picked up the game for the first time and started playing, there was maybe one obscure line of rules in the rulebook which covered the fact that artifacts shut off when tapped. Example: Let’s take a gander at Torture Chamber.

How it used to work:

How it works now:

  • At the beginning of my upkeep, "adding a counter to Torture Chamber" goes on the stack.
  • In response, I tap it to shoot my Skirk Prospector for zero.
  • The counter ability resolves; I put a counter on Torture Chamber.
  • At the end of my turn, I take one point of damage since tapped artifacts no longer turn off unless it says so on the card itself (aka Static Orb). So it was pretty dumb of me to shoot my guy for zero, now, wasn't it?


Change: The stack resolved one effect at a time, instead of all at once. New effects could be added in the middle of a resolving stack.

Why: Often players "play" the game incorrectly when learning on their own. Of all the ways to bend the rules, this one by and far took first place in the "how can I play wrong" race. The game was changed to reflect a more intuitive (I’ll be using this word a lot today) way of playing: spells and effects resolve one at a time, and you can add back onto the stack after each resolution.

Example: I’m at three life, with Mystical Tutor and Obsessive Search in hand. You play Lightning Bolt, targeting me. Under earlier rules, there was no way for me to tutor for Counterspell, draw it, and counter the Bolt.

How it used to work:

See, under the old rules you could not insert any effects into a batch once the batch began to resolve.

How it works now:


Change: Interrupts were done away with completely. All former interrupts (and mana sources) became instants.

Why: Interrupts took away from the game by hitting a pause button while resolving. They worked outside the normal flow of time. They threatened the space-time continuum. (Take a look here for more information about Interrupts.)

Example: This one’s a classic.

Power Sink

How it used to work:

  • You play Lightning Bolt, while I’m at three life. You sure like playing with Lightning Bolt, don’t you? You like it so much, you’ve got another one in hand, with another mountain untapped.
  • As an interrupt, I play Power Sink for two, countering your Lightning Bolt and forcing you to tap your last land and emptying your mana pool.
  • You cannot respond to interrupts with instants. Congratulations! This means you cannot play that second Lightning Bolt in your hand this turn to kill me.

How it works now:


Change: You lose immediately if for any reason you find yourself at zero life. Why: Again, an intuitive change within the game’s structure. Why should you be allowed to continue playing after you’ve already technically lost?

Example: Old combo decks used to go way below zero life before winning.

How it used to work:

  • You are reduced to zero life or less somehow.
  • You have until the end of the current phase until you die. You can continue playing, drawing cards, tapping and untapping City of Brass fifty more times, and if you Braingeyser your opponent out of cards, you win the games, even if you have -34 life.

How it works now:

  • You are reduced to zero life or less somehow.
  • Game over, man! Game over!


Change: Triggered abilities (such as Nekrataal’s comes-into-play ability) go on the stack and can be responded to. Previously they could not.

Why: This rule worked against all common sense to begin with. Take a look below for an example.

Example: Ah, you took a look below! Here we go:

How it used to work:

  • I have two Spike Feeders in play. You play Nekrataal.
  • My only window for responses is in response to the Nekrataal spell, before I know what you want to kill with it. Once it comes into play, I can’t respond. You don’t chose which creature to kill until after it’s too late for me to respond.
  • Nekrataal comes into play, killing a Spike Feeder. The Feeder dies, since I can’t respond at all. If I had sacrificed one Feeder for four life in response to Nekrataal, you could have just killed the other one.

How it works now:

  • I have two Spike Feeders in play. You play Nekrataal.
  • I have a window to respond to you playing Nekrataal, but I don't need to. Once Nektrataal comes into play, you choose a target creature to kill. When Nektrataal’s comes-into-play ability goes on the stack, I can respond by sacrificing the Feeder you targeted, effectively countering the comes-into-play ability.


Change: The game now operates in different phases than previously. Several old phases were grouped as subsets of new phases.

Why: Again, this consolidated the rules. It also paved the way for combat being its own phase, instead of a subset of the main phases.


How it used to be:

  1. Untap Phase
  2. Upkeep Phase
  3. Draw Phase
  4. Main Phase
    1. First Main Phase
    2. Combat
    3. Second Main Phase
  5. Discard Phase
  6. Cleanup Phase

How it is now:

  1. Beginning Phase
    1. Untap Step
    2. Upkeep Step
    3. Draw Step
  2. Main Phase
  3. Combat Phase
  4. Second Main Phase
  5. End Phase
    1. End of Turn Step
    2. Cleanup Step

Combat became it’s own phase. In addition, the two Main phases were separated, and Untap/Upkeep/Draw were combined into one “Beginning Phase.” This meant you could float mana through your upkeep step and use it to play a card you drew during your draw step. Under the old rules, since these were separate phases that was not possible.


Change: Damage prevention used to have it’s own little slice of time in which it could be used. Now, it has joined the regular stack without a need to feel special and isolated. Also, damage prevention now forms a shield around the creature/player it’s preventing to, allowing you to soak up damage from multiple effects.

Why: Why should damage prevention work differently than any other sort of effect in the game? It couldn’t be responded to except by interrupts and other damage prevention effects, which threw the timing of the game way off kilter. Also, damage prevention used to prevent just once and then go away, even if that once didn’t match the total damage dealt to a creature.

Example: Let’s say I have Orim, Samite Healer and Seeker of Skybreak in play. You play Lightning Bolt targeting my Orim, Samite Healer, and respond by casting Lightning Bolt targeting my Orim, Samite Healer.

How it used to work:

How it works now:

I don’t know how many people who read my column have played Magic under the old (pre-Sixth) rules and how many have played under the new rules. I would like to hear from everyone through email this week to hear what you think about the most significant rules repairing in Magic history. Did you not know the game used to be played differently? Do you yearn for the "good old days" where you had half the options, couldn’t respond to half the effects in the game, and encountered general rules frustration? Let me know!

Oh, and lest you think I’ve forgotten the biggest Sixth Edition change of all…

Coming next week: My favorite card.
Coming in two weeks: A look at the Combat Phase, Sixth Edition style.

Ben may be reached at

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