Wizards Asks: 4/14/2009

Posted in Feature on April 14, 2009

By Wizards of the Coast

What's your favorite line of rules text on a Magic card?

Lee Sharpe

Lee Sharpe:

When Animate Dead comes into play, if it's in play, it loses "enchant creature card in a graveyard" and gains "enchant creature put into play with Animate Dead." Return enchanted creature card to play under your control and attach Animate Dead to it. When Animate Dead leaves play, that creature's controller sacrifices it.

I helped work on this line of rules text from Animate Dead, and boy is it crazy. In fact, the Oracle text of Animate Dead is so long, we can't reprint the card in a normal-sized text box, unless we print it only on Magic Online (hello, Masters Edition!) or cheat somehow.

Why is this text my favorite? The way in which we can use clever wording to make cards work in certain ways (especially when trying to preserve older functionality) is both fun and interesting to me, and this is one of the better examples. If you're the type who values their sanity, feel free go directly to the forums to share YOUR favorite line of rules text. Otherwise, journey with me through this ability!

Animate Dead

The first thing that's odd here is the "When it comes into play, if it's in play." As much as it amuses me, this wording is awful and confusing to players who don't understand the idea behind the stack and exactly how triggered abilities work. ("Of course it's in play! It just came into play! Where else would it be?") Because of this, we try to avoid using it whenever possible. While several cards have this phrase in their Oracle text, Stalking Yeti is the only card to be printed with it. However, it accomplishes the goal of having the ability fail to do anything if Animate Dead has left play by the time the ability resolves.

The original Animate Dead said "Enchant Dead Creature." Except "dead" isn't defined anywhere in the rules, and creature cards in graveyards aren't "creatures." Also, once you've brought it back, if "dead" was defined, then the creature would no longer be "dead" after it was brought back! So after replacing "Enchant Dead Creature" with the equivalent in modern templating, we still have to change Animate Dead's enchant ability so it enchants the creature in play and also move it to play. The "enchant" ability has to change before we try to attach Animate Dead to the creature in play, or else the attachment would fail so it's invalid. Note that since we make the enchanted creature card change zones, it's now considered a new object and therefore the attachment is lost. This forces us to reattach Animate Dead to it explicitly in the text. We also say it has to be "put into play with Animate Dead." By rule, this text refers to this copy of Animate Dead (even though we're granting the ability to another permanent), so this prevents various shenanigans that occur when you move the Aura, which is good, as the original Animate Dead functionality did not allow them, either.

Finally, this creates a delayed triggered ability which forces the controller (you need to watch out for those sneaky control-changing effects!) of the creature put into play to sacrifice it, rather than sacrificing the enchanted creature. This closes an old loophole where you play Animate Dead targeting a creature card with protection from black (since that ability doesn't function in the graveyard). Animate Dead's enchant ability is removed and replaced with another, and the creature card is put into play, but attaching Animate Dead to it fails due to the protection from black. Under the older wording, this sent Animate Dead to the graveyard while leaving the creature with protection from black in play. This is not the correct functionality, so this loophole was closed with the current text, which sends the creature with protection from black back to the graveyard where it belongs.

What's your favorite line of rules text on a Magic card? Click the Discuss link below to tell us your story and then see what everybody else has to say!

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