Using the Rulebook

Posted in NEWS on August 16, 2001

By Wizards of the Coast

Joel Christman

My history in Magic: the Gathering has been an enjoyable one. I passed the Level 2 judge test in the summer of 2000 and have been involved in the judge program since 1999. I have also been an active collector and player of magic cards since 1996 and although my interest sometimes wanes, I always seem to come back to the game for periods of time with great enthusiasm. This year has been one of those times.

I am excited about Invasion block and the level of play it seems to produce in limited events. I have been active with judging and organization, both with running local Friday Night Magic events and head judging two JSS Qualifiers earlier this year. Our local group of players also seems enthusiastic with Magic and has been supporting FNM and other local events well (at least for a small state like Delaware).

Since many of the players we have added to the community are new to Magic, as a level 2 judge, it is often my responsibility to answer rules questions as they learn the game. Most of these questions are simple for experienced magic players and often involve the combat phase and general turn sequence questions. However, I am starting to wonder if my teaching methods by just answering and explaining the question are working. I am often reminded of my own youth, when the easy way to get an answer was to ask. "Mom, what does the word 'bough' mean?" or "Dad, how do you hook the Atari up to the TV?"

Attendance at Friday Night Magic, Days of Knights, Newark, Delaware is growing due to Joel's efforts

However, the answers were never as easy as I hoped. Instead I normally got the annoying question back: "Did you look in up the dictionary?" or "Did you read the instructions?".

My opinion of lecturing players on the importance of the turn sequence is starting to fade. Especially after I have already answered the immediate question at hand. Often their interest in my explanation disappears and they immediately want to jump back into the 'battle" of the current game. The solution? Maybe encourage the use of the rulebook more than I do. It's a difficult task. I often get the response "There's a rulebook?" or "Okay" as I see them already scanning the room for someone else to ask.


Ability "Ability" and "effect" are often confused with one another. An instruction in a card's or permanent's text is an ability. The result of following such an instruction, or of following a spell's instruction, is an effect. A card or permanent may have one or more abilities or no abilities at all. For more information, see section 4, "Spells, Abilities, and Effects." When an effect states that a card or permanent "gains" or "has" an ability, it's granting that card or permanent an ability. If an effect defines a characteristic of a card or permanent ("[card or permanent] is [characteristic]"), it's not granting an ability. For example, an enchant creature might read, "Enchanted creature is red." The enchantment isn't granting an ability of any kind; it's simply changing the enchanted creature's color to red.

-excerpt from the Magic: The Gathering® Comprehensive Rules

The rulebook is important. It states rules much more concisely and simply than I ever could. As I started to read the new comprehensive rulebook today, I couldn't help think . . . "jeez, this answers just about everything!". I'm starting to carry around the advanced rulebook during small events and FNM. All the questions about "protection from black" I get can easily be answered in the glossary. Maybe getting the player to read the definition (for once!) might teach them better than me explaining it.

If I'm unknowingly implying this policy is only applicable to those under 15 years old . . . . it's not! I got a question about protection from a 20 year-old player that's been playing at our local store for years. And I know I've explained it to him before. For whatever reason, my explanation the first time didn't stick or he didn't correlate the answer I gave to the new situation at hand.

As judges, we often teach as much as we rule on questions. Part of being a good judge is also "are we good teachers?". Is what we teach being retained and used by our players? Are they becoming self-sufficient in their own rules knowledge? I believe encouraging players to read and use the rulebook will help answer these questions with positive answers and in the long run make our jobs a little easier and enjoyable. Find those extra rulebooks! Go buy a few starter decks yourself and make copies for beginners. Have a copy of the comprehensive rules in a binder so players can "curiously" page through them between rounds.

Making smarter players is a continuous process. As judges, are we doing our part as well as we could?