Ask_Wizards

Ask Wizards - August, 2008

  • Print

Do you have a question about Magic: The Gathering or Wizards of the Coast? Send it, along with your name and location, to us via this email form. We'll post a new question and answer each day.

 August 29, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: I've always wondered why mana abilities are always excluded on card's effects, like Stifle and Voidslime. What makes these abilities so special that they cannot be targeted like other abilities? On another note, what if an ability was both a mana and a non-mana ability such as: "destroy target creature, then add BBB to your mana pool". Could that ability be countered or not?
–Brendan, Southbury, CT, USA

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

Stifle and Voidslime don't go out of their way to exclude mana abilities. They naturally exclude them, and they contain reminder text just to make sure everyone knows that mana abilities can't be targeted. Faith's Fetters, on the other hand, does go out of its way to exclude mana abilities from its effect. It doesn't have to. Arrest affects all activated abilities, including any that are mana abilities. Whether a card works like Faith's Fetters or Arrest is a power-level decision made by R&D. So the real question here isn't about why effects exclude mana abilities—it's about why mana abilities can't be targeted. And that's a good question.

Mana abilities can't be countered because they don't use the stack. They are played (or trigger when another mana ability is played) and immediately resolve. They can't be targeted because there's no time to target them; they simply happen.

This is because you can play activated mana abilities at times that you couldn't normally play anything. You can play a mana ability whenever you can ordinarily play a spell or ability, of course. In addition, you can play a mana ability in the middle of playing another spell or activated ability that costs mana. You can also play a mana ability any time a rule or effect asks for a mana payment, even while that spell or ability is resolving. (Think Mana Leak, for example.)

Regarding your second question, an ability can't be both a mana ability and a non-mana ability; it's either a mana ability or it's not. Only two kinds of abilities are mana abilities, according to rule 406.1:

A mana ability is either (a) an activated ability without a target that could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves or (b) a triggered ability without a target that triggers from a mana ability and could produce additional mana. A mana ability can generate other effects at the same time it produces mana.

Most mana abilities are activated abilities (a), such as those of mana-producing lands and Llanowar Elves:

Triggered mana abilities (b) are rarer. Most of them are abilities much like that of Heartbeat of Spring:

Activated abilities are covered under (a) even if they do something besides making mana, as long as they don't have a target. So Chromatic Sphere has a mana ability:

Now let's talk about three things that aren't mana abilities. Spells are never mana abilities, even if all they do is make mana. Such spells use the stack as normal.

Triggered abilities that produce mana but trigger on something other than mana abilities are not mana abilities. These abilities use the stack.

Abilities with targets are not mana abilities, even if they produce mana.Witch Engine has an activated ability that's pretty close to the one you describe. It's an activated ability, but it isn't a mana ability because it has a target. This ability uses the stack and can be responded to normally.

The Magic Rules Corner is a weekly feature dedicated to answering your rules questions. For more help with Magic rules, check out the rules page and the Rules Q&A Forum.


 August 28, 2008  

Q: I remember a couple of years ago Sideboard magazine, I was wondering why did the publication stop? I enjoyed reading it and I was wondering if we will ever seen it again?
–Ed, Merrick,NY, USA

A: From Monty Ashley, Former Sideboard Magazine Editor:

Sideboard Magazine had a bit of topic drift over the years. It started out highly focused on tournaments (especially high-level tournaments like Pro Tours and Worlds), but when The Duelist changed to TopDeck and widened its focus to cover more non-Magic games, we shifted Sideboard to be more generally focused on Magic.

As an example of this shifting focus, the cover of issue 37 (in July 2001) was a Magic card (the Eighth Edition Mahamoti Djinn), rather than a player. From that point on, Sideboard covered new sets and decks almost as much as it covered events and players. Meanwhile, Sideboard Online was still strictly event-focused, as magicthegathering.com had come into being as the general Magic website.

Then in October 2003, Aaron Forsythe went from "editor of magicthegathering.com" to "person in R&D". As this article explained at the time, this meant we could combine Sideboard Online and magicthegathering.com into one site. But that left the magazine hanging out in limbo, and we decided to focus our efforts (and, frankly, money!) on the online efforts.

So that's what happened to the magazine. Will we ever see it again? Beats me. Probably not in its original form, since it's a lot easier to follow the Pro Tour and current deck technology via the Internet. Back in July 1996, when Sideboard Magazine started, the World Wide Web wasn't nearly as robust!


 August 27, 2008  

Q: The long and hard way to become a Magic artist... is to send your portfolio to artdrop@wizards.com and wait.

Thank you very much, thats not what I need to know . I'd like to know how one becomes an employee of the Magic art department. How the process of elimination looks, what is considered when reviewing a portfolio submission, etc. In essence, what makes Mr.Jarvis tick in the world of Magic?
–HisMastersVoice, magicthegathering.com forums

A: From Jeremy Jarvis, Magic Art Director:

I'm game. Here we go:

First some clarifications.

1. There is no MtG art department. There is no WotC art department. We have an illustration staff of one. It's Richard Whitters, Magic's in-house Lead Concept Artist. He's part of Magic Creative and leads concept pushes of freelance illustrators to flesh out world visuals for Magic styleguides. Before Richard it was me, and before me it was D. Alexander Gregory. Just one. And even that position has nothing to do with card art. It's all out of house freelance, one contract at a time.
2. artdrop@wizards.com is totally viable. ALL WotC Art Directors on ALL WotC Brands see the submissions and I have absolutely given people work having never met or spoken to them just from their submissions to artdrop.

3. Even if I love your stuff you might not hear back for quite a while. I bookmark a LOT of artist websites and then wait for an appropriate venue for that artist. When I think I have a venue, and a concrete schedule to present them with, only THEN do I contact an artist. Why? Honestly, letting someone know I like their stuff and am looking for something for them usually leads to well-intentioned pestering while they wait. Now, as an illustrator I totally understand this. But as an Art Director I just don't have in-box space for it.

Okay, on to the meat.

How does an artist catch my eye? Well, drawing and painting are a given. You absolutely must have the chops to hang with the best fantasy illustrators in the world. It needs to go without saying that your work can stand in the company of Donato, Lockwood, Staples, Walker, Murray, Bonner, Howe etc.
Now lets assume that the hand skills and technique are there. What am I looking for?
Your 'voice' as an illustrator. Not just your visual 'style', but the 'voice' of your body of work. How you think and approach things. As a commercial illustrator your goal is of an AD to look over his/her list of art descrips and say 'OMG, you know who I would LUV to see tackle this particular card/cover/poster/whatever?! Illustrator X!!!'

Your portfolio has to leave an impression of what your work's about... What you're about as an illustrator. That's how you get assignments.

It's rk Post's approach and thought process that gets Faerie Macabre assigned to him. It's how Jim Murray thinks and solves problems on top of just how his work 'looks' that gets him Gaea's Herald.

Why did Adam Rex get Shadowmoor Packaging? Because he's Adam Rex, not just because he's a competent painter. I was so hot on the idea of having Adam and ONLY Adam on Shadowmoor packaging that I lined him up a YEAR in advance to make sure he could fit it in his schedule.

3 to 5 samples will get you work if they are on-the-money, right for the Brand (in terms of aesthetic, level of finish, and 'tone and vibe'), and convey your voice as a painter.

You should have a larger portfolio or website available to support those few samples, but the right 3 will do it.

I know that's a little abstract, but that's my answer as best I can give it. I hope that helps.

JJ


 August 26, 2008  

Q: Magic seems to have a lot of recurring jokes I don't understand. Could someone PLEASE explain exactly what's up with "Gleemax" and "Ach! Hans, Run!"...?
–DG, Seattle, WA, USA

A: From Mark Rosewater, Magic Head Designer:

DG,

No problem. Gleemax is an alien brain in a jar that runs R&D. "Ach Hans, Run!" is a popular line of flavor text from the Ice Age card Lhurgoyf. One of them became a popular catch phrase because it was silly to say. The other subjects us to probes at the weekly staff meeting. The reason I'm being more blunt than normal is that Gleemax has deemed "Ask Wizards" too below his radar to... Aah! Aah! I meant to say that Gleemax is just a stupid running joke that I constantly refer to out of a need for attention. Aah! None of my direct superiors are of extraterrestrial origin. Okay, maybe Aaron, but I haven't proven it yet. Aah! That was a joke. See, we joke a lot here in R&D. Lots of recurring jokes. Completely fictitious, made-up, not-based-on-anything-real jokes. (Help me – explain any other recurring jokes you might be curious about.)


 August 22, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: My friends and I are wondering, when Faceless Butcher comes into play and targets an Avatar of Woe, can the Avatar's ability be activated in response and destroy the Butcher
–Oscar, Guatemala City, Guatemala

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

Yes, it can... but it isn't going to do what you probably want.

Let's say Player A controls an unsuspecting Avatar of Woe (and it's not tapped, summoning sick, Arrested, Snakeformed, etc.).

Player B plays Faceless Butcher, and nobody has any responses, so Faceless Butcher resolves (as a creature resolves, it's put into play). Its controller puts its "comes into play" ability on the stack, choosing Avatar of Woe as the target.

Now, each player has a chance to respond before the ability resolves. Player A decides to tap Avatar of Woe to play its activated ability, choosing Faceless Butcher as the target. That ability goes on the stack on top of Faceless Butcher's first triggered ability, so it will resolve first.

Everyone passes, so the top item of the stack—Avatar of Woe's activated ability—resolves, destroying Faceless Butcher. This triggers the Faceless Butcher's second, "leaves play" triggered ability, so its controller puts that ability on the stack.

Abilities on the stack exist independently of their sources, so even though Faceless Butcher has been destroyed, its first triggered ability is still on the stack, now with its second triggered ability on top of the first.

Everyone passes again, so the second triggered ability resolves and tries to "return the removed card to play." But with the first triggered ability still on the stack, there isn't any removed card, so the ability does as much as it can—which is nothing—and finishes resolving.

The first triggered ability is still on the stack (seems like it's been there forever, doesn't it?), but it's finally at the front of the line. Everyone passes again, so that first trigger resolves and removes Avatar of Woe from the game.

Here's the thing, though. Because Faceless Butcher's "leaves play" ability has already resolved, that Avatar isn't coming back from the removed-from-the-game zone unless a card like Living Wish or Riftsweeper says so.

Some decks pair Faceless Butcher with sacrifice outlets to pull this trick, and there's a similar combo involving Oblivion Ring and Vedalken Mastermind.

The Magic Rules Corner is a weekly feature dedicated to answering your rules questions. For more help with Magic rules, check out the rules page and the Rules Q&A Forum.


 August 21, 2008  

Q: How do you decide which artists to use for what pieces?
–Windspirit, magicthegathering.com forums

A: From Jeremy Jarvis, Magic Art Director:

Hey Sandy,

With much weeping and gnashing of teeth. That's the short answer. :)

Longer answer:

I start mentally putting a "stable" of illustrators together as soon as the setting and world design starts to congeal. Just as we look at the card file to see what the setting "'wants to be," I look at the setting to see what the stable "wants to be." It's kind of a "Player's Guide View" of the set. What group of talent will make the trip through the card set as interesting and distinctive as possible and best sell what we're going for in terms of the tone, vibe and look of the world. Look at how wildly different Future Sight is from Lorwyn. That's not me arbitrarily mixing things up for the sake of rotating artists, it's completely in response to what the set "wants to be."

Then I literally write out a list of who I want to use, based on set needs and how much work is available, and then contact those people to try to make sure they are willing and available.

From there, I go one single card at a time and try to match each art description with the single artist who I think will be most interesting and shine brightest on that particular card (based on my perception of that artist's skills, approach, aesthetic and 'voice'). The goal is to have the best possible venues for the artists AND the best art for that card's needs within the spectrum of what we're going for with the setting and world design.

JJ


 August 20, 2008  

Q: In the spirit of "What would a 1/1 colorless Sliver be if every other Sliver were on the field?" I was wondering what would Reaper King be if it was enchanted with every two-color aura (Runes of the Deus, Clout of the Dominus) from Shadowmoor and Eventide?
–Tapani, Finland

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

Well, for a start, it would look like this:

And it would be a 27/27 (+2/+2 from each enchantment except Edge of the Divinity, which gives +3/+3) with the following rules text:

(Two or White Mana can be paid with any two mana or with White Mana. This card's converted mana cost is 10.)
Flying, Flying
Deathtouch, Double Strike, First Strike, Haste, Indestructible, Lifelink, Lifelink, Shroud, Trample, Unblockable, Vigilance, Wither
Other Scarecrow creatures you control get +1/+1.
Whenever another Scarecrow comes into play under your control, destroy target permanent.
Red or White Mana: This creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn
All creatures able to block Reaper King do so.
Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, draw a card.
Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, that player discards a card.

So if you attacked with it, it would get through unblocked and do 54 points of damage (because of the double strike), gaining you 108 (thanks to the double lifelink) and letting you draw two cards and making your opponent discard two. Oh, and it would stay untapped in case you were worried about having a blocker next turn.

Incidentally, you should put Clout of the Dominus on last, otherwise you're going to need to use something like Retether to get the other Auras on once the Reaper King is untargetable.


 August 19, 2008  

Q: It was really neat to see the preview of the new Magicthegathering.com that will be debuting in the next few weeks. When I was looking at it, I was reminded of the fact that this is not the first time that Magicthegathering.com has been overhauled and updated, yet I've completely forgotten the old look—the one before the current version of the site.

I'm a big fan of seeing the progression of things over time. Do you guys have any screenshots of the "old" magicthegathering.com that you could show? It would be really interesting to see how things have changed over the years for magicthegathering.com.
–Jaelan, Baltimore, MD, USA

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

Sure, sounds interesting! First, let's go into the distant past of 1999:

Whoops! Too far! Let's jump forward a couple of years to 2001.

As you can see, there was a Magic homepage, but there wasn't a magicthegathering.com magazine-thing (which is about to finally get its own, non-confusing name and become "Daily MTG"). The first version of the site you're used to showed up in 2002:

The next redesign happened about a year later:

At this point, there was only one article per day. Then we merged Sideboard Online into magicthegathering.com, which naturally resulted in another redesign in 2005 or so:

That takes us up to the current design. Naturally, you could just look at the site to see what it looks like. But for the benefit of people looking at this in the future (Hello, future people!), and for posterity, here's the current site:


 August 11, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q: I've noticed that Legend cards don't always "fit'"into the story… Their power/toughness, abilities, and creature types don't always mesh from the novels to the cards. Why is that?
–Billy, Wheaton, MD, USA

A: From Rei Nakazawa, Magic creative text writer:

Bet you're thinking of the fact that the Tsabo Tavoc card could beat the Gerrard Capashen card in combat any day, while the opposite is true in the story, right? That's probably the most stark example of the sort of discontinuity that you're talking about, but those who work in Magic R&D and Continuity believe that we've done a fairly good job overall in keeping the link between cards and characters.

There are a few factors that come into play. The first is that R&D's involvement with (and knowledge of the finer points of) the Magic backstory has fluctuated over the years. This was especially true with the Urza block, when Wizards' book publishing department began contracting novelists to creat Magic plots and characters. So that from that point on, R&D has depended on the story writers to communicate plot points. For example, Vhati il-Dal, a legend from Tempest, was reduced in power and toughness because Greven il-Vec kills him in the story. The aforementioned Tsabo Tavoc and Gerrard issue might have turned out differently if the outcome of the Tsabo/Gerrard battle had been communicated to the developers in time - which it wasn't, due to the very different schedules R&D and novel writers have.

Another fairly obvious factor is that gameplay has to come first. If a story point makes a legend too powerful to be an accurate card, the card's abilities have to be toned down, even if the character it represents is godlike. Finally, remember that R&D might just have different points of view than the players. Some players expected Gerrard to be a Soldier Legend, but many members of R&D just didn't think of him as a Soldier, which is why he is just a Legend.

This question first appeared on January 9, 2002. Rei is still a creative text writer. Did you see his epic poem that Doug Beyer highlighted at the bottom of his column a couple of weeks ago? Ask Wizards–Classic is a weekly feature that highlights interesting questions and answers from the Ask Wizards archives, which go back to January 2002. To search the archive to see if your question has already been answered, use the "Search Ask Wizards" button near the top of the page.


 August 15, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: Drowner Initiate's ability says " Whenever a player plays a blue spell, you may pay 1 Mana. If you do, target player puts the top two cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard." Can you pay for this ability more than once per spell?
–Jason, Moberly, MO, USA

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

The answer to your question hinges on what kind of ability this is. You have to spend mana to use Drowner Initiate's ability, but it's not an activated ability like that of Foxfire Oak. Activated abilities have colons in them, and you can play them as often as you can pay their cost.

Drowner Initiate's ability starts with "whenever," which is one of the words—along with "when" and "at"—that lets you know it's a triggered ability. Triggered abilities aren't played; they trigger and are then put on the stack.

Here's the rule about optional triggered abilities like Drowner Initiate's:

410.5. Some triggered abilities' effects are optional (they contain "may," as in "At the beginning of your upkeep, you may draw a card"). These abilities go on the stack when they trigger, regardless of whether their controller intends to exercise the ability's option or not. The choice is made when the ability resolves.

Since we know it's a triggered ability, this rule answers your question:

410.6. An ability triggers only once each time its trigger event occurs.

That means that if you control a Drowner Initiate and a player plays a blue spell, Drowner Initiate's ability triggers, you pick a target, and its ability goes on the stack above the spell. When the ability resolves (before the spell does, in case it matters), you have two options: pay 1 Mana, or do nothing. If you pay 1 Mana, the targeted player puts the top two cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard. You get the option to pay exactly once, and you can't choose to pay more.

When you have multiple Initiates, however, they trigger separately. If you have two Drowner Initiates and a player plays a blue spell, both abilities trigger, you pick a target for each, and they both go on the stack (one on top of the other, and both on top of the spell, in case it matters). For each of the abilities, you have the option to either pay 1 Mana or do nothing, as above.

So while you can't pay more than once if you have a single Initiate, you can pay up to one time for each Initiate you control.

The Magic Rules Corner is a weekly feature dedicated to answering your rules questions. For more help with Magic rules, check out the rules page and the Rules Q&A Forum.


 August 14, 2008  

Q: Who is the elf on the cover art of the Eventide novel? She doesn't look like any character I know of. This has been bothering me for a while.
–Jonathan, Stanley, NY, USA

A: From Monty Ashley, Ace Reporter:

BEfore I answer your question, Jonathan, I'm going to talk a little bit about the inside workings of Ask Wizards.

We get a lot of questions, but many of them don't lend themselves well to being answered here. For example, we got this one:

Q: To Brandon Bozzi, One question why are you so hot?
–Justin, Davao City, Philippines

Brandon declined to answer this question, so the world will never know his secrets. Other questions sound like they could be interesting, but the reality turns out to be somewhat less exciting. We don't want Ask Wizards to turn into an endless series like this:

Q: Is there any kind of connection between the name of the Boros guild from Ravnica and the hungarian illustrator Zoltan Boros?
–Andres, Sa'rospatak, Hungary

A: Nope!

Q: I was wondering if Wizards of the Coast ever takes special and specific card orders. Let's say, for example, a well-known professional Magic player sends a special request to Wizards for a foil play set of every card in standard, willing to pay good money. Or maybe that same player wants a full, mint set of Fallen Empires (for some ungodly reason). Would/could Wizards ever be willing to acquiesce to such a request?
–Paul, Charlottesville, VA, USA

A: Nope!

Anyway, Jonathan, let's get back to your question. You asked if the elf on the cover of the Eventide novel was anyone in particular. It turns out that it's just a random elf. Thanks for writing!


 August 13, 2008  

Q: On the wallpapers that were in the Magic Arcana article on August 11th and 12th, and in various other articles on the Magic: the Gathering website, it says that the prerelease dates for Shards of Alara are 9/27 and 9/28. However the preview on tips and tricks cards from Eventide says that it is on September 20th and 21st. Which days are the pre-release for Shards of Alara actually on?
–Robert, Florida, USA

A: From Mark Purvis, Magic Brand:

Good catch, Robert! The short answer is that the wallpapers are correct - the pre-release dates for Shards of Alara changed and are now 9/27 and 9/28. But it wasn't just the date that changed – in some countries we've expanded the number of locations for pre-releases. You can read about some of those changes here and here.

The longer and more exciting answer is that Magic card sets are printed several months before they hit the store shelves, and they have to be designed, edited, and translated into 8 other languages before we even hand them off to the printer. The "Tips and Tricks" cards are printed at the same time as the set, and the Eventide card files were finalized before we had worked out the Shards of Alara pre-release details (including the date change).

I hope that helps clear up any confusion! You can always check Magicthegathering.com for the most current information about events.


 August 12, 2008  

Q: Was art for a Merit Lage token ever commissioned, in the same vein as the Kaldra token in a recent Ask Wizards?
–Edward, Midlands, England

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

Ah, you're asking if we made a token for Dark Depths to create. And we did! It was given out at Coldsnap Release Tournaments in July 2006. It looks like this:

Marit Lage Token

And here's a better view of the art. Check out the tiny guy at the bottom, which gives some idea how big this thing is.

Marit_Lage_Token_640
Marit Lage Token art by Stephan Martiniere

 August 11, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q: I recently acquired some Serra Angels, and was wondering if you could give me some clue as to which set they are from. I shall set out the distinguishing features:

  1. Illustrated by Douglas Schuler
  2. Has no dates, the bottom of the card simply stating "Illus. (c) Douglas Schuler"
  3. Has a white border
  4. The white mana symbol is old style (as seen on Alpha cards, for example)
  5. The text reads "Attacking does not cause Serra Angel to tap' as opposed to 'Does not tap to attack"
  6. Has a light background, not the dark one (as seen in Fourth Edition)
  7. Has a plain black line around the card artwork (i.e., between the artwork and its white border).

Thanks, you will be saving us much grief!
- Graeme and Andrew

A: From Doug Beyer, MagicTheGathering.com web developer:
It sounds like the Serra Angel in question is from the Revised set, the set that came between Unlimited and Fourth Edition. It can be tough to identify cards in that period, so here's an unofficial SERRA ANGEL IDENTIFICATION GUIDE:

Serra Angel Identification Guide

Here's how you might come to the conclusion that it's a Revised card. First of all, Alpha and Beta cards are black-bordered, so they're out. The Unlimited Serra has the old "Does not tap to attac"' wording, and has the Unlimited set's characteristic bevel just inside the white border. The Revised Serra has a washed-out look to the print, no bevel, and the updated "Attacking does not cause Serra Angel to tap" wording. The Fourth Edition one has modern-style white mana symbols and a richer color saturation. Fifth Edition cards carry no expansion symbol, so a Fifth card would look similar to a Fourth Edition one, but Serra wasn't printed in Fifth or Sixth Edition, so that's out as well. And the Seventh and Eighth Edition cards have the new Serra art.

So there you go. Congratulations on your new Revised Serra Angels!

This question first appeared on January 30, 2004. Since then, Doug has moved from web development to Magic creative writing, and all the Serra Angels since then have expansion symbols, which helps a lot with identification. Ask Wizards–Classic is a weekly feature that highlights interesting questions and answers from the Ask Wizards archives, which go back to January 2002. To search the archive to see if your question has already been answered, use the "Search Ask Wizards" button near the top of the page.


 August 8, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: Eventide's Necroskitter has the ability to take over creatures with -1/-1 counters on them from other players as soon as they are put in the graveyard. I was wondering though what would happen if in a multiplayer game more than one person owns a Necroskitter and a third person's creature dies with a -1/-1 on it?
–John, Sydney, Australia

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

What you have here are two triggered abilities that trigger at the same time because of the same event. In what order do they resolve?

The answer actually depends on the order in which you're sitting and whose turn it is. To find out why, let's go to the Comprehensive Rules. Rule 410.3 reads, in part:

If multiple abilities have triggered since the last time a player received priority, each player, in APNAP order, puts triggered abilities he or she controls on the stack in any order he or she chooses. (See rule 103.4.)

Ah, APNAP order! ...What was that, again?

103.4. If multiple players would make choices and/or take actions at the same time, the active player (the player whose turn it is) makes any choices required, then the next player in turn order (usually the player seated to the active player's left) makes any choices required, followed by the remaining nonactive players in turn order. Then the actions happen simultaneously. This rule is often referred to as the "Active Player, Nonactive Player (APNAP) order" rule.

That means that to figure out whose Necroskitter trigger goes on the stack first, you start with the player whose turn it is and go around the table in turn order until you find a Necroskitter. That Necroskitter's trigger goes on the stack first. Go all around the table this way, putting all the Necroskitter triggers on the stack.

Because the stack resolves from top to bottom, the trigger controlled by the last player in turn order will resolve first. Necroskitter's ability includes the word "may," so it's optional. The player whose trigger resolves first has the option of returning the creature to play. If he or she does, any other Necroskitter triggers won't do anything. (This is true even if the creature dies again with the trigger still on the stack, because the game treats it as a different object when it changes zones.)

If everyone who controls a Necroskitter declines to return the creature this way, it stays where it is—not a bad option when the creature is, say, Phage the Untouchable.


 August 7, 2008  

Q: I just started collecting Magic cards, which by the way are getting better and more interesting with each new expansions. I'm trying to organize cards according to core sets and their corresponding expansion sets, but where can I find a guide that can tell me chronological release and related sets for Magic cards?
–James, Mt Vernon, NY, USA

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

Well, core sets and expansion sets aren't officially correlated, but I can offer you a handy chart of every expansion and release date. And that chart is... right here!

Date Expansion Type
December 1993 Arabian Nights  
March 1994 Antiquities  
June 1994 Legends  
August 1994 The Dark  
November 1994 Fallen Empires  
July 1995 Chronicles/Renaissance  
October 1995 Homelands  
November 1998 Anthologies Box set
November 1999 Battle Royale Box set
October 2000 Beatdown Box Box set
December 2001 Deckmasters: Garfield vs. Finkel Box set
November 2007 Duel Decks: Elves vs. Goblins Box set
August 2008 From the Vault: Dragons Box set
November 2008 Duel Decks: Jace vs. Chandra Box set
August 1993 Limited Edition Alpha Core set
October 1993 Limited Edition Beta Core set
December 1993 Unlimited Core set
April 1994 Revised Edition Core set
April 1995 Fourth Edition Core set
March 1997 Fifth Edition Core set
April 1999 Sixth Edition Core set
April 2001 Seventh Edition Core set
July 2003 Eighth Edition Core set
July 2005 Ninth Edition Core set
July 2007 Tenth Edition Core set
June 1995 Ice Age Ice Age block
June 1996 Alliances Ice Age block
July 2006 Coldsnap Ice Age block
October 2000 Invasion Invasion block
February 2001 Planeshift Invasion block
June 2001 Apocalypse Invasion block
October 2004 Champions of Kamigawa Kamigawa block
February 2005 Betrayers of Kamigawa Kamigawa block
June 2005 Saviors of Kamigawa Kamigawa block
October 2007 Lorwyn Lorwyn block
February 2008 Morningtide Lorwyn block
September 2007 Masters Edition Magic Online-only
October 1999 Mercadian Masques Masques block
February 2000 Nemesis Masques block
June 2000 Prophecy Masques block
October 1996 Mirage Mirage block
February 1997 Visions Mirage block
June 1997 Weatherlight Mirage block
October 2003 Mirrodin Mirrodin block
February 2004 Darksteel Mirrodin block
June 2004 Fifth Dawn Mirrodin block
October 2001 Odyssey Odyssey block
February 2002 Torment Odyssey block
May 2002 Judgment Odyssey block
October 2002 Onslaught Onslaught block
February 2003 Legions Onslaught block
May 2003 Scourge Onslaught block
October 2005 Ravnica: City of Guilds Ravnica block
February 2006 Guildpact Ravnica block
May 2006 Dissension Ravnica block
May 2008 Shadowmoor Shadowmoor block
July 2008 Eventide Shadowmoor block
October 2008 Shards of Alara Shards of Alara block
June 1997 Portal Starter set
June 1998 Portal Second Age Starter set
May 1999 Portal Three Kingdoms Starter set
July 1999 Starter Starter set
July 2000 Starter 1999 Starter set
October 1997 Tempest Tempest block
March 1998 Stronghold Tempest block
June 1998 Exodus Tempest block
October 2006 Time Spiral Time Spiral block
February 2007 Planar Chaos Time Spiral block
May 2007 Future Sight Time Spiral block
August 1998 Unglued Un- set
November 2004 Unhinged Un- set
October 1998 Urza's Saga Urza block
February 1999 Urza's Legacy Urza block
June 1999 Urza's Destiny Urza block

 August 6, 2008  

Q: Looking through the deities and their respective Auras, I find weapons/armor of the deities in the art of the Aura. However, with Fists of the Demigod, the art of Demigod of Revenge shows no sign having any arms, let alone fists. Am I missing something here (like, hidden fists in Demigod of Revenge's art, for example)?
–Kevin, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

A: From Doug Beyer, Magic Creative Writer:

The ten "demigod auras" represent magic that grants some of the power of their respective demigods to their worshippers, analogically illustrated as some of the weaponry or gear of that demigod. The correspondence is pretty close for most of the pairs, and Demigod of Revenge was initially intended to have heavy metal gauntlets of some kind to correspond to the ghostly gauntlets in Fists of the Demigod.

When Jim Murray's art of Demigod of Revenge came back, however, we liked it so much that we didn't want Jim to overhaul his cool piece just to insert some fists. Plus we wanted to keep the demigods unique and visually distinct from recognizable creature types such as Demon, and giving it arms in addition to those big leathery wings would have pushed it too far into Demon territory.


 August 5, 2008  

Q: When I look closely on some future-shifted cards, I see some symbols (enclosed in a circle) on the upper-left side of the card. What do these symbols mean?
–Reynan, Parañaque, the Philippines

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

In the theoretical future from which those cards were shifted, those symbols serve as a reminder of what the card type is. Let's say you have a hand of Future Sight cards and it looks like this:

Clearly, the vertical mana symbols on the left tell you what each card will cost to cast. And the other symbol tells you that the cards are (from left to right) a creature, an enchantment, a sorcery, a land, and an instant. Here's a chart with large, friendly images.

Artifact
Creature
Enchantment
Instant
Land
Sorcery
Multiple

There's one more symbol that didn't end up getting used. Wanna see what symbol would have been on Future Sight's Planeswalkers (if they'd ended up existing)? Click here!


 August 4, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q: What was the result of the data collected at Grand Prix–New Orleans about going first? Any statistical significance?
–John, USA

A: From Randy Buehler, Director of Magic R&D:

R&D was interested in studying how important it is to go first, especially in the current Extended constructed format, so we collected data at both Grand Prix - New Orleans and Grand Prix - Hiroshima. We had players mark an asterisk on their scoresheets to indicate which player won the die roll and then we added up the winning percentages of those players. We know that almost everyone who wins the die roll chooses to go first, but we tracked winning the die roll (not going first) because winning the die roll is the thing we actually care about -- it would be bad if that random event was really important.

The results were fascinating: in New Orleans 47% of players who won the die roll went on to win the match. 47%! That means winning the die roll was a bad thing. The only explanation that makes any sense is that going second was actually correct some of the time, but no one knew when to choose 'draw.' In Hiroshima the results were a little less crazy: 53% of players who won the die roll went on to win the match.

R&D started out a bit nervous after the format rotated -- after watching Pro Tour - Houston it looked like the first few turns of the game were crucially important in Extended and that led us to fear that the die roll was too important and the format might require a massive round of bannings. However, this data completely allayed our concerns. Extended is faster than Standard, but it's not so fast that the die roll reigns supreme.

In addition, this data further confirms our belief that the 'play/draw' rule does a good job in general of making the game fair no matter who goes first. The last time R&D collected a massive amount of data about the winning percentages of players who go first was back when going first was strictly better than going second (because you also got to draw a card). At that time the data showed that winning the opening die roll gave you a winning percentage well over 60%, which is why the play/draw rule was introduced in the first place.

This question first appeared on April 18, 2003 (when Randy was still Director of Magic R&D; he's now Vice President of Digital Gaming). Ask Wizards–Classic is a weekly feature that highlights interesting questions and answers from the Ask Wizards archives, which go back to January 2002. To search the archive to see if your question has already been answered, use the "Search Ask Wizards" button near the top of the page.


 August 1, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: My friends and I disagree on this. Some of us think that if the first strike damage from a double strike creature kills the creature blocking it, the normal damage will go through and damage the opponent. Others think all of the damage from the double striker is absorbed by the blocking creature. Would you please shed some light on this matter?
–Jason, Cheyenne, WY, USA

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

Once an attacking creature becomes blocked, it won't get to deal combat damage to the defending player unless it has trample or some other ability that specifically lets it do so. This is true even if the blocking creature somehow leaves play in between when it blocks and when combat damage is assigned.

So let's say a Hill Giant enchanted with Runes of the Deus—a 4/4 with double strike—is blocked by a Grizzly Bears. In the first-strike combat damage step, the Hill Giant's controller assigns 4 damage to the Grizzly Bears. After first-strike damage resolves, the Grizzly Bears is destroyed.

When we get to the normal combat damage step, nothing happens. The Grizzly Bears is too dead to assign its combat damage. The Hill Giant is still blocked. It doesn't matter that the blocking creature is gone—once a creature becomes blocked during combat, it stays blocked for that entire combat. The Hill Giant's only option is to assign its combat damage to the creatures blocking it, but since there aren't any left, it assigns nothing.

Runes of the Deus, however, brings us to that big exception: trample. Let's say that instead of a Hill Giant, the attacking creature is a Tattermunge Maniac, now a 4/3 with double strike and trample. During the first-strike combat damage step, the Tattermunge Maniac's controller assigns 2 damage to the Grizzly Bears and 2 damage to the Bears' controller (keeping in mind that he or she could assign more of that damage to the Grizzly Bears, of course). This is lethal to the Grizzly Bears, so it heads to the graveyard.

When we get to the normal combat damage step, the Grizzly Bears is too dead to assign its combat damage, as above, but the Tattermunge Maniac has trample. An attacking creature with trample can have its excess combat damage assigned to the defending player it's attacking (or the planeswalker it's attacking) as long as each creature blocking it is assigned lethal damage first. ("Lethal damage" is the amount of damage that would theoretically cause the blocking creature to be destroyed. This is equal to the creature's toughness, minus any amount of damage that's already been assigned to it or is simultaneously being assigned to it. Ignore things like protection or other damage prevention when calculating this number.) If there aren't any creatures blocking the attacking creature, "lethal damage" is considered to be 0, so all of the attacking creature's combat damage—in this case, 4—can be assigned to the defending player.

The Magic Rules Corner is a weekly feature dedicated to answering your rules questions. For more help with Magic rules, check out the rules page and the Rules Q&A Forum.


  • Planeswalker Points
  • Facebook Twitter
  • Gatherer: The Magic Card Database
  • Forums: Connect with the Magic Community
  • Magic Locator