Magic 2014 Update Bulletin

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Comprehensive Rulebook Changes


The rule for sideboards in Constructed play changed. Instead of fifteen-card sideboards, they now may contain up to fifteen cards. Additionally, you don't have to exchange cards on a one-for-one basis, bringing Constructed sideboarding procedures closer to those used in Limited. The Magic Tournament Rules will have more information about this change. In practice, we expect most people will continue to use fifteen-card sideboards, but this allows players to make minor sideboarding errors without receiving game losses in tournaments.

 What are the Comprehensive Rules?  
Magic is complicated. No, really. When you have more than 12,000 interchangeable game pieces, you get some freaky interactions. The Comprehensive Rules cover everything the game has ever come up with, from basic game play 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 (2.1 MB PDF). It doesn't have sections about phasing or subgames… but you'll never miss them.


This rule covers the start-of-game procedures involving setting your life total. The rules term starting life total was established because some cards refer to it.


The rules term starting hand size was established in this rule that covers drawing your opening hand and mulligans. Maximum hand size is still a game-relevant term that's used on cards, but having a parallel to starting life total made it easier to describe what to do at the start of the game. The hand modifiers of vanguards now affect starting hand size and maximum hand size (rule 210). Some minor tweaks were made to other rules to incorporate this new term.


This new rule summarizes how to draw your opening hand in a Vanguard game. This information was covered elsewhere, but it was added here for consistency.


Expansion symbols are no longer a characteristic. Magic cards are recognized as individual game pieces by their English card names. One of the central tenets of that system is that all cards with the same name are considered the same for deck building and play purposes. This system lets us reprint cards, print promo cards, and have cards appear in many languages. But three older cards referred to cards from a specific expansion, and that runs contrary to the system. The Arabian Nights Bird Maiden and the Fourth Edition version should be the same, but City in a Bottle says they're not. In fact, it makes the original version worse!

So, cards will no longer refer to expansion symbol as a characteristic. The three cards that used to do this (City in a Bottle, Golgothian Sylex, and Apocalypse Chime) will receive errata in a future update to refer to cards "originally printed" in the Arabian Nights, Antiquities, and Homelands sets, respectively). This means that City in a Bottle no longer affects any cards named Mountain. It also means that those three cards can affect cards that were in the appropriate set and then reprinted. City in a Bottle will affect the aforementioned Fourth Edition Bird Maiden.

References to expansion symbol being a characteristic were removed in several other rules as well.


The example in this rule didn't get the memo about "dies." Absolver Thrull's text was updated.


Indestructible is now an ability, so being indestructible was removed as an example of something that isn't an ability. "Unblockable" was also updated to "can't be blocked" in this rule and throughout the document.


This rule described the special action of playing a land. Its language was tweaked to more accurately the reflect the rules concerning playing additional lands.


This new rule was added to cover cases where you are instructed to cast a spell with a mandatory additional cost that includes actions involving cards with a stated quality in a hidden zone if able. That's a mouthful. For example, say you're forced to cast Disaster Radius if able. The game doesn't really know if you have a creature card in your hand or not. We don't want you to have to call a judge to verify that you're being honest about the contents of your hand. So, in the spirit of the "fail to find" rule, now you don't have to pay that additional cost and cast the spell.


This rule allowed us to truncate the name of a legendary card on second reference or later. For example, Axelrod Gunnarson (my favorite!) is referred to as just "Axelrod" in its rules text. We're changing this rule to remove the second reference or later reference. Now, we can just use the shortened form of the name, and it's just as if it were the full name. We don't plan on doing this a lot, but you never know.


The list of Planeswalker types included a reiteration of the "Planeswalker uniqueness rule," which was updated.

206. Expansion Symbol

Changes were made to reflect its transition to something that has no effect on game play.

210. Hand Modifier

Minor language tweaks to incorporate starting hand size.

211. Life Modifier

Minor language tweaks to describe how life modifier impacts starting life total, including a new reference to the start-of-game procedure.


This new rule covers the case where an effect attempts to put a non-Aura onto the battlefield attached to a creature. This is possible with cards like Flickerform and Copy Enchantment. The permanent is put onto the battlefield unattached.

305.2. and 305.3.

These two rules describe how a player determines whether he or she can play a land. By default, a player can play one land on each of his or her turns. Effects may increase this number. To determine if you can play a land, compare the number of lands you've played this turn with the number you're allowed to play.

In practice, this means that permanents that allow you to play additional lands stop doing so when they leave the battlefield. Say you control Exploration, and then you play a land. Later in the turn, Exploration leaves the battlefield. After that happens, you can't play another land. At that point, you're allowed to play one and you already have. For more details on the mechanics to this system, please read my rules preview article.

One important thing to remember is these changes don't affect cards that put lands onto the battlefield without a player "playing" them. Cards like "fetch lands" and Rampant Growth are completely unaffected. They'll work as they always have.


The new "Planeswalker uniqueness rule." If a player controls two or more Planeswalkers that share a Planeswalker type, that player chooses one of them, and the rest are put into their owner's graveyards.


This rule about the main phase included information about playing lands. This information was updated to reflect the new rules about playing additional lands.


Convoke is no longer an additional cost (see below), so it was removed as an example of one.


As I mentioned before, our BFF Strionic Resonator does some unusual things with cards that have imprint abilities. We've seen how Duplicant received a wording change to prevent it from having multiple powers and/or toughnesses. But the other imprint cards can also exile multiple cards, and in many cases that wasn't "supposed" to happen. We could've addressed it with individual card changes, but then their rules texts would read very strangely, especially if you weren't thinking about Strionic Resonator. So, I wrote a new rule.

If a card with a pair of linked abilities refers to a single object by using "the exiled card," "a card exiled with [this card]," or a similar phrase, and there are multiple exiled cards it could be referring to, it's referring to all of them. Woohoo! No, really, it's awesome. Check it out:

Consider Elite Arcanist:

When Elite Arcanist enters the battlefield, you may exile an instant card from your hand.
{oX}, {oT}: Copy the exiled card. You may cast the copy without paying its mana cost. X is the converted mana cost of the exiled card.

If its enters-the-battlefield ability is copied, two instant cards may end up exiled. So, to activate its other ability, you need to determine the value of X. Let's say you exile cards with converted mana costs 2 and 5. So you pay {o2} and {o5} (otherwise known as {o7}), and you get to copy both cards. You can cast none, one, or both copies in either order. Sweet!


This new rule (and two subrules) handle one-shot effects that cause an object to change zones "until" a specified event occurs. This new style of ability is seen on our Magic 2014 friends Banisher Priest and Colossal Whale. Now, this may look like a continuous effect, but it's not. It's two one-shot effects, one that moves the object and one that is delayed until just after the specified event.

To explain why this new style of ability was created, we have to look at cards like Oblivion Ring. To use a Tom LaPille phrase, Oblivion Ring is a beautiful poem of rules text. You exile a permanent. The Ring leaves the battlefield. The exiled card returns. Beautiful. Except not.

You see, if Oblivion Ring left the battlefield before its enters-the-battlefield ability resolved, its leaves-the-battlefield ability would go on the stack and resolve first. That ability wouldn't do anything very interesting. It can't return a card that hasn't been exiled yet. Then, the enters-the-battlefield ability would resolve and exile the target indefinitely. It would never come back, even though the Ring was gone. This "stack loophole" was the worst kind of rules interaction. It baffled players and felt a lot like cheating. I know it has its fans, many of whom will tell you it was logical, derivable, and a wonderful example of the intricacies of the Magic rules and its many moving parts. And they're right, but it's also really bad when cards do something other than what they're advertised to do. Players shouldn't feel tricked by their beloved game.

To fix this, rule 610.3a says that the initial one-shot effect that moves the object won't move it if the specified event that returns it has already occurred. So, the "stack loophole" doesn't work.

The other problem, which popped up less frequently but certainly enough to get my attention, was how cards like Oblivion Ring behaved in multiplayer games. If I've exiled your (Gatherer random card) Ingot Chewer with Oblivion Ring, and I leave the game, I think you'd expect to get your Ingot Chewer back. Nope. See, if I controlled Oblivion Ring, I also controlled its leaves-the-battlefield ability. But that ability never gets the chance to resolve because it ceases to exist when I leave the game. Sorry, Ingot Chewer.

To help the Ingot Chewers of the world, this delayed one-shot effect system makes sure they can find their way back to the battlefield. The one-shot effect that returns it to the battlefield doesn't use the stack. It just happens as soon as the Banisher Priest leaves the battlefield. Run and play, little Ingot Chewer.

It's important to note that this new style of ability won't appear on older cards. Oblivion Ring will continue to do what it does. No older cards are changing.


Indestructible is now a keyword, so it's a poor example of a continuous effect that affects game rules.


This rule previously defined "indestructible." It's been changed and moved to the keyword section. In the renumbering, rule 700.4 is now the rule that defines "dies."

700.5 (old)

This rule previously defined "unblockable." That term no longer appears on cards, so that rule was removed.

700.5 (new)

Now in this slot is a rule defining the term "originally printed," seen on the three cards that previously referred to cards from a particular set based on expansion symbol. Subrules include the list of cards originally printed in the Arabian Nights, Antiquities, and Homelands sets, respectively.

702.12 Indestructible

The rules defining the new keyword indestructible. Subsequent rules and about a billion cross-references were renumbered.

702.50 Convoke

I don't remember exactly how the conversation started, but one day a few months ago R&D ended up talking about how weird it was that you could "overtap" when casting a spell using convoke. That was weird, past-me thought, so I started thinking about ways to change that. As a cost-reduction ability, it couldn't really be contained. You can make a spell cost a billion mana less if you want to. I sought the advice of Rules Manager Emeritus Mark Gottlieb. Together, we came up with a new paradigm for convoke: what if instead of reducing the cost, tapping creatures was just another way of paying mana?

So now it is! You don't declare which creatures you're tapping ahead of time, just like you don't declare what lands you'll be tapping ahead of time. When it comes time to pay the spell's costs (rule 601.2g), you can tap creatures rather than pay mana. Note that this is after you have a chance to activate mana abilities (rule 601.2f). This means that if you intend to sacrifice a creature to activate a mana ability, you can't also tap that creature for convoke.

702.65 Delve

Once we worked out the details of convoke, changing delve in a similar manner was natural.


Another appearance of the new "Planeswalker uniqueness rule," this time in the list of state-based actions.


The first appearance of the new "legend rule." If a player controls two or more legendary permanents with the same name, that player chooses one of them, and the rest are put into their owners' graveyards.


The little-used (at least these days) "world rule" was clarified: If two or more permanents have the supertype world, all except the one that has had the world supertype for the shortest amount of time are put into their owners' graveyards. In the event of a tie for the shortest amount of time, all are put into their owners' graveyards.


Four years later, there was still a reference to "play" instead of "the battlefield." I think they breed at night.

801.12. and 801.14.

These two rules described how legendary permanents and Planeswalkers behaved in a multiplayer game using range of influence. The rules change made them obsolete, so they were deleted and surrounding rules renumbered.


Changes to convoke, delve, expansion symbol, indestructible, legend rule, Planeswalker uniqueness rule, unblockable

New terms: starting hand size, starting life total

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