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Ask Wizards - October, 2008

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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.

 October 31, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: According to Bone Splinters' effect, the sacrificing of a creature's an additional cost, right? So, using Dralnu, Lich Lord, you could destroy a creature with just one mana, right? Because Dralnu's flashback-ing ability makes the mana cost the flashback cost, not the additional costs too. Right?
–Zach, WV, USA

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

Dralnu, Lich Lord grants an instant or sorcery card in your graveyard flashback with a flashback cost equal to its mana cost, as you say. That means that you can play it from your graveyard "rather than paying its mana cost," even though, in this case, the mana cost and the flashback cost will be the same. That means that to answer your question, we need to look at what exactly "rather than playing its mana cost" lets you ignore.

When you play a spell with flashback, you play it from your graveyard and for a different cost than usual (although, again, in this case it's the same cost, because Dralnu specifies that). Everything else about playing the spell remains the same, except that you can't apply a second alternative cost (for instance, that of Fist of Suns).

Bone Splinters says, "As an additional cost to play Bone Splinters, sacrifice a creature." You have to pay this additional cost any time you play Bone Splinters—it doesn't matter where you're playing it from or whether you paid its mana cost.

So after giving Bone Splinters flashback with Dralnu, Lich Lord, you still have to sacrifice a creature to play it from your graveyard. You can sacrifice Dralnu himself if you want to. You'd also have to sacrifice a creature when playing Bone Splinters under other unusual circumstances, such as after removing it from the game with Brilliant Ultimatum or Guile.

It's important to note that because playing a spell with flashback follows all the normal rules for playing a spell (except for the exceptions specified by the flashback rules), it constitutes your one nonartifact spell this turn for Ethersworn Canonist, costs more if there's a Thorn of Amethyst in play, triggers abilities that trigger when you play spells, such as that of Deathbringer Liege, and does all the other things that spells normally do.

All of this is true for all abilities that change how you play a spell, such as retrace and evoke, which you can usually identify by the word "play" in their reminder text. It isn't true, however, for activated abilities, such as cycling, unearth, or ninjutsu, that may look like playing a spell; you can generally identify these by the colon in their reminder text.


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.


 October 30, 2008  

Q: How do you shuffle cards that are inside sleeve protectors with minimal damage to the cards?

Whenever I shuffle, my (cheap) sleeve protectors seem to add a lot of friction that makes the two piles of cards difficult to bring together and slides some cards partially out of their sleeves.
–Alma, Kagoshima, Japan

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

Well, the way I do it is to use the sleeves' natural characteristics for me instead of against me. This means that instead of a regular riffle shuffle, I sort of just shove the two halves of the deck together, and they naturally reach a fairly good interlacing. This only works with fairly new sleeves, though, because eventually some sleeves are going to pick up dirt from the table surface and start to stick together. But here's how it looks:

At Pro Tour–Berlin this weekend, I'll keep an eye out for any sleeve-shuffling options besides "riffle," "pile," and "shove the cards together like this."


 October 29, 2008  

Q: So, we all know that Yawgmoth is the big bad Thran at the heart of the Weatherlight Saga. We've seen his Will, his Edict, his Bargain, his Agenda and more... but we seem to be pretty short on the big guy himself! So I guess I'm asking... is Yawgmoth actually depicted on any cards?
–David, Mercer Island, WA, USA

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The answer that was originally here was wrong, so we've removed it. Sorry about that.]


 October 28, 2008  

Q: What's the answer to the riddle of the Blistering Barrier? I couldn't Google it, so only you guys know!
–Madras, Vienna, Austria

A: From Doug Beyer, Magic Web Team:

Click for the answer!


 October 27, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q:The answer to this may cost me a bet...does "Tournament Legal" mean "Standard Legal"?
–Jimmy, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

Not necessarily. All the phrase "tournament-legal" means is that a card is considered "real" for the purposes of playing in tournaments. For example, a proxy is not tournament-legal, and neither is the square-cornered, gold-bordered Collector's Edition.

This doesn't mean that any newly printed tournament-legal card is legal in the current Standard format. It just means that if a card is already legal in a Constructed format, the new printing will also be legal to play. For a card to automatically become legal in Standard, it has to be in a new core set or expansion set.

This question first appeared on June 11, 2008. That's not that long ago, but we've been getting the question a lot since the announcement of Duel Decks: Jace vs. Chandra. So here it is again! Ask Wizards–Classic is a weekly feature that highlights interesting questions and answers from the Ask Wizards archives, which go back to January 2002.


 
 October 24, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: Swerve was easily the card I was looking forward to most in Shards. But I have a question about the card itself. What exactly can you play Swerve on? For instance, if your opponent plays an Unmake can you play Swerve and change the target to anything on the field? By that I mean can you take the Unmake and change the target to, let's say, a land and then nullify the spell? For that matter can you Swerve a Counterspell?
–Zak, Lawrence, KS, USA

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

Swerve's text is clean, simple, and in some ways quite confusing. Let's look at what spells it can target, what spells it can't, and what new targets you are and aren't allowed to choose.

Swerve can target any spell that has a single target, but it can't target any other spells. That means that Unmake, Cancel, Cremate, Blightning, Cruel Edict, and Pacifism, among many other spells in Magic, are all legal targets while they're on the stack. Unmake targets a single creature, Cancel targets a single spell, Cremate targets a single card in a graveyard, Blightning targets a single player, Cruel Edict targets a single opponent (not the same as player), and Pacifism, when it's on the stack, targets the creature it's going to enchant. (After it's in play, Pacifism doesn't target anything.)

If a spell targets "up to" some number of targets, it's a legal target for Swerve only if the number of targets chosen is one.

If more than one target was chosen when a spell was played, or if no targets were chosen, Swerve can't target the spell. That means that Swerve can't target Violent Ultimatum, Agony Warp, Wrath of God, or Mind Spring, among many other spells. It doesn't matter how many legal targets the spell currently has. If you're not sure whether a spell targets, look for the word "target" or the word "enchant." If it doesn't have either of those words, it doesn't have any targets.

If the spell has multiple targets and all but one of them have become illegal, you still can't target the spell with Swerve. For instance, suppose your opponent played Violent Ultimatum targeting two creatures and a land, and you played Tortoise Formation, giving both creatures shroud. Both creatures are illegal targets and won't be destroyed, but Violent Ultimatum still isn't "a spell with a single target" and thus can't be targeted by Swerve.

If a spell targets one thing multiple times, you still can't target it with Swerve. A player who plays Agony Warp, for example, can target two different creatures with the -3/-0 and -0/-3 effects, or he or she can target the same creature with both. Either way, multiple targets were chosen, so Agony Warp is never a legal target for Swerve.

Getting to your second question, let's look at what actually happens when Swerve resolves. You can't change the spell's target to an illegal target, but you have to change the spell's target if you can. You can still play Swerve even if the spell doesn't have any other legal targets, if you want to for some reason.

So you can't change the target of Unmake to a land (or a creature with shroud, or one with protection from white or black, or one that's an illegal target for any other reason). You can, however, change the target of Terror to an indestructible creature such as Spearbreaker Behemoth—it's still a legal target, even though it won't actually be destroyed.

In the same vein, you can change the target of Blightning to the player who played it, but you can't do likewise with Cruel Edict. Cruel Edict must target one of its controller's opponents. In a multiplayer game, you could change Cruel Edict's target to a different opponent of the player who played it, but Cruel Edict's controller is never a legal target for it. The controller of the spell doesn't change when you change its targets, so even if you change the target of a spell like Cremate, the player who played Cremate will still draw a card if Cremate resolves.

One last weird example: Suppose you play a spell, and your opponent plays Cancel targeting it. Those are the only two spells on the stack. You then play Swerve targeting the Cancel. You have to change the target of Cancel if you can, but you can't change it so that Cancel targets itself—a spell on the stack is never its own legal target. You can, however, change Cancel's target so that it targets Swerve. Swerve then finishes resolving and leaves the stack. When Cancel tries to resolve, its target is no longer legal, so it's countered on resolution.

Note also that Swerve itself doesn't target the spell's new target, so it could change Giant Growth's target so that it targets a creature with protection from red, such as Paladin en-Vec.


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.


 October 23, 2008  

Q: I was looking at the products pages for the Kamigawa block after the site redesign and was wondering where the Kamigawa vignette links have gone and, if they're gone for good, whether they would be put up again?
–Nigel, England

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

Hmm. I see what you mean. The Kamigawa product page is much more vanilla now, because the old layout didn't fit into our new design.

Luckily, we happen to have this page which indexes all of the Kamigawa vignettes. Enjoy!


 October 22, 2008  

Q: What are all the creatures that have name equal to their creature type?
–Harry, Chicago, IL, USA

A: From Kelly Digges, magicthegathering.com editor:

Weirdly, a few months ago I found myself wondering this very thing, so I started trying to find the answer.

Let's see... Abbey Gargoyles, nope. Abbey Matron, no. Abomination? Yes as printed, but no according to current creature types. Aboroth, same deal. Aboshan....

Okay, I didn't actually try to sit down with the complete list of creatures in Magic and run the comparison by hand. That would take days. Instead, I asked magicthegathering.com web developer Dave Guskin to write a quick script that would compare the "name" and "creature type" fields in the entire Gatherer data base. (And no, this didn't take him away from working on the new Gatherer. It took five minutes, and anyway, I made him do it over lunch.)

While it would be sort of interesting to see all the cards that were printed with names the same as their types, that list would be sort of silly, including things like Singing Tree and Ali Baba. Instead, Dave's script scanned the fully updated, squeaky-clean Oracle creature types of every creature in Magic.

So, without further ado, and with thanks to Dave, here's the current list of Magic creatures whose name and creature type(s) are identical.

Assembly-Worker
Atog
Aurochs
Brushwagg
Camel
Centaur Archer
Cockatrice
Dauthi Horror
Fungus Elemental
Fungus Sliver
Goblin Assassin
Goblin Berserker
Goblin Mime
Goblin Mutant
Goblin Wizard
Homarid
Homarid Shaman
Homarid Warrior
Juggernaut
Kavu Scout
Leviathan
Lhurgoyf
Lizard Warrior
Masticore
Merfolk Assassin
Metathran Soldier
Metathran Zombie
Minotaur Warrior
Ogre Berserker
Ogre Shaman
Ogre Warrior
Orgg
Phelddagrif
Plant Elemental
Scarecrow
Shapeshifter
Spike Drone
Spike Soldier
Thrull Wizard
Viashino Skeleton
Viashino Warrior
Zombie Assassin

(Note: This list has been slightly modified since it was originally posted. It included cards that were correct at the time it was originally created, and didn't include Viashino Skeleton)


 October 21, 2008  

Q: I've been wondering what is Sphinx Sovereign's answer to the riddle in the flavor text. My best guess so far is the wind. My friends and I have been debating over this for quite some time. Care to share some light?
–Jobey, New Orleans, LA, USA

A: From Doug Beyer, Magic Creative Team:

Sphinx Sovereign's flavor text is:

“What rises without legs, whispers without a voice, bites without teeth, and dies without having life?”

The answer to the riddle is (click to reveal the answer—but only if you really want to know!):


 October 20, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q:How do you choose the theme for any particular week, and how do you select which weeks will have themes?
–Carlos, Guatemala

A: From Scott Johns, magicthegathering.com Content Manager:

Good question Carlos. First off the easy part: theme weeks happen every other week, so that part is just formula. The only time this gets wonky is when we run into preview weeks. We don’t run themes during preview weeks since the previews themselves are basically the theme. Once previews are over we skip a week and then head back to running themes every other week.

When it comes to selecting what those themes actually are, there are several things at work. First off, I try to lean pretty heavily on set-specific themes whenever a new set hits the site. For example, after the Betrayers previews we had Ninja Week. Fifth Dawn was followed immediately by Machine Week, and Champions of Kamigawa had Spirit Week soon after its previews were over. However, that’s just one layer. We also have several super themes that go across sets. Creature types are the most common theme (followed by mechanic-based themes), but if you look back through the history of theme weeks I bet you’d be able to predict some of the ones still coming up. For example, we’ve had Combo Week and Control Week so far. We’ve also had several theme weeks dedicated to specific sets, such as Legends Week and Ice Age week. Probably the highest profile of these ongoing theme arcs were the color weeks, such as Blue Week, Black Week, etc. (While we’re on that topic I’ll let you in on a secret… we aren’t done with these yet!)

As you can see, there’s a lot going on, and that’s just with the systematic themes. We also run plenty of themes that are completely different, such as Mulligan Week, Name Week, or Puzzle Week. In addition to all that, there’s also the question of each week’s Feature Article. Normally I schedule those out about a month or two in advance. Since I often tie the theme and feature article together in some fashion, those Feature Article slots also have a lot of influence on which themes get selected from week to week. Lastly, whenever possible I also try to space them out so that we aren’t repeating types of themes too closely together. (You wouldn’t see two set weeks close together, for example.)

Once all that is out of the way, the final question for me is how deep a potential theme is (IE, how many columns can be on-theme, and also what possible tie-ins there are for Magic Arcana or other elements on the site.) I look for themes that allow at least one column per day to be on-theme (at which point the question of who writes on which days comes into play), and one which is open-ended enough that you’ll get several different approaches to it over the course of the week.

And then, even after all that, believe me when I say I’m only just scratching the surface! I’m sure it seems like a pretty simple process to most readers, but there’s a lot that goes into each choice!

This question first appeared on May 20, 2005. The process is much the same today. For example, this week is "Grixis Week". Scott's now the Editor in Chief of magicthegathering.com. Ask Wizards–Classic is a weekly feature that highlights interesting questions and answers from the Ask Wizards archives, which go back to January 2002.


 October 17, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: I'm told that two copies of Sharuum the Hegemon hitting play at the same time creates an arbitrary loop combo. My problem is that it runs contrary to my current understanding of state-based effects, timing rules, comes into play effects, and, wel,l just common sense. I'm told that when the second Hegemon enters play, the legendary rule is applied, then the comes into play ability brings back one of them, which in turn uses its comes into play ability to bring back the second, and the loop repeats. To the best of my knowledge, this is a misrepresentation of the timing, because neither of the two Hegemons are in the graveyard when the comes into play ability goes on the stack.
–Matt, Surrey, BC, Canada

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

That's not really a question, Matt, but we understand the question underlying it: How can two Sharuum the Hegemon form an arbitrary loop when neither of them is in the graveyard when the second one comes into play?

This loop works as described—let's look at why.

There are two subtle points of timing at work here: state-based effects and triggered abilities. State-based effects are the things that cause creatures with lethal damage to be destroyed, players with 0 or less life to lose the game, and +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters to cancel out, among many other things—including putting two or more legendary permanents with the same name into their owner's graveyards. Triggered abilities, a common subject here at the Rules Corner, are abilities, usually using the words "when," "whenever," or "at," that trigger when some event happens and are put on the stack.

If a triggered ability has a target, the target must be chosen when the ability is put on the stack. And "when Sharuum the Hegemon comes into play," neither Sharuum is in the graveyard to be chosen as the target. So what gives?

The answer has to do with the exact timing of checking state-based effects and putting triggered abilities on the stack.

You probably know that in order to play spells or abilities and/or perform certain special actions like playing a land, a player must have priority. And if that player chooses to do nothing, he or she passes priority. Most phases and steps start with the active player receiving priority and end when all players pass on an empty stack in succession. Priority is passed something like a dozen times each turn in a two-player game of Magic even if neither player does anything, and far more for bigger games or more complicated game states.

The priority system is almost always in the background, and it's very seldom that you need to know anything about it to play a game of Magic. That means it's easy to gloss over the fine details of that system... such as when exactly state-based effects are checked and triggered abilities are put on the stack.

According to rule 4081.b, when any player would receive priority, several things happen first, in order:

  1. All applicable state-based effects resolve as a single event.
  2. If this generates any new state-based effects, go back to step 1.
  3. Triggered abilities that have triggered are placed on the stack.
  4. If this generates any new state-based effects or triggers, go back to step 1.

When there are no further state-based effects or triggers, the player actually receives priority.

The relevant part of that sequence for your question is that state-based effects are checked, then triggered abilities are put on the stack. It doesn't matter when a triggered ability triggers; it won't be put on the stack until a player is about to receive priority and state-based effects have been checked.

That means that in this particular case, the first thing that happens is that state-based effects have put both legendary Sharuums in the graveyard (step 1). It's only after that that the "comes into play" triggered ability is put on the stack (step 3). Both Sharuums are in the graveyard at that point, so you can choose either of them—even the one that generated the "comes into play" ability!—as the target to be returned. Assuming no other player interferes, you can repeat this loop as many times as you want, triggering any other triggered abilities—say, those of Soul Warden or Disciple of the Vault—the appropriate number of times.

Note that you can’t draw the game this way—the loop will eventually end, because Sharuum says “you may” return target artifact card. Eventually you have to either return a different artifact to play or choose not to return anything, ending the loop.

One final caveat is that this loop only happens if both Sharuums go to the same graveyard, meaning that one player has to own both of them. That player also has to control the Sharuum that just came into play, but it doesn't matter if he or she has somehow lost control of the Sharuum that's already in play.


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.


 
 October 16, 2008  

Q: Do you have a list of what cards are supposed to go with each shard? I tried to make a few shard-specific decks, then had to pull Oblivion Ring from my Bant deck when I finally saw it was an Esper card. It seemed similar in overall effect (getting specific cards out of the way temporarily) to Excommunicate, so I passed over the details of the art. There are other rather ambiguous cards as well.
–Jay, Omaha, NE, USA

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director:

Here you go!

Card Shard
Ad Nauseam Grixis
Agony Warp Grixis
Ajani Vengeant Naya
Akrasan Squire Bant
Algae Gharial Jund
Angel’s Herald Bant
Angelic Benediction Bant
Angelsong Bant
Arcane Sanctum Esper
Archdemon of Unx Grixis
Banewasp Affliction Grixis
Bant Battlemage Bant
Bant Charm Bant
Bant Panorama Bant
Battlegrace Angel Bant
Behemoth’s Herald Naya
Blightning Grixis
Blister Beetle Jund
Blood Cultist Grixis
Bloodpyre Elemental Jund
Bloodthorn Taunter Naya
Bone Splinters Grixis
Branching Bolt Jund
Brilliant Ultimatum Esper
Broodmate Dragon Jund
Bull Cerodon Naya
Caldera Hellion Jund
Call to Heel Bant
Cancel Bant
Carrion Thrash Jund
Cathartic Adept Grixis
Cavern Thoctar Naya
Clarion Ultimatum Bant
Cloudheath Drake Esper
Coma Veil Esper
Corpse Connoisseur Grixis
Courier’s Capsule Esper
Court Archers Bant
Covenant of Minds Grixis
Cradle of Vitality Naya
Crucible of Fire Jund
Cruel Ultimatum Grixis
Crumbling Necropolis Grixis
Cunning Lethemancer Grixis
Cylian Elf Naya
Dawnray Archer Bant
Death Baron Grixis
Deathgreeter Jund
Deft Duelist Bant
Demon’s Herald Grixis
Dispeller’s Capsule Esper
Dragon Fodder Jund
Dragon’s Herald Jund
Dreg Reaver Grixis
Dregscape Zombie Grixis
Druid of the Anima Naya
Drumhunter Naya
Elspeth, Knight-Errant Bant
Elvish Visionary Naya
Empyrial Archangel Bant
Esper Battlemage Esper
Esper Charm Esper
Esper Panorama Esper
Etherium Astrolabe Esper
Etherium Sculptor Esper
Ethersworn Canonist Esper
Excommunicate Bant
Executioner’s Capsule Esper
Exuberant Firestoker Naya
Fatestitcher Grixis
Feral Hydra Naya
Filigree Sages Esper
Fire-Field Ogre Grixis
Flameblast Dragon Jund
Fleshbag Marauder Grixis
Forest Bant
Forest Jund
Forest Naya
Forest Naya
Gather Specimens Esper
Gift of the Gargantuan Naya
Glaze Fiend Esper
Goblin Assault Jund
Goblin Deathraiders Jund
Goblin Mountaineer Jund
Godsire Naya
Godtoucher Naya
Grixis Battlemage Grixis
Grixis Charm Grixis
Grixis Panorama Grixis
Guardians of Akrasa Bant
Gustrider Exuberant Naya
Hell’s Thunder Grixis
Hellkite Overlord Jund
Hindering Light Bant
Hissing Iguanar Jund
Immortal Coil Esper
Incurable Ogre Grixis
Infest Grixis
Invincible Hymn Bant
Island Bant
Island Esper
Island Esper
Island Grixis
Jhessian Infiltrator Bant
Jhessian Lookout Bant
Jund Battlemage Jund
Jund Charm Jund
Jund Panorama Jund
Jungle Shrine Naya
Jungle Weaver Naya
Kathari Screecher Grixis
Kederekt Creeper Grixis
Kederekt Leviathan Grixis
Keeper of Progenitus Naya
Kiss of the Amesha Bant
Knight of the Skyward Eye Bant
Knight of the White Orchid Bant
Knight-Captain of Eos Bant
Kresh the Bloodbraided Jund
Lich’s Mirror Grixis
Lightning Talons Grixis
Lush Growth Naya
Magma Spray Jund
Manaplasm Jund
Marble Chalice Esper
Master of Etherium Esper
Mayael the Anima Naya
Memory Erosion Esper
Metallurgeon Esper
Mighty Emergence Naya
Mindlock Orb Esper
Minion Reflector Grixis
Mosstodon Naya
Mountain Grixis
Mountain Jund
Mountain Jund
Mountain Naya
Mycoloth Jund
Naturalize Naya
Naya Battlemage Naya
Naya Charm Naya
Naya Panorama Naya
Necrogenesis Jund
Obelisk of Bant Bant
Obelisk of Esper Esper
Obelisk of Grixis Grixis
Obelisk of Jund Jund
Obelisk of Naya Naya
Oblivion Ring Esper
Onyx Goblet Esper
Ooze Garden Jund
Outrider of Jhess Bant
Plains Bant
Plains Bant
Plains Esper
Plains Naya
Predator Dragon Jund
Prince of Thralls Grixis
Protomatter Powder Esper
Punish Ignorance Esper
Puppet Conjurer Esper
Qasali Ambusher Naya
Quietus Spike Grixis
Rafiq of the Many Bant
Rakeclaw Gargantuan Naya
Ranger of Eos Bant
Realm Razer Naya
Relic of Progenitus Naya
Resounding Roar Naya
Resounding Scream Grixis
Resounding Silence Bant
Resounding Thunder Jund
Resounding Wave Esper
Rhox Charger Bant
Rhox War Monk Bant
Ridge Rannet Naya
Rip-Clan Crasher Jund
Rockcaster Platoon Bant
Rockslide Elemental Jund
Sacellum Godspeaker Naya
Salvage Titan Esper
Sanctum Gargoyle Esper
Sangrite Surge Jund
Sarkhan Vol Jund
Savage Hunger Jund
Savage Lands Jund
Scavenger Drake Jund
Scourge Devil Grixis
Scourglass Esper
Seaside Citadel Bant
Sedraxis Specter Grixis
Sedris, the Traitor King Grixis
Shadowfeed Grixis
Sharding Sphinx Esper
Sharuum the Hegemon Esper
Shore Snapper Grixis
Sighted-Caste Sorcerer Bant
Sigil Blessing Bant
Sigil of Distinction Bant
Sigiled Paladin Bant
Skeletal Kathari Grixis
Skeletonize Grixis
Skill Borrower Esper
Skullmulcher Jund
Soul’s Fire Naya
Soul’s Grace Naya
Soul’s Might Naya
Spearbreaker Behemoth Naya
Spell Snip Esper
Sphinx Sovereign Esper
Sphinx’s Herald Esper
Sprouting Thrinax Jund
Steelclad Serpent Esper
Steward of Valeron Bant
Stoic Angel Bant
Sunseed Nurturer Naya
Swamp Esper
Swamp Grixis
Swamp Grixis
Swamp Jund
Swerve Grixis
Tar Fiend Jund
Tezzeret the Seeker Esper
Thorn-Thrash Viashino Jund
Thoughtcutter Agent Esper
Thunder-Thrash Elder Jund
Tidehollow Sculler Esper
Tidehollow Strix Esper
Titanic Ultimatum Naya
Topan Ascetic Bant
Tortoise Formation Bant
Tower Gargoyle Esper
Undead Leotau Grixis
Vectis Silencers Esper
Vein Drinker Grixis
Viashino Skeleton Grixis
Vicious Shadows Jund
Violent Ultimatum Jund
Viscera Dragger Grixis
Vithian Stinger Grixis
Volcanic Submersion Jund
Waveskimmer Aven Bant
Welkin Guide Bant
Where Ancients Tread Naya
Wild Nacatl Naya
Windwright Mage Esper
Woolly Thoctar Naya
Yoked Plowbeast Naya

[Note: Resounding Scream was originally listed as Esper; this was an error and it has been moved to Grixis where it belongs]


 October 15, 2008  

Q: Why is the rules text on Soul's Grace smaller than usual? Was this an error that occurred during production or was it a conscious decision on Wizards' part (and if so, for what reason)?
–Eric, Singapore

A: From Del Laugel, Magic Senior Editor:

Unlike most game cards, Magic cards use a variable font size in their text box. There's a maximum size, and there's a minimum size, and there are a lot of options in between. The minimum text size varies by language, but English uses a larger minimum than German.

A computer makes the first guess at which size should be used on an individual card. Then the typesetter and editor working on the set make adjustments based on a number of subjective factors. For example, activation costs and trigger conditions read better if the entire cost or trigger condition is on one line, so Dispeller's Capsule and Caldera Hellion have slightly smaller text than the computer's guess.

Soul's Grace is a card where a couple of those subjective factors pull in opposite directions. On the one hand, common cards usually have larger text than the other rarities. On the other hand, the line breaks on this card were problematic at all font sizes except the minimum. For most cards, the solution would have been to tweak the flavor text, but Soul's Grace is part of a mini-cycle with Soul's Fire and Soul's Might.

So we went with the minimum font size. It's in the toolbox, and we're allowed to use it. But players aren't used to seeing text that size on a relatively empty common card. No one writes in about Vein Drinker . . . .


 October 14, 2008  

Q: I noticed that Ajani Goldmane and Ajani Vengeant are very similar in quite a few ways... they have the same exact eyes, the right one blue and the left one is closed, they are both albino Leonin and are outcasts because of that fact, they carry the same kind of weapon, and both their pasts include a story of vengeance for a murdered brother. is there some story behind that? Thanks!
–Akiva

A: From Doug Beyer, Magic Creative Team:

The Ajani Goldmane card and the Ajani Vengeant card represent the same person, the leonin planeswalker Ajani Goldmane, at different stages in his life. Note that both cards have the subtype "Ajani." In the rules, if two or more planeswalker cards that share a subtype are in play, they're all put into their owners' graveyards—in flavor terms, this means they're the same person, and only one Ajani can be around at one time. Watch magicthegathering.com for the three-part web comic Flight of the White Cat, (part one was last Wednesday; part two will be this Wednesday) detailing how Ajani became a planeswalker. And in the coming weeks in Savor the Flavor, I'll talk more about Ajani and about how planeswalker characters can show up across multiple cards.


 October 13, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q: I recently purchased an old Magic booster pack from a local card shop. The booster contained eight cards with expansion symbols from Antiquities and Arabian Nights, as well as a few without expansion symbols that I have managed to identify as Fourth Edition. The cards are in Italian, as was the booster pack itself, and since I don't read Italian, I don't know what the expansion title on the booster says. Could you please inform me as to what expansion this could possibly be, and how I can possibly establish the values of these cards.
–David, Michigan, USA

A: From Aaron Forsythe, Content Manager:

The set that that booster is from is called Renaissance, and its existence is due to an old Wizards policy.

There was a policy in place at one time that stated: Cards will not be released in any given language with white borders unless they were released in that language with black borders first. Since Fourth Edition and Chronicles were white bordered and were going to be released in German, French, and Italian, we thought it would be necessary to print black-bordered versions of those cards first. Many of them existed in black-bordered versions as part of those languages' Revised printings, but the ones that did not were printed as Renaissance.

So Renaissance is composed of the subset [Fourth Edition - Revised] for German and French, and [Fourth Edition + Chronicles - Revised - Legends - The Dark] for Italian. Full cardlists are available here for Italian and German/French.

The funny thing is that Chronicles ended up not being released in all those languages after all. That entire policy has been done away with due to the logistics involved with reprinting very small subsets of cards considering all the languages and all the expansion sets Magic currently encompasses. I don't think the demand for black-bordered German Vodalian Soldiers is very high, anyway.

This question first appeared on April 22, 2002. Aaron stopped being a "Content Manager" awhile ago; these days he's "Director of R&D", which is much more impressive. Ask Wizards–Classic is a weekly feature that highlights interesting questions and answers from the Ask Wizards archives, which go back to January 2002.


 October 10, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: I have a rules question concerning unearth. If I were to play Momentary Blink on an unearthed creature, the creature would be removed from game on the first portion of the spell, but the ability can't trigger midway through the spell resolution, so it would be removed from game and returned to play. The creature is now a new version of itself, and the old creature no longer exists, countering the trigger. Am I missing something here, or does Momentary Blink save your unearthed guys?
–Tim, Jackson, WI, USA

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

Actually, Tim, you are missing something... but yes, Momentary Blink (and similar effects such as Turn to Mist and Astral Slide) can "save" unearthed creatures from being permanently removed from the game.

First, let's look at what you're missing. The ability that removes the unearthed creature from the game "if it would leave play" is not a triggered ability, as you call it. It's a static ability that generates a replacement effect; you can identify it as such because it takes the form "If [something] would [happen], [something else happens] instead." The ability that removes the creature from the game at end of turn is a triggered ability (these almost always say "when," "whenever," or, as in this case, "at").

Triggered abilities trigger, go on the stack, and can be responded to (and even countered by certain cards, like Stifle); replacement effects simply replace whatever would have happened with something else; the original condition never happens. (Note that you can counter the "at end of turn" trigger, and because it's a delayed triggered set up by a one-time ability, it will never trigger again. But the replacement effect will still be active, and will remove the creature from the game if it would leave play.)

The reminder text for unearth has to muddy the distinction between the two abilities due to space constraints, but the official rules for unearth are clearer:

502.84a Unearth is an activated ability that functions while the card is in a graveyard. "Unearth [cost]" means "[Cost]: Return this card from your graveyard to play. It gains haste. Remove it from the game at end of turn. If it would leave play, remove it from the game instead of putting it anywhere else. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery."

That makes the replacement effect sound pretty straightforward, actually. If a creature that came into play because of unearth would be put into your graveyard due to combat damage, or returned to your hand by Resounding Wave, or put on top of your library by Excommunicate, instead it's removed from the game.

Here's the tricky part, though: The replacement effect doesn't remove the card from the game. Rather, it changes what the original effect is doing. It changes Resounding Wave's effect from "Return [the unearthed creature] to its owner's hand" to "Remove [the unearthed creature] from the game." It changes Excommunicate's effect from "Put [the unearthed creature] on top of its owner's library" to "Remove [the unearthed creature] from the game." In these cases, Resounding Wave and Excommunicate are what remove the creature from the game.

And then we get to Momentary Blink. Its original effect is "Remove [the unearthed creature] from the game," so the unearth replacement effect changes it to... "Remove [the unearthed creature] from the game"! Momentary Blink winds up doing exactly what it was trying to do in the first place. That means that later, when it tries to return the removed card to play, it can do that too.

Because a card is treated as a new object when it changes zones (except in weird corner cases), the creature that comes back into play isn't the same one that was returned to play by unearth. It can now leave play normally, and you won't need to sacrifice it at end of turn.


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.


 October 9, 2008  

Q: I can't seem to tell what exactly the new art for Naturalize is showing. I'm torn between it showing a statue of an ape, with its hand behind it's back, or a dragon with the head at the top and its chest puffed out.
–Sven, Toronto, ON, Canada

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

The reason that the image isn't clear is because you're looking at a mostly-crumbled statue. The magical vines are tearing it apart so that the distinctive markings and shapes are no longer visible.

Here's the art description:

Location: Naya, ruins of a nacatl (catfolk) temple Action: Show nature-magic destroying an idol made of gold and stone. The idol resembles a stylized beast of some kind, but it's being crumbled apart by magical roots and vines that have wrapped around it and lifted it into the air.
Focus: the nature magic
Mood: What is artificial will be brought low.

Having said that, let's blow that art up a bit:

Art by Trevor Hairsine

Even at the larger size, it may be too decomposed to identify completely, but it looks like a statue of some kind of quadruped. This is just me guessing, but I think it looks like one of those statues you get on library steps, except instead of being a lion, it's, um, something else.


 October 8, 2008  

Q: Is Kederekt Leviathan from Esper or Grixis?

The Fiends and Behemoths page on the Shards of Alara minisite seems to say that it is an uncontrollable creature from Esper, which explains how it could come from Esper without being an artifact creature.

However, it has the unearth mechanic which is supposed to be a Grixis mechanic. Furthermore, the word Kederekt is in its name, which is also in the name of Kederekt Creeper, which is clearly a Grixis card.

Was this card created to show a link between the two worlds? or was it simply a mistake made when the card was matched to a concepted creature?
–Geoffrey, Auckland, New Zealand

A: From Doug Beyer, Magic Creative Team:

Leviathans lurk in the seas of both Esper and Grixis. Kederekt is a necropolis in Grixis that stands—or rather, slowly sinks, its undead-afflicted manor houses tilting at odd angles in the silt—next to a vast, greasy sea. And unearth is a Grixis mechanic. So Kederekt Leviathan is definitely a Grixis creature, a terror of the deep sometimes summoned and even animated by the mad necromancers of the plane. But there are also leviathans slithering through the seas of Esper, their broad plates of ship's-hull-like armor envied by etherium-hungry Esperites. There's no Esper leviathan card in the set, however, so that page of the minisite illustrates leviathans with a picture of a Grixis creature. The shards are completely separate; it's not intended to represent a link between the worlds.


 October 7, 2008  

Q: I'm curious about some of the decissions concerning your german translations.

I've wondered for a long time, why the creature type "Snake" in German is "Ophis" and not "Schlange"- but now i think its just because there were Serpents long before snakes and... well, bad luck there.

However, I can't imagine why you decided to call Slivers "Remasuri", and Drakes "Sceadas", as not one of these word exists outside of magic (for what I know)
–Fritz, Oberösterreich, Austria

A: From Hanno Girke, German Translator:

Lore—and folklore—are extremely diverse in different parts of the world. As Magic, in most cases, uses a fantasy setting with an Anglo-Saxon background, some terms just do not exist in German of have a different meaning that doesn't carry over the intent. In those cases, we need to find a new word. You mentioned two good examples. "Drake" in Magic means "small, dragonlike creature". There is just no such thing in German folklore. Your dictionary would say "Erpel"—male duck (as this word has two meanings in English). You'll understand that we couldn't call a Drake a duck. He would have eaten us for that. We found a new name (Sceada) for him in Old High German—the Beowulf saga, if I remember correctly. For the Slivers, we found a new name in Austrian German, in the dialect of Vienna. A "Remasuri" is a hodge-podge, a mix-up—and that's exactly what those beasties are. And we thought it's a cool name and easy to pronounce.


 October 6, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q: What are some of the most rare cards ever printed? I'm not talking about Moxes or anything like that. I've seen blank cards and blue Hurricanes.
–Jack

A: From Brian Tinsman, R&D Game Designer:

The rarest cards fall into two categories: misprints and specials. The blank cards you've seen are either misprints or R&D playtest cards that were never used. One famous mistake was a run of Fallen Empires that was printed with backs from Wyvern, another TCG being manufactured at the same factory. The rarest misprints, and among the rarest Magic cards in existence, are those blue Hurricanes. They're from a printing nicknamed 'Summer Magic.' In the summer of '94, Wizards realized one printing of Revised had severe mistakes, with the art almost too dark to see on many cards. Wizards recalled the entire print run and had them all destroyed. Well, almost all of them. About four cases (40 display boxes) accidentally made it to the public in the UK and Tennessee. Today a Summer Magic Birds of Paradise is worth well over a thousand dollars.

Another misprint was a series of foil Friday Night Magic promotional cards that were added to Japanese Urza's Legacy and Urza's Destiny sheets as test runs to see if the print process was working right. Those cards had no text, just mana costs and art, and were supposed to have been destroyed. Some of them, like Lightning Bolt, accidentally made it into booster packs and are now among the rarest of all cards.

Special printings are cards that were produced to commemorate some event and given to the participants only. The rarest is probably the 1996 World Champion card, of which only one is supposed to exist. It was encased in a trophy and awarded to Tom Chanpheng, the winner of that tournament. Wizards never printed any other cards for later World Champions. The next rarest is the card Proposal, which Richard Garfield had printed and slipped into a deck in order to propose to his soon-to-be wife, Lily. About seven of these were given to members of their wedding party. Richard also used Magic cards to announce two more special events, the birth of his two children. Splendid Genesis (about 150 cards) and Fraternal Exaltation (about 250 cards) were given to friends and coworkers.

Sought after by some collectors are cards altered by designers to change their functionality. Although not legal for tournament play, it's generally accepted that if you can get Richard Garfield to change the mana cost or abilities on a card and sign it, you can play it as written. It's rumored that there's a 3/3 Llanowar Elves out there somewhere.

Thanks to my fellow designer Mike Elliott for helping me out with a bunch of this info.

This question first appeared on August 13, 2003. Ask Wizards–Classic is a weekly feature that highlights interesting questions and answers from the Ask Wizards archives, which go back to January 2002.


 October 3, 2008 Magic Rules Corner  

Q: I have a question about Sphinx's Herald and the other four Heralds. Is it necessary to sacrifice three separate creatures (in the Sphinx's Herald case, one black, one blue and one white) or is it possible to sacrifice a multicoloured creature that is all of those colours (e.g. Windwright Mage)
–Simon, Bloemfontein, South Africa

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

You must sacrifice three different creatures to pay for the ability of Sphinx's Herald or one of the other Heralds in Shards of Alara. This isn't because of any cryptic clause buried in the Magic rules, but simply because of the language used on the card. The phrase "a white creature, a blue creature, and a black creature" refers to three creatures, not one, so you have to sacrifice three creatures to use the ability.

You can, however, sacrifice multicolored creatures to pay the cost. It doesn't matter that it has other colors, only that it has one of the colors you need to use the ability. So you could sacrifice three white-blue-black Windwright Mages. You could sacrifice a white-blue Deft Duelist, a blue-black Tidehollow Strix, and the blue Herald itself to pay for the ability of Sphinx's Herald. If you sacrifice a multicolored creature this way, specify which part of the cost that creature is satisfying—for instance, specify whether Tidehollow Strix is the blue creature or the black creature—to make it clear that you've satisfied the full requirements.

Note that if you want to (for whatever reason), you are allowed to use a Herald's ability even if you don't have the named creature card in your deck. You'll sacrifice your creatures. When the ability resolves, you'll fail to find anything, so nothing will be put into play. You'll still shuffle your library. You can even "fail to find" this way if you do have the appropriate card in your deck and don't want to put it into play for some reason.

What sort of reason? We have no idea, but we're sure you'll think of something.


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.


 October 2, 2008  

Q: It's apparent by the artwork that Shards of Alara's basic lands represent different shards. But with only four different pieces of art for each land type, how did you decide which shard went unrepresented?
–Al, Niagara Falls, NY, USA

A: From Jeremy Jarvis, Magic Art Director:

Hi Al,

Actually, NONE of the Shards went unrepresented.

Each Shard has a primary color, and then influences of that color's allies. Bant for example is gWu. So we gave you 2 Bant Plains, one Bant forest and one bant Island. Grixis is uBr, so 2 swamps, one island, one mountain skinned as Grixis. That way if you want to build a Shard-specific deck, you can populate it with Basic lands appropriate to that shard.

This model gave us our 20 Basic Lands and allowed us to show you the full mana-producing 'landscape' for each of the Shards of Alara.

JJ


 October 1, 2008  

Q: I noticed that the five shards as you go around the color wheel, from white are: Bant, Esper, Grixis, Jund, Naya. They are in alphabetic order. Was this a conscious effort to make that happen? Or just a happy accident?
–Kevin, Renton, WA, USA

A: From Doug Beyer, Magic Creative Team:

I know, right?!

The shocking thing was, that was a coincidence. Creative Team manager Brady Dommermuth came up with the names for the five shards, injecting the words with sounds that sounded evocative of the flavor of each world, while also keeping the words short and easy to spell (partly because of my pleading that I would be using the words in a lot of card names). The order of them, alphabetical or otherwise, did not come up during those discussions.

After we settled on the names and started making lists of concept art and card cycles and such, it occurred to us that the lists were always in the same order, regardless of whether they were sorted alphabetically or in "shard order" by the traditional Magic ordering of their middle colors. BEGJN is the new WUBRG!


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