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Unscrewed Part 3: Scimitar of Sharing November 25, 2008

Posted by James in : all, random, fake cards, game rules, theory, complecated rules, design , trackback

After reading the reminder text for equipment, I noticed that it didn’t say anything about equipping several creatures to one equipment. This is what the reminder text for “equip” originally said:

[payment]: Attach to target creature you control. Equip only as a sorcery. This card comes into play unattached and stays in play if the creature leaves play.

Of course, we all know that Equipment (and enchantments) cannot become attached to multiple permanents. But how can we be sure?

How we know that equipment cannot attach to multiple permanents

I read the rules for “equip” and “attach” only to find out the greatest secret of Magic the Gathering. There is no rule that states that you can’t attach one permanent to multiple other permanents! In order to infer this fact from the rules is actually incredibly complected… or impossible. I will attempt to explain how the rules are meant to imply that one equipment cannot be equipped to multiple creatures.

At first I thought I understood why you couldn’t equip one equipment to several creatures: Permanents that are “attached” to other permanents are physically connected to the other permanents. You put an equipment onto the creature it is attached to. This is rule 501.2a:

To attach an Aura, Equipment, or Fortification to an object means to take it from where it currently is and put it onto that object. If something is attached to a permanent in play, it’s customary to place it so that it’s physically touching the permanent. An Aura, Equipment, or Fortification can’t be attached to an object it couldn’t enchant, equip, or fortify, respectively.

Equipment already states that you can equip it to a creature. Whenever you try to equip it to two creatures it will move “from where it currently is and put it onto that object.” This is understood as stating that it will become unattached to whatever it is already attached to, if anything.

However, there is one exception: Players. Enchantments can be attached to players, and they don’t have to physically touch us. Rule 502.45d specifically states, “Auras that can enchant a player can target and be attached to players. Such Auras can’t target permanents and can’t be attached to permanents.”

Notice that attaching to a player is not entirely the same idea of “attaching” to permanents because you don’t actually move these enchantments onto players. The rules for “attach” states that we move the permanent onto the “object,” which could be a player. This is clearly false, but it could be understood as a metaphor. We could “imagine” that the enchantment is moved onto a player. Wizards of the Coast is self-conscious about this fact because the rules for “attach” states, “If something is attached to a permanent in play, it’s customary to place it so that it’s physically touching the permanent.” We have already been told to move permanents from where it currently is onto the object it is attached to, and this sounds to me like it means we physically put one card on top of another.

The rules says nothing about how we can “move an enchantment onto a player” without physically putting it there! Think about this for a moment. The rules state that any permanent that becomes attached to a player is moved from wherever it currently is and it is put onto the object. We don’t actually put enchantments onto human beings! At this point it is clear that the words “move the permanent onto the object” are confusing at best, and meaningless at worst. So what does it really mean to attach a permanent to a player? I suggest the following: You abstractly remember to consider the enchantment to be enchanting a player. We might as well re-define attach to mean, “abstractly consider this to be attached to an object.” In other words, the meaning of “attach” is not really physical. It is merely a logical relationship: “Attach this aura to a creature. If this is attached to a creature, the creature gets +1/+2.”

This abstract notion of “attach” does not provide a basis for our inability to attach one permanent to multiple other permanents. We can “abstractly” consider an enchantment to be “attached” to many permanents or many players. However, Wizards of the Coast won’t allow us to do this. An enchantment attached to a player is still considered to be “moved onto” that player, and it can be “moved onto” a different player. But no enchantment will enchant two players at once.

We are forced to admit that the abstract notion of attachment in Magic the Gathering does require us to envision some kind of physical touching within our imagination. Why? Because a permanent can’t be attached to two other permanents. So far the rules don’t make this fact clear, but the rules do mention the mutually exclusive activity of “moving an object onto another object” when we attach it onto a permanent. In other words, the rules imply the fact that we can’t attach a permanent to multiple other permanents without explicitly stating this fact. Instead, Wizards uses a metaphor to encourage us to imagine that two objects are physically attached.

In order to show the glory of abstract attachments, consider the following new Unscrewed card:

scimitar of sharing magic card

It is true that it is often “unrealistic” for one equipment to be attached to many creatures, which explains why Wizards made this rule in the first place. However, the use of equipment isn’t very realistic anyway. Why can a lion be equipped to ten or more scimitars? Or ten shields? Also, it’s not always unrealistic for equipment to be equipped to several creatures. What  about battering rams and catapults?

Update: Alternative rules for “attach.”

Although I have criticized the wording for the rules concerning “attach” I still need to give you an alternative. The fact is that the rules for “attach” are misrepresented through unnecessary metaphorical language. The rules are going to be stated in a much more precise language when we take a look at Magic Online.

I don’t know the precise code Magic Online has for “attach,” but I can describe what I believe it to be in ordinary language:

To attach a permanent to an object means to permanently consider that permanent to be attached to the object. Each permanent can only be attached to one object at a time. Permanents cannot be attached to themselves. If a permanent is attached to another permanent in play, it’s customary to place it so that it’s physically touching the permanent. An Aura, Equipment, or Fortification can’t be attached to an object it couldn’t enchant, equip, or fortify, respectively.

In other words it is unnecessary to say that a permanent is “moved onto” another object. All that matters is that we consider the permanent to be attached to the object and remember what object the permanent is attached to. The word “attach” is merely a kind of memorization. Permanents that are attached to an object stay attached to that object until it becomes unattached. If a permanent is attached to a permanent becomes attached to another permanent, then it will also become unattached to the permanent it is currently attached to.

Consider the oracle text of Black Vise: As Black Vise comes into play, choose an opponent. At the beginning of the chosen player’s upkeep, Black Vise deals X damage to that player, where X is the number of cards in his or her hand minus 4.

Black Vise is basically a card that becomes attached to a player, but the makers of the card realized that it is unnecessary to even use the word “attach.” Magic Online can be programmed to treat Black Vise to be an attachment. It is functionally equivalent to being an attachment. The only difference is that it won’t be considered “attached.” (This is no different than cards that ask you to “choose” a permanent rather than “target” a permanent. It technically doesn’t “target” even though it is functionally the same thing.)

In other words, we should be able to explain the rules for “attach” the same way that we explain the rules for Black Vise.

The image from Scimitar of Sharing is an altered image from Sinbad, the animated feature length film.


1. michael - November 25, 2008

There is no secret here, the rules are as plain as day. You are overlooking the glossary where in “move” has a special meaning in Magic that is separate from Emglish.

212.2h An Equipment is played and comes into play just like any other artifact. An Equipment doesn’t come into play attached to a creature. The equip keyword ability moves the Equipment onto a creature you control (see rule 502.33, “Equip”). Control of the creature matters only when the equip ability is played and when it resolves. The creature to which the Equipment is to be moved must be able to be equipped by it. If it can’t, the Equipment doesn’t move.

To move a counter means to take it from where it currently is and put it onto another object. If the object the counter would move from has no counters, or either that object or any possible objects the counter would move onto are no longer in the correct zone when the effect would move the counter, nothing happens.
Some older cards used “move” to describe taking an Aura on one object and putting it onto another. These cards now say “attach.”


2. James - November 25, 2008

michael, I talked about this fact in the article. I spoke about taking the permanent from where it is and putting it onto the object. This language is not meant to be taken literally, so it is strange language.

3. michael - November 25, 2008

For all practical purposes, the fact that auras and equipment physically touch the card they are attached to is to remove the memory aspect (you can usually figure out the Enchant Player from context).

They are trying to get across the idea of a 1 to 1 relationship for these objects (if you want to rewrite the comp rules to be more precise, see if you can do that). This scimitar creates a many to 1 relationship which doesn’t exist in magic for this kind of thing.

Also, how come there isn’t any bonus for having more than one creature attached to it? It seems like it should be uncommon. On this card specifically, does it still follow the basic rule of equip…namely that you cannot equip the same equipment more than once?

4. James - November 25, 2008

michael, I will add my own re-wording for attach soon. This is something I forgot to do before.

You can’t equip one creature more than once with Scimitar of Sharing. There is a rule specifically about that already that states that you can try to equip a creature more than once, but nothing will happen. In other words, equipping more than once to one permanent is already clearly stated in the rules in a much more clear manner than the fact that one permanent can’t be attached to multiple permanent.

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