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Magic 2010 Rules Updates & Dual Lands June 12, 2009

Posted by James in : all, game rules, complecated rules , trackback

Updated (June 26, 2009)

There have been many rules changes to M10 (Core Set Magic 2010) and a few cards have been previewed. You can see the rules changes here. They will be effective when Magic 2010 is released (prereleased) on July 11, 2009. I will discuss the new dual lands, and each of the new changes here.

New Dual Lands

glacial fortress new m10 dual land

The new dual lands will all be like this. We will no longer see pain lands, and we will see these instead.

nimbus mazeYes, this card is better than Nimbus Maze. However, Nimbus Maze is not that great of a dual land, and neither are these. The new dual lands are neither “awesome” nor “powerful,” as they were promised to be.  Why? Because a two color deck needs at least 12 dual lands. There’s a good chance that you will never see a basic land, so these lands will come into play tapped (early in the game). That isn’t always bad thing unless you are playing an aggro (aggressive) deck.

Control decks generally don’t care to use all their lands early game, so these lands work perfectly fine for the most part.

The blue dual lands will be the best because blue is best in control decks (and blue dual lands already end up worth too much money). The green dual lands will be the worst considering that green isn’t very important in control decks.

Update (June 16, 2009): The new dual lands also reveal a serious mistake on those who design Magic: the Gathering:They force us to play basic lands. Therefore, they force us to do something we don’t want to do. Mark Rosewater admits that this is one of the worst things to do to the game, but he makes it over and over. (Go here to see him talk about this kind of mistake.) We don’t want to have to play basics. We don’t want to have to play tribal decks. And we don’t want to have to play 3 colored decks. Yet we are forced to. This is a mistake!

I suspected that Wizards would make dual lands that are basic land friendly and predicted a similar but less elegant card:


Bog considers the fact that you don’t want a lot of basic lands in a deck, so any basic land benefits you. It can also get you a basic land if necessary. Also, the new basic lands work well with Ravnica’s dual lands (shock lands) because nonbasic lands with basic land types work well with them. That isn’t the case with my idea, which work best if you really do play with basic lands.

You can see many ideas for the Magic 2010 dual lands here.

Rules Changes

1) Simultaneous Mulligans

The Reality: Outside of tournament play, most players do not obey the by-the-book protocol for handling mulligans in which one player resolves all of his or her mulligans before the next player resolves any of his. Instead, players mulligan more or less at the same time.

The Fix: Mulligans will now officially be handled simultaneously. This will significantly cut down on time spent shuffling before each tournament game.

This change doesn’t bother me much. No complaints here. However, mulligans should be free in a casual environment. I have taken about 10 free mulligans in a row when playing casual when I can’t seem to draw any lands. If mulligans will be taken seriously, then I will have to spend more time shuffling to make sure the lands are completely randomized throughout the deck.

2) Terminology Changes

While Magic is full of flavorful and resonant terms (graveyard, library, spell, sorcery, combat, etc.), some of our terminology is generic, vague, and/or misleading. We are making four distinct terminology changes, both in printed card sets going forward and in Oracle, to make the game both clearer and more evocative.

2A) Battlefield

The Reality: Some players are confused by the subtle difference between “play” and “put into play.” The name “in-play zone” breaks the metaphor the rest of the game tries to establish.

The Fix: The in-play zone is renamed the “battlefield,” which brings it in line with other flavorful zone names like “graveyard” and “library.” Permanents now “enter the battlefield” or are “put onto the battlefield” as opposed to “come into play” or “put into play.”

This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but what are lands doing “in a battlefield”? Lands usually have nothing to do with battle.

2B) Cast, Play, and Activate

The Reality: Again, some players are confused by the subtle difference between “play” and “put into play.” The term “cast” was retired from game rules at the time of Classic Sixth Edition for reasons I no longer believe are relevant—to streamline the rules and condense the number of terms down at the cost of flavor. Most players today who played pre-Sixth (and some who didn’t!) still use the term “cast.” It makes sense for spells to be “cast” as opposed to “played.”

The Fix: “Cast” is being reinstated as the verb used when referring to the act of playing spells or types of spells. “Play” is being kept as the verb associated with lands (and with cards of unspecified types). Activated abilities are also no longer “played” but rather “activated.”

I like this change, except it makes some wording strange. You can’t word an ability “Sacrifice this whenever you play a spell or ability.” It would have to be worded as “Sacrifice this whenever you cast a spell or activate an ability,” which is inelegant.

2C) Exile

The Reality: “Removed from the game” is increasingly a misnomer as we design more cards that use the removed-from-the-game zone as a temporary holding cell for cards that are very much still in the game. Like the “in-play zone,” the name “removed-from-the-game zone” does a poor job of maintaining the game’s fantasy metaphor.

The Fix: The phrase “remove from the game” is being changed to “exile,” which is shorter, more flavorful, and not at all misleading about actually being in the game. The zone is now called the “exile zone” and cards in it will be referred to as “exiled cards.”

Not a bad change, except I don’t like that the wishes are less good. “Exiled cards” are basically just in a second graveyard, and they are not considered to be “outside the game.”

2D) Beginning of the End Step

The Reality: The subtle but important difference between the phrases “at end of turn” and “until end of turn” in our card templates is a constant source of confusion for players. “At end of turn” really means “at the beginning of the end-of-turn step,” which is not the actual end of the turn. In fact, it is often strategically correct to take certain actions during the end-of-turn step after “at end of turn” triggers are processed, which many players have trouble wrapping their heads around. Compounding this is the fact that “until end of turn” effects, like that of Giant Growth, last until the actual end of the turn.

The Fix: This one didn’t involve the creation of any new terminology. Instead, it involves a minor rules update (changing the name of the “end-of-turn step” to the “end step”) and a change in how we are templating cards. We will now refer to the time when such triggers happen as what it actually is: “at the beginning of the end step.” Hopefully this will more clearly convey the existence of a window in the turn after these triggers occur during which more spells and abilities can be used. “Until end of turn” will still be used for effects with durations such as Giant Growth.

This is my favorite change. Now “until end of turn” really does mean “until the turn is completely over,” which means the same thing as “until the next player’s turn.”  This makes sense. I don’t understand why Giant Growth did this before, but other cards didn’t.

3) Mana Pools and Mana Burn

3A) Mana Pools Emptying

The Reality: Many players can’t clearly distinguish between phases and steps. The fact that mana remains in pools from step to step but not phase to phase is arbitrary. The concept of floating mana from step to step is hard to understand. Mana pools, in general, should be empty most of the time that players pass priority for ease of keeping track of the game state.

The Fix: Mana pools now empty at the end of each step and phase, which means mana can no longer be floated from the upkeep to the draw step, nor from the declare attackers step to the declare blockers step of combat.

I didn’t even know how this worked before.

3B) Mana Burn Eliminated

The Reality: Many players aren’t aware of the existence of mana burn as a game concept. Discovering it exists, especially via an opponent manipulating his own life total for gain, can be jarring. Its existence impacts game play in a negligible way, whereas its existence impacts card design space somewhat significantly.

The Fix: Mana burn is eliminated as a game concept. Mana left unspent at the end of steps or phases will simply vanish, with no accompanying loss of life.

braid of fireThis is a huge change and it ruins some decks. It also makes me angry because I bought 16 Braid of Fire cards a few days before the rules change because I suspected that it would happen, then the ebay seller said he would only give me four of the cards I won. (Does he hope to relist them and sell them for more? The price has gone up quite quickly.)

Updated (June 26, 2008): The Ebay seller that decided not to sell me the Braid of Fire cards has 21 more of them on their website.

4) Token Ownership

The Reality: The current “token ownership” rule is poorly understood, mainly because it doesn’t make a ton of sense. Currently, the owner of a token is “the controller of the effect that put it into play.” That means I own the tokens put into play under your control due to my >Hunted Dragon or Forbidden Orchard, which allows me to do unintuitive tricks with cards like Brand or Warp World. Few people are aware of this rule, and assume that the owner of the tokens is the player under whose control they entered the battlefield.

The Fix: We are matching most players’ expectation by changing the rule such that the owner of a token is, in fact, the player under whose control it entered the battlefield.

I can live with this change, but it does ruin some Brand combo decks.

5) Combat Damage No Longer Uses the Stack

The Reality: The intricate system via which combat is currently handled creates many unintuitive gameplay moments. For starters, “the stack” is a difficult concept, even after all these years, so it is no wonder that many players go about combat without invoking it at all. Second, creatures disappearing after damage has been put on the stack leads to a ton of confusion and disbelief: How is that Mogg Fanatic killing two creatures? How did that creature kill mine but make your Nantuko Husk big enough to survive? How can you Unsummon your creature and have it still deal damage? While many of us may be used to the way things are now, it makes no sense in terms of a game metaphor and only a bit more sense as a rule.

The Fix: As soon as damage is assigned in the combat damage step, it is dealt. There is no time to cast spells and activate abilities in between; the last time to do so prior to damage being dealt is during the declare blockers step.

Not the end of the world, but it does make a lot of the cards less powerful. In fact, damage prevention is now almost worthless. (Actually it was already almost worthless. Now it’s worse than that.)

5A) Combat now has a Declare Blocking Creature Order Step

[D]uring the declare blockers step, if a creature is blocked by multiple creatures, the attacker immediately announces an order in which that attacking creature will be assigning damage to the blockers. When it comes time to actually deal the damage, lethal damage must be assigned to the first blocker before any can be assigned to the second, and so on. Now, in complex combat situations there will be some foreknowledge of which creatures are in the most danger before damage is dealt.

This is a huge change, despite what Wizards tries to convince us. Core sets didn’t have trample for years, and now all creatures have trample (to some extent.) This will make combat slower and more complected. This is probably the rules change that I like the least, but Wizards thought it was necessary to make damage prevention better. (Preventing damage before damage is dealt would usually mean that the opponent will deal no damage to the creature with damage prevention.)

Instead of preventing damage to creatures or players, they could simply make more cards that prevent damage from a target source.

What is so terrible about this change, other than the trample complication? Look at the example given in the rules change update and you will see how terrible and overly-complected it can end up being.

6) Deathtouch

The Reality: There are two problems with deathtouch. One, the fact that it is a triggered ability leads to instances where a single creature needs to regenerate twice from a single source with deathtouch, which is unnecessarily hard to intuit. Second, the deathtouch ability as currently worded doesn’t work well under the new combat rules. If a creature with deathtouch, like Kederekt Creeper, is double-blocked by two 3/3s, the new rules wouldn’t allow the division of damage between the blockers, which kind of defeats the point of the card and fails to live up to expectations of how deathtouch should function.

The Fix: First, deathtouch is becoming a static ability. Creatures dealt damage by a source with deathtouch will be destroyed as a state-based effect at the same time lethal damage would kill them. As a side effect, multiple instances of deathtouch will no longer be cumulative. Second, deathtouch allows a double-blocked creature to ignore the new damage assignment rules and split its damage among any number of creatures it’s in combat with however its controller wants to.

I’m not happy with this change because it makes deathtouch creatures totally different than any other creature. Why can they deal damage however they want? Creatures with deathtouch and trample still can’t deal 1 damage to each creature and the rest to the opponent. Why can it trample over creatures, but not onto players?

7) Lifelink

The Reality: The fact that lifelink is a triggered ability leads to situations where the controller of a blocker with lifelink dies from combat damage before lifelink can grant that player enough life to stay alive. Many players get this interaction wrong; the subtle difference in timing is unfortunate.

The Fix: Lifelink, like deathtouch, is turning into a static ability. If a source with lifelink deals damage, its controller gains that much life as that damage is being dealt. This brings the timing much closer to spells like Consume Spirit and Lightning Helix. As a side effect, multiple instances of lifelink are no longer cumulative.

I liked that I could kill a player with lifelink on the stack. This change makes lifelink very powerful and it will be very difficult to beat players with powerful lifelink creatures.


1. michael - June 24, 2009

I would just like to say…ZOMG Lightning Bolt is back!!1!!ONE11!!!ELEVENTY!!1!!

2. James - June 24, 2009

Yes, so everything is falling into place isn’t it? I didn’t predict it would come back this soon, but I’m not shocked about it. Considering an all bolt deck would give you a fourth turn win, I thought it was still too powerful, but they keep making them anyway. (Shard Volley, Rift Bolt, etc.) Welcome to the power creep.

I wonder if 11th Edition will finally be the way “Magic should be”: A game with a lot of power, a balanced game, lots of small combos, but without telling us how to make decks.