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How Death Will Change The Future of Magic: the Gathering August 4, 2011

Posted by James in : all, fake cards, game rules, complecated rules, speculation , trackback

Creatures can die and they can be destroyed. This is something new players will not be happy about. They don’t want to have to know the esoteric differences between the two. Even so, the new rule involving creatures dying can involve some interesting new mechanics.

What does it mean for a creature to die? It means it goes to the graveyard from play. That’s different from being destroyed because creatures that are destroyed could be regenerated; and indestructible creatures can die, but they can’t be destroyed.

You might think it’s silly that indestructible creatures can die, but this was a problem before the word “death” was added to Magic. To kill an indestructible creature you just have to sacrifice it or give it 0 toughness. The fact that indestructible creatures can die is counterintuitive and strange, but it’s great for pedantic pestering know-it-all Magic players like myself. And it gives us an excuse to have new mechanics.

Wizards of the Coast is keeping the fact that death will change the game a secret. They are acting like it’s just a way to discuss Magic in a more convenient way:

“Dies” and “is put into a graveyard from the battlefield” mean the same thing, so there are no functional changes resulting from this change. In other words, the new terminology won’t change how the cards work; it just makes a certain subset of cards easier to read and talk about. [My emphasis.] (The Mechanics of Magic 2012.)

Right now all death involves are creatures with triggered abilities for going to the graveyard from play. This will change. What are the new mechanics that death will bring about? Consider the following:

divine revelation

Divine Revelation shows that the mechanic isn’t just for creatures that have a triggered ability. Instead, creature removal can now cause unavoidable death. What exactly does Divine Revelation do? It puts all creatures into the graveyards. They can’t be regenerated, and being indestructible won’t save them. In other words it’s pretty much the same thing as forcing players to sacrifice their creatures in a much more elegant way.

Another example of this is Horrify:

horrify

However, powerful creature removal isn’t the only new mechanic that death will bring about. Eventually we will also get something like the following:

thor god of thunder

Thor features the mechanic “undying” which is a better sort of “indestructible.” It’s invulnerable or “invincible” in an all new way. It can’t be destroyed, sacrificed, or go to the graveyard from play for any other reason. However, it can still be countered, bounced, exiled, or stolen.

When will we see these new mechanics? I wouldn’t be too surprised if we see them both before Magic 2013, but I don’t expect to see undying for a while.

Comments»

1. Shadow caster0 - August 4, 2011

Interesting! I haven’t thought of the possibilities our ramifications of this simple rules change. What’s next? Will we see the end of self-named abilities? Will “this” help or hurt?

2. Vince - August 5, 2011

So, what if Thor get a -3/-3 ? He just stays on the battlefield with 0 toughness ?

3. James - August 6, 2011

Shadow caster0,

What do you mean by self-named abilities?

Vince,

Right, he would stay in play as a 0/0.

4. michael - August 19, 2011

wrong. Thor would die as a state based effect. The change to “dies” instead of “goes to the graveyard from the battlefield” has no rules changes.

Making those cards would also be confusing. It is like hiding some kind of old wording of Wrath of God under the “dies” word. The term is just for graveyard triggers. It has no other meaning.

5. michael - August 19, 2011

On top of that, “dies” is sort of a passive term. If you wanted your functionality, I would imagine a more active word like “kill” target creature.

6. James - August 19, 2011

Michael,

wrong. Thor would die as a state based effect. The change to “dies” instead of “goes to the graveyard from the battlefield” has no rules changes.

Right, there’s no rules changes needed. And he still doesn’t go to the graveyard. It says so right on the card.

Making those cards would also be confusing. It is like hiding some kind of old wording of Wrath of God under the “dies” word. The term is just for graveyard triggers. It has no other meaning.

I don’t find it confusing at all. The word “dies” doesn’t have anything to do with triggers. It just means it goes to the graveyard from play. The fact is that it’s only on triggered abilities right now, but what I am saying here is that there’s no reason to restrict the word to triggered abilities.

7. James - August 19, 2011

Death (as I’ve used it) might be somewhat confusing, but (as I said) “indestructible” is something I find even more confusing. It’s indestructible, but it can still die. Do you really want to explain that to new Magic players? Is that really so much easier to understand?

8. michael - August 24, 2011

What if Thor was made Legendary and another Thor entered the battlefield? What then?

Also
704.5f If a creature has toughness 0 or less, it’s put into its owner’s graveyard.

You cannot just make a card to break this game action. He isn’t Seto Kaiba…he can’t screw the rules cause he has money.

9. James - August 24, 2011

It can’t be put into the graveyard. It stays in play unless it’s boomeranged or exiled.

I am aware that rules put creatures in graveyards, and a creature that can’t be put into a graveyard from play are unaffected by them. Indestructible creatures are unaffected by “destroy” effects, and undying creatures are unaffected by dying effects.

You cannot just make a card to break this game action. He isn’t Seto Kaiba…he can’t screw the rules cause he has money.

Yes, I can, and I did. Gods are eternal, after all.

10. michael - August 25, 2011

Ok, you did. But why can you have more than one of the same God? How is that flavorful? Valhalla just happens to be filled with infinite of each deity in the pantheon?

Undying seems more like “if ~ would die, it doesn’t instead.”

I don’t like the keyword cause of how it is unflavorful, Thor on Thor action is a REALLY BORING game state and it breaks at least one State Based Action.

11. michael - August 25, 2011

At least you can Exile Gods…

12. James - August 25, 2011

My main concern here isn’t flavor or balance, so it’s possible that can be improved greatly. Every god (Avatar) in the game seems to be a nonlegendary creature so far. You can have Serra Avatar fight herself and so on. I guess gods are so powerful that they can be in more than one body at the same time.

13. michael - August 25, 2011

One of my points wasn’t with flavor or balance. It was with an boring game state where each player has Thor in play and a Pithing Needle set to Thor. Good luck attacking.

14. James - August 25, 2011

You said, “How is that flavorful?” My answer is that maybe it’s not.

Similar boring game states can already happen with indestructible creatures and powerful walls. Quite often players can’t attack just because both sides have a strong defense. Sometimes you have to try to overwhelm the opponent or use evasion to attack.

15. JCricket - September 6, 2011

You are speculating on a mechanic that they could easily have done even without this wording. Sure, they could do “all creatures die” but they could just as easily have done “all creatures are put into their owners’ graveyards.”

The mechanics article is correct. It really is just a more compact way to word things.

16. James - September 6, 2011

JCricket,

The words “indestructible” and “unblockable” both made significant changes to the game despite merely being new words introduced to the game. The language the game uses can effect the cards we should expect to see in the future.

17. Kevin - September 20, 2011

something that is indestructible can still die. there is nothing confusing about that. look at it this way: an indestructible creature cannot be dealt lethal damage or ‘destroyed’. but it can be infected, weakened, withered, etc. -1/-1 counters.
when it withers, it dies. it is not ‘destroyed’. no contradiction there in my opinion.

18. James - September 26, 2011

Kevin

something that is indestructible can still die. there is nothing confusing about that. look at it this way: an indestructible creature cannot be dealt lethal damage or ‘destroyed’. but it can be infected, weakened, withered, etc. -1/-1 counters.

Yes, but the word “indestructible” seems to imply that it can’t die. It’s a crazy way of “playing with words” and semantics.

when it withers, it dies. it is not ‘destroyed’. no contradiction there in my opinion.

Being confusing doesn’t imply that something is “wrong.” However, it is a contradiction in a sense depending on how you define “indestructible.” If someone said “I’m indestructible” and she died from an illness, many would say, “I guess she wasn’t indestructible after all!”

19. Matt - February 8, 2012

I would point out that comic nerds who have read The Death and Return of Superman will know that although Superman died, his body remained indestructible. No flavor disconnect there!

20. James - February 9, 2012

How could he die if his body is indestructible?

21. Koda - April 8, 2012

Nothing about this makes sense. “Die” means the same thing as “put into the graveyard.” There were plenty of unblockable critters before they called it unblockable. R&D isn’t allowed to just break the game for no reason. Your version of “Undying” does nothing BUT make boring game states, and there’s no point in that. It’s too similar to indestructible, which, in my opinion makes perfect flavor sense. Anything with 0 toughness ceases to exist. Superman could die because indestructible=/=immortal. He died. He was not destroyed.

22. Koda - April 8, 2012

Also, about not caring whether something is flavorful or not: Most people do, to an extent. WotC cares about money. Make people not want to play, they don’t get money. Therefore, they have to keep it flavorful and fun. Undying is neither of those things. (To be clear, I mean your Undying. The Undying in Dark Ascension and Avacyn Restored is a lot of fun, in my experience.) And they have to keep it from getting too complex. To make a creature Die is so similar to Exile or Destroy or Sacrifice that it just clutters up the game. It’s stupid.

23. James - April 10, 2012

Koda,

Nothing about this makes sense. “Die” means the same thing as “put into the graveyard.” There were plenty of unblockable critters before they called it unblockable. R&D isn’t allowed to just break the game for no reason.

What broke the game?

Your version of “Undying” does nothing BUT make boring game states, and there’s no point in that. It’s too similar to indestructible, which, in my opinion makes perfect flavor sense. Anything with 0 toughness ceases to exist. Superman could die because indestructible=/=immortal. He died. He was not destroyed.

Undying might make perfect sense for flavor reasons. Gods can’t die. They are eternal.

I don’t think the ability is boring. How much fun is indestructible when you can’t deal with it?

24. James - April 10, 2012

Koda,

This is what I said:

My main concern here isn’t flavor or balance, so it’s possible that can be improved greatly. Every god (Avatar) in the game seems to be a nonlegendary creature so far. You can have Serra Avatar fight herself and so on. I guess gods are so powerful that they can be in more than one body at the same time.

I never said that flavor doesn’t matter to the game at all. My point is just to introduce some card ideas. I never said the cards should actually exist as I thought of them. I never said they are balanced.