jump to navigation

20 Rules That No Longer Exist (Updated 7/30/13) May 1, 2012

Posted by James in : all, game rules , trackback

Magic: the Gathering has gone through many changes and it’s not quite the game it was originally. I will discuss 20 rules changes. Most of the rules changes made a major difference, but some of them made almost no difference at all.

1. No restrictions

Originally you could not only play ante and cards that depend on ante (like Contract from Below), but you could use any number of a card in your deck without restriction. You could make an all-lightning-bolt deck or something even more powerful.

A rule that restricted decks to 4 of each card and a rule that banned ante cards from tournament play were introduced to the game very quickly — in January 1994 when the first official deck construction tournament rules were made.

A banned and restricted list was also made available in January 1994. Ali from Cairo, Rukh Egg, and Orcish Oriflamme were all restricted.

2. 40-cards minimum

Originally constructed decks only had to have forty cards in them. A rule was introduced that required them to have at least 60 cards in January of 1994 as part of the first original deck construction rules for tournament play. The original rule might have been perfectly good when so few cards were available to make decks, but it quickly became broken as expansions were made available.

3. Mono, Continuous, and Poly Artifacts

There were originally three artifact types — mono, continuous, and poly. Mono artifacts were tapped when they were activated, poly artifacts did not tap when they were activated, and continuous artifacts were never activated. This silly part of the game was eliminated in April 1994 when Revised Edition was released.

Did this rules change make a difference? Not really. There was pretty much no reason to have mono, poly, or continuous artifacts.

nevinyrral's disk

4. Only one of a particular legend in a deck

Legends were originally made in Legends in June 1994. Decks were originally restricted to only have one of each legend in a deck. You could not play two or more of a particular legend.This rule was very quickly discarded.

Also, originally you could give a creature the Wall creature type to basically give it defender, and you could give creatures the Legend creature type (what is now called “legendary creatures”). Now all legendary creatures have some other creature type, and walls don’t automatically have defender.

5. The batch timing system

In April 2005, Fourth Edition introduced the batch timing system. This is what was used before “the stack.” Players could only respond to spells and abilities with instants that haven’t yet resolved before any of those spells or abilities resolve. Once a single spell or ability resolves, no other spell or ability that’s awaiting resolution can be responded to with an instant.

Ben Bleiweiss describes the batch timing system in the following way:

In the beginning, there was the batch. You played a spell, a flurry of “fast effects” were played in response, and then everything (well, everything except interrupts) resolved using the “last in, first out rule,” with no chance of playing more spells in the middle.

6. Killing A Permanent Could Counter Abilities

There used to be a spell type called an “interrupt” that was faster than instants. Only interrupts could respond to interrupts. Some interrupts could destroy permanents, such as Red Elemental Blast. If you killed a permanent that was being activated for an ability, then the ability was countered. This rule was changed when Fifth Edition was released in March 1997 — the new rule stated that interrupts that target permanents are played as instants.

red elemental blast

7. Mana Sources

Fifth edition introduced “mana source” cards in March 1997. Dark ritual was one of the only cards of this kind. They were faster than interrupts and nothing could respond to them. Mana Source cards become instants when Sixth Edition was introduced in April 1999.

dark ritual

8. No/All Land Mulligan

Originally no mulligans were allowed at all, but mulligans were quickly allowed in 1994 along with sanctioned tournament events. The first rule was that you either had to have no lands or all lands to mulligan. You’d show your hand to the opponent and draw a new hand. You could only mulligan once each game. This rule was eventually replaced by the “Paris Mulligan Rule,” which was first tested out in the Pro Tour L.A. in February 1997.

9. Play First And Draw First

Originally players who played first got to draw a card during his or her draw step. (I’m not sure when this rule was changed, but now players who play first skip their first draw step.)

10. Time Between Turns

There used to be some time between turns where players could use mana abilities or untap Time Vault. This time only existed because of Time Vault, but it led to a crazy combo involving Wall of Blossoms.

This rule was done away with in January 1998 in order to do away with the combo mentioned above. I do not know when “between turns” was first made available.

11. Cards Do What’s Printed on Them

Originally cards did whatever was printed on them and there was no oracle text (although some cards were given an errata). Orcish Oriflamme was one of the first restricted cards precisely because it was printed in Alpha with a low mana cost:

orcish oriflamme

At some point cards would only do what the newest version said, but even then there was a special rule that said Type 1 tournaments (vintage tournaments) didn’t care about the newest cards and still did what the cards say on them!

I believe Oracle text was introduced along with Sixth Edition in April 1999, which tells us what the cards “actually do.” I believe that this is the point that Type 1 tournaments started to use oracle text along with all other tournament types.

12. You Die from Life Loss At The End of a Phase

Originally you didn’t die from life loss until the phase was over. You could kill yourself with a City of Brass, then switch life totals with Mirror Universe. This rule was done away with when Sixth Edition was introduced in April 1999.

13. Tapped Blockers Deal No Damage

Originally tapped blockers dealt no damage, so cards like Twiddle and Icy Manipulator were much more powerful. This rule was done away with when Sixth Edition was introduced.


14. Tapped Artifacts Lose All Abilities

Originally tapped artifacts lost all their abilities. People used to tap Winter Orb at the end of an opponent’s turn to untap all their lands. That way Winter Orb would only effect the opponent. (Of course, Winter Orb was given an errata to still shut off when it’s tapped anyway!)

This rule was also done away with when Sixth Edition was introduced

winter orb

15. Interrupts

Counterspells were originally Interrupts, and they were faster than Instants. Nothing could respond to an interrupt other than another interrupt.  Power Sink was once one of the most powerful cards because you could force the opponent to tap his or her lands and no instants could be played in response. Interrupts became instants when Sixth Edition was introduced.

power sink

16. Triggered Abilities Can’t Be Responded To

Originally nothing could respond to triggered abilities. You could respond to Terror, but you couldn’t respond to Nekrataal’s triggered ability. Originally triggered abilities could even occur during the resolution of a spell.
Sixth Edition changed that when it introduced the stack, and triggered abilities then went on the stack along with all other spells and abilities.


17. Damage Prevention Bubble

There was originally something called a “damage prevention bubble.” Before damage would be officially dealt there was a moment that damage prevention spells and abilities (or regeneration spells or abilities) would be played.

This rule was done away with when Sixth Edition was introduced. At that point damage prevention and regeneration were treated as “shields” that stayed in effect until end of turn.

18. Summon Spells

Creatures used to count as “summon spells.” This rule was changed with the introduction of Sixth Edition and at that point we had “creature” spells instead.

19. Upkeep costs

Originally permanents could have upkeep costs and abilities that would be played at some point during the upkeep. This allowed players to do things before upkeep abilities were triggered because nothing could respond to triggered abilities at that time.

When Sixth Edition was released, all upkeep abilities become ordinary triggered abilities that trigger at the beginning of the turn, but they now went on the stack along with other spells and abilities.

20. Protection Stopped Trample Damage

Originally protection could prevent all damage from a creature with trample. You couldn’t assign damage to the protection creature and the defender player with an attacking creature that had trample when it was blocked by a creature that had protection (of a relevant kind). This rule was done away with when Sixth Edition was introduced.

(Updated 7/30/13: I originally said that you could only have one of a particular legend in a deck, but now I realize it might have just been a rumor I heard.)


1. Recoculous.com: Magic the Gathering Articles » 10 Other Secret Rules That No Longer Exist - July 30, 2013

[…] I discussed 20 rules that no longer exist. I will now discuss 10 other rules that no longer exist that many people never knew about: […]