On June 10th Wizards of the Coast released the rules changes that will go into effect when Magicâ€™s newest core set Magic 2010 hits the shelves. Hereâ€™s my take on them. If you want to see the announcement go toÂ http://wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/feature/42a
1) Simultaneous Mulligans
Almost all by itself this rule proves the point theyâ€™re trying to make with these changes. This is the way people play the game already. Most places Iâ€™ve been to, even sanctioned tournaments (granted theyâ€™re low rules-level) donâ€™t care if the players mulligan at the same time. As is expected this one isnâ€™t getting crazy amounts of buzz.
2) Terminology changes
â€œIn playâ€ is now The Battlefield. Which sounds cool, I guess, but if it was their intent to reduce confusion then this term doesnâ€™t quite accomplish what they want. My first reaction when I encountered the term was that they were referring to the â€˜red zoneâ€™ meaning the zone that is created during combat. The â€˜red zoneâ€™ is not an actual zone in the game, but a lot of people treat it as such.
This is largely cleanup, you cast a spell (a non-land card), play a card (usually a land, although â€˜castingâ€™ is, in a way, a form of â€˜playingâ€™) and activate an ability (Usually an ability with a colon on a permanent). Does this change the game? No. Does it make it less confusing? Also no, because someoneâ€™s still going to have to explain the difference between the three to new players.
This one makes sense, â€œRemove from game.â€ doesnâ€™t really mean what it says it means. Adding the term â€œExileâ€ puts an end to the delusion that the â€˜remove from game zoneâ€™ isnâ€™t a harder-to-get-to graveyard. But it IS shorter to say than â€œharder-to-get-to graveyardâ€
Beginning of the End Step:
Another new phrase for clarification, this one just clears up when a given trigger happens, since â€˜the end stepâ€™ is a window of time, rather than a succinct moment. Also it allows me to casually say â€œthis is the beginning of the endâ€ in a game.
3) Mana Pools and Mana Burn
4) Token Ownership
This one also makes sense, if a token comes into play under your control, you own the token. It makes it easier and the alternative very rarely comes up.
5) Combat Damage No Longer Uses the Stack
This right here is THE CHANGE, when you hear people talking about liking or not liking â€˜the changesâ€™ they mean this change.
Itâ€™s as simple as that, damage is simply applied, it no longer uses the stack.
There has already been a lot of discussion about this. Largely the only thing this affects is â€˜combat tricksâ€™ like bouncing a critter back to your hand while damage is on the stack, thus saving your creature while still killing your opponentâ€™s.
Is this going to make the game worse? No. But I feel that, in a way itâ€™ll greatly diminish it.
This and the eradication of mana burn are two rules that simplify the game at the expense of diminishing (or outright destroying) several strategies. Is that a bad thing? No. But it is a sad thing. These two changes, I feel, have shrunk the game. Now you can no longer tie your opponent down by making his lands produce too much mana. Now you can no longer hit a creature for two with a Mog Fanatic or a Druergar Assailant. It is a rules interaction that is no longer there, it is a cog taken out of the Magic machinery, and the game is (ever so slightly) less interesting and complex for it.
6) Deathtouch and Lifelink
The new combat rules also include a new way for assigning damage to blockers, which requires a revision of Deathtouch and Lifelink. Lifelink, I feel was largely made better (It is now a static ability, rather than a triggered one). But deathtouch has largely undermined a lot of the new changes.
In the new rules, damage is assigned differently for multiple blockers,. Essentially the attacker lines them up in order and decides which critter takes the most damage. But that new rule largely neuters deathtouch. So when deathtouch comes into play the game reverts to some of the old rules.
â€œHereâ€™s how combat works nowâ€¦ except for creatures with deathtouch, they still follow the old rules.â€
In the same way that the simultaneous mulligans reflect the simple change to more intuitive gameplay, the relationship between deathtouch and the new rules indicates that Magic remains as complex, and more importantly, as complicated as it ever was. Are the new rules for the better? Sure, thereâ€™s a lot of streamlining here, and I do feel that most of them serve the purpose of making the game more intuitive. But donâ€™t be fooled, as with most games with multiple editions, for everything they simplify, something else becomes more complicated. That said, the new rules are no cause for alarm, gameplay will be only nominally affected, and soon no one will remember heady days when damage used the stack.