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On June 10th Wizards of the Coast released the rules changes that will go into effect when Magic’s newest core set Magic 2010 hits the shelves. Here’s my take on them. If you want to see the announcement go to  http://wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/feature/42a

1) Simultaneous Mulligans

Almost all by itself this rule proves the point they’re trying to make with these changes. This is the way people play the game already. Most places I’ve been to, even sanctioned tournaments (granted they’re low rules-level) don’t care if the players mulligan at the same time. As is expected this one isn’t getting crazy amounts of buzz.

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2) Terminology changes

42a_02o4sozpie_EN.jpgBattlefield:
“In play” is now The Battlefield. Which sounds cool, I guess, but if it was their intent to reduce confusion then this term doesn’t quite accomplish what they want. My first reaction when I encountered the term was that they were referring to the ‘red zone’ meaning the zone that is created during combat. The ‘red zone’ is not an actual zone in the game, but a lot of people treat it as such.

Cast/Play/Activate:
This is largely cleanup, you cast a spell (a non-land card), play a card (usually a land, although ‘casting’ is, in a way, a form of ‘playing’) 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 someone’s still going to have to explain the difference between the three to new players.

Exile:
This one makes sense, “Remove from game.” doesn’t really mean what it says it means. Adding the term “Exile” puts an end to the delusion that the ‘remove from game zone’ isn’t a harder-to-get-to graveyard. But it IS shorter to say than “harder-to-get-to graveyard”

Beginning of the End Step:
Another new phrase for clarification, this one just clears up when a given trigger happens, since ‘the end step’ is a window of time, rather than a succinct moment. Also it allows me to casually say “this is the beginning of the end” in a game.

3) Mana Pools and Mana Burn

42a_b7wqncgzja_EN.jpgLong story short, there will be no mana burn, and your mana pools will empty more frequently. Make a note here, we’re going to talk about what this does to the game in a few paragraphs.

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 ‘the changes’ they mean this change.
It’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 ‘combat tricks’ like bouncing a critter back to your hand while damage is on the stack, thus saving your creature while still killing your opponent’s.

Is this going to make the game worse? No. But I feel that, in a way it’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

42a_7w4mw1g49s_EN.jpgThe 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.

“Here’s how combat works now… except for creatures with deathtouch, they still follow the old rules.”

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, there’s a lot of streamlining here, and I do feel that most of them serve the purpose of making the game more intuitive. But don’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.

The Author

Rodrigo

Rodrigo

Nobody really knows what Rodrigo's deal is. He is a perpetual enigma, an unknown quantity, the X factor. He's the new kid in school, the unlisted number, the person all your friends talk about, but you've never met. How can one person be so mysterious, you ask? THAT IS ALSO TOTALLY A MYSTERY! You can try to keep tabs on him on twitter by following @fearsomecritter, but that probably won't help.

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4 Comments

  1. George McBain
    June 15, 2009 at 1:03 pm — Reply

    Gave up on the CCG before college in 2000 (need $ for booze, dammit!), but i will be downloading MtG for the Xbox 360 on Wednesday. A couple of friends are as well, so I am looking forward to it.

  2. Bronson
    June 16, 2009 at 12:56 pm — Reply

    As much as I hate to admit it, the change to combat damage will probably be better in the long run. It should make tournament play more accessible to beginners. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to stop a game to explain to a new player that if they would time their spell after damage was put on the stack, instead of after blockers, they would be doing a whole lot better. As much as I dislike that fact that Mog Fanatic will most likely lose some of its tournament oomph, streamlining the game is a worthy cause.

    And don’t worry about the game becoming simpler, give it a few months, and Wizards will have at least a half dozen new twists to the game. I’m still hoping they will bring back banding. (Just kidding)

  3. OS Perry
    June 16, 2009 at 4:56 pm — Reply

    I’m really looking forward to the Xbox 360 Arcade version as well. I haven’t played the game in years… but I liked the PC game version from Microprose, back in the late 90’s.

  4. Ian Vinoya
    July 8, 2009 at 10:09 pm — Reply

    well, there goes my putrid leech and colossal might

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