Ask Wizards - September, 2008

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Do you have a question about Magic: The Gathering or Wizards of the Coast? Send it, along with your name and location, to us via this email form. We'll post a new question and answer each day.

 September 30, 2008  

Q: Why didn't you translate the word "Planeswalker" on Russian Shards of Alara cards? You already used such a fine word as "Мироходец" in Lorwyn, so why couldn't you do it again?
–Andrey, Moscow, Russia

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

The answer to this question is in the Shards of Alara FAQ (available on the Magic Set FAQs page), with a twist: it's not in the English FAQ! This is because people looking just at the English cards would never know that our policy had changed.

Here's the relevant section:

***Ранее встречавшийся тип карты: Planeswalker (Мироходец)***

Тип карты, ранее называвшийся «Мироходец», изменяется. Начиная с выпуска Осколки Алары во всех языках будет использоваться одно и то же английское слово — «planeswalker».Planeswalker-ы постепенно становятся центральными литературными и игровыми персонажами Magic: The Gathering.

Использование единого названия в разных странах и языках позволяет упорядочить терминологию, как это уже было сделано несколько лет назад в отношении бренда Magic: The Gathering. Игра Magic одинакова во всем мире, то же самое справедливо и по отношению к planeswalker-ам.
Planeswalker-ы — могучие союзники, сражающиеся на вашей стороне.
Пятеро из них дебютировали в выпуске Лорвин, и вот, наконец, в выпуске Осколки Алары появляются несколько новых героев.(Тип карты у тех пяти карт теперь изменяется на «planeswalker».)
Информацию о том, как разыгрывать карты planeswalker-ов, можно найти в документе «Часто задаваемые вопросы (FAQ) — выпуск Лорвин» или на сайте по следующей ссылке:

Oh, and for English-speakers who are wondering what that said, here's the original version that was translated but didn't go into the English FAQ:

***Returning Card Type: Planeswalkers ([insert translated planeswalker type here])***

The name of the card type "[insert translated planeswalker type here]" is changing. Beginning with the _Shards of Alara_ set, the same word -- "planeswalker" -- will be the used in all countries. The planeswalkers are becoming pivotal characters in the _Magic: The Gathering_ storyline and game; unifying their name is a way to create a common language across the various countries, the same way the _Magic: The Gathering_ brand name was unified a couple of years ago. The _Magic_ game is the same everywhere in the world, and so are the planeswalkers.

Planeswalkers are powerful allies you can call on to fight by your side. They were introduced in the _Lorwyn_ set, and this set contains the first new ones since the original five. (Those five cards now have the card type "planeswalker.")

For information about how to play planeswalkers, please see the _Lorwyn_ FAQ or the following website:

 September 29, 2008 – Double Ask Wizards Classic!  

Q: Why have most of the white Soldiers in Legions lost their mouths?
–Ryan, Ottowa, ON, Canada

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director:

Thanks for asking, Ryan. Here's the deal with all the "mutations" in the Legions set: Deep in the Krosan Forest, the Mirari lies buried in the ground, still attached to the sword Kamahl used to slay Laquatus. The Mirari's twisted magic is emanating from Krosa like radiation, causing everything on Otaria to become an amplified, exaggerated version of itself. Wizards begin to liquefy, Goblins grow feral and hunched, Clerics emanate light, and Soldiers become huge, speechless battle-tanks. And the freakification isn't over; wait until you see the next step of magical evolution in the upcoming Scourge set.

Q: What are the weird swirly people on the Scourge cards meant to be? I've seen them on Scornful Egotist, Grip of Chaos, and Parallel Thoughts, but I'm sure they pop up more often. I thought they might be avatars of the mana in Otaria, but if so where are the green, white and black ones?
–Hayden, Halifax, NS, Canada

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director:

In a previous Ask Wizards response, I explained how the creatures on Otaria are being twisted and evolved by the Mirari's sickly magic. The 'liquid glass' creatures you see in the Scourge set are the final mutation/evolution step for Otaria's wizards. Their corporeal forms are almost drifting away -- they're becoming creatures of pure thought. The one on Grip of Chaos has been turned from bluish to red by the strange power of the enchantment.

These questions first appeared on February 12 and June 17, 2003. Ask Wizards–Classic is a weekly feature that highlights interesting questions and answers from the Ask Wizards archives, which go back to January 2002.

 September 26, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: Is it possible for a creature to Devour Sprouting Thrinax and the three saprolings it creates when it hits the graveyard?
–Peter, MN, USA

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

First off, let's make sure everybody's on the same page. Devour is a new mechanic in Shards of Alara. Here are two preview cards with devour:

Caldera Hellion

502.82. Devour

502.82a Devour is a static ability. "Devour N" means "As this object comes into play, you may sacrifice any number of creatures. This permanent comes into play with N +1/+1 counters on it for each creature sacrificed this way."

502.82b Some objects have abilities that refer to the number of creatures the permanent devoured. "It devoured" means "sacrificed as a result of its devour ability as it came into play."

Note that "any number of creatures" includes zero—you're never forced to sacrifice a creature because of devour if you don’t want to.

Okay, now let's take a look at Sprouting Thrinax:

Sprouting Thrinax

Sprouting Thrinax has a triggered ability. Its trigger condition is "When Sprouting Thrinax is put into a graveyard from play[...]"

So let's say you play Caldera Hellion. As a creature spell (or an artifact, enchantment, or planeswalker spell) resolves, it comes into play. Devour says that you may sacrifice creatures "as" Caldera Hellion comes into play. This means that you get one chance to sacrifice creatures for devour: while Caldera Hellion is resolving.

You choose to sacrifice Sprouting Thrinax, and its "put into a graveyard" ability triggers. But that ability can't go on the stack yet, because you're still in the middle of resolving Caldera Hellion. Caldera Hellion finishes resolving and comes into play, and now it's time to put triggers on the stack. It's too late to sacrifice any creatures, and you still don't have any Saprolings. So the answer is no—by the time the Saprolings come into play, the creature with devour is already in play.

In the particular case of Caldera Hellion, there's a funny end to the story. Immediately after Caldera Hellion comes into play, there are two abilities that have triggered and are waiting to be put on the stack: the "put into a graveyard" ability of Sprouting Thrinax, and the "comes into play" ability of Caldera Hellion. Since you control them both, you get to choose the order in which they go on the stack. If you choose to put Sprouting Thrinax's ability on the stack first, Caldera Hellion's ability will resolve first. Caldera Hellion will deal 3 damage to each creature (including itself, but with the counter from devouring Sprouting Thrinax, it's a 4/4), then you'll put three Saprolings into play, so the Saprolings will survive to be devoured another day!

The Magic Rules Corner is a weekly feature dedicated to answering your rules questions. For more help with Magic rules, check out the rules page and the Rules Q&A Forum.

 September 25, 2008  

Q: I was wondering what cards have been reprinted in every core set since Alpha. I have been wondering this for a while but when the card of the day on Friday, August 8, 2008, I thought I would ask.
–Joel, Cuyahoga Falls, OH, USA

A: From Mark Rosewater, Magic Lead Designer:


16 cards remain in the core set game of "Survivor":

Air Elemental
Bog Wraith
Drudge Skeletons
Giant Growth
Giant Spider
Goblin King
Grizzly Bears
Howling Mine
Orcish Artillery
Rod of Ruin
Samite Healer
Scathe Zombies
Wrath of God

(You can see my columns on the set by set eliminations here and here.)

We're currently working on the next core set and while it's too early to give away any details let me just say that there will be numerous cuts come next summer.

 September 24, 2008  

Q: Along the lines of the September 18 question: Which is the favorite book of each Magic R&D member?
–Rob, Worcester, MA, USA

A: From Magic R&D (and associates):

Monty Ashley: The Pyrates, by George MacDonald Fraser
Paul Barclay: What you Make It, by Michael Marshall Smith
Randy Buehler: Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, by Bill James
Doug Beyer: Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
Greg Collins: Big Game, Small World, by Alexander Wolff
Kelly Digges: The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
Mark Globus: Illusions, by Richard Bach
Mark Gottlieb: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, by Douglas Adams
Dave Guskin: Kingdoms of the Wall, by Robert Silverberg
Robert Gutschera: The Oxford English Dictionary
Mons Johnson: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
Tom LaPille: Illusions, by Richard Bach
Erik Lauer: Breaking the Vicious Cycle, by Elaine Gloria Gottschall
Del Laugel: Gaudy Nights, by Dorothy L. Sayers
Gregory Marques: Laws of the Game, by Manfred Eigen and Ruthild Winkler
Dylan Mayo: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
Bill McQuillan: Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
Mike Mikaelian: Cosmic Odyssey, by Jim Starlin
Ken Nagle: A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
Matt Place: Homeland, by R.A. Salvatore
Mark Rosewater: A Whack on the Side of the Head, by Roger Van Oech
Bill Stark: What's the Matter with Kansas, by Thomas Frank
Henry Stern: Dying Inside, by Robert Silverberg
Matt Tabak: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Imzadi, by Peter David
Mike Turian: Yes Man, by Danny Wallace

 September 23, 2008  

Q: What was last week's theme for Card of the Day?

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

For people who don't know what the question is about, a little background information is in order. The Card of the Day usually has a secret theme each week, often involving strained puns on the names of the cards. For example, a few weeks ago, we had this cycle:

Blind Seer
Horn of Deafening
Phage the Untouchable
Faceless Butcher

The theme for that cycle was "cards that reference missing one of the five senses." As you can see, it starts fairly clean, with "blind" and "deaf" right there in the card names. Then Phage is "untouchable", so that's sort of like "no sense of touch." Then, for "no taste", there's Scrubland, which is admittedly kind of a cheat. And we couldn't find any cards at all for "no sense of smell", so we had to go with Faceless Butcher and a terrible joke about it having no nose. Hilarious!

Before getting to last week's (which wasn't really fair, since it combined a fairly obscure theme with a huge stretch), here are some of our favorite cycles from the past few months:

August 5-7

Rubinia Soulsinger
Springleaf Drum
Hair-Strung Koto

Click here to see the theme!

July 21-28

Barbary Apes
Echo Chamber
Copy Enchantment
Zuo Ci, the Mocking Sage
Elvish Impersonators

Click here to see the theme!

June 24-27

Street Wraith
Castle Sengir
Search for Tomorrow
Adventurers' Guildhouse
New Frontiers

Click here to see the theme!

May 5-20

Rustspore Ram
Bull Aurochs
Wormfang Crab
Jamuraan Lion
Phage the Untouchable
Crooked Scales
Dross Scorpion
Centaur Archer
Clearwater Goblet
Island Fish Jasconius

Click here to see the theme!

April 7-11

Surge of Strength
Warrior's Oath
Glittering Wish

Click here to see the theme!

Okay, so that's the sort of thing we're talking about. But what about last week?

September 15-19

Grand Melee
Pit Scorpion
Krazy Kow
Meddling Kids

Click here to see the theme!

 September 22, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q: I was wondering what is the story behind Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Light and Shadow? Why did you leave out green? And how did you choose the abilities?
–Eric, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

A: From Tyler Bielman, Magic R&D:

Verily, Eric of Winnipeg, a noble inquiry worthy of a grand tale.

Seven millennia ago, Planeswalker Stern and Planeswalker Tinsman forged the swords to do battle in a blood-feud that would tear asunder the very foundation of reality.

Ok, not really.

The Swords were created after Darksteel moved from Design into Development. History is unclear about who created them (I believe it was Henry Stern or Brian Tinsman), however they were created because we felt that there wasn't enough "Randomly Cool" equipment. "Randomly Cool" is a kind of code-term around here for splashy, interesting effects that have a lot of impact when you first see them. When I watched people open Darksteel packs at the Pre-release tournament, it was great to see people respond the way we had hoped.

As far as green's absence goes, you may know that each color in Magic has two enemy colors. However, when looking at the colors symbolically, there is usually a more obvious animosity toward one enemy color or the other.

For example, the enmity between White and Black is easier to see at a glance than the hostility between White and Red. Green is frequently an odd man out when looking at these snapshot relationships, because Nature doesn’t really have an enemy in that sense.

One of the fun things about designing Mirrodin was that we could play around with combining colored effects without making gold cards. We picked two of the more natural enemies, Red & Blue and White & Black and made cards that fooled around with what it would be like if those colors got together and 'made' a sword. The abilities changed a lot before we landed on the ones that were printed. Unfortunately, it would be nigh impossible to scribe that entire epic upon this measly page. Verily"

This question first appeared on May 4, 2004. Ask Wizards–Classic is a weekly feature that highlights interesting questions and answers from the Ask Wizards archives, which go back to January 2002.

 September 19, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: With the release of Shards, there will be a new Ajani. If I have the Lorwyn Ajani in play and someone else plays the new Ajani, will they both die because of a state-based effect because they have the same planeswalker subtype (Ajani), or will nothing happen to either of them?
–Richard, Nashville, TN, USA

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

This has been a surprisingly common question since the unveiling of Shards of Alara's Ajani Vengeant:

Ajani Vengeant

This Ajani, as you might be aware, is the redder, angrier counterpart to Lorwyn's Ajani Goldmane:

Notice that although the two cards have different names, they share a subtype: Ajani.

Now let's take a look at the rule that covers what happens when two planeswalkers have the same subtype:

420.5q If two or more planeswalkers that share a planeswalker type are in play, all are put into their owners' graveyards.

This rule bears many superficial similarities to the "legend rule":

420.5e If two or more legendary permanents with the same name are in play, all are put into their owners' graveyards. This is called the "legend rule." If only one of those permanents is legendary, this rule doesn't apply.

Both of these rules appear on the list of state-based effects, meaning that they apply any time a player would receive priority, right before that player receives priority. This in turn means that they can't be responded to; if two planeswalkers with the same subtype or two legendary permanents with the same name are in play, both are put into their owners' graveyards before any player gets a chance to do anything about it.

Both of these rules put the permanents directly into their owners' graveyards; this means that they can't be regenerated, and being indestructible won't protect them.

The biggest difference between the two rules, as you've noticed, is that the rule for planeswalkers is based on subtype, while the "legend rule" is based on names. Basically, the rule for planeswalkers keys off of subtype so that two planeswalker cards that represent the same character can't be in play together—regardless of whether they share an actual card name—addressing one of the major complaints about the legend rule. It's way too late to try to change the legend rule this way, but it wasn't too late for planeswalkers.

Finally, note that, although they are very similar rules, the subtype rule for planeswalkers and the "legend rule" are different. Planeswalkers aren't legendary, and Mirror Gallery won't affect them.

The Magic Rules Corner is a weekly feature dedicated to answering your rules questions. For more help with Magic rules, check out the rules page and the Rules Q&A Forum.

 September 18, 2008  

Q: Which is the favorite movie of the Magic R&D members?
–Chris, Thessaloniki, Greece

A: From Magic R&D (and associates):

Monty Ashley: His Girl Friday
Kelly Digges: Closely Watched Trains
Brady Dommermuth: Delicatessen
Aaron Forsythe: The Fellowship of the Ring
Mark Gottlieb: The Blues Brothers
Dave Guskin: Grosse Point Blank
Jenna Helland: Lost in Translation
Jeremy Jarvis: Almost Famous
Tom LaPille: Searching for Bobby Fischer
Erik Lauer: Terminator 2
Gregory Marques: 12 Monkeys
Ken Nagle: The Truman Show
Matt Place: The Empire Strikes Back
Bill Rose: Pulp Fiction
Mark Rosewater: Harold and Maude
Jay Schneider: The Core
Henry Stern: Blade Runner
Mike Turian: Clue
Richard Whitters: Big Trouble in Little China
Worth Wollpert: Caddyshack

 September 17, 2008  

Q: How do the name and picture of Ancestral Recall tie in to the action of the spell?
–Cody, Burlington, VT, USA

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

Hmm. An oldie, eh? Let's look at the card:

And (since I forgot this step when I answered the Tarmogoyf question last week), let's look at a larger version of the art:

Ancestral Recall
Ancestral Recall full art by Mark Poole

Unfortunately, we don't have the art description on file, which is the sort of thing that happens with fifteen-year-old cards. However, it just so happens that I, um, "know" the answer to this question. See the slight glow around the guy on the right? That is meant to suggest that he's not physically there in the vaguely Aztec setting. He's been brought back to the time of his ancestors, and now he's remembering things that they knew.

So that's the connection between the name and the art. Mechanically, this knowledge of his ancestors is represented by getting a few more cards. In the same way that "brain damage" frequently means "discard a card" (Addle, Brainspoil, Skull Fracture, and so on), "learning things" translates to "draw some cards" (directly with Careful Study and Stroke of Genius and indirectly with cards like Collective Unconscious). This seems like a good time to mention The Bake a Cake Example, which describes one way to imagine what cards in your library "mean", although that example doesn't explore the flavor difference between the hand and the graveyard.

 September 16, 2008  

Q: How are Naya and Jund pronounced?

Nigh-uh, Neigh-uh, or my favourite: Nuh-YAH! And is it Junned (rhymes with shunned), Joond, or even Yoond?
–Pegaweb, Adelaide, Australia

A: From Doug Beyer, Magic Creative Writer:

Hi, Pegaweb! I'll go ahead and give you the whole pronunciation run-down on the names of the shards.

  • Bant is pronounced with a short "A" sound. It rhymes with "plant" (your pronunciation of the vowel in "plant" may differ from mine, I realize).
  • Esper rhymes with "vesper": ESS-per.
  • Grixis has a hard "S" sound at the end, like "this" or "miss": GRIX-iss (not GRIX-iz).
  • Jund does rhyme with "stunned," with the regular old "J" sound as in "just shut up and run, there's a dragon coming."
  • Naya is pronounced NIGH-uh. It rhymes with "papaya" or "messiah," the way I say 'em.

Happy shard-exploring!

 September 15, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q: I've always wondered how much refreshments (especially coffee) the Magic R&D consumes every day. Are there some who manage to do their Magical work without the magic of caffeine?
–Lauri, Finland

A: Paul Sottosanti, Magic R&D:

Hey Lauri,

Thanks for the question. We debated for some time and came up with the following list:

Top Five Most Caffeinated R&D Members

  1. 1. Richard Garfield
  2. 2. Randy Buehler
  3. 3. John Carter
  4. 4. Henry Stern
  5. 5. Mons Johnson

Richard is included at the top of this list not just for the name dropping factor, but because I'm told he likes caffeine more than all of R&D put together. When asked about the creator of Magic, Mark Rosewater paused, then answered, "Well, I've known Richard about nine or ten years, and...well, how about this. His email used to be How's that?" Randy surely needs his caffeine more than ever after the birth of his daughter. John Carter, when asked how much he'd had today, replied that he was working on his third soda and his fourth cup of hot chocolate. Henry Stern, longtime Magic developer, and Mons Johnson, leader of a little known group of goblin raiders, also qualified due to almost daily coffee consumption.

As a bonus, we also compiled the opposite list:

Top Five Least Caffeinated R&D Members

  1. 1. Mark Gottlieb
  2. 2. Matt Place
  3. 3. Paul Barclay
  4. 4. Brian Schneider
  5. 5. Me

Our very own evil genius, Mark Gottlieb, learned at Evil Camp that alcohol, meat, and caffeine all blunt your mental capabilities. His dedication to the quest for world domination means that he's sworn off all three. Matt Place starts each morning off with a few laps around the mana pool, so doesn't need the artificial stimulation. It's interesting to note that the previous Rules Manager, Paul Barclay, falls at third on this list while his replacement John Carter has an equal standing on the other one. Who knew that Rules Manager could be such a stressful job? In any case, John was then quoted as saying, "If I ever leave this position, I'll probably retire from caffeine as well." Paul and Brian both have the occasional soy hot chocolate at Starbucks, but keep it fairly light. And as for me, I seem to be immune to the stuff, and coffee tastes, well, terrible, so there's not much point.

So you could argue that the people who do partake in the magic of caffeine do better Magical work than the ones who don't, but some of us might disagree.

Your choice.

This question first appeared on October 19, 2004. We haven't updated the survey, so it's no longer accurate. He's not officially part of R&D, but it's worth mentioning that Dave Guskin has a fancy one-cup espresso machine at his desk. Also, now that Mark Gottlieb is the Rules Manager, that situation is even more complicated. Ask Wizards–Classic is a weekly feature that highlights interesting questions and answers from the Ask Wizards archives, which go back to January 2002.

 September 12, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: Could you clarify the interactions that exist between effects that force a creature's P/T to be specific values versus effects that raise, lower, or switch that creatures P/T?

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

With Lignify, Godhead of Awe, Snakeform, the Eventide Mimics, and more arriving just in the last year, variations on this question have come up a lot. Rather than answer them piecemeal, we decided to bundle them together and teach you the underlying structure that helps determine the answers. We'll give a few examples at the end.

Rule 418.5 in the Comprehensive Rules covers the interaction of continuous effects—in other words, it tells you how to determine what characteristics a creature or other object in the game ends up with when multiple continuous effects apply to it at once. This is accomplished through a series of layers, which determine the order in which to apply those continuous effects to find the end result.

The first question, then, is "What is a continuous effect?" It's an effect from a spell or ability that lasts for some actual length of time. Giant Growth creates a continuous effect, because its effect lasts until the end of the turn. Each of Figure of Destiny's abilities creates a continuous effect, because its effect lasts until the end of the game. Glorious Anthem's ability creates a continuous effect, because its effect is true for as long as Glorious Anthem is in play. (One-shot effects, on the other hand, happen immediately and then have no lasting effect. "Draw three cards" is an example of a one-shot effect.)

Understanding how the game handles continuous effects can be a mind-bending concept—but the key is right there in the name, and in the difference between continuous effects and one-shot effects. A one-shot effect (from Harmonize or Terror, for example) changes the game state then immediately dissipates. A continuous effect, on the other hand, hangs around. Giant Growth might feel like a one-shot effect because it's an instant, but that's not how it behaves. It doesn't deposit a +3/+3 bump on a creature and go away. Rather, imagine that its effect invisibly hovers over that creature for the stated period of time. As long as it's hovering, the +3/+3 bump is there. The tricky thing is that all continuous effects hover like this. If a creature is affected by Mirrorweave, Mind Bend, Lignify, Night of Souls' Betrayal, and Giant Growth, that creature has a lot of stuff hovering over it! The layer system determines what order those effects are applied in. Importantly, the order in which they're applied is not necessarily the order in which they showed up!

So let's take a look at the layers. There are six of them, and they're applied in order from 1 to 6. In every moment of every game, the game automatically rebuilds each permanent from the ground up. It starts with the printed wording on a card (or the original characteristics of a token), then applies all the continuous effects hovering over it in layer order, and winds up with the permanent's current characteristics. It's an eternal refresh.

The unofficial Layer 0 is the original card or token. That's what you start with.
Layer 1 is for copy effects. (Mirrorweave, Clone, and so on.) Those come first.
Layer 2 is for control-change effects. (Threaten, Confiscate, and so on.)
Layer 3 is for text-changing effects. (Glamerdye, Artificial Evolution, and so on.)
Layer 4 is for type-changing effects. (Imagecrafter, Leyline of Singularity, and so on.)
Layer 5 is a catchall; it's for everything else except power and toughness-changing effects. Generally, this means things that change a permanent's colors and abilities (Aphotic Wisps, Canopy Claws, and so on.)
Layer 6 is for power- and toughness-changing effects. But there's more to this story...

We'll get to layer 6 in a moment. First, you may have noticed that lots of spells and abilities have effects that fit into multiple layers. In those cases, the effects are split apart and each piece applies in the appropriate layer. For example, Treetop Village's effect says that it becomes a creature that's still a land (layer 4), becomes an Ape (layer 4), becomes green (layer 5), has trample (layer 5), and becomes 3/3 (layer 6)!

OK, back to layer 6. There are lots of different kinds of effects that can change a creature's power and toughness, so layer 6 has a layer system all its own. There are five sublayers, and they're applied in order from a to e.

Sublayer 6a is for characteristic-defining abilities (or CDAs).
If a creature has a * in its power/toughness box, it's got a CDA to define its power, toughness, or both. This comes first because it's a substitute for a number in the power/toughness box. Examples include Overbeing of Myth, Coiling Woodworm, and Tarmogoyf.

Sublayer 6b is a catchall; it's for everything not covered in sublayers 6a, 6c, 6d, or 6e.
Specifically, this covers effects from resolved spells and abilities that change a creature's power or toughness (like Giant Growth or Afflict), effects from resolved spells and abilities that set a creature's power or toughness to a specific value (like Battlegate Mimic or Snakeform), and effects from static abilities that set a creature's power or toughness to a specific value (like Lignify or Godhead of Awe).

Sublayer 6c is for changes from counters.
These are effects from +1/+1 counters, -1/-1 counters, and any other counters that directly alter power and/or toughness. Applying them in this sublayer means they always apply.

Sublayer 6d is for effects from static abilities that modify power or toughness but don't set them to a specific value.
These are effects that, like counters, are sitting on the board giving a constant power/toughness bonus (or a constant negative). Examples include Glorious Anthem, Night of Souls' Betrayal, Blanchwood Armor, and Vulshok Battlegear. Applying them in this sublayer means they always apply.

Sublayer 6e is for effects that switch a creature's power and toughness.
These are always applied last. That makes the bookkeeping easier; you can do all of the other calculations first, then switch the resulting values. Examples include Inside Out and Crag Puca.

Effects that apply in sublayer 6c, 6d, and 6e never conflict with one another—they all apply. But effects in sublayer 6b can conflict with one another, and that's where the confusion comes in. If effects within a particular layer or sublayer overwrite one another (for example, one effect says a permanent is green then a later one says it's blue, or one effect gives a creature +3/+3 then a later one says it becomes 1/1), the effects are usually applied in timestamp order. This is a fancy way of saying that they're applied in the order that they first took effect, so the most recently played one wins. There are exceptions, but they're obscure enough to not worry about.

Layer 6 in Action

Example 1: Shorecrasher Mimic (2/1) is in play. Its controller plays a spell that's green and blue. Shorecrasher Mimic's ability triggers and resolves, and it becomes 5/3 (layer 6b). Later in the turn, it's targeted by Giant Growth (also layer 6b). The effects are applied in timestamp order, so Shorecrasher Mimic is 8/6.

Example 2: Shorecrasher Mimic (2/1) is targeted by Giant Growth (layer 6b), giving it +3/+3, making it 5/4. Later in the turn, its controller plays a spell that's green and blue. Shorecrasher Mimic's ability triggers and resolves (also layer 6b). The effects are applied in timestamp order, so Shorecrasher Mimic is 5/3.

Example 3: Hill Giant (3/3) is enchanted with Moldervine Cloak (layer 6d). It's 6/6. It's then targeted by Snakeform, setting its power and toughness to 1/1 (layer 6b). Hill Giant is 4/4.

Example 4: Hill Giant (3/3) has two -1/-1 counters on it (layer 6c). It's 1/1. Godhead of Awe comes into play, setting all creatures' power and toughness to 1/1 (layer 6b). Hill Giant is -1/-1. Its toughness is less than 1, so it's put into its owner's graveyard.

Example 5: Giant Spider (2/4) is targeted by Inside Out (layer 6e). It's 4/2. Later in the turn, it's enchanted with Torpor Dust (layer 6d). Giant Spider is 4/-1. Its toughness is less than 1, so it's put into its owner's graveyard.

Example 6: Overbeing of Myth is in play. Its controller has five cards in hand, so it's 5/5 (layer 6a). An effect puts two +1/+1 counters on it (layer 6c), making it 7/7. It's targeted with Giant Growth (layer 6b), making it 10/10. Later in the turn, it's targeted by Snakeform (layer 6b). Snakeform applies after the Overbeing's CDA (because of sublayer order) and after Giant Growth's effect (because of timestamp order), but before the effect from the two counters (because of sublayer order again). Overbeing of Myth is 3/3.

Example 7: Giant Spider (2/4) is targeted by Giant Growth (layer 6b). It's 5/7. Mirrorweave then turns it into a copy of Wood Elves (layer 1). It's now a 4/4 Wood Elves.

So next time you play Wings of Velis Vel on an activated Marsh Flitter with two +1/+1 counters on it, you'll know what happens!


The Magic Rules Corner is a weekly feature dedicated to answering your rules questions. For more help with Magic rules, check out the rules page and the Rules Q&A Forum.

 September 11, 2008  

Q: I have a bit of a convoluted question for you. Here's the situation I find myself in...

I'm an American citizen currently living in Japan. I arrived here at the end of July, 2008, and will be here until August, 2009 at the earliest.(I may decide to stay longer) I'm not a Japanese citizen and don't plan on attempting to become one, but I do have a visa for three years.

I competed at my local Regionals tournament in June back in the States for fun, and know that I cannot compete in any other country's regionals/nationals this year. However, what can I do next year?

A) Must compete in the States because I'm an American citizen (and not a Japanese).
B) Must compete in Japan because I was a resident of Japan as of January 1st, 2009.
C) Can compete in either one as I was a resident of Japan as of January 1st, 2009, AND am an American citizen.
D) Compete in neither because I'm not a Japanese citizen, and I am not residing in America as of January 1st, 2010.
E) Another possibility I haven't thought of.

I noticed in the eligibility criteria that permanent residents were also allowed to compete in the country's nationals. Would I qualify under that as I am living in Japan(and have a job here) rather than visiting?

Thanks, and I apologize if this makes anyone's head hurt.(it makes mine!)
–Brendan, Chiba-ken, Japan

A: From Scott Larabee, Senior Organized Play Content Designer:

The answer to your question is "C".

The rules for which National You can play in can be found in the Magic Premier Event Invitation Policy. The specific rules are:

Residential Eligibility

Each National Championship is open only to those DCI members who are citizens or have been residents of that country since January 1 of the year of the National Championship.

Players may compete in only one National Championship per season. If a player competes in a City Championship Final or Regional tournament (such as a Regional Championship, National Qualifier, open tournament, or other tournament offering an invitation to a National Championship) in one country, he or she may not compete in City Championship Final, Regional tournaments or National Championships for another country until the following season. Please see section 3 – Residential Eligibility for complete information.

You may always play in the Nationals of a country of which you are a citizen. You may play in the Nationals of a country of which you are a resident, provided you have been a resident of that country since January 1 of the year in question.

If you are eligible for multiple National Championships, and you play in the Regionals, National Qualifier, etc for one country, you may not play in the Nationals for another country.

 September 10, 2008  

Q: Tarmogoyf is considered one of the best creatures of all time, but the art is so dark it is difficult to tell what is going on in the picture. What was the art description for Goyf?
–Andy, Minneapolis, MN, USA

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

Here's the art description:

Location: Arctic world in a blizzard
Action: Show a variation on the Lhurgoyf, a monster unique to Magic. This creature should resemble the Lhurgoyf a little but can be stranger in form.
Focus: the ancient and terrible Lhurgoyf
Mood: a devouring monstrosity
Notes: Not set in world of styleguide. Design an alternate MAGIC reality!

 September 9, 2008  

Q: I started playing back in revised, taking several breaks along the way. One of the pleasant surprises when I returned was how good the Sixth Edition rules were.

I don't remember the rules around when I began playing in detail, so do you think you could take us to a trip back to the dark days of the interrupt, possibly by putting up some old rules articles, or explaining some of the more egregious quirks? Specifically, I remember seeing this crazy flowchart printed in The Duelist to resolve damage prevention effects (or something). Do you have that lying around?
–Matthew, Sydney, Australia

A: From Monty Ashley, Magic Web Team:

I actually do! In fact, that issue of The Duelist (Issue #9, from February 1996) is on my desk and open to that article and its neat timing maps already. How convenient for me!

The idea here is that the rats tell you which direction to go in the corridors, the squares are "trapdoors" that are mandatory detours to other charts, and the diamonds are "potential" trapdoors. The green-shaded corridors can only be followed during the active player's main phase and not during an attack.

The reason I had the magazine open was that I was hoping to use these maps as Arcana fodder. Unfortunately for me, Arcana got there six years ago. Phooey! But you can go there for a couple of the other maps.

 September 8, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q: I noticed a Magic Invasion poster on Peter Parker's wall in the new Spider-Man movie. Was it a paid advertisement on Hasbro/WotC's part or is it pure coincidence that the geeky Peter Parker plays Magic?
–Terry, Burton, MI, USA

A: From Scott Rouse, Magic Marketing Manager:

Peter Parker has been a huge Magic: The Gathering player for a number of years. In fact, prior to the incident at the lab with the genetically engineered arachnid, Peter was trying to qualify for the Pro Tour. With his new role as a crime fighter, he has less time to play with the fellas down at Neutral Ground, but I hear he has been doing some late night beta testing for Magic Online.

Seriously though, movie production designers will often place props into a scene to create a more realistic environment. The producers of the Spider-Man movie thought Peter Parker would be the type of person who would play Magic. In December 2000 the Spider-Man movie production team contacted us looking for Magic and D&D items to place in Peter Parker's bedroom. I jumped at the chance to get Magic products in a sure-to-be blockbuster movie about one of the best superheroes ever. That same day I sent a package of cards, novels, binders, and posters off to Columbia Pictures. We would have to wait over a year to find out if they used any of the items we sent. In the September 2001 issue of Wizard Magazine, a sneak peek look at Peter's movie set bedroom confirmed the use of a D&D poster but there was no mention of anything from Magic. When the movie was released we were very excited to see they had used an Invasion poster in Peter's bedroom. We did not pay a fee for the placement of the posters in the movie, although that is a very common practice in the entertainment industry.

This question first appeared on May 13, 2002. Ask Wizards–Classic is a weekly feature that highlights interesting questions and answers from the Ask Wizards archives, which go back to January 2002.

 September 5, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: What happens to blockers when you attack with two Nath's Elite or similar creatures? I can't even find an answer for this in the comprehensive rules.
–Brendan, Southbury, CT, USA

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

The answer is in the Comprehensive Rules, in section 500, "Legal Attacks and Blocks." But because there are many situations that can arise that are much more complicated than this, the answer is a bit buried (the Comprehensive Rules being, after all, comprehensive). Let's tease it out.

That section of the Comp. Rules lays out two types of effects that can change attacking and blocking decisions: restrictions and requirements. Restrictions determine when creatures can't attack or block; requirements determine when a creature must attack or block.

Restrictions are pretty simple to deal with: all restrictions must be obeyed. A creature with flying and shadow can't be blocked by a creature that can't block both flying creatures and shadow creatures. A creature with "This creature can't be blocked by more than one creature" and "This creature can't be blocked except by two or more creatures" can't be blocked at all; there are no circumstances in which a block obeys both restrictions.

Requirements, however—like that of Nath's Elite—can get a little more complicated when there's more than one of them at work. A set of attackers or blockers obeys a requirement if it (1) meets the requirement to the extent possible without violating restrictions, and (2) results in the maximum possible number of requirements being followed (which may be less than the total number of requirements).

Let's look at what that means. Part (1) is simple: your tapped creatures, creatures with unpaid costs to block, and creatures that can't block Nath's Elite, such as Scavenging Scarab or Gloomwidow, don't have to block Nath's Elite. Note that bit about "unpaid costs"—Nath's Elite can't force a creature enchanted with Cowed by Wisdom to block, because it can't force that creature's controller to pay the cost associated with blocking.

Part (2) determines what happens when two Nath's Elites attack at once. Any set of blockers is legal if it causes the maximum number of requirements to be met. Since blocking one Nath's Elite fulfills one requirement and blocking the other Nath's Elite also fulfills one requirement, your creatures that can block Nath's Elite can each legally block either one of them. Any set of creatures where each creature is blocking as many Nath's Elites as it can block is a legal set of blockers.

If you control creatures, such as Foriysian Interceptor, that can block more than one creature, each one must block both Nath's Elites, because the maximum number of requirements that can be fulfilled for those creatures is two. Creatures that can block more than two creatures, such as Avatar of Hope, can still block other creatures, as long as they are blocking both Nath's Elites.

No matter how many restrictions and requirements are at work on a set of attackers or blockers, remember: restrictions must be obeyed, the maximum number of requirements that don't violate restrictions must be obeyed, and requirements can't force you to pay costs.

The Magic Rules Corner is a weekly feature dedicated to answering your rules questions. For more help with Magic rules, check out the rules page and the Rules Q&A Forum.

 September 4, 2008  

Q: How can I tag the "Daily MTG" page as a favorite so that I don't have to load through all the flash intros each time I go to read the articles?
–Glen, Morrisville, NC, USA

A: From Dave Guskin, Web Developer:

Hi Glen! Different web browsers handle favorites, sometimes called bookmarks, slightly differently. You can navigate directly to Daily MTG using the direct URL When you type in this URL, it will immediately redirect your web browser to the page This is the page you want to favorite / bookmark.

Once you're looking at the Daily MTG front page, you can save it using the shortcut key combination Ctrl + D on Windows, or Cmd + D on a Mac. If you prefer, you can click the Favorites Menu (in Internet Explorer) or the Bookmarks menu (in Firefox) and click "Add to Favorites" or "Bookmark this Page," respectively. By default, browsers will name the record with that webpage's title—in this case, "Daily MTG : Magic: The Gathering". Feel free to change that to taste.

As an aside, you can quickly skip the Flash intros without waiting for them to load by going down to the footer at the bottom of that page and clicking the Magic: the Gathering logo or the "Continue to the Magic Main Page" button.

 September 3, 2008  

Q: I remember reading somewhere that Magic expansions are completed by R&D well over a year before we get to see them. How difficult is it for weekly columnists like Mark Rosewater to actually remember any interesting design/development stories about the current set?
–Luke, Sydney, Australia

A: From Mark Rosewater, Magic Head Designer:


It's part memory and part looking things up. We have a database that tracks every change so anything we're fuzzy on we can check. In addition, we spend a lot of time working on the same things over and over so certain things tend to stick.

 September 2, 2008  

Q: In this picture from your website, the color wheel is out of order, with blue and black switched, and with red on top instead of white. Is this some kind of sneaky hint that you are planing to change the color wheel, or is it just a printing error?
–Josh, Birmingham, AL, USA

A: From Helene Bergeot, Magic Brand:

Thanks for writing! I wish I had a fascinating story to share, but this was just a printing error. We work with various agencies across the world and most of the designers are not familiar with the game, which can lead to this type of mistake. It’s actually not the first time such an error has happened, although it’s probably the first time it involved a branding material as visible as a Grand Prix back drop—the next set of Grand Prix banners will feature a correct color wheel!

 September 1, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q: In what order do the Magic novels take place chronologically?
–Brian, Marble Falls, TX, USA

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director:

That's a sizeable question, Brian. Here's how I think the order goes:

  • The Thran
  • The Brothers' War
  • Planeswalker
  • Time Streams
  • Bloodlines
  • The Gathering Dark
  • The Eternal Ice
  • The Shattered Alliance
  • Rath and Storm
  • Mercadian Masques
  • Nemesis
  • Prophecy
  • Invasion
  • Planeshift
  • Apocalypse
  • Odyssey
  • Torment
  • Judgment
  • Onslaught
  • Legions
  • Scourge
  • The Moons of Mirrodin
  • The Darksteel Eye
  • The Fifth Dawn

The place of the following books in the timeline is not known or has not (yet) been specified:

  • Arena
  • Whispering Woods
  • Shattered Chains
  • Final Sacrifice
  • The Cursed Land
  • The Prodigal Sorcerer
  • Ashes of the Sun
  • Song of Time
  • And Peace Shall Sleep
  • Dark Legacy
  • Tapestries
  • Distant Planes
  • Jedit
  • Johan
  • Hazezon
  • Outlaw: Champions of Kamigawa
  • Heretic: Betrayers of Kamigawa
  • Guardian: Saviors of Kamigawa
  • Assassin's Blade
  • Emperor's Fist
  • Champion's Trial
  • The Colors of Magic
  • The Myths of Magic
  • The Dragons of Magic
  • The Monsters of Magic

This question first appeared on April 5, 2005. That's not that long ago, but we get this question a lot. There have been a few novels since then, but they either go about when you'd expect, or (in the case of the Time Spiral books), all over the timeline so the question doesn't really make sense. Ask Wizards–Classic is a weekly feature that highlights interesting questions and answers from the Ask Wizards archives, which go back to January 2002.

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