Ask Wizards - November, 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.

 November 13, 2008  

Q: What's going on with Ask Wizards?

Ask Wizards is becoming an occasional feature in Magic Arcana, where we'll answer several questions at a time. Check out this Arcana for more information.

 November 12, 2008  

Q: I was wondering, How old do you have to be to play in tournaments? I would like to enter one, but I am only eleven, so I thought that I would ask.
–Erica, Knoxville, IL, USA

A: From Scott Larabee, DCI Program Manager:

There is no age limit on entering events. Players only need to understand the rules and be able to strategically play the game by themselves.

 November 11, 2008  

Q: That person in Form of the Dragon's new art wouldn't happen to be Sarkhan Vol, would it?
–Jayson, Mount Gambier, Australia

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director:

Form of the Dragon

It would, Jayson. Good eye! The illustration for Form of the Dragon in the From the Vault: Dragons collector's box is indeed no other than everyone's favorite dragon-worshipping planeswalker. You can also see Sarkhan's dragon-emulation powers at work on the penultimate page of "Flight of the White Cat," part 3.

 November 10, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q: I've been curious about this card ever since my brother stumbled across one in a Chronicles pack: Does the name Palladia-Mors derive from a phrase used by the Roman poet Horace (1st century BC) in his Odes I.4? He refers to Pallida Mors, or Pale Death in translation. If so, congrats to the R&D department on the reference.
–J.P., New York, NY, USA

A: From Steve Conard, Legends designer:

The Elder Dragon names are a close approximation in "mortal speak" for their real names. Only dragons can understand their true names. (Chromium is a nickname and is not his actual dragon name.) Yes, we borrowed heavily from Latin sources but didn't pull directly from any specific location. It's not a surprise to find a near-match in some literary work. I once received a letter from a Latin expert who'd researched each name and was impressed with the scope of our knowledge. (Only one name befuddled him.) I didn't have the heart to write him back to tell him that all the names were just made up!

This question first appeared on March 8, 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.

 November 7, 2008 – Magic Rules Corner  

Q: I want to know if Elspeth, Knight-Errant gives the indestructibility to your permanents on the field at the time of activation of its last effect, or if the effect works on all permanents you play after the activation of the effect.
–James, Kingston, NY, USA

A: From the Magic Rules Corner:

When Elspeth, Knight-Errant's –8 ability resolves, it creates an effect that lasts until the end of the game and applies to all artifacts, creatures, enchantments, and lands you control at any point for the rest of the game, regardless of when they come under your control. It stops applying to such permanents that you lose control of for any reason, and it continues to apply even if Elspeth leaves play. In other words, the set of permanents that it applies to isn't "locked in" when the ability resolves.

You may note that this is different from cards such as Overrun, which applies only to creatures that you control when it resolves.

The reason for this is that Overrun changes the characteristics of permanents. (The characteristics are name, mana cost, color, card type, subtype, supertype, expansion symbol, rules text, abilities, power, toughness, and loyalty; anything else that's true about an object in the game isn't a characteristic.) Elspeth, on the other hand, states something that is now true about these permanents you control without altering their characteristics.

Being indestructible isn't a characteristic, nor is it an ability. Some permanents have the ability "[This] is indestructible," which is rules text and therefore is a characteristic, but Elspeth's –8 ability doesn't grant any abilities and thus doesn't alter characteristics. If a creature that's indestructible because of Elspeth loses all abilities, it will still be indestructible.

To illustrate this, consider two hypothetical instants. One says, "Until end of turn, creatures can't attack." The other says, "All creatures gain defender until end of turn." These will, under most circumstances, do the same thing, but they're different in terms of how they affects creatures that come into play (or become creatures) after they resolve. The first one states something about creatures but doesn't alter their characteristics, so it would apply to all creatures, even those that came into play after it resolved. The second grants an ability to all creatures, which is a characteristic, so it would "look at" all the creatures in play when it resolves and cause them to gain defender. Any creatures that came into play or became creatures after the spell resolved wouldn't have defender and would be able to attack (although if they just came into play, they wouldn't be able to attack unless they had haste, as normal).

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.

 November 6, 2008  

Q: How can I get my deck into the Daily Deck list slot on Daily MTG?
–Samantha, Gravina Island, AK, USA

A: From Bill Stark, Magic Web Team:

There are lots of ways to get your deck into the Daily Decks feature on, even if you're living in Gravina Island, Alaska! One of the best ways is to do very well at a high level event like Nationals, a Pro Tour, or a Grand Prix, but winning isn't the only way to get noticed. Daily Decks scours the web for all sorts of decklists, and has used decks from forum posters, classic articles, even generating some completely original creations for the sake of the feature.

So what should you do if you want to be featured on Daily Decks? Become an active member of the forums, build lots of decks, do well at events, and most importantly play Magic! That's the most important step to getting noticed, and it doesn't hurt that playing Magic is a lot of fun.

 November 5, 2008  

Q: I remember reading an article saying that there would be a new Gatherer. Is that just still in the works, or is the old one staying?
–Jason Springfield, Tennessee, USA

A: From Scott Johns, Editor in Chief of

Hi Jason,

I’m happy to announce that both RSS and a beta for the new Gatherer are code complete and in final testing with our QA team. So we should have both live soon, less than a month if all goes well. The current plan is that while we’re in beta we’ll offer new Gatherer in addition to the old version, that way you can choose which you want to use, and if there’s some temporary problem with the new one people will be able to use the existing one in the meantime.

We’ll have an announcement when it’s ready to go live and also a feedback thread so you can let us know what you love or hate and any bugs you may find as we iron out the final wrinkles. However, the new version of Gatherer is such a dramatic improvement over what we currently have that I’m sure we’ll see a very significant preference for the new one. With options for simplified or expert search (including logical operators), the ability to generate visual spoilers, and all kinds of other new options, trust me when I say we want to get this out for all of you to play with as soon as we responsibly can!

 November 4, 2008  

Q: So how exactly is this new Total rating going to be calculated?
–gwendly, forums

A: From Scott Larabee, DCI Program Manager:

Imagine that every two-player match of sanctioned Magic you ever played were the same format and you will get the idea.

The new DCI-Total Rating is an Elo Rating just like Constructed, Limited, Eternal, or Team ratings. It will be calculated using the same formulas. The difference is that instead of just using your Limited (or Constructed, Eternal, or other) format matches, it will use all your matches.

The individual formats that will make up the DCI-total rating are Standard, Extended, Block Constructed, Vintage, Legacy, Sealed Deck, Draft, Three-Person Team (Constructed and Limited), Two-Person Team (Constructed and Limited).

Two-Headed Giant (and any other multiplayer formats) will not be included.

As an example, here is my own Limited-format play history:

Now, imagine that the second event were a Standard-format tournament and the third event were a Vintage-format event. This is what my DCI-Total rating history would look like:

As you can see, the rating calculations for DCI Total just treat every match the same, regardless of its format.

I would also like to point out that, yes, I did beat Hall of Famer Alan Comer in a PTQ 12 years ago.

 November 3, 2008 – Ask Wizards Classic  

Q: What is the "metagame?"
–Johnathon, Union City, IN

A: From Robert Gutschera, Magic R&D:

Originally, "metagame" was a term we used at Wizards for everything surrounding the game (Magic, or any game): collecting and trading cards, thinking about decks, having a rating that you improved over time, attending tournaments... everything a person might do to enjoy Magic besides the act of sitting down and playing the game itself.

The term was adopted by the Magic-playing community, but in a narrower meaning: for everyone outside of Wizards, "metagame" means the card environment -- which cards are good, which decks you are likely to see, what specific counters there might be to certain deck types, and so on. People might say things like "Putting CoP: Red in your deck is a metagame choice," which just means that if the environment you're playing in has lots of people playing red, you play it, and otherwise you don't. Another common thing you hear is "the metagame right now is..." followed by a list of deck types.

Here in R&D, we often use the word "metagame" in this sense, but sometimes we use it in the broader sense as well. Occasionally it gets confusing, but usually we can tell by context.

This question first appeared on August 23, 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.

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