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May 2011 Update Bulletin

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Functional Oracle Changes

 What is Oracle?  

Magic is a game made up of over 11,000 interchangeable pieces—the cards. Over the years, we've felt the need to update the wordings of older cards, whether because we've introduced a new keyword, or a card was printed with a mistake, or we have a clearer wording for what a card does, etc. Rather than sneak into your room at night and change your cards with a magic marker, we keep a database of the "modern wordings" (what the cards would say if we printed them today) of every tournament-legal card ever printed. These wordings are considered the official wordings of the cards, and accurately reflect their functions.

You can access a card's Oracle wording by looking it up in Gatherer.

Cocoon
The legacy of my tenure as rules manager may be that I will find something new to tweak on Cocoon every Oracle update. This time, I address the fact that the printed card gave a bonus in the form of a +1/+1 counter, and the Oracle wording strayed from that.

New wording
Enchant creature you control
Enchanted creature doesn't untap during your untap step if Cocoon has a pupa counter on it.
When Cocoon enters the battlefield, tap enchanted creature and put three pupa counters on Cocoon.
At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a pupa counter from Cocoon. If you can't, sacrifice it, put a +1/+1 counter on enchanted creature, and that creature gains flying. (This effect lasts indefinitely.)

Winter Orb
In the first versions of the Magic rules, the static abilities of an artifact turned off if the artifact was tapped. When this rule changed, three cards (Winter Orb, Static Orb, and Howling Mine) were issued errata to maintain this functionality. Since then, Static Orb and Howling Mine have been reprinted with this errata, but Winter Orb never was. If you pick up this card somewhere and you understand modern Magic rules, you'd never guess it would have to be untapped to function, and the once-common "tap my own Winter Orb at the end of my turn so I get to untap my lands" play would be utterly baffling. Well, we can't have that.

New wording
Players can't untap more than one land during their untap steps.

Phantasmal Sphere
As printed, this targeted the opponent about to receive the Orb token. There's no reason why it can't also do that now.

New wording
Flying
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a +1/+1 counter on Phantasmal Sphere, then sacrifice Phantasmal Sphere unless you pay {o1} for each +1/+1 counter on it.
When Phantasmal Sphere leaves the battlefield, put a blue Orb creature token with flying onto the battlefield under target opponent's control. That creature's power and toughness are each equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on Phantasmal Sphere.

Rebel Informer & Mercenary Informer
As printed, these two cards only affected "Rebel cards" and "Mercenary cards" respectively. Like we did with Brutal Suppression—which was also from Prophecy and affected "Rebel cards" as printed—we're adding "nontoken" to the two Informers.

New Rebel Informer wording
Rebel Informer can't be the target of white spells or abilities from white sources.
{o3}: Put target nontoken Rebel on the bottom of its owner's library.

New Mercenary Informer wording
Mercenary Informer can't be the target of black spells or abilities from black sources.
{o2oW}: Put target nontoken Mercenary on the bottom of its owner's library.

Mercenaries
Continuing our Mercenary theme, we come to this gem from Ice Age. Under the original wording, players would have to activate the ability each time they wanted to prevent damage to themselves. The Oracle wording lumped this into only needing to activate the ability once per turn. We're going to restore the original ability here.

New wording
{o3}: The next time Mercenaries would deal damage to you this turn, prevent that damage. Any player may activate this ability.

Master of Arms
Just like Winter Orb, Master of Arms had a mystifying Oracle wording intended to replicate original functionality. The rule that changed this time was the one saying that tapped blockers didn't deal combat damage. Boy, tapped things used to be a lot worse! Additionally, the errata Master of Arms was given didn't do a great job of replicating the original functionality, given the number of things out there that could potentially untap the blocking creature after the activated ability resolved.

My general philosophy is that I'm okay with rules changing out from underneath cards and changing their functionality. Heck, just look at the Magic 2010 rules changes. It wouldn't be reasonable to try and make all previous cards work exactly the same way they did before those rules changes. Take heart, Master of Arms fans—it's still a combo with Royal Assassin!

New wording
First strike
{o1oW}: Tap target creature blocking Master of Arms.


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