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What would happen if team formats had different rules for equipment?

Growing Attached

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The letter W!hile our group was playtesting Champions of Kamigawa, we had a lot to say about the arcane spells and splice ability (which were then called "mystic" and "piggyback"). About four-fifths of us wrote back to Wizards with feedback along these lines:

I sure hope you find a way to let people piggyback off of other mystic spells! This would be especially cool in team games.

Did we have any concrete, helpful ways to do this and not screw up the rules? No. But we kinda hoped Wizards would.

They didn't, and we understood. But the reason I bring this up today is that there's another ability we wish Wizards had made more "team-friendly" – and unlike arcane spells, which don't really have an elegant rules solution, I wonder if non-sanctioned formats can't help us fill in a hole here.

When you control a piece of equipment, you can only use its "equip" ability to attach it to creature you control. Given the power level of some equipment out there (e.g., Skullclamp, Umezawa's Jitte, etc.), this may not be altogether a bad thing. But there's a part of my mind (and the minds of many I know) who feel like you ought to be able to lend equipment to a teammate.

Today, we're going to talk about a few different ways to "bend" your format to allow just that. Keep in mind that these are not official game rules; they're merely suggestions for things a casual group might adopt.

Re-Equipped Format #1: The Loan

This is an "extra rule" that you should just be able to slip into most well-known sanctioned and non-sanctioned formats your group might play. Here's how it works:

Players may use the equip ability of any equipment they control to attach that equipment to any creature an opponent does not control. Control of the equipment does not change.

This is my favorite of the three – I just know it doesn't go far enough for some folks, so I'm going to offer two more variants. But what works for me here is the simplicity – really, there are already enough rules provisions for those situations when equipment from one player gets on a creature from another player, that you don't really need to do anything else.

Equipment this works best for: Lots of different equipment will work fine, but to maximize potential, try an "instant-speed" equipment (such as Cranial Plating) that lets you toss the equipment around to multiple teammates on any given turn.

Equipment this works worst for: Grafted Wargear.

Re-Equipped Format #2: The Donation

Like the loan, this is an "extra rule" that your group may choose to adopt for (or remove from) any format you already play. The rule here would be:

All equipment has the ability, "Tap: Target teammate gains control of this equipment. You may only play this ability if you controlled this equipment at the beginning of your turn."

At first glance, it may not seem much different from the first model. But there are significant differences.

First, the donation requires a stronger commitment from the original controller. Similar to an Emperor sending a creature from his zone of control to a teammate's, it's a statement of faith: "Here. You need this more than I do. It's yours."

So like that creature movement, the cost of doing something like this should be fairly high and slow. The new controller, you will note, has not yet equipped a creature. And it should take some extra doing for the new controller to turn around and give the equipment back. If you like the idea of moving equipment around but you don't want it to happen too easily, this is probably the right approach.

Equipment this works best for: Favor low-cost equips like Lightning Greaves. If two or more teammates do want to toss equipment back and forth, they should not be tying up teammates' mana with equip cost burdens.

Equipment this works worst for: Avoid anything with a high equip cost, such as Worldslayer. (Well, there are other reasons not to play Worldslayer. But you get the idea.) The last thing a player in need wants is a turn spent equipping an existing creature…which then gets torched by the opposition. Let them use their mana for their own additional creatures!

Re-Equipped Format #3: The Big Share

This idea can get complicated, but devoted team players may want to try it. It's a full format change, rather than an add-on rule.

We essentially warp the newly-sanctioned Two-Headed Giant rules so that control of all permanents (including equipment) is shared. Whenever a permanent refers to "you" (implicitly or explicitly), the team decides together which player it refers to. "You" may change with each instance of interpretation (i.e., with each announcement of an ability or spell).

This way, either player can decide for a given turn which equipment will equip which creature – because either player could control both, one, or neither.

You can extend this idea beyond permanents and equipment, if you like. Sorceries and instants also provide rich opportunities to confuse the heck out of yourselves while you decide who "you" are. Consider it an identity crisis – but it could be fun, in many instances. And it does solve the teammate-equipping dilemma quite nicely, which is really all we're trying to do this week, am I right?

WARNING: You will run into rules headaches, even if you exclude lands/mana from your shared pool of permanents. Most issues are navigable as long as the cards don't get too crazy; but please don't ask me to help you rule on what to do if Tainted Aether, Aluren, Forgotten Ancient, and Humility are all on the table at once. Use your own judgment to interpret complex situations. There is no official rule, and my opinion won't really be any more helpful than your own common sense.

Equipment this works best for: Skullclamp. Honestly, being able to shift over a succession of creatures is incredibly useful in a wide variety of decks – and if you both have saproling decks, well then, that's super.

Equipment this works worst for: There really isn't an equipment that's at a disadvantage in this format. That's why I bothered to mention it, despite the insanity it may cause.

Re-Equipped Format #4: The Shadow

To understand what I'm trying to do here, consider the following flavor note: When an army joins with another army for a long enough campaign, it shares. Beyond force and equipment, it shares information. It shares training techniques, weapon-building technology, cultural habits, and so on. Before long, things only one army could do, the other army can. If the two armies work together long enough, they may become (for purposes of the battlefield) indistinguishable from one another.

With that in mind:

Whenever a player could play a sorcery, that player may pay 3 to make a copy of target equipment a teammate controls. If that player does, he or she puts a purity token on that copy. Equipment with the same name as equipment with a purity token on it may not be the target of this ability.

For purposes of this format, you are not your own teammate. You cannot copy your own equipment.

This extra rule, like the first two ideas, ought to be easy to insert into most formats you already play. Heck, with a bit of work, it might even make a decent card someday! (And no, that's not a Ravnica hint.)

Equipment this works best for: This works really well for "protection" style equipment such as Sword of Light and Shadow – because then both teammates will be able to neutralize an opposing player.

Equipment this works worst for: You'll want to avoid legendary equipment such as Umezawa's Jitte.

If you don't like the way the equipment rules work, try one of those four variations and see what happens! If nothing else, you'll learn important lessons about sharing with friends.

Extra Attachment: Continuing the New Format

Those of you who read and responded to last week's article may be wondering how the new format is coming along. Here are the poll results as of this writing:

What type of "basic frame" do you want on this format?
A free-for-all format, where each player is looking to win by outlasting every other player. 2622 44.3%
A goal-oriented format, where I don't have to beat everyone to win – I just have to be the first toward a specific goal. 2100 35.4%
A two-team format, where I work alongside partners to achieve a common victory. 1203 20.3%
Total 5925 100.0%

Free-for-all it is! For the record, many people also call this "chaos" format; I'll be using the two terms interchangeably.

There are several next steps we need to consider soon – but we'll only vote on one of them today. This is just a rough road map for folks. I'm borrowing some of these issues from the boards, and some from my own experience of how you create a new format:

  • What is the full spell-changing "thing"?
  • What spells and/or abilities will it affect?
  • What will we call it?
  • What should the cost of this ability be?
  • How many times should players be able to use it?
  • How will we deal with whatever cards or strategies this new format "breaks"?

More questions and considerations will arise – and we'll probably start dealing with these issues two or three at a time, when we can, so that the entire process doesn't take four months!

We'll take our first step toward defining "the big thing" about this format today. Actually, it's sort of a two-step. The message board discussion was pretty central to how I'm approaching this, since I saw multiple analyses that were laid out in logical order – and some that were not. They're all important to me, and to this process.

Here's what we need to figure out now:

What spells and abilities should be replaceable, and with what?

We split this into two separate questions. Please review the difference between spells and abilities (and different kinds of abilities) in the rules before you answer:

 POLL #1: WHAT SPELLS AND ABILITIES SHOULD BE REPLACEABLE?  
All spells and abilities should be replaceable.
All spells and activated abilities should be replaceable.
All spells, but not abilities, should be replaceable.
Only certain spells (e.g., permanents, or sorceries) should be replaceable.

For this next question, please make sure you know what a supertype, type, and subtype are. (If you can't pick them out of the phrase "Legendary Artifact Creature – Golem Illusion", read the rules, and/or refer to the message boards for more information!)

 POLL #2: WHAT SHOULD REPLACE THE SPELL/ABILITY?  
An exact match – the supertype, type, and subtype should all match (and so should the kind of ability, if they're allowed by the vote on Poll #1).
A close match – being the same type is fine, with or without the super- or sub- matching. (Abilities should still match, if they're allowed.)
Who cares for match? Let sorceries replace creatures, and (if abilities are allowed) triggered abilities replace activated ones!

As you can imagine, once we have these two questions answered, we will be much closer to answering the much more complicated question, "what is the full ability?"

Let's throw in a bonus poll, for good fun:

 POLL #3: WHAT "TEST NAME" SHALL WE GIVE THIS FORMAT?  
The Mortimer format
The Replacey-Thingie format
Switcherooney
How Many Magic Players Does It Take to Make a Format?

Once we've defined the format further, we'll give it a proper name.

See you next week, and sooner than that on the message boards!


Anthony has been playing multiple Magic formats for several years, and has been writing for much longer than that. His young adult fantasy novel JENNIFER SCALES AND THE ANCIENT FURNACE, co-written with wife MaryJanice Davidson and published by Berkley Books, is available now.

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