Urza's Saga introduced the following new features to the Magic game; Urza's Legacy and Urza's Destiny further explore these features. These features are explained on the cards themselves.
Many spells are priceless in the right circumstances but deadweight in your hand the rest of the time. Cycling is an ability that helps in these situations. If you're holding a card with cycling, then instead of playing it, you can pay its cycling cost and discard it to draw another card.
EXAMPLE: Fend Off reads:
Target creature deals no combat damage this turn."
Cycling is played as an instant, so you can play it any time instants are legal. Remember that you draw the new card when the cycling ability resolves, not when it's played. You discard the card as part of paying the cycling cost, so it won't be in your hand during any responses.
Cycling is an ability, so it can't be countered by spells or abilities that counter only spells.
Echo is a new ability that spreads the cost of a permanent, usually a creature, over two turns. Spells with echo cost less to play than similar ones without it. However, during your next upkeep, you must pay the permanent's casting cost again or sacrifice it.
EXAMPLE: Pouncing Jaguar is a green 2/2 creature that costs only G, so you can play it on your first turn. However, since it has echo, you have to pay another G next turn during your upkeep or sacrifice Pouncing Jaguar.
The payment is required any time a permanent with echo comes under your control, not just when you play one from your hand.
EXAMPLE: You gain control of your opponent's Pouncing Jaguar. On your next upkeep, you must either pay G (which may be difficult if you're playing a pure blue deck!) or sacrifice the Pouncing Jaguar.
Echo is a triggered ability that triggers at the beginning of your upkeep. If you have a permanent that requires an echo payment, you can't end your upkeep until you've either paid the cost or sacrificed the permanent. Also, if the permanent has any activated abilities, you can't play them until the echo ability has resolved.
Urza's Destiny includes two special types of enchantments, nicknamed "sleeping" and "growing."
Sleeping enchantments start out as enchantments but can "awaken" when an appropriate event triggers them.
EXAMPLE: Lurking Jackals reads:
"When one of your opponents has 10 life or less, if Lurking Jackals is an enchantment, it becomes a 3/2 Hound creature."
Many sleeping enchantments become creatures when they wake. In this case, they no longer count as enchantments. Most sleeping enchantments change once and stay that way, but a few have a second ability that can "put them back to sleep" by changing them into enchantments again.
If a spell or ability counters the enchantment's trigger condition (such as playing a creature spell), the countered spell or ability doesn't resolve and won't "wake" the enchantment.
Growing enchantments have a one-time ability that you control. These enchantments start out powerless but grow potentially stronger each turn.
EXAMPLE: Incendiary reads:
"At the beginning of your upkeep, you may put a fuse counter on Incendiary.
When enchanted creature is put into a graveyard, Incendiary deals X damage to target creature or player, where X is the number of fuse counters on Incendiary."
Adding the counter is an optional upkeep ability. If you forget to add a counter during your upkeep, you don't get to back up.
Remember, if you sacrifice a permanent with counters on it as part of an ability's cost, the ability "looks at" the number of counters the permanent had before it left play. Thus, you can decide whether to add the counter before activating a growing enchantment's ability.
Classic Rules Changes
The game rules have been revised with the release of the Magic: The Gathering-Classic set. The most significant changes are summarized below. For more information, check the Classic (Sixth Edition) rulebook.
Forget batches and series-whenever you play a spell or ability, it goes on the stack. You can then play another spell or ability or pass. If you pass, your opponent gets priority to play spells and abilities. When you both pass in succession, the spell or ability on top of the stack resolves. Then the player whose turn it is (the active player) gets priority again. You don't have to wait for everything on the stack to resolve before playing another spell.
Abilities that add mana to your pool don't go on the stack. You simply get the mana immediately. Spells that produce mana, however, such as Dark Ritual, go on the stack like other spells. Mana sources no longer exist.
All interrupts are now instants, which means you can counter a spell any time before it resolves.
Damage Prevention and Regeneration
There's no more damage prevention step. Damage prevention, regeneration, and other spells and abilities that generate replacement effects are now played just like other instants.
When such a spell or ability resolves, its effect creates a kind of shield. These shields last until used up or until the next cleanup step, whichever comes first.
If an effect prevents a specific amount of damage, it creates a shield that hangs around until that amount of damage is prevented. If two different effects could each prevent the same damage, the "shielded" player or controller of the "shielded" creature chooses. All damage-prevention spells and abilities are now targeted.
Any ability that begins with "when," "whenever," or "at" is a triggered ability. When a triggered ability's condition is met, the ability automatically goes on the stack. Its controller chooses all targets for it, and when it resolves, makes all other choices for it.
Triggered abilities can no longer resolve while another spell or ability is resolving. Phase abilities have all been changed to triggered abilities that trigger when the specified phase or step begins.
Phases and Steps
Each turn now has five phases: beginning, main, combat, main (again), and end.
The beginning phase has three steps: untap, upkeep, and draw. If an effect instructs you to do something at the beginning of the turn, you do it at the beginning of upkeep. Upkeep abilities are now triggered abilities.
There are now two main phases in every turn. They're separated by combat, which is now its own phase.
The end phase has two steps: end of turn and cleanup. When the end-of-turn step begins, all triggered abilities that start with "At end of turn" go on the stack. When the cleanup step begins, the active player discards down to the maximum hand size (usually seven cards). Then all damage on creatures is removed and effects that last "until end of turn" end. If any abilities trigger during the cleanup step, they go on the stack, and then the active player gets priority to play spells and abilities. If any spells or abilities resolve during cleanup, the whole step is repeated. Otherwise, the turn ends.
Combat is now its own phase with five steps: beginning of combat, declare attackers, declare blockers, combat damage, and end of combat. Spells and abilities may be played during each of these steps, but only after the step's mandatory parts have been completed.
Dealing combat damage works differently. The active player announces how he or she wants attacking creatures' combat damage to be dealt, then the defending player does the same for blocking creatures. Tapped blockers now deal combat damage just like untapped ones. Combat damage isn't dealt immediately-instead, it goes on the stack. Players may then play spells and abilities as usual. When the combat damage resolves, it's dealt according to the earlier announcements, even if one or more of the creatures in combat are no longer in play.
When the end-of-combat step begins, all abilities that trigger on the end of combat go on the stack.
You now lose the game as soon as you reach 0 life, not at the end of the phase.
Artifacts' continuous abilities now work the same way as other permanents' abilities. They no longer "shut off" while the artifact is tapped.
You choose modes and targets for a spell or ability (and pay costs) when you play it, but you make all other choices when the spell or ability resolves, not when it's played.