Justice League – Intuitive Interactions of Continuous Effects

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Friday, July 24th – It’s been quite a month of change for the humble Magic player and judge alike. We’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into the new M10 rules (albeit I was caught saying aloud, “Before damage goes on the stack” by Mike Suire at the prerelease last Sunday- it seems that old habits die hard).

It’s been quite a month of change for the humble Magic player and judge alike. We’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into the new M10 rules (albeit I was caught saying aloud, “Before damage goes on the stack” by Mike Suire at the prerelease last Sunday- it seems that old habits die hard). As if that wasn’t enough we’ve got new Floor Rules, new Infraction Procedures (the new name for the penalty guidelines) and finally, an update of the Comprehensive Rules. Buried in the new version of the comprehensive rules is a shiny new set of instructions for the interaction of continuous effects (C.R. 612).

Many games quickly develop with multiple continuous effects in play, and the game needs clear instructions on how to ‘digest’ this information. The original layers were applied in order, one through six, and (for the most part) applied in timestamp order within each layer (see C.R. 612.6.). Normally, timestamp is set when the permanent comes onto the battlefield (like Honor of the Pure), when the spell resolves (like a Giant Growth) or when the creature becomes equipped or enchanted (if the aura or equipment moves then its effect gets a new timestamp). The only exceptions to timestamp order are characteristic defining abilities (CDA’s — C.R. 612.2), which are applied at the start of the appropriate layer and dependency issues which may arise. We say that one effect is dependent (C.R. 612.7a) on another when the following three conditions are met —

1.It’s applied in the same layer (If it’s not, it can’t be dependent).
2. Applying the other would change the text or the existence of the first effect, what it applies to, or what it does to any of the things it applies to. The all-time modern classic example of this is Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Blood MoonBlood Moon wins!
3. Neither effect is from a characteristic-defining ability (which would always be applied first in the layer).

My own personal feeling is that the changes are twofold in their affect. 1. Make the game more intuitive and eliminate elements that people found difficult to rationalize. 2. Make it easier for players and judges alike to compute multiple continuous effects and still come up with the correct final answer. The layers used to be —

(1) copy effects;
(2) control-changing effects;
(3) text-changing effects;
(4) type-changing effects;
(5) all other continuous effects, except those that change power and/or toughness; and
(6) power- and/or toughness-changing effects. Layer 6 was further subdivided to —
– (6a) effects from characteristic-defining abilities;
– (6b) all other effects not specifically applied in 6c, 6d, or 6e;
– (6c) changes from counters;
– (6d) effects from static abilities that modify power and/or toughness but don’t set power and/or toughness to a specific number or value; and
– (6e) effects that switch a creature’s power and toughness.

Seems straightforward? Ho-ho! For the most part it is, but layers 5 and 6 were on occasion, likely to leave some people scratching their heads!

The problem with layer 5 is that sometimes there is just too much going on! Basically a ‘catch everything else layer’ gets to become a headache when dependency issues raise their ugly head. Layer 5 used to be for not only gaining or losing abilities like flying, first strike, and trample, but also for effects that changed the creatures color e.g. remember the fun we all had with a creature enchanted with a Shadowmoor aura like Runes of the Deus which was subsequently targeted with Snakeform? These kinds of problems were ones I found personally amongst the most difficult to explain to players.

The problem with layer 6, e.g. Multavault vs. Zealous Persecution

e.g. Active player attacks with an animated Mutavault. The ability of the Mutavault gave it all creature types in layer 4 and set a 2/2 power and toughness in layer 6b. Non-active player casts Zealous Persecution, which will give -1/-1 to the Mutavault in layer 6b and make it a 1/1. So far so good, but if the attacking player uses the activated ability of the Mutavault again, because the effects are applied in timestamp, it turns back into a 2/2 creature. It’s a nice little trick, but for new players’ it wasn’t always the easiest thing to understand that their Zealous Persecution is now ‘toothless.’ In an effort to streamline things we now added bits and moved others around —

1: Copy
2: Control-changing
3: Text-changing
4: Type-changing effects are applied. This includes effects that change an object’s card type, subtype, and/or supertype.
5: Color-changing
6: Ability-adding and ability-removing
7: Power- and/or toughness-changing

No change for 1-4, but the old 5 has been split into 5 and 6 to handle color and ability gain/removal separately. Layer 7 is then split down into sub-layers —

7a: Effects from characteristic-defining abilities are applied.
7b: Effects that set power and/or toughness to a specific number or value are applied.
7c: Effects that modify power and/or toughness (but don’t set power and/or toughness to a specific number or value) are applied.
7d: Power and/or toughness changes from counters are applied.
7e: Effects that switch a creature’s power and toughness are applied.

As with layers 1-6, the sub-layers are applied in order. Therefore power and toughness switches are always done last, regardless of timestamp. The major change here is in 7b which handles any effect that set power and toughness to a particular value. The old 6b sub-layer used to handle these same things, but also effects which pumped/shrunk power and toughness without setting to a particular value and which were of limited duration e.g. Giant Growth and Infest like effects until the end of turn. Static abilities which pumped/shrunk power and toughness were handled separately in layer 6d e.g. Glorious Anthem and Night of Souls’ Betrayal. Now all effects which pump/shrink power and toughness without setting to a particular value are merged together into 7c.

So let’s run through the layers and starting building on some examples to reinforce out new found knowledge!

Layer 1: Copy (C.R. 706).
While some abilities make up a single paragraph of the comprehensive rules, copy effects involve the devotion of three entire pages (and probably enough information for an entire separate article). The general rule is that the ‘original card’ as it’s printed is copied. This means that counters and effects applying to the card will not be copied, however the values copied can be used as the ‘copiable’ values for another copy effect. A copy that copies something ‘as it enters the battlefield’ will have the ‘comes into the battlefield’ triggered abilities of the original card and copy any effects which replace the come into the battlefield event.

Example: A Mold Adder is on the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters on it. As a Clone enters the battlefield it copies the Mold Adder and becomes a copy of it, but it does not get any +1/+1 counters.

Example: From the previous example, if a second Clone enters the battlefield and copies the first Clone as it enters, the second one is likewise a Mold Adder without any +1/+1 counters on it.

Example: An Awakener Druid enters the battlefield and David turns the forest he just tapped to pay for the Awakener into a 4/5 Green Treefolk creature. David then brings a Clone into the battlefield and it copies the 4/5 green Treefolk creature/land. However, the ‘copiable’ characteristics of the land do not include the ability from the Awakener which is affecting it. Therefore, the Clone is merely an untapped Basic Forest and isn’t a creature at all!

Example: A Chameleon Colossus uses its ability to pump its power and toughness to 8/8 for the turn. During the turn a Shapesharer copies the Colossus and but only has a power and toughness of 4/4.

Example: A Clone entering the battlefield and copying a Flametongue Kavu will also trigger its newly copied ability to deal 4 damage to a target creature.

Layer 2: Control.
It does exactly what is says! If multiple effects are attempting to gain control of something then usually the last one (with the latest timestamp) wins.

Example: Mr. Iglesia has a Runeclaw Bear. Edwin casts Mind Control on the Bear and takes control of it. On his turn, Mr. Iglesia casts Sower of Temptation and targets the Bear to regain control (laughing as he does so). On his turn, Edwin casts Act of Treason on the Bear and takes control once more. Once Edwin’s turn finishes, the later timestamp of Sower of Temptation returns control of the Bear to Mr. Iglesias.

Layer 3: Text (C.R. 611).
Text changing effects only change color words and land types being used in the correct way. Effects that add or remove abilities don’t change the text of the objects they affect and therefore text changing effects will not do anything.

Example: Glamerdye can be used to change ‘nonblack’ to ‘nongreen’ on Reiver Demon while it is a spell on the stack.

Example: Glamerdye cannot be used to change the name of Bringer of the Red Dawn.

Layer 4: Type (C.R. 204)
The card types are artifact, creature, enchantment, instant, land, planeswalker, sorcery, and tribal. Subtypes always appear to the right of a card type after a long dash e.g. Forest, Wizard, Goblin, Arcane, and Garruk. Supertypes always appear to the left of the card type e.g. Legendary, Snow and Basic.

Changing a subtype replaces all relevant subtypes but does not affect the card type. Changing a card type replaces all other existing types, unless the effect specifically states that it retains all previous types. Supertypes are independent of their types and subtypes. Therefore, changing one or more types or subtypes will not affect its supertypes. Changing a cards supertype will not affect its types or subtypes. Adding or removing supertypes will not affect any of its existing supertypes.

Example: Casey brings an Awakener Druid onto the battlefield. The targeted land using the triggered ability is a land and a creature because the last sentence clarifies that it’s “still a land.”

Example: Ben controls a Dryad Arbor when his Cyclopean Giant goes to the graveyard. He targets the Dryad and it becomes a swamp. Changing the subtype from forest to swamp doesn’t affect its creature subtype of Dryad and it doesn’t stop the Dryad from being a creature. However the Dryad is no longer green as the ability is removed when it becomes a swamp, before it has had a chance to apply in layer 5. This is an unusual example of an ability being removed before layer 6. It’s because a swamp has an intrinsic ability to tap for black mana and no other abilities. Recap — Dryad Arbor Land Creature – Swamp Dryad and is NOT Green.

Example: Alex has a Blood Moon on the battlefield and plays a Flagstones of Trokair. The Flagstones is still legendary, but its subtype is mountain and therefore produces only red mana. Alex plays a second Flagstone during a later turn and because the lands are still legendary with the same name, a state-based action will send them both to the graveyard. The triggered ability of the Flagstones is removed while the lands are in play with Blood Moon and therefore do not trigger. He can’t search for any plains.

Layer 5: Color.
Much easier now that it has been given its own layer! Any ability that generates a new color will overwrite the previous one unless it states that it keeps its original color. The color will still be relevant, even if the ability granting the color is removed in layer 6.

Example: Seamus casts Rise from the Grave on his Silvercoat Lion. It’s now a Black-White zombie-cat. He then uses the second activated ability of his Scuttlemutt and chooses Red. The Silvercoat Lion is now a Red zombie-cat as the color changes are applied in timestamp order.

Layer 6: Ability addition and removal.
This is one of the big ones! But things are easier without having to deal with color.

Example: Let’s say that a Red Green creature like Rhox Brute is being enchanted by Runes of the Deus. The Rhox is now a 6/6 creature with trample and double strike thanks to the granting of abilities in layer 6. However, if the enchanted Rhox is targeted by a Snakeform, some interesting things happen. Snakeform turns the ‘Rhino Warrior’ into a ‘Snake’ in layer 4 and makes it Green in layer 5. The Runes can’t give the Rhox double strike because it became Green only in layer 5 and although it does give trample to the Rhox, Snakeform removes trample before it can enjoy it.

Example: Scott has two Sinew Sliver on the battlefield. Down in layer 7c each Sliver wants to give +1/+1 to itself and each other Sliver, making them 3/3 creatures. If Ovinize is cast targeting the first Sliver, it removes its ability, but still gets the bonus from its friend. Therefore the targeted Sliver becomes a 1/2 creature (applying the Ovinize in 7b to become a 0/1 and then getting +1/+1 in 7c from its friend). The second Sinew Sliver is a 2/2.

Layer 7: Power and toughness.
I just want to quickly reiterate the sublayers and then jump right into some examples that involve all 5 sublayers!

7a: Effects from characteristic-defining abilities e.g. Nightmare, Lord of Extinction, and Tarmogoyf.
7b: Effects that set power and/or toughness to a specific number e.g. Nightsky Mimic, Figure of Destiny and Godhead of Awe.
7c: Effects that modify power and/or toughness (but don’t set power and/or toughness to a specific number or value) e.g. Honor of the Pure, Vampire Aristocrat, Chameleon Colossus, Infest and Giant Growth.
7d: Power and/or toughness changes from counters e.g. Mold Adder; Jenara, Asura of War; and Scar.
7e: Effects that switch a creature’s power and toughness e.g. Inside out and Turtleshell Changeling.

Example: Gavin controls a Glorious Anthem and a Figure of Destiny that has already applied its first ability to make it a 2/2 Kithkin Spirit. Duncan targets it with Inside Out. When this resolves Duncan uses Serendib Sorcerer’s ability on the Figure of Destiny, but what happens when it resolves? Applying the layers in order, the Figure becomes a 2/2 and then a 0/2 as we apply 7b effects in timestamp. Glorious Anthem applies in 7c to make it a 1/3 and then the power and toughness switch in 7e makes it a 3/1.

Example: David controls a Lord of Extinction with 6 cards in all graveyards. Jason targets it with two copies of Scar. Once they resolve, David casts a Giant Growth to bolster the Lord of Extinction, but what is its final power and toughness? The power and toughness setting ability of the Lord is a CDA and so applies in 7a. We started with 6 cards in the graveyard, but with three extra spells being cast (two Scar and a Giant Growth), the Lord updates itself and is a 9/9. The Giant Growth applies in 7c to make it a 12/12, but then in 7d two -1/-1 counters bring it back down to a 10/10.

Example: Chuck has a Kithkin Rabble in play, along with a Woolly Thoctar and Wilt-Leaf Liege. He also controls Honor of the Pure. Nicola plays Infest, so what is the power and toughness of Chuck’s creatures now? The CDA ability of Kithkin Rabble sees 4 white permanents (including itself and the Honor of the Pure) so it starts out as a 4/4 in layer 7a. The Honor of the Pure and Wilt-Leaf Liege both give the Kithkin Rabble +1/+1 to make it a 6/6 before the Infest, with a later timestamp, makes it a 4/4 again in layer 7c.

The Woolly Thoctar gets +1/+1 twice in layer 6c from the Liege and once from Honor of the Pure (+3/+3), before taking -2/-2 from the Infest to make it a 6/5 creature. The Wilt-Leaf Liege does not give its ability to itself, but still gets +1/+1 from the Honor before taking -2/-2 from the Infest, making it a 3/3 creature.

That’s about it for layers, except to say that effects which are aimed at players are handled after the above 7 layers are done and always in timestamp order (I’d love to elaborate, but as you read this, I’m 20 minutes away from my deadline — do’h). Hopefully, you’ve learned something here today, but try this last question and I’ll post answer on the forums at the end of the week (while I’m at Nationals in Kansas City).

Question: Jared has three Boartusk Liege on the battlefield. His opponent Nicholas has a Goblin King equipped with Magebane Armor. Jared targets the first one of his Boartusk’s with Soul’s Might and it resolves. Nicholas brings Sower of Temptation onto the battlefield and takes control of the Boartusk that Jared targeted with Soul’s Might. Nicholas then uses Snakeform to target Jared’s second Boartusk (Jared is unimpressed by this). Finally, Jared targets the Boartusk that Nicholas stole with Glamerdye and changes Red to Blue. So how does each of the creatures finish?

Well, that about wraps it up. For the MVJ award (most valuable judge) this month, I’m going to say Abraham Corson. With less than 24 hours to go before the Kentucky Open started last weekend, he dropped everything and drove from Virginia that evening. Staying on for Sunday and the PTQ he only managed a couple of hours sleep after the long drive back before having to get up for work on Monday morning. I would take my hat off if I wore one sir — bravo! I hope everyone else is enjoying M10 tournaments, although having been squashed by Overrun in 5 of the 8 matches I’ve played in sealed with the new set so far, I’m personally going with a ‘no.’ May your top deck be lucky, and just say ‘no’ to Overrun (unless of course it gets passed to you in a draft).

I’ll also be at GP: Boston in a few weeks where I hope to get a chance to chat with lots of happy, shiny people. If you can’t make that on Saturday 1st of August, I’d recommend checking out Pastimes PTQ qualifier for Austin in Chicago at the Hilton Chicago Northbrook hotel. Austin is going to be great fun and Pastimes always look after players.

Finally, thanks to Eli Shiffrin for ironing out wrinkles in an earlier version of this article. Eli is my Knight of New Alara in shining armor (probably equipped with a Helm, Sword, and Shield of Kaldra to boot).