M14 Rules Change Impact

Sheldon talks about how the Magic 2014 rules changes will impact Commander, from the basics with examples to how clones and other cards will be affected.

There are a few upcoming rules changes with the release of Magic 2014. If you haven’t read Matt Tabak’s article, you should do so ASAP. You should also read Sam Stoddard article from the R&D perspective. They’ll take you into the nuts and bolts of the withertos and whyfors of the changes. I’m going to take you on a trip through what it means to Commander. We won’t talk about the sideboarding changes because that doesn’t impact the format. We’ll just talk about the land drop thing, the legend rule, and planeswalkers.

The Basics

The evaluation of having more than one legendary permanent of the same name is now restricted to each player. Planeswalkers are basically the same. Neither rule cares about what any other player controls. Indestructible has been upgraded to being a keyword, unblockable has been demoted to definitely not being a keyword, and there’s a clarification to playing additional lands.

For legendary permanents, “Any time two or more legendary permanents with the same name are controlled by a player, that player chooses one of them and the rest are put into their owners’ graveyards as a state-based action.” Note that this gives you the choice of which one to keep.

Playing your Prime Speaker Zegana deck, you have your commander on the battlefield and no other creatures. It has nine counters on it (not an unlikely number with the shenanigans you no doubt have in the deck). You attack with it. You then cast Clone. Clone enters the battlefield as a copy of Prime Speaker, getting ten counters (because that’s the biggest creature you have). Its ability triggers, but before we put it on the stack, we check state-based actions. Now you choose for one of them to go away. If you choose the first one, you now have an untapped copy of Prime Speaker. If you for some reason choose the second one, you’ll have a tapped Commander, but the ability of the Clone-now-Prime Speaker will still trigger. You’ll still draw eleven cards (last known information being relevant here).

It’s worth noting that if you Clone someone else’s Prime Speaker Zegana, yours will get a number of counters equal to the greatest power of your creatures. It doesn’t matter how many the original had on it.

It’s also worth noting here that a copy of a commander isn’t a commander in any way and doesn’t deal commander damage. “Commanderness” is an attribute of the card and can’t be copied or changed. If Ixidor, Reality Sculptor turned your Prime Speaker Zegana face down, it would still have those ten counters on it and still deal Commander damage.

For planeswalkers, “If a player controls two or more planeswalkers that share a planeswalker type, that player chooses one and the rest are put into their owner’s graveyards as a state-based action.” Again, you get to pick which one you keep. You can now chain together planeswalkers. Here’s an example:

Playing your Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund deck, you have Sarkhan the Mad on the battlefield. You activate the first ability, and the card you draw is Sarkhan Vol. You deal four damage to Sarkhan the Mad, ticking it down to three counters. If you want, you can now cast Sarkhan Vol, get rid of Sarkhan the Mad, and activate one of Sarkhan Vol’s first two abilities (or all of them if you have Doubling Season in play). You can’t resolve Sarkhan Vol and have the opportunity to activate it before one of them goes away.

For the most part, indestructible as a keyword doesn’t change much other than two scenarios. The first is in which abilities are removed. Previously, if I made all of my creatures indestructible with Boros Charm and afterward you cast Humble on one of them, it would stay indestructible. With it now being a keyword, it loses that ability just like it would lose flying or Swampwalk.

We’ll use Boros Charm again in the second case. It used to be that indestructible would be a state that all your creatures would be in until end of turn regardless of whether or not they were actually around when Boros Charm resolved. Keeping in line with the way Magic generally works, a creature now has to be on the battlefield when Boros Charm resolves. If it comes in later, it misses out. One-shot effects work with what I call “the ice cream cone rule.”

Imagine Cedric, Evan, and Gerry are hanging around a street corner on a hot summer day. Some nice person comes by (let’s call him “Pete”), gives them all ice cream cones, and then goes on his merry way. Ten minutes later, I stroll up and go, “Hey, where’s my ice cream cone?” They say “You should have been here when Pete came by.”

The way additional land drops used to work could be somewhat arcane. Now, it’s pretty simple. You evaluate the number of land drops that permanents and effects give you at the moment you want to play one. This way, you don’t have to keep track of whether you played your normal land drop or the additional one off of Oracle of Mul Daya. There are multiple permutations of this scenario, but again, the simple thing to do is to look at the board state and see what the case is right now.

You make your normal land drop for the turn and then cast Oracle of Mul Daya. You attack before playing an additional land. During combat, someone bounces Oracle back to your land. Post-combat, you evaluate whether or not you can play a land. As it stands, you’re allowed one, and you’ve used one. No extra land drop for you. If you can recast the Oracle, then you’re once again allowed to take the additional.

Let’s look at the same scenario, only you cast Oracle of Mul Daya the first time and then make both your normal and the additional land drop. You once again go to combat, during which Oracle gets bounced. Post-combat, you recast it. Evaluating whether or not you can make one, you see that you’re allowed two—your normal one and the one from Oracle. You’ve already used up two, so you can’t have another. In general, it’s not going to come up that often. It does prevent infinite Azusa / bounce / Horn of Greed scenarios.

What’s All This Mean for Commander?

Not much more or less than it means for other formats. There are things you’ll get to do in non-singleton formats that you won’t be able to in Commander, like activate several Mox Opals in a turn. Now, you’ll be able to (assuming you have metalcraft) cast one, tap it, cast another, get rid of the first, and tap the second. You couldn’t do that before—but that’s not much of an issue in the 100-card decks unless you’re using Sculpting Steel and the like.

The biggest impact to Commander is removing the awkwardness of two or more players having the same commander. Now, you and I can both sit down with our Karador, Ghost Chieftain decks and have a fine time without needing to worry about yours blanking mine or vice-versa. Me having Lazav, Dimir Mastermind in my The Mimeoplasm deck doesn’t hurt your ability to run your Lazav deck. As an aside, did you know there was a time in EDH history that if you had a copy of my general in your deck, you had to take it out? That was a long time ago.

The second greatest upshot is the inability to use Clones and copies as a way to kill commanders (and other legendary permanents). I’m pretty happy with this kind of realignment of the color pie since I don’t really think that clone/copy effects were intended as legend-killers. That was just happy circumstance from which blue decks benefitted. Previously, clones had two available uses: their primary, to copy creatures, and their secondary, to take out legendary creatures. Now, they have only one. The hit to the clone/copy player is that they can’t build that dual flexibility into their decks with a single card. They’ll still be able to do the first with the cards they already have; they’ll need to find something else to take care of the second.

Clones: Stronger or Weaker?

Despite all this, I’m taking the line that Clones are actually way stronger than before. While you lose a small but sometimes game-saving functionality, you gain the ability to copy the most powerful creatures in the game (albeit opponent-controlled) and keep them. Pre-M14, you didn’t get to also have Avacyn, Angel of Hope when the white player dropped one. Now, you’ll get to have one too! When someone starts to dominate the board with Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, you can have one as well. Now, instead of paying four-plus mana to kill off someone else’s Commander, you can spend that to have your own version of something really strong—and then kill it off some other way.

These rules will make game play different, deeper, and more interesting. Previously, the answer to that Ulamog was to snap-call Clone it and make it go away. Now, you’re going to join an escalating arms race in which you’re going to have to be really careful because you could be on the receiving end of the same annihilation that you’re dealing out. I think we’ll see even more epic plays with multiple versions of cards like Maelstrom Wanderer and Riku of Two Reflections on the table. In the trim, copying stuff is even more powerful than it was before.

Other Cards

Let’s take a look at how some other cards will be affected and their impact on the format. First, we’ll cover a few classes of cards, and then we’ll go over a few others individually.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth; Volrath’s Stronghold; Gaea’s Cradle; and other legendary lands: You won’t have to do the “legendary land” check anymore, which means your mana development is less likely to get disrupted. Planning Urborg as your turn 4 land drop then getting kicked in the groin when someone else lays it turn 3 is, well, a kick in the groin. The downside comes if you’d rather not have all lands be Swamps. Now, you might have to spend even more targeted land destruction to keeps things at parity.

The card I’m most concerned about here is Gaea’s Cradle. Green is already the strongest color in the format. Everyone being able to freely have a Cradle of their own might border on insane, although the raw price of the card might keep that in check. I’m not saying that this rule will push it over the banned list edge, but it will certainly make a stronger argument for it. And no, there’s still no such thing as an official watch list.

Hexproof and shroud legendary creatures: There are six natively hexproof potential commanders: Geist of Saint Traft; Lazav, Dimir Mastermind; Sigarda, Host of Herons; Thrun, the Last Troll; Uril, the Miststalker; and Zuo Ci, the Mocking Sage. There are three more with shroud: Autumn Willow; Kodama of the North Tree; and Multani, Maro-Sorcerer.

The simple truth is that they’re going to be more difficult to kill, especially Sigarda since you don’t have sacrifice effects as a path. They die just as easily to board wipes as they always did, but you have one fewer type of weapon in your arsenal to deal with them. Again, the opportunity to now copy and have your own version mitigates that and provides you more upside value. If a player is irritating you with Grave Pact, just Clone someone else’s Sigarda!

Indestructible legendary creatures: This includes Avacyn, Angel of Hope; Konda, Lord of Eiganjo; Sapling of Colfenor; Tajic, Blade of the Legion; and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. The Myojin don’t count as commanders because they don’t get the counter since you’re casting them from the command zone, but they would if you have them as one of 99. Already painfully difficult to deal with, indestructible creatures will need to be dealt with via tuck (Spell Crumple, Hinter, Terminus, Hallowed Burial), exile (Swords to Plowshares, Final Judgment, Merciless Eviction), or sacrifice (All Is Dust, Barter in Blood, Balancing Act). Tuck, exile, and sacrifice cards don’t get any stronger, but they certainly get way more valuable now.

Multiple-name planeswalkers: I think it opens up great gameplay possibilities when you can have Ajani, Caller of the Pride and I can have Ajani Vengeant in play at the same time. Other players have a tough choice to figure out which one to attack (although they probably also do if you have any Ajani and I have any Jace). I can see games running into situations where multiple Jace Belerens are having a card-drawing party. It’s group hug gone mad! Now, you might be in for a no-win choice of which player to prevent from getting Elspeth, Knight-Errant’s ultimate activated or who to let have Venser, the Sojourner’s emblem.

Planeswalkers clearly get stronger under these rules because you have to deal damage to them/the player or destroy them directly (Woodfall Primus, Vindicate, Oblivion Stone). I think you should prepare for an uptick in seeing these already-powerful cards. Once again, we won’t see some of the shenanigans in Commander that will happen in non-singleton formats, like multiple activations of effectively the same planeswalker on a single turn: “activate -2 ability of Jace, Architect of Thought, take another one, play it, -1 all your creatures.”

Brothers Yamazaki: Like you, I’m waiting to hear something from Rules Manager Matt Tabak on how they’re going to handle the Brothers. There won’t be any changes from our side.

Dark Depths: Copy Dark Depths with Thespian’s Stage’s activated ability. Let the original go. Profit. This doesn’t work with Vesuva because Vesuva comes into play with the counters on it. Just remember that someone else can now copy your 20/20 indestructible flyer.

Edric, Spymaster of Trest: Multiple Edrics mean multiple triggers assuming the applicable opponent is damaged. Each “your” refers to a player controlling Edric. Let’s talk about a game where Player A and Player B have Edric and Player C doesn’t. Player A attacks Player B. He’ll draw one card for each creature that damages B because while his own will trigger, B’s won’t. If A attacks C, he’ll draw two cards for each because both his own and Player B’s will trigger. Player C will only draw one card for whomever she attacks because she’ll get the trigger off of the person other than the one she attacks.

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite: It was awkward enough when one of your opponents could have Elesh Norn. If multiple players have them, you might never get a creature to live. The good news for you is that one player’s will reduce the power/toughness of another’s to normal.

Leyline of Singularity: This Leyline currently gets played in the format mostly for killing token armies, having the secondary benefit of being able to keep everyone off of popular cards like Sol Ring and Sensei’s Divining Top. It’s still going to mostly wipe token swarms—leaving the player with one of their choice—but it’s not going to shut down commonly-played good stuff cards. Under the new rules, Leyline of Singularity gets decidedly weaker, but is still an answer in blue for token swarms.

The Mimeoplasm: The Mimeoplasm copies a creature but takes that creature’s name (unlike Sakashima the Impostor), so unless it copied a legendary creature, it wasn’t subject to the legend rule anyway. I don’t think we’ll see much change in how this card is played or what impact it has on the format.

Progenitor Mimic: Progenitor Mimic is basically the same as any other clone vis-a-vis the new rules. The additional upside it gives you is the ability to copy something, and if it has a powerful enters-the-battlefield ability, you get it for the low, low cost of remembering it in your upkeep. You’ll then let go of the token, keeping the original. One of the neat things about the token created by Progenitor Mimic is that the triggered ability becomes a copyable value. Taken straight from Gatherer:

Suppose Progenitor Mimic enters the battlefield as a copy of Runeclaw Bear, a 2/2 green Bear creature with mana cost {1}{G}. The resulting object is a 2/2 green Bear creature named Runeclaw Bear with mana cost {1}{G} and with “At the beginning of your upkeep, if this creature isn’t a token, put a token onto the battlefield that’s a copy of this creature.” If another Progenitor Mimic enters the battlefield as a copy of that creature, it will be a Runeclaw Bear with two instances of the triggered ability.”

It’s a little corner-casey, but not outside the realm of possibilities.

Sheoldred, Whispering One: If you and someone else both have Sheoldred out, then you’ll have to pay attention to how triggers are stacked. On your turn, your triggers go on the stack first, and then your opponents’. This means that theirs will resolve first, so you’ll have to sacrifice a creature before you regrow one. If your Sheoldred is the only creature you have, you’ll still get to regrow something, but it can’t be the Sheoldred because the regrowth ability is targeted—and when you chose targets, your Sheoldred wasn’t in the graveyard. This also means if you have multiple creatures, you still can’t regrow the one you sacrifice because of the targeting.

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir: Now that the possibility for multiple Teferis exists, everyone—including all the players who have Teferi—is stuck playing things only when they could play a sorcery. They still have the flash ability, but it’s meaningless while another Teferi is out. This is because “can’t” always trumps “can” in Magic.

Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger: If there’s good news to be had in a world where multiple opponents can have Vorinclex on the battlefield, it’s that your lands are still only lazy for a turn. You’re not skipping your untap step, which would be a complete blowout, since multiples would make you skip however many you were getting. If you and an opponent both have Vorinclex, both of you will get double mana when you tap, and then those lands won’t untap. Clearly the tech there is to play Seedborn Muse.

All in all, the new rules are good for Commander. They’re certainly a boon to some cards, and I don’t think there are too many that they make significantly worse. I look forward to seeing how they integrate into the format, and we’ll see over the next few weeks if there are any danger spots. For now, I don’t think there are. Once these rules take effect, we’ll see some different ways in which some cards and games play out, but there’s no real fundamental change to the nature of the format.

Embracing the Chaos,


Facebook = Sheldon Menery

Twitter = @SheldonMenery

Food and Wine Blog = http://discoveriesinfoodandwine.com/

If you want to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPGers, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery Monday Night Gamers.”