Rule of Law 13 — Lessons from Ravnica, or Holding the Guilded Rose

A well-written and even moderately amusing look at some of Ravnica’s more peculiar rules issues. Even Ravnica experts can learn a thing or two this time from Mr. Riesland’s writing.

As has happened every autumn season since 1996, Magic: the Gathering has once again unleashed a large set upon us with new options to consider. I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: I don’t tell you what’s good or bad in the set (you can do that on your own), but I do make sure that whatever you are planning on doing with it is supported by the rules.

This particular block, led by the current set of Ravnica, deals with guilds. In the past, guilds were associations of people with similar trades, such as a merchants’ guild or a thieves’ guild. In Ravnica, guilds are associations of beings whose philosophies blend two different colors of magic into something neither could do alone. The guild symbols appear as watermarks in the text boxes of certain cards, although people with weaker vision may not notice them, except on foil cards where it becomes more obvious. They appear on cards when either of the following is present on the card:

Both of the guilds colors, whether directly as a multicolored (gold-bordered) card, semi-directly as a card with a half-half mana symbol in its mana cost, or indirectly by having colored mana appear in the text box with the net result of both colors being present. Thus even an artifact like Plague Boiler can have a guild watermark, as it has both the guild colors in its activation cost.

Guild-Specific Mechanics

Convoke (Selesnya, G/W)

The basics of this mechanic have been out for a while (to the point where Jamie Wakefield has been thoroughly disgusted by it), but before you trust the opinion of someone who has played in five Pro Tours over someone who merely judges them when he’s not going to college, let me give you the full story of this mechanic. After that, join in the chorus of convoke-bashers if you wish.

The idea behind convoke is that you can tap creatures to reduce the cost of the convoke spell. Each creature tapped this way, reduces the cost by one generic mana or by one mana of that creature’s color. There is a mistake in the FAQ about this; you figure out which mana symbols are being ignored and then tap sufficient creatures to cover that cost reduction. You can, if you feel really generous to your opponent, tap excess creatures. They don’t give you floating mana, but you can reduce any part of the spell, such as the X of Chord of Calling or the additional cost imposed on creature spells by Chorus of the Conclave. (“This mechanic is brought to you by the letter C.” – Sesame Street.) You don’t have to use creatures that could have attacked but didn’t, in fact creatures that came into play this turn are perfectly acceptable. That means that you can play your Elves of Deep Shadow, and then respond to your opponent’s Shock with a Gather Courage, tapping the Elves to pay for it.

Dredge (Golgari, B/G)

Dredge is a little hard to wrap one’s brain around at first, but once you do, it is worth the wait. In order to use the Dredge ability, the card with Dredge has to be in your graveyard, you need at least N cards in your library, where N is the number following the word “Dredge”, and you have to be about ready to draw a card (for any reason, not just the normal draw at the beginning of the turn). You can then decide not to draw that card, and instead move the top N cards of your library directly into your graveyard. If you do that, you can then take the Dredge card from your graveyard and put it in your hand.

Note that you can’t dredge if you don’t have enough cards in your library to fulfill the requirement. Also, if you are about to draw multiple cards, you can replace any or all of them with dredges if your library can handle the stress. Each dredge, however, only replaces one draw; you can’t use a single draw to bring back several dredge cards at once.

Radiance (Boros, R/W)

Radiance isn’t a keyword. Rather, it’s one of those new ability words that were introduced into Unhinged (and later, Saviors of Kamigawa). Radiance merely reminds you that the spell not only affects the target (all radiance spells have a single target), but every other permanent of the same type that shares a color with it. So if you target a Sliver Queen with a radiance spell, every creature that has at least one color is affected (this could be all of them). Targets with no color can’t spread the effect to other colorless objects, as they don’t share a color with anything at all.

Notice it’s “share a color”, not “has all the same colors.” So a radiance spell with a Red-and-White creature as its target would affect a Green-and-White creature in play, as they share the color White. Also notice that the effect takes place on the other creature even if you don’t want it to.

Transmute (Dimir, U/B)

Transmute always cost three mana, and two of them have to be colored mana, but which two mana depend on the color of the card with transmute. The closest equivalent in previous sets is landcycling out of Scourge. You pay your mana and discard the spell with Transmute on it, but instead of drawing a card, you search for a card with the same converted mana cost as the spell you transmuted and put that in your hand. This is converted mana cost, not mana cost, so a Perplex ({1}{U}{B} mana cost) can fetch any card with converted mana cost 3, such as Carven Caryatid, Plague Boiler, or Ball Lightning. This ability is played as a sorcery, meaning you can only do it on your turn, during a main phase, when the stack is empty.

Half-half mana symbols

In case you haven’t been paying attention yet, there are weird mana symbols that look like half of each color they represent. Each of these means that you can pay for it with either of the colors of mana that comprise the half-half symbol. Yes, you can convoke tapping a creature of either color to pay for this. Get used to them; more are coming in the next two sets.

Enhanced Spells

Some single color spells will have an extra effect if the other guild color was used to pay for the spell. It doesn’t matter how much of the other color was used, as long as it is at least {1}. If the spell is copied, this extra ability can’t apply the copy, because you didn’t directly pay anything for the copy; instead, all you did was pay for another ability that gave you a copy as its effect. While most of the time, having something for nothing is a good thing, here it isn’t.

Cards to Note

Bloodletter Quill


{2}, {T}, Put a blood counter on Bloodletter Quill: Draw a card, then lose 1 life for each blood counter on Bloodletter Quill.

{U}{B}: Remove a blood counter from Bloodletter Quill.

* You may play the second ability in response to playing the first one. If you do, you’ll remove the blood counter that was just added before you lose the life.

To clarify: Paying for the first ability puts a blood counter on Bloodletter Quill. You can respond with the second ability, as it doesn’t have the tap symbol, which will remove a blood counter. The second ability resolves first, removing the newly placed blood counter before you draw the card and count up how much life you lose. If you have sufficient mana, you can remove many blood counters this way.

Concerted Effort {2}{W}{W}


At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, all creatures you control gain flying until end of turn if a creature you control has flying. The same is true for fear, first strike, double strike, landwalk, protection, trample, and vigilance.

Notice that this is not a case of the “intervening if” rule, as the “if” doesn’t appear immediately after the triggering condition. As a result, the ability always goes on the stack, and when it resolves, it checks for all of the listed abilities at once and gives all your creatures the abilities it finds. Removing one or more abilities after Concerted Effort’s ability resolves doesn’t change what Concerted Effort gave, but you can change creatures’ abilities around before it resolves and have them affect the resolution.

Dimir Doppelganger {1}{U}{B}

Creature – Shapeshifter 0/2

{1}{U}{B}: Remove target creature card in a graveyard from the game. Dimir Doppelganger becomes a copy of that card and gains this ability.

* This creature becomes an exact copy of a copied card, except that it also has Dimir Doppelganger’s activated ability. If it becomes a copy of a different creature card, the new copy will overwrite the old copy.

* A permanent’s ability that refers to cards the creature removed from the game (such as Sisters of Stone Death’s third ability) only affects cards removed by other abilities intrinsic to that permanent (such as Sisters of Stone Death’s second ability). Suppose that (a) Dimir Doppelganger copies Arc-Slogger, (b) its “deal 2 damage” ability is activated, and then (c) it copies Sisters of Stone Death. Creatures removed by Arc-Slogger’s ability can’t be returned with Sisters of Stone Death’s ability.

Yes, this is a weird take on Vesuvan Doppelganger. It can only copy things that are in the graveyard, and only by removing them from the game. However, it can do so at any time it can pay for the ability. As a result, this will have a hard time copying a Darksteel Colossus, as there are very few ways to get one to stay in a graveyard long enough for it to be copied (Humility and Humble being the main ones).

Molten Sentry {3}{R}

Creature – Elemental */*

As Molten Sentry comes into play, flip a coin. If the coin comes up heads, Molten Sentry comes into play as a 5/2 creature with haste. If it comes up tails, Molten Sentry comes into play as a 2/5 creature with defender.

* If a creature comes into play copying Molten Sentry, that creature’s controller flips a coin to see what the copy will be.

* If a creature that’s already in play copies Molten Sentry, it becomes a copy of whatever Molten Sentry already is (either a 5/2 creature with haste or a 2/5 creature with defender).

Warning: Do not use Dimir Doppelganger to copy this card! You will not like the result! When you try, you will have a card that has a come-into-play ability that sets its power and toughness, but since the Dimir Doppelganger is already in play, you don’t get to use it. Thus you have an undefined */*, which by the rules is interpreted as 0/0. So unless you have a static ability bolstering the Doppelganger’s toughness (such as Castle), copying the Molten Sentry is a quick way to earn a free trip to the graveyard.

Eye of the Storm {5}{U}{U}


Whenever a player plays an instant or sorcery card, remove it from the game. Then that player copies each instant or sorcery card removed from the game with Eye of the Storm. For each copy, the player may play the copy without paying its mana cost.

Here’s a quick example of what happens with this card. Assume that you are playing a Gifts Ungiven deck and I’m playing a U/R Ire of Kaminari deck. I play this and pass the turn.

You play Kodama’s Reach. That card gets removed from the game, then you put a copy of it on the stack, which can get countered normally. Let’s say you do nothing else for the turn, but at the end of your turn, I play Reach through Mists. I now remove my Reach Through Mists, then I can play a copy of either Reach through Mists or Kodama’s Reach or both, in either order.

It is not normally good to splice when Eye of the Storm is out, as the spell will be removed from the game and all you will have to show for it is the original unspliced spell. However, if you are willing to let your opponent in on your fun, you can feed all of your spells into the Eye and each new instant or sorcery you play lets you copy all of the spells in the mix.

Firemane Angel {3}{R}{W}{W}

Creature – Angel 4/3

Flying, first strike

At the beginning of your upkeep, if Firemane Angel is in your graveyard or in play, you may gain 1 life.

{6}{R}{R}{W}{W}: Return Firemane Angel from your graveyard to play. Play this ability only during your upkeep.

* If you return Firemane Angel from your graveyard to play during your upkeep before its life-gain ability resolves, you won’t gain 1 life. (Most of the time, players will let the triggered ability resolve before playing its activated ability.)

The reason you don’t gain the life is that, when it moves from being in the graveyard to being in play, it’s a new Firemane Angel, so the ability can’t find it. That’s why you need to wait until the first ability resolves before playing the second one.

Hex {4}{B}{B}


Destroy six target creatures.

Seeds of Strength {G}{W}


Target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

Target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

Target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

I put these two together to show the differences in the template. Hex requires six separate targets, but Seeds of Strength can target the same creature multiple times, thanks to the separate uses of the word “target”. In each case, if some targets become illegal, the rest of the effect happens normally if there is at least one valid target on resolution.

If there are topics that people would like to see discussed, please let me know in the Forums. I can’t promise when I can get to them, but I will keep them in mind.