Rule of Law: Back From the Dead!

Those of you who were around the old Magic Dojo site might remember a series I did at the end of 1999 called Rule of Law. With this introductory article, I hope to resume it here, picking up where I left off.

Those of you who were around the old Magic Dojo site might remember a series I did for about three months at the end of 1999 called Rule of Law. With this introductory article, I hope to resume it here, picking up where I left off. [Yes, I published the wrong article first last week. Feel free to make fun of me. – Knut, still an idiot]

What is Rule of Law?

Rule of Law is designed to explore the nuances of the Magic Comprehensive Rules. It is not designed to answer rules questions about specific cards, as there is already a perfectly fine resource for that. Rather, this is your chance to learn more about the rules, so you don’t always have to call a judge over whenever there are multiple Myr Servitors in play during someone’s upkeep.

What types of articles will it contain?

Rule of Law articles focus on three main themes:

1) Keywords: One keyword (or maybe a set if they are closely related, such as first strike and double strike) will be examined in detail, bringing out any hidden rules nuances I can think of.

2) Interpretation of the Magic Comprehensive Rules: I may take a section that is confusing to people (such as the difference between”playing” an object and”putting an object into play”) and explain the relevant rules, step by step.

3) Interpretation of Rules Team Rulings: Every once in a while, the Rules Team issues modifications to the rules and/or errata to cards in order to make the cards function better. Sometimes, this fundamentally changes how certain cards interact. I may take the current document and explain what the changes mean for the game, especially if a rules change will have a significant impact on the tournament scene.

If it’s not one of these themes (or a variation), it’s probably not going to be discussed here, so don’t ask.

Do I accept ideas from others?

I do accept ideas from others. In fact, I welcome them. While I may find a certain portion of the rules to be clear, others may not. So, if you want me to discuss anything that fits in the above three themes, let me know. I can’t guarantee that everyone’s issues will get addressed, though. So if you ask for something, and you don’t see it within the next article (or several sets of articles), it does not mean that I hate you. Remember, I am only one person, and I’m only writing one article. (If an article doesn’t fit, I may send a reply saying so, but don’t interpret the lack of a reply as an indication that your topic will be addressed.)

So why should anyone trust what I have to say about the rules?

To begin with, most of the topics are going to come straight from the Magic Comprehensive Rules or other reliable sources. So in many cases, when I say that the rule is such-and-such, I’ll be quoting the rule to do it. Feel free to check my rules citations against the latest MCR if you think I’m doing it wrong. I won’t mind. I’d rather be corrected in an e-mail than at an event when I’m trying to force an infinite combo past an Oblivion Stone.

I’ve been judging since 1996, and I’ve been keeping up with the rules since 1994, when I first started playing. I’m currently Level 2, and have been for some time; the main reason I haven’t pursued higher rank in a while has been time considerations (I’m currently attending college and trying to finish degrees in both mathematics and philosophy).

In addition, if someone happens to find a question that I can’t answer, I know who to ask. I keep in contact with many other judges, and if they can’t answer it, they can contact the Rules Team, who will answer it. So, while I’m not the absolute authority on rules, I have enough resources to make sure that the rules questions will get answered correctly.

Why call it Rule of Law?

That was the name I had for it when it started. If there is enough need (and a good suggestion for it), it will be replaced by something new. But for now, this provides continuity with the old article series, for those who have been around long enough to remember it.

Will there be reprints of the old articles?

Not directly. I will gladly redo themes that I visited in them, but if I do, I will make sure they are updated to the current rules and use newer examples when possible.

Now onto Rule of Law!

“Playing” vs.”Putting into Play”

Although these terms sound similar, they are two different actions. For the purposes of the average Magic player, the difference is simple. Playing a spell or ability puts it on the stack, where it has a chance to be countered, such as by Vex or Stifle, whereas putting something into play does not. But let’s look at the rules to see more differences, and learn how you can be certain which variety of ability you are dealing with.

Here’s the relevant rule for playing lands:

212.6b A player may play only one land card during each of his or her own turns. Effects may allow the playing of additional lands; playing an additional land in this way doesn’t prevent a player from taking the normal action of playing a land. Players can’t begin to play a land that an effect prohibits from being played. As a player plays a land, he or she announces whether he or she is using the once-per-turn action of playing a land. If not, he or she specifies which effect is allowing the additional land play. Effects may also allow you to”put” lands into play. This isn’t the same as”playing a land” and doesn’t count as the player’s one land played during his or her turn.

This highlights why you need to watch the cards carefully to see what it does. Exploration, for example, lets you play an additional land each turn. This is covered in the first half 212.6b. The rule also says that there is no order as which one you do first. So if Exploration is in play, you can play a land using its ability, then bounce it back to your hand, play it again, and you can then play two more lands (one for normal land drop, and another for the”new” Exploration). If you used your normal land drop for the turn to play that first land, you would only get one more land play.

Compare this to a card such as Wayfarer’s Bauble. This card lets you put a land card into play, which is covered in the last half of 212.6b. This is not counted as playing a land, so you can play a land during the same turn. It also means that it’s not limited to using its ability on your main phase when the stack is empty.

If somehow you get an effect that says you can”play” lands either after your last main phase or on an opponent’s turn, you can’t play those lands, because the”play a land” option is not open to you at that time, only during your own main phase.

305.4. During either main phase, the active player may play one land card from his or her hand if the stack is empty, if the player has priority, and if he or she hasn’t yet taken this special action this turn. (See rule 212.6,”Lands.”) This action doesn’t use the stack and it isn’t a spell or ability of any kind. It can’t be countered, and players can’t respond to it with instants or activated abilities.

Other things are easier to understand, as I have mentioned before. As far as the game is concerned, you never technically”play” a permanent; instead, you are playing a spell or ability that, when it resolves, causes the permanent to be put into play. Notice that Angel’s Feather triggers on White spells being played; and you can gain life when white creatures such as Leonin Squire are played, because it goes onto the stack as a spell. If the creature came into play, such as by the effect of a Beacon of Unrest, then it would not trigger, as the Beacon is Black and the Squire is never on the stack as a spell.

As I said in the section about lands, you need to look carefully to see whether something’s being played or put into play. Panoptic Mirror plays its copies, but Soul Foundry puts its copies into play. This should be clear, because in this case, the Panoptic Mirror is copying instants and sorceries, which only make sense on the stack, whereas Soul Foundry is making copies of creatures, which can easily come into play without the stack.

Until we meet again,

Dominick Riesland

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