The Constitution Of Magic

Change is good. The American forefathers were brilliant. So was Richard Garfield.

The year is 1788: America is weak because of the ineffective government run by a document by the name of the Articles of Confederation. As the name suggests, this basis of government established a confederacy with each state having veto power and a unanimous vote needed to do anything. Therefore, nothing was getting done, and the American forefathers recognize this.”What?s to be done?” they ask.”Begin a new government, one that favors the national government over the state governments,” is the response.”But Thomas Jefferson would never go for that!” That remark is met by,”Look around. Where, exactly is Thomas Jefferson?”

Well, as it turns out, Thomas Jefferson was in France. By the time he made it back, James Madison had already whipped up the Constitution, and it had the John Hancocks of John Hancock and many others. Now you might think that Jefferson, who authored a states? rights document that the South cited continuously in the justification of their secession, would be livid.

Presidential election of 1800. Victor: Thomas Jefferson.

Presidential election of 1804. Victor: Thomas Jefferson.

I guess it goes to show that he got over it. But what could make this avid states? rights advocate agree to a form of government that favors the national government?

The answer lies in the Constitution ? perhaps the greatest achievement of American history. The Constitution is an amazing document for one reason: It can change. The forefathers built into the document the ability to have it changed as the times changed. You?re worried about personal freedoms? Go ahead and amend the Constitution ten times right up front. Slavery?s a problem? Amendment 13. Women want to vote? Cue the 19th major change! Sure, the government established (including the bicameral legislative body balanced by the executive and judicial branches), was sophisticated and effective… But if the Constitution weren?t able to change, we?d still be living a 1789 lifestyle – or we?d have a different form of government.

So change is good. The American forefathers were brilliant. So was Richard Garfield.

Magic consists of the ability to change ? in fact, it’s an innate state of the game. The very basis of the game is a fluctuating state of affairs – you just hope that affairs fluctuate in your direction more than your opponent?s, and you work to make that happen as much as possible. If you play a Wrath of God against a beatdown deck, you?ve just changed the dynamics of the entire game. Similarly, if you never react and just let your opponent have his way, you?re destined to lose. Just as America couldn?t grow under the stagnant Articles of Confederation, you can?t win with a sixty-land deck (as has been evidenced by Dan Bock).

But outside a simple game, Magic itself changes on a wide scale every four months as new sets are released. Along with at least 143 new cards (excluding reprints) come new mechanics, new rules, and new interactions. Just as the First Amendment to the Constitution, which served to grant all citizens their most basic of freedoms, affected people in innumerable ways, so does each new card that is released interact with every other card in Magic in a new way, creating an unfathomable web of connections. I mean, when Donate was printed four years after Illusions of Grandeur, it created one of the strongest Extended decktypes – but it was nearly impossible to see this coming because of the huge number of possibilities that just couldn?t be examined before printing Donate. Opalescence and Replenish was another”oops” when added to some insano-great enchantments that happened to be legal. Now that Stasis is being reprinted to a degree in Judgment; who knows what will come up? No one can – and that?s the beauty of Magic. It?s always wide open for more opportunities.

But there?s yet another layer of change built into Magic on top of expansion sets. That?s where the DCI comes in. My friend is studying up for a judge test, and he started reading the entire set of rules – all a hundred or so typewritten pages of them. He read for a good while and told me that he was still on permanents – did you know that lands have subtypes? A land type is basic or nonbasic ? its subtype is either Island, Plains, Forest, Mountain, or Swamp or, if it?s a nonbasic land, it?s the name of that land. Neat, huh? But, without this distinction, you might be able to Harrow out a Savannah. But I?m not really talking about the rules as they stand; I?m referring to changes in the rules.

Here?s an excellent example: A couple years ago, some very tricky player figured out that Waylay could be used in an unintended fashion.

Waylay (as printed)

2W – Instant

Put three 2/2 white Knight creature tokens into play. Remove these from the game at end of turn.

Obviously, it was made as a way to create three surprise blockers. But one clever cat noticed that there was a window of opportunity after cleanup (when the tokens would be removed from game) yet before the end of the opponent?s turn. So technically, you could play Waylay during this time and have three surprise attackers for your next attack phase. Now, Wizards had never meant for this to happen, so they made a very simple move.

Waylay (as it now functions)

2W – Instant

Play only during combat.

Put three 2/2 white Knight creature tokens into play. Remove these from the game at end of turn.

They simply changed the rules. The cards don’t work the way we want them to? Change them. Taking this a step further, the rules themselves can be changed. For instance, single cards, instead of being errata?d, can simply be banned from the game. Other times, something truly drastic can happen. Anyone who played before Sixth Edition Classic will remember the introduction of the”stack,” a then-new way of playing. Before the stack, spells were played in groups, called”batches,” of effects. Each player would have an opportunity to respond to a previous effect, placing his on top of it. Once no one had any more effects to add, they all resolved without any more windows of opportunity. Similarly, though infinitely different in terms of play, the stack allows spells to be added on to be resolved later ? but players can play new spells between each resolution. Plus, now just about everything (except for adding mana to your mana pool, I believe, and perhaps announcing a spell) goes on the stack. No more questions – it just goes on the stack. Batches of effects were too confusing, so the DCI just decided to change it. This change has, I believe, been for the best.

If there?s a problem in America, the government (generally) tries to fix it. And, if there?s a problem in the government, the government (generally) ties to fix it. This can be done because of the flexible nature of the Constitution. Similarly, the DCI can change just about anything in Magic if it needs changing and has done so frequently for the good of the game. Under this system, America has thrived as a successful country for more than 200 years. Although I don?t know if Magic will last that long, it?s still going strong and has no signs of slowing down.

So here?s to a bright future, of liberty in America, and fun in Magic!

Daniel Crane

[email protected]


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