The Kitchen Table #216 – Unearthed Arcana

Read Abe Sargent every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!Bonjour mes amis! I hope you enjoy another spin here on the DJ table of Club Casuelle. I’m DJ Abe, and today we are going to break out with the sequel to the original casual hit of the season, The Magic Role-Playing Game.

Bonjour mes amis! I hope you enjoy another spin here on the DJ table of Club Casuelle. I’m DJ Abe, and today we are going to break out with the sequel to the original casual hit of the season, The Magic Role-Playing Game.

On tap tonight are hits like “Optional Rules” and “Rules Clarifications,” and even the “Banned List.” Without further ado, let’s kick it!

This article follows up on this article:

If you haven’t read that article, this one will be strange and difficult to you. The purpose of the Magic RPG is that you get a chance to build up your Planeswalker over time, from chump to champ. Using a system built around three aspects of your character, the RPG takes your Walker and develops him with a large number of skills and traits for you to choose from.

Some people have expressed their concern that the system allows players to build degenerate decks, such as High Tide. Sure, as originally constructed, you could build Tide. However, what is stopping you from playing Tide anyway? Are you playing Tide at your Kitchen Table now? Then why worry that a new format allows you to do so?

Also note that players can change their character over time to address someone who abuses the system, but that person can’t change back. For example, suppose that a player took the following skills:

Sage: Hunted Horror
Signature: Hunted Horror
Inverse Diversity

This triple combo was suggested by DavinciCoder on the forums. If you have a Hunted Horror in your hand on the first turn, you can drop it for free and get a 7/7 trampler with no drawback. What a great deal, he points out.

To be fair, that’s a really clever combination. I like that this format encourages you to find these combos. However, this is still not that bad. Consider that you have to have the Horror in hand, you cannot drop two or more if you have extras (as per Signature, it can only be used once per turn, plus Inverse Diversity would kill both), and it’s only one turn faster than normal, without Signature.

It’s easy to defend against. Everything from Swords to Plowshares to Rend Flesh to Terminate to Eyeblight’d Ending will take it out. It might get in a hit for 7 on turn 2, and then die. In the meantime, I’d have used my three Mage Points for something more generally useful, and my deck can change.

Also note that your decks will change over time, and you can switch out decks entirely. If your Planeswalker character is so specific as to abuse a certain deck, you cannot witch decks, so if your deck becomes worse over tie as players play foils, there is nothing you can do to get out of it. I’d recommend a more generic set of abilities.

Today’s article is mostly about options. This sequel will give your table a lot of optional rules that you can either decide to run with or leave behind, at your leisure. This article will also tweak a few skills and traits from the first articles, and those are considered optional, but I hope that you’ll use them as changed. I even have a new Banned List (with two cards on it) for the format. We have new skills, new traits, new stats, and now everything. Ready?

Let’s get started.

The Stats (Optional)

In the original vision of the game, you began with two stats; Mental Fortitude and Physical Fortitude. You also began the game with access to all commons and a 60 card deck, with 4 of each card.

Today we are going to add three stats by changing those last three qualities. In the previous version, you began your character with 12 Mage Points, with a requirement that at least one Mage Point go to a skill or trait. Today, using the new character generation rules, you begin with 15 MP, with the same requirement as before.

Let’s look at the new stats.


Not all wizards have the same capacity for holding spells in their mind. Some might be able to hold a hundred spells in their mind, while others might be able to memorize thousands. This depends on the mental stamina of the mage plus their training and focus on the goal at hand.

As a Planeswalker gets better at Memory, that Walker will gain access to more and more cards, to represent the number of spells that can now be kept in storage.

Do you want to know what things you are most likely to remember? The things that happened recently. Can you tell me what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner one year ago today? Probably not. Can you tell me what you had for those meals yesterday? Now you probably can. The same is true of Planeswalkers.

Under this rule, all Planeswalkers begin with access to Standard sets. The normal restrictions still apply, so the Planeswalker knows just the common spells. A Walker can still purchase access to a card from a set prior to the access he has through Memory. Just like you or I might remember an event or chain of events from our lives ten years ago, the Planeswalker can remember a handful of spells from that same time if you purchase access through the normal methods, like Sage and Ally.

For each point of Memory a Planeswalker has, the further back in time you can go. Here are the commons you get access to as you put points into Memory:

0 Memory Points: Coldsnap, Time Spiral Block, Tenth, Lorwyn Block
1 Memory Point: Ninth, Ravnica Block, Kamigawa Block
2 Memory Points: Eighth, Mirrodin, Onslaught
3 Memory Points: Seventh, Invasion, Odyssey
4 Memory Points: Sixth, Masques, Urza’s
5 Memory Points: Fifth, Tempest, Mirage
6 Memory Points: Fourth, Ice Age, Alliances, Homelands, Fallen Empires
7 Memory Points: Beta, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, The Dark
8 Memory Points: Portal, Portal: Second Age, Portal: Three Kingdoms, Starter

You may not spend more than 8 points in Memory.

Suppose you want to gain access to an old common but you don’t want to build up to it with Memory, do you have to build your Memory in this order? Yes, you do, but read the rules revisions, and you will find a way to do just what you want to do there.

With this change, players’ decks will now be a 60 card deck with 4 of each card and commons from Standard.


It’s one thing to have a lot of memories running about your skull, but how quickly can you bring any one to the surface? With so much stuff in their noggin, a Planeswalker could be called forgetful as a compliment. Recall measures how good your Walker is at remembering something over and over again.

Everybody can remember the occasional story from their life, but can you remember that story with exactness on numerous occasions when under a lot of stress? Will your retelling of a stay just ten minutes later be precisely the same? Mages must have exact Recall, or else they will be unable to cast the spell.

Therefore, under this change, all Planeswalkers begin the game with just access to one of each cards, other than basic land. For each point of Recall, that Planeswalker gains the ability to put two, then three, then finally four of a card into the deck. Recall can never be purchased above three points, so a deck can never have more than four of a card, except for basics.

Thus, with a Recall of zero, a deck will be highlander. With a Recall of three, that same deck can look like a normal deck. Decks built now with no additional points in the two new stats will now be highlander 60 card decks with commons, using the Standard pool.


This final stat measures how good your Planeswalker is at constraining the Magic forces under their command. Magic demands to be cast, now. It takes Constraint to whittle down the vast number of spells a Planeswalker knows into the smaller number of spells that are prepared for a journey or a battle.

The more Constraint a Walker has, the fewer spells they can cut their known spells to. A mage with less Constraint may have a large bundle of spells, whereas one with a lot of constraint may only have the necessary ones and not much more.

Therefore, when a Planeswalker has a Constraint of zero, they may have no less than 100 cards in their deck. As they put points into the skill, it changes over time:

0 Constraint Points: 100
1 Constraint Point: 90
2 Constraint Points: 80
3 Constraint Points: 70
4 Constraint Points: 60

You may never have a Constraint higher than four.

A deck build under these three new stats without putting any points into them now looks like this:

100 card minimum
Access to commons

As you add points, the decks get better and more streamlined. With your extra three starting Mage Points, you can really attack one of these new stats and help yourself out, or you can get more traits and skills and then be playing with a Highlander, 100 card, Standard, all commons deck. There are more paths to explore with your character, and I think you’ll find that a lot of abusable combos of the previous game are now completely gone.

New Skills (Optional)

The below skills are designed largely to complement the new stats and the original skills and traits. Some of these were suggested by others, and where that it the case, I give them credit in the description. There are nine new skills below. I wanted an even ten, but my brain couldn’t come up with another I thought was appropriate, so I figured better to go with nine than an overpowered tenth.

Wrath of Tormod: For each point of Wrath of Tormod, you may, once per game, remove up to three target cards in a player’s graveyard from the game. This skill is designed to counter heavy graveyard strategies and was suggest on the forums by wildfire393.

Elusive: For each point of Elusive, you may, once per game, discard a card to gain shroud until the end of turn. This was invented as a nice combo hoser, and was suggested by DavinciCoder in the forums.

Cheater: Each time you gain access to this skill, choose a card on the Banned list (all cards banned in cardboard formats in WoTC plus the below list.) When you do, if any player vetoes your choice, you must remove your point from Cheater and pick something else. You gain access to that card. This allows you to try and take some of the less abusable cards that in very specific formats and combos are powerful, but are normally fine. An easy example is Erayo, Soratami Ascendant, which is banned in Two Headed Giant. If you want Erayo, I’d allow that… but you purchase your access here, in case you play Two Headed Giant a lot, and then some of your follows may not like that and veto your choice.

Guile: At the beginning of your upkeep, you may Scry X, where X is equal to the number of points in Guile. This ability is in homage to Mirri’s Guile.

Solicit: For each point of Solicit, you may, once per game, remove a card in your hand as a sorcery. If you do, have you and a creature’s controller roll a d20. Add each player’s Mental Fortitude to the result. Add your total Solicit score to your result as well. Whoever has the highest number wins. If you win, gain control of that creature. Note that, like Psionic, this does not target, enabling you to steal creatures that cannot be targeted. You can’t hide from a Planeswalker. Example: You want to gain control of Billy’s Platinum Angel. You have Solicit: 2, and Mental Fortitude: 9. Spend one of your points. You roll a 14, Billy rolls a 16. You add 11 to you score to get 25. Billy has a Mental Fortitude of 9. Add 9 to his score to get a 25. You do not win, so you do not get the Angel. Had Billy rolled one less, you one more, or you had one more point in either attribute, that Angel would be yours.

Weathermage: Each time you take this ability, select an enchantment named after a weather phenomenon. You may not pick Monsoon. Begin with that enchantment in play. You gain access to it, and this copy does count against your limit, but not against your deck total. Monsoon is not allowed because it is a hoser, and if you discover any other hosers, they are banned from Weathermage as well. Examples of good cards to choose include Katabatic Winds and Crosswinds. Please note that unless it is coming from clouds during a rainstorm, lightning is not a weather phenomenon.

Sneaky: For each point in Sneaky, you may, once per game, draw two cards instead of drawing one. You can even do this for your starting hand. Thus, a point of Sneaky will increase your starting hand size, just like a point of Mental Fortitude will. The difference is that Mental Fortitude gives you an extra to your hand size overall, while the tricky sneaky mage can slip an extra card into their hand later in the game instead of in the beginning.

Reverence: For each point of Reverence, you may not be attacked by creatures with a power equal to the number of points you have put into Reverence. Note that, unlike Dauntless, this does not apply to all creatures with that power or less, but merely equal to that power. Reverence: 0 does not prevent creature with no power from attacking. The homage of this skill goes, naturally, to Reverence.

Veto: If any player has Veto, then there is a Veto phase at the beginning of each game, before players reveal their decks, shuffle, and draw their hands. The Veto phase takes place after players have chosen their decks. Starting with the player with the most Veto (choose randomly if players are tied), that player names a card. That card cannot be played this game. Go clockwise with players naming a card until all Veto points are used. After the Veto phase, any player may spend three points in Mental or Physical Fortitude and switch decks. Example: If someone just hosed your deck with their Veto, you can choose to lose any combination of 3 points of Mental or Physical Fortitude and switch decks. This loss only affects this game, and your stats are restored at the end of the game. This ability ends any argument that broken decks can be made with this format. Note that this ability is not worth taking for normal cards, only for particularly troublesome cards. Note that there is also a bit of poker in the Veto phase, as your opponents may try to figure out what deck you are playing, and if they guess wrong, you won’t have to play around their Veto and you don’t lose any stats for the game. This is a complex ability, but I think it’s really cool.

New Traits (Optional)

There are 21 nice new traits right here. Hopefully there will be something you like!

Bricklayer: All pieces of equipment that you control now gains Fortify for the same equip cost. Any ability that refers to the equipped creature now refers to the Fortified land as well. If Sunforger is on the land when it is used, it searches, tap the land Fortified by Shuriken, etc. Note that power/toughness changes won’t apply unless the land becomes a creature at some point.

Affiliation: This trait costs two points. When you take this trait, choose a geographical region (Shiv, Jamuraa, Benalia, Llanowar, etc). You gain access to all cards that mention that area in their title. If it mentions coming from the area in the flavor text or novel or comic or online article, it doesn’t count. You only gain access if the place name is in the title. Please note that a plane is not a “geographic region,” so you cannot choose Phyrexia.

Guildmage: When you select this trait, choose a guild from Ravnica. You gain access to all cards with that guild name in its title. For example, if you chose Izzet, you gain access to Izzet Chronarch and Izzet Guildmage, but you do not gain access to Tibor and Lumia or Niv-Mizzet.

Ambush: At the beginning of the game, when you roll to see who goes first, add 50% of the die maximum to your roll. For, for example, if you roll a d20, you will add 10 to each of your rolls, because 10 is half of the die maximum. This trait was suggested by keighlon.

Santamancer: You begin the game with Noble Benefactor and Veteran Explorer in play. These do count against your total, so if you have a Recall of zero, you can’t have any more in your deck. They do not count against your deck’s overall total, so you still have to have 100 cards in your deck or less based on your Constraint. Gain access to those two cards, plus Weird Harvest, New Frontiers, and Tempting Wurm

Naturalist: Any creature that represents a real world creature costs one less colorless mana to play and get +1/+1. Examples include Man-o’-War, Whipporwill, Thieving Magpie, Sabretooth Tiger, and Wooly Mammoths. This bonus does not apply to token creatures. Animals that could exist but do not, do not count. Examples of animals that do not count are War Mammoth (which either represents a breed called War or a creature trained for war, neither of which have ever existed). No Raven has ever been a Raven Familiar. You could use Swarm of Rats and Relentless Rats, but not Plague Rats or Bog Rats, which appear to refer to specific species or undead rats. There is a species of Squid called the Gulf Bobtail Squid, so I’d allow Gulf Squid, but not Sand Squid unless there is a species I couldn’t find when I searched.

Dwarven Armory Is Broken: I wanted to find a card so bizarre that it would challenge any Johnnies to actually build with this trait, so here you go. You begin the game with a copy of Dwarven Armory in play. You gain access to Dwarven Armory. The in play card counts against your card count, but not against your deck total. If you are not an extreme Johnny, then this trait is obviously not for you.

Quickthink: At any time, you may look at the top card of your library. Since players will do this a lot anyway, I wanted to make it legal. This ability does not use the stack.

Serious: Whenever an opponent puts one of their cards into the Removed from Game zone, instead put it into the Absolutely Removed From the Freaking Game Forever zone.

Gigantism: All of your creatures are B.F.M.s In order to play any creature in your deck, you must have an identical creature in your hand. Pay the mana for one, and put both in pay attached to each other. Both halves are treated as one creature, so a removal spell takes out both halves. Although abilities don’t stack, the creature does gain its power and toughness twice, so a double Birds of Paradise would be 0/2 and flying, but not double flying. Remember, you cannot play a creature if you just have that one copy in your hand, so please, whatever you do, don’t get this trait when you have Recall : 0. That’s just bad.

Build Unto Death: On your first turn, put a 1/1 colorless marmoset token in play under your control. On your second turn, put a 2/2 colorless marmoset token into play under your control. On your third turn, put a 3/3 colorless marmoset token into play under your control. Continue this, one increasingly larger marmoset token into play on each of your turns until your tenth turn. Do not put any tokens into play after your tenth turn. At the end of your tenth and all subsequent turns, you lose the game.

Feathermage: Gain access to all natural Griffins. All non legendary griffins you control get +0/+1. This bonus is cumulative with other effects. Natural griffins means it has to be printed griffin on it, changelings don’t count.

Guardian: All creatures that used to have the Guardian type regain it. You gain access to Ivory Guardians. Frankly, I’d be okay with you using this on other creature types that were removed (like Heroes, and then taking the hero pumper etc).

Zombification: All creature cards with a casting cost greater than zero in your graveyard gain flashback. The flashback cost is double their normal mana cost, and that total cost in life. For example, if you have a Grizzly Bear in your graveyard, you could replay it by paying 2GG and paying four life. Obviously, some creatures (like Savannah Lions) are better deals than others (like Draco). I wanted to give players another graveyard ability. I actually like this for cheaper creatures. I’d pay two life and GG to get a Birds of Paradise back. Note that you cannot use this on a Shield Sphere to keep playing it over and over again.

Burnification: All sorcery burn that deals damage to a player deals an additional damage. I wanted a give a bone somehow to burn, so here it is.

Equinimancer: All of your creatures that innately have flanking lose flanking and gain horsemanship. Innately means it has to be printed on the card; it cannot have gained it through something like Jabari’s Banner. At first this looks powerful, but note that your innate creatures are 2/2s and the occasional 3/3, and also note that your opponent can take this too, giving you another front on the table. This is not a combo with Tactician: Flanking.

Portalist: You gain access to all uncommons from all Beginner Sets: Portal, Portal 2, Portal: Three Kingdoms, and Starter. There was previously no way to get Portal cards outside of Sage. Now you can get the uncommons.

Nightstalker: Gain access to Return of the Nightstalkers and all natural nightstalkers. A card is a natural nightstalker if it has nightstalker in its type line. Changelings don’t count.

Skinshift: During your upkeep, target a creature opponent controls. Choose a creature type that creature controls. Until your next upkeep, all creatures gain the chosen type. That’s your creatures, opposing creatures… everybody gets it.

Expertise: Any bonuses that your creatures get through Tactician or Master Tactician apply to you as well, if you have Battle-Mage. Example: If you have Battle-Mage: 2, and Tactician: First Strike, then you will now deal First Strike damage to creatures that attack you. Note that some abilities do nothing when combined with Expertise, like Reach or Flanking. You cannot give yourself an ability through any other means.

Raider: If you have Battle-Mage, you may attack as a creature with power equal to your Battle-Mage score and toughness equal to your life. You may not attack on your first turn. Tap yourself, and choose a target, like normal. Any abilities that your creatures have via Tactician or Master Tactician you also have. Any damage you take in combat either from a blocking creature, an effect like Sandstorm, or from an opposing Battle-Mage is deducted from your life. Note that you have to tap to attack, so Vigilance will not help you here. For purposes of protection abilities, while attacking, you are both a creature and a Planeswalker, and you are colorless. You cannot be targeted with removal, like Terminate, but you could be blasting with a Rock Slide or have your damage prevented, or be redirected via Melee. Your creature cannot be removed from play for any reason. While tapped, if creatures attack and deal damage to you, you cannot use Battle-Mage to deal damage back, and you will take double damage from their attack. You may not give yourself an ability through any other means, except Tactician and Master Tactician. Note that these bonuses only apply during a combat phase in which you are declared an attacker. You may not target yourself while attacking. (This includes casting something like Inspiration on yourself, or casting Twiddle to untap your creature).

Rules Change

This affects the way XP is gained. It is a minor change, and meant to keep lower level players up with higher level ones.

When defeating a player who has two or more levels more than you, you gain an extra XP. When winning a multiplayer group game, if half or more of the players are of a higher level than you, gain an extra XP

Corrections, Errata, and Clarifications

This section is intended to address the questions and concerns people had about specifics from the first article.

When an ability instructs you to begin the game with a creature in play, it may attack on your first turn. If you put it into play on your first turn, you cannot. Almost all abilities that allow you to begin the game with a permanent in play with have that permanent count against the card type count, but not against the deck total. For example, suppose I have Recall: 1, Constraint: 2, Sage: Scarwood Bandits and Alliance with Bandits. I can play up to two Scarwood Bandits in my deck normally, but because I start the game with one in play, I can only have one in my deck, because the one in play counts. However, my deck must still have 80 cards in it, and the Scarwood Bandits in play doesn’t count against that. If an ability is an exception, it will state so in the rules (such as Familiar, which specifically states that you can run four in the deck plus the one in play).

Channeler: Although the trait description says it only works on spells, some people have asked about domain permanents. It does not work on permanents, such as Collective Restraint; it only works on spells.

Dauntless: This skill is meant to go up to X, not just X alone. Thus, a player with Dauntless: 3 has protection up to three, inclusive of one and two. Also, a person with Dauntless: 1 does have protection from zero, but a person with Dauntless: 0 does not have it. Just in case that ever matters.

Druid: When using Druid on your opening hand, you may choose at any time to use Druid, including after you’ve drawn a few cards. This is a clarification and not a rules change.

Elementalist: In order to give this a little more power, it now applies to all creatures of the given element, not just those with the Elemental creature type. Note that you have to have the element in your construction in order to count. Sandstone Warrior has rock in it, so it counts even though it isn’t an elemental. Merfolk aren’t water, even if they swim in the seas.

Familiar: In order to prevent combo decks from abusing this with Skirge Familiar, this trait now reads; “Choose a familiar with a casting cost of four or less.” For beatdown players, you still get Foul Familiar.

Psionic: This skill is worded without a target so that you can hit untargetables. There is no hiding from a Planeswalker.

Oracle: This is moved from skill to trait. That means it can only be purchased once. This was due to concern for cards like Riddle of Lightning.

Sage: You may now sage any card, not just a Rare. This allows you to get cards like Bazaar of Baghdad or a common like Maze of Ith early.

Shifter: This trait now reads that only natural shapeshifters and illusions get the ability, so it is not a combo with metamorph.

Signature: This is the most misread of the skills and traits, so I must not have written it correctly. You gain the ability to, once per turn, play a card that costs two or less mana for free, but you still have to have it in your hand, it’s not just a mystical card made out of thin air. You can Nix a signature.

Tactician: Lifelink has been moved to Master Tactician.

Weave: This no longer works with artifacts.

Banned Cards (Optional):

In addition to all of the banned cards in the original article (all WoTC banned cards plus all alternate winning conditions other than poison), I would like to ban the following:

Ancestral Vision (broken with Signature Spell)
Umezawa’s Jitte (doesn’t fit the flavor of the format)

And that brings us to the close of another article. Once again, I hope you have enjoyed another excursion into the realm of the casual. What will next week’s article bring? I can hardly wait to write it.

Until later,

Abe Sargent