The Kitchen Table #327 – Magic: The Role Playing Game, Second Edition

StarCityGames.com Open Series: Indianapolis on March 13-14
Wednesday, March 3rd – Back in 2007, I wrote an article that changed the way some people played Magic. During 2008, I twice revisited the series with errata and optional changes. However, since then? There have been numerous sets released, and now there are questions…

Welcome back to my legacy. This entry into a cyberspace full of Magic articles was my way out of the noise and into your hearts and minds several years ago. Back in 2007, I wrote an article that changed the way some people played Magic. During 2008, I twice revisited the series with errata and optional changes. However, since then?

There have been numerous sets released, and now there are questions. How does this impact Memory? With all of the optional rules, what is and is not allowed? What about the new keywords introduced?

There has been a need for a revamped article. When I wrote the first, I knew, as I submitted it to Craig, that it was something new, something fresh, and something interesting in a way beyond most of my articles. To this day, it has been my greatest contribution to the game. However, since 2008, we’ve had silence. It seems like it is time.

With several articles of optional rules, I felt it was time to revamp the main rules article. Now, instead of reading several articles one after the other, with changes made in later articles, all of the later changes are going to be here in one easy to access article. In addition, I have modified some traits and skills that are mega-powerful in Zendikar block, and added some new things to keep this all interesting.

This, then, is the Second Edition. In today’s article, there are no optional rules. Some traits and skills from all three original articles are going to be in today’s article, while new ones will join them. Many optional things are now not optional.

If a Skill or Trait you really like is not included in today’s article, feel free to add it to your playgroup. This is meant as a starting ground for a new generation of Magic: RPG players. It can also be a new spark into the old version of the M: RPG you played.

So, let’s talk. This game is meant to simulate you as an actual Planeswalker, moving forth across the landscape, building power, and then attacking one or more of your enemies. It can be played in duels or multiplayer (or both).

Interested? Sound like fun? It will be.

Let’s Begin

Grab a pencil and a sheet of paper. If you want, print out Appendix A below. Create a name for your Planeswalker such as Evansherd, Slayer of Reinholt or Niveam, Clarit’s Finder, or The Controller. Hey, whatever you want, just put it at the top.

You will begin with 15 Mage Points (MP) which are the currency of character generation, so put 15 beside MP on your sheet. You start at level 1, with no Experience Points, so fill in those sections as appropriate.

Simple enough so far, right? Okay, now we need to look at the first thing — the four stats. These determine the capabilities of your Planeswalker.


Before we move to stats, let’s discuss a few new terms.

Access — You may only play a card in your deck if you have Access to it. There are a ton of ways to purchase that Access. At the beginning of your character, you only have access to Standard commons, but you can purchase more access with Traits and Skills. If you have Access to a card, you can play any version. If I purchase Access to Mercadian Masques uncommons through Adept, then I could play a copy of Afterlife from Mirage. If I play a card like Cunning Wish or the Research half of Research/Development, then I can only get cards I have Access to.

Skill — A Trait is a scale-able ability that you can purchase. You may purchase it again and again for additional effects, as listed in the Skill.

Trait — A Trait is distinguished from a Skill because it can only be purchased once, and then acts as an ability for the game.

Veto Phase — A small number of Skills and Traits fire during the Veto Phase, which is a new thing introduced with the Magic: RPG. Here are the rules of the Veto Phase:

The Veto Phase occurs after players select their decks, but before players roll to determine who goes first. The Veto Phase has the following steps:

1. The player with the most Veto points goes first. Tiebreaker is the most Mental Fortitude, and then a die roll if still tied.
2. The player who goes first spends her Veto points and Vetoes one card per point spent. This continues clockwise until all Veto points are spent.
3. The player who began resolves any other Skills or Traits that are chosen during the Veto Phase. This continues clockwise until all decisions are made.
4. Any play may “spend” 3 combined Mental Fortitude and/or Physical Fortitude to audible to a new deck. This will reduce the starting hand and/or life accordingly. Note that you are not required to have any Vetoes in order to audible. You can audible at the end of the Veto Phase due to other Skills or Traits.

Thus, after the Veto Phase is resolved, and players choose who is going first, draw cards, resolve mulligans, and play begins.

Begin in Play — There are a few Traits that allow you to begin the game with certain cards already in play. When this occurs, it does count against the total in your deck. If you have Recall: 3, and begin the game with Neurok Familiar in play, then you cannot have more than three more in your deck, instead of the normal four. This does not count against the deck minimum, however, and you still have to have 60 cards in your deck with Constraint: 4, for example. A creature that Begins in Play is considered to have been in play for longer than your turn, and may attack or tap, even without haste.

Skill Points — There are several Skills that give you the ability to use a power a certain number of times during the game. I recommend using a die to indicate the number of times you can use it, and then each time the power is used, just drop the die one.

Winning — Here’s a quick aside. Unfortunately, due to the nature of this game, some alternate winning conditions are too easy to acquire, so all alternate winning conditions are banned, except for poison counters.

The Stats

Mental Fortitude — For each point placed in Mental Fortitude, you start with one card in your opening hand, and your max hand size is that number. If you put seven points into it, you begin the game with seven card and have a max hand size of seven cards. This stat represents your overall mental fitness.

Physical Fortitude — For each Mage Point placed in Physical Fortitude, you get 5 points of starting life total. If you have spent six MP here, you start with 30 life. This represents your physical fitness.

Recall — How well can you recall, exactly, those memorized spells when pressured? Can you do it over and over again, exactly the same? At the beginning of the game, with no expenditures in Recall, you cannot play more than 1 copy of any card in your deck, other than basics. For each point of Recall, you may play additional copies, up to Recall: 3, which allows you to play a full 4 copies of each card which you have access too. You cannot have more than 3 points of Recall.

Constraint – For each MP put here, your minimum deck size is reduced by ten cards. You begin the game with 100 cards as your minimum, and each point allows you to shrink it down. Constraint: 4 means you start with a 60 card minimum, and it cannot be increased beyond that. This represents your ability to whittle down all of the excess information into a small package you carry with you for this battle. You can play more than your deck minimum if you want.

Experience Points

What RPG is complete without the ability to gain in experience over time? In this game, experience is gained by playing against another. Here is how you can gain the valued EP:

A. You get two points for winning a duel
B. You get one point for losing a duel or multiplayer game (did not come in first or second)
C. You get an extra point if you win a duel against someone two or more levels above you
D. You get points equal to the number of players minus two, minimum 3, for winning a multiplayer game. (3, 4, or 5 players — 3 points, 6 — 4 points, 7 — 5 points, etc)
E. You get 2 EP for coming in second in a multiplayer game
F. You get an extra point if you come in first or second in a multiplayer game, and at least half of the players have a higher level.

The Experience Chart:

Level 1 – 0 XP
Level 2 – 10 XP
Level 3 – 21 XP
Level 4 – 33 XP
Level 5 – 46 XP
Level 6 – 60 XP
Level 7 – 75 XP
Level 8 – 91 XP
Level 9 – 108 XP
Level 10 – 126 XP

When you level up, you get 3 more Mage points which you must immediately spend. When you spend these, at least one must go to Traits and/or Skills and at least one to Stats. Additionally, of your 15 starting MP, at least 10 must be spent on your starting Stats.

There are 26 Skills for your selection, plus 40 Traits. 15 of these are new to this article, and the rest come from other previous articles, but many have changes.


Adept — Every Mage Point you sink into Adept, you gain Access to all uncommons from a Block or set of your choice. You can choose Ravnica block or Revised or The Dark or Mirage block. Note that Ice Age block includes Coldsnap and Alliances, and not Homelands. Also note that every non-common card in Arabian Nights, Antiquities, The Dark, Fallen Empires, and Homelands is an uncommon — there are no rares. This will usually get you just half the cards that Memory, but you can choose the block or set yourself, instead of being forced to use a predetermined list. Note that you can choose Portal sets, as well as silver-bordered sets with this, if your playgroup normally allows the silver world.

Affiliation- Unlike many other Skills, this one costs you two Mage Points. Each time you take it, choose any geographical region, such as Urborg, Tolaria, Shiv, Llanowar, etc. You gain Access to every card that has that work in its 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 something like Phyrexia. If you choose a really large geographical region, like Otaria, that is fine, but you could only gain Access to Otarian Juggernaut, not other cards that mention geographical regions inside of Otaria.

Ally — Each time you take this, select a Non-Planeswalker character from Magicdom, such as Tahngarth or Hanna. You gain Access to any card with that character’s name in the title. Thus, if you had Hanna, you could play Hanna’s Custody but not Fact or Fiction, which merely depicts her. If you are not sure if a character is, or is not, a Planeswalker, please look it up online first.

Anti-Magic Cloak — Each time you spend a point in A-M Cloak, once per game you may gain shroud until the end of the turn.

Artificer — For each point placed in Artificer, you may play creatures up to that casting cost as if they were artifact creatures with a colorless cost. For example, if you have Artificer: 3, you could play Wooly Thoctar as an artifact creature with a casting cost of 3 instead of RGW. It is considered an artifact creature and has all of its strengths and weaknesses.

Druid – For each point of Druid you take, you get a point that can be used to draw a basic land from your deck. Drawing a basic land means that, when you draw a card, search your library for a basic land, reveal it, and shuffle your deck. It still counts as drawing a card for purposes of other cards like Underworld Dreams. This can be used in your opening hand. You can draw five cards, see that you have a great hand, and Druid twice to guarantee you basics of the right color(s) in order to start swinging.

Duplication Machine — For each point spent here, once a game you may play an instant or sorcery in your hand as if it had Replicate, and it’s Replicate cost is one life + the casting cost of the card. For example, I could play Shock as if it had Replicate, and pay R and a life for every copy I wanted to make.

Eradicator — Each game you may, once per point of Eradicator, remove up to five target cards from a single player’s graveyard. That means you cannot remove cards from both Jay’s and Bob’s graveyards, but you could remove just two cards from Christine’s or five from yours.

Guile — During your upkeep, you may Scry: X where X is equal to the number of Mage Points you have put in Guile. Some mages are just smarter than others.

Herbalist – For each point of Herbalist, you gain a regeneration shield for each game you may use on a creature. This regen effect is so powerful that it will even regen a creature from an effect that normally prevents regeneration. For example , you can use this to regenerate your Baneslayer Angel from a Terminate or Wrath of God. You cannot stop something from being Exiled, sacrificed, and so forth.

Memory — How many spells do you have back there, knocking around your brain? What have you been exposed to? For each Mage Point spent in this Skill, you have access to a greater number of common cards. At the beginning of the game, you have access only to commons from these sets — M10, Shards Block, and Zendikar Block. If you have not spent any Memory, then these are the sets you can use commons from. For each point spent in Memory, you gain access to more commons. Here’s how it works:

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

You cannot spend more than 9 points in Memory. You have to go through the set to get to stuff you want. For example, if you want to play River Boa and other commons from Visions, you will need to have placed 6 points in Memory.

As M11 and the last set in Zendikar are released, you can get them for no extra Memory as well, because they are part of the basic package, which is Standard Legal commons. If your game and characters continue when the newest expansion is released, then you can get the commons from the next block too. Note that no amount of Memory will ever allow you access to Portal, Un-, or cards other than common.

Mulligan Man — For each point in Mulligan Man you spend, you get one free Mulligan which no other players may ride. In some casual formats, the original rules for mulligan are still allowed, such as no land. When you take one, your opponent(s) may ride that mulligan for free. If you play any of those formats, no one can ride your mulligans from this ability, only ones you take normally.

Mythical — Each time you select this, pick a set. You can Access to every Mythic Rare from that set, but you can only play one copy of each of those Mythics in your deck, no matter your Recall.

Necromancer – For each point you drop in Necromancer, you may once, during a game, draw from your graveyard instead of your library. Drawing from your graveyard means that, instead of drawing a card from your library, you may select any card from your graveyard and put it into your hand, and it counts as drawing, just like the Druid skill.

Pact Among Equals — Each time you select this, you must spend Two Mage Points. Select a Planeswalker character. You gain Access to every card with that Planeswalker in the title. Examples include Jace or Chandra or Urza or Serra.

Psionic — When you purchase this, you gain the ability to discard cards from your hand to deal damage to a creature. The damage dealt is equal to your Psionic level. This is considered a colorless Planeswalker source of damage for purposes of protection, and it does not target. Some mages deal the damage themselves rather than rely on minions to do it for them.

Sage – For each point of Sage, you gain access to any card of your choice for your deck. You may play up to four copies of that card in as many decks as you wish, no matter what your Recall is. Jot down your card beside the Sage skill on your character sheet.

Signature — Some mages specialize in just one spell to the point that it is associated to with them. For each point you may chose any spell or non-land permanent with a casting cost of two or less that you already have Access to. You may play that spell or permanent for no mana, as an instant. You may not play it more than once per turn. You must already have it in your hand, the normal number of copies in your deck, and all other restrictions. Write down your choice on your character sheet. Yes, this means it can be countered by Nix.

Solicit – For every point of Solicit, you may, once per game, exile a card in your hand as a sorcery. When you do, choose a creature. You and that creature’s controller each roll 1d20 and add your Mental Fortitude. You can add your Solicit score as well. If you win, you gain control of that creature. This does not target the creature or the player, and it is considered to be coming from a colorless Planeswalker source, in terms of protection.

Tactician — Each time you purchase this Trait, choose an ability from the following list: Flanking, First Strike, Provoke, Vigilance, Reach, Banding, Wither, Absorb: 1, Fateseal: 1, or Bushido: 1. All creatures you control gain the selected ability in all zones, and this includes token creatures. You may not choose the same ability more than once. You may purchase this Trait any number of times, getting a different ability each time.

Tactician, Expert — Just like Tactician, except you spent TWO Mage Points each time you want to select this, and you choose from this list: Lifelink, Double Strike, Flying, Trample, Bloodthirst: 2, Exalted, Devour: 2. All of your creatures gain the ability in all zones, including token creatures.

Tactician, Genius — Just like above, but you must spend THREE Mage Points for these creature abilities. Here is this list: Haste, Shadow, Deathtouch, Shroud, Persist, 2: Regenerates (two colorless mana), Intimidate.

Totemic Shaman — Every time you put a Mage Point in Totemic Shaman, you must choose a creature type, and indicate it on your sheet. All creatures of the chosen type get +1/+1. This bonus is not cumulative with Totemic Shaman, but you can choose more types, as you put in more points. For example, you can choose Goblin and Zombie and they get +1/+1, but Festering Goblin does not get +2/+2, just +1/+1.

Tumbler — For each point in Tumbler, spells of that casting cost that you play gain Cascade. One point means you cascade cards like Kird Ape and Lightning Bolt. Two points mean you cascade cards like Terminate, but not Swords to Plowshares anymore, etc. For example, you can play Kird Ape on turn one, and cascade into Crookshank Kobolds, or whatever.

Vernal Master — Every sorcery you play with a converted casting cost X or less gains split second, where X is equal to the number of times you have purchased Vernal Master. Some wizards have mastered minor magicks so much you don’t even notice when they are cast.

Veto — Every point in this Skill gives you a Veto Point which can be used in the Veto Phase. During the Veto Phase, you can spend Veto Points to Veto any card in the game of Magic. That card cannot be played this game.


Ambush — At the beginning of the game, when rolling to see who goes first, you add 50% of the highest possible number to your die roll. For example, if we roll 1d6, then the highest number possible is a 6. Half of that is 3, so I roll 1d6 plus 3 to see who goes first, and you roll just 1d6, unless you also have purchased Ambush.

Arcanist — Whenever you play an Arcane spell, you may draw a card.

Break Through — Your creatures with a power of five or greater may deal damage to defending player as if they were not blocked.

Build Unto Death — During your first upkeep, place a 1/1 Green Marmoset token into play under your control. During your second one, place a 2/2 Green Marmoset token into play under your control. Then a 3/3 on the third turn, and so forth. At the end of your 10th turn, and every subsequent turn, you lose the game.

Channeler – Whenever you play a spell that cares, you are considered to have seven basic land types in play. This only works for spells, not abilities or permanents. It does not check the exact types, so a Last Stand would not count every land as a Swamp, Mountain, etc. It just works for things like Tribal Flames.

Charm Necklace — After you decide to keep your hand, you may search your library for a card with a casting cost of two or less with Charm in its title, reveal it, and add it to your hand, in addition to your starting hand size. Shuffle your deck. This includes 22 cards — the four cycles in Onslaught, Visions, Mirage and Planeshift, plus Charm Peddler and Freyalise’s Charm.

Chivalry – All natural instances of first strike on your creatures become double strike. Natural means it is not added through other means like Iron Lance or Tactician.

Chromatic – Whenever you play a creature that naturally has all five colors in its casting cost, it gets 5 +1/+1 counters. Naturally means stuff like Fusion Elemental, not Shyft, or cards affecting by various color changing cards.

Eldritch Specialist – You gain Access to all purple timeshifted cards for your deck. You also gain Access to the promo cards.

Enchanter – All of your non-artifact creatures gain Affinity for Enchantments.

Equinimancer – All of your creatures that naturally have flanking lose flanking and gain horsemanship.

Familiar — Choose a creature with a converted casting cost four or less with the word Familiar in its title. You gain access to it. You may play up to four copies, no matter what your Recall stat is. You may begin with one of those copies in play, and then resolve any CIP/ETB abilities such as Raven Familiar’s draw or Owl Familiar’s ability.

Filterscope — During the Veto Phase, select a color. During that game, all of your basic lands tap for that color, in addition to their normal colors.

Flourisher — At the beginning of your upkeep, you may either put a +1/+1 counter on any creature, or you may put a counter on any non-Planeswalker permanent that mentions a type of counter. For example, you could put a +1/+1 counter on Watchwolf, a quest counter on Quest for Ula’s Temple, and either a +1/+1 counter or a dream counter on Rasputin Dreamweaver. You could put nothing on a Howling Mine.

Gambler — Add two to the converted casting cost of the card you reveal when you clash. Flip two coins and choose one when you are instructed to flip a coin. Whenever you lose a coin flip or a clash, lose three life. Note that a few coin flip cards do not use win/lose language, so neither result would cause you to lose life. (Example: Goblin Assassin)

Guildmage – When you select this trait, choose a guild from Ravnica. You gain Access to all cards with that guild name in its title.

Insubstantial – All creatures you control with a natural landwalk ability are now unblockable.

Harvester — At the beginning of your upkeep, you may reveal the top card of your library. If it is a land, draw it. If not, lose two life.

Interchangeable Parts — All creatures you control that come into play with +1/+1 counters on them gain modular and graft. All creatures you control with modular can give their counters to non-artifact creatures when they die.

Levy – Creatures can’t attack you unless their controller discards a card.

Mana Weaver — When you take this trait, select instant, sorcery, or enchantment. Spells of that type cost one colorless mana less to play.

Metamage – Whenever you play a spell, if you want, you may choose what color or combination of colors to make it. For example, you could play Serra Angel as a Black creature, but it would still cost 3WW. You cannot make anything colorless, and these decisions must be made when you play the card.

Oneiromancer — Whenever one of your spells is countered by an opponent’s spell, you may search your library for a copy of that card, reveal it, and place it into hand before shuffling your library. You may not play it this turn.

Oracle – Whenever a spell or ability causes you to look or reveal the top X of cards into your library, you may add one. For example, Ponder allows you to look at the top four cards, Fact or Fiction the top six, Opt looks at the top two, Sleight of Hand the top three, etc. This does not affect draw cards and effects, like Merfolk Looter. Please note that some cards say “reveal a card until blank occurs.” These cards are not Oracle-abled either, since they do not have a set number of revelations to add one too. Since you don’t know how deep they’ll go, you cannot add to it. (Examples include Goblin Charbelcher and Oath of Druids)

Orb of Ice — During the Veto Phase, choose a number. During that game, all spells with a converted casting cost equal to that number now cost double mana to play. For example, if you choose six, then anybody’s Shivan Dragon now costs 8RRRR to play, including your own.

Pet — Choose a creature with a casting cost equal to one that is, or resembles, an animal. You gain Access to it. You may begin with one copy in play. Examples include Savannah Lions, Vampire Bats, Mold Adder, Spore Frog, or Timber Wolves.

Prestidigitation — One a turn, you may exile a card in your hand face down. At the beginning of your upkeep, you may take a card exiled in this way back into your hand.

Pyromancer — Whenever a spell you play deals damage to a creature or player, it deals an additional damage.

Retromancer — Whenever a permanent under your control is put into your graveyard from the battlefield, you may shuffle it into your deck.

Reverse Engineering – At the beginning of each game, during the Veto Phase, choose a creature type. All opposing creatures gain that type in addition to their normal type while in play or in the graveyard.

Rings, Staffs, and Wands — When you take this Trait, select an artifact with Ring in the title, and repeat this for Staff and Wand. You gain Access to these three cards. The title cannot have it as simply part of a word, like Arcbound Wanderer; that could not be taken. It can be plural, like Rings of Brighthearth.

Rod of Substance — Your creatures with soulshift can now also retrieve non-spirit creatures if they wish.

Seer — At the beginning of your upkeep, you may do one of the following, determined each upkeep: Look at the top three cards of target player’s deck, look at target player’s hand, look at a face-down creature, or look at a face-down exiled card.

Shardist — When you select this card, choose one of the five Shards. Gain Access to every card with that name in the title.

Sign of the Twins — You may have up to two copies of legendary creatures in play under your control, instead of one, without violating the legendary rule. For example, if you control a Greven il-Vec, you can play another. This does not allow you to play a second copy if you do not control the first. It is good to be born under this sign.

Speed of Thought — You may equip and fortify as an instant.

Summoner — During your upkeep, you may play one creature from your hand to the battlefield if it’s converted casting cost is less than the number of lands you control. This is not casting the spell, just putting the creature into play. For example, if you control 5 lands, then during your upkeep, you could Summoner out a Phantom Monster. This means a creature will get played usually at least two turns later than normal.

Trapper — Your traps can always be played for their cheapest version. For example, Cobra Trap costs G, Baloth Cage Trap costs 1G, and Stone Idol Trap costs 1 colorless.

Virtue – All creatures you control with bushido naturally get double their bushido bonus.

Zombification — You may pay double the casting cost and that converted cost in life to play a creature from your graveyard. For example, playing a Hypnotic Specter from your graveyard would be 2BBBB and six life.

That concludes our next trip into the format. I’m really digging it right now, so perhaps later I might come back for some strategy or sample decks and Planeswalkers, and so forth. Anyway, enjoy!

Until later…

Abe Sargent

Appendix A: Just copy and paste and print out this if you want.

Magic: The Role-Playing Game, 2nd Edition



Mage Points (MP):

Mental Fortitude:
Physical Fortitude:

Traits and Skills: