The Kitchen Table #393 – Magic: The Role-Playing Game Updates

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to actually be a planeswalker in the Magic world? Then check out the updates that Abe has made to a variant he created called Magic: The Role-Playing Game, Second Edition.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to actually be a planeswalker in the Magic world? Sure, when we shuffle and play we are supposed to be ‘walkers, but it often feels like just any other card game. Five years ago I created a variant for Magic called Magic: The Role-Playing Game. In that variant, you create a planeswalker and then take stats, skills, and traits in order to flesh out your character. You improve over time as you play against other planeswalkers and hone your decks.

Over time, I added two supplement articles with new stuff for people to select and optional rules along with various errata and corrections to previous things. Looking back at my work, I decided it was a bit too big, so I wrote a second edition of the game and streamlined some rules, fixed some things, and tightened everything. Since then, in 2010, I’ve published no rules, but I did write about a trio of planeswalker characters in my 10th year anniversary article.

Sometimes you get lucky as a writer. When you write enough articles, some manage to strike above the norm. When I came up with the idea for Magic: The RPG, I knew that I had something and really spent a lot of time making sure that it worked correctly before publishing it here on SCG. The game represented in the Second Edition is truly the best version I could do. I haven’t wanted to drown interested players in extra traits and abilities because that can be overwhelming. Plus, the more traits and skills I add to the format, the more likely something is to break.

Well, I’ve given the audience two years with the last edition, so I figure it’s time to add some new things for you to use in your Magic: The RPG stuff. If you’re interested in trying this out, great!  It’s a load of fun. People have created web pages to catalogue the rules, chart their characters, log games, and make character sheets. They’ve added their own skills and traits and have modified some of my own. I even have been told by many people something very humbling: that it has changed the way they play Magic. It’s not for everyone, but if you like the idea, then let’s take it out for a spin!

One quick note before we begin. In Five Color, we never banned Haunting Echoes. It would take at least five minutes to resolve, but no one played it so we didn’t have to. We told people not to play crap like that, so the banned and restricted list could be small. The same thing is true of Commander. There are a lot of cards that abuse the format that you never see and aren’t on the banned list. If you wanted to play multiplayer tomorrow and your group allowed Vintage legal decks, I doubt you’d turn up with a deck with the right power cards and a combo that kills on turn 1. Just because you can does not mean you should.

I mention this because as I discussed earlier, as I add traits and skills to the format there is a chance that a few will be broken together. I look them over first, just to make sure everything is good, but you will see a lot more than I will. Just because you can build a nasty combo from two innocent pieces doesn’t mean that the format is broken. If someone can piece together a deck that will win reliably in three turns, that’s a nice puzzle they’ve solved but doesn’t indicate that they will or should do that in real life. Plus, there are many tools to fight that, including the powerful Veto ability.

This article is a direct sequel to the Second Edition article, which you can find here. It was published in March of 2010, so we’re overdue for a next article!

As a refresher, you begin the game with fifteen Mage Points and no XP. There are traits, skills, and stats. Stats determine how large your deck is, how many of each card you may play, how much your starting life is, and how many cards you draw and your max hand size. You must spend at least ten of your starting points on stats. As you level up, you add three MP and at least one must be spent on a stat. Then you have traits and skills. Skills are purchased one time, and traits may be purchased multiple times for increasing effect.

When you begin, you can only play commons that are Standard legal. You must purchase Access to all other cards in order to play them. Various traits and skills will give you Access to cards.


We begin by updating a few things from the previous article. Consider these official updates:


Memory is a skill that can be purchased over and over again. Putting a point into it gives you an entire Standard worth of commons to choose from. Each point pushes you back further and further into the past. You only unlock commons from previous blocks in this order and cannot jump to an older block without spending the Memory to get it. Here is the new Memory chart.

1 Memory Point -  Scars of Mirrodin Block, Zendikar Block, M12, M11
2 Memory Points – Tenth, Lorwyn Block, Alara Block, M10
3 Memory Points –  Ninth, Ravnica Block, Coldsnap, Time Spiral Block
4 Memory Points – Eighth, Mirrodin Block, Kamigawa Block,
5 Memory Points – Seventh, Odyssey Block, Onslaught Block
6 Memory Points – Sixth, Masques Block, Invasion Block
7 Memory Points – Fifth, Tempest Block, Urza’s Block
8 Memory Points – Fourth, Mirage Block, Ice Age, Alliances, Homelands, Fallen Empires
9 Memory Points – Beta, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, The Dark
10 Memory Points – Portal, Portal: Second Age, Portal: Three Kingdoms, Starter

So you have Access to commons in Return to Ravnica, Innistrad Block, and M13 right now for free. If you want to grab commons from the original Mirrodin, you need to put four points into Memory and you’ll have commons from all of the sets listed. As new sets are released, you automatically have Access to their commons free of charge.

Tactician Abilities

There are three levels of Tactician which give all of your creatures an ability for either one, two, or three Mage Points. The better an ability is, the more it costs. Those ranks are Tactician, Expert Tactician, and Genius Tactician. The following creature abilities have been assigned to these:

Unleash – Tactician
Battle Cry – Genius Tactician
Landfall:  This gets+1/+1 – Genius Tactician

And these changes are made:

Hexproof – Replaces Shroud for Genius Tactician
Double Strike – Moved to Genius Tactician
Intimidate – Dropped to Expert Tactician

Ambush and Anti-Magic Cloak

Ambush has been upgraded and now reads… (It was clearly designed for multiplayer, so I gave you a reason to take it for duels.) 

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. In a duel, if you go first, you draw a card on your first turn. (For example, if we roll 1d6, then the highest number possible is a six. Half of that is three, so I roll 1d6 plus three to see who goes first and you roll just 1d6 unless you also have purchased Ambush.)

Because it needed a bit of oomph, Anti-Magic Cloak has been upgraded to:

Anti-Magic Cloak — Each time you spend a point in A-M Cloak, once per game you may gain hexproof and protection from the color of your choice until the end of the turn. This does not use the stack.

The Infect Question and Alternate Winning Conditions

In the rules, all alternate winning conditions are banned save for poison counters and decking of course. That’s because it’s too easy to meet the qualifications of many conditions with the various skills and traits. However, since I wrote that, infect and poison counters were pushed heavily. Now, we can play something such as this: Level one, Mary the Monstrous Zombie. Tactician, Genius — Shadow, Memory: 1, Recall: 1, 3 physical fortitude, 7 mental. Now all of your poisoners have shadow. Then spend points on level two on dropping deck size and increasing Recall and grab Adept for Scars block to net all of the uncommon infect creatures and you have a nasty poison deck with basically unblockable infect guys. Is this enough of a worry to keep around?

Infect is fun! People like trying for the game to win it. So I decided to make a change. Here is the new rule: all alternate winning conditions are now allowed. I want to keep infect in, and it’s not any more powerful than Coalition Victory with Channeler and Metamage or other options. So everything is in. I’ve added tools to fight them if they get out of hand in today’s article.

Next we have a bunch of new skills and traits, which I know is really the meat of the article, so I’m shutting up and giving them to you. All are worded to work with the Second Edition rules. Some are new, and others are updates of ones from First Edition articles that were not included in Second Edition thus far.


As a reminder, you may purchase a skill multiple times. All skills cost one MP unless otherwise specified. We have ten skills for you.

Abjurer – For each point in Abjurer you possess, you reduce damage taken from all noncreature sources by one. This includes your own sources, such as Flame Rift or Pestilence.

Battle-Mage – For each point of Battle-Mage you take, you have a point of power and can participate in combat defensively. You may not attack your opponent. So, if you put one point into this skill, then you can deal one point to any one creature that was unblocked and damaged you in combat. If you have multiple points in this skill, then you can deal all of that damage to one creature that hit you or split it between multiple attackers that hit you. This is considered combat damage. You cannot target yourself with spells that give you first strike or whatnot. You cannot hit a trampler who damaged you after getting blocked or a creature like Pride of Lions that deals damage to you but was blocked. The creature must be unblocked to take damage from you. For purposes of protection, this is coming from a colorless planeswalker source.

Commanding Lead – When you purchase this, choose either Commander or Planechase. Gain Access to all new cards printed in either the Commander in Summer 2011 set or the new cards printed in the Planechase 2012 set. (If a set comes out in Summer 2013 or later with new cards, you can use this to purchase them as well). You may purchase this twice to add Access to both sets of new cards. (“New cards” means cards such as Acorn Catapult and Sai of the Shinobi—you do not gain Access to reprints here.)

General Awareness – For each point placed in General Awareness, at the beginning of the sixth turn you may search your library for a legendary creature which contains all of the colors of your deck and none other, reveal it, place it into your hand, and shuffle. (So if you have a red-green deck each legendary dude must be red and green, if your deck is mono-blue then your legendary creatures must be mono-blue, etc. To count as a legendary creature it must be so when cast, so Elbrus, the Binding Blade and Akki Lavarunner don’t count.)

Insubstantial – For each point, once per game you may exile all of your creatures and return them to the battlefield at the end of the turn.

Kaleidoscope – For each point in this ability, you may play gold sorceries and instants with a cost no more than X+1 (where X is the number of points in Kaleidoscope) as if they were a hybrid card with any of the colors in the spell. For example, for one point in here I could play Terminate (which is X+1 in CC) as if it has a black and red hybrid cost, enabling me to play it for two black or two red. If I had three points in Kaleidoscope, I could play Supreme Verdict for 1UUU, Glittering Wish for GG, and Recoil for 1BB.

Paroled – For each point spent into Paroled, you may once per game pull a face up creature you own from the exile zone and place it in your graveyard.

Phyrexianification – For each point placed in this skill, choose any card with a Phyrexian watermark from Scars Block which you already have Access to. All colored mana costs are now Phyrexian mana instead. So if I had Memory of at least one, I could take Volt Charge and give it a Phyrexian red mana so I could play it for two life and two colorless mana. I could not do it to Remember the Fallen because that card has a Mirran watermark.

Sacred GroundAt the beginning of the game, you may begin with an enchantment on the battlefield with a casting cost equal or less than the number of points you’ve spent in Sacred Ground. You must already have Access to it and refer to the rules for beginning with things in play from the first article.

Without Blinking – Each time you select this skill, choose a card to which you already have Access. That card gains flash in all zones.


As a reminder, you may purchase a Trait only once. All traits cost one MP unless otherwise specified. We have twenty traits for your character building purposes.

Antidote Peddler – During the Veto Phase, choose one: deathtouch, infect, or wither. During the game, all creatures lose natural instances of the chosen ability. (Natural means printed on the card and not given it by an artifact, aura, spell, Tactician, etc.)

Architect – Your creatures with defender may attack as though they did not have defender as long as their power is less than their toughness. You gain Access to any creature with Wall in its name.

Barricade into Buckler – All of your creatures with shroud naturally now have hexproof instead.

Chronomancer – At the beginning of your turn, you may gain a Chronomancy Counter and skip your turn. At the beginning of a future turn, you may use your Counter to take an extra turn. You may make another Counter by skipping another turn after you’ve used up the one saved. No effect in Magicdom may allow you to have more than one Chronomancy Counter.

Curse of Lycanthropy – Once a turn, you may transform any Human you control. This uses the stack. You’re not required to transform any creatures unless you want to.

Fastgird – Your auras gain flash.

Higher Ground – At the beginning of your fourth turn, search your library for a basic land and put it onto the battlefield tapped under your control. Shuffle.

Insane – If an opponent forces you to discard, all of your nonland cards gain madness with a cost identical to their mana cost. (So if I was targeted by Mind Rot, I could discard Swords to Plowshares and White Knight and play them for W and/or WW)

Master’s BrandAt the beginning of your upkeep, gain control of all permanents you own.

Once More Unto the BreachOnce during the game, you may play any legendary creature in your exile zone for two colorless mana more than its casting cost.

Pirates and NinjasWhen you choose this trait, choose either pirates or ninjas. You gain Access to all creatures with that type printed on their type line (does not include changelings, et al). You may only select this once.

Quickthink – At any time, without using the stack, you may look at the top card of your deck

Spiritwrath – All Spirits from Kamigawa block gain Bands with Other Spirits. You gain Access to three Spirit creatures of your choice from the block.

Swords from Sorcery – When you could play a sorcery, you may move an aura from one creature to another you control by paying its casting cost. (For example, I could move Rancor to my newly played Canopy Dragon for one green mana but could not move Pacifism to a different opposing creature for 1W since I do not control that creature. I envisioned this as changing all auras to equipment, but I decided to stay away from that language).

Token Approval – Your token creatures get +1/+1.

Transmogrifier – While on the battlefield, all of your natural nonartifact creatures are now artifact creatures and all of your natural artifact creatures lose artifact and are just creatures. This does not change the mana required to play them, just changes their types

Uncounterable – At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a counter from yourself or a permanent you control.

Victory of the Leaf – All of your Plants, Treefolk, Fungi and Saprolings gain protection from Zombies.

Walls Up – Your creatures may block as though they were artifact creatures, they may block as though they had shadow or horsemanship, and they may block creatures with landwalk.

Wishing for Aid – Whenever you play a spell that searches your library for a card to place in your hand, instead you may bring any card of that type from outside of the game and put it into your hand. You may not take longer than 60 seconds to resolve this effect or else it is countered. (For example, Lay of the Land can fetch a basic land from outside your deck and Demonic Tutor becomes a cheaper Death Wish without the life loss and so forth.) This requires two Mage Points instead of one. (Note that this only works for spells and not abilities, so no transmute, creature abilities, land cycling, and so forth. Also, it only works on spells that put the card in your hand, not anywhere else, so no Buried Alive, Tooth and Nail, Rampant Growth, etc.)

Of these 30 skills and traits, 21 are brand new to this article. Some have changes from 1st Edition to clean things. (For example, Insubstantial used to grant phasing and now just exiles and reads more cleanly while Walls Up combines two previous ones which were rarely selected to give you one great defensive ability.) I hope that you take a walk around town as the newest planeswalker on the block and enjoy!

Until Later,

Abe Sargent

P.S. Note that in Second Edition, I’ve managed to keep some things from occurring that were messy in 1st Edition, including the lack of any banned list. I’d like to keep it that way, and Veto always provides an in-house way of banning something that gets out of hand. Let me know if you think something is so powerful that neither Veto nor any other skill/trait can answer it and perhaps I’ll create a skill or trait to help. I’d rather use the mechanisms of the format to control problems instead of banning things.