Dominick Riesland has been acting as a rules judge in Milwaukee
for Magic and dozens of other games. His insight into the deeper
intricacies of games and what makes them tick has earned him a
position on the 5-Color Rules Committee.
It is generally accepted that the Core Set is a little less exciting than an expansion. After all, if a mechanic is too complicated for the block it was in, there is no chance to bring it into the Core Set, as that is marketed to newer players. However, Core Sets are often seen as prime opportunities to try out new ideas, such as card faces, or rules adjustments. And in this case, that is exactly what is being done. The most notable change you will find to cards, especially if you’ve perused either the sortable spoiler from Wizards or just happened to be looking at the Oracle recently is the “Enchantment – Aura” type line. What does this mean?
Situations come up in Magic where a sequence of events can repeat indefinitely. Whether this is the goal of the deck or something that just appeared in the game, it makes little sense for the game to simply stall on that account if it can be helped. The loop rules, as they exist, enforce this quite well but some explanation may be required for you to completely understand them.
The ELO rating system has been adopted by Magic for some time now, for reasons I have yet to understand. I don’t hold that opinion out of some deep-seated frustration borne of not understanding ELO. In fact, I understand it about as well as anyone, as will be made evident throughout this article. It is precisely because I do understand it that I think it is inappropriate for Magic.
When last we left our intrepid adventurers, they were trying to read their Magic cards. After navigating through static abilities, triggered abilities, “comes into play” abilities, and the “ultra-confusing” Giant Spider, they came upon this creature that seemed “kinda cool” but they didn’t know what to do with it.
Today, I would like to offer advice on how to read a card. I will focus more on rules text, and on certain words that have specialized meanings in Magic, as that is where confusion is rampant. Most of this is obvious, but everyone can benefit from a few reminders.
If you have ever been to a tournament, you know that you play matches against people, and the results are recorded and used to determine what happens from round to round, but have you ever thought about why certain things happen one way and not another? I would not expect most people to have done this, but I have, and here are some observations that I have made. Some of you may consider some of my ideas on what to do with tiebreakers and the like radical, but I think we can find a better system than what we currently have.
Stalling has been a topic we’ve seen writers adress frequently on these pages, but an in-depth look at the viability of using chess clocks is a new one. That’s exactly what Judge Riesland addresses today, and it might even be a better idea than the skeptics initially thought.
Since the last Rule of Law dealt with the difference between playing something and putting it into play, it only makes sense to have this one deal with the actual mechanics of playing spells and abilities. Most spells and abilities don’t need the detail I am about to describe, but those that do have important subtleties that make them special.
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.
The problem with banding is that hardly anyone understands what it does. And since Rule of Law is designed to give people understanding of the rules, it only makes sense that I at least try to tackle banding (and its ugly stepsister,”bands with other”).
The Jon Kaus article about what he learned about Wizards R&D was filled with sweeping generalities and impossible recommendations. It is clear to me that he doesn’t understand the phenomenon that is playtesting for a game on the scale of Magic: the Gathering. But rather than try to summarize it all at once, I want to address each of his points, and show the mistakes one at a time.