M14 Rule Changes
Level 3 Judge that judges a lot of GPs.
Also judges in all sorts of events in Belgium.
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Every Magic set brings with it rules changes, usually to accommodate the new keywords and mechanics. However, Magic Core sets also bring generic rules changes, with the stated purpose of making the game simpler and/or improve the game play.
Previous famous examples included Magic 2010, which changed how combat worked, or 6th edition, with the addition of the stack.
Magic 2014 doesn’t bring such drastic changes: not all games played will be affected, but you’ll likely have to rethink about some strategies once this set will be released. Let’s review together what will change, and what kind of practical impact it will have on the game.
Be aware that these rules will only start to apply starting Saturday, 13th of July (first day of M14 prereleases) on face-to-face Magic, and Monday, 29th July on Magic Online (again, on the first day of the set release). So if you attend a tournament in the meanwhile, don’t get things mixed up!
Also, we don’t have the rules yet. Well, sort of. See, Magic rules are written in this weird “legalese” language in which every single word has its meaning and importance, so that you cannot possibly misinterpret anything and have an answer to every single situation that could arise. However, they are often quite dry to read, especially if you’re not a rules guru. So instead, we got official articles readable by normal people explaining to us how the rules are approximately gonna work ( article here and here). That’s good enough for 99,99% of the games, but don’t expect me to be able to tell you how this weird corner case involving that Ice Age uncommon and that Planechase plane are going to interact. And, if rules manager Matt Tabak’s own blog is to be believed, some of these corner cases don’t have an answer yet, as Wizards was still trying to figure the answer out. So I’ll focus on the generic explanations, and won’t go too deep into the technicalities, not only because it’s boring, but mainly because I can’t.
Legendary rule : There can be only one (for a given value of “one”)
This is the rule change you’re most likely to already have heard of. This is this also the second time this rule changed (it already happened just before the Kamigawa block).
The new rule will be that if the same player controls multiple legendary permanents with the same name, he chooses one of them and put all the others into their owner’s graveyard. Note that the rule will only care about what a given player controls, so yes, multiple players will be able to control the same legendary creature. So the old limit was “One at the same time”, the new one is “One per player at the same time”.
The implications are interesting: that means that the old trick of using a “Clone” effect to get rid of an opponent’s legendary creature won’t work anymore. Before that, we used Clone-like cards to copy an opponent’s legendary creature, then both would die because there were two on the battlefield at the same time. Starting M14, we’ll get a copy of the opponent’s creature, and he’ll keep his. So yeah, that means you’ll have to figure out another way to deal with cards like Geist of Saint Traft
Other side effect: we will be able to “refresh” a legendary creature. Got your Olivia VoldarenArrested? Play a second one, decide to keep the new one, put the old, enchanted and useless one into your graveyard. You will also be able to use that as an expensive untap effect (attack, play a new one, keep the new untapped one). That’s expensive in both cards and mana, but keeping that into a corner of your mind could be useful – and that has the potential to get really nasty with cards like Gaea’s Cradle, for which being able to tap multiple in succession during the same turn could turn crazy.
That also means that Threaten effects will be used as removal if you and your opponent are controlling the same legendary creature: you’ll control of both and choose to ditch theirs. Not as universal as the old Clone trick, but that could change the way you sideboard for some match-ups.
Planeswalkers rule: Almost exactly the same
For Planeswalker, we take care of the type (like “Jace”) and not the name (like “Jace, the Mind Sculptor“). But that’s the same change: if you control two Planeswalkers with the same type, you chose which one goes to the graveyard. Similarly to the legendary creatures section, you and your opponent will be able to each get a Planeswalker with the same type.
The implication about being able to “refresh” your Planeswalker are as important as for the Legendary permanent : you will be able to use your Planeswalker’s negative abilities, go low on loyalty counters, and play a brand new one, entering the battlefield with his initial loyalty. You’ll obviously choose to send the old one to the bin, and keep the new one. Icing on the cake: because you never used the fresh Planeswalker’s abilities, you can now do so, as the rules, dumb as they are, treat the old card and the new one as totally different things, even if it’s the same guy or gal represented. So yes, you will be able to use the -3 ability of your Vraska the Unseen, blow a permanent up, get her low on loyalty, cast a new one, and goes +1 (or blow a second permanent), all in the same turn.
Also, it was common strategy to play a “small” Planeswalker (like Jace Beleren) to prevent your opponent to play and use his “large” one if they shared a type (like “Jace, the Mind Sculptor“). Starting M14, that will not prevent anything, as each of you will be able to control a Planeswalker with the same type: your opponent will be free to have support Brainstorms while you’ll have Reach Through Mists
Sideboard: Size won’t matter
This rule doesn’t open much debate, because it touches some area that is usually seen as suboptimal strategically: starting Magic 2014, you’ll be allowed to have a sideboard of less than 15 cards. And yes, doing do still doesn’t sound like a good idea: why would you want to deprive yourself of free options?
You’ll also be allowed to not trade cards one for one from sideboard to main deck (in the same way you’re already allowed to in Limited formats), as long as your deck will still count at least 60 cards and your sideboard at most 15. So for example starting with 60 cards maindeck and 15 sideboard, and moving to 62 cards main deck and 13 cards sideboard before game 2 will be legal. But well, you’ll lower your chances to draw your sideboard cards, so that doesn’t seem like a good idea.
Before M14, doing such things was not only strategically bad, it was also an infraction, called Tournament Error — Deck/Decklist Problem. At competitive and professional events, the penalty for that was a Game Loss. That’s quite harsh for something that was hardly opening potential for abuse or giving you any kind of advantage. So now, instead, WotC allows some weird sideboard strategies or mistakes, so Tournament Error — Deck/Decklist Problem still exist, but don’t penalize that.
Indestructible and unblockable: start working like you expected
Another minor change: these two concepts were really unintuitive, as they are not keywords (words that carry rules baggage, like Flying, Trample or Annihilator) but just one word statement. Rules treat statements and keywords differently. So for example if I play a spell like Falter that says “Creatures without flying cannot block this turn”, that’s a statement, and that effects creatures that enters the battlefield later. If I play something like Dirge of Dread, the spell adds an ability to all creatures, so it only affects those I control when the spell resolves. This is also different with effects that remove all abilities (like Humble): that doesn’t invalidate statements (Falter-like effects) but it does remove abilities granted by effects like Dirge of Dread
That means that Turn//Burn interacts differently with Falkenrath Aristocrat and Predator Ooze, because the first one gets its indestructibility from an activated ability resolution, and the second one from a static ability, and that you can’t undo the first one, but can remove the indestructibility granting ability.
The problem is that few people know that, as it’s not intuitive, and that means you need a judge to explain you how the game is played, which, while we enjoy doing that, isn’t the most practical thing.
So instead, two things are done with this update. The first one is to just change wording of unblocable to “Cannot be blocked”. Means the same thing, longer, uglier, but at least people will stop confusing it with a keyword, and will just play it in the same way of the ability of Ripscale Predator
Second thing is that Indestructible becomes a keyword. So it works like you thought it did.
So good news: if you didn’t understand how it worked before and gone all “Uh?” with my explanations, you don’t need to care. Starting M14, spells and abilities interact with Indestructible like you already thought it did, and you won’t see unblocable anymore.
Extra lands: no more extra work
Another thing you may not even notice changing. It’s about cards that let you play additional lands (like Explore). Don’t confuse them with cards that put lands directly onto the battlefield (like Farseek): it’s about the former, not the latter.
Until M14, when you were playing an extra land (thanks to an effect like Explore), you had to tell if it was your land for the turn, or the land for Explore. There was no real tracking of the number of lands played, just of which means you used to do so.
That allowed pretty strange thing with for example playing a land for the turn, playing a land for your Oracle of Mul Daya, playing Cloudshift on your Oracle, and then playing a third land for your “new” Oracle.
Starting with M14, such trick will not be possible anymore: you’ll have a “land count”, which will tell you how many lands you can play. You start at 1. Cards like Explore or Oracle of Muldaya increases this number. To know if you can play a land, you’ll just check if you already use all your “land counts” or not. Most players already thought it worked this way, so again, no big change.
So, I hope these rule changes have been clarified. Nothing ground shattering, but a few old tricks removed, a few new tricks added, and a few rules streamlined to finally work like most people assumed they were. This article should help you to be prepared, to tune your decks accordingly, and to use this extra knowledge to see a bigger decision tree and get an edge on your opponents!