Theros Rulings

April 16, 2014

Theros complete spoiler has been revealed (Visual Spoiler) and the FAQ for the set is out (Official FAQ) so it’s time to start answering rules questions.

Not because I like talking about rules (I’m not the kind of judge who is really into rules, I’m more into people and the program, as you may have guessed by reading my tournament reports), but because solid rules knowledge allows you to play your games correctly and allows you to see the decision tree in its totality, improving your strategical possibilities and making you a better, more successful player.

Scry

Out of the five new mechanics, this one is pretty simple. It’s an ability that has been used three times already, so veterans should already know how to deal with it. The important parts are:

– While you have to pick up the cards to see them and make your choice, they never actually leave the library as far as the rules are concerned. That means you don’t have to reveal the cards beneath the scried ones for Oracle of Mul Daya for example, at least until you finish scrying.

– Please, be careful with the cards you’re scrying. You’ll be tempted to look into your hand to decide what you want to keep on top and what you want to ship at the bottom of your deck. If you do so, make sure that the scried cards never, ever, touch the cards from your hand. If they touch, rules wise, that means that you drew them. Drawing extra cards is serious business, and in competitive events, it’s a sure way to lose the current game.

– A lot of Theros Scry cards have Scry as a bonus added to another effect, like a bounce spell or a counterspell. If the spell is countered by the rules, because it doesn’t have any legal target anymore (for example if your opponent gives its creature protection from the colors of your spell), your whole spell is countered, and you don’t Scry at all.

Devotion

This one is pretty straightforward, and is a more restrictive version of Chroma. What you need to know is:

– Devotion’s value for abilities or spells is calculated at resolution. That means that if, in response to the spell or the ability, you remove a permanent (with a removal, a bounce, etc.) from your opponent’s board, the ability will have a lower Devotion count and a smaller effect, which will most likely mess with his plans.

– For the Gods, Devotion is calculated at every moment, including during the resolution of a spell. That means that if you control Thassa, God of the Sea and a Ghastlord of Fugue, and your opponent plays a fused Far // Away targeting the Ghastlord with Far, you won’t have to sacrifice Thassa, as she’s not a creature anymore when you’ll carry on the instructions from Away.

– Lots of creatures have an enter the battlefield ability that uses Devotion. Because these creatures are normally on the battlefield when the ability resolve, their mana cost will likely be counted in the Devotion.

– Every single kind of colored mana is counted for Devotion. That include weird manas like hybrid or phyrexian. If I control a Boros Reckoner, a Porcelain Legionnaire and a Squire, my Devotion to white is 5.

– You only count the mana costs of permanents, that means the thing in the upper right corner of the card. For some reasons I see a lot of players wanting to count costs of abilities of the permanent, or even reminder text. Don’t.

Monstrosity

Again, this one shouldn’t be too confusing. Here are the common questions I spotted:

– Monstrosity could be activated every time you can activate an instant. Maybe it’s due to the similarity with the Level Up mechanic, but a lot of people I talked to thought it was only Sorcery-speed.

– Removing the counters doesn’t stop the creature from being Monstruous. Sorry, no multiple Polukranos, World Eater activations this way. In the same spirit, putting +1/+1 counters on a creature with another spell or ability won’t stop its controller to be able to activate the Monstrosity ability. The counters are just a handy reminder and a nice bonus, not the core of the mechanic.

– In Magic, if an object changes zone, it is treated as a new object: the rules don’t keep any memory of stuff that moves away. That means that if you bounce or exile a Monstruous creature, and then it comes back, its Monstrosity ability can be used again.

– If you remove a creature in response to its Monstrosity’s ability (again, with a removal spell, a bounce, etc.), and the creature has a second ability that triggers when the creature becomes Monstruous (like Hythonia the Cruel), this ability won’t trigger.

– Being Monstruous is a status. It’s not something that is copied, for example, with Clone. As a reminder, usually, copying a card means just that: making a carbon copy of the card without caring of anything that happened to it.

Heroic

Ok, this one seems to confuse a lot of people. Seems like the definition of what is a spell is not that well understood, including amongst invested players. So let’s quote the Comprehensive Rules about what is a spell:

111.1. A spell is a card on the stack. As the first step of being cast (…), the card becomes a spell and is moved to the top of the stack from the zone it was in, which is usually its owner’s hand. (…)
111.1a A copy of a spell is also a spell, even if it has no card associated with it. (…)

So what doesn’t work?

– Bloodrush. While it’s common amongst players to use the discarded card to represent the ability on the stack, Bloodrush is an ability and the card is actually in the graveyard, not on the stack. Ghor-Clan Rampager doesn’t trigger Heroic.

– Cycling a spell. Same reasoning than for Bloodrush, and for the same reason, cycling Resounding Roar won’t trigger Heroic.

– Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. The card is on the stack, so its should work, right? Well, it’s not Ulamog the spell that destroys a permanent, it’s Ulamog’s triggered ability. The ability is not represented by anything, and is certainly not a spell, so it doesn’t trigger Heroic.

– Creature’s abilities. Yes, it was on the stack a moment before, but Breaching Hippocamp‘s ability triggers from the battlefield, and it’s not a spell.

– Overload. The whole point of Overload is to replace “Target” by “Each”. There is no target anymore if you Overload a spell such as [card]Dynacharge[c/ard], so it doesn’t trigger Heroic either.

– Copies that aren’t cast. A lot of spell copying effects (like Twincast) only put a copy of the spell on the stack without going through all the casting steps. That targets, but it’s still not a casted spell, so no Heroic trigger for you.

– Spells that you cast on a non-Heroic creature, then got redirected on a Heroic creature. Both things (“a spell you control is cast” and “targeting this creature”) needs to be true at the same time. That’s not the case here.

– Spells played by your opponent, or your teammate in Two-Headed Giant. Read the friendly card.

Stuff that triggers Heroic:

– Auras, including Bestow creatures played as auras. An aura is a spell on the stack, it then has a target, everything that is needed is here: finally something that works.

– Cipher. Remember what the small stuff about copies of a spell working even if they are not represented by a spell? You can use Trait Doctoring to repeatably triggers Heroic. Finally a use for the twelve copies you unfortunately opened in the previous sealed season!

And what about spells that may or may not target multiple stuff, like Martial Glory?
Well, if you decide to choose the same creature as the target for both instances, it’s still only targeted once by the card, so Heroic will only trigger once.

Bestow

This one is really tricky, because the information needed to properly play the ability isn’t on the cards. See, the reminder text in italic doesn’t have any rules meaning. It’s convenient flavor text (it’s even written in the same way). It just gives you a “feel” of how the card is working, but it has as much rules sense as the adventures of Fblthp in Totally Lost.

So, the real rules are quite long, too much for me to do a nice copy and paste and not feel bad for ripping off MTG Madness on the words count. Instead, I’ll explain the basic idea:

– You only make the choice if you want the card as an aura or a creature when you play the card. You can’t transform the creature on the battlefield into an aura, or reanimate the creature and make it an aura. That means that if you play the card as a creature, the option of having an aura is definitely lost.

– If you chose to play the card as an aura, and it’s not attached anymore to the creature for any reason, the aura becomes a creature. That includes the enchanted creature being removed, but also the enchanted creature getting protection from the color of the aura.

– If a mass removal spell like Supreme Verdict is played, the aura becomes instantly a creature when the creature it was attached on dies, but the aura still survives, because killing all the creatures is done at the same time.

– If you control a creature enchanted by a Bestowed aura, and your opponent plays a fused Far // Away, you’ll have to sacrifice the ex-aura new-creature, because it will be a creature after Far bounced the creature it was attached on, just in time for the effect of Away to be carried on.

– If the Bestowed aura tries to resolve and it doesn’t have a target anymore, it resolves as a creature. That’s an exception to the rule that says that a spell which doesn’t have any target at resolution is countered by the rules. And yes, there is no way to know that by reading a Bestow card.

– A Bestowed aura becoming a creature is still the same object, so if it was on the battlefield at the beginning of your turn, it doesn’t have summoning sickness and you can attack with it.

– Please lose the bad habit of tapping everything that is attached to your creature when you attack with it. It’s wrong. It usually doesn’t matter, but here, if your enchanted creature is killed in combat, your aura will become a creature, and knowing if it’s tapped or not will matter.

So, that should help you to play the prereleases and the first tournaments correctly, and give you a few more options than your opponents who didn’t fully prepare for the new rules. Enjoy your Theros cards and see you in the next article!

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