Multiplayer Rules

I’ve had the chance to try out the new multiplayer rules with my play group. Let me start by saying that I love the new two-headed format! While there are certainly still some kinks that need to be worked out, the fast pace and necessary coordination between team members are really enjoyable. That said here are a few problems that I forsee for other multiplayer formats, especially emperor:

  1. Emperor uses a format, where the emperor has a spell range of 2, while the spell range of the flanks is limited to 1. This is a great solution to what would otherwise be a rules nightmare: How do you prevent flanks to just play lots of burn, targeted at the enemy emperor? (And to a lesser degree: How do you prevent flanks to move creatures to the other flank?)But there is the danger that the format degenerates, similar to the way Magic Online 1-1-1 Emperor (a format, where every player has a spell range of 1) has degenerated. The emperor can setup and play stuff without any serious disruption. He can even attack opposing flanks or support his own flanks without fear of retaliation. Only when a flank has been killed, will he be able to be reached by the opponents.I have to admit though that I haven’t tested this version of emperor, yet, and my fears may be unfounded. Also, some of the really degenerate combos that are possible in MTGO 1-1-1 are not possible in this new version of emperor, since the effect range of the emperor is not limited to his own flanks. This means that effects from cards such as Howling Mine or Weird Harvest are not as broken. Let’s see how this format develops. (I really hope that it will be made available at MTGO.)
  2. I also see a problem in the new rules for moving creatures:

    603. Deploy Creatures Option

    603.1. The Emperor variant always uses the deploy creatures option, and it can be used in other variants that allow players to compete in teams. Multiplayer formats in which players compete as individuals usually don’t use this option.

    603.2. Each creature has the ability “{T}: Target teammate gains control of this creature. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.”

    I am a strong proponent of a teammate gaining control of creatures as part of moving (or “deploying”) creatures. In fact, this was one of my proposals after a first draft of the multiplayer rules was posted. But this breaks Sneak Attack and possibly other cards. Sneak Attack reads:

    {R}: Put a creature card from your hand into play. That creature gains haste until end of turn. Sacrifice the creature at end of turn.

    Now, put a creature into play with Sneak Attack. Since it has haste, you can move it to your left flank (or to your emperor if you are the right flank). At end of turn, you can’t sacrifice it, since it’s not your creature anymore. But during the left flank’s turn, she can immediatly attack with it, and she will keep it.

    I see two solutions to this problem: Either just ban this card (and similar cards) from multiplayer formats, or errata it to “Its controller sacrifices the creature at end of turn.” Personally I think that the former solution is cleaner.

  3. The last point raised another important point: There is a big imbalance between the left and the right flank. Such an imbalance has always existed, but the new Deploy rules amplify this problem. Now, a creature that’s moved to the left of you can immediatly be untapped and used by its new controller. On the other hand, a creature moved to the right needs to wait nearly a whole round. This mean that for example the right flank in an emperor game could move a creature to the left flank where it can attack during the same “turn” of that team. A creature moved from the left to the right flank, on the other hand, needs two “turns”.This opens new strategies. For example, right flank and emperor could hold back haste creatures that attack the opposing right flank all at once for a lethal strike out of the blue. Another tactic is “mana hoarding”, where emperor and right flank play lots of cheap mana creatures like Birds of Paradise or Llanowar Elves. Supposing both right flank and emperor managed to play one each during turn 1, this would mean four mana available to the left flank during turn 2, without that flank needing to play any acceleration of their own.In general I don’t think that these strategies have great merit, since they imbalance the left and right flank. where the latter is pressed in to a defensive and supportive role against a very aggressive opposing flank. Personally I would like to see that moving creatures will always come at a cost. (And the established cost is a delay for using that creature.)

    I think a simple rules change could fix this problem. Make the ability granted to all creatures read: “{T}: Target teammate gains control of this creature. It doesn’t untap during the next untap step. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.”

    Please note that it doesn’t say “during its controller’s next untap step”! This would mean that if you move a creature to the next person in turn order (for example the left flank of an emperor), that player wouldn’t untap that creature immediatly, so moving it to a player farther away (the right flank, for example) becomes more “fair”.

    This solution might have its own problems. For example, other abilities of that creature can be used immediatly, but I think activated abilities that require tapping and attacking are the most pressing issues. I will test this suggestion with my play group to see if it works (better).

Bushido

This is an excerpt from an e-mail message that I sent to Magic rules manager John Carter a while back. It outlines the problems I have with the way the Bushido mechanic currently works. Maybe other people find it interesting as well.


[…]

So, let’s start with the definition of bushido from the comp rules (version 2004-10-01):

502.38. Bushido

502.38a Bushido is a triggered ability. “Bushido X” means “Whenever this creature blocks or becomes blocked, it gets +X/+X until end of turn.” (See rule 309, “Declare Blockers Step.”)

502.38b The bushido bonus is calculated only once per combat, when the triggered ability resolves. Adding or removing blockers later in combat won’t change the bonus.

[…]

I have problems to understand how 502.38b works. Assuming I attack with a creature with “Bushido 1” which gets blocked. According to 502.38a I would expect that a triggered ability with the effect “This gets +1/+1 until end of turn.” would go on the stack. According to 502.38b this reads more like: “This gets +X/+X, where X is the the number in the Bushido ability of this creature.” Since the bonus is calculated on resolution, the effect tries to “look back” at what the current Bushido value is — it has to remember from which ability it triggered, in case the permanent from which it triggered has multiple bushido abilities. I think this is the first time, an ability on the stack does not only need to remember its source (in this case the permanent from which it triggered), but also the specific ability.

I’m unsure how this interacts for example with Humble. If my opponent plays humble on my bushido creature in response to the bushido trigger, what bonus will my creature get? +0/+0 since the creature doesn’t have the Bushido ability anymore? +1/+1? This would contradict the statement that the bonus is calculated on resolution. Will it use the ability’s “Last Known Information”? I don’t think so, since there is no such thing for non-permanents.

Enter Fumiko the Lowblood. Here’s your FAQ entry:

Fumiko the Lowblood

{2}{R}{R}

Legendary Creature — Human Samurai

3/2

Fumiko the Lowblood has bushido X, where X is the number of attacking creatures.

Creatures your opponents control attack each turn if able.

  • X is variable. The bushido bonus is calculated each time Fumiko’s bushido trigger resolves, based on the number of attackers at that time.

[…]

So, if I attack with Fumiko and two Grizzly Bears, Fumiko gets blocked, and one of the Bears is Shock’ed what exactly happens? According to the FAQ the outcome is that Fumiko will get +2/+2. I see three possible interpretations:

  1. When the ability triggers, Fumiko has the ability “Bushido 3”. The ability triggers, and the effect “Fumiko gets +X/+X, where X is equal to the bushido value.” goes to the stack. When it resolves, it checks again and sees that Fumiko now has “Bushido 2”, so she will get a bonus of +2/+2. This is probably the way you intended it to be but has the problems I outlined above.
  2. When the ability triggers, Fumiko has the ability “Bushido (number of attacking creatures)”, so the effect “Fumiko gets +(number of attacking creatures)/+(number of attacking creatures) until end of turn.” goes to the stack. Personally, I think that the X in “Bushido X” must be a fixed number and not a “function”.
  3. When the ability triggers, Fumiko has the ability “Bushido 3”. The ability triggers and the effect “Fumiko gets +3/+3.” goes to the stack. When the ability resolves, Fumiko gets +3/+3, since the ability on the stack is independent from the ability from which it originally triggered. This is not how it works, according to Comp Rules or FAQ, but this is how it should work, in my opinion.

To me it seems as if the rules try to mimic the ability “Whenever Fumiko blocks or becomes blocked, it gets +X/+X until end of turn, where X is the number of attacking creatures.” But in my opinion, this just doesn’t work with the rules as they currently are. I would prefer if the Bushido bonus gets “locked in” when the ability triggers, as this seems to me to be most straight-forward and most consistent with other, similar rules.

[…]

Templating and “that card”

From today’s Ask the Judge:

Q: At the end of my turn, if my Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker is still in play, a land that went to my graveyard from play as a 1/1 creature due to Living Plane does not come back into play, does it? It says “creature card” on Shirei, which makes me suspect.

A: This land card will still be returned to play. Rule 404.4c says: ‘A delayed triggered ability that refers to a particular object still affects it even if the object changes characteristics.’ When Shirei’s ability says to return that creature card, it means that you return to play that card regardless of card type it is. This happens because that triggered ability that returns that card to play is a delayed triggered ability.

Here is the current oracle text of Shirei:

Whenever a creature with power 1 or less is put into your graveyard from play, you may return that creature card to play under your control at end of turn if Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker is still in play.

I think that the question shows a problem with current templating. As the submitter of the question points out, the term “creature card” leads you to assume that only creature cards can be returned to play. While the rules make it clear that this is not the case, as Chris points out, it’s still a violation of the rule that cards should be as clear as possible. In my opinion “that card” would be more concise and not in any way less clear to newer players.

I’m a little undecided what to do about permanents, though. See for example Through the Breach:

Put a creature card from your hand into play. That creature has haste. Sacrifice that creature at end of turn.

Say you put a creature card into play with Through the Breach. You turn the creature into an Enchantment using Soul Sculptor. You will have to sacrifice the Enchantment, although it isn’t a creature anymore because of rule 404.4c. In this case it is not a good idea to have the oracle text read: “… Sacrifice that permanent at end of turn.” The problem here is for newer players to understand the term “permanent”.