Rules Changes for Magic: the Gathering — Team Discussion

For this post, I thought I thought it would be interesting if I pooled a number of different perspectives from the Power 9 Pro team. In that sense, we have a virtual round table discussion of the recent rules changes.

I’ll start the discussion.

James:
So, team, we have a new set of rules rolling into place with the release of M10. This set is really starting to create waves; first we were told that the core set would contain a slew of new cards and now we’re getting hit with a series of, in some cases, very drastic changes.
Most notable of which is the elimination of the combat damage & stack. Wizards also eliminated the splitting of damage among various creatures, except so far as Deathtouch is concerned. What do you guys think of these changes?

Sean:
Right away I can tell you my biggest problem with this whole thing is the elimination of damage stacking. Think of a deck like boat brew that runs 4 mogg fanatics. This deck is instantly much worse. This also goes for utility cards like qasali pridemage and call to heel. The change also limits your strategic options. For example, I could easily see a situation in core set limited where a spined wurm gets team blocked by a pair of giant spiders and a pyroclasm can no longer wipe the board.

James:
Keep in mind, Sean, that during the declare blockers step, you still have the option to play an instance at that moment. This is still considered a step and so there is an exchange of priority. It’s only at the time of “damage step” that players are no longer able to make responses. This definitely lowers the value of cards like Qasali Pridemage, though.

Dillon:
I have been thinking about the rules changes all morning. The way the
“declare blockers” step is set-up right now, I can attack with a 7/7
Cloudthresher and then my opponent declares their blockers. Lets say
they have Wall of Denial, 0/8, and then seven 1/1 insect tokens. If
they block with their entire horde of dudes, putting the Wall of
Denial first in the order, I have to assign 7 damage to the wall. Then
Cloudthresher gets eaten by insects.

Zak:
Actually, it is the attacker who choses the blocker numbers, so your Thresher will still kill the insects.

James:
Yeah, it’s important to understand that the attacker gets to choose the “stack” of blockers when there are multiple blockers to one attacker.

Dillon:
I am glad I misread.
[Still it's] Kind of goofy. It makes abilities like indestructible, a lot better…Same goes for regeneration.

Joe:
The combat damage change is harder to swallow since for over a decade many of us have learned to use the stack to our advantage at the end of the combat phase… but I think this will also prove to be a good change for the same reason. As the announcement said, it never made sense that a creature could throw a punch, then disappear completely only to have his punch land. Doesn’t make sense in the metaphor of creatures battling. Attachement to old-style combat tricks is just that: sentimental attachment. It’s arbitrary.

James:
There have been a lot of comments about people “quitting” the game because of these rules changes. Even a petition started with threats of quitting and boycotting WotC. Whereas I do think that’s a bit drastic–I mean, how much did you really like the game if “the combat stack” was the only allure–it is worth taking fairly seriously in the sense that the player base is not generally happy about these changes. Or maybe the people who are unhappy about this are just vocalizing more than the rest?

Joe:
Over the years I’ve seen wave after wave of changes to the game, whether rules changes or layout changes, bring cries of agony and pledges to quit the game forever from the peanut gallery of morons out there, only to see, time and time again, that the changes in question improved the game dramatically. In some cases, like the new card borders, they make some mistakes. At the time, white and artifact cards were painful to distinguish, and they rectified this problem in the next printing. Overall, the changes have consistently been for the better. This comes as no surprise, given that the team responsible for making the game has grown in number and sophistication over the years. I have developed a certain amount of trust in WotC R&D, and I believe they make these changes only after thoughtful deliberation and careful testing. Thus, I met the current wave of revulsion at these new rules changes with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The simple terminology changes are great. They bring the flavor and the mechanics of the game into closer alignment, making the metaphor of two mages dueling in a fantasy setting more apt to intuitively convey the proper game mechanics. Who could ask for a better change?

James:
What is your perspective on some of the other changes? Such as mana pool’s no longer burning before emptying between phases, the introduction of the “Battlefield” and “casting” versus “playing”?

Sean:
So far as the Mulligans – Good idea. They tested this at nats last year and everyone said it seemed to work fine.
Terminology Changes…I don’t really mind. I could see this making things easier for new players and the functional changes are slight.
I think the Mana Pool Changes is dumb, especially with mistbind clique in the format and functional changes to cards like valleymaker. I don’t know about anyone else but I have personally floated mana in response to clique to then draw an instant speed answer to it.
As for token ownership – Good idea. It was pretty counterintuitive before.
Deathtouch – Only necessary because of damage stacking changes.
Lifelink – Undecided. It is a large functional change that effects more than just corner cases. On the one hand lifelink now works in a more intuitive way, on the other hand loxodon warhammer on rhox war monk (AKA the love rhino) isn’t quite what it used to be.

Joe:
Lifelink and deathtouch are likewise good fits flavor wise, and will result in more players intuitively playing correctly without deep rules knowledge.

James:
Deathtouch just became one of the most powerful abilities for a creature to possess–especially if you can give a deathtouch creature first strike such as Pestilent Kathari–only that’s a 1/1 so not that hot. Bad example but y’all get my meaning.
So far as lifelink is concerned, I think this makes more sense. Other abilities such as flying, trample, forest walk, etc didn’t have such a meaningful impact if they stacked. Lifelink stacking doesn’t make much sense in the first place but overall it has such a HUGE advantage in a game where life totals are a resource to be managed in and of itself. I’ll never forget what you told me, Joe, when you were first teaching me to play: “You’re just as powerful at 1 or 2 life as at 20; just focus on managing your lifetotal like your lands and spells and you’ll be a better player. Don’t worry so much about losing one or two life. It doesn’t affect your ability to damage, and ultimately, kill me.”

Dillon:
Deathtouch became my favorite ability overnight.

Joe:
The only real rules issue I don’t fully grasp is why it was necessary to force an attacking creature to deal full lethal damage to each creature in the blocking line before moving to the next. I don’t see why this was necessary from a flavor standpoint. An attacker who recognizes his imminent demise might choose to wound many blocking creatures rather than kill a few and only wound one… and enforcing this new rule eliminates the viability of things like doing 2 damage to 3 of your opponent’s x/4 creatures, only to cast infest in your second main phase. Previously you would have wiped the board. Now it doesn’t quite work, and I’m not sure why they chose to do this. Still, I’m willing to roll with it.

James:
I agree completely but the reason may be that if your creature’s “weapon” (or whatever) can’t cut through the creature completely, how is it cutting through the next one? Did i magically (doh, bad pun) skip to the next enemy? It’s probably just an attempt to streamline the functionality of combat generally–again, right along with the elimination of the combat stack.
However, it is worth noting the rules changes so far as splitting damage is concerned is contradicted by allowing deathtouch creatures to divide their damage. Meaning, R&D addressed some of the issues w/ damage allocation but then found itself backed into a cornered with creatures like Kederekt Creeper. It’s a fairly blatant “breech” of the rules and I’m finding it hard to swallow myself.

Any final last comments?

Zak:
I think these are great. As a player who routinely teaches new players, these rules are a blessing, and although I’ll need to get used to them, I’m sure they’ll work out fine.

Joe:
Final point. The rules are always the given. You try to use the rules to your advantage. Now that the rules are different, you’ll have different ways to (ab)use them to your advantage, and previous ways of doing so may vanish entirely. Big deal. Don’t fret and make silly promises to quit magic before you see the full extent of the changes and give them a chance to grow on you! I just keep thinking of interrupts. Who would argue that the game was ruined when they dropped interrupts?

James:
I don’t like the elimination of manaburn. That is a very relevant factor in the game. In fact, the loss of a point or two of damage has won me a game or two in the past. I’m sorry to see that go. In fact, I don’t see the justification for it’s dropping…

That’s it for now. We’d love to hear alternative perspectives and opinions. Let us know what you think!
You can also join us in the discussion on twitter. It’s awesome for all those not “in the loop” as it’s SUPER easy to engage big-names like Flores and Brian David Marshal.

9 thoughts on “Rules Changes for Magic: the Gathering — Team Discussion”

  1. “Meaning, R&D addressed some of the issues w/ damage allocation but then found itself backed into a cornered with creatures like Kederekt Creeper. It’s a fairly blatant “breech” of the rules and I’m finding it hard to swallow myself.”

    It actually does make sense as I was reading someone explaining like this: You have to kill each creature in the line of blockers. Well now that deathtouch is a static ability, 1 damage = killed creature. So you are allowed to assign only 1 damage to the 1st blocker, then 1 to the 2nd and so on because you are assigning lethal still.

  2. that makes sense to an extent…i guess i can buy into it. still, it doesn’t make much sense. it’s a strange work-around. i just think that the rules should be consistent. a slew of cards are being powered-down, so why make this strange exception for what…a whole 20 cards?? (deathtouch search within text on magiccards.info came to 20 cards): http://magiccards.info/query/cards/5662629.html

  3. if you all remember, when 6th edition came out, they introduced the stack, and also powered up creatures like Mogg Fanatic. I think going back to simpler times for the time being reminds me of when I learned to play pre mirage. Mogg Fanatic has been a thorn in my side since that rules change for the sheer fact that as was mentioned by wizards you can’t throw a punch, vanish completely, and still land the punch. I don’t like the fact that lifelink will not stack, however you take the good with the bad. I have been playing this game for more than a decade now, and I have mentioned quitting only once in that long span of time. I never did however, I just found other decks to abuse. I once won a season of arena using a wall deck. plain and simple this could be a good thing, and watch, at gen con, the field will be completely different. see you all there
    Michael “the Birdman of Gen Con” Purvis

  4. I see lots of comments about two things being illogical when they both actually make much more sense than the alternative (nb. I’ve seen a few people mention the logic behind both of them, and they’re usually ignored). People need to start reinforcing the logic behind these.

    Number One
    Complaint: Things can vanish and still have their activated ability hit, combat damage should be the same.

    Logic: Vanishing mid ‘claw swipe’ and vanishing after letting loose a fireball are completely different.

    You can’t swipe at someone with a claw, vanish, and still have your claw hit them. The same is true for charging with your rhinocerous horn, giant fist, wurm’s mouth ready to chomp down, etc. Even if you take the weapon stance, when you swing at something with a baseball bat and let go just before hitting the momentum left without your continued pressure is minimal (not to mention it’s likely to shoot off in a different direction completely anyway).

    Shooting out a fireball, a lightning bolt, or an arrow (I imagine archers’ activated abilities as bow work, and their combat damage as driving the arrow into the enemy physically the way the elf does both in Lord of the Rings), isn’t going to follow the same rules – you vanishing doesn’t make the arrow suddenly drop out of the sky or the fireball disappear.

    2) Death touch blatantly breaks the rules.

    But it doesn’t. It’s important to note what Br0k3 says above, because it isn’t a stretch, it’s as logical as you can get: The rule for assigning damage is pretty much: ignoring things like regeneration, damage prevention, ‘indestructible’, etc, you need to assign enough damage to destroy the first creature before assigning damage to the second, and so on.

    If a creature has death touch, 1 damage is enough to destroy each creature, so it’s natural that you’d be moving on after that.

    Not everything in MtG is logical (it wouldn’t good if it was)… but there’s no point arguing against things that are.

  5. good points, beyond. i’m coming to grips w/ the deathtouch…it just seems strange that no other creature can split damage…it seems arbitrary. but maybe it is the only way they could reconcile the _intention_ of deathtouch and the new combat system. i mean, they had to come up w/ something!

  6. Well, yeah, that is the one thing about the new rules that I’m not sure about. I agree that they should all be able to split damage… I wonder what their reasoning was behind stopping that.

  7. @Beyond Malachi

    WoTC says they removed the ability to split damage because that causes “invisible information” for the rest of the turn, that is, you have to remember which creatures have how much damage on them until the damage wears off.
    However, this still occurs with any other damage source, providing it doesn’t kill the creature, so even if this IS the reason, it’s only a mitigating factor and not a solution. Personally, I believe it is a response to the computer products, as it’s a lot easier to force damage assignment than it is to let the player choose. I just preferred being able to choose. To me, it is similar to the duels of the planeswalkers game, which taps your mana for you according to its own internal logic. That, by itself, is enough to keep me from buying this game. I mean, if you can infallibly tell what I want to do, why am *I* playing the game? If not, why are you trying? Whoever it is that cannot figure out how damage works currently, please start playing poker instead, and let me know where.

  8. @neckbeard,

    totally true re: “who” are these people that are struggling w/ invisible damage? i mean, is it so hard to just ask your opp’ “hey, how much damage is on that vanquisher again?” lol.

    re: computer systems. hadn’t really considered that. very true; probably releases a lot of processing/querying. for modo that could mean a significant decrease in server load; whereas for something like “duals” it could streamline the amount of code needed to write. but part of me wonders how much more complicated mtg is compared to halo or counterstrike. i mean, those have gravity engines, all kinds of different inputs hitting the system, etc…

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