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M10 rules changes in review

September 11, 2010

So, it’s been little over a year now since what was supposed to be the apocalypse in the Magic world. What I’m talking about is off course the rules changes R&D did to Magic with the launch of Magic 2010. We have played with the new rules for over a year now and what do we think about the changes? Today I’m going through my two cents about the subject.

If you are relatively new to the game and don’t have a clue about what I’m talking about or if you just forgot exactly what that got changed last summer, here is the article from R&D describing the changes.

1) Simultaneous Mulligans

Instead of the player on the play taking (all of his/her) mulligans at once before letting the other player have the option of mulliganing, we now have a system where we take directly take turns in taking mulligans. The loss with this rule change is that some strategic value of being on the draw is lost since you get less information from your opponent before choosing to keep or take a mulligan. The gain is greatly reduced time shuffling each others decks, which leads to more actual Magic playing in the rounds. 

 This change is one of the best in my book. Almost a pure win if you ask me. Sure, it’s true that being on the draw has lost a little value but I think that was a small and affordable price to pay for the overall time we save per round of Magic played that we used to use for shuffling.

2) Terminology Changes

Couldn’t care less honestly. They could name stuff pretty much what they wanted, I still refer for the most part to the names I learned when I started to play Magic in 2006. Heck, the judge community doesn’t seem to bother either since they know what you mean when you say stuff like “RFG” or “comes into play”.

Old school player might need to adjust in a couple of years or so when more fresh blood is stirred into the Magic community, but what ever.

3) Mana Pools and Mana Burn

This one I’m a little torn about. How they changed how mana pools empties between steps and phases I’m okay with. The made the game slightly simpler and sleek at the cost of that you can’t for example float mana in your upkeep in response to a Mana Short or Mistbind Clique and the still have the mana through your draw step and other plays of that nature. While that kind of plays was pretty common as long as Lorwyn was legal in Standard, it was fairly uncommon before that and I don’t think it would happen a lot in todays Standard if you could still do those kinds of plays.

All and all, if Wizards thinks this helps new players having an easier time grasping the game, I’m cool with that.

Then we have mana burn. This is the rule change I like the least, but I don’t think it’s the end of the world either. Mana burn is super flavour full, support out-of-the-box-strategies with card like Pulse of the Forge and make players playing with Heartbeat of Spring, the Urzatron, Cloudposts etc. play more conservatively.

I think partly the reason why they took mana burn away is because it’s kind of awkward of ruling mana burn situations for judges. On Magic Online, you get a prompt that say you have mana still in your mana pool and let’s you backup if you messed up for some reason. In real life Magic it’s isn’t as simple and I have seen judges rule both to back up situations and other times that the player is question will simply burn. Heck, we have seen Pro Tour Top8 matches (see PT Los Angeles 2005) been decided by rulings considering mana burn situations. So for that reason along with its just another layer of high complexity/low gain for actual gameplay, I can understand why mana burn got the shaft.

4) Token Ownership

*shrugs*

5) Combat Damage No Longer Uses the Stack

This change along with the “ordering of blockers”-change that came along with it is probably the biggest change of all of the changes R&D made last year. It wasn’t directly a small change and I, like many else, was to say the least concerned about this change when I heard about for the first time.

I know people who think that this change made the game worse, they dumbed it down etc. But honestly, I actually like this change. Some say they think the game got simplified with this rule change but I think the opposite. Before, there was 9 out of 10 times always a correct play to do in combat. You put damage on the stack and then you used what ever trick or effect you had. Now you actually have a decision to make with your… say Mogg Fanatic. Instead of always “damage on the stack, sack” you know how to choose if dealing 1 point of damage in combat is more worth than dealing 1 to target creature or player. Sure, some old cards along the line of Mogg Fanatic or Ravenous Baloth has gotten a lot worse because of the changes but on the other hand it leave space open for R&D to design new cards and effect for us to discover for the future.

Also, the old rule was kind of obnoxious for two reason. For once, it didn’t really made sense flavourwise, at least to me. And then it was kind of awkward to explain this rule to new players and ensure they understood what was going on. I mean, I have a little brother that every now and then follows me to play FNM for the last 3 years and he never truly understood the damage on the stack rule. When I told him last summer that “damage on stack” was no more, he let out a sigh of relief as that rule was something that he never really understood. My point is that for a significant number of players this change was a pure win.

6) Deathtouch

A natural change they had to make because of the change mentioned above they made. No comment about that. I want to add thought that they changed this rule again with the launch of Magic 2011. The sum of this year change wasn’t drastically by any means, they only simplified the structure and execution of Deathtouch during gameplay. The recent change did leave open for some obscure situation to happen, like a Giant Scorpion enchanted with Rancor could trample over a Progenitus. That sounds really weird yes, but this is not going to be a particular big factor during actual gaming so I don’t mind that little anomaly.

7) Lifelink

Just great, they made lifelink work as everyone think it does the first time they play with a card that has lifelink. Once again, going from a triggered ability to a static ability made it so that a creature with double Basilisk Collar no longer grants the creature “double lifelink” as it did before Magic 2010 but I don’t mind that at all.

So that was pretty much it. Overall I think R&D did well with the changes they did last year and changed the game (for the most part) to the better. To all nay-sayers out there I just want to say that I think you can’t honestly give Wizards crap for doing rules changes and testing out new ideas when they have the intention of trying to make Magic a better game and make more people play Magic overall. You want Magic to live and prosper, right? Then let Wizards do their job. Sure, they have their misses and glitches that has happen over course of the years but overall they have done a great job with the game. Have some faith.

Bernhard over and out.

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