Journey into Nyx Mechanics Week – Constellation and Strive

All right, we’re finally getting to the new mechanics of the set!
Let’s dive right in, shall we? Journey into Nyx has only two new mechanics (common for a small third set, since it’s also got returning mechanics from the two prior sets). Those mechanics are Constellation and Strive.

Constellation ties in with the enchantment theme of the set, and the plane; like Heroic, it is an ability word, used simply to group similar abilities together. The common thread tying all Constellation abilities together is that they trigger when that enchantment or any other enchantment enters the battlefield under your control. And that’s ANY kind of enchantment- global, normal enchantments like the Dictate cycle? Those trigger  your Constellations. Normal Auras like the Ordeal cycle? Those trigger your Constellations. Bestow creatures? Yep- when they come down as an Aura OR as an Enchantment Creature, they’ll trigger your Constellations. Note that a Bestowed Aura becoming a creature does not count as “entering the battlefield”, since it was already on the field- you won’t double up on your Constellation triggers with Bestow. And all those Enchantment Creature tokens? Those trigger Constellation too!

The other new mechanic, representing the Mortal side of the conflict with the Gods, is Strive. The spells with Strive are interesting- they can target any number of creatures inherently, but cost more for every new target. This is different from Multikicker and other additional costs, because if they were additional costs you’d be announcing your intent to pay the additional cost before actually picking your targets, which is odd and clunky for a whole entire mechanic, rather than outlying cards. So, Strive just makes it a cost increase, which applies after you pick your targets. The main points with Strive are that you can’t target the same creature more than once with a Strive spell, and if you’re casting a Strive spell “without paying its mana cost” (such as with Oracle of Bones) you CAN still aim it at as many targets as you want, but each additional target will require an actual, real payment. And yes, Strive will trigger Heroic on all the Heroes you aim it at! Strive is also just one spell, even if you have 100 targets- all it takes is one counterspell to shut it down. However, if one or more of your spell’s targets become illegal before it begins to resolve, don’t worry- so long as even one target remains legal, the spell will still resolve and do all that it can to the legal targets. It won’t “Fizzle” (be countered by the rules of the game) unless it has ZERO legal targets as it tries to resolve.

Well, that just about wraps up the Mechanics Week- but wait! We still have one more day until the prerelease, right? Tune in tomorrow for a special post about Prerelease Tips- useful advice to get the most fun out of your prerelease weekend!

Today’s Rules Tip written by Trevor Nunez

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Journey into Nyx Mechanics Week – Returning Mechanics Part Two

I know everyone’s itching for some of the new mechanics, but first we’ve got to finish going over the returning ones! Whether you’re new to the block and wanting to get a quick primer on the old abilities before this weekend’s prerelease, or you’re a returning player just wanting to brush up, this article is for you! We’ll cover the new mechanics tomorrow, I promise.

So, on Monday we covered Devotion, Heroic, and Scrying. Today we’ll finish it up with Tribute, Inspired, Monstrosity, and Bestow – as well as a little bit on the Gods.

Tribute and Monstrosity both show up on a lot of the big, bad beasties of Theros- the Hydras and Cyclopes and Krakens that our Heroes do valiant battle against. Monstrosity is from the Theros set itself, and appears on activated abilities: you can pay the cost, and when the ability resolves, your creature gets some number of +1/+1 counters and “becomes monstrous.” That matters for two reasons – the first is that being ‘monstrous’ keeps further activations of Monstrosity from doing anything. It’s a sort of one-shot deal, you can’t keep pumping your Nessian Asp every turn like that. The second is that many of the monsters have a second ability that triggers when they become Monstrous. This is separate from the counters – it happens after they’re already huge. For example, Arbor Colossus swats a creature out of the sky when he becomes Monstrous. Again, this can only really happen once per creature!

Tribute is the mechanic for the Monsters from Born of the Gods. Tribute makes your opponent pick his poison, so to speak – they may pay a Tribute to your creature as it enters the battlefield, in the form of allowing you to put a set number of +1/+1 counters on it. If they don’t pay the Tribute, something else happens – an unpaid tribute for Fanatic of Xenagos means he comes down swinging; not paying tribute to Ornitharch throws some birds onto the board. Your opponent is the one to make the choice about Tribute, every time – you have no say over it, and must ask for a decision from the opponent (you could try to persuade them into taking the option that’s best for you, but that’s still up to them).

Back onto our Heroes, we have Bestow, one of the more interesting mechanics rules-wise in a while. An inherent weakness to Auras, historically, has been the “two for one” – your opponent throwing one Doom Blade at your enchanted guy costs you TWO cards. Sort of an ‘eggs in one basket’ thing – your auras can beef up your guys, sometimes even better than Equipment, but at higher risk. Bestow helps more or less do away with that risk. Many Nyxborn creatures on Theros can be Bestowed onto your creatures as auras. By paying the alternate Bestow cost as you cast the spell, you cast it as an Aura instead of a creature. But here’s the part where the resilience kicks in – where a normal Aura would fall off and go to the graveyard, a Bestowed aura falls off and grows legs. If your opponent manages to kill the enchanted creature, your Bestow guy can fight the good fight in his place! The same is true if your opponent kills the Bestow target in response to you casting it – your spell still resolves, just as a creature. While they’re Auras, your Bestow guys are NOT creatures, at all. They are always enchantments, though, even when they’re creatures, since this is an enchantment heavy block.

Inspired isn’t a keyword like Monstrosity or Tribute – it’s an ability word. What that means is that it has no actual rules meaning, it’s just a word used to group similar abilities. That’s why “Inspired” shows up in italics on your cards; just like reminder text – it’s got no rules meaning, it’s just there for flavor, grouping, and convenience (similar to Landfall, Hellbent, Morbid, etc.). The common thread among Inspired cards is that they do stuff when you untap them – it doesn’t matter why they’re being untapped, either. You can be untapping them for your normal untap step, due to your Prophet of Kruphix untapping them during your opponent’s turn, or even a spell or ability untapping your creature. The Inspired trigger doesn’t happen until after whatever caused the untap is done, though, and Inspired triggers that are triggered by untapping the creature during your untap step don’t go on the stack until your upkeep.

Last thing for today is a quick crash-course on the Gods themselves. There are 15 in the Theros block, and there’s a chance you could open a God in your seeded pack, so it’s likely you’ll come across some of them! We’ll hit a few common questions that’ve risen since the originals came out last fall. First, the only zone where the Devotion matters is the battlefield. A God on the stack is always a creature spell. A God in your hand, in your library, or in the graveyard is always a creature card. A God in exile is always a creature card, etc. While they’re always creature SPELLS, they won’t trigger “When a creature enters the battlefield” triggers unless their Devotion is high enough when they enter (counting themselves). Casting Heliod while all you control is a Karametra won’t get you a land! On the board, the Gods are always indestructible, even while they aren’t creatures. Their static abilities work even while they’re noncreatures, and the original mono-color gods can activate their abilities too. The multicolored gods care about your TOTAL devotion to both their colors – you could have 6 blue mana symbols among your permanents and only one black mana symbol, and your Phenax, God of Deception would be a creature – it’s seven TOTAL across both colors, not seven of each, or any required split. Note that indestructible won’t stop exile effects, or sacrifice effects, or the Legend Rule – and don’t forget the post-M14 Legend Rules mean that you and your opponent can each have a copy of the same Legendary Creature!

Today’s Rules Tip written by Trevor Nunez

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Tournament Tuesday – JOU Prerelease Edition

Good morning, loyal readers! Today’s Tournament Tuesday Tip will be covering this weekend’s Prerelease for Journey into Nyx, the last set of the Theros block! Whether it’s your very first prerelease, or the newest conquest in your storied Magical history, we hope these tips are useful to you!

First, we’ll go over the basic format of the event. This prerelease, like the rest of the Theros Block, will be a “Seeded Deck” event. That’s a lot like SEALED, but a little different. Instead of just being given your packs, you’ll be asked to choose a color, and be given a prerelease pack corresponding to that color. Inside will be 2 packs of Journey into Nyx, 1 pack of Born of the Gods, 2 packs of Theros, your prerelease promo card (different one for each color!), and your “Seeded” pack.  That “seeded” pack is different from a normal booster, though – it’ll contain ONLY cards from Journey into Nyx, and they’ll mostly be in your chosen color! The pack is also guaranteed to have a rare card in your chosen color, or a Mythic Rare GOD card that shares your color (but ONLY a God – it won’t hold any other mythic!). So for example, if you choose the “Forged in Tyranny” (black) prerelease pack, your Seeded Pack would have mostly black cards, and it could possibly have either Athreos or Pharika as the mythic gods in the rare slot. It will also have, guaranteed, a Doomwake Giant promo.

Now, onto the actual construction! Here’s the fun part. From those 6 booster packs, plus your promo (yes, you CAN play your promo in the prerelease!), you’ll build a deck. It must be at least 40 cards, but there’s no maximum – you’ll generally want to stick as close to 40 as you can for consistency, though. Your tournament organizer should provide you with the basic lands you need to finish your deck (it’s always nice for you to give that land back at the end of the tournament, too). You’ll have an announced time limit to open your packs, look over your awesome new cards, and put together your deck. Then, it’s on to the playing! How many rounds it’ll be is up  to the people running the tournament, mostly, so be sure to ask if they don’t tell you. Prereleases are also a rather ‘laid back’ environment, rules-wise; think of it as a step up from your kitchen table. One of the cool things about prereleases being casual is that (with rare exceptions) you don’t use decklists for your sealed decks – you can completely change them between games and matches and not have to change them back! You can also 100% legally get help from friends as far as deckbuilding goes – once you sit for your match, they can’t help you out, but if your opponent offers to give you advice after your match, you can take it! We want everyone to have fun, and we want a real sense of community and education – what better way to foster that than to allow more skilled players to help the newer ones build stronger decks? So feel free to brag about the foil Mythic you pulled, or ask your buddy between rounds if he thinks you should splash blue.

The last couple of things are just quick little bullet points – please don’t trade your cards during the event! We need you to play the whole event (or however long you’ll play that event) with the cards you opened, so if your friend wants to trade you for that sick foil Godsend you opened, wait until the event is done! And lastly, if you have a question, ask a judge. I’ll cover that more on Friday, but for right now, be aware that “Ask A Judge” should be your default solution to any question you might not know the answer to!

Today’s Prerelease Tournament Tip was written by Trevor Nuñez

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Journey into Nyx Mechanics Week – Returning Mechanics

This weekend, thousands upon thousands of Magic players the world over will be playing with Journey into Nyx cards for the first time- that’s right, it’s Prerelease Time! As we often do with prereleases, the Rules Tip Blog is going to cover the new mechanics (and go over some old ones from the previous sets in the block) so you’ll be armed and ready when you crack those packs and sleeve up this weekend.

First, we’ll start with a refresher- Journey into Nyx contains a lot of the same mechanics that Theros and Born of the Gods did, so we’ll cover those for players  who might not have gotten to play with those cards much yet. The first one we’ll cover is Devotion: it’s not a big thing in this set, but the Gods use it! Your Devotion to a color is equal to the total number of mana symbols of that color, among the mana costs of permanents you control. For example, if you controlled a Thassa, God of the Sea and no other permanents, your devotion to blue is just 1, from Thassa. The Gods all have static abilities constantly checking your Devotion, but most of the other cards just check it once- for example, your Gray Merchant of Asphodel will only check your devotion to black as the trigger resolves (so your opponent could kill your Merchant to lower your devotion and get drained for less!).

The next returning mechanic is Heroic- fairly straightforward. The Heroes of Theros shine brightest when they’re in the spotlight, so their Heroic abilities trigger when you cast a spell targeting your Heroic creature. Whether it’s an Instant, Sorcery, or an Aura (including Bestow, which we’ll get to!), it’ll trigger Heroic- note that Heroic only works with YOUR spells and YOUR creatures- using removal on your opponent’s Satyr Hoplite won’t make it bigger. Heroic triggers will also resolve separate from the spell that caused them, so your Heroes still get their boosts and boons even if your opponent counters the spell that triggered them!

Scry is fairly simple, and is itself a returning mechanic from the days of Mirrodin. Some spells and abilities will tell you to “Scry N”, where N is some number; for example, the Temple cycle asks you to Scry 1 when they enter the battlefield. To Scry 1, you look at the top 1 card of your library, and you can either put it back on top, or on the bottom- so if you know you’re low on lands, and your Scrying shows you another, you can keep it! On the flip side, if you’re flooded with lands and need to draw into some creatures, that same Scry could just tuck the land on bottom so you can try for something better. Scrying for 2 or more isn’t very complex, either- you just look at that many cards, and you can put any you want on the bottom. Whichever cards you DON’T put away, you put back on top in whatever order. So if you Scry 3 and all 3 cards are just super, you don’t have to ship any of them- you can keep all 3 on top, even putting them in the order you like best.

We’ll cover Monstrosity, Bestow, and the Gods in a little more detail on Wednesday- tune in tomorrow for some Tournament Tuesday tips on the prerelease!

Today’s Prerelease Tip written by Trevor Nunez

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Commander: Leaving the Game

Although Commander is sometimes played as 1v1 format, it’s most commonly played with 3 or more players, each of which wants to defeat the others in a free-for-all-style fashion. Alliances can be forged and stunning betrayals unleashed as everyone vies to win…or at least cause that guy you don’t like to lose!

But what actually happens when one player loses the game? Let’s say that Ajani, Elspeth, and Xenagos are all playing against each other, but Ajani and Elspeth team up to bring Xenagos down to 0 life.

Well, the short answer is basically this: everyone else keeps playing, but the game lets Xenagos pick up all the cards he owns and take them with him. This way, Xenagos can go play with some other people right away.

More specifically, four things happen when Xenagos loses the game. First, Xenagos takes all cards he owns with him as he leaves, even if they’re currently being controlled by other players. Second, he gives back anything that he’s taken control of. Third, anything that Xeagos controls that’s still on the stack ceases to exist. Finally, after that’s done, if Xenagos happens to still control anything, those cards are exiled forever.

Let’s break each of those pieces down a little further, with examples.

The first step is pretty simple: Xenagos piles up all the cards he owns and takes them out of the game with him. (Remember, you “own” a card if you started the game with it in your library or as your Commander.) This includes cards that are currently on the stack waiting to resolve — maybe Elspeth only decided to finish Xenagos off when he cast a huge Clan Defiance at Ajani? This rule also encompasses anything that Xenagos owns that another player currently happens to control (like if Ajani currently controls Xenagos’s Contested War Zone).

In the second step, the game terminates any effects that give Xenagos control of another player’s cards. For example, suppose Xenagos cast Act of Treason to take control of Ajani’s Avatar token for a turn. If Xenagos leaves the game, that control-changing effect ends right away, so Ajani gets his token back.

In the third step, the game gets rid of anything of Xenagos’s that’s still on the stack. Xenagos took all his cards with him in the first step, but he might have left a few things that aren’t represented by cards hanging around. This includes activated abilities, triggered abilities, and copies of spells. (Grapeshot, anyone?) Xenagos isn’t in the game anymore, so it doesn’t make sense to have these resolve.

Finally, if Xenagos still controls anything, those cards are exiled. This is pretty rare, but one way it could happen is if Xenagos somehow cast Bribery and stole a copy of Ajani’s friend Brimaz. Bribery doesn’t actually create a control-changing effect; Xenagos is simply set as Brimaz’s controller when he puts Brimaz onto the battlefield. It doesn’t really make sense to just give Brimaz back to Ajani for free, so Brimaz just gets exiled instead. Poor kitty king.

And that’s leaving the game in a nutshell! These rules apply whenever a player loses the game for any reason, as well as when that player decides to concede. Good luck, and hopefully these rules won’t ever apply to you!

Today’s Commander Rules Tip Written by Paul Baranay

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Commander Week: Casting Commanders

Hello friends, and welcome to Commander Week!

As we look towards Journey into Nyx, I thought it would be fun to spend a while talking about one of the most popular casual formats, Commander!

One of the central features of Commander is, of course, the commanders themselves. When constructing a Commander deck, you pick one legendary creature to be your deck’s “commander” or “general.” You then pick 99 additional cards (including lands) to form the rest of your deck. Each of those cards has to fall within your commander’s color identity, which includes the colors of the mana symbols in that creature’s mana cost, as well as any mana symbols that occur in its text box or color indicator. (So, for example, Memnarch‘s color identity is blue.) Colorless cards are also okay. Additionally, Commander is a singleton format — so, with the exception of basic lands, you can’t have more than one copy of a card in your deck, which makes for some interesting deckbuilding decisions!

When you start the game, the 99 cards in your deck become your library for this format. You then set your commander itself aside, in a special zone called the command zone. This zone functions similarly to the exile zone — anything in the command zone isn’t on the battlefield, for example — except that it’s even harder to get things out of the command zone than out of exile! Only effects that specifically refer to the command zone can affect cards in the command zone.

However, the rules of the Commander format itself allow you to cast your commander from the command zone at any point you could cast that card. This means that you cast most commanders like regular creatures — during one of your main phases, when the stack is empty. But you can cast a commander with flash (like Venser, Shaper Savant) at any time you could cast an instant, or use a card that changes when you can cast creatures, like Prophet of Kruphix, to enable you to do the same thing.

If your commander would die, or be put into the graveyard for any reason, don’t worry! You can simply choose to move it back to the command zone. The same goes for if your commander is exiled (such as to Swords to Plowshares). These effects replace the destination of your commander entirely, so they never touch the graveyard or exile at all.

Once your commander has gone back to the command zone, you can cast it again! However, constantly casting your commander from the command zone can be a very cumbersome challenge (try saying that five times fast). Every time you cast your commander from the command zone beyond the first, your commander’s cost is increased by {2}. As an example, say my commander is Borborygmos Enraged. This friendly cyclops costs {4}{R}{R}{G}{G} the first time I cast him from the command zone, then {6}{R}{R}{G}{G} the second time, and then {8}{R}{R}{G}{G}, and so on. This is frequently called the “commander tax.”

The commander tax is considered part of the total cost of your commander, so the tax can be reduced by anything that reduces spell costs. Suppose that I have a bunch of effects that, in total, reduce the cost of green creatures I cast by {5}. I’ve cast Borborygmos from the command zone once already. To cast him a second time would normally cost a total of {6}{R}{R}{G}{G} as I explained above. However, the {5} mana reduction turns this into just {1}{R}{R}{G}{G} — eliminating the entire comnmander tax, as well as some of Borborygmos’ usual cost in generic mana.

Let’s say that, after I cast Borborygmos, my opponent Unsummons him. Even though Borborygmos is leaving the battlefield, I can’t put him in the command zone — I can only do that when he’s moving specifically to exile or the graveyard. However, I can can cast him from my hand! Even better, the commander tax only applies when I’m casting my commander from the command zone, so I can cast Borborygmos for just his regular cost of {4}{R}{R}{G}{G} (which could then be reduced by other effects).

As a final note, one card in the game, Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, has an ability that lets you put Derevi directly from the command zone onto the battlefield. Since this is an ability, not a spell, its not subject to the commander tax — you can use it over and over for the same cost of {1}{G}{W}{U}. That’s pretty powerful!

Today’s Commander Rules Tip Written by Paul Baranay

Posted in Casting / playing a spell or ability, Multiplayer | Comments Off

Killing Gray Merchant in response to the ETB ability.

Hi everyone, it’s Friday! Let’s talk about a card that you’ve probably seen a lot of at your local FNM (whether it be standard or draft): Gray Merchant of Asphodel. The question of the day is: what happens to the Gray Merchant’s ability if the Merchant leaves the battlefield before it resolves?

Hopefully, by now you’ve figured out that once an ability is on the stack, it exists independent of the source that made it. That means that killing the Merchant won’t do anything to remove the trigger that’s already on the stack. However, removing the Merchant isn’t the worst thing in the world. The opponent’s devotion to black only matters at one point, and that’s when the Merchant’s triggered ability resolves. That means that you can remove the Merchant with its enter the battlefield trigger on the stack, and when the ability resolves, since the Merchant is no longer on the battlefield, it will not contribute to the opponent’s devotion to black, and you’ll be drained for two less than you would have been otherwise.

Hopefully you remember this trick the next time your opponent plays a Gray Merchant while you’re at a low life total. I hope everyone enjoyed this tip and has a great weekend!

Today’s Rules Tip written by Nathan Long

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Responding to evolve by killing the creature that just entered.

Evolve has been a popular topic for this blog in the last year, and once again, we’re going to discuss evolve. Today’s topic is how evolve works with removal.

Let’s say that I control an Experiment One with no counters, and I cast a very scary Deadly Recluse. You know that the Recluse is the true threat here, not the Experiment One, so after it enters the battlefield, you Doom Blade my Recluse as soon as you can. But what does that do to the evolve trigger that’s on the stack? The creature isn’t around anymore, so does the One get the counter?

The answer is yes, it does. This is an example of “last known information.” Since the Recluse is not on the battlefield when the evolve trigger goes to resolve, the game uses the last known power and toughness of the Recluse to determine if the One should get a counter. Since the Recluse was a 1/2 when it was last on the battlefield, that’s the power and toughness we use, so the One will get a counter.

As a bonus tip, what happens if we kill the Recluse with a Bile Blight instead? In that case, when we look at the last known power and toughness of the Recluse, we get the answer -2/-1. Since neither the last known power or toughness of the Recluse is greater than the One’s current power and toughness, evolve won’t do anything and the One will not get a counter.

And hopefully, we’ve fully covered evolve now. I mean, I’m sure I’ll be typing up another topic on evolve next month, but it’s nice to dream, right?

Today’s Rules Tip written by Nathan Long

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Springleaf Drum and summoning sickness.

Making its proud return to standard is Springleaf Drum. While most known for enabling the popular Robots deck in Modern, it was reprinted as a way to help trigger your inspired abilities. And if you’ve seen the popular Modern deck known as “Robots” being played, you’ll notice that the player will tap a just-cast creature to activate their Drum. But why does that work? Doesn’t “summoning sickness” prevent that?

“Summoning sickness” does a very specific set of things: it prevents the creature from attacking, and it prevents the creature from activating abilities with the tap or untap symbol until the creature has started your turn under your control. As long as the ability does not use the tap or untap symbol, the ability can be used right away. And, of course, only creatures are affected by “summoning sickness,” so the Drum can activate its ability immediately.

While the Drum’s ability does use the tap symbol, that’s referring only to the Drum itself, not to the creature that it taps as well. So you can tap a freshly cast creature to activate the Drum’s ability. This probably explains the power of the card in Modern, and why it’s a strong consideration for a place in an inspired deck as a quick way to “turn on” your inspired creatures.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Nathan Long

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Treat each other with respect, in accordance with the MTR.

Today’s topic feels like one of those “duh” topics, but sometimes it needs to be repeated for people just as a reminder. Today, we’re going to discuss treating everyone with respect.

Oftentimes, an event like Friday Night Magic or Magic prerelease is a player’s first chance to step away from playing at their kitchen table with their friends and stepping into an environment with people they don’t know. We want that player to have fun at that tournament and feel welcome; we don’t want them to be belittled or offended by what others are saying or doing. If a player walks into a hostile environment where people are constantly being put down and slurs are being thrown around, they may not feel very comfortable and it may actually scare them away from going to the local store and tournaments in the future.

If you’re just playing with your friends at home, you know what’s acceptable among them and where to draw the line. But once you’re in a public space, with unfamiliar people and/or just random strangers, cut back on some of that talk. You don’t know this person. No one likes to feel uncomfortable, so try to focus your efforts on welcoming people into your community, rather than trying to potentially offend these people. Show people some respect when they’re at the tournament, and they’ll be more likely to have a good time and come back in the future.

Finally, I’d like to call attention to a blog maintained by Level 3 Judge Tasha Jamison, called Allied Strategies. I only talked about this briefly, but Tasha goes into a lot more detail about how we can accept people into our communities and treat people better in general.

Today’s Tournament Tip written by Nathan Long

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