In a nutshell
- An object’s card types, supertypes, and subtypes can be found on its type line between the text box and the card art. You may hear card types referred to as simply “types”.
- The card types are Artifact, Creature, Enchantment, Land, Planeswalker, Tribal, Instant, and Sorcery (as well as Phenomenon, Plane, Vanguard, and Conspiracy. These last four are used only in casual variants and will not be on a judge exam.).
- Artifact, creature, enchantment, land, and planeswalker are the permanent types (types of permanents). Instant and sorcery are spell types.
- Subtypes are written after a long dash following the card type. Each word (except on plane cards) is a separate subtype.
- Changing an object’s type, by default, will overwrite all previous types. Some effects will say that “It’s still a [type]” or give it new types “in addition to its other types”. Such effects allow the card to retain its old types. In addition, effects that say something is an “artifact creature” also allow the object to keep any other types it had.
- The above statement is true with the word “types” changed to “subtypes”.
- If an object’s type changes, it loses all subtypes that are not appropriate for the object’s new types.
- If an effect sets a land’s type to a basic land type, it loses all its abilities and gains the “T: add [color] to your mana pool” ability appropriate to its new subtype.
Identify the types, subtypes, and supertypes of these cards:
Karakas (supertype: legendary; type: land. It isn’t a plains even though it can tap for W because its type line in the Oracle doesn’t include that subtype.)
Tundra (type: land; subtypes: plains, island. Remember to check the Oracle for older cards, because sometimes the templating changes.)
Dryad Arbor (types: creature, land; subtypes: forest, dryad. Forest is a land subtype, whereas Dryad is a creature subtype.)
Umezawa’s Jitte (supertype: legendary; type: artifact; subtype: equipment)
The Abyss (supertype: world; type: enchantment. We’ll learn more about the world supertype in a future lesson.)
Bitterblossom (types: tribal, enchantment; subtype: faerie. Tribal is a card type, not a supertype. Just ask Tarmogoyf.)
Dark Depths (supertypes: legendary, snow; type: land)
Memnarch (supertype: legendary; types: artifact, creature; subtype: wizard. Since legendary is a supertype, it is not correlated specifically to either of Memnarch’s card types. If it somehow stops being a creature, or stops being an artifact, it will still be legendary. Wizard is a creature type. If Memnarch stops being a creature, it will also stop being a wizard.)
Q: What’s the deal with tribal anyway? Why is that a card type at all?
A: During Lorwyn block, the design team wanted to have things that weren’t creatures interact with the plentiful “creature type matters” effects they were putting in the block. For instance, they wanted to make instants and sorceries that players would be able to find with Boggart Harbinger. Unfortunately, they couldn’t just add creature types to cards, for example, by making Tarfire an Instant – Goblin, because goblin isn’t a spell type. Their solution was to introduce another card type, give it all the same subtypes that creatures had, and put this new card type on any noncreature card they wanted to give creature types to. It isn’t the most elegant solution, but it works.
Q: Amy controls three lands: an Urza’s Tower, an Urza’s Power Plant, and an Urza’s Mine. The mine is enchanted by Spreading Seas. What are the Urza’s Mine’s types, supertypes, and subtypes? If she taps all three lands for mana, what will be in her mana pool?
A: Urza’s Mine starts out as a Land – Urza’s Mine (card type Land, subtypes Urza’s and Mine). Spreading Seas does not specify that the object keeps its old types, so island overwrites all the subtypes Urza’s Mine had. It is now a Land – Island. It is not basic because the effect doesn’t say it is.
Overwriting a land’s subtypes with a basic land type erases all the land’s abilities and gives it the appropriate “T: add [color] to your mana pool” ability. In this case, that means that the Urza’s Mine taps for U.
When Amy taps the other two lands, they will each only produce 1 because Amy no longer controls a land with types “Urza’s” and “Mine”, which is what their abilities look for. If it was looking for the card’s name, it would be templated, “if you control a land named…” or similar. Reference Crown of Empires for an effect worded this way.
Note: Why is the word “power-plant” hyphenated on the type line of Urza’s Power Plant and in the text of the other two Urza’s lands, but not in the card name? “Power plant” isn’t normally hyphenated in English, so it isn’t in the card’s name. On the other hand, the rules team wanted it to be a single land subtype, which means that it couldn’t have a space, since spaces separate card types and subtypes. The distinction also shows that Urza’s Mine and Urza’s Tower care about having a land with the types “Urza’s” and “power-plant”, not a card named “Urza’s Power Plant”.
Q: Death’s Caress and Deicide are fairly similar cards, but notice that Death’s Caress checks “if that creature was a human” wheras Deicide checks “if the exiled card is a god card”. What’s the difference, and why is it necessary?
A: The way Death’s Caress is worded, it looks at the creature as it existed on the battlefield, which is how most similar effects are templated. Deicide looks at the card as it exists in exile. The reason Deicide had to be different was because the cards it’s supposed to be used on (Heliod, Thassa, etc.) have abilities that make them not creatures. Losing a card type causes all the correlated subtypes to be lost also. In this case, that means that if Deicide were worded like Death’s Caress, Deiciding a Thassa when its controller didn’t have the necessary devotion to blue would not let its controller search for other Thassas.
Note: Thassa always has the creature type when it’s off the battlefield because its ability that makes it not be a creature is not a characteristic-defining ability (it isn’t “on” all the time). This means that ability only functions on the battlefield. Off the battlefield, Thassa is always an “enchantment creature – god”.
A: Blood Moon will affect Dryad Arbor because the arbor is a nonbasic land (that is, a land which does not have the “basic” supertype). Blood Moon’s effect sets Dryad Arbor’s land subtype to mountain. This means that its prior land subtype (forest) will be overwritten, and all its abilities will be removed and replaced with the “T: add R to your mana pool” ability all mountains have. In this case, it only has the inherent “T: add G to your mana pool” ability it gets from being a forest, though if it had any other abilities in its text box, those would be lost, too.
Dryad Arbor’s other subtypes are not affected by changing its land subtype, so it stays being a Dryad. Dryad Arbor’s types are similarly unaffected: it’s still a creature and a land. Finally, Dryad Arbor is still green, since its Oracle text includes a green color indicator, from which its color is derived. If it was green because of an ability in its text box (which was the case when Dryad Arbor was originally printed, since color indicators had not yet been invented), Dryad Arbor would become colorless under Blood Moon, since the ability granting it color would be lost when its land type was set.