This one may have come up for some of you in the past couple of weeks since M15, and it may very well happen to you in the future if it hasn’t! Rotfeaster Maggot is a common Black creature that eats dead guys. More specifically, when it enters the battlefield it’ll exile a creature card from any graveyard you so choose, and gain you life equal to that creature’s power. The bigger the meal, the bigger the reward for you! Now, it’s generally pretty easy to figure out how much that’ll be- you just look at the card. Hitting Clone gets you nada, hitting Runeclaw Bear gets you 2, so on and so forth.
But sometimes, it’s not so simple! What happens if you hit one of the Kinda Kird Apes from this set, like Sunblade Elf or Dauntless River Marshal? Do you gain their printed power, even if you control their boosting land type? The answer to that, sadly, is yes. Like the vast majority of abilities on permanents, these abilities only work on the battlefield- nowhere else! Your Sunblade Elf is always a 1/1 in your graveyard, no matter how many Plains you try to satisfy it with.
Now, there are abilities that work in other places. For the purposes of today’s tip, we’ll be looking at Characteristic Defining Abilities. The short version of what these are is wrapped up neatly in the name: they’re abilities that define the characteristics of the object. For example, Seraph of the Masses (boy who saw THAT example coming?). Seraph’s printed P/T is */* but what does that mean to the game? Seraph’s ability defines her P/T, and that works everywhere- the stack, your library, and importantly for today: the graveyard. So, how much life DO you gain if your Rotfeaster Maggot eats a Seraph of the Masses? You gain life equal to however many creatures that Seraph’s owner controls at the time! This’ll work with other stuff that has a CDA too; a Spellheart Chimera, for instance!
Today’s Rules Tip written by Trevor Nunez