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Rules | Game variants

This document has new and changed rules that are my suggestions for variant Magic: the Gathering rules. In some cases, I think that the existing rules are no good and so suggest changes. (As it turns out, some of my previous suggestions, not listed here, have already been made into official rules.)


"Damageable" means a player, creature, or planeswalker. "Any target" has the same meaning and the same AST as "target damageable" (and overload treats them in the same way).

"Conventional basic land" means one of the five cards Plains, Island, Swamp, Forest, or Mountain. These five names, and the characteristics corresponding to them, are inherent features of the game rules, independently of what cards and what names may be legal in the specific game being played.

"Fizzles" means that a spell cannot resolve because it has one or more targets and all of them are now illegal.

(A currently unspecified word) means any object or player.

(A currently unspecified word) means, for an object, that object's controller, or its owner if it has no controller; for a player, it means that player.

"Ordinary banding ability" means a banding ability that is not a "bands with other" ability.

Keyword abilities

"Flash [cost]" is a variant of flash, and means that you can cast this object as though it had flash if you pay an additional [cost].

"Fuseback" allows to cast this card from your graveyard, in which case it gains fuse, but the casting must be fused. If it would leave the stack, it is exiled instead of going to any other zone.

"Mutate [quality]--[cost]" is a variant of mutate. Instead of targeting a non-Human creature, it can target any permanent that has the specified quality and the same owner as the spell. (It cannot target players, nor can it target objects in zones other than battlefield, regardless of the specified quality or of the owner of those objects.)

"Haunt [quality]" is a variant of haunt. It can haunt any object with the specified quality rather than a creature.

"Harmless" is a keyword ability which affects the process of dealing damage with this object as the source. Rules 120.3a-e do not apply (i.e. it does not affect the permanent or player that the damage is dealt to; any additional rules made up custom or future that do so are also suppressed) (rule 120.3f still applies if it has lifelink), and rule 704.5h (the state-based action for deathtouch) does not apply to this damage. This does not prevent the damage from being dealt, even if it has no effect. Lethal damage, excess damage, and combat damage assignment, ignore the harmless keyword; they are computed in the same way whether or not it has this ability.

"Rangeling" is a characteristic-defining ability which means "This object is every land type in addition to its other types." (This rule makes Nearby Planet legal in Extended Pseudo-Vintage.)

"Unstoppable" is a static ability that functions while the object with this ability is in the stack. Objects in the stack that have this ability cannot fizzle due to having one or more targets all of which are illegal. If the effect cares about whether or not any targets have been selected, then they resolve as though no targets have been selected. (TODO: Should this name be changed?)

"Adaptation [cost]" is a static ability that functions while the object with this ability is in the stack. Before selecting modes, you may apply this ability any number of times. Each application of this ability adds the specified cost as an additional cost, and changes the text of the object by replacing all instances of a word of your choice from one category with another word of your choice from the same category. The valid categories are: creature types, basic land types, nonbasic land types, planeswalker types, and color words. (You may select the same category more than once.) (This effect changes the text before mode selection is done and before splicing; therefore, it might affect which targets can legally be selected, etc. If it moves from the stack to the battlefield, it continues to apply until it leaves the battlefield.)

A currently unnamed keyword ability prevents a player from playing this object unless that player controls a legendary creature or a legendary planeswalker. (Official legendary instant/sorcery cards (before they make such a rule themself, if they ever do) are errataed to have this ability; those cards are still legendary, too.)

A currently unnamed keyword ability with one parameter being text defining an ability, means that as this object enters the battlefield or is faced up, or gains this ability by merging, it loses this ability and gains the specified ability.

"Command requirement--[condition]" means that you cannot start the game with this card in your command zone or place this card into the command zone from outside of the game or place this card into the command zone as the game begins, unless your starting deck meets the specified condition; you must also meet the usual conditions for putting a card of that type into the command zone, in addition to this one. This applies even if the card is initially face-down. The rules for the condition are the same as the same rules for the condition of the companion keyword ability.

Superward is a variant of ward. "Superward [cost]" means "Whenever this permanent becomes the target of a spell or ability, counter that spell or ability unless the controller of that spell or ability pays [cost]."

"Space sculptor--[quality]" is a variant of space sculptor. Any effect which checks for or removes space sculptor ability also affects this variant. There are two differences from ordinary space sculptor ability. Firstly, instead of requiring players to give sector designations to creatures, it requires players to give sector designations to permanents with the specified quality (this otherwise works like the ordinary rules for space sculptor ability). Secondly, it applies as long as there is an object with such a variant space sculptor ability in the battlefield, stack, or if it is an object in the command zone whose abilities normally function (e.g. emblems, face-up conspiracies, vanguards, etc). Regardless of what zone the object with space sculptor is in, only permanents have sector designations.

Keyword actions

"Lose priority" as a part of a cost of a spell or ability means: You can pay such a cost only once if you are the next player who would receive priority during the current step of the turn, and only if the cost is part of the process of a spell or ability being played as the action you are taking by having priority so that completing that action would result in priority. If you have done this, then the only thing you can do when you have priority is to pass; doing this resets the "lose priority". (This prevents you from responding or playing such a spell or ability multiple times before it resolves, unless your opponent responds first in which case you may get another chance.) You cannot pay this cost more than once as a part of a single cost, nor can you do so if you already have the "lose priority" condition for some reason. This is also not allowed if there is some reason why you would not be allowed to pass priority due to some effect depending on playing that spell or ability.

To "encode" an object on a permanent means to exile that object encoded on that permanent, and the exiled object now has "For as long as this card is encoded on that creature, that creature has 'Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, you may copy the encoded card and you may cast the copy without paying its mana cost.'" if it does not already have that ability.

"Flip a coin" represents one of two keyword actions. The process of flipping a coin (A) involves selecting "heads" or "tails" at random; the result is then whichever of these has been selected in this way. The processing of flipping a coin (B) involves choosing "heads" or "tails", and then flipping a coin (A); the result is then the result of the flipping a coin (A), together with "winning the flip" if the first choice matches the second, or "losing the flip" if they do not match. A player does not "flip a coin" unless the "flip a coin" keyword action is used. (Note: There is no relation between flipping coins and flipping objects; the same word "flip" is used in English but the AST does not match.)

The process of rolling a die consists of selecting one of that die's faces at random, which is then called the "natural result". For a "N-sided die", "N-sided dice", or "dN", the faces are the integers from 1 to N (inclusive). If a replacement effect replaces the random choice of the face to be selected as the natural result, then the value that it has been replaced by is then considered to be its natural result; this replacement effect is applied before rules 706.2-8 are applied. If multiple dice must be rolled together, then they are rolled one at a time. If no effect distinguishes or replaces any of them, then you may roll them simultaneously as a shortcut.

To "visit" an object will trigger its visit ability, if it has any (if it does not, then visiting that object has no effect, but it can still be visited). Only an object's controller can visit that object, but it does not matter what its type is, or whether or not it has any lights (an object with no controller cannot be visited). "Roll to visit your Attractions" means to roll a d6 and then visit each Attraction you control that has lights what that number lit. (This is not quite compatible with official rules, because of the intervening if clause which might matter if the lights somehow change before it resolves. Additionally, there seems to be a confusion in the official rules about whether or not the visited permanent has to be an Attraction; these unofficial rules make it clear. If it can be made more closely to official rules while still being clear, and not too badly designed or too different, then I should change this in such a way.)

Rule changes

The ongoing supertype now suppresses all similar state-based actions that care when there are no triggered abilities of that object on the stack nor pending triggered abilities of that object; specifically, the state-based actions for phenomena, Sagas, dungeons, and schemes. (An ongoing dungeon can still leave the game if you try to venture into that dungeon while the bottommost room is the current one.)

The legendary supertype no longer has any inherent effect on instants/sorceries. Older cards are errataed to have a new (currently unnamed) keyword ability which prohibits them from being cast in certain circumstances; those cards are still legendary. (This rule is potentially incompatible.)

If for any reason, multiple conflicting continuous effects from static abilities of the same object have the same timestamp, and a timestamp order must be determined in order to apply those effects, then they are applied as though the relative timestamp order is from the first such ability (with the earliest timestamp) to the last one (with the latest timestamp), in the ordinary reading order. If this is caused by concatenating the ability text of several objects, then the order of concatenation must be determined at the time that the effect is applied (the relative order within the existing text of an existing object remains the same, without other timestamps in between that were not already there).

Text-changing effects are AST-based.

Triggered abilities can have costs (although they normally do not have any costs). If they do, then the same process (601.2f-h) for applying the costs when casting a spell, will apply. If there is no legal way to play that ability in a way that the costs can be paid, then the ability is removed from the stack. If the only legal way to play the ability involves costs that include mana that you do not already have in your mana pool and/or characteristics of objects that are not known ot all players, then playing the ability is optional; if it is not played, it is removed from the stack with no effect. If multiple triggered abilities with costs would be played, then they may be played in any order which is legal according to 603.3b; if paying the cost of one of them makes another one impossible then that is permitted and results in the later ones not being played.

If the process of playing a triggered ability results in any further abilities triggering (possibly due to what happened due to the payment of a cost, e.g. a death trigger due to sacrificing a permanent), then those further abilities are deferred until each player in APNAP order has played the current round of triggered abilities.

It is not possible to cast an object if any of the following conditions are met:

During the process of selecting modes or targets or divisions among targets, if a selection must be made but the object that it is being selected for is not in the stack, then the process of playing that object is aborted; no selections are made, and the rest of the process does not occur. (This is not the case for the rest of the process after selection of targets (and divisions if applicable); in those cases (when determining the cost, activating mana abilities, and paying the cost), it can continue even if it is not in the stack at that time. This is similar to rule 601.5, but is a bit different; rule 601.5 and 601.2e still apply, too.)

Whether or not an ability is a mana ability depends on the AST only, and not on its actual effect. All of the following conditions must be met to be a mana ability:

If an object has multiple types, all of the following rules apply to them:

Rules 704.6c-f apply to all games, not only to variant games (although they are usually not important except in variant games).

If multiple state-based actions do conflicting things to an object (whether directly or due to some action that does them), apply the following rules:

Any face-up scheme can be abandoned, even if it is not ongoing, and even if it is not a Archenemy game. The state-based action for non-ongoing schemes will abandon them.

Outside of variant games specifically using those rules (or allowing the applicable cards for some other reason), the ante zone, planar deck, scheme deck, etc are initially empty. The special action involving the planar die is only valid if you control a plane or phenomenon or have a non-empty planar deck (or both). The turn-based action setting schemes in motion applies to any player who has a non-empty scheme deck.

If any permanent would be faced up for any reason (not only the official reasons) and would be an instant, sorcery, command-only type, an object with undefined characteristics, or half of a melded permanent, instead it is revealed and remains face-down. This is also true if it would transform into an object that has any of those types, for any reason.

Activated and triggered abilities cannot enter the battlefield from the stack, regardless of their types (whether or not they have any), even if they are manifested.

An effect can disallow conceding, but such an effect only applies to subgames; a player can always concede the main game (even during the subgame) regardless of any effects that might disallow it, in which case they automatically concede the subgame too (even if it is disallowed).

Rules 508.1d (requirements/restrictions for attacking creatures) and 508.1e (assigning bands) should be exchanged. (This way, requirements/restrictions can care about which creatures are banded with which other creatures.) However, if the effect does not mention banding, then banding is ignored when determining requirements/restrictions for that effect only.

If some rule or effect moves an object to "the hand", "the library", or "the graveyard", it means that zone belonging to the owner of that object. If multiple objects are being moved in this way, they might have different owners than each other and therefore each one moves to its owner's zone. If they are placed in a specific place in an order by choice or a random order, the usual rules are used to resolve this but they are done per each player. If multiple objects are "shuffled into the library", then each player who owned any of these objects shuffles their library; each such library is only shuffled once in this way regardless of how many objects are being moved in this way.

Incompatible rule changes

It no longer prohibited for creatures to be attached to objects/players. This removes the first sentence of rule 704.5p, the first sentence of rule 301.5c, and any other similar rules. An exception is made if that creature has a "reconfigure" ability; in that case, the official rules apply. A few older Equipment cards which temporarily change themself into creatures will be errataed to longer be Equipment during those times.

Meld permanents and double-faced permanents are no longer prohibited from being faced down; they can be faced down normally. (You may represent this by putting the substitute card face down on top of it, or if a sleeve is used, expose the opaque back of the sleeve.)

"Bands with other [quality]" no longer requires that the creature having this ability also has [quality] in order to work; the rules that require this no longer require it.

Rule 800.4n does not apply; the ante zone is not an exception to rule 800.4a. However, any of those objects that existed before the game started can still be seen by any match/tournament rules which care about them, and will see their ownership as having been changed at the end of the game to the winner of that game (immediately before the game state and all objects and players in it cease to exist). (If the winner of that game is a team, then the owner of that object is now a team. How to handle this situation is beyond the scope of the game rules; such a situation can never occur during any game.)

The ante zone is shared across subgames. When beginning or ending a subgame, objects in the ante zone are now in the subgame's ante zone or main game's ante zone, and their one-shot properties will persist across subgames as long as that object does not move. However, continuous effects will not apply to them in a different game level, but any continous effects applied to them in the main game will continue to apply to them when the main game resumes unless those objects have moved out of the ante zone during the subgame, even if they went back in later (in which case they are considered to be new objects, like any other object that moves across zones) before the subgame ended. Beginning a subgame does not add additional cards into the ante zone (like is possible with the main game if you are "playing for ante"). Ending a subgame does not cause the owner of objects in the ante zone to change. (This rule avoids the conflict of the combination of subgames, teams, and ante. This rule has been suggested by a puzzle solution that requires a rule like this in order to work; however, the puzzle does not involve teams.)

The rule in the Unfinity Release Notes relating to name stickers in non-Un-games isn't very good, in my opinion. I will suggest to substitute the rule (in non-Un-games only): Name stickers can only go after parts of the name that are not stickers, although you can place them before other name stickers if desired. Names with stickers and those without never match each other; for a name to match, the name without stickers must be the same and the sequence of name stickers placed must be the same. (Effects that care about the spelling of name stickers still works.)

If there are no legal defending players when the declare attackers step would begin, then the declare attackers step is skipped. (This can happen if the player chosen as the defending player (or all opponents in the range of influence, if the attack multiple players option is being used) leaves the game during the begin combat step, or if there are no legal defending players in the range of influence, etc.)

One-shot properties

A "one-shot property" is a property of an object or player which is applied by one-shot effects and/or which exists independently of any continuous effects (although some of them may cause continuous effects). Some of them only apply in specific zones. These include (but are not necessarily limited to):

Some one-shot properties are "persistent properties"; these properties survive zone changes, so that the new object in the zone it moves to will enter that zone with the persistent properties changed; these will last until something changes them or the game ends. These include (but are not necessarily limited to):

Players leaving the game

This section describes what happens when a player leaves the game and then ceases to exist (at least within the current game), and how conceding is handled, and how to handle such things during subgames as well as the main game. (These rules are most likely to be important in multiplayer games and subgames. In a two player main game without any changes that external match rules might care about, these rules can be ignored as a shortcut.)

(This section is currently incomplete.)

Names and namespaces

A name consists of a core name and a sequence of stickers.

A core name is either an implicit name or an explicit name or null.

An implicit name contains a sequence of subtypes (which is opaque).

An explicit name is a core name other than an implicit name; some explicit names are legal names (the names that are valid choices when you are required to choose a name). Each explicit name also belongs to a namespace (which is opaque, and is not accessible by any game effects (but may be relevant to match/tournament effects)).

Two names to match iff the core names match and the sequence of stickers match. Two implicit names match iff the sequences of subtypes match. Two explicit names match iff they are the same explicit name in the same namespace. Nulls always match other nulls (although the name will not match if the sequence of stickers does not match). An implicit name does not match an explicit name. Spelling is not relevant when determining whether or not two names match.

Two name stickers match iff they have the same sequence of letters (ignoring punctuation, capitalization, etc).

If combining multiple legal official and/or unofficial sets of cards in the same game, and they have cards with the same English name but different AST (excluding lights, if those cards have any), then the names are considered to be different names; they do not match. If a player is required to choose a name or otherwise announce a name, that player must specify which one is meant specifically.

A null name will always have stickers applied to it; this situation occurs when name stickers are applied to an object that does not have a name (see rule 123.6b). For the purpose of rule 123.6, a core name always consists of zero "words", while a name sticker always consists of exactly one "word" (this is not the same as official rules).

Deck construction

In a Constructed game, you are limited to not more than forty-eight sticker sheets (regardless of how many are available).

In a Constructed game, you cannot have more than ten dungeons (although they do not count against your sideboard limit); they must be dungeons that are legal in the format being played, and you cannot have multiple same dungeons. In a Limited game, drafting a set or cube automatically gives each player all "omnipresent" dungeons in that set or cube (if not specified otherwise, assume that these include official cards only). If a draft (usually a cube) includes dungeon cards that are a part of the draft (possibly as a separate draft) then they can be drafted normally and included in your sideboard.

Sticker deck

A sticker deck is the collection of ten or more sticker sheets that you start a Constructed game with, or any number (other than one or two) of sticker sheets available to you in Limited (you do not have to include all of the ones that you open). At the beginning of the game, they are shuffled and placed in a face up (not face down) pile called the "sticker deck", and then the top three are activated. (If for some reason there are not enough, none of them are activated. Note that they should be temporarily turned face down while they are being shuffled for any reason.)

Sticker decks, sticker sheets, and stickers, are not objects nor zones, and are not in any zone. They cannot be targeted, have counters placed on them, have characteristics, etc. Stickers, sticker decks, and sticker sheets do have owners.

To activate a sticker sheet, move it out of the sticker deck, and it is now active. The only stickers that may be placed on an object are those belonging to an active sticker sheet. A sticker sheet remains active even if all of its stickers are currently on objects (although its stickers can no longer be placed on any object until those stickers are no longer on an object).

A sticker sheet is "busy" if at least one of its stickers is on an object.

To deactivate a sticker sheet, put it on the bottom of the sticker deck; it is no longer active. Only a sticker sheet that is not busy can be deactivated, although it need not be active in order to deactivate it.

If an effect refers to the "top" or "bottom" sticker sheets, it refers to the top/bottom sticker sheets of the sticker deck, even if the text does not explicitly mention the sticker deck.

Draft abilities

These are different than the official rules for draft abilities. These rules are meant for use in drafts where players take turns, and cannot be used in an ordinary booster draft. Even in drafts with taking turns, these rules are optional; they are not used unless agreed before starting (in a tournament, it is the tournament organizers who will decide and announce this).

Draft abilities are not abilities and do not exist during the game, but are part of the database entry for those cards.

A draft ability is introduced by the words "Drafted:", "Drafting:", "Before pick:", or "Instead of pick:".

During the draft there will be the players, and the cards. Some draft formats will have teams, in which case some players will be teammates of others, and those who are not, will be their opponents.

A card in a draft that has been picked now has an owner, which is the player who picked it.

A draft turn involves the active player picking a card, and becoming that card's owner. If a draft format involves picking a pile of cards, then that entire pile is one turn. Other draft formats will pick multiple cards one at a time by the same player in succession; in this case, that player gets multiple consecutive turns before another player gets a turn.

Some drafts may involve actions other than picking a card or pile of cards. In this case, those actions do not count as a draft turn for the purpose of these rules, so "before pick" and "instead of pick" draft abilities cannot be used in this case.

A card in a draft can have the status: exposed/hidden, tapped/untapped, excluded/included; the defaults are listed second in each case. A card that is exposed can be seen by all players, and its draft abilities can be used; if hidden, then its draft abilities do not work.

When a card is picked by a player, that player chooses whether or not to expose it. If that player is not allowed to see that card they they must choose to not expose it. If all players are allowed to see that card before it is picked, then they must choose to expose it. Otherwise, they have a free choice.

A draft turn consists of the following steps:

Draft abilities labeled "drafting" work like static abilities.

In draft abilities, "destroy" a card means to both exclude and hide that card.

In draft abilities, "exchange" a card with another card means exchanging the ownership of those cards.

If an effect says to reveal a card, then all players can now see it, although it does not count as being exposed (if it is not already exposed).

After the draft is completed, any cards that are included can be used in the deck or sideboard; excluded cards cease to exist and are no longer available.

Some draft effects may "mark" cards. If a card is marked, then its initial text is changed for the rest of the match or tournament which involves these drafted cards.

Some draft effects may require a card to be in your starting deck or command zone. In this case, this requirement lasts for the rest of the match or tournament which involves these drafted cards, unless something prohibits them from being included in this way. Such effects only apply if the card with such an effect is exposed.

A draft effect may tell you to make a note of something, or check something which is noted, and might specify a name; if it does not specify a name, then the name of the card with the text of this effect is used (this is the original name before any changes, and the AST is considered to be exactly as though the name is specified explicitly). Notes are ordered in the order that the notes are made. A note may be a single value (e.g. a color, number, etc), or a pair, triple, etc, or a list, or a set or multiset. Pairs, triples, lists, etc are ordered, a set or multiset is unordered. Usually you will be given a choice of the value to be noted, but sometimes it might restrict the possible choices (possibly to only one thing); in all cases, this is determined at the time that the effect making the note is played.

Notes may also be referred to by game effects; similar rules are used, but no new notes can be added. Notes last for the duration of the match or tournament that uses these drafted cards, and remain unchanged during this time.

A draft effect may cause a player to get a "consumable". Comsumables follow the rules:

Updated on 20 Nov 2022 by zzo38