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Abilities and Mechanics in Time Spiral Block, Part 2


Hey, guys and gals! Let's get going with Part 2 of Time Spiral block. If you read my past article, you can clearly see why this block was split into two parts. There are so many great mechanics just in the Time Spiral set alone that they all needed mention! Let's get right into Part 2, which will encompass Planar Chaos and Future Sight.

Planar Chaos


Vanishing is kind of a “rebrand” of the Fading mechanic. Vanishing X means, “This permanent enters the battlefield with X time counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a time counter from this permanent. When you remove the last time counter, sacrifice this permanent.” I think the reasons for this are twofold. For one, this now works much like Suspend, where you do something when the last time counter comes off. Under Fading, when you took the last fade counter off, the permanent stayed on the battlefield for another turn; you wouldn't sacrifice it until you couldn't remove a counter during the upkeep. The other reason is that now Vanishing uses time counters, which could be manipulated by other cards in Time Spiral block. Some rules to note are that if you Stifle the trigger to sacrifice a permanent with Vanishing, it will stay on the battlefield and Vanishing will never trigger again. Also, if you use something like Vesuvan Shapeshifter to copy a Vanishing creature, it will never trigger Vanishing, because it doesn't have any time counters on it. The permanent has to have time counters on it for Vanishing to trigger.

Split Cards (Old Mechanic)

Planar Chaos also saw the return of split cards (e.g., Dead // Gone). These were also in Ravnica, but I chose not to write about them at that time because Ravnica had a lot of mechanics that were new to that set. Since Time Spiral is more about a celebration of old mechanics, I figured it was more appropriate here.

Split cards are like two cards in one. Everywhere except the stack, split cards have the characteristics of both halves. When you cast a split card, you choose which half you are casting, and then it only has the characteristics of that half. There are a lot of interesting rules about split cards. When you have an effect asking for a certain characteristic, and either of the halves has it, the card returns a “true” to that qualification. For example, if you wish to imprint a Boom // Bust onto an Isochron Scepter, it asks for a converted mana cost of 2 or less. Boom has a converted mana cost of 2, so you can imprint Boom // Bust onto Isochron Scepter. Even better is when you activate the Scepter with Boom // Bust on it—you can choose to cast the Bust side!

When you have an effect that asks you to add up characteristics of a split card, it will use both sides to give a total. For instance, with Dark Confidant, if you reveal Boom // Bust during your upkeep, you will take 8 damage. Abusing the mechanics of split cards is a favorite activity of competitive Magic players, because it lets you “cheat” expensive spells into play. With the example of Isochron Scepter with Boom // Bust, that can also be performed with the Cascade mechanic. As long as you cast a Cascade spell with converted mana cost 3 or more, if it hits Boom // Bust, you can cast the Bust half, because the Boom half says, “Yes, I have a converted mana cost less than 3.”

Future Sight


Grandeur is an ability that allows you to discard a card with the same name as a permanent on the battlefield to gain an effect. See Tarox Bladewing for an example of a card with Grandeur. You can't use a Clone–type creature to discard to a permanent with Grandeur, since the card has to have the same name while in your hand.


Pacts are very popular in Modern and Legacy formats because of the card Hive Mind. The Pact cycle all had a mana cost of 0 with a trigger that said, “At the beginning of your next upkeep, pay [cost]. If you don't, you lose the game.” These were all relatively powerful effects, and you could get them for free, but if you didn't pay for them on your next turn, the price was quite steep. The common interaction with these in competitive play is that a player will bring out a Hive Mind and then play as many Pacts as possible because each Pact will be copied for his opponent. Then he passes the turn and his opponent can't pay for his Pact copies and loses the game.


Cycling made a reappearance in Future Sight. Cycling is an ability that allows you to pay a Cycling cost and discard the card with Cycling for an effect. If the card just says “Cycling,” the effect is drawing a card. However, there are different types of Cycling—like, for instance, Plainscycling, which means that you pay the cost and discard the card to search your library for a Plains. There are cards that trigger upon cards being “cycled.” These trigger when you pay the Cycling cost and discard the card, but before you receive the effect. This is a very popular mechanic for a lot of players because Cycling can be done as an instant, allowing you to use your mana on your opponent's turn for a benefit. You can dump creatures into your graveyard and dig deeper into your deck for a reanimation spell, for instance. Some Cycling cards also had Madness or Flashback, allowing you to do something with the card being discarded, while still getting to draw a card from cycling.


Future Sight saw the Spirit Link ability turned into a keyword called Lifelink. Back in the days of Future Sight, this was a trigger that triggered whenever a creature dealt damage. A lot of players think it still works like this, but it no longer does. Lifelink now is a property of damage—much how damage causes loss of life to a player, or marks damage on a creature, it also now gains you life immediately as the damage is actually dealt. So now, if you are at 3 life, and you are being attacked by two 3/3 creatures, and you block one of them with a Wurmcoil Engine, you will live and be at 6 life. Under previous Lifelink rules, you would have lost the game when the Lifelink trigger went onto the stack.


“Reach” is the word that means the creature can block creatures with Flying. This does not mean the creature with Reach also has Flying. Things with abilities such as “Can't be blocked except by creatures with Flying” cannot be blocked by a creature with Reach.


Shroud means, “This permanent or player cannot be the target of spells or abilities.” Multiple instances of Shroud are redundant. It's important to note that this only prevents something from becoming the target of spells and abilities; it does not prevent effects that do not target, such as Day of Judgment or Black Sun's Zenith.


Now, I know this guy isn't a mechanic; however, there are a lot of questions about him and his ability that grants his power and toughness. Tarmogoyf has what we call a “characteristic-defining ability.” This means that it's an ability that functions in all zones that defines a characteristic normally found printed elsewhere on a card. When you see little stars for power and toughness on a creature, chances are that you are dealing with a CDA. One of the classic questions involving Tarmogoyf is: “If Tarmogoyf is currently a 2/3 because of a land and a creature in graveyards, what happens if I cast Lightning Bolt on it?” The answer is that creatures die from lethal damage as a state-based action, but those are not checked until a spell resolves in full. The last part of resolving any spell is to place it in the graveyard, so it will immediately make Tarmogoyf a 3/4, and the creature will not die from the Lightning Bolt. It's important to be aware that CDAs, like the one on Tarmogoyf, are updated constantly and immediately.

There were some other mechanics explored in Future Sight; however, they have never been reprinted. My opinion is that they were tests for new mechanics, and those new mechanics haven't been seen fit to print in a normal block yet. I won't write about those mechanics, because most of them were printed on only a few cards, and, other than Delve and Gravestorm, are not relevant in Modern. Stay tuned next week, when we begin to explore the Lorwyn–Shadowmoor–Eventide–Morningtide superblock!

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