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Protection from the Rules


Magic is a game of rules and boundaries.  In a world of infinite possibilities, no one player knows exactly how to deal with every possible situation.  You may think you understand "the stack", but one day you'll run across a card that just doesn't seem to jive with your scheme about how the stack should properly unfold.  Sometimes one player can feel %100 sure about a ruling and end up being wrong.  I, myself have been in the uncomfortable position of having vowed to 'eat my hat' if I was wrong on a ruling only to find myself feasting on crow.   Ruling conflicts are sure to arise within your Magic group.  They key is to know how to deal with them effectively both in game and out.

[caption id="attachment_1592" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Made you think twice, eh?"]Made you think twice, eh?[/caption]

First, you must understand that Magic is a game of small communities and meta-games.   Whether its your own little crew, your forum buddies or just you and your older brother; everything you know about the game is derived from your own micro-community.   Very few people learn to play by reading the 150 page rule book.   For example:  If, for your entire Magic career, you've been playing through phase order as "Draw then Upkeep" then to you it is "Draw then Upkeep".  There is no frame of reference for it being anything else.  Knowing this, I want to start off by encouraging you to stay patient in-game, even when you know you are correct on a ruling.  To the ignorant, this may be how Magic is and has been played.  He or she may have based their entire strategy or deck on a misconception (lord knows I have).   Respond to the situation with a "Let's find out together" attitude.  I for one enjoy learning more about the game and the rules.  A deeper understanding of the rules will help you build decks that manipulate and push those rules to the limit.  Get excited about exploring facets of the game that you haven't fully exploited.  You are perpetually learning and new cards and combos will always keep you on your toes when it comes to the rules.

So, how to deal with these conflicts mid-game?  There are several options.  The easiest and most direct is to call the Wizards of the Coast ruling hotline (1-800 324-6496).  You'll get connected to a judge for a direct answer to any question and you can rest assured your answer is %100 correct.  If its after hours or you just don't have access to the hotline, you'll want to try great online ruling sites like "Ask the Judge" or the Oracle Text for individual cards in the gatherer.  These places will get you the specifics you're looking for.  One of the worst places for rulings, I've found, are the rules themselves.  They rarely apply to the specific situation you're looking at unless, for some reason, you've forgotten what "haste" or "flying" means.  For example: it is legal to tap a creature for an activated ability and block with the same creature.  But where might you find that in the written rules?  Under blocking?  Tapping?  Some rulings are simply passed on from mentor to student and are completely situation specific.  The Golden Rules of Magic are worth taking a look at (see below) and granted, browsing through the rules can never hurt.  But for the targeted answers you're looking for you'll probably want the aforementioned resources.

[caption id="attachment_1595" align="alignleft" width="245" caption="Welcome the opportunity to explore new rules and situations. Everyone has misconceptions of the rules. Accept that you could be wrong, even about something you've been positive about for years."]stubbornlittlegirl1


Learn to look at these situations as opportunities to better your understanding of the game itself.  Think about how football teams use their deep understanding of the rules to manipulate ball placement, time outs and the clock.  You can do the same thing when you become a master of the rules of Magic.  Understanding complicated processes like the stack, combat damage and how cards are placed in the graveyard will help you time instants and anticipate your opponent's spells.  My time with Magic the Gathering Online has particularly opened my eyes to the way the game is meant to be played.  There is no fudging with MTGO.  If you miss your opportunity  to respond to a spell, the opportunity is lost forever.  A deep understanding of the rules is absolutely required.  As you encounter these situations take the time to write down your questions for later exploration.  Browse ruling forums and both answer and ask questions.  It is a never ending learning process that is both beneficial and necessary for advanced players.

I leave you now with Magic's "Golden Rules".  Print them out, tuck them in your Dragon's Egg, and use them wisely.  They can also be found in the official comprehensive rules.

themagicgoldenrules1. Whenever a card’s text directly contradicts these rules, the card takes precedence. The card overrides only the rule that applies to that specific situation. The only exception is that a player can concede the game at any time (see rule 102.3a).

2. When a rule or effect says something can happen and another effect says it can’t, the “can’t” effect wins. For example, if one effect reads “You may play an additional land this turn” and another reads “You can’t play land cards this turn,” the effect that keeps you from playing lands wins out. Note that adding abilities to objects and removing abilities from objects don’t fall under this rule; see rule 402.9.

3. If an instruction requires taking an impossible action, it’s ignored. (In many cases the card will specify consequences for this; if it doesn’t, there’s no effect.)

4. If multiple players would make choices and/or take actions at the same time, the active player (the player whose turn it is) makes any choices required, then the next player in turn order (usually the player seated to the active player’s left) makes any choices required, followed by the remaining nonactive players in turn order. Then the actions happen simultaneously. This rule is often referred to as the “Active Player, Nonactive Player (APNAP) order” rule. Example: A card reads “Each player sacrifices a creature.” First, the active player chooses a creature he or she controls. Then each of the nonactive players chooses a creature he or she controls. Then all creatures are sacrificed simultaneously.

5. If an effect has each player choose a card in a hidden zone, such as his or her hand or library, those cards may remain face down as they’re chosen. However, each player must clearly indicate which face-down card he or she is choosing.

6. A player knows the choices made by the previous players when he or she makes his or her choice, except as specified in 103.4a.

7. If a player would make more than one choice at the same time, the player makes the choices in the order written, or in the order he or she chooses if the choices aren’t ordered.