Thursday, 11 July 2013

Oracle Review - Cyclopean Tomb and Gaea's Liege

Back in alpha there were a couple of cards that you could use to change your opponent's lands into lands of a specific basic type. One was a green creature that - no surprise - made forests. The other was an artifact that made swamps. Today we'll see how each of these fared in the Oracle.


Cyclopean Tomb
This was a very famous magic card. The if you look at the Alpha printing you'll notice that there was no casting cost printed. This was simply an error, but it lead to some strange speculation among that first batch of players. For all it's fame it is a spectacularly clunky and at best marginally useful card. It's oracle wording says the following:
{2}, {T}: Put a mire counter on target non-Swamp land. That land is a Swamp for as long as it has a mire counter on it. Activate this ability only during your upkeep.
When Cyclopean Tomb is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, at the beginning of each of your upkeeps for the rest of the game, remove all mire counters from a land that a mire counter was put onto with Cyclopean Tomb but that a mire counter has not been removed from with Cyclopean Tomb.
That second clause is something; you almost feel as though it should give you an emblem for all of those words. But basically it does what the card says, each upkeep after it leaves play you remove the mire counter from one land but not one you've already removed it from. Remember that every time the text says "Cyclopean Tomb" it means "this card" so if a land had a mire counter but had never been given a counter by that particular tomb then you wouldn't have to remove that one, and if the same tomb were to come back into play later it's counters would not have to be removed either, assuming that the counters from the first tomb had already been removed.

But that's where the wording runs into problems - when there are multiple tombs. The wording on the original tomb isn't actually entirely clear. It says that each turn you remove one mire counter - not "all" as the oracle text says - but then adds "returning the land to it's original nature." If another tomb had targeted the same land, then removing one mire counter would not return the land to its original nature. In fact, the original wording is confusing even if the same tomb targets the same land twice. You are supposed to return the land to its original nature, but you are only removing one counter. How awkward.

Now my intuition is that one tomb's effect should not be overriding that of another tomb. If I use two tombs to put a pair of counters on every land you have and then you use Phyrexian Tribute to clear one of the tombs out, why would all of your lands turn back into forests? Shouldn't the other tomb keep them swamps?

I would propose that the correct wording for Cyclopean Tomb would be:
{2}, {T}: Put a mire counter on target non-Swamp land. If that land has not been given "This is a Swamp." by Cyclopean Tomb it gets "This is a Swamp." Activate this ability only during your upkeep.
When Cyclopean Tomb is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, at the beginning of each of your upkeeps for the rest of the game, choose a land that was given "This is a Swamp." by Cyclopean Tomb and that has not been chosen previously by Cyclopean Tomb. That land loses one instance of "This is a Swamp." Remove one mire counter from that land.
Now that is a wording. With this wording you get to remove a single counter and return the land to its previous state. This way if you put a mire counter on one of your lands and proliferate that counter you can still remove it to pay the upkeep of Chisei, Heart of Oceans, but the land would have already turned back into whatever it was.

Even though I don't think Cyclopean Tomb works quite the right way with the current oracle wording, I will admit there is ambiguity in the original printing. I am also very pleased by the second ability of the Tomb in the Oracle wording, particularly the phrase "at the beginning of each of your upkeeps for the rest of the game." As a result, I am going to give Cyclopean Tomb...

Not bad!
Gaea's Liege
Gaea's Liege is a bit of a sad story, even though it's only partly an Oracle story.  Take a look at these Gaea's Lieges:


And now let's read the Oracle text:
As long as Gaea's Liege isn't attacking, its power and toughness are each equal to the number of Forests you control. As long as Gaea's Liege is attacking, its power and toughness are each equal to the number of Forests defending player controls. 
{T}: Target land becomes a Forest until Gaea's Liege leaves the battlefield.
Do you see what happened there?  In Fourth Edition they dropped the bit where you mark changed lands with counters, and so it's not in the Oracle text either. Now, I understand why that is. Before the Oracle existed the official version of a card was always the most recent printing. That means that the Fourth Edition version overrides the earlier version that uses counters. Sadly, though, this removes any possible confusion that could occur with the liege the way it did with the tomb. Sorry about that, Chisei.

So in the end there is not much interesting about the Oracle text of Gaea's Liege. What is there is flawlessly written, but it's just the proper implementation of a card that was already stripped of all of its potential weirdness. As a result, I give Gaea's Liege...
A good but not excellent job!

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