Thursday, 31 October 2013

Oracle Rulings Review - Caged Sun and Equinox

Here are two cards with Oracle text very similar or exactly the same as their printed text.  But the rulings... the rulings...

Here is a card that does something the rules don't quite explain.  The Oracle says:
Enchant land
Enchanted land has "Tap: Counter target spell if it would destroy a land you control."
But what does that mean, exactly?  I did a quick scan of the comprehensive rules and couldn't find anything, but the rules are quite large so I thought I'd ask some rules experts whether I was missing something:
Thanks to the folks at Cranial Insertion for confirming my suspicions on this one.  Basically we have to do a plain language reading of what the Oracle text.  Fortunately there are a variety of rulings to supplement the text.
10/4/2004 Equinox will not counter a spell which requires sacrificing land when it enters the battlefield, or one that requires sacrificing land as part of the cost to cast it.

10/4/2004 Equinox will not counter a spell that has a random chance of destroying a land.

10/4/2004 Equinox will not counter a spell which would indirectly cause destruction of one of your lands.

10/4/2004 The ability can target any spell, even one that would not destroy a land.

10/4/2004 When this spell resolves, it only counters the targeted spell if that spell would destroy a land if it resolved right then.

10/4/2004 Equinox will not counter a spell that deals damage to an animated land, even if it would deal more damage than the land's toughness. This is because the spell itself does not destroy the land directly. The land is destroyed by a game rule.

10/1/2008 Will not counter a spell which would destroy a land only if a choice is made.

With all of those rulings in hand I don't think Equinox is going to cause any tricky situations. I like these rulings because I don't feel like they are telling you new information about the card, but just explaining what the card means. It is quite plain to me that a Lightning Bolt does not destroy a Mishra's Factory but that instead a state-based effect destroys it after the damage applies - if that is not plain to you then the rulings help. Equinox is a little bit weird in that it asks us to check a hypothetical situation, but ultimately it's not that weird. Replacement abilities actually ask us to check hypotheticals all the time.

I give the Equinox wording...

I like it.
Caged Sun
I didn't expect to be doing Oracle reviews of cards that were printed so recently, but, as I said, this is really about rulings more than text.
As Caged Sun enters the battlefield, choose a color. 
Creatures you control of the chosen color get +1/+1. 
Whenever a land's ability adds one or more mana of the chosen color to your mana pool, add one additional mana of that color to your mana pool.
Oh, that's exactly the same as what is printed on the card, how convenient.  So what do the rulings say:
6/1/2011 Caged Sun's triggered ability is a mana ability, which means the ability doesn't use the stack and can't be responded to.
Fair enough. Oh wait, is that fair enough? This time we aren't talking about reading plain language, we are talking about apply the rules to the card.

Here is what the rules have to say about how to tell if a triggered ability is a mana ability.
605.1b A triggered ability without a target that triggers from activating a mana ability and could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves is a mana ability. 
605.5. Abilities that don't meet the criteria specified in rules 605.1a-b and spells aren't mana abilities.
So Caged Sun's trigger is a mana ability because it triggers off a mana ability, adds mana to your pool and doesn't have a target.

Here's the problem: We can't promise you that it triggers off a mana ability.  Suppose you have a Quicksilver Elemental in play. You activate it's ability to steal the abilities of a Witch Engine. Next, you  cast Cytoshape targeting your Quicksilver Elemental to turn it into a Dryad Arbor. According to layers copying effects come before ability granting effects, so it is now a 1/1 creature land with the Witch Engine ability. Play Caged Sun naming black. Activate the Witch Engine ability on your land. That ability is targeted so it is not a mana ability. It is, however, the ability of a land adding mana to your mana pool, so it triggers Caged Sun. Because Caged Sun's ability is not triggered by a mana ability, according to rule 605.5 it is not a mana ability and goes on the stack after the Dryad Arbor Witch Engine ability resolves.
Most triggered abilities that add mana are much safer bets. In case you are wondering, the reason why I have to use Caged Sun in this example and not other mana triggers is because most similar cards are worded differently. Right back to Mana Flare, they say that when a player taps a land for mana they trigger. This may not seem different - after all, in my example we did tap our sickening hybrid creature to get the mana - except that rule 106.10 clearly states that tapping a permanent for mana means activating a mana ability of that permanent that requires tapping as part of the activation cost. So while in my example we are tapping the Dryad Arbor to activate an ability that will add mana to our mana pool, but we are not tapping it for mana. These abilities are quite safely worded.

But no matter how safe the wording of an ability is, we can't account for the cards of the future. If a triggered ability is only a mana ability when it is triggered by a mana ability then we cannot determine if a triggered ability is a mana ability until the moment it triggers. I sent the Wizard's support team an email about this one. Of course, if you read my Mishra's War Machine review you'll know that I don't necessarily put more stock in what they say than what I think about the matter. Just because it's the rules doesn't mean it's right.

Well Wizards did get back to me and actually confirmed what I've said here. The last time I wrote in with a question like this they took over a week to get back to me and responded by telling me they would be updating the rules the next month to address the situation.

I'd be happy to give the Caged Sun wording three stars - it's a very nice wording if you ask me - but the rulings are definitely part of the Oracle, and so, until the ruling is updated to match the email I received from Wizards, I'm going to have to give it...

Come on guys

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