Tuesday, 17 January 2017

608.2b (3) - Missing Ifs and Awkwardness

This is part three of my discussion of a single sentence from the middle of rule 608.2b from the Magic: the Gathering comprehensive rules. If this is your first time visiting my blog, I imagine you are on the very edge of your seat.

As discussed previously, the fact that spells are countered if they had target when cast but have no remaining legal targets when they resolve is something that many cards have been designed around, and so removing it creates some odd results. I mentioned the "Missing If" but didn't go into detail.

Basically, there are a bunch of cards that ought to say, "if you do" on them or "an equal amount" or some other language to indicate that a second effect is dependent on a first one. They don't because rule 608.2b usually fills in, saying that if you don't do the first part, you won't end up doing the second part anyway.

This is a big of that old school design where generally if you got to an instruction you couldn't follow you stopped rather than ignoring it and carrying on. That's why the rules team ruled you couldn't Maze of Ith a Serra Angel. You can't untap something that's untapped, so when you hit that you return an error.

But missing a target is just one of many ways a spell can fail to have any effect. I've brought up Absorb in each post - if the spell isn't countered you still gain the life from it. If it had the words, "if you do" then you wouldn't. Absorb Vis does not make a player with a Platinum Emperion lose life, but despite the obvious flavour that you are stealing the life, you still gain four instead of gaining nothing, if it read, "Target player loses 4 life and you gain that much life" then you wouldn't.

If you want to tie the end of a spell to the beginning, you have to do so explicitly. There's really no telling what crazy card is going to come out in the future. Artifact Mutation shouldn't give you tokens if the artifact is indestructible. Aether Mutation shouldn't give you tokens if the creature has "This cannot be returned to your hand."

If the words "if you do" were going to show up on every single card then at some point a rule to avoid them would be justified. In my review of cards starting with A, though, I only found 14 cards with a missing if out of 377 cards that had the word "target" in their text. That's a subset of 954 cards starting with A. It's not going to be an epidemic of ifs showing up on cards.

Beyond those I couldn't find a single card that created a real problem. For a moment I think Arachnus Spinner was problematic, but the since you are able to choose not to find when you search, the only change is that you would have the option to put an Arachnus Web in your graveyard if the target became illegal.

There were a few cards that I found quite arguable. Should Arlinn, Embraced by Moonlight flip back into Arlinn Kord if the bite misses? Or did she need that to sate her bloodlust? Should Athreos, God of Passage, refuse to give you the creature back if your opponent blocks the deal making, or has the offer already been made and they are basically choosing not to pay? Should you still have to flip for Amulet of Quoz?

None of these breaks the rules or creates a big problem though, especially not player targeting effects which are a harder to dodge.

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