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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Emblem of Pride: Elspeth makes Emblems Now!

Hey again!

The Comprehensive Rules and Oracle Updates for M11 have been announced, and we've got a bit of a new tool for R&D to consider using on future cards.

First, read Elspeth, Knight-Errant's ultimate ability (for those new to Planeswalkers, that's the final ability listed on a Planeswalker card) (image from Magiccards.info):

Nothing too confusing there, right? Well...only if you think "indestructible" is a keyword.

Find out the clarification and the change...after the Jump!

You see, "indestructible" is simply a shorthand. As explained in the update article, " is/are indestructible" simply means "cannot be destroyed." It's not a keyword, and it doesn't change the characteristics or abilities of any cards; rather "It's just a true thing that affects the game rules." (Mark Gottlieb, July 2010 Update Bulletin)

SIDETRACK: What do I mean by "changes the characteristics or abilities?"
Good question! I'm not sure I know myself. But by reasoning, I assume that things like "Target creature gains trample until end of turn" changes its abilities, or "Target creatures becomes a 1/1 Snake creature until end of turn" changes its characteristics.

"Always true" statements like "are indestructible", if granted, don't change abilities or characteristics.

So how will Elspeth mark that "indestructible" isn't a keyword or ability or something that changes what a card does?

R&D came up with a new feature called an "Emblem." An Emblem will be used whenever a card (for now, just a Planeswalker) grants a condition that's always true for permanents the rest of the game but doesn't change the characteristics or abilities of cards already on the battlefield.

You'll place Emblems in the Command Zone, that nice, "Really Really Removed from Play Zone" where Commanders (for Elder Dragon Highlander or Commander formats), Planes (for Planechase), and Schemes (for Archenemy) reside. Remember, stuff in the Command Zone is not in the field of play, not Exiled, and can't be touched by anything (at least, not yet...). The Emblem will mark the unchangeable condition.

So how will Elspeth read when this update goes into effect?

Planeswalker - Elspeth
+1: Put a 1/1 white Soldier creature token onto the battlefield.
+1: Target creature gets +3/+3 and gains flying until end of turn.
-8: You get an emblem with "Artifacts, creatures, enchantments, and lands you control are indestructible."
4 Starting Loyalty

This change will take place in paper with the new Elspeth vs. Tezzeret Duel Decks arriving in September/October. But the Oracle text change will switch over Friday to the new templating.

NOTE: This is not a functional change. It does exactly what it did before the re-templating. This is just another way to avoid ambiguity about whether stuff is granted indestructibility or if it's an always-true statement. Of course, this also gives WotC another tool for future Planeswalkers. Planeswalkers could get interesting if emblems stick for the long haul.

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