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M10 Rules Changes Beatdown, I mean Breakdown June 16, 2009

Posted by Norm in Casual, Learn to Play Magic: the Gathering, Magic 2010.
Tags: , ,

If you have been following along you are aware of the rules changes announced recently by Wizards of the Coast. As a relatively new player this is the first major rules change I’ve had to go through, but older players are comparing these changes to what is being referred to as the 6th edition changes.

A brief history as I understand it. Before the 6th edition changes there were more than two speeds of cards (more than sorcery and instant); Instant, Interrupt, Sorcery, Hyper, and Cyber (just kidding on those last two). Damage didn’t use the stack and there were a bunch of different abilities that were awkward and confusing ,like banding, phasing and mana source as a type. So when 6th edition launched all interrupts became instants and damage used the stack. I’ll have to check and make sure there weren’t any additional changes of note.

Flash forward to today and we see a some terminology clarifications and one major game alteration. So lets get to the good stuff first.

Combat Damage Part One
The major change is a new combat system where damage no longer uses the stack. If you are scratching your head as to why that really matters I’ll explain. Under the current system once blockers are declared and each player passes priority damage goes onto the stack before it is dealt to creatures/players. There is an opportunity for players to play spells and abilities before damage resolves and is assigned. The example that everyone is using is Mogg Fanatic. If you attack with a mogg fanatic and it is blocked by a 2/2 when damage goes on to the stack, you can sacrifice your goblin deal one damage to the blocking creature, then when damage that is still on the stack resolves the 1 point of combat damage will kill the blocker. I know this is pretty basic for most players but I wanted to be clear about what is happening under the current rules.

So, under the new rules damage will not use the stack but just happen in a “Damage Event” as the cast of Top 8 Magic puts it. During the damage event all damage will be assigned and dealt at the same time. If there are multiple players with attackers and blockers each player will go around in order announcing what damages is happening, but there is no priority in which to play spells or abilities. So as soon as the defending player declares blockers and both players pass priority the damage event happens. So if you were to sacrifice your same mogg fanatic in advance of the damage event. It would be sacrificed and not in play when damage happens. So the blocking 2/2 would only have received the 1 damage from the sacrifice ability of the goblin.

As I was making my transition from kitchen table wizard to FNM regular I would constantly get beat on combat tricks that used the stack because it took me a while to understand how that scenario worked. Players who had a better understanding of the rules that I would have a huge advantage. Under the new rules damage will work much like I thought it did when first playing the game. I say this because this is one of the reasons the change was made.

The intricate system via which combat is currently handled creates many unintuitive gameplay moments. For starters, “the stack” is a difficult concept…”

New players are also a target for this change as it is assumed they have trouble conceptualizing damage using the stack like spells and abilities.

Another reason for the combat change is said to make the game less complex. There have been arguments on both sides of this reason. Fist the cons – in an attempt to make the game simpler it is actually more complex, because everything else uses the stack and with more special rules there is actually more to know and understand about the game. I don’t disagree that there is more to know about the game and this statement does make sense. However the debate for this argument is that damage not using the stack is intuitive and therefore less complex as a game concept and in execution. While I certainly like damage using the stack, as it provides great strategic combat opportunity, I do think that the game will be easer to explain to new players under the amended rules. I also think that most cases of game play, combat damage with or without the stack, will happen and feel just the same as before. I’m thinking of situations where there are no combat tricks or no blockers. In those situations damage is recorded quickly and the game moves on.

Combat Damage Part Two
The second part of this change is what happens after the blocking player declares blockers. This is only relevant if there are multiple creatures blocking a single creature. So lets review the current system. After blockers are declared and damage is on the stack the attacking player declares how damage will be assigned to multiple creatures. If you are attacking with a 5/5 and it gets blocked by two 3/3 creatures then typically one would assign three damage to one and two to the other.

Under the new rules, because damage doesn’t use the stack, the attacking player now orders the blockers instead of assigning how damage is dealt. I’ll try to explain but if I mess this up it is because I haven’t fully grasped how this works, yet. If I’m attacking with 6/6 and my opponent blocks with a 3/3 and two 2/2s then I get to choose what order to deal damage to the creatures. Assuming all these creatures are vanilla, I’m going to want to dispatch the 3/3 first and the each of the 2/2s. So I’ll order them in this way 1. 3/3 2. 2/2 3. 2/2. Since my creature is a 6/6 it will deal three to the first creature two to the second and one to the third. In a sense trampling over each creature until there are no more points of damage to distribute. The blocker order is assigned after blockers are declared, and, I think, still in the declare blockers step, before combat damage step (or the damage event). My 6/6 doesn’t have trample of course but that is how damage will be dealt to multiple blockers under the new system. Seems intuitive.

This is getting kind of long but this covers most of the major changes in the M10 Rules Changes. There has been a lot written on the web already about the changes so here are some of the things I have read that help me get a feel for how people are reacting.

Patrick Chapin in support of the rules.

Hate the M10 Changes? – Voice it on Facebook

Channel Fireball

MTG Realm

I’ll be back next post to cover the rest of the updates.



1. Michael Rawdon - June 16, 2009

I’m indifferent to most of the rules changes.

However, I don’t like the change to dealing damage to multiple blockers. It eliminates the “deal some damage to both creatures in combat, then finish them off after combat with a mass-damage spell” trick, which I think is a good trick worth preserving. And I don’t think the new rules in this way are more intuitive than allocating damage.

tim k - June 23, 2009

Coming from a guy who went through the 6th ed rules changes, I would say that while some tricks are removed using this new system, you’ll probably find that many new tricks emerge, and overall it will be a wash.

If you want to discuss tactical changes I think the fact that instant speed return to hand effects are way less useful in combat will be a significant change to blue in limited.

2. Nathan Hvidsten - June 16, 2009

It seems like every game I play just keeps going downhill, first D&D, now magic. I don’t see why WotC can’t let some games be a little confusing at first. I think thats what sets magic apart from other games like Pokemon.

earle117 - July 15, 2009

Well, you could be like me and my friends, and just use what you like. We still play 3.5 DND because we like it a LOT more than 4, and if we decide that we don’t like M10, then we’ll play with 6-10th edition rules. I know at the very least we’ll keep mana burn, I think it’s kinda weird that they’re taking that out in M10… not that it gets used much, but it’s still a part of the game that would be weird to see gone…

Unfortunately, if you play in tourneys then you don’t get to do what we do, you gotta play by the rules. Oh well.

3. MtG: Still popular? - Fires of Heaven Guild Message Board - June 28, 2009

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