Hello reader! What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

On Thursday, Matt Tabak dropped this bombshell and the fallout was incredible. The change was very straight-forward: Legendary permanents and Planeswalkers no longer caused each other to be destroyed as a state-based effect. Going forward, if you controlled more than one of the same Legend or Planeswalker you would have to choose one to keep and sacrifice the rest, and the same was true for your opponent, but you could both have the same Legend or Planeswalker in play. This simple design solved two problems. First, people want to play their cards and the old Legend Rule prevented that from happening. Second, the flavor of there only being “one instance” of a Legend or Planeswalker in existence is still maintained, but now both players can benefit from them instead of the one who played it first.

Boy were people pissed. But in all fairness I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was that so many people lost their mind over this change. When Sixth Edition rolled around, Wizards got rid of Interrupts and created the Stack for spell resolution, which caused a similarly mighty uproar. When the card frame changed in 8th Edition the masses were tumultuous. No matter what major change the designers make to the game, people prefer if things would remain the same and will often bend over backwards to refute the change. In the case of these latest changes, people bent so far backwards as to defend the way that Jace, the Mind Sculptor warps the game and forces players to abuse the Legend Rule as an example of “creative decision making” and “skillful deck design” and reasons why the Legend Rule should remain the way it is.

The Legend Rule has always been, as Mark Rosewater described it in this piece from 2011 (thanks to Luis at Twenty Sided for sharing this one), a problem of luxury. That is to say, the game could continue being played successful without any changes to the rule. However, it has always something that bothered R&D, ever since 1994 when the Legendary subtype was first created. The problems were as follows:

  1. The Legend Rule is a downside mechanic. This means that in exchange for a permanent costing less mana to cast, it gets the Legendary super-type, meaning you can only play one of them. Other downside mechanics include Echo, Phasing, Fading/Vanishing, and Suspend. All these mechanics do is let you play cheaper spells by creating a large drawback.
  2. The Legend Rule creates dead draws. If you have Thalia in play, for example, every Thalia you draw is akin to skipping your draw step.
  3. The Legend Rule makes the game unfun when your opponent plays their Liliana first, turning your Liliana into a removal spell for target Liliana, rather than the card advantage machine you intended.
  4. The Legend Rule encourages poor deck-building choices, like putting them in your sideboard just to deal with your opponent’s Legends. See Emrakul, The Aeons Torn.

This more or less covers everything you need to know about why the Legend Rule needed to be modified. If you’re still not convinced, then you probably still subscribe to one of two different arguments. First, that the old rule was in-line with the flavor of a Legend’s uniqueness, and that the new rule is therefore counter-intuitive. Second, that the rules changes will ruin the game. I’ll address both of these arguments.

Flavor is a big concern because so many casual players use flavor as the rules. The best example of this is the elegance of the Flying mechanic. New players don’t need to read any special rules or reminder text to understand that a creature without Flying can’t block a creature with Flying. The Legendary Supertype needs to be similarly elegant. The flavor of a Legend is that they are unique. However, this does not explain why the existence of two unique beings causes both to be destroyed. Clones are the most egregious example. Why should a shapeshifter morphing into a copy of Emrakul cause himself and the original Emrakul to disappear from battle? Legendary Lands also don’t make sense under this philosophy. If I’m focusing on recalling my memory of the Tolarian Academy, why do I lose that connection if my opponent makes the same connection? From a flavor standpoint, the old Legend Rule was incredibly counter-intuitive. Under the new rule, if my opponent and I both have Liliana in play, why shouldn’t she be manipulating both players,  playing each side off of the other so that she comes out on top, no matter who is the victor? Is that not an incredibly flavorful thing for Liliana Vess to do?

Finally we have the sky is falling crowd, which will argue just because they can. These are the people who thought the Sixth Edition changes, the new frame, removing manaburn, and taking combat damage off of the stack would result in the death of Magic. Twenty years later, it seems like R&D has a pretty good grasp on how to design and maintain their game properly.

The Legend Rule changes are going to be great for the game in many ways. Understanding this is an important step on the path to becoming a better Magic player. If you still feel that Wizards has made a poor decision, I strongly encourage you to go back and read the Rosewater piece on Legendary and then comment below so I can help you become a better Magic player. Once you get to that “Aha!” moment, where you realize the elegance of the new Legend rule, you’ll be well on your way.

The Quick Hits

  • Former Pro and Invitational winner Bob Maher as a few things to say on Dark Confidant [DailyMTG]
  • Is Kiki-Jiki really the best Goblin ever? Piledriver may have a rebuttal here. [Magic Arcana]
  • Carrie Oliver played Dredge for the first time ever. I have two claims to fame as a deckbuilder in my M:tG life. The most recent was the Mono-Green Infect Deck I designed in Standard that finished in the top-16 at SCG DC a couple years ago, after which both Adrian Sullivan and Pat Chapin discussed my list. The other is from 2005, when I suggested in the original Manaless Dredge forum at SCG that Petrified Field would be a good card in Vintage Dredge decks. [Carrie On]
  • Mike Linnemann attended the Spectrum Live art convention last week and recaps the presence of Magic there. [Gathering Magic]
  • Checked in on YMTC4 and have no idea why anyone wouldn’t vote for Revenge of Necromancy [YMTC]
  • Reuben Bresler interviewed Doug Beyer about The Secretist, which is a novel, I think. [StarCity Games]
  • Frank Lepore has the first official fallout report of the Legendary rule changes with a look at ten cards most impacted. [TCGPlayer]
  • Adam Barnello also chimed in and is pretty cool with the changes. Phew. [Recurring Nightmares]
  • People on Twitter are…well they’re something. That’s for sure. [Twenty Tweets]
  • Here’s a look at the Legend Rule’s impact to Vintage Magic. Because it wasn’t busted enough. [LegitMTG]
  • Abe Sargent has an incredibly important look at the rule change’s impact to casual Magic. [Gathering Magic]
  • I remember when FNM promos used to be awesome. What happened? [Magic Arcana]
  • This is pretty cool if you like puzzles and secrets and The DaVinci Code. [Daily MTG]

Wallpaper of the Week

I’ve been out of town for the holiday so I haven’t been able to enjoy it fully, but Selesnya Guildgate makes for a gorgeous wallpaper. I may just leave it up next week if Wizards’ follow-up is sub-par.

Grade: A

The Week Ahead

It’s a safe bet that Wizards won’t make any more major rules changes this week, but hey, you never know.

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