November, 2021 Rules Update: Promos and Conjured Cards
I know it hasn’t been long since our last rules update, but shortly after we put out that article, two more issues came up.
The short version: Spatial Contortion, Hada Freeblade, and Circle of Flame are no longer legal in Pauper EDH, and the conjured version of Swords to Plowshares in Jumpstart: Historic Horizons is not a real common, so it’s not legal in Pauper EDH either.
There are plenty of common Pauper EDH cards that have their only common version as a digital card, like Battle Screech or Chainer’s Edict, which were released as a part of the Vintage Masters set on Magic: The Gathering Online. However, draftable digital sets like Vintage Masters appear on Gatherer, and all commons in those sets are legal in 60-card Pauper, so there has never been any confusion about them. They are legal in Pauper EDH.
There are also some less well known cards that take this a step further, with their only downshifted version being a digital card that is not draftable. The most notable examples of this have been Spatial Contortion, Hada Freeblade, and Circle of Flame at common and Bastion Protector at uncommon. Bastion Protector only appears at uncommon in the Legendary Cube Prize Pack, while the other three only appeared at common as Magic Online Promos. In addition to not being visible on Gatherer, the common promos were also banned in Pauper by Wizards. Up until now, this wasn’t really an issue. We still saw them as releases of those cards with a legal rarity, and therefore saw them as legal in PDH.
However, these three commons recently had the rarity of their digital promo versions retroactively changed from common to either uncommon or rare. This is concerning, since the change makes it easy to question the stability of any format that takes note of digital rarity to determine legality. However, with the context of the above ban from Wizards, it could be inferred that this is Wizards fixing a finite number of mistakes. So far, we haven’t found any other cards that have changed rarity. (The below images are screenshots from Magic: The Gathering Online.)
As of now, this means that Spatial Contortion, Hada Freeblade, and Circle of Flame are no longer legal in the 99 since they currently don’t have a common version. The Rules Committee discussed keeping them legal because they previously had a common version, but decided against this to avoid confusion. It is better to define the format by current rarities rather than keeping a separate recording of past rarities. After all, this is the only time we know of in which existing versions of cards have retroactively had their rarity changed, and all of the online infrastructures for Magic, including Scryfall and Gatherer, are not built to track multiple or changing rarities for the same release of a card.
As a side note, Bastion Protector’s digital promo release is still an uncommon and is still a legal Pauper EDH commander.
Our second issue centers around conjure, one of the new digital-only mechanics in the Jumpstart: Historic Horizons set. For those that don’t know, conjure creates a new card out of thin air. Unlike tokens, the conjured card can stay in zones other than the battlefield (if you want to read more, you can check out this Wizards article). While the draftable cards reprinted in the set all matched their previous printed rarities, the conjured cards weren’t immediately visible, and the community had to play Arena to view those cards. This led to the delayed discovery that when Tome of the Infinite conjured Swords to Plowshares, the conjured version had a common rarity symbol. All printings of Swords to Plowshares up until this set have been uncommon rarity or higher.
However, there are several concerning things about this situation. First of all, conjured cards are similar to tokens and nontraditional cards (like dungeons), which can’t be included in your starting deck. Next, the lack of comprehensive rules entries for the conjure mechanic makes it tempting to view these cards as less legitimate. Third, Swords to Plowshares is the only conjured card with a rarity that doesn’t match a previous printing of the same card. That makes it possible that this is simply an error that Wizards doesn’t think is worth correcting. All of these, combined with a tweet from Gavin Verhey saying that, “it's not printed at actual common,” suggest that this should not be viewed as a real downshift of Swords to Plowshares.
Because of all of these reasons, we have edited an existing rule (906.12), clarifying that a card must be available during deck building in order to actually be considered to be the rarity corresponding to its set symbol. The old version of this rule also had Hada Freeblade as an example before the MTGO promo rarity changed, so editing this rule is killing two birds with one stone. The new rule reads as follows:
906.12. A card as a whole is of a certain rarity if there is a release of that card with that rarity in any Magic set or product (including Magic: The Gathering Online and Magic: The Gathering Arena) where that release can be included in a deck. This also includes promo releases.
Example: Sakura Tribe Elder as a whole is of common rarity because it was released as a common in Champions of Kamigawa. Sakura Tribe Elder as a whole is also of uncommon rarity (and therefore can be the commander of a Pauper EDH deck) because it was released as an uncommon in the Legendary Cube Prize Pack on Magic: The Gathering Online.
Example: Swords to Plowshares was only released as a common in Jumpstart: Historic Horizons, where it only functions as a conjurable card which can’t be included in a deck. Therefore, Swords to Plowshares as a whole is not of common rarity and is not legal in Pauper EDH.
Including conspiracy cards during deck construction has always been forbidden by rule 314.3 of the Magic comprehensive rules. We previously listed conspiracies explicitly on the Pauper EDH banlist to avoid confusion, since some conspiracies have black set symbols. However, with the above rules tweak, conspiracies are considered illegal (as opposed to banned) by the Pauper EDH-specific rules. Over the years, conspiracies haven’t turned out to be a source of confusion for the community, so we have decided to remove conspiracy cards from the banlist. They will simply be illegal because of the Magic and Pauper EDH rules.
The debate over how to deal with Swords to Plowshares was a difficult conundrum. Swords to Plowshares would be an incredible addition to the Pauper EDH meta, giving white a much needed way to cheaply remove combo creatures at instant speed. However, we think that disallowing conjure downshifts in this way is intuitive and will help safeguard the future health of the format. Similarly, losing cards in our card pool from retroactive rarity changes feels awful, but we are trying to keep the format rules as simple as possible for both new and veteran players.
As a side note, we are now hosting our comprehensive rules on GitHub instead of just in a text document. This will make it easier for viewers to see what changes were made between versions. There is now a link to the GitHub rules document from the PDH Home Base rules page.
That’s all the changes we have for now, and hopefully it’ll be quite a while before any new changes are necessary.
- Paul (Scarecrow1779)
@PDH Home Base