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Should players play cards from the Un-Sets as they stand, or should errata be applied to remain consistent with rules and Oracle updates? In the case that the general question is too broad, opinion-based, or otherwise not a suitable question for Stack, I provide the following, much more specific, question.

Example

Desert Twister, Northern Paladin, Red Elemental Blast, and many other tournament legal cards received similar errata that changed the phrase "card in play" to "permanent". The Cheese Stands Alone did not receive this errata, and so still contains the phrase "If you control no cards in play". How should the card play?

  1. Play the card as if the Oracle text were "If you control no permanents ..."
  2. Play the card as it stands. The state-based triggered ability of Cheese contains the word "card", so rule 108.2a applies. It reads, "In the text of spells or abilities, the term "card" is used only to refer to a card that's not on the battlefield or on the stack". This means that an Elvish Mystic on the battlefield is not a card.
  3. Play the card as it stands, but ignore rule 108.2a and instead interpret "card" to mean something totally different, perhaps because of
    • old rules text, an unofficial ruling from a judge, an article by Wizards staff, etc., or
    • because "card in play" means something different than "card"

Which situation is correct? Feel free to wander outside of my three proposed situations. I am by no means claiming that any of them are correct. The rules appear to point to the second option, but the result - The Cheese Stands Alone can win without standing alone - seems odd.

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Repeat to yourself "It's just a game. I should really just relax." –  Discord Feb 19 at 2:44
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I think [Mark Rosewater] wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtgcom/daily/mr151) had a FAQ for the UN- sets, with "*UN-*official" rulings, but I cannot seem to find it. –  user1873 Feb 19 at 14:44
    
@user1873 This is what you were looking for. wizards.com/magic/tcg/article.aspx?x=magic/faq/unhinged –  Rainbolt Feb 19 at 15:24
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I'm not sure what you're looking for here; the cards don't even have Oracle wordings. You almost aren't likely to get an official source because the official rules completely ignore the existence of these sets. The answers are all personal preference because the question is effectively about best practices for house rules. –  Chad Miller Feb 21 at 16:01
    
@ChadMiller I did my best to adhere to an acceptable Stack question format. If you have a suggestion for improvement, please state it clearly. –  Rainbolt Feb 21 at 17:16

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted
+50

Here are two statments from Mark Rosewater, the Un-rules manager:

When asked why Erase (Not the Ursa's Legacy One) doesn't have new Oracle text:

The Un-sets have never been updated because they are not in Oracle. Unglued still has Summon Creature for goodness sake. I have brought this problem up and I’ve been promised that it will eventually be fixed, but that it’s a low priority item so please be patient.

And when asked why silver-bordered cards don't get Oracle text, not even trivial stuff:

It’s a matter of resources. The Un-cards aren’t used for tournament play so they are low cards on the totem pole. I hope to get them Oracle-ish text one day.

My understanding from these replies is that the Un-cards would ideally be played with the Oracle updates, but that they simply have not gotten around to posting the updates, so there's no way to know for sure exactly what the Oracle text would be.

I don't have the Reputation required to post the links indicating that he's the Un-rules manager. If that's in disupte I can post them in the comments.

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Two posts from none other than the head designer of Magic indicating that the cards DO deserve Oracle text and that they just haven't gotten them yet. Thank you for the authoritative references. –  Rainbolt Feb 24 at 23:07
    
Okay, I fixed up your links (since you don't have the rep for it) and slightly tweaked your conclusion - I think it's still consistent with what you were trying to say, but avoids claiming there's actually a single correct way to play any given Un- card now. If you don't like what I changed, feel free to change it back or edit further! –  Jefromi Feb 24 at 23:42
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@John Glad you found something you find authoritative enough, better than the other quotes from Mark Rosewater people provided. Do keep in mind, though, the fact that he thinks they should have Oracle text doesn't mean that you can actually tell with any authority what that text should be. The other answers here, like Alex P's, are still helpful because in practice, you're going to have to decide what you and your friends think your personal pretend-Oracle text is. –  Jefromi Feb 25 at 0:48

One of the wonderful things about silver-bordered cards is that we can do stuff that maybe doesn't technically work but that players would have lots of fun trying to make work.

Mark Rosewater

In other words, the Un-sets were never designed to perfectly follow the rules of Magic. That's probably a big part of why they don't bother giving them rulings and errata in Gatherer.

So, what should you do? It sorta depends on what your goals are.

Serious casual play: play 'em like any old cards

How do people play old cards without looking up Oracle rulings all the time?

Well, if you get familiar enough with the comp rules and the general shape of Oracle errata, you don't really need to most of the time. Sure, I might need to look up the rules for Chains of Mephistopheles every time, but I can just look at most cards in Legends and know what they're trying to do, even if the words are all backwards and the text is terrible inconsistent about "sacrifice" vs. "destroy" vs. "bury."

You can apply the same approach to your Unglued/Unhinged cards. What does "cards in play" mean? It's clearly old-Magic language for either "permanents" or maybe "non-token permanents." When someone proposes a crazy nonsense reading instead, give them an angry look and tell them they're just wasting time. (Or laugh at their joke, haha — and then tell them that they're wasting time.)

Note that some of the Un-cards are too crazy to really stand up to this kind of rigor. You will have to just do your best to make sense of a weird situation at times, but honestly this isn't nearly as big of a muddle as trying to play Magic with old-school rules.

Easygoing casual play: use "common sense" and don't sweat it

The Un-sets aren't really designed for attention to detail and exacting technical play anyway. Arguably part of the "joy" of them is experiencing Magic with a newbie's sense of wonder and discovery (though this is rather personal and your mileage may totally vary).

So, just play like you're still figuring out the game. Try to do what the cards say as best as you can. Don't stress about what the "real" rules are. Don't get technical or demand precision from players at the table. If the game state gets too complicated due to some interaction of the cards, have the group make up something that sounds halfway fair and just move on.

If it helps, imagine you're twelve. (No offense to twelve-year-old "Spikes" who play tournaments and love the comp rules. In fact, mad props to twelve-year-old "Spikes" who play tournaments and love the comp rules!)

I recommend this approach if there's a significant skill gap within the group, or if you intend to play Magic while intoxicated.

Zany nonsense: make stuff up

"If Floral Spuzzem attacks an opponent and is not blocked, then Floral Spuzzem may choose to destroy a target artifact under that opponent's control and deal no damage."

"But... how does it decide?"

Some people look at Unglued/Unhinged as an opportunity to joke about playing Magic rather than play Magic per se.

If that's what your group is doing with their silver-bordered cards, then all sense of consistency goes out the window (with the exception of appeal to precedent, maybe).

At this point nothing an outside authority says about the rules is meaningful at all. So just make up your own interpretation and accept that you're playing Mornington Crescent.

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+1, these are definitely the big possibilities, and Mark Rosewater's quote there conveys their intent pretty well: you're supposed to figure it out yourself, not ask for help from on high. –  Jefromi Feb 22 at 6:14

Oracle text isn't updated normally for Un-cards, since they are not legal in any format. Heck, the reason they did not reprint The Cheese Stands Alone was due to a conflict of interest between "Any reprint can be played" and "Only white and black cards can be played". Thus we got Barren Glory.

One of the major points about the Un-sets was they weren't supposed to be rules perfect, since they wanted to focus on the humor.

Personally I would play any card as you describe in (1). Effectively "if this were templated today, how would it work?" as an example of a card that could be updated: Charm School

Enchant Player
When Charm School comes into play, choose a color and balance Charm School on your head.
Prevent all damage to you of the chosen color.
If Charm School falls off your head, sacrifice Charm School.

With more recent templating (give or take).

Enchantment - Aura
Enchant you
When Charm School enters the battlefield, choose a color and balance Charm School on your head. Prevent all damage to you of the chosen color.
When Charm School falls off your head, sacrifice Charm School.

Note that I can't find an example of an aura that could only target you, so guessed as to how it would be templated.

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Officially, Un-cards don't exist. In fact, many cards are in the Un-sets specifically because the rules team couldn't figure out how to make them work within the official rules (Staying Power is such an example. Rocket-Powered Turbo Slug was another, although the Future Sight pacts captured the spirit pretty well). Randy Buehler even went on the record saying that he didn't know the ramifications of R&D's Secret Lair.

In the specific case of The Cheese Stands Alone, the only reason it wasn't reprinted in Eighth Edition was because having a tournament-legal Unglued printing would have caused rules problems, so instead Future Sight ended up with Barren Glory. So a reasonable casual rule would be to say that The Cheese Stands Alone is functionally Barren Glory, if someone wants to split hairs.

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Should players play cards from the Un-Sets as they stand, or should errata be applied to remain consistent with rules and Oracle updates?

You should do whatever you please. These are prank sets that can only be played with friends. Anyone telling you and your friends how to play with cards that aren't legal for play is being pretentious. And they're wrong! How can there be a right way to play an illegal card?

If you meant to ask what works best, I recommend on agreeing on what an updated wording of the card would be. e.g. The Cheese Stands Alone would probably have been updated to affect tokens like most (but not all) similar cards. Of course, if you want to change the a card's text, it works best if you do that before the game starts.


By the way, I don't agree with your reading of 108.2a. It doesn't say that permanents aren't card; it simply states that abilities won't refer to them as cards. Even so, some abilities (and rules) still use the word "card" to refer to them as required. Sorry, I can't seem to remember an example.

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There is no authoritatively correct answer. Unglued and Unhinged cards do not have official rules.

Unglued and Unhinged were created explicitly to mess with the rules. They are not tournament legal, so there is no need for there to be real rules. I don't know of a single reference where someone from Wizards says just that. But it's clear from several things.

First, as you've noticed, they've never received Oracle text updates. This is not an accident. Normally, when rules change, Wizards goes and finds every affected card they possibly can and updates the Oracles text. For example, here's the update from Magic 2014. They have not somehow forgotten about Un- cards for years, they have deliberately not updated them. The lack of Oracle updates for these cards is Wizards (passively) saying, there are no updated rules for these cards.

Second, when Mark Rosewater wrote some "rules" FAQ for Unhinged (the closest you'll get to anything official), he said:

But when the subject of the Unhinged set comes up, the opposite appears to happen. When I brought up the fact that we needed to produce an Unhinged FAQ(TIWDAWCC), the rules team left skid marks getting away.

So the Wizards rules folks have not touched Unhinged, and there are no official rules. Those FAQ clarify some things for Unhinged, and there is no similar document for Unglued.

The same applies to your specific case with The Cheese Stands Alone: there will be no authoritative answer. It's probably most reasonable to play it as if the templating were updated - "card in play" changed to "permanent" - because that's what was done to other cards, so it's most likely what Wizards would have done if they had updated it. But it's up to you to try to make decisions like that for each card; whatever you decide will be just as authoritative as what someone else out there has decided. Even if someone ran an Un-tournament, and had judges, and for some reason recorded their rulings, they wouldn't really be official - they'd have been working off their own knowledge same as you, without any actual rules or Oracle text to look to.

I've discussed in chat some with the OP, and come to understand that he's not interested in ways to personally choose how to play the cards, just authoritative advice. But since there is no such advice, I feel that the other answers are actually much more helpful than simply stating what I have, so I'd encourage anyone looking for actual advice on how to play with the cards to look to any of the other answers.

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