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While going through the Gatherer database I noticed that the Alpha version of Icy Manipulator says,

C: You may tap any land, creature, or artifact in play on either side.

whereas the Tenth Edition of the Icy Manipulator says,

C, Tap: Tap target artifact, creature, or land.

This has me wondering, does the newer Tenth Edition card text retroactively apply to the Alpha card or does the Alpha text still apply when that card is in play? In other words, if I were to play the Alpha version, would I play by its rules, or the newer rules on the Tenth Edition card?

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3 Answers

up vote 46 down vote accepted

All versions of a card are considered to be equivalent and are played with the same text: this text is known as the Oracle wording of the card. From the comprehensive rules:

108.1. Use the Oracle(TM) card reference when determining a card's wording. A card's Oracle text can be found using the Gatherer card database at http://gatherer.wizards.com.

Note that a card's wording isn't always the most recent text on a card! There are a handful of cards that have errata of one form or another - for instance, Time Vault's Oracle text has changed numerous times, and it's still different in a few small ways from the card as printed.

As far as Icy Manipulator specifically goes, note that the wording on the Alpha (and Beta) versions isn't as different from the 10th Edition version as you might think; while neither uses the tap symbol, they both have the type 'Mono Artifact' which by the rules of the time meant that they were tapped as part of their usage (and thus could only be used once in a turn). Again, quoting from the comprehensive rules:

Mono Artifact (Obsolete) An obsolete term that appeared on the type line of artifacts with activated abilities that caused the artifact to become tapped as a cost. Cards printed with this text have received errata in the Oracle card reference to simply say "Artifact," and those abilities now include the tap symbol in their costs.

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Nice comprehensive answer! –  Pat Ludwig Jan 27 '12 at 6:59
I would say there is a crucial difference between the Alpha and 10th Icy: The Alpha wording did not include the word "target", which today could be interpreted such that it's not a targeted ability, meaning you could tap an object that is not targetable by the Icy, for example because of Shroud or Hexproof. –  Hackworth Jan 28 '12 at 22:27
Hackworth: agreed, and that was why I said 'not as different as you might think' rather than claiming they're identical wordings. :-) Note that 'target' doesn't appear on Magic cards for several years into its lifespan, so this isn't too surprising! –  Steven Stadnicki Jan 29 '12 at 8:28
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The Oracle is the official word on a card's text, unless this* is in play. enter image description here

*Unglued/Unhinged card sets are not tournament legal cards.

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That doesn't actually affect Icy Manipulator, due to the old "Mono Artifact" rules. It's worth a laugh with Floral Spuzzem, though. –  Alex P Jan 28 '12 at 23:19
Good point! That's the wonderful thing about Magic, for any rule you care to quote there's always a different rule that can come along and break it :) –  thesunneversets Jan 29 '12 at 19:47
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The Oracle text always takes priority over any card. I actually did not notice the difference in the two cards at first. I thought you were referring to "in play on either side" but it would make no sense to tap something that was not in play. Instead, you are referring to the cost of tapping.

Originally, you were required to tap mono artifacts in order to activate them. This means the cards are actually played exactly the same way. Pay the mana cost and tap cost (for either the older or newer card), and you can tap a creature, artifact, or land. The cost was simply updated because mono artifact cards were made obsolete. When they changed it to only being an artifact, the cost of tapping had to be added so it would be played the same.

Basically, whenever you have such a question, it is best to use the updated text because it is often more clear based on the current rules; however, if you have the time to access the Gatherer database, you should check the Oracle text because it overrides everything.

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