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Trying to expand my knowledge of Magic, and hopefully become a better player, I've come across several references to "layers." From what I've been able to find, they are as follows:

  1. Copy
  2. Control
  3. Text
  4. Type
  5. Color
  6. Add/Remove
  7. Power

Could someone elucidate the significance of the order and exactly what this layering thing means?

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Welcome to Board and Card Games Stack Exchange! – Alex P Jun 13 '12 at 14:51
To be honest, even as a rules pedant/stickler, I never bother to perfectly memorize the ordering of layers. The MTGJudge app on my phone has a "cheat sheet" (in addition to comp rules, which are also invaluable to carry around). – Alex P Jun 13 '12 at 19:41
@AlexP I had a couple friends (L2 judges) start bugging me to become a judge for our local shop. It's pretty large with 60+ person FNMs and 40 or so people for random Sunday Standard tournaments. I figured getting a basic idea would be good, and having a canonical answer on the site wouldn't hurt either. – Hyppy Jun 13 '12 at 19:46
Well, sure. I'm just saying, in practice (especially for a judge, who is allowed to pull up rules aids during a tournament), it's not as important to remember layers as it is to understand them. :) – Alex P Jun 13 '12 at 19:47
For what it's worth, most of the times this actually comes up are power/toughness changes (the sublayers of 7), so it's pretty reasonable to memorize that and be willing to look up the rest. – Jefromi May 1 '15 at 20:09
up vote 12 down vote accepted

I completely agree with Hackworth that an in-depth answer would probably require an article, but I don't recommend the Comprehensive Rules (very dry)... so try this article instead.

It's got loads of good examples that really demonstrate when this stuff becomes useful. e.g. You have a Giant Growthed Grizzly Bears (2/2 +3/+3 = 5/5) and someone casts Ovinize on it (loses all abilities and becomes a 0/1). Without reference to the layers system, how do you explain to someone that the Bears are now 3/4 creatures, not 0/1?

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Indeed. So there's an obvious order. Which one happens first? Bottom to top, or top to bottom? – Hyppy Jun 13 '12 at 14:56
@Hyppy - Top to bottom. You start from 1 and go down to 7, applying any effects that happen in each successive layer in turn. Hopefully there aren't more than 2 or 3 layers to worry about in any given situation - if there are, you're probably trapped in some kind of nightmarish rules quiz. – thesunneversets Jun 13 '12 at 15:18
perfect, that was what I was looking for :-) – Hyppy Jun 13 '12 at 15:22

The basic answer is that the layer system determines how to apply continuous effects to every object in the game so that they get their actual state beyond what's printed on the actual card.

A more detailed answer would mostly consist of quoting the Comprehensive Rules Book verbatim, so I suggest if you want to dive in there, go straight to the source.

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Thanks! I think the part about referring to modification of printed state was what was tripping me up. What is the significance of the order? – Hyppy Jun 13 '12 at 14:32

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