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Master of Arms

2W, Summon Soldier 2/2, Weatherlight Uncommon

First strike

1W: Tap target creature blocking Master of Arms.

I used to use this in my deck as powerful creature which could attack, tap a couple of defenders to prevent them from dealing combat damage and kill off the remaining untapped one with first strike.

Now under the new rules tapping a blocking creature doesn't actually do anything, and since it will untap in its next turn is rather pointless. Since Master of Arms used to prevent combat damage, should it be re-worded to:

1W: Tap target creature blocking Master of Arms, that creature deals no combat damage 
this turn.

which would then make the card function in the same way it used to? Otherwise the ability is worthless outside of a Royal Assassin / Master of Arms combo.

Is there an errata on what do with old cards which are rendered useless by the news rules, or should they just no longer be used?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

You are correct, that Master of Arms ability is basically useless now, and functions differently now than it used to under pre-6th Edition rules.

If there was errata for Master of Arms', it would show up in the Oracle wording. The Gatherer page for that card lists the Oracle text, along with errata changes and dates. The Oracle is the official wording on Magic cards. The card used to work the way that you described, but in May 2011, the errata that supported the cards original functionality was removed so that the card now works as written.

Master of Arms - Just like Winter Orb, Master of Arms had a mystifying Oracle wording intended to replicate original functionality. The rule that changed this time was the one saying that tapped blockers didn't deal combat damage. ...

My general philosophy is that I'm okay with rules changing out from underneath cards and changing their functionality. Heck, just look at the Magic 2010 rules changes.

This recent change to Master of Arms is part of an ongoing rules philosophy change that began years ago. Several different articles point to the reason for these changes. In Power-Level-Errata-B-Gone, you learn of the architect behind the rules changes, Mark Gottlieb the lead rules manager. The reason for the change is that without an online reference, it is difficult to verify how a card is supposed to work. For that reason, power-level errata is being removed from cards as well as errata to make cards work as originally designed.

Why Did We Make This Latest Batch of Changes? - Over the years, the sheer number of rules revisions and changes of rules managers the game has undergone—as well as unintended consequences that arise when new mechanics and card abilities are unleashed each set—has led to cards slipping through the cracks. As the evil genius currently in charge of maintaining Oracle, Magic rules manager and former cult-leading columnist Mark Gottlieb is a strong, strong believer that cards should have functionality that matches their printed intent as often as possible.

Ben Bleisweiss talks specifically about tapped creatures and combat damage under fifth edition rules (as well as other interesting changes). The rule was essentially removed, because it wasn't intuitive to new players. Someone who was unfamiliar with the rules probably wouldn't understand why tapped attacking creatures deal damage, and defending creatures don't.

TAPPED CREATURES DEAL NO DAMAGE - Change: Under Fifth Edition rules, tapped blocking creatures dealt no damage in combat. Under Sixth Edition rules, they do.

Why: Much like the old "tapped artifacts shut off" rule, the rule about tapped creatures dealing no damage wasn't something a player would intuitively know just by looking at a card.

Mark Rosewater even lists Master of Arms' as a famous example of cards being useless under new rules changes.

In fact, our Oracle database encounters this problem every day because it has to modernize cards and mechanics that were created in a different time. Often what was done then doesn't even work now. I don't know how many times I've heard Mark Gottlieb gripe because some card that was made to do something that made sense in the past simply doesn't make any sense in modern day.

A famous recent example would be the card Master of Arms. The card was designed at a time when tapping a blocking creature kept it from dealing damage. Then Sixth Edition rules came along and removed the rule and all of a sudden Master of Arms's mechanic made a lot less sense.

All that being said, Master of Arms isn't really a tournament level card, which means that you are probably playing this deck in a casual setting. Most likely, if you told your opponents, "Hey, I have this fun deck I play that got completely hosed by sixth edition rules, would it be ok with you if Master of Arms said '1W: Tap target creature blocking Master of Arms, that creature deals no combat damage this turn.' for the purposes of this game?" I don't think anyone would object.

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For the record, R&D's Secret Lair wouldn't work - after all, the card's current Oracle wording is how it's written! The side effects of how it works are different now than they were then, but that doesn't change the fact that the card itself does the exact same thing. –  Steven Stadnicki Jul 16 '12 at 23:46
    
@StevenStadnicki, Doh. That card is usually my go to answer for this sort of thing. I should have known better, I actually looked at the physical card text image in the Gatherer. I will remove the suggestion. –  user1873 Jul 17 '12 at 1:27
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If there was errata, it would be in the card's Oracle text (as seen on Gatherer). For a time, cards like Master of Arms did have functional errata to preserve their old functionality. However, this was deemed annoying on two levels:

  • The card's functionality didn't match the printed text.
  • In the case of abilities untapping blockers, the card's functionality didn't match the way it used to work, either: a player could use another ability to untap the blocker and its damage would still be prevented.

You can read about why it was changed in the rules manager's May 2011 Update Bulletin. It boils down to this:

My general philosophy is that I'm okay with rules changing out from underneath cards and changing their functionality. Heck, just look at the Magic 2010 rules changes. It wouldn't be reasonable to try and make all previous cards work exactly the same way they did before those rules changes.

I agree. It's most important for a card to actually do what's printed on the card than to match how it worked some years ago. This depowers Master of Arms, but honestly it was never that good to begin with.

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Yes, for its intended purpose Master of Arms' ability is pretty much pointless now.

If you ever have a question about a specific card such as Master of Arms, you should go to Gatherer, the official errata reference for M:tG. It is the final authority for all card wordings, and often has additional rulings that could be of interest for the respective card under current rules.

In your case, it mentions that being tapped does not prevent a blocking creature from dealing damage.

On a more general note, rules changes often make some cards more useful, and others less useful. Another example besides the "tapped blocker combat damage" rule would be the removal of "mana burn", which made cards like Mana Drain or Braid of Fire much stronger, while it weakened cards like Power Surge or Citadel of Pain.

It's really just the course of the game, and in such a complex game with a huge card pool such as M:tG, it's pretty much unavoidable that even minor rules changes affect a lot of cards and combos, positively or negatively. Also note that as a Trading Card Game, M:tG was the first of its kind, so they had no predecessor to build upon. They had to make and later iron out all the mistakes one could make; and they started off with rules that today's rules lawyers can only turn their faces away from in horror, I imagine.

As to what you should do with your Master of Arms or really any other card that gets the rules change shaft: Holding on to it and speculating for a revert of the change is probably the most sensible thing to do, since its value has already been diminished and you couldn't get rid of it for its old value.

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