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Looking at preview cards for Return for Ravnica a question about Unleash popped into my mind:

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"It can't block as long as it has a +1/+1 counter on it." Simple question really: if you cast Rakdos Cackler "leashed", and then it subsequently gets a +1/+1 counter from a different source than its Unleash ability, does it become unable to block?

I love the idea of putting +1/+1 counters on my opponent's creatures to allow myself to alpha strike for a win :)

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This makes cards like Common Bond (Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature. Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature.) a form of control. If your opponent chose not to put unleash on that creature, then clearly they did so because they intended to block with it (otherwise, there's no reason not to). You interrupt their plans with it. Now, it might not seem like a good idea to buff your opponent's creatures, but that last block might be the difference between you winning or them winning. It may take a turn off their clock that they weren't expecting. –  corsiKa Sep 21 '12 at 17:37
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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It becomes unable to block

According to the official WotC blog:

You can choose to have a creature with unleash enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter it. As long as it has one or more +1/+1 counters on it, it can't block—no matter how it got +1/+1 counters.

EDIT: In the Return to Ravnica FAQ you can read the rulings on the mechanic:

702.96. Unleash

702.96a Unleash is a keyword that represents two static abilities. “Unleash” means “You may have this permanent enter the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on it” and “This permanent can’t block as long as it has a +1/+1 counter on it.”

The ruling might not be clear enough so they explain it further:

A creature with unleash can’t block if it has any +1/+1 counter on it, not just one put on it by the unleash ability.

Interestingly, they also add:

Putting a +1/+1 counter on a creature with unleash that’s already blocking won’t remove it from combat. It will continue to block.

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You make it sound like that's an official answer... And it's not "RtR official website", it's Wizard's MTG "Features" blog. –  ikegami Sep 21 '12 at 17:29
    
@ikegami That is an official answer. It is safe to assume something posted on a Wizard's blog is correct unless and until it is contradicted by something else. They're very careful about this sort of thing. –  corsiKa Sep 21 '12 at 17:32
    
@ikegami if you think there is a problem with my answer I can edit it to make it clearer. If I replace "Return to Ravnica official website" with "Wizards of the Coast features blog which was wrong once or twice but is otherwise pretty much the only company source of rulings we have until the official rules are updated" would the answer become clearer for the reader? –  rahzark Sep 22 '12 at 9:14
    
@ikegami It's such a simple question I don't think you even have to quote any (official) source for it. It clearly says on the card "It can't block as long as it has a +1/+1 counter on it.". –  AndSoYouCode Sep 25 '12 at 6:23
    
@ikegami, rahzark, I'm deleting much of this discussion. You've each said your piece, please vote on the answer and move on. Thanks! –  Pat Ludwig Sep 25 '12 at 14:15
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Summary: Does the creature with Unleash have a +1/+1 counter on it? If so, then it can't block. That simple.


The first thing one should do when wondering how an keyword ability works is to look up the abilities it stand for. Unfortunately, the exact rule text of the ability has not been released yet, and no official answer has been given. That means that any answer is going to be opinion.

The reminder text ("It can't block as long as it has a +1/+1 counter on it") indicates it doesn't matter how it got the +1/+1 counter. (Reminder text is not always 100% accurate.)

The official Wizards blog says it doesn't matter how it got the +1/+1 counter. (They have been wrong before.)

Everyone on the Rules Q&A forum believes it doesn't matter how it got the +1/+1 counter.

All indications point to Unleash being a straightforward static ability that optionally gives a +1/+1 counter, plus a straightforward unrelated static ability that simply checks for +1/+1 counters. If so, it doesn't matter how it got the +1/+1 counter.


That said, the rules have now been released, and the earlier answers have been deemed correct.

702.96a Unleash is a keyword that represents two static abilities. “Unleash” means “You may have this permanent enter the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on it” and “This permanent can’t block as long as it has a +1/+1 counter on it.”

Unleash is static ability that optionally gives a +1/+1 counter, plus an unrelated static ability that simply checks for +1/+1 counters. It doesn't matter how it got the +1/+1 counter.

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