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I noticed that the original text of Balance, from Alpha, says that someone must discard some number of lands to equalize (sorta).

In the most recent reprint, I notice they have to choose some number and get rid of the rest. Is this the same for the old print? (Is it the same card after all?)

Was old magic kind of like Pokemon (in that when it says discard an energy from this card it means send to the discard pile) where any card not destroyed by battle is considered discarded?

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  • What do you mean by "get rid of the rest?" Are you asking what Balance does, or something else? – murgatroid99 Jan 8 '15 at 23:42
  • To be clear, you're asking whether "discard" once meant "sacrifice" when talking about permanents, right? – jwodder Jan 9 '15 at 0:49
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    I think he just misread the new text: Each player chooses a number of lands he or she controls equal to the number of lands controlled by the player who controls the fewest, then sacrifices the rest. Only change I see to the new wording and the old one, is that the old one only accounted for 2 players and the new wording for multiple players. – Lyrion Jan 9 '15 at 9:18
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Yes, "discard" was once used to describe removal of permanents from the battlefield like "sacrifice" does now. Consider the original text on City in a Bottle and Golgothian Sylex, which have you "discard [cards] from play" — they're obviously not talking about discarding cards in your hand!

City in a Bottle

Golgothian Sylex

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In general, the old wordings on cards could be notoriously bad. You can find the official errata on gatherer.

Each player chooses a number of lands he or she controls equal to the number of lands controlled by the player who controls the fewest, then sacrifices the rest. Players discard cards and sacrifice creatures the same way.

Specifically, "discard" has been updated to sacrificing instead of destroying. The new rules are much more consistent. So now only cards in a players hand can be discarded, but any permanent in play (such as lands or creatures) can be sent to the graveyard as a result of being destroyed, sacrificed, or other state-based checks. The old card writers were being lazy, but made the card's text confusing.

  • It's a bit judgmental to say they were lazy. Magic terminology simply wasn't as codified and structured as it is today. I don't understand what point you're making in the last paragraph, the only functional difference I see between the wordings is that the gatherer text accounts for a game with more than two players. – ghoppe Jan 9 '15 at 15:31
  • "lazy"? Please explain and provide evidence. – John Jan 9 '15 at 15:55
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    Lazy describing the language, not the writers. By that I mean that instead of explicitly listing out every single way to sent a card to the graveyard, the tried to catch all these with one "discard." That is, trying to save text instead of being very specific. And yes, older rules were not as comprehensive so that's what let this wording happen. – ryanyuyu Jan 9 '15 at 15:58
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There are two answers to this question. One of them is lame. The other is educational, but I don't consider it as correct as the first one.

The lame answer is that yes, the card changed. This is because the rules back then were different, which means that understanding what a card does is different. That is, trivially, every card changed when the rules did.

If you don't buy this answer you can also consider the fact of the special case: that the original magic rules, and card texts, just weren't well-defined. Asking if behaviour changed, when behaviour could in many cases only be a matter of Rules-As-Intended not embodied in any discernible object (in objective reality), itself becomes not a matter of answering something definitively but a matter of discerning an opinion held in the past. So Old-Balance did 'something', which exists and is basically unknowable. Balance does a thing, and if that thing equals what Old-Balance did seems to be just like asking if a value is equal to the undefined type - useful to consider that 'false' on principal.

The esoteric answer is that there is a difference between discarding "until" your possessions satisfy a property P(x) and choosing possessions satisfying P(x) and discarding the rest. The second case clearly involves no sequence of actions. The first case might possibly have been a sequence of actions. As the order of things matters, the two cards are different.

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