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Many players and fan designers have been forever frustrated by the fact that in MtG, "Tribal" is a card type instead of a supertype. Having been digging at this for a while, I have to a conclusion: there is literally and absolutely no rule justification for this.

The only argument that was ever offered is "subtypes must be associated with a card type, not a supertype". He re's a typical formulation from today. Tabak has never explained it any further despite many pressing attempts t getting a better answer.

However, this only begs the question, because this itself has no rule-based justification whatsoever other than (if you squint really hard) the fact that Tarmogoyf and a few, select cards would be functionally altered. However since a) they forgot about THAT when creating tribal in the first place and b) this would be a minute amount of disruption to older cards compared to what happened by eliminating damage on the stack or mana burn. (And you'd think they'd jump at the chance to rein in Tarmo a little without actually altering cards or the banned and restricted list.)

So, I ask of you: come up with a rule problem (and as I made it clear above, a card whose power subtly changes is not one!) or contradiction that arises out of making Tribal a supertype. Please. Please tell me Wizards have a reasoning instead of just stubbornly pretending they didn't make a patently idiotic design mistake and then tried to cover it with what amount to "because we say so".

An example of a rule issue would be if it could somehow cause a creature to have undefined power or toughness, or cause an instant/sorcery to be face-up on the battlefield, both situation which templating and rules carefully thread around to prevent their possibility.

Yes the question is ranty because Tabak has been frustratingly stubborn on this issue, but it's still a legitimate rules question.

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    This seems more like a rant than an actual question. – corsiKa Apr 14 '16 at 21:21
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    If you seriously want answers to this, maybe you could be a bit more constructive? You tell us to "look it up" rather than providing links or quotes about what Wizards has actually said about this. You've also implicitly dismissed a lot of explanations in the vein of rules complexity by defining rules issues to only be serious actual gameplay problems. – Cascabel Apr 14 '16 at 21:35
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    Being frustrated with Matt Tabak is not a reason to post a rant here. If you want to ask a legitimate rules question, just ask the rules question. Your personal feelings really have no bearing whatsoever on how difficult this rules change would be to make, what repercussions it might have, whether Wizards might do it differently if they could redo it, or whether it's worth it to change it this long after the fact. – Cascabel Apr 14 '16 at 22:10
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    I don't see in your question a reason for thinking that it's better or more logical for it to be a supertype instead of a card type? – GendoIkari Apr 14 '16 at 22:31
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    If you want something to cite, maybe this? magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/… Their position is not, as you say, "subtypes go with types because we say so". Their position is that if you wanted to make it a supertype you'd have to do make significant rules changes to avoid messing anything up, and it'd still not all be totally intuitive, while making it a type is a very easy, clean rules change and creates the desired game effects even if it doesn't match your intuition about what should be a supertype, so it's not worth trying to do otherwise. – Cascabel Apr 15 '16 at 0:45
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I don't know if you'd consider these "rules issues" or not; they're certainly not as bad as an instant on the field, but the rules as currently worded don't allow for subtypes to be associated with supertypes. If you make Tribal a supertype and start messing around with an object's types,things don't work out the same way; see the following examples. Maybe they could have done these rules differently, maybe not, but it's not just a matter of declaring Tribal to now be a supertype instead of a card type.

205.1a Some effects set an object’s card type. In such cases, the new card type(s) replaces any existing card types. Counters, effects, and damage marked on the object remain with it, even if they are meaningless to the new card type. Similarly, when an effect sets one or more of an object’s subtypes, the new subtype(s) replaces any existing subtypes from the appropriate set (creature types, land types, artifact types, enchantment types, planeswalker types, or spell types). If an object’s card type is removed, the subtypes correlated with that card type will remain if they are also the subtypes of a card type the object currently has; otherwise, they are also removed for the entire time the object’s card type is removed. Removing an object’s subtype doesn’t affect its card types at all.

205.1b Some effects change an object’s card type, supertype, or subtype but specify that the object retains a prior card type, supertype, or subtype. In such cases, all the object’s prior card types, supertypes, and subtypes are retained. This rule applies to effects that use the phrase “in addition to its types” or that state that something is “still a [type, supertype, or subtype].” Some effects state that an object becomes an “artifact creature”; these effects also allow the object to retain all of its prior card types and subtypes.

Take a Tribal Artifact and make it a (non-artifact) land with Song of the Dryads. If Tribal were a supertype, would it keep its creature type(s)? Since its new type doesn't support creature types, no. It's still Tribal but loses its creature types.

205.3d An object can’t gain a subtype that doesn’t correspond to one of that object’s types.

Take a Tribal Artifact and give it a second creature type. Since the new creature type doesn't correspond to one of its types, it doesn't gain it.

205.4b An object’s supertype is independent of its card type and subtype, even though some supertypes are closely identified with specific card types. Changing an object’s card types or subtypes won’t change its supertypes. Changing an object’s supertypes won’t change its card types or subtypes. When an object gains or loses a supertype, it retains any other supertypes it had.

Remove the Tribal supertype from a permanent somehow and it keeps its creature types since removing supertypes doesn't change subtypes, but it can't have creature types without the Tribal, so does it or doesn't it have creature types?

  • Any sensible alteration will handle case #2 without a hitch (or at worst with minor editing of the current rules). Case #1 falls at best within the realm of altering existing cards' functionalities. Case #3 is only an issue if there is way to remove an nonspecific supertype (I'd love to hear how that is possible), or if there is a need later to design cards that remove tribal. I think we can all agree that is dubious and at least now has a sensible restriction on it after the change is enacted! – Circeus Apr 14 '16 at 22:19

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