Selvala, Explorer Returned's ability is very similar to the ability of Charmed Pendant, so I don't understand why the latter has an instant speed restriction and Selvala does not. I'm looking for insight into this difference.

In the history of Magic, there are three cards with abilities that have the clause "Activate this ability only at any time you could cast an instant" (more when you include times when it's in reminder text, but I do not). In all three cases, the ability is a mana ability, as that's the only thing with less timing restrictions than an instant (as you can activate it while casting a spell). These three cards are Lion's Eye Diamond, Rhystic Cave and Charmed Pendant. For LED, this is to stop people from dumping their hand after the spell is already on the stack. For Rhystic Cave, one could attempt to cast a spell, then revert game state if an opponent pays to stop the Cave, and try again forever. Both these cases are fine and I include them mostly for completeness.

Charmed Pendant mills a card, then gives you mana based off that card. Selvala makes everyone reveal cards (and draw), then gives you mana based off those cards. These abilities seem very analogous, yet Selvala can be activated mid-cast and Charmed Pendant cannot. Why is this?

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    Considering there's also cards like Deranged Assistant and Millikin, a more pointed question might be "why are these three old cards instant speed and new ones not?" Oct 6 '16 at 14:42
  • Those two make reverting game state difficult, but also don't give variable mana like Charmed Pendant and Selvala. I suppose that's the distinction that separates the cases, to me. EDIT: By the way, the ruling on cards like Selvala, Millikin et. al that reveal hidden information as they generate mana, is that you can't rewind the ability; if you fail to cast the mana is left floating and the card remains in yard/hand.
    – monoRed
    Oct 6 '16 at 14:45
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    I wouldn't expect a complete answer to come out of this. You're asking for the justification for one of Wizards' design decisions, and without their internal knowledge, the best answer we can give you is basically that their design team thought the restriction was necessary when making Charmed Pendant, but not when making Selvala.
    – murgatroid99
    Oct 6 '16 at 15:44

The rules about ability speeds were standardized with the 6th edition. No more mention of speed was necessary on the cards after that. Some older cards were rewritten, some weren't. The 10/4/2004 ruling makes it clear that this wasn't an oversight (as the ability, despite being a mana ability, changes the board's state, while Selvala's doesn't - I'm guessing).

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    Selvala's ability changes the board state very similarly to Pendant, if not more. Her ability causes every player to reveal the top card of their library, and then draw a card. It also fits the definition of mana ability, in that it does not target, it adds mana to someone's pool, and it's not a loyalty ability.
    – monoRed
    Oct 6 '16 at 14:55
  • Yes, sorry, I missed the last line in the ability. I'll just ascribe this to the convenience of not changing the text of an old card if possible, then :)
    – Stephane
    Oct 6 '16 at 15:46
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    Hmm, I didn't realize that the instant speed rider was on original text. That, along with the ruling that draw/mill mana abilities cannot be reverted implies to me this is a holdover from an old card, and were it to be printed today, the templating would be more like Selvala's. Accepting.
    – monoRed
    Oct 6 '16 at 15:58
  • @monoRed I agree with you that it would be different nowadays, without the instant speed limitation. Oct 6 '16 at 20:06
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    A brand new example of a speed restriction is Outlast.
    – ikegami
    Oct 16 '16 at 5:38

The simplest answer is probably the correct one: The developers didn't see the need to restrict Selvala's ability, and they didn't see the need to retroactively change Charmed Pendant to match.

A competing answer claims it's because "speed restrictions" are a thing of the past (1999), but that's blatantly false. The Outlast ability has one, and that's a very recent addition to the game (2014). This is far from the only example.

  • @murgatroid99, Fixed. I'm not sure why having what turns out to be a little bit of extra irrelevant info warrants two downvotes, though! At least I answered the question, unlike the accepted answer!
    – ikegami
    Oct 16 '16 at 5:32
  • The first quote and answer still reads like a misunderstanding of the question. The question is clear that by "not at instant speed", it means "at mana ability speed", which is a speed less restrictive than instant speed. It's like if he asked why a particular model of car wasn't limited to 55 MPH, and you respond by pointing out that indeed that car can go 55 if you drive it slower than the max speed.
    – GendoIkari
    Oct 16 '16 at 12:38
  • @Gendolkari, You are confused because someone edited the question since I answered it. The original subject was "Why can't the car go 55 mph?" Yes, I realize the subject and the remainder asked different questions, but that wasn't a problem with my answer! Fixed.
    – ikegami
    Oct 16 '16 at 15:42
  • Ok, got it. I'll remove my comment. Oct 16 '16 at 15:58

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