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While reading through the comprehensive rules in mtg, I came across this:

112.12. ... if an effect states a quality of [an] object (“[creature] can’t be blocked,” for example), it’s neither granting an ability nor setting a characteristic

This was the first mention of object qualities, so I wanted to know what constitutes a quality and discovered there is no definition given in the comprehensive rules, or that I missed it.

Rule 112.12 gives this example:

Example: Muraganda Petroglyphs reads, “Creatures with no abilities get +2/+2.” A Runeclaw Bear (a creature with no abilities) enchanted by an Aura that says “Enchanted creature has flying” would not get +2/+2. A Runeclaw Bear enchanted by an Aura that says “Enchanted creature is red” or “Enchanted creature can’t be blocked” would get +2/+2.

In the example, I'm not sure why "can't be blocked" is a quality and "flying" is not. (Rule 112.12 precludes qualities from being abilities, and flying is an ability, so it's not a quality). So what does this rule mean when it mentions 'quality'?

  • I think it would greatly improve the question if you could edit to make it explicitly clear how you concluded that "'can't be blocked' is a quality and 'flying' is not". – David Z Dec 25 '18 at 5:57
  • @DavidZ Flying is a keyword ability. Can't be blocked is a quality; quoting myself: if an effect states a quality of an object "([creature] can't be blocked, for example)" means that can't be blocked is a quality – person27 Dec 25 '18 at 6:26
  • @DavidZ If flying was a quality then per the same quote, "it's neither granting an ability nor setting a characteristic", but flying grants the creature that ability because it is a keyword ability. – person27 Dec 25 '18 at 6:30
  • @DavidZ Ah, but look at my last response and you'll see that would leave me with no question. These deductions weren't clear to me until the current answer pointed out that flying was an ability, which led me to fill in the rest. So if you add an answer just explaining these deductions (since I hate self-answering unless I really need to), I'll accept it. – person27 Dec 25 '18 at 6:38
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – person27 Dec 25 '18 at 6:54
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Keep in mind that the purpose of rule 112.12 - the whole rule - is to determine, out of all the cases in which an effect's text says something about an object, which of those cases count as granting an ability to the object. If the text says the object "gains" or "has" something, then (unless it's a characteristic-defining ability, like "...has power equal to...") the effect is granting an ability to the object, but other cases where the text says something about the object do not count as granting it an ability.

The rule uses the phrasing

...if an effect states a quality of [an] object...

to refer to those other cases where the text simply says something about the object. For example, if an effect's text says "[object] can't be blocked", it's just saying something about [object], but it's not giving [object] an ability that prohibits it from being blocked.

This is worth calling out, in part because there used to be a word, "unblockable", which was used to mean that a creature couldn't be blocked. Back in those days, instead of saying "[creature] can't be blocked" as is done today, an effect would say "[creature] is unblockable". Magic players who were active during that time but not so much since then may think that saying that a creature "can't be blocked" gives it a keyword ability "unblockable" (even though that's not what the effect "[creature] is unblockable" does). The rule is clarifying that that's not the case.

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    I don't think anything ever said "has unblockable", everything just said "is unblockable". – doppelgreener Dec 25 '18 at 17:02
  • Hm, yeah I can't find any records about that so I'll edit. Although I thought there was a brief period where "unblockable" was actually a keyword ability. – David Z Dec 28 '18 at 18:42
  • Maro suggests it was never a keyword, and has a lot of posts about how they tried to make it one and failed because there were too many variants. I think it's safe to drop that bit; if there might happen to be a card that does say that (I can't find such a card anywhere) it is probably only 1 card from 1 set. Maybe someone will mention "but what about [that exact card]?" in comments, then it can be addresed on its own. :) – doppelgreener Dec 28 '18 at 19:27
  • @doppelgreener Yes, I removed that in my edit shortly before you commented. – David Z Dec 29 '18 at 0:04
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You are mixing two different things up quite a bit.

What is a quality?

You will only see "quality" get used in the Comprehensive Rules, and it gets used in context under its normal English meaning: it is some kind of attribute, characteristic, or property of a thing. Don't try to find a specific set of things about cards that is a "quality", because there isn't one; the word has no special meaning in the game and the rules are just using it in the normal English sense. For example, when the rules talk about Hexproof, they also talk about "Hexproof from white/black" as seen on the Knights of Grace and Malice:

702.11d “Hexproof from [quality]” is a variant of the hexproof ability. “Hexproof from [quality]” on a permanent means “This permanent can’t be the target of [quality] spells your opponents control or abilities your opponents control from [quality] sources.” A “hexproof from [quality]” ability is a hexproof ability.

Here they could equally write "Hexproof from _____". However they are instead using "quality" as a placeholder word that lets them easily and clearly reference whatever goes in the blank. That doesn't make "quality" be a special limited set of things in the rules though, they are just using an English word for its English meaning.

This is unlike words like "ability" and "characteristic". Those do have a specific definition in the rules (rules 112 and 109.3, respectively). There are limited sets of things that are "abilities" and "characteristics" and we can point to them and say "that is an ability according to this part of the rules" and "that is not an ability", etc.

"Quality" is not defined like these words, it is just an English term.

Muraganda Petroglyphs has nothing to do with qualities as such

In the example, I'm not sure why "can't be blocked" is a quality and "flying" is not. So what is the definition of a quality?

Flying is an ability. That ability is granted to the creature by the aura. The creature now has an ability. Therefore, Muraganda Petroglyphs will not give it +2/+2, because it is not a creature with no abilities.

"Enchanted creature can't be blocked" is not granting an ability, it is just a rules modification of how things can interact with that card. "Enchanted creature is red" is likewise granting it an ability, it is setting its color.

If you're trying to understand what is/isn't a quality in hopes of understanding Muraganda Petroglyphs, you're on a wild goose chase: instead you need to understand abilities. An ability is rules text on a card, including static keyword abilities such as flying, and things may grant creatures those abilities temporarily or permanently.

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    @person27 No, like I said, don't look for a specific thing in game that is a quality. There is no specific set of things that is a quality. It is just an English word used in its English sense in the rules, meaning anything could be a quality. "Red" is not "a rules modification of how things can interact with that card", is it? "Mark Rosewater has personally handled this card" could be a quality, though one I doubt we'd ever see a card referencing. – doppelgreener Dec 24 '18 at 17:42
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    @person27 There is a definition: the English one. The rules only reference quality in limited senses: Hexproof from red (red is a quality), Equip legendary creature (legendary is a quality), Protection from a player (that player is a quality), search for a nonland card (nonland is a quality), etc -- and judges can clearly agree what is being referenced in each of those cases. Consider: if they used "Hexproof from ____" in the rules instead, would you be requesting a definition of what a "____" is? – doppelgreener Dec 24 '18 at 17:52
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    @person27 Quality: /ˈkwälədē/ Noun: a distinctive attribute or characteristic possessed by someone or something. – Andrew Dec 24 '18 at 17:53
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    @doppelgreener technically the quality for protection from player is the control over the permanent or spell – Andrew Dec 24 '18 at 17:55
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    To be extra clear: "Enchanted creature cannot be blocked" does not affect Muraganda Petroglyphs. "Enchanted creature has 'This creature cannot be blocked'" would. – Arcanist Lupus Dec 25 '18 at 2:41

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