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How exactly were the rules contrived as to make False Summoning actually able both be a sorcery spell and a counterspell?

Has there been any official discussion as to how this came to be or how it worked, I know it happened years ago but I'm a little curious as to how this happened.

13

There's two parts to this.

  • False Summoning is actually an Instant.
  • False Summoning was introduced in a Portal set. Portal sets didn't have Instants.

Gatherer actually has the wrong card image for the Masters Edition print; they just re-used the image from the Portal Second Age print. Scryfall has the correct image in which the card is an Instant.

But, back to how this happened to begin with: back in 1997 thru 1999, Wizards released three Portal sets (Portal in 1997, Portal Second Age in 1998, and Portal Three Kingdoms in 1999). These products targeted new players as a teaching aid to introduce them to the game. In an effort to simplify the game, it did things like:

  • use sword/shield icons for power and toughness
  • rename blockers to interceptors (only in Portal '97)
  • never call a card an Instant
  • and more!

A great example of all three of these particular differences at once is the card Defiant Stand. You'll notice it's an Instant in the Oracle text on Gatherer.

That third one is the operative factor here. If a card needed instant timing, then in Portal it was instead printed with “Sorcery” on the type line, and it was printed with a specific instruction as to when you could/must play the card, and that meant you could cast it at that time (and only at that time). Hence we also get Sorcery counterspells that say you can cast them in response to someone else casting a spell. Make no mistake: this wouldn't work at all in regular Magic rules (you still don't have permission to cast a sorcery at those times) but Portal was operating on simplified rules.

Now, teaching the player the game this way has some major problems. In particular, it's teaching the player poorly about how Sorceries work. Wizards of the Coast eventually decided this was the wrong approach too, and the Portal sets are no more. When Starter 1999 was released, instants were correctly labelled as such.

10
  • It's weird to say the image is actually incorrect... it's an image from a particular set; one in which the printed wording does not match the oracle wording. The image is a correct image of what the card looked like.
    – GendoIkari
    Nov 25 '19 at 18:19
  • 4
    @GendoIkari If you visit the Masters Edition IV printing entry for False Summoning on Gatherer you see they instead uploaded the exact same image as in the Portal printing. The Masters Edition card doesn't look like that and never did; it looks like the one that's on Scryfall. That's why I'm saying it's an incorrect image. Nov 25 '19 at 22:01
  • @doppelgreener Ah I see; I didn't read carefully enough to see that you were saying that the Masters Edition picture was the incorrect one. Thought you just meant that it was incorrect as in not the oracle wording.
    – GendoIkari
    Nov 25 '19 at 22:27
  • @GendoIkari That makes sense. That prompted me to do a re-word though for the better. Nov 25 '19 at 22:45
  • Another minor note; you say that Warrior's Stand is an example of all three listed differences; but it actually refers to "declare blockers"; and does not use "interceptors".
    – GendoIkari
    Nov 25 '19 at 22:50
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Its Oracle text shows that it's an instant, even though it was printed as a sorcery. Portal sets simply didn't have any instants (they were deemed too complicated for beginning players) and (if I recall correctly) no activated abilities, so there is no concept of a stack.

In my opinion, 'Play False Summoning only in response to another player playing a creature' is very much in the same spirit as 'Goblin Raider can't block'. The rules say 'All creatures can block', and 'Sorceries can only be played if it's your turn and the stack is empty'; both cards just state an exception to the general rules.

3
  • I see a significant different between a card saying something that the rules normally say you can do, and a card saying you can do something the rules say you can't do. Nov 27 '19 at 1:52
  • @Acccumulation I'm not sure what you mean. Card text often allows you to do things that the rules say you can't do. 101.1 addresses this situation.
    – GendoIkari
    Nov 27 '19 at 14:11
  • There are even 'expert level' Magic cards which do this, e.g. Teferi, Time Raveler's +1 ability.
    – Glorfindel
    Nov 27 '19 at 14:17

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