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Yesterday when I organized a part of my collection I noticed something odd. I especially looked at Flying Crane Technique and Ruhan of the Fomori.

Note how Flying Crane Technique's mana cost are {3}{U}{R}{W} and Ruhan of the Fomori has {1}{R}{W}{U}. In the oracle box of Ruhan the mana costs are already different to what the card shows and thus match the pattern of Flying Crane Technique.

Are colored mana costs of cards in any specific order? Was this not the case but they changed it after a specific set?

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  • Both of your links show {U}{R}{W} for me. I'm guessing your cards are just an older version? Apr 21 at 18:58
  • Did you look at the printed version or at the oracle box? The printed version has a different order.
    – bautista
    Apr 22 at 6:50
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The general rules for mana costs are to order them in sequence around the WUBRG circle, with white also following after green, with adjacent pairs having equal gaps in the clockwise direction, and minimizing the size of those gaps.

For two-color cards, this means that you order the pair so that you move the shortest distance in the clockwise order. So, white and blue will be WU, and white and green will be GW.

Four-color cards are also pretty simple, you write them going clockwise around the circle with no gaps. So a non-black card will have the order RGWU.

Five color cards are the simplest of all: they always have the order WUBRG.

Three-color combinations are the most complicated. There are two kinds of three-color combinations: shards and wedges. Shards are combinations with three adjacent colors, and they are just written with the colors adjacent in clockwise order. So, a white/blue/black card will have the order WUB, and a white/blue/green card will have the order GWU. Wedges are combinations with two adjacent colors and one opposite both of them. They are written with the two adjacent colors on the outside, and the opposing color in the middle. This creates a gap of size 2 between each adjacent pair of colors in the cost.

The cards in the question are examples of wedges: blue and white are the adjacent colors, and red is the opposing color. The order you see is the one that obeys the listed rules. The previous rule, as you can see on Ruhan of the Fomori, was to put the opposing color first.

According to this reddit thread, the color order for wedges was changed in Khans of Tarkir, the set Flying Crane Technique was printed in, and it has not changed again since then.

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  • 3
    Stuff like this is what makes MTG so special, always overcomplicating things.
    – bautista
    Apr 19 at 12:04
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    @bautista It's not overcomplicating at all, the way I see it. They can choose between having a set order, and not having a set order. If you want a set order, then you're going to have to make up the rules. Going clockwise around the circle that's printed on every single cardback ever makes a lot of sense. Going the shortest possible distance around that circle makes a lot of sense. All that remains is to decide on where to start with the wedges and the full five-colours. It may take a paragraph or two to explain, but it is, in essence, quite simple and intuitive.
    – Arthur
    Apr 19 at 16:40
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    The "opposing color in the middle" order creates a symmetry you wouldn't get otherwise: the gaps between adjacent colors in the cost may not be minimized, but they are consistent.
    – murgatroid99
    Apr 19 at 20:29
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    @Arthur the rule could have been "they appear in the order WUBRG, always". It's still clockwise, it still uses the handy reference, and it takes no paragraphs to explain.
    – hobbs
    Apr 21 at 2:12
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    @hobbs Sure. That is also a rule they could've chosen. I still don't think the current rule is overcomplicating. Guess they wanted some symmetry.
    – Arthur
    Apr 21 at 5:16
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The rules for ordering mana symbols has changed over the years. The current ordering scheme has been established with Khans of Tarkir (2014) and formalized with the Dominaria Oracle update (2018)

Apart from Ruhan of the Fomori, there is also Numot, the Devastator and Lightning Angel with a URW mana cost but with the old RWU ordering. All 3 of them were printed before Khans of Tarkir.

According to this Ask Wizards, which specifically mentions Lightning Angel, there had already been 3 ordering systems by 2004. The ordering on 3-color mana costs with "color plus both its enemy colors" like on Lightning Angel (nowadays known as wegdes) was internally consistent, but essentially an arbitrary decision by one designer.

"Then came the Apocalypse 'wedge' cards. Our system breaks down when you're trying to order two friendly colors and their common enemy, and Apocalypse has five rares with mana costs that fall into that category. For Lightning Angel's mana cost, 1RWU and 1WUR are equally valid options. In the end, I decided to put the enemy color pair first.

Khans of Tarkir (2014) officially named color wedges, which made URW the Jeskai wedge. The ordering of mana symbols was formalized in the Dominaria Oracle Changes update:

With Khans of Tarkir, we changed the order of mana symbols when one color meets its two enemies.

Up until then, the color facing its enemies came first, followed by its enemies in the standard two-color order. For example, Lightning Angel's cost was 1RWU.

Khans of Tarkir reordered these by putting the solitary color in the middle, paired up with its enemies in standard two-color order. For example, Jeskai Ascendancy's cost is URW.

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In the color wheel, the colors next to each other are called allies, while ones separated by another color are enemies. To sort the symbols in a mana cost, it’s considered aesthetically pleasing and helpful for Limited gameplay to arrange them in such a way that either all pairs of neighboring symbols are allies, or all are enemies, and that they always go around the color wheel in the same direction. This rule results in unique orderings of combinations of up to three colors. For four or five, both options are possible, it was decided to prefer allied chains.

If you’d like to sort a mana cost the way Wizards do, look at the image below and find a sequence that includes the necessary colors and no others, following either the pentagon (allied colors) or the star (enemies). The clockwise direction will tell you the ordering.

The effect on gameplay is mostly when drafting a set with a high quantity of three-color cards. In a set with “shard” combinations (e. g. WUB, two allied pairs and one enemy pair) the two-color cards will tend to favor allied pairs, while “wedges” (e. g. URW, two pairs of enemies and an allied one) will be found in sets with enemy-colored two-color cards. Wizards prefer to design sets this way so three-color cards are compatible with a greater portion of other cards in the set. The arrangement of colors in the mana cost helps identify such compatibility at a glance (e. g. a deck with GUR cards will also contain GU and UR cards but not RG, so it makes sense to arrange the GUR symbols in a way that emphasizes the GU and UR subsets).

WUBRG/WBGUR sequence

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