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Jeff Zandi is a five time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events. Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.


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Cards That Teach You How to Play
July 8th, 2005 by Jeff Zandi

One of the truly great aspects of Magic: the Gathering is the way that players of races, nationalities and languages can enjoy equally the same challenging game. Cards read the same to players all around the world because Wizards of the Coast has gone to great lengths to create a Lingua Franca understood across a dozen languages and a dozen years of different cards. Still, sometimes the wordings of cards seem strange. Sometimes it seems like Wizards thinks we players are, well, dummies. This article is about three of the cards that seem to go out of their way to state the obvious, or confuse we players in some other way. I want to state that this analysis, OVERanalysis actually, is all meant in fun…just another way to think about a few of the cards printed in the last year.

Wizard’s goal is a worthy one: Make the wording of Magic cards so clear and uncluttered that it is possible to truly create templates that work for the design of future Magic cards that will be expected to fully fit inside the same game world as the thousands of different cards that have already exist in the game. Clear and uncluttered can be a very difficult goal to achieve.
Ask any writer. Ask my editor. Better yet, DON’T… I came reasonably close to getting a job with Wizards of the Coast a few years ago. It’s probably a good thing they didn’t hire me, White Knight might have rules text that reads “White Knight has protection from colors other than white, green, blue and red. White Knight deals its damage on a separate damage stack that takes place before any creature blocking or blocked by White Knight unless that creature has First Strike, in which case the two creatures will deal damage at the same time.” You can imagine the problems. Not only would MY Magic cards be harder to understand, but you would need a magnifying glass to read the super tiny font size necessary to print all the rules on the cards.


The first time I saw Heartbeat of Spring from Champions of Kamigawa, I read the card VERY CAREFULLY…

This rare enchantment from Champions of Kamigawa costs 2G and reads “whenever a player taps a land for mana, that player adds one mana of that type to his or her mana pool”.

Then I read the card again. The card text seemed to be giving me the exact definition of what ALL of my land cards have ALWAYS been able to do. That’s how Heartbeat of Spring sounded to me. Hey guys, when I play THIS card, my land taps to produce mana of the type that it is SUPPOSED to produce! This card is AWESOME. This card makes me look forward to a card that says “at the beginning of your turn, untap all your land” or a card that says “during your draw step, draw a card”.

Eventually I GOT IT. Heartbeat of Spring gives you mana IN ADDITION to the mana already produced when you tap a land. I was pretty embarrassed. Back in the day, I played Mana Flare more than anyone else I knew. Mana Flare does the same thing that Heartbeat of Spring does (for all normal intents and
purposes) but has very different wording. Mana Flare’s wording from its first printing in the Alpha Edition was “whenever either player taps land for mana, each land produces one extra mana of the appropriate type”. If you ask Mark Rosewater at Wizards of the Coast which card’s wording is easier to understand, he’s going to say Heartbeat of Spring. I say the new and improved templating of Magic cards is not perfected quite yet, and Heartbeat of Spring is a good example of why.


Ashen Monstrosity is a 7/4 uncommon Spirit creature with Haste that costs 5RR from Betrayers of Kamigawa. The card also has text stating “Ashen Monstrosity attacks each turn if able”. Experienced players will tell you that this “drawback” has been added to Ashen Monstrosity in order to make the card more fair. I say that this text is simply helpful information from our friends at Wizards of the Coast. The next time you have a 7/4 creature in play that can attack the turn in comes into play…yeah, I think you might wanna go ahead and turn that guy sideways! I think this special text has been added to Ashen Monstrosity to make sure less experienced players know when they need to ratchet up the aggressiveness of their game!

Of course, if Wizards REALLY wanted to help players play their cards better, they could have added some additional text to Ogre Recluse…

Ogre Recluse is a 5/4 Ogre Warrior for just 3R that becomes tapped whenever a player plays a spell. Despite becoming tapped whenever you or your opponent plays a spell, players have embraced the Recluse as the beat-stick that he truly is. However, for the sake of less experienced players, why couldn’t they have added this text: “on your turn, remember to attack with this creature before playing any spells”. It only seems right.


Finally, a look at a very controversial card from Saviors of Kamigawa.

Hidetsugu’s Second Rite is a rare instant for 3R that says “if target player has exactly ten life, Hidetsugu’s Second Rite deals ten damage to that player”. In other words, when this spell resolves, one of two things will happen, either the targeted player is at ten life and will take ten damage (and lose the game in most cases) or the targeted player is at any life total OTHER than ten in which case this spell does nothing at all.

While experienced players are debating whether or not this card is good enough to include in sealed deck and booster draft decks, I’m more concerned about whether this card is making its usefulness clear enough to less experienced players.

Maybe I would like the wording better if it said “look…if your opponent is at ten life when this sucker resolves…it’s LIGHTS OUT for that guy unless he has Platinum Angel in play or some other creature as well as a Worship in play or some card with Lich in its name…

That’s what I think. Tell me what YOU think!

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
Zanman on Magic Online



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