Skipping the stuff that's cosmetic:
Planeswalker Redirection Rule
We're only making one rules change this time around, but it's a pretty big one. Those of you who follow me on twitter or are playing in the Magic: The Gathering Arena Closed Beta already have some insight into the change—one that's been a long time coming.
We're removing the rule that lets player redirect non-combat damage to opposing planeswalkers, and instead writing on cards (or in Oracle, for older cards) that a spell or ability can damage a planeswalker.
Yes, this is a pretty big change, with about 700 cards slated to receive errata and many more changing functionally even though their text will remain the same. But Magic will make more sense now. Back when we were designing the initial batch of planeswalkers for Lorwyn in 2007, we wanted to rules to work this way; damage spells should be able to hit planeswalkers directly. But not knowing if the new card type would be sticking around, we didn't pull the trigger on the massive errata back then, instead coming up with a rule that let players mostly mimic that functionality. And while "Lightning Bolt your Jace" became an acceptable shortcut, there were always several unwanted unintuitive interactions. For example, Leyline of Sanctity made Bolting Jace impossible, as the Bolt needed to target the hexproof opponent and then be redirected to Jace. Similarly, Turn Aside could not be used to counter a burn spell intended to kill a planeswalker. An Arc Lightning could not be divided between a planeswalker and its controller. Or a Bonfire of the Damned would kill all of a player's creatures, but only damage one of their planeswalkers, and then the player would no longer be taking damage themselves.
Those interactions were really confusing, even for longtime players, and continued to highlight the need for the rules to match players' intuition: damage spell and effects should just be able to target planeswalkers. So we're letting them.
But will we be writing the word "planeswalker" on tons of cards now? Not as many as you'd think. Our clever solution—for which we tip our hats to Richard Garfield's initial Limited Edition (Alpha) Lightning Bolt text—is simply to write "any target" on things that can damage creatures, players, or planeswalkers. As promised, here is Shrapnel Blast as an example of that text:
The words "any target" specifically mean "target creature, player, or planeswalker." So no, you can't Shrapnel Blast my Island. Or my graveyard. Not that you were going to try, but I guarantee you someone would ask.
How we are handling card errata can generally be broken down into four categories:
- Things that read "target creature or player" will be changed to "any target." E.g., Lightning Bolt, Walking Ballista, Shrapnel Blast.
- Things that read "target player" will be changed to "target player or planeswalker." E.g., Lava Spike, Boros Charm, Kessig Malcontents. However, if the amount of damage is calculated by using information about that player or objects they control, the text will remain unchanged and can now damage only the player. For example, Sudden Impact deals damage to a player equal to the number of cards in their hand, and since that text can't apply to planeswalkers (they have no hands—hands of cards, that is), the card will not be able to damage planeswalkers in the future.
- Things that read "target opponent" will be changed to "target opponent or planeswalker" with the same exception listed above. These spells and abilities will now be able to target a planeswalker you control, which is a slight functional change that we don't think matters enough to be worth more words. Examples of cards that will change include Scuttling Doom Engine (pictured below), Burning Sun's Avatar, and Jeskai Charm. An example of a card that is not changing (and we're going deep here) is Jovial Evil. Yes, that's a card.
- Things that deal damage but don't call for a target will not receive errata, with one exception in Vial Smasher the Fierce. That means cards like Earthquake, Price of Progress, and the activated ability of Hazoret the Fervent can no longer damage planeswalkers.
Scuttling Doom Engine
Additionally, we will be issuing similar errata on cards that can prevent damage to make sure the interactions between those cards and planeswalkers is clear.
Some things change, others look like they do but don't. If you are interested in more of the details, look for Eli Shiffrin's Rules Update article that will come out in advance of Dominaria. He'll go over everything in more depth and provide lists of all the cards that will be changing.