Cranial Insertion: Reading the CompRules for Dummies

Cranial Insertion
Reading the CompRules for Dummies

By Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, and Tom Fowler
Edited byyyyyyyyy ... Da Goblin Boy

If you've been reading Cranial Insertion, you've probably seen references to the Comprehensive Rules. The CompRules is a document which tries to cover every piece of rules information you may need when playing Magic. This makes it a rather large and difficult-to-read document, and many people shy away from using it. With today's column, I'd like to show you don't have to be scared of reading the CompRules.

I still have to warn you: Unless you're an (aspiring) rules guru, reading the CompRules from cover to cover is not recommended. It certainly isn't the place to start if you're new to the game. What they are good for, is to be used as a reference guide when you find some obscure situation where you have no clue what's supposed to happen, or get into a rules debate which you can't resolve. In such cases, you can use the CompRules to find the answers to your rules questions.

If you have the time, please right-click here to open the CompRules in a seperate window and try to find the answers by yourself before reading mine. You'll learn from looking up the answers even if you already know them.

Organization of the Rules

Of course, to find the answers to your questions, you'll have to know where to look. The CompRules are roughly divided into six sections, followed by a glossary of terms:
  1. The Game
  2. The foundation of the rules, covering how to start a game and how a game ends, the Golden Rules, and some other fairly basic stuff.
  3. Parts of the Game
  4. Mostly definitions for all sorts of things, like parts of a card (text box etc.) and what they mean, different card types (sorcery etc.) and how they work, and the various zones of the game (library etc.) and what rules apply to them.
  5. Turn Structure
  6. How each turn is divided into phases and steps, and what happens in each.
  7. Spells, Abilities, and Effects
  8. Everything there is to know about timing, as well as how to recognize different kinds of abilities (like activated and triggered), and what they do (effects). This might be the section you need most often.
  9. Additional Rules
  10. If a card or mechanic needs a section of the rules for its own, you can find it here. This includes all keyword abilities (from first strike to substance, but growing all the time), but also oddball stuff like controlling another player's turn.
  11. Multiplayer Rules
  12. The multiplayer rules are relatively new to the CompRules, and have their space here.
  • Glossary
  • Definitions for all sorts of terms you may find on cards or elsewhere in the rules, with detailed information.
Each rule has a number with the section it's in as its hundred, so a rule in section four might be numbered 409.1c.

In addtion to going by the table of contents and the rules numbers, your browser's search function will often come in handy to quickly find a specific topic.

If you're not sure what section the thing you're looking for falls under, just try one. Chances are the answer is given in both places.

Q: Does drawing a card for the turn in the draw step use the stack?

The two key phrases here are "draw step" and "stack". The answer can be found in rule 304 about the draw step:
304. Draw Step

304.1 First, the active player draws a card. This game action doesn't use the stack. Then any abilities that trigger at the beginning of the draw step and any other abilities that have triggered go on the stack. Then the active player gets priority and players may play spells and abilities.
or under rule 408, which covers what things do and don't use the stack:
408.2g Game actions don't use the stack. The game actions are phasing in and out during the untap step (see rule 302.1), untapping during the untap step (see rule 302.2), drawing a card during the draw step (see rule 304.1), declaring attackers at the start of the declare attackers step (see rule 308.1), declaring blockers at the start of the declare blockers step (see rule 309.1), cleanup (see rule 314), and mana burn as each phase ends (see rule 300.3).

Quiz Time!

1. The Game

An interesting part of this section is 103. The Magic Golden Rules. Go ahead and read them if you haven't seen them before. (You do have the CompRules open in another window, don't you? ;)).

2. Parts of the Game

The questions that follow were selected to give you a better idea of what to find in each section.

Q: When I copy Darksteel Colossus with Sakashima the Impostor, Sakashima keeps its name. Does the "Darksteel Colossus is indestructible" apply to it?

By looking for "name":
202.2. Text that refers to the object it's on by name means just that particular object and not any other duplicates of it, regardless of any name changes caused by game effects.
The Colossus's text normally refers to "the object it's on" by name. It continues to apply to "the object it's on", even if that's now named differently.

Q: If I play a Forest and animate it with Woodwraith Corrupter on the same turn, can I attack with it?

Being a creature, the Forest is subject to the following rule:
212.3d A creature's activated ability with the tap symbol in its activation cost can't be played unless the creature has been under its controller's control since the start of his or her most recent turn. A creature can't attack unless it has been under its controller's control since the start of his or her most recent turn. This rule is informally called the "summoning sickness" rule. Ignore this rule for creatures with haste (see rule 502.5).
The fastest way to find this rule is probably by searching for the phrase "summoning sickness" (or looking it up in the glossary, which refers you to this rule).

Q: Does turning a creature into an artifact creature with Memnarch make it colorless?

Rule 212.2 deals with artifacts:
212.2d Artifacts have no characteristics specific to their type. Because artifacts have no colored mana in their mana costs, they're colorless. Effects can give artifacts one or more colors, however, and colored objects can become artifacts without losing any colors they had.

3. Turn Structure

Q: My opponent plays Time Warp. After it resolves, I use my Time Vault to take an extra turn of my own. Who gets their extra turn first?

300.6. Some effects can give a player extra turns. They do this by adding the turns directly after the current turn. If a player gets multiple extra turns or if multiple players get extra turns during a single turn, the extra turns are added one at a time. The most recently created turn will be taken first.

Q: If my Selesnya Sagittars blocks two Saproling tokens, do I get to assign the Archer's combat damage?

310.1. As the combat damage step begins, the active player announces how each attacking creature will assign its combat damage. Then the defending player announces how each blocking creature will assign its combat damage. All assignments of combat damage go on the stack as a single object. Then any abilities that triggered on damage being assigned go on the stack. (See rule 410, "Handling Triggered Abilities.") Then the active player gets priority and players may play spells and abilities.

4. Spells, Abilities, and Effects

Q: Can I play Golgari Guildmage's first ability to sacrifice Eternal Witness and return it to my hand?

403.1. An activated ability is written as "[cost]: [effect]." The activation cost is everything before the colon (:). An ability's activation cost must be paid by the player who is playing it.
Now look for another rule that deals with the playing of activated abilities...
409. Playing Spells and Activated Abilities

409.1. Playing a spell or activated ability follows the steps listed below, in order. ...


409.1c If the spell or ability requires any targets, the player first announces how many targets he or she will choose (if the spell or ability has a variable number of targets), then announces the targets themselves. A player can't play a spell or ability unless he or she chooses the required number of legal targets. The same target can't be chosen multiple times for any one instance of the word "target" on the spell or ability. If the spell or ability uses the word "target" in multiple places, the same object, player, or zone can be chosen once for each instance of the word "target" (as long as it fits the targeting criteria).


409.1h The player pays the total cost in any order. Partial payments are not allowed.
The Witness isn't in the graveyard yet when the target for the Guildmage's ability is chosen, so this trick won't work.

Q: Me and my opponent are each at 5 life. My opponent has Kokusho, the Evening Star in play when on my turn I play my own Kokusho. What happens?

404.1. A triggered ability begins with the word "when," "whenever," or "at." The phrase containing one of these words is the trigger condition, which defines the trigger event.
Other rules describe how triggered abilities work.
410.3. If multiple abilities have triggered since the last time a player received priority, each player, in APNAP order, puts triggered abilities he or she controls on the stack in any order he or she chooses. (See rule 103.4.) Then players once again check for and resolve state-based effects until none are generated, then abilities that triggered during this process go on the stack. This process repeats until no new state-based effects are generated and no abilities trigger. Then the appropriate player gets priority.
It's your turn, so your Kokusho's ability goes on the stack first. Your opponent's goes on top and will be the first to resolve, ending the game in his favor.

Q: Can Eladamri's Vineyard's ability be responded to in my main phase, or is it a mana ability?

406.1. A mana ability is either (a) an activated ability that could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves or (b) a triggered ability that triggers from a mana ability and could produce additional mana. A mana ability can generate other effects at the same time it produces mana.
The Vineyard's ability is a triggered ability. It produces mana, but because it doesn't trigger from a mana ability, it isn't a mana ability itself. Because it isn't a mana ability, it can be responded to.

Q: I attack with my 8/8 Phytohydra, and my opponent blocks with Ghosts of the Innocent. Does Phytohydra get 4 or 2 +1/+1 counters?

419.1a Effects that use the word "instead" are replacement effects. Most replacement effects use the word "instead" to indicate what events will be replaced with other events and use the word "skip" to indicate what events, steps, phases, or turns will be replaced with nothing.
The entire rule 419 deals with replacement and prevention effects.
419.9a If two or more replacement or prevention effects are attempting to modify the way an event affects an object or player, the affected object's controller (or its owner if it has no controller) or the affected player chooses one to apply. Then the other effect applies if it is still appropriate. If one or more of the applicable replacement effects is a self-replacement effect (see rule 419.6d), that effect is applied before any other replacement effects. If two or more players have to make these choices at the same time, choices are made in APNAP order (see rule 103.4).
You choose which of the two replacement effects to apply first. If you apply Phytohydra's effect first, the Ghosts' effect won't be applicable anymore and you'll get 4 counters; if you choose to do it the other way around, you'll only get 2.

5. Additional Rules

Q: I attack with Siege Wurm and Conclave Equenaut, and my opponent blocks them both with Selesnya Sagittars. How much damage can I assign to him?

502.9e When there are several attacking creatures, it's legal to assign damage from those without trample so as to maximize the damage of those with trample.
Example: A 2/2 creature with an ability that enables it to block multiple attackers blocks two attackers: a 1/1 with no special abilities a 3/3 with trample. The attacking player could assign 1 damage from the first attacker and 1 damage from the second to the blocking creature, and 2 damage to the defending player from the creature with trample.
Yay for examples!

Q: When Nezumi Shortfang flips into Stabwhisker the Odious, is its converted mana cost 2 or 0?

508.1c A flip card's color, mana cost, expansion symbol, illustration credit, and legal text don't change if the permanent has been flipped. Also, any changes to it by external effects will still apply.
Because it keeps the same mana cost, it also keeps the same converted mana cost:
203.3. The converted mana cost of an object is a number equal to the total amount of mana in its mana cost, regardless of color. Some effects ask a player to pay mana equal to an object's converted mana cost; this cost may be paid with any combination of colored and/or colorless mana, regardless of the colors in the object's mana cost.
Example: A mana cost of :3mana::symu::symu: translates to a converted mana cost of 5.

6. Multiplayer Rules

Q: In a Two-Headed Giant game, is one Blazing Archon enough to keep the opposing team from attacking, or do both teammates need an Archon?

606.7b. As the declare attackers step begins, the active team declares attackers. If a creature is unable to attack one of the defending players, that creature can't attack the defending team. The active team has one combined attack, and that set of attacking creatures must be legal as a whole.


Q: If I play Mark of Eviction on my opponent's creature, does it return to his hand on his upkeep or on mine?

You, Your
The words "you" and "your" on an object refer to the object's controller (or its owner if it has no controller). For a static ability, this is the current controller of the object it's on. For an activated ability, this is the player who played the ability. For a triggered ability, this is the controller of the object when the ability triggered. See also Controller, Owner.
You control the Mark, so it happens on your upkeep.

Do you have any questions you couldn't find the answer to? Send them to [email][email protected][/email]!

-Thijs van Ommen, The Netherlands


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