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  • This purpose of this page is to help you write rules text correctly.

Cast vs. Play

You cast spells. You play lands as well as spells. Use "cast" if you're referring specifically to a spell, i.e. nonland card. Use "play" when you are referring to any card.

Examples:

You may play cards exiled with Nightveil Specter. (Nightveil Specter, allows you to play lands and cast spells)

You may cast nonland cards from your hand without paying their mana costs. (Omniscience, only affects spells)

You may play an additional land this turn. (Explore, only affects lands)

Conditional Abilities (“As long as”, “If”, the intervening “if”, “as long as”, and “activate this ability only if”)

“As long as”

Conditional static abilities use "as long as" to check whether they apply or not. The sentence can be structured either "As long as {condition is met}, {ability applies}" or "{ability applies} as long as {condition is met}". If the condition grants multiple abilities, the condition is written first, otherwise it is written second.

Examples:

Carapace Forger gets +2/+2 as long as you control three or more artifacts. (Carapace Forger)

As long as you control three or more artifacts, Auriok Sunchaser gets +2/+2 and has flying. (Auriok Sunchaser)

The intervening “if”

For conditional triggered abilities, "as long as" is not used. Instead, the ability is written either "When/Whenever {triggering event happens}, if {condition is met}, {effect occurs}" or "When/Whenever {triggering event happens}, {effect occurs} if {condition is condition is met}. These two versions have different meanings in the rules. In the first one, “if” is used as an "intervening if" and it checks the condition as the ability would trigger as well as when the ability would resolve.

Example:

When Bleak Coven Vampires enters the battlefield, if you control three or more artifacts, target player loses 4 life and you gain 4 life. (Bleak Coven Vampires)

'Bleak Coven Vampires' ability won't trigger unless you control three or more artifacts. If you do and the ability triggers, but then you stop controlling three or more artifacts, the ability will be countered and you won't get an effect.'

The non-intervening “if”

''The non-intervening "if" only checks the condition when the ability resolves. If the condition isn't met, the ability isn't countered, but a particular effect just won't happen.

Example:

At the beginning of your upkeep, draw a card if you control the creature with the greatest power or tied for the greatest power. (Triumph of Ferocity)

Since no "intervening if" is used, Triumph of Ferocity's ability will always trigger. This means that if you can sufficiently increase a creature's power after the ability triggers but before it resolves, you will draw a card.

"If" is also used to check conditions on instant and sorcery spells. These conditions are only checked when the spell resolves.

Example:

If you control three or more artifacts, creatures that player controls can't block this turn. (Concussive Bolt)

"Activate this ability only if"

Activated abilities that can only be activated when a certain condition is met are worded "{ability}. Activate this ability only if {condition is met}.

Example:

T: Tap target artifact, creature, or land. Activate this ability only if you control three or more artifacts. (Vedalken Certarch)

It is possible to word conditional triggered and activated abilities as "As long as {condition is met}, {cardname} has {ability}". However, this templating should be avoided for triggered and activated abilities, unless there is a strong reason to break the convention.

"Gets", "Gains", and "Has"

"Gets"

Effects that temporarily or indefinitely adjust power and/or toughness use the verb “gets” (for one creature) or “get” (for multiple creatures).

Examples

Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn. (Giant Growth)

Enchanted creature gets -2/-2. (Dead Weight)

Creatures you control get +1/+1. (Glorious Anthem)

"Gains"

Effects that temporarily grant abilities use the verb “gains” (for one permanent) or “gain” (for multiple permanents).

Examples

Target creature gains flying until end of turn. (Jump)

8: Creatures you control gain flying until end of turn. (Frostwind Invoker)

Until end of turn, target creature gains "TAP: Return target nonland permanent to its owner's hand." (Banishing Knack)

"Has"
Effects that indefinitely grant abilities use the verb “has” (for one permanent) or “have” (for multiple permanents).'

Examples

Enchanted creature has flying. (Flight)

Creatures you control have flying. (Levitation)

Enchanted creature has "TAP: This creature deals damage equal to its power to target creature or player." (Burning Anger)

Instructing players to perform actions

A card may instruct a player to put cards from a library into a graveyard, or shuffle a library among other. Either player can be instructed to perform that action. Here are the guidelines on how to word these instructions:

  • In general, players shuffle their own libraries. Only very few cards make you shuffle another player's library (Repopulate, Green Sun's Zenith).
  • Players put cards from their own libraries into their graveyards.
  • You can exile cards from another player's library or that player can exile cards from his or her library him- or herself. The use of the two different wordings is inconsistent and can be used interchangeably.
  • You exile cards from another player's hand and graveyard.

Examples:

Name a nonland card. Search target player's graveyard, hand, and library for any number of cards with that name and exile them. Then that player shuffles his or her library. (Memoricide)

Target player puts the top five cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard. (Tome Scour)

Exile the top three cards of target opponent's library. (Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver)

[...] Target opponent exiles the top X cards of his or her library. [...] (Oona, Queen of the Fae)

Exile all cards from target player's hand and graveyard. (Identity Crisis)

Numbers- Numerals vs. Words

Numerals

Increases, decreases, or references to items written as numerals (power, toughness, life, and converted mana cost) are also written as numerals.

Examples

You gain 4 life. (Sacred Nectar)

Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn. (Giant Growth)

Lightning Strike deals 3 damage to target creature or player. (Lightning Strike)

Destroy target creature with converted mana cost 3 or less. (Smother)

Variable Keywords

Keywords (such as bushido) and keyword actions (such as scry) that do more or less of something on a card-by-card basis also use numerals.

Examples

Bushido 1(When this blocks or becomes blocked, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)(Devoted Retainer)

Scry 2.(Look at the top two cards of your library, then put any number of them on the bottom of your library and the rest on top in any order.)(Magma Jet)

Number Words

References to quantities of items not written as numerals (cards, tokens, mana, counters, and multiple targets) are written as words.

Examples

Draw two cards. (Divination)

Put two 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens onto the battlefield. (Krenko’s Command)

Add two mana in any combination of colors to your mana pool. (Manamorphose)

Put two +1/+1 counters on target creature and untap it. (Dragonscale Boon)

Up to two target creatures each get +2/+2 until end of turn. (Dauntless Onslaught)

Replacement effects vs Triggered abilities-  “If & would” vs. “When”

Replacement effects are abilities that replace one event with another. The original event never happens because it has been replaced by a different event. These must be differentiated from triggered abilities, which add an action to an event.

Many replacement effects use the templating "If {an object} would {have something happen to it}, {something else happens} instead." or  “If {an event} would {happen}, {something else happens} instead”.

Examples:

If an instant or sorcery card would be put into a graveyard from anywhere, exile it instead. (Dryad Militant)

If a spell or ability would cause its controller to gain life, that player loses that much life instead. (Rain of Gore)

When deciding whether to use a replacement effect or a triggered ability on a card, ask yourself whether or not you want to replace the original event. With a Dryad Militant in play, instant and sorcery cards cannot go to the graveyard. If this ability was worded to be a triggered ability instead, those cards would go to the graveyard before being exiled, which would allow players to interact with those cards before they were exiled.

"Until your next turn" vs. "Until your next upkeep"

"Until your next upkeep" is only used on older cards and has since been replaced by "until your next turn", which is equivalent in all but a very few cases.

Examples:

Name a card. Until your next turn, the named card can't be played. (Conjurer’s Ban)

"When" vs "Whenever"

"When" and "whenever" are used in the rules text for triggered abilities.

"When"

Use "when" for events that will only happen only once per object, such as entering the battlefield, or dying. (If a card leaves the battlefield and then returns later, it's a different object than when it was on the battlefield before. CR 400.7)

Examples

When Arashin Cleric enters the battlefield, you gain 3 life.

When Black Cat dies, target opponent discards a card at random.

"When" is also used for abilities that trigger once certain conditions are met. 

Example

When you control no other creatures, sacrifice Emperor Crocodile.

"Whenever"

Use "whenever" for events than can happen multiple times while the same object is on the battlefield.

Examples

Whenever another creature enters the battlefield, untap Midnight Guard.

Whenever a creature you control dies, each opponent sacrifices a creature. (Dictate of Erebos)

Whenever Avalanche Tusker attacks, target creature defending player controls blocks it this combat if able.

Whenever you cast a spell that targets Akroan Crusader, put a 1/1 red Soldier creature token with haste onto the battlefield.

"You" (When to use in instructions)

Only gaining or losing life uses "you." Other instructions, such as "draw cards" do not use “you”. The only exception is when they are used in conjunction with lifegain or lifeloss in the same sentence.

Examples:

Draw two cards. (Divination)

You gain 5 life. (Whitesun's Passage)

You draw two cards and you lose 2 life. (Night's Whisper)

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