Published on 11/20/2006

Five Wishes

or, How I Learned to Stop Pulling and Research the Ring

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Note: This article is over two years old. Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes. Proceed with caution.

The CompRules Police sent me out on yet another strange case. After failing to apprehend Kamahl for his role in a transport hijacking, this seemed like a fairly mundane call.

Some young mage had gone to great lengths to obtain the plans for a massive indestructible automaton. On its first use in combat, the device suddenly became disinterested in combat and expressed a desire to become a wheat farmer and raise llamas. The mage was quite upset and demanded to know what could be done about this.

Q: So what can be done when a card is removed from the game?
A: A small subset of cards can retrieve cards that are not currently in the game.

The "Judgment Wishes" are a cycle of five cards:
Burning Wish
Cunning Wish
Death Wish
Golden Wish
Living Wish

Also available are Research // Development and Ring of Ma'ruf.

Q: What exactly does "outside the game" mean?
A: That depends on whether you're following tournament rules. In a casual setting, "outside the game" means "anything in the removed-from-game zone and anywhere else you can get your friends to agree to." The most liberal interpretations allow you to pull any card out of your entire collection; most play groups establish a "wingspan" rule that you can only retrieve a card if you can access it without standing up. Other groups establish a time limit on how long you can spend looking for a card so you don't spend 30 minutes thumbing through a 3200-count box of cards trying to find your Old Fogey

In a tournament, "outside the game" is defined as "any card in the removed-from-game zone or your sideboard."

Q: Can I mix-and-match with Research, getting some cards from my RFG zone and from my sideboard?
A: Yes. Your sideboard is a separate place from your RFG zone; it's not a zone itself. However, since Research lets you retrieve multiple cards from "outside the game," and both your sideboard and RFG zones are considered outside the game, you can get cards from each.

Q: The rulings on all the Wishes keep talking about putting it into your sideboard to maintain the correct number of cards. Doesn't Research mess with that?

A: Those rulings have become somewhat outdated thanks to Research and Pull from Eternity. (We'll talk more about that latter card in a bit.) Before Research was printed, cards could only be taken from the sideboard one at a time, and the card that did so was always removed from the game.

Therefore, the Wish was typically put into the sideboard to "replace" the retrieved card and maintain a 15 card sideboard. If you forgot to sideboard after that game, then you were still presenting a legal 15-card sideboard at the beginning of the next game.

Research mucked with that by creating a situation where you could be removing as many as four cards from your sideboard while not removing any card from the game at all. Since these rulings have been somewhat trumped by the printing of newer cards, these days it's preferable (and more accurately reflecting the writing of the card) to put the Wish in the RFG zone.

Note that this does require more vigilance on your part, as your sideboard after the game will no longer be legal. You'll have to make the necessary adjustments to your deck before the next game by returning the Wish to your deck and the card you Wished for to your sideboard.

Q: Some keyword abilities remove cards from the game. What happens if I take one of those cards out of the removed-from-game zone?
A: That depends in part on whether the game needs to know something about the card that was removed. For example, using Burning Wish to put a Deep Analysis back in your hand that you played with Flashback earlier doesn't do anything special. There are a few keyword abilities that will be interfered with by pulling cards out of the RFG zone.

Imprint: If a card that was removed from the game by an Imprint ability is no longer in the RFG zone, it's no longer considered an "imprinted card." Any text on the permanent which refers to the imprinted card can no longer use any of its characteristics. For example, Chrome Mox will no longer be able to produce mana, and Duplicant will start scratching its head trying to figure out why it's a plain old 2/4 Shapeshifter again.

Haunt: If a creature with Haunt leaves the RFG zone while it's haunting a creature still in play, the Haunt ability can't trigger when that creature is put into the graveyard.

Suspend: One of the criteria for a card being "suspended" is that it has to be in the RFG zone. If it leaves that zone prematurely, none of the other parts of the Suspend ability can do anything with the spell; it can't lose counters and can't be played "for free" with the Suspend trigger.

Q: So how do I know when a card in the RFG zone should be face-up?
A: Whenever a card goes to the RFG zone, it's face-up there unless the effect that put it there specifies that it's face-down. The rule that explains this is 217.7b:

217.7b Cards in the removed-from-the-game zone are kept face up and may be examined by any player at any time. Cards "removed from the game face down" can't be examined by any player except when instructions allow it.

Q: My sideboard is usually face-down during the game. Do I get to look at it when I'm playing one of these cards?
A: Yes. This isn't found anywhere in the CompRules as that document doesn't directly refer to tournament-only things like the sideboard. It isn't even directly mentioned in the DCI Floor Rules (which contain the rules for sideboards) but has been borne out through numerous rulings. You can't normally look at your sideboard during a game, but can look at it while resolving one of these cards.

Q: Does that mean I can look at cards that were removed from the game face-down (say, with Memory Jar) as well?
A: Erm ...

Um ...

This one's going to sound strange, so bear with me.

You can only look at cards that have been removed from the game face-down when whatever put the cards there tells you that you can. (Most of them don't tell you when to look at them at all, so you can't.)

Normally this isn't a problem as other effects don't need to know any characteristics of those cards. However, four of the five wishes (all except Death Wish) can only retrieve cards of a certain type. Since you can't look at the face-down cards to determine whether you're making a legal choice, nor can your opponent verify that you're making a legal play, you can't use those Wishes to retrieve face-down cards.

Death Wish, Research, and Ring of Ma-Ruf don't have any restrictions on what cards you can retrieve, so you can use them to get face-down cards. However, you still can't look at the cards as you make your choice.

This means that you're effectively getting a card at random, but there are a few ways in which you can narrow your choices. If multiple effects have removed cards from the game face-down, for bookkeeping purposes you need to keep track of which effect removed which cards, so you may know a subset of cards that contains what you're looking for.

Also, if different instances of an effect (such as that of Necropotence) remove cards from the game at different times, the timestamps of each effect are known. Therefore, if you knew the first card you removed with Necropotence was the one you want to get with Death Wish, then both you and your opponent will know the difference between the two cards.

Q: What about Three Wishes? It says I can look at the removed cards.
A: Three Wishes is an exception to the rule about the four Wishes. (That's a lot of wishes. Where's a genie in a bottle when you need one? Or where's a belly-dancing young Christina Aguilera, for that matter?)

As I was saying, it's an exception. Since Three Wishes specifically allows you to look at the removed cards, you can use of of the four "specific" Wishes to get a card that it removed. You will, of course, still have to reveal that card to your opponent before it enters your hand.

Q: You said you were going to talk about Pull from Eternity.
A: Your memory is as good as that of an elephant suffering from flashbacks to the War Between the Pachyderms.

Q: So how does Pull from Eternity factor into all this?
A: Pull from Eternity is a bit different from the above cards. It can only pull cards that have been removed from the game; that is, cards in the RFG zone. It can't pull cards from the sideboard. It can also only pull cards that are face-up so you avoid those annoying problems we just talked about.

Q: I'm confused now. The Gatherer for this card says a card in the RFG zone is only face-up if the effect that put it there says so.
A: Unfortunately, Gatherer appears to be incorrect in this regard. The "default" for a card in the RFG zone is face-up, unless the effect putting it there specifies it's face-down. So a creature card removed from the game by Swords to Plowshares is face up, whereas cards removed by Suppress are face-down.

Q: So how does Pull from Eternity muck with putting the Wishes in your sideboard?
A: Before Pull from Eternity, none of the cards that could retrieve cards from outside the game cared exactly where the card was; they could equally access the RFG zone and the sideboard. Pull from Eternity is the first card that only specifically looks in one of those two places. Therefore, following the old habit of putting the Wish in the sideboard would actually make it irretrievable with Pull, whereas accurately following the text of the card and putting it in the RFG zone allows Pull to find it easily.

The previously upset mage was far more agreeable once he realized all he had to do was wish for his beloved Colossus back. After learning the art of the Living Wish from a green mage down the road, I heard the giant was back in battle again the next day ... only to go AWOL. Talking a creature into coming back from that is something even the Wish-masters in Research are having trouble with ...


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