Published on 09/19/2005

The Emperor's New Rules

Cranial Translation
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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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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.

As you could read in last week's Cranial Insertion, today's topic was chosen by means of a poll. The vote was a close one, but in the end, multiplayer rules won, narrowly beating old school abilities and state-based effects.

The official multiplayer rules were added to the Comprehensive Rules together with the updates for Ninth Edition, in the August 1 release. They had been long anticipated, but with them being hidden somewhere inside those fearsome CompRules and all, you might not have had a chance to read them through yet. That's where this article comes in. If you want to have a look at the rules yourself, follow the link and look for rules numbered in the 600s.

The existence of these official rules makes it possible to play multiplayer games at sanctioned tournaments. If you're only interested in casual multiplayer games, you're of course free to continue using the house rules your play group has developed. Keep in mind though that R&D can now design and balance cards especially for multiplayer games using these rules, so even you as a casual player may benefit from using them.

Because these rules are rather fresh, there are still some points they aren't completely clear on. There aren't many official rulings about them yet, so I had to use my own interpretation to fill in the occasional blank. This means that there is a slight chance that some of my answers and explanations aren't what the Rules Team had in mind.

This article will follow the same general outline as the CompRules do. First, we'll cover what happens when a player leaves the game. Then there are a number of optional rules that are used in many multiplayer games; of these, limited range of influence will require the most explanation. Finally, we'll look at two possible formats that can be played with the new rules.

Dealing with players leaving the game

How do this and other
Confiscateries work in multiplayer?
In a duel, when one player leaves the game, it ends. This doesn't hold in multiplayer games, where one player may be eliminated while the remaining players keep playing until a single winner remains. Having a player disappear from the game leads to all sorts of new questions: what happens to the Crusade that player had in play, to the creature he Confiscated from you, or the one you Briberied (it is a word now! [Damn! Thwarted again! -Ed]) from him?

The rules that determine what happens in these cases have the following major principle behind them: a player who has left the game should be able to take all the cards he owns with him and go do whatever he wants; he shouldn't be forced to wait for the others to finish to get his cards back, and he won't be asked to make any more decisions that influence the game (which would lead to strange political situations, too). Knowing this should help you understand why the rules are as they are.

When a player leaves the game, the following steps happen immediately (in order):
  • All objects that player owns are removed from the game.
    In game terms, the owner of a card is the player whose library that card started in. It doesn't matter who controls those objects at the time: everything that belongs to the leaving player leaves the game along with him.
  • All spells and abilities on the stack that player controls but doesn't own cease to exist.
    Most things on the stack can't have different players as controller and owner, so this step won't do a lot in most circumstances. Combat damage is the only thing that you may sometimes find on the stack that isn't mentioned here. That's because combat damage isn't controlled or owned by any player.
  • All continuous effects which give that player control of any objects end.
    Control-changing continuous effects from static abilities will generally already have gone away in the first step.
  • All remaining objects that player controls are removed from the game
    Most of the time, this step doesn't do anything, because everything has already been set right by the first three steps. Under some conditions, an object may be missed by the other steps and will still be hanging around under the control of a player who's no longer in the game. Because it couldn't be properly "cleaned up" in any other way, it is just gotten rid of.
That's enough material for now; let's look at some examples before we move on.

Q: I attached my opponent's Loxodon Warhammer to my creature using Magnetic Theft. What happens when I leave the game?

A: Your creature will suddenly disappear, and the Warhammer will find that it's attached to a creature that no longer exists. Then state-based effects will come along (shortly after all the above steps are completed), see this situation, and set it right by unattaching the Equipment. An Aura your opponent played on one of your creatures would not have been so lucky in this situation: it would have gone to its owner's graveyard by the appropriate state-based effect.

Q: Me and my opponent exchanged control of lands due to Shifting Borders. My opponent leaves the game; what happens to the lands?

A: The land you took from your opponent is owned by him, so it gets removed from the game. Next, the continuous effect from Shifting Borders that is giving your opponent control of your land ends, and you get your land back.

If you're not holding the reins,
the mount gets unhasty.
Q: I play Grab the Reins (using its first mode) to steal a creature my opponent just played. The spell resolves, but before I get to do anything with the creature, another opponent shoots me down to 0. When the stolen creature goes back to my opponent's control, will it still have haste?

A: When you leave the game, the control-changing effect from Grab the Reins ends. This same effect was also giving the creature haste, but that part is made to end as well. Your opponent will get his creature back without haste.

Q: I was playing a multiplayer game, and one player was running Forbidden Orchard that had given me two Spirit tokens. Then this other player lost, and people claimed I would lose my tokens. Were they correct?

A: Yes, they were. A token is owned by the player who controlled the thing that created the token. The Spirit tokens were controlled by you, but owned by your opponent, so they would be removed by the first step.

After the steps listed above are completed, all objects remaining in the game are controlled and owned by players still in the game. However, there may be things waiting to happen that would put things under the control of a player who is no longer there. There are a few more rules to ensure this doesn't happen.

A Spuzzem no longer in the game
would delegate its right to choose to
another Spuzzem.
  • If a player no longer in the game would gain control of an object, that object's controller doesn't change.
  • If a token would be created under the control of a player no longer in the game, the token won't be created.
  • If an object owned by a player no longer in the game would be created or moved into the game, it is removed from the game instead.
  • If a player no longer in the game would be required to make a choice by an object, that object's controller chooses someone else to make the choice instead. If the object wanted the choice to be made by an opponent, the new player to make the choice should also be an opponent if possible.

Q: What exactly happens when a player who played Bribery leaves a 4-player Chaos game? What happens to the tasty Sundering Titan he got? Where does it go - graveyard, shuffled into library, switched control to its owner, ...?

A: Bribery is one of the reasons for the existence of the last step that is performed when a player leaves the game: removing from the game anything still controlled by the missing player. Bribery gave the Titan to the player without using a continuous effect, but rather by just putting the creature into play under his control. The other steps can't find a place for the Titan to go, and it will be removed from the game.

This will trigger its leaves-play ability. However, the rules (rule number three of the ones above to be precise) will prevent the ability from actually going on the stack, so no more lands will be destroyed.

Q: It was near the end of a long multiplayer game, and I played Fact or Fiction. I revealed the five cards and chose one of my opponents to make the split. He looked at the cards and promptly conceded. What happens to the Fact or Fiction?

A: While Fact or Fiction's resolution was doing its "An opponent separates those cards into two piles"-bit, it suddenly found the opponent missing. Though the rules aren't explicit about this, I believe rule four should apply here and allow you to select the other opponent to do the splitting for you.

Q: I played Endless Whispers and a random creature, then the creature got killed. I choose an opponent who will get it back, but before the turn ends, that opponent gets killed as well. Where does the creature card go at end of turn?

A: This situation isn't covered by any of the rules given above. (The first rule only stops pure control changes, not ones that also involve a zone change; the third rule doesn't apply because the creature is owned by you and you're still in the game.) The answer should still be clear, though: Endless Whispers tells your opponent to move the creature card into play. If that opponent isn't there anymore, the card will stay where it is, in your graveyard.

Range of Influence

Some multiplayer games use the optional rules for limited range of influence. Each player has a range of influence (hereafter known as RoI) of a number of seats. For example, if a player has a RoI of one seat, then that player himself and his neighbours on both sides are within his RoI, as are all objects controlled by those players. Simply speaking, you and objects you control can't affect anything outside of your RoI, and anything outside your RoI can't affect you and your objects. It's like everything that's too far removed simply doesn't exist. Rules 601.3 to 601.14b explain exactly where the line is drawn between what you can and can't do. In this article, I'll just go over the more interesting (read: confusing) parts.

In spite of all the verbiage,
Shunt actually has only one target.
Q: In a four-player game where everyone has range of influence of one seat, my left neighbour plays Cranial Extraction targeting me. Can I Shunt it to target my right neighbour?

A: Both your neighbours are within your RoI. However, the player to your right isn't within the RoI of the player to your left. The new target you choose with Shunt has to obey all the rules, and the spell controlled by your left neighbour can't target your right neighbour. You can't Shunt it to the player sitting opposite of you, either: you're not allowed to choose a player outside your RoI (even though this isn't about targeting, but just about choosing). [Of course, there's nothing wrong with Shunting it back to the caster. -Ed]

Q: I Ray of Command a creature from the opponent to my right. The opponent to my left shows another Ray of Command and takes the creature from me. Is this allowed, since these two opponent's aren't within each other's RoI?

A: The RoI rules care about control, not about ownership. What your opponent did was legal.

I'm off to the graveyard.
Are you coming too?

Q: How exactly do Zubera work in multiplayer games, especially if there are also control-changing effects involved?

A: Each time a Zubera gets killed, it leaves a message saying "I'm off to the graveyard" to all players where that Zubera was in RoI. It doesn't matter which graveyard it's headed for. When one of the Zubera's triggered ability resolves, it counts the number of messages its controller has received that turn to determine how big its effect will be.

Q: My teammate next to me is playing an enchantment-based deck and enchants one of my creatures with Ancestral Mask. Everyone has RoI one. Whose enchantments get counted by the Mask?

A: Your teammate controls the Mask, so the Mask can't see any information from without your teammate's RoI. Your creature is affected by the Mask, which means that enchantments that aren't in your RoI can't be considered, either. Only enchantments controlled by you and your teammate will be counted.

When a player leaves the game, range of influence isn't updated until a new turn begins. If you're playing with a RoI of one seat and you defeat the player next to you, you'll have to wait a turn before you can start beating down on the next player.

One notable exception where a player can affect things outside his RoI occurs if one player (let's call him player A) controls an effect that requires another player to make a choice, but there is no other player in RoI of player A to make that choice. In that case, the first player in turn order from player A who would be allowed to make that choice gets to make it. This may be a player outside RoI of player A.

Q: In a seven-player game with a RoI of one seat, one player defeats both his neighbours and plays Intuition, all on the same turn. Who gets to choose which of the three cards the player keeps?

A: Because RoI isn't updated until a new turn begins, the only player still in this player's RoI is that player himself. He isn't his own opponent, so there aren't any players in RoI who would be allowed to pick one of the three cards. Instead, the first remaining opponent to his left gets to make this decision.

Other optional rules

Attack Left / Attack Right / Attack Multiple Players

In most multiplayer games, you'll use one of these three options. For attack left and attack right, players can only attack a neighbouring opponent in the appropriate direction. If the player in that direction isn't an opponent or can't be attacked for some other reason, you won't be able to attack.

If your game uses the attack multiple players option, then players will be allowed to attack any opponent within range of influence, and they'll also be allowed to attack several different opponents in a single combat phase. All opponents that could be attacked are now defending players. For each attacking creature, the attacking player chooses which defending player that creature is attacking.

If something refers to a "defending player", it could now be referring to any one of the defending players. Usually, common sense will tell you which of them is meant.

As always, when multiple players are asked to make a decision, the players decide in turn order starting with the active player. In a situation where several players are being attacked, this applies to choosing blockers and assigning combat damage.

And for the banding fans out there: the members of an attacking band must all be attacking the same player.

Deploy Creatures

This option is sometimes used in multiplayer games where players are divided in teams. If you're using it, each creature has the following activated ability: ":symtap:: Target teammate gains control of this creature. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery." Your teammates are all players other than yourself who are not your opponents.

Two-Headed Giant

A very interesting multiplayer game variant. Many Prerelease locations will also host sanctioned 2HG tournaments. This format doesn't use any of the options listed above, but does things rather differently. A normal 2HG match has two teams (each with two players) which represent a single multi-headed entity. As such, each team shares a single life total starting at 40, and turns are taken as a team rather than by individual players.

Timing concepts which normally apply to players, like who the active player is and who has priority, now apply to teams. To cover timing conflicts between the two players of a team, the player on the right (called the primary player) always gets to go first if he wants to. So if both heads want to do something at the same time, the primary player is the one who ends up deciding who goes first.

Combat also happens as a team. Both attacking players get a single shared combat phase, where both players choose attackers from the creatures they control. These creatures attack the opposing team rather than one of the defending players. The defending side can block the creatures from both attacking players in any combination it wants. If combat damage is to be assigned to the defending player, only one player is chosen to receive the damage, however. This choice doesn't usually matter because the defending team shares a life total, but it may if one player can prevent damage he would be dealt.

[left]Somebody get this freakin'
Dragon away from me![/left][right]I'll deal with that after I get rid
of the one that's attacking
Q: I attack the opposing team with Dragon Mage, which goes through unblocked. Can I assign 3 damage to one player and 2 to the other, to get two Wheel of Fortune effects?

A: No, that doesn't work. You must deal all the Dragon Mage's damage to a single defending player, so similar abilities will only trigger once.

Working with a shared life total is usually straightforward: if one of the players on a team loses X life, reduce that team's life total by X, and if one of them would gain X life, increase the team's total by X. There are other things that can be done with life totals, though. For example, if an effect asks for a player's life total, it gets half of the team's total, rounded up (so a player won't be seen as sitting on 0 life when the team has 1 life point remaining).

Q: I heard there are no sideboards in 2HG, because there's only one game in each match. Then what can I Wish for in a 2HG tournament?

A: In a normal tournament, you would be able to get cards from your sideboard or cards from the removed from the game zone. In a 2HG tournament, you'd be limited to cards that are removed from the game, according to the official rules.

In addition to the CompRules, there's also an official 2HG FAQ, which you can find here.


This is another fun format, where teams consisting of an emperor and two generals face off against each other. The three team members sit next to each other with the emperor in the middle. The two generals have to protect their emperor: if the emperor loses, the team loses.

Emperor games use the range of influence option: emperors have a RoI of two seats while generals have only one seat. As long as both generals on a team survive, that team's emperor will be outside the RoI of any members of the other team. The deploy creatures option is also used, and players can attack both left and right (but even the emperor can't attack more than one seat away, despite his larger RoI).

Seventeen is too many.
Q: I'm a general in an emperor game, and both emperors have Eight-and-a-Half-Tails out. If my emperor deploys the legendary creature to me, what exactly will happen?

A: The legend rule is evaluated seperately for each legendary permanent. Your Eight-and-a-Half-Tails is the only Legendary permanent of that name in your range of influence. The one under the control of the opposing emperor, on the other hand, can see your creature, and gets cleaned up by the legend rule.

Q: Later in the same game, the opposing emperor has Cowed by Wisdom on one of my big creatures. All six players are still in the game. I believe that if I deploy my creature to my emperor, the enchantment will fall off. Is that right?

A: Yes, that's correct. Your emperor is outside of the opposing emperor's RoI, so his enchantment won't be allowed to enchant the creature if your emperor controls it. It will be put in the graveyard as a state-based effect.

Tune in to this frequency next week, when the rulings community will have fully acknowledged the existence of Ravnica: City of Guilds.

-Thijs van Ommen, The Netherlands

About the Author:
Even though I'm not a judge, my interest in the rules of the game is the main reason for me to play. You'll usually find me answering questions in the rulings forum. I'm mostly a casual player: the only tournaments I visit are prereleases.


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