Balance

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Does Balance technically work as written?
It seems to make a few assumptions.

Current Wording:
Each player chooses a number of lands he or she controls equal to the number of lands controlled by the player who controls the fewest, then sacrifices the rest. Players discard cards and sacrifice creatures the same way.

How can a player 'discard cards' the same way ? Players do not control cards in their hands, so the same comparison cannot be used.

There is also possible ambiguity: Balance could be read as meaning that players discard cards down to number of lands controlled by the player who controls the fewest, as well as sacrifice creatures equal to the amount of lands controlled by the player who controls the fewest.

More correct wording:
Each player chooses a number of lands he or she controls equal to the number of lands controlled by the player who controls the fewest, then sacrifices the rest.
Each player chooses a number of cards in his or her hand equal to the hand size of the player who has the smallest hand size, then discards the rest.
Each player chooses a number of creatures he or she controls equal to the number of creatures controlled by the player who controls the fewest, then sacrifices the rest.

So why not use that as the oracle text ? Space concerns are irrelevant in oracle text anyway, since it's not printed on a physical card.
Balance still works because of this rule.
108.4a. If anything asks for the controller of a card that doesn't have one (because it's not a permanent or spell), use its owner instead.

Text length is still a concern because cards are reprinted, new cards are printed with the same effect like Restore Balance, and longer text makes cards more difficult to understand.
Balance still works because of this rule.
108.4a. If anything asks for the controller of a card that doesn't have one (because it's not a permanent or spell), use its owner instead.

Text length is still a concern because cards are reprinted, new cards are printed with the same effect like Restore Balance, and longer text makes cards more difficult to understand.

1) There is nothing indicating that it is the cards in hand that should be counted.

Simplified, the current ability is:

Each player chooses [calculation] lands, then sacrifices the rest.
Each player chooses [calculation] cards, then discards the rest.
Each player chooses [calculation] creatures, then sacrifices the rest.

There is nothing indicating that [calculation] in the second case should count cards in hand. [calculation] is independent of what eventually happens with its result.

Or, put another way, the second part, 'translated':

Each player chooses a number of cards he or she owns equal to the number of cards owned by the player who owns the fewest, then discards the rest.

Which is nonsense, and would probably be 'chooses 60 cards' in a 60-card deck.

2) if you think 'in hand' is implicit, and battlefield automatically gets translated into another zone, namely 'the hand', there is another problem, namely that hands are personal zones, there are multiple hands, while there is only one battlefield.

It would become:

Each player chooses a number of cards he or she owns in their hand equal to the number of cards owned in their hand by the player who owns the fewest cards in their hand, then discards the rest.

Which is always 0, since other players can't own cards in your hand.

I see no reason (from a rules perspective) why a single zone's procedure would suddenly be split into two zones (or more, in multiplayer), for no reason. It is an assumption made by a player's intuition, nothing more. The sacrificing procedure is just too different from the discarding procedure to flat out say 'do the same thing'

The wording should not make assumptions like that, especially if there is a clear way to word it.

Affected cards are : Balance, Restore Balance, and Balancing Act
If this truly is a problem, I think adding a rule to clarify such cases would be a far, far better solution than such ugly errata. How Balance and kin work is abundantly clear to most people worded just the way it is.

This feels a lot like that old CR issue where the rules for Fortifications said they behaved the same way with respect to lands that Equipment did to creatures, and if you took that completely literally you could argue that a Fortification couldn't be attached to anything if it was a land when the obvious intent was to forbid creature Fortifications from being attached to things. Nobody's actually going to play it the wrong way, because the intent is abundantly clear, but the literal wording is such that there's technically ambiguity.

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I'm open to suggestions for such a rule, but I think it would be much harder to word than card errata, especially if you want to word similar abilities the same way in the future which talk about other zones, like 'balancing' the grave or the library.

Example which the rule should also handle:

Each player chooses a number of lands he or she controls equal to the number of lands controlled by the player who controls the fewest, then taps the rest. Players return lands to their hand, and return creature cards from their graveyard to the battlefield the same way.

Basically, you should be able to replace 'sacrifice' and 'discard' with any action, and it should still work.

I disagree that the errata are uglier. It's just as ugly as the first part, it just repeats that same ugliness.

At least the ugliness is consistent now

The old wording tells you to repeat the ugliness, assuming your mind will somehow make it beautiful, while it's at the very least just as ugly behind the screens (and in my opinion, even uglier).
If you can't see something, you'll never know it's ugly. Players need never see or know about ugliness behind the scenes, but they'll see ugliness on the cards or in the Oracle text all the time.

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just handle it similar to Caged Sun
pretend there is an [O] ruling saying it works and carry on ;)
proud member of the 2011 community team
Then again, they would simply reconstruct the first sentence (altered) in their mind anyway.

What people do is read the first part, then read the next part.
Then they see it refers back to the first part, so they go back to reread that to make sense of what it means.

The new wording, on the other hand, can be followed sequentially without having to reconstruct 'missing' sentences or 'scrolling back up'.

Also, having it in three distinct paragraphs makes it clearer that there are three things that need to be done, which is easier to miss in its current incarnation.

(each paragraph would be a separate spell ability, which is technically a functional change, I suppose, but I can't think of anything that cares about the number of spell abilities on a spell)

---

A comparison to Caged Sun is not warranted, because, unlike Balance, we have not found a way to word Caged Sun so that it works as intended with the rules.
just to be clear, Caged Sun doesn't always work as intended under the current rules
we just have an [O] ruling saying we should pretend that it does ;)
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I thought caged sun never worked as intended under the current rules, because it triggers on the resolution of a mana ability, not the activation (the latter of which is required to be a mana ability itself), activation and resolution might almost happen at the same moment, but they are still separate events as far as the rules are concerned.

If that part were fixed, though, then yes, it would sometimes be a mana ability, and sometimes not, but that problem does not pop up right now.

Anyway, let's not sidetrack ;)
That balance is asking for cards owned in hand: ownership rather than control is explicitly covered by the aforementioned rule. That we're counting cards in hand is implied by the action, similarly to how sacrifice and control imply the battlefield (and that creatures are creatures only on the battlefield). Unless there's a way to discard from another zone I'm unaware of.

3DH4LIF3

This seems to me like a solution in search of a problem.
This seems to me like a solution in search of a problem.

Aye.
In that case, please quote the rule which tells you to look at multiple hand zones instead of a single hand zone, when the original sentence only talks about a single zone. There is no such rule, because 'the same way' is handled nowhere in the rules.

An English interpretation gives no answer to that question, because it is unaware of game mechanics (zones). The same zone is just as valid as multiple zones to english. (in fact, I'd even say a single zone is more valid)

The only thing answering the question is human intuition.

'The same way' is not the same way at all.

- The zones they take place in are nothing alike (single zone vs multiple zones).

In one case you look in a zone for cards of certain characteristics, and count how many of that type of card card each player controls to determine the result.
In the other case, you look at different zones of different players, and count how many cards are in each of these zones to determine the result.

How is that the same ?
I don't see any similarity except for the fact that people are counting cards.

- The calculation of the amount of objects to affect has nothing to do with the action itself. So hand size is not implied, even though intuition tells you so. It might just as well say 'count the amount of olives on your pizza.' That does not mean you're looking for a pizza in your hand, just because the discard effect uses that number.

'The same way' could be used for the other sacrifice effect (creatures), but not for the discard effect.

(Also, as an aside, control also refers to cards in another zone : on the stack.)
I agree that this is an issue in the matter of the english language. But I have never seem this card misplayed. Even though it isn't aboulutely correct, it is an easy concept to grasp even for new players. Unless it is functionally wrong or breaks the rules I would say why not let it slide?
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In that case, please quote the rule which tells you to look at multiple hand zones instead of a single hand zone, when the original sentence only talks about a single zone. There is no such rule, because 'the same way' is handled nowhere in the rules.

The same way is perfectly understandable. The process is to bring each player down to a minimum set by another player. The language of the card "each player" lets us know where to look. I can't discard cards from your hand, or Joe's hand, but I can from my own. And this wouldn't be a case of not following instruction that aren't possible (discarding a card when there are no cards in hand for example) as when has there been an action that was itself impossible? Actions are made  impossible because of situation only. So again, if each player is instructed to discard cards it must be from their own hand. 

Though I would question whether seperate hands are seperate zones, or are kept seperate by ownership.

An English interpretation gives no answer to that question, because it is unaware of game mechanics (zones).

What is an "english interpretation" aware of? That is such a bizarre concept. We, as English Speakers, are the one's doing the interpretation. As such our humanity and ability to reason must come into play, as those are the things that give meaning to words in the first place.

3DH4LIF3

I did not say it makes them try and discard cards that are not in their hand.
I said it makes them count cards that are owned by other players in their hand, and they discard the rest. (which means you always discard all cards) (which each player does)

This is perfectly fine as far as the rules are concerned.
You can count cards in any zone, it is irrelevant whether there are any (or can even be any) that match the conditions.
Nothing makes this action impossible.
Counting cards in another zone (the other players' hands) is an arbitrary decision.

Oracle should be about comprehensive and unambiguous wordings.

The alternative is putting the full description in a ruling, but in this case, that ruling would have no support, just like Caged Sun's.

I think an actual fix is preferable to a pseudofix, even though the issue is small. There are many cards like this that never got misinterpreted in any games, but were still fixed because they technically don't work. And that is as it should be.
I see what you're saying then. Not sure I agree.

Balance asks players to choose creatures lands under their control equal to creatures lands under another players control, sack the rest, yada yada. The fact that they are on the battlefield is implicit. (I completely forgot lands were first.)

if i'm asked to do the same for cards, then a direct parallel given the change from a singular shared zone to a series of seperate hidden zones would be to compare cards I own in my hand to cards opponents' own in their hands- as the expectation of a card that calls for counting and comparison is that there will actually be the potential for something to count. if i'm to try and count cards in my hand that I don't own (barring ante shenanigans, which should not be a factor when discussing the rules if you ask me) then the number will always be zero.

 I don't think this is an issue of cards working because they make sense but the rules don't support them, but a card that works because of a human ability to parse through language. Put strictly, I would have to look at cards I control- so... spells on the stack? But no one interprets "the same way" and "discard" to mean that. If we can apply rules of grammar when reading, I see no reason that rules of magic can't have weight when interpreting what the language on a card means.


And yes, while the oracle wording should be comprehensive and unambiguous, templates should not be verbose- just in case wizards want to print it on an actual card.

3DH4LIF3

I agree that the language on the card is imprecise, probably even incorrect. My understanding is that these kinds of minor problems with wording are for the most part ignored since "it's obvious how the card is intended to work" and the fix (in this case, spelling out exactly what happens during each of Balance's three parts) is ugly.

Compare "This effect doesn't remove white ward."
In that case, please quote the rule which tells you to look at multiple hand zones instead of a single hand zone, when the original sentence only talks about a single zone. There is no such rule, because 'the same way' is handled nowhere in the rules.

Why should I/we have to?? The card works as it should; I have never seen or heard anyone who didn't get it.
The rules serve the game. Your point is academic and pedantic.
there is no loophole here that allows you to exploit the (possibly) ambiguous wording, so I don't think there is any need for a fix
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Reversal of Fortune puts a copy of a card they own in there hand I don't know if that this affects this all
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you mean you copy Balance with Reversal of Fortune?
I don't see how that changes anything
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you mean you copy Balance with Reversal of Fortune?
I don't see how that changes anything

The copy of the card goes in their hand but you control it
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no, the copy of the card is on the stack, not in their hand
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no, the copy of the card is on the stack, not in their hand

The copy is created in their hand. It goes to the stack pretty much immediately, but it still started out in their hand.


It doesn't change anything, though.

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and even if it is only created in their hand but not cast (teferi, mage of Zhalfir) it ceases to exist as a SBA
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Okais wasn't sure if there was some weird way to own cards in other player hands and this
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..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Space concerns are irrelevant in oracle text anyway, since it's not printed on a physical card.



That's not really true. Oracle text is the printed text for Magic Online. Magic Online cards are real cards.

The elliptical construction in Balance's rules text has stood the test of time. I can't see us changing it now.

Del Laugel

Editing manager, Magic TCG

Why should I/we have to?? The card works as it should; I have never seen or heard anyone who didn't get it.


Just to play devil's advocate, I'm sure people would understand Ice Cauldron much better if it said: ": Pay for a spell now and cast it later by tapping Ice Cauldron again." but we can't do that.
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Have you noticed that Ice Cauldron's first printed wording is actually longer than its current Oracle text? ;)

Del Laugel

Editing manager, Magic TCG

Why should I/we have to?? The card works as it should; I have never seen or heard anyone who didn't get it.


Just to play devil's advocate, I'm sure people would understand Ice Cauldron much better if it said: ": Pay for a spell now and cast it later by tapping Ice Cauldron again." but we can't do that.



You could do that if that's exactly what Ice Cauldron did, but since it does more than that, the wording is different.
 
Why should I/we have to?? The card works as it should; I have never seen or heard anyone who didn't get it.


Just to play devil's advocate, I'm sure people would understand Ice Cauldron much better if it said: ": Pay for a spell now and cast it later by tapping Ice Cauldron again." but we can't do that.

You could do that if that's exactly what Ice Cauldron did, but since it does more than that, the wording is different.


Even it that was what it did I am entirely certain that the CR couldn't support that wording.

And yeah, I'd forgotten you could pay part of the mana now and part later. Not a huge difference.
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And yeah, I'd forgotten you could pay part of the mana now and part later. Not a huge difference.

Paying for a spell may include many other things than paying mana.