Reminder Text for X Spells?

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Hey all

Lots of people seem to have problems with X spells (and/or basic algebra). MaRo recently said:

markrosewater.tumblr.com/post/5408666496...

kalebmulder asked: Is X costing too complex for common in NWO? or NNWO ? :P


Having an X in a mana cost is a red flag under New World Order meaning we don’t do it at common unless there is a strong reason and we count it as eating up some of the complexity at common.


I personally never put X spells at common in my sets as experience has taught me that a subset of players have a real hard time with X.


  

What if Wizards used reminder text on such commons to help teach players how they work (and how to do simple algebra)?

For example:

"(When casting this spell, first choose a value for X, then replace all the X's on this card with that value)"

I am sure there are plenty of cards that could go into a Core Set at common with X on them to help illustrate how they work.

Thoughts?

~ Tim
I am Blue/White Reached DCI Rating 1800 on 28/10/11. :D
Sig
56287226 wrote:
190106923 wrote:
Not bad. But what happens flavor wise when one kamahl kills the other one?
Zis iz a sign uf deep psychological troma, buried in zer subconscious mind. By keelink himzelf, Kamahl iz physically expressink hiz feelinks uf self-disgust ova hiz desire for hiz muzzer. [/GermanPsychologistVoice]
56957928 wrote:
57799958 wrote:
That makes no sense to me. If they spelled the ability out on the card in full then it would not be allowed in a mono-black Commander deck, but because they used a keyword to save space it is allowed? ~ Tim
Yup, just like you can have Birds of paradise in a mono green deck but not Noble Hierarch. YAY COLOR IDENTITY
56287226 wrote:
56888618 wrote:
Is algebra really that difficult?
Survey says yes.
56883218 wrote:
57799958 wrote:
You want to make a milky drink. You squeeze a cow.
I love this description. Like the cows are sponges filled with milk. I can see it all Nick Parks claymation-style with the cow's eyes bugging out momentarily as a giant farmer squeezes it like a squeaky dog toy, and milk shoots out of it.
56287226 wrote:
56735468 wrote:
And no judge will ever give you a game loss for playing snow covered lands.
I now have a new goal in life. ;)
Seems harmless enough to me.
I like it. I've always wondered why X spells didn't have reminder text, given that many players find them very confusing (especially when they appear alongside your Goblin Electromancers).

Level 1 Judge as of 09/26/2013

Zammm = Batman

"Ability words are flavor text for Melvins." -- Fallingman

The reminder text would need careful wording. Tim's phrasing seems a little confusing to me.

But if they can find a reminder text that works, cool, go for it. 
How about (As you cast this card, choose a value for X. Every instance of X on this card becomes the chosen value. At all other times, treat X as zero.)?

EDIT: Wait. Causes confusion when the spell is being cast without the mana cost being paid.
MOAR EDITS: Actually, I think I stumbled on the reason they don't add reminder text to X spells. Concise reminder text will probably lead players to think that they can also choose a value for X when they're using, say, Omniscience to cast it.

Level 1 Judge as of 09/26/2013

Zammm = Batman

"Ability words are flavor text for Melvins." -- Fallingman

How about (As you cast this card, choose a value for X. Every instance of X on this card becomes the chosen value. At all other times, treat X as zero.)?

EDIT: Wait. Causes confusion when the spell is being cast without the mana cost being paid.
MOAR EDITS: Actually, I think I stumbled on the reason they don't add reminder text to X spells. Concise reminder text will probably lead players to think that they can also choose a value for X when they're using, say, Omniscience to cast it.



Have it say, instead, 'Any time you pay the mana cost to cast this card, choose a value for X' etc. etc.
MTG Rules Advisor Mirrodin_Loyalty.png

Remember that people who don't understand X spells are mostly new players, who don't know about mana pools, mana costs, when you pay, or Omniscience. So trying a reminder text with lots of technical text and fancy words won't be help.
Remember that people who don't understand X spells are mostly new players, who don't know about mana pools, mana costs, when you pay, or Omniscience. So trying a reminder text with lots of technical text and fancy words won't be help.



If they don't know about things like Omniscience, the original suggested reminder text works. If they do know about htings like Omniscience, they'll understand why the reminder text says what it would with my suggestion.
MTG Rules Advisor Mirrodin_Loyalty.png

I think that the implication that you can choose an unbounded value for X is suspicious enough that almost any player would ask to confirm ("Wait, so I can just Fireball for like a million?"), at which point a more knowledgeable player can tell him "no" (which is probably the answer they'd expect) and then explain why.

So, in the absence of reminder text that clearly spells out the results of unexpected interactions (since such a reminder could go on for paragraphs), we can at least have a reminder that creates the question. I do like that the proposed reminder text clearly indicates when and how the value of X is chosen, which is the main issue for beginners -- not whether it explodes with Omniscience.
I like Kedar's wording. I agree that remidner text is not intended to be 100% correct all of the time -- it covers the behavior of the mechanic in the most common cases and when dealing with exceptional interactions like Omniscience or Cascade they can ask a friend or look up the full rules.

Magic became the most popular CCG of all time despite having Fireball, one of the most convoluted X-spells of all time, at common. Especially with the proposed reminder text, I think the concern about having X spells at common is overstated.
(When you pay a cost that includes X, choose a value for X then determine the cost.)

That would work for most corner cases, Goblin Electromancer, Omniscience, and Firecat Blitz, shouldn't it?
(When you pay a cost that includes X, choose a value for X then determine the cost.)

That would work for most corner cases, Goblin Electromancer, Omniscience, and Firecat Blitz, shouldn't it?



I think it does for Electromancer and Blitz.  Omniscience is the problem (I choose 1 million, then determine the cost to be 0 due to Omniscience).  I think that interaction is rare enough that it's not a problem as reminder text though.



Did you read the reminder text he suggested? "When you pay a cost that includes X" would also not cause confusion in regards to Omniscience, since you're not paying a cost that includes X. 
MTG Rules Advisor Mirrodin_Loyalty.png

Did you read the reminder text he suggested? "When you pay a cost that includes X" would also not cause confusion in regards to Omniscience, since you're not paying a cost that includes X. 



Apparently not closely enough   Good point, I like it.
The word "when" is off-limits for things other than triggered abilities, though, even in reminder text.
The word "when" is off-limits for things other than triggered abilities, though, even in reminder text.



"If," then. "if" can be used in more than just replacement effects.
MTG Rules Advisor Mirrodin_Loyalty.png

"As" could work.
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57193048 wrote:
You should never explain layers to people unless one of the following is true: they're studying for a judge exam, you're both in a Ben Affleck movie and it's the only way to save the world, or you hate them.
56663526 wrote:
We try to maintain the illusion that Magic cards are written in English.
56333196 wrote:
69511863 wrote:
Hell, if they steal from us, we'd be honored.
oh my god, AWESOME! Then changing the Slivers was your idea! haha lol
56734518 wrote:
Occassionally when catering, I've been put the task of arranging Fruit and Cheese or Grilled Vegetable platters. More than once a high class buffet has started with the mark of Phyrexia upon it. Since i've got a good eye for color so it looks great to people who don't get the "joke" (it's a niceley divided circle after all: the outline gives you 4-6 "regions" to work with), this has actually got me put on platter design more often, resulting in Phyrexia's presence at more private and industry events.
I have 6917 Planeswalker points, that's probably more than you. [c=Hero's Resolve]"Destiny, chance, fate, fortune, mana screw; they're all just ways of claiming your successes without claiming your failures." Gerrard of the Weatherlight[/c]
(To pay a cost that includes X, choose a value for X then determine the cost.)


Better?
Why not just say what it means?

As you pay this spell's mana cost, choose a number. As long as this spell is on the stack, treat all instances of X in its mana cost and rules text as the chosen number.

Xweetoks = ♥Happiness

Why not just say what it means?


Because Wizards wont say "the stack" on a card (even though they mention all the other main zones...).

~ Tim 
I am Blue/White Reached DCI Rating 1800 on 28/10/11. :D
Sig
56287226 wrote:
190106923 wrote:
Not bad. But what happens flavor wise when one kamahl kills the other one?
Zis iz a sign uf deep psychological troma, buried in zer subconscious mind. By keelink himzelf, Kamahl iz physically expressink hiz feelinks uf self-disgust ova hiz desire for hiz muzzer. [/GermanPsychologistVoice]
56957928 wrote:
57799958 wrote:
That makes no sense to me. If they spelled the ability out on the card in full then it would not be allowed in a mono-black Commander deck, but because they used a keyword to save space it is allowed? ~ Tim
Yup, just like you can have Birds of paradise in a mono green deck but not Noble Hierarch. YAY COLOR IDENTITY
56287226 wrote:
56888618 wrote:
Is algebra really that difficult?
Survey says yes.
56883218 wrote:
57799958 wrote:
You want to make a milky drink. You squeeze a cow.
I love this description. Like the cows are sponges filled with milk. I can see it all Nick Parks claymation-style with the cow's eyes bugging out momentarily as a giant farmer squeezes it like a squeaky dog toy, and milk shoots out of it.
56287226 wrote:
56735468 wrote:
And no judge will ever give you a game loss for playing snow covered lands.
I now have a new goal in life. ;)
Wizards has printed cards with "the stack" on them, they just avoid it when possible.
Player == Object Instant = Sorcery - Instant
It also appears in the reminder text of two core-set cards: Time Stop and Sundial of the Infinite, so I guess they're okay with using that word in beginner sets.

But one may argue that these cards are rare so that word is okay there but might not be allowed in common, and the point is to make X spells easy enough to fit into the common slots...
I think if reminder text for X helps newer players, Wizards should definitely have some. After all, back when it was correct to say, the reminder text "(A * on a card not in play is 0.)" was featured on certain cards.

(As you cast this spell and pay its mana cost, choose a number. The value of X on this card is that number for as long as it's a spell. At any other time, X is 0.)

Still fairly concise I think, mentions that choosing X is tied to paying the cost (not strictly accurate, but what reminder text is?), and doesn't use the word "stack." How's that?
Rules Advisor
I'm not sure if X spells need reminder text, but XX cards could probably use some.  XX cards always seem to  generate questions, but Fireball not really.
 
(To pay a cost that includes X, choose a value for X then determine the cost.)

I tried to make my reminder text universal, so it could also be used on cards like Silklash Spider with X in an ability.

I'm not sure if X spells need reminder text, but XX cards could probably use some.  XX cards always seem to  generate questions, but Fireball not really.

Players not understanding is basically proof that they didn't really understand : it just never ended up mattering. Anyone who understands should never have trouble with .

Level 1 Judge as of 09/26/2013

Zammm = Batman

"Ability words are flavor text for Melvins." -- Fallingman

Players not understanding is basically proof that they didn't really understand : it just never ended up mattering. Anyone who understands should never have trouble with .


It doesn't matter if they understand why, as long as they play it right. If they never have trouble until they hit , that's good enough.
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My sig was so awesome it broke Browsers, [url= http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75842/29455423/For_some_reason...]I had to remove it.[/url] Support Magic Fiction! Or Bolas will eat you
57193048 wrote:
You should never explain layers to people unless one of the following is true: they're studying for a judge exam, you're both in a Ben Affleck movie and it's the only way to save the world, or you hate them.
56663526 wrote:
We try to maintain the illusion that Magic cards are written in English.
56333196 wrote:
69511863 wrote:
Hell, if they steal from us, we'd be honored.
oh my god, AWESOME! Then changing the Slivers was your idea! haha lol
56734518 wrote:
Occassionally when catering, I've been put the task of arranging Fruit and Cheese or Grilled Vegetable platters. More than once a high class buffet has started with the mark of Phyrexia upon it. Since i've got a good eye for color so it looks great to people who don't get the "joke" (it's a niceley divided circle after all: the outline gives you 4-6 "regions" to work with), this has actually got me put on platter design more often, resulting in Phyrexia's presence at more private and industry events.
I have 6917 Planeswalker points, that's probably more than you. [c=Hero's Resolve]"Destiny, chance, fate, fortune, mana screw; they're all just ways of claiming your successes without claiming your failures." Gerrard of the Weatherlight[/c]
Players not understanding is basically proof that they didn't really understand : it just never ended up mattering. Anyone who understands should never have trouble with .


It doesn't matter if they understand why, as long as they play it right. If they never have trouble until they hit , that's good enough.

I agree completely, but I'd was pointing out the root cause of the misunderstanding, which says to me that either all -spells should get reminder text or none of them should.

Level 1 Judge as of 09/26/2013

Zammm = Batman

"Ability words are flavor text for Melvins." -- Fallingman

I think that the implication that you can choose an unbounded value for X is suspicious enough that almost any player would ask to confirm ("Wait, so I can just Fireball for like a million?"), at which point a more knowledgeable player can tell him "no" (which is probably the answer they'd expect) and then explain why.

So, in the absence of reminder text that clearly spells out the results of unexpected interactions (since such a reminder could go on for paragraphs), we can at least have a reminder that creates the question. I do like that the proposed reminder text clearly indicates when and how the value of X is chosen, which is the main issue for beginners -- not whether it explodes with Omniscience.


The Problems with Bond of Agony suggest otherwise.

There were apparently a lot of players that thought you could spend either Life or Mana on X, or something. Basically, if they had one more Life that you = Game Over, they win, in their minds. 
[c]Forest[/c] gives you Forest
Yes, but that's because it's unconventional to pay both life and mana for the same spell. Players who don't understand Bond of Agony are confused as to how additional costs and variable costs interact -- they don't realize that you're paying the same amount of life as you pay mana.

You mentioned that there is an assumption by certain players that one can spend either life or mana to cover the cost of X in this instance. I'm not sure where such a misunderstanding originates, but it seems to be a different type of misunderstanding than with Omniscience. The most concise reminder text I can come up with to dispel such a misunderstanding applies only to Bond of Agony -- You must pay both X life and X mana.

Such reminder text is inappropriate on Fireball. Furthermore, it does nothing to explain how the spell would work with an alternative cost. Again, if we tried to address every possible interaction (or even just the common ones), it'd go on for paragraphs.
I don't think there's much confusion about paying both life and mana or either with Bond of Agony. The card clearly says "additional", not much confusion to be had there. And if there's a confusion about not paying the additional cost when there's an alternative costs, then it's more about additional costs then about X costs.

The confusion I know of with Bond of Agony involving the X cost, is/was about whether you can choose any number for X when you're only paying the additional cost (casting it for "free" with cascade, etc.), it's whether or not you get to treat it like Hatred which does let you do that. And apparently the CR wasn't clear about that at the time:

quote from MTGRULES

The last couple of weeks have seen some discussion about the interaction between


* cards like Bonds of Agony (those with mana- and non-mana X-costs) and
* effects which state a spell's mana cost need not be paid (eg: Cascade)


Specifically, the question is whether a non-zero value of X can be
chosen if some of the X-costs are not mana costs. (eg: Cascade
revealing Bonds of Agony)


I've seen some vehement opinions on each side, but anyone who said the
answer is 'obvious' ... was wrong. The current rules are ambiguous
on the subject because the word "any" could have two different
meanings in the sentence "If you're playing a spell that has {X} in
its mana cost, the value of X isn't defined by the text of that spell,
and an effect lets you play that spell without paying any cost that
includes X, then the only legal choice for X is 0." So the answer
isn't obvious.


After consideration, the rules manager has informed me that as part of
the 2010 magic update, that sentence will be clarified to bring it in
line with the desired interpretation: non-zero values for X are not
allowed when the X-mana cost of a spell is not being paid. In the
meantime, it has been ruled to work the same way... Bonds of Agony +
Cascade does NOT work.


--
Gavin Duggan, L3 Calgary: MTGRULES-L Netrep




A solution may be, assuming we do want to address this issue, to add a reminder text on the "free casting" cards rather than on the X spells, so the reminder text on X spells can stay shorter and simpler. Here's an example using Mindclaw Shaman:


  • When Mindclaw Shaman enters the battlefield, target opponent reveals his or her hand. You may cast an instant or sorcery card from it without paying its mana cost. (If that spell has X in its mana cost, it must be set to 0)


This is like how "* on a card is zero" FezzHead mentioned used to appear on cards that reffered to the P/T of other cards and not specifically on */* cards (Even on Sutured Ghoul it was only there because it reffered to the P/T of other cards).

They can also avoid this issue by not printing X spells with additional costs involving X on core sets, and it's questionable if they'll ever do considering this complication.
Oh, I see. thanks adeyke.

It seems they think the ability defines the part to be a life cost rather then a mana cost, and that's why the words "additional cost" don't prevent that confusion.

Do you think a specific reminder text would still be helpful, If they'd only print such cards in pro-sets, ? Say "(You still need to pay X mana)" or "(You still need to pay X mana to pay for the part)"?
Oh, I see. thanks adeyke.

It seems they think the ability defines the part to be a life cost rather then a mana cost, and that's why the words "additional cost" don't prevent that confusion.

Do you think a specific reminder text would still be helpful, If they'd only print such cards in pro-sets, ? Say "(You still need to pay X mana)" or "(You still need to pay X mana to pay for the part)"?

You pay life in addition to the mana cost.


Or a  "for example" reminder (for example, if X is 3, you need to pay and 3 life).

[<o>]
Sooooooooo....what do we think of the kind-of-sort-of reminder text mash-up of and CMC at the same time? (Spell Blast in M14)

Level 1 Judge as of 09/26/2013

Zammm = Batman

"Ability words are flavor text for Melvins." -- Fallingman

It solves a problem different from the one brought up in this thread, but I don't see anything wrong with it.
For reference, the text is:
Counter target spell with converted mana cost X. (For example, if that spell's mana cost is , X is 5.)

I really don't like it. The text seems to both imply that X is calculated rather than chosen and that this happens after the target is chosen. From an accuracy standpoint, "X must be 5" would be better, though admittedly perhaps not from a usefulness standpoint.
For reference, the text is:
Counter target spell with converted mana cost X. (For example, if that spell's mana cost is , X is 5.)

I really don't like it. The text seems to both imply that X is calculated rather than chosen and that this happens after the target is chosen. From an accuracy standpoint, "X must be 5" would be better, though admittedly perhaps not from a usefulness standpoint.

That was my feeling, too. Talking about X dilutes the point they're trying to convey and subtly reinforces the misconception about X which causes all its problems. I would go with a stronger revision: (For example, if a spell's mana cost is , set X equal to 5.)

Level 1 Judge as of 09/26/2013

Zammm = Batman

"Ability words are flavor text for Melvins." -- Fallingman

For reference, the text is:
Counter target spell with converted mana cost X. (For example, if that spell's mana cost is , X is 5.)

I really don't like it. The text seems to both imply that X is calculated rather than chosen and that this happens after the target is chosen. From an accuracy standpoint, "X must be 5" would be better, though admittedly perhaps not from a usefulness standpoint.


...How is that not what happens? You choose the spell you want to counter, figure out its converted mana cost and add to determine the cost to cast Spell Blast.

With a spell like Mind Grind, I agree that it's chosen. But I've yet to meet anyone who casts Killing Glare, chooses a value for X, and only then chooses a target from among the creatures with power X or less.
For reference, the text is:
Counter target spell with converted mana cost X. (For example, if that spell's mana cost is , X is 5.)

I really don't like it. The text seems to both imply that X is calculated rather than chosen and that this happens after the target is chosen. From an accuracy standpoint, "X must be 5" would be better, though admittedly perhaps not from a usefulness standpoint.


...How is that not what happens? You choose the spell you want to counter, figure out its converted mana cost and add to determine the cost to cast Spell Blast.

With a spell like Mind Grind, I agree that it's chosen. But I've yet to meet anyone who casts Killing Glare, chooses a value for X, and only then chooses a target from among the creatures with power X or less.



In laymen's terms, that is what happens. In the rules, however, you choose X first; that's why the targeting condition can be worded that way. You choose X, then when it comes time to choose the target, 'X' is now whatever you chose so you're limited to only targeting something with that converted mana cost. The fact that the reminder text implies that X is set based on your target of choice doesn't help the current issue with X costs: There are those who think that what you choose to do affects X (such as how much mana you put into a spell affects X), not that what you choose for X affects what you do.
MTG Rules Advisor Mirrodin_Loyalty.png

Specifically, this reminder text seems to conflict with 107.3b.

107.3b If a player is casting a spell that has an {X} in its mana cost, the value of X isn’t defined by the text of that spell, and an effect lets that player cast that spell while paying neither its mana cost nor an alternative cost that includes X, then the only legal choice for X is 0. This doesn’t apply to effects that only reduce a cost, even if they reduce it to zero. See rule 601, “Casting Spells.”

I can see players assuming that you're able to counter spells for free with Spell Blast if you cast it for free. However, I'm not sure whether the M14 reminder text adds to this confusion, or is simply no help.
Specifically, this reminder text seems to conflict with 107.3b.

107.3b If a player is casting a spell that has an {X} in its mana cost, the value of X isn’t defined by the text of that spell, and an effect lets that player cast that spell while paying neither its mana cost nor an alternative cost that includes X, then the only legal choice for X is 0. This doesn’t apply to effects that only reduce a cost, even if they reduce it to zero. See rule 601, “Casting Spells.”

I can see players assuming that you're able to counter spells for free with Spell Blast if you cast it for free. However, I'm not sure whether the M14 reminder text adds to this confusion, or is simply no help.



Since the reminder text makes it sound like X is being set by the spell ('X is 5' as opposed to 'choose 5 for X'), the m14 reminder text would make it worse--that's my expectation anyway.
MTG Rules Advisor Mirrodin_Loyalty.png