Sinister Sabotage
17, Oct, 22

Huge MTG Errata Threatens to Cause Needless Confusion

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Article at a Glance

As a constantly evolving game, Magic: the Gathering has seen no end of changes throughout its nearly 30-year history. Thanks to these evolutions, MTG has seen a substantial amount of new mechanics, with complexity creep arriving alongside them. As new mechanics appear and evolve, eventually, they often become standardized. This is represented in MTG by a mechanic becoming keyworded. This allows enfranchised players to know at a glance what a card does without being bogged down by needless clutter. Unfortunately, despite this positive aspect, this process isn’t always a good thing. Most recently, the latest errata in MTG threatens to add more needless confusion to an already complex game. 

Keyword Confusion 

Over the weekend, astute MTG players noticed that something strange was going on in Gatherer. Cards that did not have ability keywords, such as Consider, had been given a surprise overhaul. Without an official announcement, Wizards of the Coast had sneakily errata-ed countless MTG cards to prepare for the future. After much confusion, eventually, Magic’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, officially confirmed what Wizards had done without telling anyone. Surveil and Landfall had been errata-d to give all relevant cards the keyword. 

Thankfully, while it was quite a surprise, this errata was pretty harmless, as it didn’t affect the affected cards fundamentally. Instead, the errata merely made the affected cards more concise and visually appealing, spared from clutter by the relevant keyword. After being questioned about this unexpected occurrence, Rosewater explained that this change was made because the mechanics “are both becoming deciduous.” This means that Landfall and Surveil can be used more frequently by Wizards of the Coast. For reference, other deciduous mechanics include Cycling, Enchantment Creatures, Food tokens, and Treasure tokens. 

As an almost entirely functional errata, there isn’t too much to be upset about with this change. However, a few complaints can be made, primarily around MTG’s growing complexity. As Tumblr user charble pointed out, there’s an understandable concern that “introducing so many keywords that were previously explained in plain text [is] complicating things for new players.” 

In response, Rosewater affirmed that “Vocabulary is definitely an issue for new players.” Thankfully, this issue has been mitigated somewhat for Wizards and players alike since “new players are primarily being introduced through multiplayer, where there are more people to help.” Alternatively, Rosewater also notes that new players are also joining via digital platforms “where there is a tutorial and more tools to help look something up.” 

A Necessary Evil

While the Landfall keyword errata is purely a visual change, the Surveil errata does have some mechanical changes. Cards like Blood Operative, for instance, care about when you Surveil, something that’s now much easier to do. With only 17 cards being affected by this errata, this, mercifully, isn’t the most monumental change. However, it’s still notable. Subsequently, thanks to the slight mechanical changes, many MTG players weren’t happy with the errata, thanks to increasing confusion. 

As Tumblr user slicehazard pointed out, “between creature types and the most recent surveil change, I feel like there are hundreds of cards whose most recent physical printing doesn’t reflect what the card actually is/does.” In response, Mark Rosewater could only state, “It’s something we very much worry about.” While they may initially be considered confusing, ultimately, errata are often a necessary evil to cut down on unnecessary confusion and clear up overly verbose cards. Even the recent Phyrexian creature-type errata benefits the game in the long run. It may be confusing at first. However, relevant creatures having the correct creature types makes a lot more sense. 

Community Consensus 

Despite some players’ concerns over the errata’s new interactions, the MTG community has been supportive of this change. Responding to a call from Mark Rosewater that asked, “are people upset we’re errata old cards that have exactly the surveil text to have Surveil?” players were quick to show their support. “It’s a change I’ve been wanting to see for a long time,” user Ceil420 stated. “Specifically, because there are cards that care about Surveil! Very happy to see it!” Similarly, kitsovereign stated, “the change rocks! I’m fine with errata when it plays better. People have been begging for these errata since back when GRN surveil was in Standard with Search for Azcanta.” 

With players continually voicing their support throughout the responses, many players “see this as just correcting a shortcoming.” Following this enthusiasm, Mark Rosewater flatly affirmed that similar changes might be made in the future. “If we chose to make something deciduous, that increases the chances that all cards with that exact text get the keyword.” For better or worse, this may mean it’s only a matter of time before we see another errata and wave of confusion sweep the MTG community. 

Read More: MTG Players Aren’t Buying the Popularity of Universes Beyond

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