Early on, we decided that the Magic Comprehensive Rules were the preferred authority for rules questions about MtG. I have no complaint about this for questions which are complicated, where the asker appears to be familiar with the game, but I really thing that it's overkill for questions from beginners. We have three such questions on the front page at the moment:

If an opponent unsummons my Goblin, does it spoil my Goblin Grenade?

If they counter my Goblin Grenade, do I still lose my goblin?

Can Dismember kill my Gloryscale Viashino after I cast Armadillo Cloak?

All three of these have answers which reference the comprehensive rules, and I don't think this is actually a good thing. The comp rules are deliberately written in dense Magic-specific legalese, and dumping that on a newbie's head seems like a sure way to turn them off from the game (and the site).

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Upvoted because I agree with you, JS - I don't like answers that launch into seven-paragraph citations of chapter and verse in the Comp Rules, when a simple explanation of how the game works would be just as accurate and a lot less intimidating. Having said that, I also agree with AlexP that nothing is broken here: I've taken to upvoting answers in plain English rather than the Comp Rules labyrinths. Just because Magic has a really legalistic ruleset doesn't mean that we are compelled to vote for answers that reference it to excess... –  thesunneversets Jul 20 '12 at 16:03

3 Answers 3

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I'm not sure anything's broken here.

I agree that the comp rules aren't the best for new players. However, those aren't highest-ranked answers right now.

So, right now these answers are extra stuff you can read after you've read the (hopefully friendlier) non-comp-rules explanations that currently have more votes. If the rules question later turns into a rules argument (e.g. you tell your friends the answer you got and they don't believe you), I think it's useful to have the official rules to cite.

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References to the comprehensive rules are best for everyone, new players included.

Imagine that the scenario where a new player is told by his gaming group that "at the end of the phase they take mana burn." The new player comes here and asks, "Do you take mana burn at the end of a phase? Lets assume for the moment that the highest voted answer is the correct answer that explains that,

No. You no longer take mana burn at the end of a phase. This is change in the rules.

The new player goes back to their group and says, "I ask about mana burn on the internet, and the highest voted answer says that it doesn't exist anymore." Their group might just reply, "So What! Lots of people on the internet say lots of things." This might be exacerbated further if the group contains a rules lawyer, or DCI Judge. What if that DCI Judge or rules lawyer has it wrong? (example: Prateor's Grasp - Can Opponent Determine Taken Card Before Shuffle). In general, a good answer will contain all the necessary information for the question within the non-quoted portion. The quoted comprehensive rules need only be read to confirm that what is stated by the answerer is correct. If someone is only interested in the correct answer, they can ignore the gray quoted blocks.

The Comprehensive Rules are the ultimate authority.

Even if a the rules will be going over their head, they can print out the rules quoted in the answer, and show it to whomever doubts them.

If we don't quote the Comprehensive Rules, the next official source of rules would be the M:tG Basic Rulebook. I am not sure that answers quoting that source would be much better. Examples below (titles linked to OP for comparison). If you ask me, it isn't much better, but we will see how many votes they get in comparison. With out any ultimate authority, who is to know if quoting the Basic Rules or the Comprehensive Rules is better, people on the internet will have to decide.

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I upvoted all your basic rules answers, because I thought they were useful in their own ways. :) I still agree that each rules question should have at least one comp-rules answer to provide the ultimate-authority citation. –  Alex P Jul 19 '12 at 3:14
    
@AlexP, so do I. I am only doing this as a thought experiment. As I said, quoting from some authority is necessary. If we aren't going to use the Comprehensive Rules because they are too pedantic (my god that is pretentious), we will have to quote the Basic Rulebook. I personally don't see much of a difference in the brevity or complexity. If a new player isn't going to understand the CR, I don't think the Basic Rules will be any easier. They are just an easier read from cover to cover. –  user1873 Jul 19 '12 at 3:19

My general take on this is that there is a balance that needs to be struck in the best answer to a question, and this gets born out via voting. The best answer for any given MtG question will have the appropriate "citations" to support what is being said, which, depending on the "level" of the question, may be a rather substantial number of rules citations, or may be none at all.

So, for a rather beginner-level question, there may be no citation needed, since it is likely to get too deep, but it it's a beginner question that is often problematic and tends to trip people up due to being unintuitive, then the rules citation might help.

In the end, it all boils down to putting the most relevant and useful information into the answer for the particular question at hand, and it's probably better to err on the side of too much information rather than too little.

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