LEVEL UP – TIMESTAMPS

MATTHEW DEL BUONO
Welcome back, everyone! It’s the week of DMF St. Louis, so I hope you have gotten all of your decks playtested and ready to go. In the meantime, I’m here to give you one more little insight to make sure your deck works the way you think it works.

Recently, there have been a lot of questions coming up with regards to health and attack modifiers that conflict with each other. When two modifiers conflict with each other, how do you determine which wins out? The game has a very well-defined way of how to handle this and all modifier interactions. In this, the first part of a two-series article, I’m going to be talking about timestamps.
Welcome back, everyone! It’s the week of DMF St. Louis, so I hope you have gotten all of your decks playtested and ready to go. In the meantime, I’m here to give you one more little insight to make sure your deck works the way you think it works.

Recently, there have been a lot of questions coming up with regards to health and attack modifiers that conflict with each other. When two modifiers conflict with each other, how do you determine which wins out? The game has a very well-defined way of how to handle this and all modifier interactions. In this, the first part of a two-series article, I’m going to be talking about timestamps.
WHAT IS A “TIMESTAMP”?

I talked about this briefly before, but given the number of questions that come up about it, even from judges, I figured I need to go a little more into detail. Cards and modifiers both have timestamps. But what is it?

A timestamp is just a note in the game saying one of a couple things:

For a non-attachment card, it’s a note saying when the card entered play

For an attachment, it’s a note saying when the card last attached

For a modifier, it’s when that modifier last started applying

That third bullet point is a little paraphrased, but it’s more-or-less correct. What this means is that, as a player, you need to remember when cards entered play, or at least what order they entered play in. Additionally, certain key events need to be kept track of:

If a card loses powers and then they return, the modifiers created by that card get a new timestamp

If a card gains a new power, the newly generated modifiers get a new timestamp

If a card has a triggered power (“when” or “at”) or a definite power (“as”), the modifier generated has a timestamp of when that effect resolved

That sounds like a lot of stuff to keep track of! Well honestly, it is, but really I suspect you’re already doing this in your head. Whenever I’ve needed to ask a player what order two cards came into play, or when a power triggered, I was able to get the answer I needed. Admittedly, if they couldn’t agree on the answer, then we have a dispute that needs to be resolved, but so far that hasn’t come up (knock on wood). It’s not like you have to keep track of every card. Usually there’s only a few cards that really start messing with the game state. The most common example of this is any card that directly sets ATK or health (like Polymorph: Pig). So when cards like these start coming out, be sure to keep track of any cards that try to modify ATK or health, because the timestamps on those cards is going to become relevant.
THAT PESKY POLYMORPH: PIG

You may have noticed both questions this week have Polymorph: Pig in it. That’s mostly just because it was a recent example on the forums, and it is an easy example of this problem, but it’s not nearly the most complex of the cards that invoke this type of behavior. Cards like this have been around forever, from recent cards like The Big Bad Wolf to Contemporary cards like Corrupted Egg Shell to Classic cards like Arcanite Dragonling. So it’s not really Polymorph’s fault; it’s just an innocent bystander.

When we apply modifiers, we (usually) apply them in timestamp order. (The exception to this is what we’ll cover in the next article, but for now let’s just say we always apply in timestamp order; the exception is pretty infrequently used.) “Timestamp order” means we start with the modifiers that are oldest (i.e., created first, in most cases), and then apply them in order until we get to the most recently created modifier. Knowing that, can you answer our first question? 

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