Text-Changing Effects

I decided to write this article because I was inspired by the “Splice onto Instant or Sorcery” cards from Modern Horizons, and I want to build a Commander deck around the ability. Along with Modern Horizons came a rules change, which made Splice into a text-changing ability. I didn’t know what that meant, so I decided to dig into the topic and write this article in the process! Let’s learn something together.


A text-changing effect is an unusual kind of continuous effect. The comprehensive rules’ definition doesn’t really help us to understand them, but I’m going to put it here anyway. This is Eye of the Stack after all, and that’s just how we do things.

612.1. Some continuous effects change an object’s text. This can apply to any words or symbols printed on that object, but generally affects only that object’s rules text (which appears in its text box) and/or the text that appears in its type line. Such an effect is a text-changing effect.

612.2. A text-changing effect changes only those words that are used in the correct way (for example, a Magic color word being used as a color word, a land type word used as a land type, or a creature type word used as a creature type). An effect that changes a color word or a subtype can’t change a card name, even if that name contains a word or a series of letters that is the same as a Magic color word, basic land type, or creature type.

Obviously, a text-changing effect modifies or adds to the text on an object. It can change the type, the name, or the rules text of a card. However, many effects that seem to do this actually don’t modify the card’s text at all. For example, Angelic Destiny gives the enchanted creature a slew of abilities and gives it the Angel creature type in addition to its other types, but it doesn’t actually write those abilities onto the creature it enchants. The text of the enchanted creature remains the same, and the aura simply adds its effects while it’s attached.

Even cards like Darksteel Mutation and Imprisoned in the Moon, which remove abilities and types of a permanent, don’t actually change any text. The enchantment has a constant effect which negates all the permanent’s types and abilities, and adds its own instead. No text on the permanent is changed, it’s just ignored for the time being.

So What Is It?

Any creature type… and you chose cephalid?

Now that we’ve learned what isn’t a text-changing effect, let’s talk about what is. For an easy example, let’s look at Artificial Evolution. It’s easy to see how this qualifies: It says to “change the text of target spell or permanent.” It will replace all the instances of a chosen creature type word with another one, as long as both are being used as a creature type and not as a name. The exception to this rule applies to token creatures:

612.2a Most spells and abilities that create creature tokens use creature types to define both the creature types and the names of the tokens. A text-changing effect that affects such a spell or an object with such an ability can change these words because they’re being used as creature types, even though they’re also being used as names.

When a spell like Saproling Migration creates a Saproling creature token, that single instance of the word Saproling applies to the name and the creature type of the token that gets created. If we resolve Artificial Evolution targeting Saproling Migration, and we choose to change “Saproling” to “Goblin”, then Saproling Migration will create 1/1 green Goblin creature tokens. Those tokens will be named “Goblin” and have the creature type “Goblin”.

This type of text change is nicknamed a “hack,” after the card Magical Hack. It functions identically to Artificial Evolution, only for basic land types instead of creature types. Similar “hack” spells, like Mind Bend and Trait Doctoring, replace color words or basic land types; with them, we could change which color a creature has protection from, or what type of basic land a Bant Panorama can fetch.

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Other Forms of Text Change

I’m you, but I’m also me… and him… and that thing

There are a few other effects that are considered “text-changing,” but only two of them affect permanents on the battlefield: Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi changes the name of a Land as a text-changing effect, and Spy Kit gives the equipped creature every name of every nonlegendary creature card!

Spy Kit is a particularly interesting card rules-wise, because (as far as I can tell) it’s the only card in the game that gives a permanent multiple names. If an effect like Echoing Courage or Detention Sphere targets a creature that’s equipped with Spy Kit, that effect will affect every nonlegendary, nontoken creature on the battlefield. This happens because effects that look for creatures with “the same name” don’t need the others to have every name as well; for a creature to be affected, it only needs to share a name with the targeted creature.

Take a Look at Yourself, and Then Make the Change

When we Overload a spell, the ability modifies the text of the very card it’s printed on; every instance of the word “target” is replaced with the word “each.” If an overloaded spell is copied, the copy will retain those text changes.

I tried very hard to find something crazy to do with this, but unfortunately Overload spells are carefully worded and often don’t offer much value when copied.

Build-a-Spell Workshop


The “Splice onto Arcane” (and the new “Splice onto Instant or Sorcery”) ability is also a text-changing effect. When casting an arcane spell, we can reveal the “splice” card from our hand to add the spliced spell’s effects (and splice cost) to it. Doing so changes the text of the spell that we’re trying to cast, adding the “splice” card’s text to the end of the original spell.

This is a recent rules change, and an important distinction, because it means that splicing an effect onto a spell doesn’t simply add the spliced spell to the stack as an ability. Instead, the original spell is modified, meaning that if it’s copied the spliced effects are copied as well!

Let’s say we have an Evermind and a Kodama’s Might in hand, and we have a Precursor Golem with its two Golem tokens on the battlefield. We begin casting Kodama’s Might targeting a Golem, revealing Evermind from our hand to splice its text onto the spell. When we finish casting, the spell we cast reads “Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn. Draw a card.”

Since we’ve just cast a spell that targets a single golem, Precursor Golem will trigger, copying that spell twice to target the other two Golems we control. When everything finishes resolving, our Golems are bigger, but more importantly we draw three cards! That’s pretty cool, but we can be even more clever than that:

Because the spliced effects go onto the spell before it’s cast, we can copy non-targeting spells by splicing targeted effects onto them. If we cast Eerie Procession and splice Candles’ Glow onto it, we can target Precursor Golem to create as many copies of that spell as there are Golems on the battlefield! That’s a lot of free Tutor effects, and it can find us whatever combination of arcane cards we want to break next!

If we want to really show off, we can reveal multiple spells at a time with the Splice ability from our hand and add their text to a single cast spell. If we have two Everdreams and a Splicer’s Skill in our hand, and the mana to pay for them, we could add “Draw a card. Draw a card. Create a 3/3 colorless Golem Creature token” to any instant or sorcery we cast! Throw a Precursor Golem or Zada, Hedron Grinder into the mix and we won’t even know what to do with all the cards we’re drawing.

That’s All for Now

That’s it for text-changing effects! I hope you learned something, and I especially hope this got your gears turning with some ideas of your own! Thanks for reading, and tune in next time when I splice Splicer’s Skill and Reweave onto a Crack the Earth and target Zada, Hedron Grinder with it.

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