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Ante refers to both an optional variation of Magic and the ante zone used only in such ante games. It also refers to the act of adding a card to the ante zone, but it is not currently defined as a keyword action. Ante was designed by Richard Garfield and introduced in Alpha.
If players agree to play for ante, at the beginning of the game, before drawing starting hands, each player puts a random card from his or her library into the ante zone. The winner of the game receives permanent ownership of all the cards in that zone. Several cards interact with the ante mechanic or card ownership, and all of those cards have the added text, "Remove [this card] from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante."
Ante was intended to introduce an element of gambling to Magic, but it proved unpopular as many players did not like risking the loss of their cards, and rarely played for ante. There were also concerns within Wizards of the Coast that playing for ante might result in official tournaments being legally recognized as gambling. Were that to occur, tournament venues might require gambling licenses, or be forced to meet other requirements that would vary with jurisdiction. As a result, playing for ante is now classed as an unofficial variant format, cards referring to it are no longer made, and all older cards referencing ante have been banned in every sanctioned format. The last card to mention ante was Timmerian Fiends, printed in the 1995 Homelands expansion.
Ante is strictly forbidden in DCI-sanctioned play, and is only allowed in unsanctioned games where not forbidden by law.
From the Comprehensive Rules (Core Set 2019 (July 13, 2018))
- 407. Ante
- 407.1. Earlier versions of the Magic rules included an ante rule as a way of playing “for keeps.” Playing Magic games for ante is now considered an optional variation on the game, and it’s allowed only where it’s not forbidden by law or by other rules. Playing for ante is strictly forbidden under the Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules (WPN.Wizards.com/en/resources/rules-documents).
- 407.2. When playing for ante, each player puts one random card from their deck into the ante zone after determining which player goes first but before players draw any cards. Cards in the ante zone may be examined by any player at any time. At the end of the game, the winner becomes the owner of all the cards in the ante zone.
- 407.3. A few cards have the text “Remove [this card] from your deck before playing if you’re not playing for ante.” These are the only cards that can add or remove cards from the ante zone or change a card’s owner. When not playing for ante, players can’t include these cards in their decks or sideboards, and these cards can’t be brought into the game from outside the game.
- 407.4. To ante an object is to put that object into the ante zone from whichever zone it’s currently in. The owner of an object is the only person who can ante that object.
From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (Core Set 2019 (July 13, 2018))
- 1. A zone used only when playing “for keeps.”
- 2. To put a card into the ante zone.
- See rule 407, “Ante.”
Examples of cards referencing ante
- Contract from Below -
Remove Contract from Below from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante.
Discard your hand, add the top card of your library to the ante, then draw seven cards.
- Jeweled Bird -
Remove Jeweled Bird from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante.
: Put Jeweled Bird into the ante. If you do, put all other cards you own in the ante into your graveyard, then draw a card.
- Timmerian Fiends -
Creature — Fiend
Remove Timmerian Fiends from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante.
, Sacrifice Timmerian Fiends: The owner of target artifact may ante the top card of his or her library. If that player doesn't, exchange ownership of that artifact and Timmerian Fiends. Put the artifact card into your graveyard and Timmerian Fiends from anywhere into that player's graveyard. This change in ownership is permanent.
List of ante cards
- Amulet of Quoz (Ice Age)
- Bronze Tablet (Antiquities, Fourth Edition)
- Contract from Below (Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised)
- Darkpact (Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised)
- Demonic Attorney (Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised)
- Jeweled Bird (Arabian Nights, Chronicles)
- Rebirth (Legends, Fourth Edition)
- Tempest Efreet (Legends, Fourth Edition)
- Timmerian Fiends (Homelands)