Published on 06/08/2009

Attack of the One-Hour Turn

or, Why EDH Games Should Not Contain Nine Players

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Note: This article is over two years old. Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes. Proceed with caution.

Madness, and not the
replacement/trigger kind.
(Click for full-size.)
Elder Dragon Highlander, being a multiplayer format that encourages offbeat card choices from the distant past, sometimes runs into wacky rules questions on its own. However, when you get a group of nine players playing one massive free-for-all and including a deck that just makes people draw cards and get stuff for free, even wackier things will happen. The first dozen or so questions of this article chronicles the five-hour game with a one-hour Tempting Wurm turn.

And then, as always, I dig into our mailbox! Send your questions to to add your queries to box and to get a shot at being published!

Note that in the group picture of that insane game, you can see Moko in the lower left riding another player's back. Giddy-up chimpanzee!

Q: An opponent asked me if I'd choose a particular card if he played Forgotten Lore. When he played it, I chose a different card instead. Is that legal?

A: Sure, it's legal – but not advised. Committing yourself to a future action (as long as you're not making an on-resolution choice for a spell currently on the stack, like the classic Persecute-for-white-oh-now-blue situation) isn't enforceable, and stuff done on that knowledge is done at the player's risk.

However, you're likely to be shunned and never trusted again and otherwise abused if you do that, so it's not really a good call unless some other information comes into the picture, such as "if he gets that card, he'll kill you immediately, you know."

Q: Can I use Task Force, any en-Kor creature, and Miren, the Moaning Well to gain infinite life?

A: Not infinite, no. The only "infinite" in Magic is infinite loops that turn the game into a draw. But you can gain a ridiculously high life total, such as 4*c^c or a squintillion, some number that defies all rationality of 2-power creatures and 4-damage burn spells (though not generals, whose general damage goes right around life totals).

You can then use a little symbol like µ to express this amount and add numbers to it like algebra. At one point, a player was at 2µ+20 life, but another player went to µ/2 with Phyrexian Processor to make µ/µ tokens.

But the trick does work with Nomads en-Kor and friends, since the ability doesn't require damage about to be dealt, just a legal target.

Q: How does Sunscape Familiar interact with Skyscribing?

A: It has no effect on the forecast ability, let's get that out of the way. Forecast is an activated ability, not a spell, so Familiars aren't too familiar with it.

If you play Skyscribing, the first thing you do after it's on the stack is choose a value for X, say, 17. Then you determine the cost. If X is 17, the cost is . Now you apply the Familiar, and reduce the cost you pay to , but X is still 17 and you'll all draw 17 cards while only paying 18 mana.

Q: Can I put an Aura into play via Tempting Wurm onto a creature coming into play the same way?

A: Nope. For Tempting Wurm, all objects move into play at the same time. As everything comes into play, you need to choose something already in play, before everything starts moving, to put Auras on.

At one point in the game, Bolas was
about to come out and go nuts. Except that
his abilities just didn't matter anymore.
Q: I control no black permanents, but I put a Parasitic Strix and a black creature into play with Tempting Wurm. Do I get to drain 2 life?

A: You will! Triggers check the game post-event as a default, and post-event you do have a black permanent. Just hope you keep it in play until it resolves!

Q: I put Death Match into play and everyone put lots and lots of creatures into play. Do they all get to smack each other around, or can they not target each other since they came into play at the same time? Does Death Match even trigger?

A: Going back to "triggers check the game post-event as a default," it will trigger. Many many times. Targets are chosen as the triggers are put on the stack, which is well after the creatures have come into play, so they can all target each other.

Note that the controller of Death Match is the one to choose which order the triggers go on the stack. For each creature that came into play, the controller of Death Match chooses one, asks its controller what to target, and repeats. Then the last target chosen gets -3/-3, then work backwards resolving all the triggers.

Q: I'm going to put a Magister Sphinx into play from that Wurm. Do I get to see what everyone else puts into play before I decide who to target?

A: You do! Everyone chooses what cards to put into play secretly, then puts them into play at once, but only after this do triggers go on the stack, and you don't choose a target until this happens. If later players in turn order have triggered abilities firing, too, you'll even know what they target for those before you choose who to Sphinx down from µ to 10.

Q: I steal my opponent's Enigma Sphinx and sacrifice it. Does its owner get it back in his library?

A: Enigma Sphinx specifies "your" graveyard, and since you controlled it as it left play, you're the one we look at for the trigger. It didn't go to your graveyard – it went to its owner's graveyard – so it won't trigger.

Q: What happens if I Pull from Eternity another guy's general in EDH? Does it stay in the yard? If not, does it cost more to play next time?

A: An EDH general can be removed from the game instead of being put into a graveyard no matter how it'd go there, so Pulling a general won't do anything appreciable. The general's cost only goes up based on the number of times it was played, not the number of times it was removed, so that won't even be different.

Q: With a Prosperity for 81, who wins? The player with the most cards left, or is it one big draw?

A: It'll be one big draw. State-based effects won't cause any players to lose the game until all 81 draw attempts have been made, and then all the SBEs will be processed at the same time.

Q: How does ninjitsu interact with banding?

A: Not in any meaningful way. If one creature in the band is blocked, all of them are blocked and can't be ninjas. If the band is unblocked, you can ninja in a ninja, and that ninja won't be in the band, but that doesn't mean anything special since banding only really matters if things are blocked.

You're just trying to make our heads explode, aren't you? :(

Q: If I enchant my opponent's creature with Betrayal and then gain control of it, does the enchantment fall off?

A: Yup. The enchant ability is checked as a state-based effect to make sure the Aura is still on a legal thingy, and if you control the critter and the enchantment, it isn't a "creature an opponent controls."

Q: I Thoughtseized my opponent and the one card in his hand was a Wilt-Leaf Liege. Do I have to choose it?

A: You do. You can only "fail to find" when performing an action that specifically uses the word "search," and that's not here.

om nom nom
Q: Can Marrow Chomper eat itself so I can gain more life?

A: Nope. Devour is a replacement effect that modifies how something comes into play, and you choose what to devour before the Chomper is actually in play.

Q: Can I block a creature with Etherium Sculptor then bounce and put it back with Master Transmuter and block another creature?

A: You have to declare all blocking creatures at the same time; there's no time to play abilities or do anything, really, between declaring blockers. Your Sculptor can only block one guy, but at least he'll survive it thanks to some transmutation.

Q: Does Karmic Justice trigger if my opponent skips his turn to destroy my Lethal Vapors?

A: Even though you control the Vapors, the controller of an activated ability is the player who played that ability. Karmic Justice will trigger and let you blow things up.

Q: Can I play Bituminous Blast with no legal targets just to get the cascade?

A: You can't play anything that targets without a legal target. That's all sad and frowny. That target doesn't need to be there when it resolves in order to get off cascade (cascade triggers as soon as you play it and resolves first) but there has to be one when you announce the spell to get your free spell.

Q: If I resolve Rewind, can I untap another player's lands?

A: While this is usually an idea that falls somewhere between "dumb" and "suicidal," sometimes it can be a real win, especially in multiplayer. And it's legal. Rewind just says to untap lands, not lands you control, so untap away!

Q: Will Pernicious Deed or Engineered Explosives kill an animated Mishra's Factory?

A: Yes and no. These cards have different wordings – wording is sometimes very, very important in Magic and this is one of those times. Deed says to destroy each "artifact, creature, and enchantment" and the Factory is an artifact creature. Explosives says to destroy nonland permanents, and the Factory is a land. Deed will kill it, Explosives will not.

Q: How many baby Dragons do I get each turn from Dragon Broodmother in 2HG?

A: Just one. If it says that it triggers "each upkeep," it triggers once per turn since there is only one upkeep. If it says it triggers "each player's upkeep," it triggers twice since there are two players having an upkeep. Broodmother falls under the former; effects that trigger "each player's upkeep" will almost always go on to specific that "that player" does something.

Q: Can Profane Command hit a planeswalker to take off counters?

A: Nope. Planeswalkers can only have damage redirected to them, not loss of life. Ajani is safe from your naughty profanity.

Q: I know that I can play a Glorious Anthem off a Windbrisk Heights during combat, but why can I? Why does it let me ignore the normal timing rules?

A: You're not ignoring anything, and that's what throws people off. The rules say "you may play an enchantment spell if it's your main phase, you have priority, and the stack is empty." It doesn't say "you can't play it at other times" – they don't have to. The rules describe what you can do, and only rarely (lands are only on your turn, for instance) describe what you cannot. What happens is that you receive an additional permission: the Heights says "in addition to normal permissions, you must play this specific enchantment spell right now or not play it."

Normally the "permissions vs restrictions" distinction is overly pedantic, but in cases like this, it's vital to understanding how the cards work.

That's all for this week. Tune in next week for more shenanigans as we gear up to M10 and a few months with lots and lots of fun new products to obsess over and dump questions in our mailbox!

Until next time, limit your EDH games to 6 players tops.

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

About the Author:
Eli Shiffrin is currently in Lowell, Massachusetts and discovering how dense the east coast MTG community is. Legend has it that the Comprehensive Rules are inscribed on the folds of his brain.


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