Un-intuitive Interactions in Eternal Formats by Ru Macdonald

Un-intuitive Interactions in Eternal Formats by Ru Macdonald

Welcome back!

Winners to the “The Stack Puzzle” are revealed at the end of the article, along with so much more. 

The  second Part of “Top 7 Most Misunderstood Mechanics in Standard“, I now bring you Un-intuitive Interactions in Eternal formats. 

These are no Standard issues, rather, from here on I will be discussing obscure interactions that are generally only found in Commander games or my imagination.

You have been warned, as you are entering my dark place…

Garth Marenghi

The Stack Puzzle

For those of you who did not catch Part 1, allow me to reintroduce the Stack Puzzle.

Let’s kick off the weird and wonderful with a confusing little situation that came up in a game of Commander I was playing in. The players present were Mandeep, Leo, Myself and Jon. Mandeep had ramped like a complete demon through a combination of Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Sol Ring, Gaea’s Cradle, Wort, the Raidmother and a million clash winning Recross the Paths. Seriously, those paths were heavily crossed.

We are all at around 40 life, and he is up to 27 mana on turn five. Here’s what went down:

He cast Comet Storm for 21 damage, with two extra targets (I.e 21 damage at everyone not him).

He tries to conspire the spell with Wort, but had it Trickbind‘d by Leo. This is a card that Leo has an un-natural devotion too.

Stack ProblemJon then excitedly casts Wild Ricochet, to redirect Comet Storm at everyone not Jon and add his own Comet Storm to the stack.

Mandeep then flashes us Fork and says “So everyone’s dead.”

As it happens, we were meant to be leaving imminently to go see The Raid 2, so no-one argued. We laughed at the groups timely genocide and moved on with our lives.

But is this really what happened? For starters, Mandeep did not declare what his Fork would be copying. To be clear, the stack consists of:

  1. Mandeep’s Comet Storm targeting Leo, Ru & Jon
  2. Jon’s Wild Ricochet redirecting 1. to target Leo, Ru & Mandeep, and copying 1. targeting Leo, Ru & Mandeep.
  3. Mandeep’s Fork copying either (1) or (2).

What should Fork target in order for Mandeep to get the win? Stay tuned to find out!

Casting Eldrazi

Kozilek, Butcher of TruthThe larger Eldrazi like Kozilek, Butcher of Truth have a shared theme of having two double edged abilities.

They do something powerful when you cast them, and they shuffle themselves and your graveyard into back into your library should they ever go there.

They, like Demigod of Revenge, are rather unique in the sense that their ‘enter the battlefield‘ ability is actually a when ‘cast‘ ability.

This means that it will resolve regardless of whether the creature does. This interaction is what allows the Demigod to reanimate themselves should they be countered. So that all sounds good and dandy!

It does however mean that you do not get the juicy bonus if you reanimate them or cheat them into play in another way. No Clone, Animate Dead or Elvish Piper will get an Eldrazi bonus for you.

Their second ability is a insurance against turn one or two reanimation strategies. Should they hit the graveyard, they do a runner for it.

You can catch them when their shuffle ability on the stack with a Apprentice Necromancer, Corpse Dance or any other ‘instant’ speed effect.

The main thing to take away here is, you have not hit the jackpot when you cast Rite of Replication targeting an Artisan of Kozilek hoping to reanimate 5 creatures. Actually, that’s a total of annihilator 10…


People play these with a casual and mostly true comprehension that they are un-counterable and cannot be responded to.

If you want to think of Magic cards having certain speeds, then know this – there is something faster than Split-Second.

QUARTER-SECOND! More commonly known as ‘Morph’. Paying the cost to turn a morph creature face up does not use the stack, and cannot be responded to. Seeing as you still get priority when a player has cast a spell with split-second, you do have the opportunity to turn this little gal face up.


Morphing Time[draft]Voidmage Apprentice[/draft]

Split-second does not allow any spells or activated abilities to be added to the stack, but it doesn’t say anything about triggered abilities. You flip this badboy up and BOOM! Out of nowhere, their split-second spell is countered. They then do a world class table flip and quit Magic FOREVER (two months probably).

Upon returning to the game, they pick up the combo-kill Ad Nauseam deck. They confidently drain themselves to 1 but don’t manage to kill you that turn. They don’t mind though, they have another Angel’s Grace in hand and see that there are no morphs on the battlefield. There is just a puny Zhur-Taa Druid and a Burning-Tree Emissary.

Next turn, you attack with the Emissary forcing them to pop their un-respondable life saving spell. Imagine their disappointment when you kill them with the Zhur-Taa Druid in response to their Angel’s Grace.

Yep, you can do that. You can still activate mana abilities, and it just so happened to add a lethal triggered ability to the stack, just on top of Angel’s Grace.

This story was fictitious and for display purposes only. Do not try this at home.

The Command Zone

This was news to me!

Having your commander go to their Command Zone instead of the graveyard/exile is a replacement effect and consequently means that they go their instead of their original destination.

So what? Issues arise as equipping your Commander with your beloved Skullclamp will not draw you two cards upon their death if you choose to put them to the Command Zone. They did not die (go to the the graveyard) but went to their happy, safe, candy-floss filled place instead.

If you want that death trigger so badly, you will have to let them go to the graveyard like a ‘normal’ creature. How demoralizing.

Commanders are kind of brats aren’t they? They get grumpier and more demanding the more times you cast them, by charging you with their self-imposed Commander tax– AND they don’t play ball when it comes to death trigger shenanigans! But they are so key to the deck.

The love-hate relationship continues.

Chess Command Zone

A typical day at the office for Oloro. Why leave the zone when you can play chess with Tyrell?

Un-counterable & Un-preventable Spells

These may seem like indomitable Last word type effects, but there are a couple of ways round them. The most scary of these un-blah-able spells are when they have both lines of text on them, like Banefire (for more than 5) or a kicked Urza’s Rage.

The four main ways to sneak around these seemingly irrefutable effects are:

  • Urza's RageRedirect it! Better yet, use a Wild Ricochet. Redirecting a spell is not countering it nor preventing it. Commandeer can also be used to turn the spell in a more favourable direction.
  • Exile the spell. I do not mean by using a Dissipate, as you would have to counter the spell first. The famous storm hate card Mindbreak Trap allows you to exile the spell from the stack, which is not countering, it’s simply removing it. Super niche Shell of the Last Kappa can also get the job done, but who is going to play into that? Seriously!?
  • Finally, you can have the final say in matters by the manipulation of time itself.. with a Time Stop! When the turn ends, all spells on the stack are removed from it and go to, wherever removed spells go. As unlikely as this is, but if you have a Sundial of the Infinite then you can always try and bait them into Urza’s Rageing you on your turn, in which case you can end the turn with the Sundial.

This would most likely result in someone other than Urza being in a rage.

Take that un-counterable spells!

Another option can present itself for spells that target you: You can give yourself shroud via Ivory Mask or give yourself protection from the threatening colour by use of a Seht’s Tiger.

This does not prevent the spell, but results in the spell having an illegal target, and therefore ‘fizzling‘. I know I know, my fondness for Seht’s Tiger is bordering on obsession, so don’t tell Seht.

Exile a Wish

‘Removed from the game’ was changed to ‘Exile’ back in M10. With this change of text came the stipulation that cards in ‘Exile’ and cards ‘outside’ the game are separate places. Meaning that you cannot use Living Wish to return a creature that has been exiled by Swords to PlowsharesSimilarly, you cannot return an exiled Mystical Teachings with Cunning Wish, but you could with Runic Repetition.

In tournament play, ‘outside the game’ refers to your sideboard of fifteen cards. The same applies to casual play unless you have no sideboard, in which case it’s your whole card collection (if your opponents agree first!).

Ninja Shenanigans

This is one of the most un-intuitive quirks of magic that exists.

Ink EyesCreatures with Ninjutsu are badass. Mostly because they are ninjas, but also because they are very satisfying to play with. They are the embodiment of ‘Gotcha!‘. They allow you to swap out an unblocked attacker and replace it with a deadly ninja from your hand.

“This creature is not blocked?” You smugly ask.

Hazaa! Suck on my Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni!

Where things get weird is the interaction this ability has with First Strike. Let’s assume you attack with Mirri the Cursed. During the blocking step she is not blocked, and is thus declared an unblocked attacker.

During combat, creatures with first-strike or double-strike get to deal combat damage before those other losers that don’t have either of those abilities.

Once Mirri the Cursed has done her damage you gain priority and can then Ninjutsu in Ninja of the Deep Hours. This ninja will deal combat damage during the normal combat step and net you a card. HOW CHEEKY IS THAT?

It gets worse. If you have an effect like Hanweir Lancer on the battlefield, things can get more freaky.

walker secret waysIf you find yourself with an unblocked Walker of Secret Ways, you can then activate the ninjutsu of Ninja of the Deep Hours from your hand to swap it with the first ninja.

The Deep Hours ninja strikes up a bonding relationship with the Lancer, and consequently has first-strike. After the first-strike half of the combat step (in which you deal 2 damage and draw a card) you then swap out Ninja of the Deep Hours back for the Walker of Secret Ways.

The Lancer does not bond with the Walker, and rumour has it, will never love again.

The Walker deals 1 damage to your opponent during the normal combat damage step and lets you see their hand (information!!).

Before the end of your turn, you return The Walker to your hand with her second ability and the battlefield is now ninja-less, and yet you attacked your opponent with two different ninjas.

It’s definitely an epic flavour win. It reminds me of the famous philosophical thought experiment:

“If a ninja steps on a twig in a forest and there is no-one around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Of course not, it’s a ninja.

Time Stamps

They are not postage stamps that you use to send mail to the future, though that would be sweet. It refers to the timing preference that effects have in Magic.

Essentially, the game often runs with a ‘last in counts’ system for simplicity. This causes no end of confusion when it comes to understanding which card has dominance with Blood Moon and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.

I would explain the interaction there but I keep finding mixed answers on the subject! Instead, I shall discuss following interaction:

Rack vs Tower

Bear in mind that this is based on the updated text for Cursed Rack which can be seen here and not the bad sandwich of writing you see above you.

If you already have a Reliquary Tower in play when you get rack’d, then your hand size is now 4. Hand reductions do not work on the Tower because 4 less than infinity is still infinity. However, Cursed Rack changes your hand size from infinity to 4. It was the last change to your hand size, and is what sticks.

If you were to then blink your Reliquary Tower with a Ruin Ghost, upon re-entering the Towers effect would have the final say, reverting your hand size back to infinity.

A Cascade of Value

With Bloodbraid Elf banned in Modern, cascade certainly took a dip in tournament appearances. Now though, Shardless Agent is doing its part in Legacy, Living End in Modern and Maelstrom Wanderer in Commander games. Things to note when tangling with the infamous cascade are:

  • Bloodbraid ElfThe cascade trigger will resolve first, and the spell it cascades into will be placed on top of the stack, thus resolving first.
  • If you counter the initial spell, the cascade trigger will still resolve and you will have the cascaded spell to contend with. You can allow the initial spell to resolve and counter the cascaded spell instead. If you have two Counterspells, then you can even do both.
  • You do not have to cast the spell you cascade into if you do not want to.
  • When dealing with fuse or split cards, as long as one half of the card ‘passes’ then you may cast it. This is why Shardless Agent can legally cascade into Boom // Bust and cast the Bust half. Even though Bust fails the check, Boom flags up as a ‘yes’ to being less than a converted mana cost of 3.
  • ‘Cascade’ triggers when you cast the spell, and so, what you cascade into will happen before the initial spell with cascade. E.g You cast Bloodbraid Elf. Cascade triggers, then resolves finding an Anger of the Gods. Anger of the Gods will resolve before Bloodbraid Elf – phew!

The Stack Puzzle – The Answers

This is the moment you have all been looking forward to. And the answer is…

ImageJon wins or Mandeep wins.

We do not all die, and there are no scenarios in which Leo or myself live. *sniff*

There appeared to be a bit of mass confusion as to how Trickbind affects things. What a red herring! No spells can be cast in response to the Trickbind, and it successfully counters the conspire trigger.

After this has happened the active player will gain priority again. It is assumed that he, Leo and myself all pass priority till it gets to Jon, who fires off his Wild Ricochet. I hope this clears things up!

There are two outcomes to the scenario, dependent on if Fork copies Comet Storm or Wild Ricochet.

Image (4)If Fork copies Comet Storm then the following will happen:

  1. Mandeeps Fork resolves first and copies Comet Storm. It puts a Comet Storm on the stack targeting everyone not Mandeep. Leo, Jon and Ru all take 21 damage.
  2. Jons Wild Ricochet resolves, readjusting the original Comet Storm targets to everyone not Jon, and puts another Comet Storm on the stack doing just the same. This Comet Storm resolves and Mandeep, Leo and Ru take 21 damage. Leo and Ru have now taken lethal.
  3. Mandeeps Comet Storm resolves, but with the last target adjustment being to target everyone not Jon. Thus Mandeep, Leo and Ru take a further 21 damage.

Damage Taken:
Ru & Leo  = 63
Mandeep = 42
Jon            = 21

A few people did answer correctly, based on this scenario. However, the less obvious situation is;

Image (5)If Fork copies Wild Ricochet:

  1. Mandeeps Fork targets Wild Ricochet and resolves first. As a Wild Ricochet it then changes Jon’s Wild Ricochet target to itself, and puts a copy of Wild Ricochet on the stack.
  2. This new Wild Ricochet will then resolve and it will target Comet Storm (not changing the targets) and put a copy of Comet Storm on the stack.
  3. This Comet Storm will then resolve dealing everyone not Mandeep 21 damage.
  4. Jon’s Wild Ricochet tries to target Mandeeps Wild Ricochet (which is no longer on the stack) and so ‘fizzles’.
  5. Mandeeps original Comet Storm resolves and deals 21 damage to his opponents.

Damage Taken:
Ru, Jon & Leo  = 42
Mandeep = 0

So there you have it! I believe it was a juicy enough conundrum to share with you, and a fitting finale to this repertoire of exotic rules-infused interactions. If anyone has any issues with these explanations, then do not hesitate to comment below. I will endevour to answer your query with post-haste.

The Winners!

Using a trusty dice, I randomized the winning answers into a 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions. They are..

  1. Martin McGowan – (Fork)
  2. Michael ‘Brandy’ Brand (Foil Wild Ricochet)
  3. Keiron ‘Yoshiken’ Harman (Comet Storm)

Well done lads, and enjoy your free booty!

Incidently, Martin McGowan was the only one to answer the ‘copy Wild Ricochet’ method correctly.


Till next time nerds!


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