Multiplayer Monday: What happens when a player leaves the game.

Today, we’re covering what happens when a player leaves the game when the game consists of only individual players (not teams). This comes up most frequently in EDH/Commander and any other casual game with a bunch of players in a free-for-all. What happens when Susie is eliminated in the middle of the game, or even the middle of her turn?

Well, the first thing that happens when a player leaves (either by conceding or by losing the game in any other way) is that all objects OWNED by that player leave the game. This means every card that started the game in Susie’s deck is removed from whatever zone it happens to be in (i.e., library, hand, exile, battlefield, graveyard, command, stack). Those cards simply leave the game altogether immediately. This also means that if she had a Volition Reins or Treachery on someone’s creature or permanent, that enchantment leaves the game and control of the enchanted permanent returns to the previous controller.

Next, all control effects controlled by that player end. So if she gained control of all your creatures with Insurrection just before she was killed, everyone gets their creatures back. If she had used Gilded Drake or Dominate to steal something, it goes back to the previous controller. If she had used Commandeer on your spell on the stack, you regain control of it.

After all that, if she still controls any spells or abilities on the stack (this can happen if she had created a copy of a spell with Twincast or Isochron Scepter), they cease to exist.

Finally, anything still controlled by that player gets exiled. “How can this happen?” you might wonder. Well, if she had used Bribery (the card, not the unsporting conduct infraction!) on you, or had cast Gather Specimens at some point, or had Reanimated your creature, a permanent she doesn’t OWN may have entered the battlefield directly under her control. When this happens, there is only one default control effect, and when it ends, there is no previous controller for the permanent to go to. In this case, that card will just be exiled, much to its owner’s chagrin.

Another thing to consider is what happens to anything that triggered under that player’s control during this process. Cards with “when this leaves the battlefield” abilities WILL trigger when they leave the game, but strangely enough, if that object was controlled by the player that left the game, the trigger will never go on the stack. This is most relevant when the player in question had cast an Oblivion Ring exiling your permanent. When Oblivion Ring leaves the game, it triggers because it wants to return what was exiled. However, since that trigger would go on the stack under the control of a player no longer in the game, it just does nothing instead, and the exiled object stays in exile forever! I know, sad face, right?

So when Susie dies, does the game just immediately move to the next player’s turn? Nope! As weird as it is, the turn continues normally, just without an active player. Players will get a chance to cast spells and activate abilities in each remaining step/phase of that turn, and abilities will trigger at the appropriate time in that turn if necessary.

Today’s Rules Tip written by
Josh Stansfield, Level 2 judge from Orange, CA

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