Replacement effects

Identifying replacement effects

  • Anything that uses the word “instead” is a replacement effect. Examples: Cabal Ritual, Laboratory Maniac. Sometimes the word “instead” is found in the CR definition of the effect. Examples: regenerate, redirecting noncombat damage to a planeswalker, exiling flashbacked spells.
  • Anything that uses the word “skip” is a replacement effect. Examples: Meditate, Eon Hub)
  • Effects that change how a permanent enters the battlefield, for instance:
  • Effects that change how a permanent is turned face up using “As [This permanent] is turned face up…” Examples: Aquamorph Entity, Hooded Hydra

How replacement effects work

  • Replacement effects act like bouncers, watching the game as it happens and intervening immediately before something they could replace happens.
  • Replacement effects don’t require priority or use the stack when they apply. Rather, they are able to happen at any time, even in the middle of casting or resolving a spell.
  • Replacement effects may involve a choice (Examples: tribute, devour, shocklands). These choices are made as the replacement effect applies.

Interaction of replacement effects

  • Replacement effects have tiers of priority indicating what order they apply in. These are not unlike the layers system used by continuous effects, so this can be a useful mental analogy.
    • First self-replacement effects apply. These are replacement effects that are not tied to a permanent or game rule but to a resolving spell or ability that change what that spell or ability does. Examples: Remand, Elder Cathar
    • Next, replacement effects that change under whose control a permanent would enter the battlefield apply. Example: Gather Specimens
    • Then, replacement effects that make something enter the battlefield as a copy of something else apply. Examples: Clone, Infinite Reflection
    • Finally, all other replacement effects apply.
  • If two or more replacement effects want to apply to the same thing, and both are in the same “layer,” the affected player (or controller of the affected object) chooses one of them to apply first. This might cause some later replacement effects to not apply anymore (for example, if two different effects want to replace the same thing, that thing won’t be happening after the first one applies, which usually makes the second one not work). Conversely, it might cause some new replacement effect to apply even if it didn’t before. The game checks after each replacement effect applies to determine the set of choices for the next iteration until there are no more replacement effects to apply.
  • A replacement effect cannot apply to the same event more than once. For instance, a Lightning Bolt will do 6 damage with a Furnace of Rath out. Furnace of Rath won’t keep doubling the damage ad infinitum.

Q: If your opponent casts a Smallpox, can you sacrifice a Loxodon Smiter that you discarded into play with it?

A: Yes. Loxodon Smiter’s “discard into play” ability uses the word “instead,” indicating that it is a replacement effect. This means that it applies as Loxodon Smiter is discarded, replacing that event with putting it onto the battlefield. The instructions on Smallpox are performed in the order written, so the discard happens before the sacrifice. Because it isn’t targeted, the choice of which creature to sacrifice is not locked in ahead of time, and is made as Smallpox resolves. The creature doesn’t need to be on the battlefield when Smallpox starts resolving, just when that choice is made.

Q: Amy controls Courser of Kruphix and plays a Breeding Pool from the top of her library. Will she know what her next card is before deciding whether to pay 2 life to have Breeding Pool enter the battlefield untapped?

A: No. Breeding Pool’s ability is a replacement effect that affects how it will enter the battlefield. As such, it is applied, and the decision to pay 2 life or not is made, before Breeding Pool enters the battlefield. At this point, it is still the top card of Amy’s library.

Q: Amy’s graveyard contains only Dread Return and Golgari Grave-Troll. She flashes back Dread Return targeting the troll by sacrificing three Narcomoebas. What is Golgari Grave-Troll’s p/t after it is on the battlefield?

A: Similar to the last question, Golgari Grave-Troll’s counter-putting ability is a replacement effect that modifies how it enters the battlefield. This means that ability must apply before the troll enters the battlefield. At this point, Golgari Grave-Troll is still in Amy’s graveyard, so it will count itself, along with the Narcomoebas that were put there as part of casting Dread Return, for a total of 4 +1/+1 counters.

Q: If there’s a Sulfuric Vortex in play, can you cast an Invigorate for its alternate cost?

A: Yes. Sulfuric Vortex replaces any life gain with no life gain, but it doesn’t prevent players from trying to gain life. Even though when you pay the cost, it will be replaced by something much less useful, the game will still see that and count the cost as being paid.

Note: If it was Havoc Festival instead of Sulfuric Vortex, the situation changes. Festival’s ability creates a continuous effect that modifies the rules of the game so that it’s not possible for players to gain life. This will prohibit you from attempting to pay the cost of “making an opponent gain 3,” so you wouldn’t be able to cast it that way.

Q: Amy controls a Furnace of Rath and attacks with a 3/3 creature with trample. Nicole blocks with a Samite Healer and activates Samite Healer’s ability to prevent the next 1 damage that would be dealt to it. Amy announces that she will assign 1 damage to Samite Healer and 2 to Nicole. What happens?

A: The damage event starts as [2 damage to Nicole, 1 damage to Samite Healer]. Both of Samite Healer and Furnace of Rath want to apply to this. Nicole, as the affected player, is the one who decides what order these are applied. Suppose that she chooses to apply Furnace of Rath first. In this case, the damage event becomes [4 damage to Nicole, 2 damage to Samite Healer], and then [4 damage to Nicole, 1 damage to Samite Healer]. She will probably want to apply them in the other order, in which case the damage event would end up as [4 damage to Nicole], with no damage dealt to Samite Healer at all.

Note: It’s legal to assign only 1 damage to Samite Healer and 2 to Nicole because when the game determines whether lethal damage has been assigned to a creature, it doesn’t take prevention or replacement effects that might modify the amount of damage into account.

Q: Amy controls Furnace of Rath and attacks Nicole with 2 3/3 beast tokens. Nicole controls Worship, Boon Reflection, and a 1/1 creature with lifelink, which she uses to block one of Amy’s creatures. Nicole is currently at 3 life. What happens?

A: Damage is processed in a three-part sequence. Replacement effects that interact with any part of a damage event take place at the appropriate place in that sequence. When the damage is dealt, the damage event starts out as [3 damage to Nicole, 3 damage to Nicole’s creature, 1 damage to Amy’s beast]. Furnace of Rath applies and doubles everything, so that we now have [6 damage to Nicole, 6 damage to Nicole’s creature, 2 damage to Amy’s beast]. Then, this is processed into its results, so the event becomes [Nicole loses 6 life, 6 damage is marked on Nicole’s creature, 2 damage is marked on Amy’s creature, Nicole gains 2 life]. Boon Reflection interacts with these results, to make Nicole gain 4 life rather than 2. Worship’s effect would apply in the final step, when the damage event occurs, but the game sees that this damage event would not reduce Nicole’s life to less than 1, so the Worship’s effect does not apply.

Note: Suppose that Nicole were at 2 life. Worship would modify the damage event so that it reduced Nicole to 1 life in that case. The fact that her only creature is being dealt lethal damage as part of the same damage event is immaterial because she only needs to control a creature at the time that Worship’s replacement effect would apply.

Q: Amy controls a Furnace of Rath and casts Shock targeting Amy, who controls a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. What are the possible outcomes for how much damage will be dealt to Nicole and/or Jace?

A: The event begins as [2 damage to Nicole]. There are two replacement effects that want to interact with this event: Furnace of Rath’s damage doubling effect and the CR-generated replacement effect that allows Amy to redirect noncombat damage dealt by a source she controls from an opponent to any planeswalker that opponent controls. Nicole is the affected player, so she decides what order these apply.

Suppose she applies Furnace of Rath’s doubling first. Then the event would become [4 damage to Nicole]. The damage redirection effect would then apply, and Amy would choose whether to let Nicole take 4 or to redirect that damage to her Jace.

Suppose instead that Nicole chooses to apply the redirection effect first. Amy would then choose whether to redirect 2 damage from Nicole to Jace. If Amy makes Nicole take the hit, Furnace of Rath will apply and double this to 4 damage. Conversely, if she redirects to Jace, the event becomes [2 damage to Jace], and Furnace of Rath’s effect will no longer be applicable because it only doubles damage being dealt to a creature or player.

Note: Let’s say that instead of Furnace of Rath, Amy controlled a Dictate of the Twin gods. In this case, the only possible outcomes are [4 damage to Jace] or [4 damage to Nicole]. Because Dictate doubles damage to any permanent, not just creatures, Jace won’t get off easy if Amy redirects the damage to Jace before it doubles. Conversely, if Nicole applies the Dictate’s double damage effect first, then Amy redirects the damage, the Dictate will not try to double this damage again because replacement effects cannot apply to the same event more than once.

Q: Nicole has a Grizzly Bears, which Amy targets with a Debt of Loyalty. Then Amy plays Anger of the gods. Can Nicole choose to exile her creature rather than having it regenerate?

A: After damage is dealt, this will cause Grizzly Bears to be destroyed. Debt of Loyalty wants to modify this event by regenerating the bear. Anger’s effect also wants to modify this event by changing what zone the bear is put into. Since two replacement effects want to modify the way this event affects Grizzly Bears, Nicole, the bear’s controller will decide what order they apply in.

Unfortunately, this choice won’t make much of a difference. If she applys Anger first, that will replace the part of destroying the bear that puts in in the graveyard with exiling it. The bear is still being destroyed, though, so the regeneration is still applicable. This will replace the entire destruction event with regenerating the bear, giving Amy control of it. If she applies the regeneration first, it will still replace the entire destruction event, so Anger won’t even get a chance to apply.

Note: Using a regeneration shield is not optional, but Nicole can choose which regeneration shield to apply first if there are multiple ones (perhaps she plays a Mending Touch in response to the Anger). Whichever shield is used replaces the entire destruction event, so the subsequent ones do not apply. These other shields stay around until end of turn or until they are used up.

Q: Nicole controls a Rest in Peace when she uses a Lapse of Certainty to counter Amy’s Grizzly Bears. Into what zone is Grizzly Bears placed?

A: It is put on top of Amy’s library. In this instance, the two replacement each want to replace putting the bear in Amy’s graveyard with putting it somewhere else, either the top of her library or exile. Amy doesn’t get a choice, though, because Lapse of Certainty has a self-replacement effect, a replacement effect that is tied not to a continuous effect but to a resolving spell or ability that replaces part of what that spell or ability does. These effects are applied first when determining what will happen when multiple replacement effects would interact.

Q: So if that’s the case, why is it that when I Remand a card that’s being flashed back, it’s exiled instead of going to their hand?

A: It’s because of how flashback is worded. Flashback means, in part, “If the flashback cost was paid, exile this card instead of putting it anywhere else any time it would leave the stack.” Remand’s self-replacement effect is applied first, replacing the event of putting the flashback card into its owner’s graveyard with putting it into their hand. Then flashback’s replacement effect applies and replaces putting it into their hand with exiling it.

Q: Amy casts Primal Clay, and Nicole responds with Gather Specimens. Who will decide what sort of creature Primal Clay will be?

A: Both of these are replacement effects that want to modify the way Primal Clay enters the battlefield. Amy controls the spell, but she doesn’t have a choice to make here. Effects that modify under whose control an object would enter the battlefield are also “high priority” replacement effects. They apply after self-replacement effects, but before other replacement effects. After the Gather Specimens ability is processed, Nicole will be the player refered to by the “you” in Primal Clay’s ability, so she will be the one to make the choice for it.

Q: Amy casts Clone on an animated Mutavault while Nicole controls Imposing Sovereign. Will it enter the battlefield tapped or untapped?

A: Untapped. Effects that cause a permanent to enter the battlefield as a copy of something else are the third type of “high priority” replacement effects, applying after control-modifying, but before ordinary replacement effects like Imposing Sovereign’s. This means that Clone will first become a copy of Mutavault. After this, the game will check to see if any other replacement effects are applicable to this event. At this point, the Clone is not a creature, so Imposing Sovereign will no longer apply to it.

Q: Amy controls an Essence of the Wild and casts a Clone. Can she have the Clone enter the battlefield as a copy of Nicole’s Fusion Elemental?

A: No. Essence of the Wild and Clone both have replacement effects that want to modify how Clone enters the battlefield. Both want it to be a copy, so they both apply in the same “layer.” Amy, as the affected player, may apply them in whatever order she wishes, but neither order will result in Clone entering as a copy of Fusion Elemental. If she applies Clone first, that ability will set Clone’s copiable values to those of Fusion Elemental. Then Essence of the Wild will set them to its own copiable values. If she applies Essence of the Wild first, that will set Clone’s copiable values to Essence’s. This overwrites Clone’s ability, so it will no longer apply.