Controlling another player

In a nutshell:

  • Controlling another player means you see all cards that player could see and make all (in-game) decisions for that player.
  • “You control target player during that player’s next turn” means the next turn they actually take. If their next turn is skipped, the effect will wait until the player actually takes a turn.
  • You only control what game actions the player takes and what decisions they make in the game. The controlled player still makes decisions related to tournament rules, such as whether to concede or ID, whether to look at notes, or whether to call (or not call) a judge.
  • Choices made due to an infraction or as part of a fix are tournament actions, not game actions, and are treated accordingly. The opponent will still choose which card is shuffled in during a Hidden Card Error fix, or will choose whether to allow a missed trigger to be put onto the stack, regardless of whether this player is being controlled at the time these fixes are performed.
  • You can’t have the person being controlled do anything that’s against the rules.
  • Even if you’re controlling your opponent, who’s who doesn’t change. You can’t use your own resources to help the player cast a spell, control of that player’s permanents doesn’t change, and each player is responsible for infractions he or she commits.
  • In two-headed giant, you control the whole team’s turn.
  • You can see all cards in the game that player could see, even ones you normally couldn’t look at, such as cards in that player’s hand, face down permanents that player controls and face down exiled cards that player is allowed to look at.
  • You cannot look at cards in the controlled player’s sideboard. This is a change to previous rules. Effects that ask a player to choose a card outside the game will fail because the controlling player will not be able to properly pick a card.

Q: Wait, player-controlling effects are super broken, right? I mean, couldn’t I just make my opponent concede?

A: No. You can only have your opponent make choices that are called for by the game. You can’t make your opponent do other tournament actions, like conceding, calling (or declining to call) a judge, looking at or throwing away notes, and looking at the player’s sideboard. Your opponent can still decide to do all these as normal.

Q: Ok, how about this: CR 100.6b states that “Players can use the Magic Store & Event Locator at to find tournaments in their area.” Does that mean that I can have them refresh that page on their phone until they run out of data or concede?

A: It’s unclear why this “rule” would be in the CR at all, but there you have it. If a smarmy player purports to believe that this is a potential application of said rule, you have a couple of options other than the rather undiplomatic, though arguably justifiable, “Of course not; stop being a jerk.”

If players are at Competitive REL, you can point out that the electronic device policy given in MTR 2.12 prohibits players from using electronic devices capable of accessing the internet during matches. If instead this comes up at Regular REL, the JAR lists “taking unreasonable amounts of time…making play decisions” as a Generally Unwanted Behavior. Repeatedly accessing a website without advancing the game state most certainly qualifies, so again, this trick is out.

Q: Amy has 4 cards in her graveyard. Can Nicole have Amy activate Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy to draw and discard, but not have Jace transform?

A: Jace doesn’t indicate that any part of its ability is optional. For better or worse, if Nicole is going to have Amy activate the ability, Amy is going to need to follow all the instructions as written.

Q: Nicole is controlling Amy’s turn. Can she have Amy cast Demonic Tutor and not find anything?

A: No. Because Demonic Tutor instructs its caster to search for a card without specifying any characteristics that card needs to have, it’s not legal to fail to find with it. Nicole will have to be satisfied with looking through Amy’s library and finding the most worthless card possible to give her.

Note: Searches in which the player must find a card with specific characteristics are legal to flub. So Nicole could have Amy sacrifice her Flooded Strand and not find a card, even if every card in Amy’s library was a Plains or Island

Q: How does Mindslaver work in two-headed giant?

A: Very well. You control the whole team’s turn, not just one player. This makes sense if you think about it in terms of the original wording of such effects, which specified that you controlled the turn rather than the player. Since turns were shared, it was ruled that you controlled the whole turn. The ruling hasn’t changed even though the templating has.

Note: In 2HG, the player sitting on the right is the “primary player” and has the final say if the teammates cannot agree on a decision. Even without the rule cited above, player-controlling effects would work essentially exactly the same way as long as the primary player was targeted (although they would not work at all if the other player was targeted).

Q: Amy casts Worst Fears targeting Nicole. After that resolves, Nicole activates Mindslaver targeting herself. What happens?

A: Player-controlling effects overwrite each other. The last one that’s created will be the one that “works.” A player can gain control of herself, so Nicole will control herself during her next turn as normal.

Q: Amy casts Emrakul, the Promised End. In response to its trigger, Nicole Meditates. What happens?

A: Nicole skips her next turn due to Meditate, so Amy takes the next turn in the game. After that, it will be Nicole’s turn. Since this is the next turn Nicole takes after the resolution of Emrakul’s trigger, Amy will control Nicole during this turn. Emrakul’s trigger will give Nicole an extra turn after this one.

Q: Amy casts Word of Command targeting Nicole and chooses Research // Development. Amy asks to see Nicole’s sideboard before deciding which half she wants to cast. Nicole obviously doesn’t want to show it if she doesn’t have to. Does she?

A: No. Amy can’t see Nicole’s sideboard at all. If she chooses to cast Research, she won’t be able to pick any cards to get shuffled in.

Q: Amy casts a Summoner’s Egg. Then Nicole uses Sorin Markov to gain control of Amy during her next turn. Can Nicole see what’s under Summoner’s Egg?

A: No. Summoner’s Egg does not indicate that its controller can look at the card it exiled. Amy will of course know what the card is because she got to see it before it was exiled, but she isn’t allowed to look at it now. Because Amy can’t legally look at it, Nicole doesn’t get to know what it is.

Note: Amy may have written down what the exiled card is, but Nicole is not allowed to look at Amy’s notes because that is a tournament action, not a game action.

Q: Amy gains control of Nicole and looks at the cards Nicole exiled with Bane Alley Broker. On a future turn, Nicole uses Bane Alley Broker’s ability to return one of those cards to her hand. Can Amy look at the remaining face down cards and see which one it was?

A: Yes. If a card is exiled face down, any player who has been able to look at it in the past is able to look at it later, even if the effect that allowed them to look at it has expired. Amy can look at the cards she saw exiled with Bane Alley Broker and use the process of elimination to determine which one Nicole returned to her hand.

Note: Amy is allowed to look at the exiled cards because Bane Alley Broke specifically states that its controller can look at them. Amy is entitled to see any cards that Nicole can see.

Note: It may look like this rule leaks information to Amy by giving her something she otherwise could not have known, but this is incorrect. Because the cards were exiled one at a time with Bane Alley Broker, the order which they were exiled can, at least in principle, inform Amy which card was returned, even without this rule.

Note: If Nicole exiles future cards with Bane Alley Broker, Amy cannot see those, of course. However, the order they are exiled is still public information, so Amy will know whether Nicole returned a known or unknown card to her hand.

Note: While this rule exists for face down exiled cards, there is no equivalent rule allowing a player to look at face down morphs and manifests which they could see previously. If Nicole had any face down cards, Amy could look at them during the turn she controlled, but would have to write their identities down in order to reference this information afterwards.

Q: Nicole is controlling Amy’s turn. Amy untaps, then Nicole instructs her to draw for the turn, which she does. At this point, the players realize that they have forgotten to sacrifice for Amy’s Phyrexian Soulgorger, which has 2 age counters on it. What happens?

A: Because Nicole is controlling Amy, Nicole is responsible for remembering the triggered abilities of Amy’s permanents. Amy gets no infraction. Nicole gets no infraction either, since this triggered ability is not generally considered detrimental to Nicole. For the fix, because this triggered ability specifies a default action associated with a choice, it’s resolved immediately by choosing the default action. Phyrexian Soulgorger is sacrificed.

Note: The IPG specifies that the triggered ability is “resolved” immediately. Nicole can’t, for example, have Amy respond by Flinging the soulgorger at something.

Note: Templating can make a difference. For example, Demonic Appetite has a similar effect, but does not give a default action. Nicole would choose whether this trigger was missed or put onto the stack.

Q: Nicole is controlling Amy’s turn. During combat on this turn, Amy asks Nicole how many cards she has in hand. At this point, the players realize that Nicole mistakenly drew two cards during Amy’s draw step because she forgot that her Consecrated Sphinx had died the previous turn. What do you do?

A: Amy drew cards from her deck when she wasn’t allowed to. She gets a Warning for Hidden Card Error. Nicole did not notice this infraction in a reasonable amount of time, so she gets a Warning for Failure to Maintain Game State. For the fix, Nicole will reveal her hand to Amy and Amy will choose two cards to be shuffled back into Nicole’s library. Because this is a tournament action, Nicole can’t tell Amy which two cards to pick.