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It’s simply natural to compare this new card with Spell Queller which, by the way, is now rotating out of Standard. Actually, there’s a huge difference between them.
Spell Queller, a white and blue creature, is very similar to a counter and therefore it is a tempo-oriented choice – we would love to see it in our hand as soon as possible, but it is far less useful in mid and late game. Hostage Taker trades white for black, it costs one more mana and it is a control-oriented choice that shines in late game. First of all, Hostage Taker exiles a permanent, not a spell; then, the more mana we have, the better this card is, since we have the chance to immediately play the permanent we “stole”.
As you probably know, Hostage Taker immediately received an errata corrige: its ability now targets “another target creature or artifact”. That means Hostage Taker can’t target itself: otherwise, we could cast this creature and target it with its own triggered ability, forcing it to leave and immediately re-enter the battlefield: then we would be able to repeat this process as many times as desired.
A loop is infinite only if neither player can make a different choice, in order to break it: the game would be a draw, but this is not the case. We could “blink” it n times and then choose a different target. Meanwhile, we may have gained n lifes with Soul Warden, or dealt two times n damage with Pandemonium, and so on – and we get to choose how big n is. Too much for a single card, isn’t it? It’s nice even without nearly-infinite combos.
Let’s examine what happens when a Hostage Taker enters the battlefield and we choose a target. We can have various outcomes:
1) While the ability is still on the stack, our opponent destroys the Hostage Taker. Its ability will resolve, but it won’t do anything at all. The Hostage Taker left the battlefield even before the permanent was exiled, so it won’t be exiled at all, not even for a moment.
2) The ability resolves and the target is exiled. While in the exile zone, the card is face-up and can be seen by every player: so if we target a face-down permanent (for example a morphed or manifested card) we would immediately discover its identity.
After that, the active player gets priority. This way, if he or she is the Hostage Taker’s controller, he can cast right now the exiled card, before our opponent has the chance to get rid of the Hostage Taker.
If, for any reason, the Hostage Taker entered the battlefield under the non-active player’s control, it’s still the active player who gets priority after the ability resolves: this means that he or she may destroy the creature before his opponent is able to cast the exiled card.
Either way, if we want to cast the exiled card, we still need to consider the appropriate timing: we can cast a creature (or an artifact) without flash only during our main phase and only if the stack is empty.
- Can we exile a token? Of course, the token is exiled, then it ceases to exist.
- Can we exile a planeswalker creature Gideon? Of course, it’s a creature. Then, in the exile zone, it won’t be a creature anymore and we can cast it only as a planeswalker.
- Can we exile a land creature? Of course, it’s a creature. The downside is that we won’t be able to play it from the exile zone: in fact the verb “to cast” refers to spells only.
- Can we exile Ormendahl, Profane Prince? Of course, but remember that in the exile zone it will be a land, which cannot be cast.
3) The ability resolves and the target is exiled. Then, the Hostage Taker is destroyed before its controller casts the exiled spell.
In this case, the exiled card re-enters the battlefield as a new object, without any link to the previous one and with no memory of its past. It is untapped, unflipped, face-up and phased-in; it can’t attack or tap, due to summoning sickness, and so on.
4) The ability resolves and the target is exiled. Then, the exiled card is cast.
From now on, its owner will not have it back, whatever may happen to the Hostage Taker who exiled it in the first place. We could say that the Hostage Taker and the exiled card splitted their ways and they won’t “recognize” each other ever again.
To cast the exiled card, we may spend mana as though it were mana of any type. Remember that, while we have only five mana colors, there are six types of mana: in fact, colorless is a mana type too. For instance, we can cast Cromat using five colorless mana.
One last interesting case: we cast a Hostage Taker and choose to exile our opponent’s Misthollow Griffin. As much as we do, its owner can still cast it from the exile zone – there aren’t two of them, only one, and it is shared by each and every player.