With holiday revelry come and gone, it’s beyond time for us to get things back on track with a new set. And after digging into the full set it looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us – no wonder Klothys had to recruit help to put things back together.
Our return to Theros is one of the most complicated Standard sets in years! We’re dealing with not only the tricky fine details of Escape and Sagas, but a total of fourteen generally detrimental triggers – as many as Modern Horizons! We’ll get into all the details below. Settle in for some interesting tales.
Thirteen cards have triggers that upgrade when missed:
“When Ashiok’s Erasure leaves the battlefield, return the exiled card to its owner’s hand.”
True to form, Ashiok’s signature card this set has a twist that’s a nightmare to handle. After the Erasure steals a spell straight off the stack, this “leaves the battlefield” trigger returns the affected card to its owner. That usually means an opponent getting back their card, which means it’s usually bad for the trigger’s controller. But this trigger does not fall under the “undo a zone change” clause! That’s because the trigger that returns the object isn’t a delayed trigger, and it isn’t created by the effect that caused the exile in the first place.
Intentionally missing this trigger is obviously Cheating… But if the trigger is genuinely missed, be sure to handle it correctly. Outside of one turn cycle, that card should stay in exile.
“Whenever you cast a spell, you lose 1 life.”
“Unforgiving of debts” sure is right; this card puts a steep cost on its controller for as long as it sticks around.
“When Venomous Hierophant enters the battlefield, put the top three cards of your library into your graveyard.”
Fueling your graveyard in a set with Escape makes this trigger much more enticing than it might ordinarily be; in most sets, this card would be played despite its trigger, but here it may end up played as often for the trigger. But we don’t weigh the format that cards appear in when evaluating them. Any card that self-mills but doesn’t try to generate value as a result is going to be generally detrimental to its controller.
“Whenever two or more creatures your opponents control attack, Flummoxed Cyclops can’t block this combat.”
Nobody wants to have their choices taken away, and a creature that could block but doesn’t is a better card than a creature that can’t block at all.
“When enchanted creature dies, Impending Doom deals 3 damage to that creature’s controller.”
There are safe ways to handle a sword, and “suspended by a single thread” isn’t one of them. This trigger is clean, simple, and cuts right to the chase – except, wait, what if an opponent’s creature is enchanted instead?
While there are reasonable lines that involve enchanting an opponent’s creature – just for 3 extra damage, or to force a valuable creature into a bad combat – we don’t look at general cases. Most often the sword will hang over one’s own head.
“… Sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step” and “… Exile those Auras at the beginning of your next end step.”
All of these triggers follow more or less the same template, so they’re all treated the same way. They start with an ability that causes a zone change (which includes tokens conjured from nothing, not just cards moving around), and the delayed trigger at the tail end “undoes” that change. That means that self-destructing the affected token or cards won’t expire no matter how long it’s been.
Keep an eye out for the Storm Herald’s very slightly different timing. Its delayed trigger waits until the controller’s end step specifically, not just the next end step to occur.
“At the beginning of the end step, sacrifice Underworld Breach.”
A player’s Underworld Breach self-destructs much like the zone change triggers we just looked at. It’s not quite in the same bucket, though; this trigger doesn’t use the “undo” clause, for all the same reasons as Ashiok’s Erasure. But we’ve still got an obligation to seal the Breach every time we spot one! That’s because its trigger goes on the stack every turn, so it can’t ever be a full turn cycle since the last time it was missed.
“Whenever Nessian Boar becomes blocked by a creature, that creature’s controller draws a card.”
Renata, her hunters, and any other creatures that stand against the Boar get to bring their share of the spoils back to their controllers. Maybe at the cost of their lives… But that’s just how the hunt goes.
“When (this) enters the battlefield, sacrifice it unless it escaped.”
The Titans are monsters to behold on the battlefield, and being forced to sacrifice them is about the only thing holding them back. And since the sacrifice is entirely separate from the enters-the-battlefield-or-attacks trigger, it’s got no upside at all to weigh against it.
“… Sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step.”
This self-destruct trigger isn’t tied to a zone change, and it only happens once, so be careful with fixing it; if it was genuinely forgotten and has been more than a turn (counting from the end step where it was missed, not the phase when it was activated), it’s too late to do anything now.
There’s some parable or other here about just not looking down, exemplified by certain cartoons. But let’s not encourage that when it relies on a missed trigger.
Other notable cards or tricky business:
“Enchanted creature has ‘at the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice a creature.”
Last but not least, our fourteenth trigger! This card gives a generally detrimental trigger to the enchanted creature, but since that creature’s controller doesn’t own the responsible card we don’t upgrade. They are still responsible for remembering it though!
And, of course, missing it intentionally would be Cheating. But judges should only step in if they are investigating such, not to simply put the trigger on the stack and resume the game.
There is a faint possibility that this aura ends up on one if it’s owner’s creatures; if that ever happens, it’ll upgrade as expected, so step in as soon as it’s clearly missed.
Oh goodness, Sagas. What a behemoth. For starters: players cannot forget to put a lore counter on their Sagas each turn. That’s a Turn-Based Action on the pre-combat main phase, so it’s a GRV to miss it, or a GRV-FtMGS if neither player notices.
The chapter abilities themselves are actually triggers, so those operate just how you’d expect. Won’t be often that a player ticks up the lore counter and forgets the trigger itself, but you never know.
And once the final chapter ability has left the stack, if that Saga is still hanging around, it’s owner sacrifices it. This State-Based Action doesn’t use the stack but players do get a chance to interact with the Saga – maybe, say, a Flicker of Fate – as long as the final chapter trigger hasn’t left the stack yet.
And that marks the end of our epic return to (and escape from) Theros! Thank you for staying with us as we shared this adventure. Now, we look forward to our next set: Ikoria, the Lair of Behemoths, a plane shrouded in mystery and teeming with monsters of all shapes and sizes. Though mostly those sizes will start at “big” and go up from there. Hopefully we won’t have to deal with triggers too much more monstrous than typical, but if we do, you know that we’ll be here to offer our guide in how to handle things. Until then!
-Missed Triggers Project