We’re back again with a new set! This time around, Ikoria brings us beasties of all shapes and sizes (sometimes several at once), but as far as triggered abilities go this set is surprisingly tame. Monsters tend towards straightforward approaches like eating you or stepping on you and their cards seem to reflect that. Still, best to keep a sharp eye out – on Ikoria and handling the cards below. Sometimes “to the point” just means the nuance isn’t as noticeable.
And that brings us to our guide, with light cast into the unlit corners and warning signs helpfully decorating the path. Since we have fewer triggers to discuss this go-around, we’ve provided a bit more in-depth information about handling each one, and common problems that might arise.
Four cards have triggers that upgrade when missed:
“When Hunted Nightmare enters the battlefield, target opponent puts a deathtouch counter on a creature they control.”
This card hearkens back to the “Hunted creature cycle” of Ravnica with below-rate creatures that, as a drawback, give your opponent almost enough to answer them. The Nightmare makes use of new rules tech to put a Deathtouch counter on an opponent’s creature – permanently applying the ability.
Something important to keep in mind is that an opponent isn’t obligated to point this trigger out right when it’s missed. And waiting can be advantageous; deciding which creature to put the Deathtouch counter on after combat’s done for the turn, or even after drawing at the start of their own turn, gives the opponent more information to work with.
Two things to remember when this happens: a trigger that’s older than the current phase in the previous turn (and doesn’t have an exception) is outright missed, so the opponent can’t wait too long. And they can’t put that counter on a creature that wouldn’t have been a legal choice when the trigger should have resolved. Both of these points are mentioned in the Additional Remedies section of Missed Triggers – don’t forget to read carefully!
“When Colossification enters the battlefield, tap enchanted creature.”
This card makes creatures big. Bigger than just big; it truly earns the world “colossal”. But that much growth has got to be exhausting, so it’s no wonder that when a creature grows this much this quickly it’s tapped and can’t do much else for a while.
Players won’t often forget this trigger, but when they do, our fix is to tap the creature immediately; no matter how long it’s been since it should have happened, or where in the game we are. That’s because this is an enters-the-battlefield ability of an Aura, and it only affects the enchanted creature. Crafty opponents could use this to their advantage by reminding a player of the trigger right before attackers or blockers are declared… But only if it was actually missed in the first place.
“When Excavation Mole enters the battlefield, put the top three cards of your library into your graveyard.”
Excavation Mole has a trigger that’s the simplest of the bunch; churning cards from your library into your graveyard can be helpful, sometimes. But since the Mole isn’t getting any value from this on its own this is definitely a generally detrimental trigger. This trigger doesn’t fall into any of the special exceptions so if it isn’t remembered until more than a turn later, it’s just missed.
“At the beginning of your end step, discard your hand.”
There are plenty of ways to circumvent or make use of the Song’s drawback – but that doesn’t change that discarding your hand is a drawback, and a hefty one at that.
Since this trigger only happens on its controller’s end steps it is possible for it to go out of the window to be put on the stack, if the game gets back to the controller’s next untap step. But more often we should see opponents pointing it out before then. And if a player’s hand happens to already be empty when this trigger should happen, we assume that it resolves invisibly without needing to be acknowledged; the opponent can ask to respond if they want to, but if they don’t it won’t count as missed.
Lastly, if a player adds cards to their hand after missing this trigger and then it’s put onto the stack, they’ll discard their hand – including the new cards. When we discard the entire hand no choices are being made, so we don’t have to worry about what would or wouldn’t have been in their hand at the time. Any choices that result from that discard (like putting a discarded Commander back in the Command zone) still work like normal.
And that’s a wrap! Thanks for joining us on this brief tour of Ikoria, and hopefully you’re now better equipped to handle some of the issues these behemoths bring. Be sure as always to examine the situation carefully; this guide is a resource, but don’t follow it blindly into a monster’s lair. Read up on mechanics in the set, the abundance of triggered abilities that don’t upgrade, and other tools that’ll keep you alive and well. We’ll see you all again in Core 2021!