It’s time to explore Zendikar once more! The Eldrazi have finally vacated the plane, and now the Skyclaves have taken flight, promising new adventures, traps, monsters… And some very interesting mechanics. As we saw in the Throne of Eldraine, the main draws of this set – modular double-faced cards – take up a lot of the complexity. But the low complexity of Landfall, Kicker, and Party mean there’s a bit more room this time around for more challenging cards.
We’ve picked out the triggers in this set that upgrade when missed, and also a couple of cards that don’t upgrade to be careful of. We take quite a bit of pride in our trapfinding skills so hopefully you’ll find that helpful! Let’s dive in.
Five cards have triggers that upgrade when missed:
“When Skyclave Apparition leaves the battlefield, the exiled card’s owner creates an X/X blue Illusion creature token, where X is the converted mana cost of the exiled card.”
This ability gives a token to the owner of the exiled card, which could be the Apparition’s controller… But typically won’t be. The ability that exiles a card restricts the target to a nonland permanent “you don’t control”, so the only case where the Apparition’s controller will give themselves a token is if they exile a card they own that an opponent has taken control of. That’s much less likely than the normal use case of giving the opponent a token.
“At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, Roiling Vortex deals 1 damage to them” and “Whenever a player casts a spell, if no mana was spent to cast that spell, Roiling Vortex deals 5 damage to that player.”
Both triggers here are either detrimental or not depending on who the affected player is, but they function exactly the same each time no matter which player is affected. This makes them symmetrical triggers (and practically the ideal example of symmetrical triggers, too).
“At the beginning of your end step, if Shatterskull Charger doesn’t have a +1/+1 counter on it, return it to its owner’s hand.”
This trigger can protect the Charger from sorcery-speed removal and the owner gets to control whether or not the card is kicked. But in order for the creature to ‘stick’ on the battlefield, you need to pay more mana. Plus there’s no natural incentive to cast this card multiple times, which would make the trigger generate value. Overall, this creature’s controller would prefer the creature be on the battlefield most of the time rather than in the hand, so this trigger is generally detrimental.
“Whenever Wayward Guide-Beast deals combat damage to a player, return a land you control to its owner’s hand.”
This one is pretty self-explanatory; returning a land to your hand every time you hit your opponent restricts your resources. The only counterargument is that in a set with Landfall, it is possible for players to make this ability work positively for them. But doing so will always require getting other cards involved, and by itself, the Guide-Beast doesn’t generate any positive value.
“When Myriad Construct becomes the target of a spell, sacrifice it and create a number of 1/1 colorless Construct artifact creature tokens equal to its power.”
This trigger… Is tough to evaluate. It exists somewhere in the middle of the resilience against removal upside that you get from cards like Wurmcoil Engine, and the “upgrade all your opponents’ targeted spells to removal” downside of Illusions like Phantasmal Bear.
Our evaluation of this card took a few tries. What it ultimately boiled down to was this: what gameplay and deckbuilding constraints does this card impose on its controller, versus the value that it creates? And how much value or obstacle does this give to the opponent, at the same time? The answers to these questions are a lot more clear-cut in Limited environments: to the first, this card restricts its controller from using any combat tricks or Auras on it, since anything they target it with will kill it. And a single large creature will, in most cases, be more valuable than multiple 1/1s; which means the trigger is positive value and nice to have, but making tokens isn’t the point of putting this card in your deck. And to the second, it upgrades all of the opponent’s combat tricks or “soft” removal to be permanent removal. Those are both substantial negatives for the Construct’s controller, even if they do get tokens to offset the loss of the creature.
We’ll be keeping an eye on this card as folks start to play with this set in paper to see what player expectations are like with this card, and depending on how things go our evaluation may change similar to how Murderous Rider changed from its original ruling of “not generally detrimental”.
Triggers/cards that do not upgrade when missed, but are notable:
“Whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player, you and that player each gain that much life.”
This trigger blunts any combat damage you deal to your opponent that isn’t immediately lethal, which is a drawback. But it causes you to gain life too, and in addition to that value, it fuels its second trigger which can win the game. So this is a net positive in the end.
“When Demon’s Disciple enters the battlefield, each player sacrifices a creature or planeswalker.”
This card has the same arguments as Plaguecrafter has had in the past; the controller of the card chooses when they get this effect, both in game and by putting it in the deck in the first place, and they have more information and control to minimize impact to themselves/maximize impact to opponent.
“When you cast this spell, if it was kicked, each player loses half their life, rounded up.”
This card also has the same arguments as Plaguecrafter! Both players are affected, but the controller gets to decide when (and in this case, if) the trigger happens in a game. And they can use that to minimize the trigger’s impact to themselves. Additionally, this trigger makes its power and toughness go up thanks to its characteristic-defining ability.
“… that player creates a 0/1 colorless Goblin Construct artifact creature token with “This creature can’t block” and “At the beginning of your upkeep, this creature deals 1 damage to you.”
The token’s trigger that deals damage to its controller is generally detrimental, but will usually not upgrade since the trigger’s controller will usually not be “the owner of the card responsible”. Only if an opponent gains control of the Relic Robber and deals combat damage to its owner will this trigger potentially cause a penalty.
What this means in terms of the IPG is that judges should not intervene at a table they were not called to if they notice that a player has missed this trigger, unless (1) they believe that the controller may be intentionally missing it, and want to investigate further to determine if the player is cheating, or (2) they believe that the player missing the token’s trigger is also the owner of the Relic Robber. In any case other than those, there is no penalty for a player who genuinely misses this trigger, so we’ll treat it like missing any other trigger that does not upgrade.
“If a land entering the battlefield causes a triggered ability of a permanent you control to trigger, that ability triggers an additional time.”
This ability isn’t itself a trigger, or even a replacement effect; it just happens, and the resulting triggers have to be acknowledged like normal to not be missed. This should sound familiar to anyone who remembers Yarok, the Desecrated from Core Set 2020 or Teysa Karlov from Ravnica Allegiance.
Something that may not come up often, but is good to know: what this ability does mechanically is tell the game that “whenever an object entering the battlefield meets one of your triggers’ conditions, if at least one of that object’s types is Land, the trigger happens one extra time”. Other types don’t matter, and it doesn’t matter what the trigger is looking for specifically as long as the object that met the condition was at least a Land. So triggers that care about something else – maybe creatures, like Kor Celebrant watches for – could trigger an additional time if the object entering the battlefield is also a land at the time it enters, like Dryad Arbor or Ashaya, Soul of the Wild.
With all of the prepwork and packing out of the way, you should have everything you need to embark. Zendikar awaits! We’ll see you again early next year with another voyage, into a brand new world: Kaldheim.