New Phyrexia beckons, and deception is the language of the plane more than any other. Every card this set requires a very careful read to be sure it’s handled correctly. So keep your eyes peeled when reviewing the set, and take your time with this guide; we break down all 11 triggers that upgrade to a Warning when missed, and analyze which ones do or don’t qualify for exceptions and why.
Eleven cards have a trigger that upgrades when missed:
“[Exile a permanent.] Return that card to the battlefield under its owner’s control at the beginning of that player’s next end step.”
Opening with an interesting one! Similar to Blizzard Strix out of Modern Horizons, this trigger is… Tricky. You can read some of our past arguments by following that link. What The Eternal Wanderer loses in comparison by not being an instant speed effect, it gains in repeatability. And that’s a very important change.
Because this trigger can happen multiple times in a game and it does the same thing no matter which player’s card is affected, it qualifies as symmetrical where the Strix didn’t. That means we’ll upgrade the penalty to a Warning if the controller forgets to return their opponent’s creature, but there’s no penalty if they forget to return their own. In either case there’s an easy fix: since the same effect both exiles a card and returns it later, it is “undoing a zone change”, which means it can never expire. No matter how many turns have passed since this trigger should have happened it still resolves! Creatures suddenly popping into existence can be pretty disruptive, so we let the opponent choose if it happens immediately, or right before anyone gets priority next phase.
“At the beginning of your upkeep, remove an oil counter from Archfield of the Dross. Then if it has no oil counters on it, you lose the game.”
Flying 6/6 Demons for 4 mana are a common sight on these lists and like most, the Archfiend’s trigger is generally detrimental. Losing the game isn’t very helpful when you’re trying to win. If this trigger is forgotten and it’s been less than a turn since it should have happened, the opponent chooses whether the trigger is added to the stack or not. Regardless, the controller gets a Warning.
“Whenever a source deals damage to Phyrexian Obliterator, that source’s controller sacrifices that many permanents.”
Another symmetrical trigger! This ability can happen multiple times in a game and does the same thing each time to whichever player is affected. So like before, we only consider it detrimental when it hurts the controller or helps the opponent; if the opponent is the source of damage, Obliterator’s controller isn’t penalized for forgetting the trigger, but if they damage their own Obliterator and forget they’ll get a Warning.
“When Ravenous Necrotitan enters the battlefield, sacrifice a creature unless an opponent has three or more poison counters.”
Another 6/6 body for 4 mana! If this trigger is remembered within a turn cycle of when it was missed, the opponent can choose to put it on the stack. If the number of poison counters changed during the turn, use the number of counters each opponent has now, as it resolves. But the trigger’s controller can only choose a creature to sacrifice if they could’ve picked that creature at the time the trigger was missed.
“At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, Furnance Punisher deals 2 damage to that player unless they control two or more basic lands.”
A cut-and-dry symmetrical trigger. If a player forgets to deal damage to their opponent then no penalty is issued, but if a player forgets to deal damage to themselves they get a Warning.
“At the beginning of your end step, return Magmatic Sprinter to its owner’s hand unless you remove two oil counters from it.”
There are plenty of uses for oil counters this set, so players may take advantage of this trigger as a repeatable “pay 3, get 2 oil counters” effect. But that doesn’t completely outweigh the downsides. Since this ability triggers multiple times in a game, its controller has to be constantly replenishing its oil if they want to use it as a blocker or keep any counters, Auras, or Equipments on it.
“[create tokens.] Exile them at the beginning of the next end step.”
This card creates tokens, and then sets up a trigger to self-destruct them later. That puts this squarely in the “undoing a zone change” special remedy. We’ll resolve it no matter how long it’s been since this trigger was missed – though the opponent gets to choose if that happens right away, or before anyone get priority at the start of the next phase.
“[create a token.] Sacrifice that token at the beginning of the next end step.”
Same as the last one, the effect creating tokens is also setting up a trigger to clean them up later. This fix will always include sacrificing those tokens, either now or next phase.
“At the beginning of your upkeep, remove an oil counter from Evolved Spinoderm. Then if it has no oil counters on it, sacrifice it.”
Step aside Calciderm and Blastoderm, we have an upgrade! The Spinoderm has better keyword abilities, and oil counters are much easier to replenish than time counters. But this is still a creature living on borrowed time and it has to be sacrificed eventually. Like all other triggers that upgrade when missed, a judge should step in to fix things immediately if they notice a player forgetting this trigger.
“[create a token.] Exile it at the beginning of the next end step.”
Nothing we haven’t seen before. This trigger to clean up the temporary token will always resolve, even if several turns have passed.
“At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice Argentum Masticore unless you discard a card. When you discard a card this way, [destroy a permanent.]”
This trigger is close to the line for “generally detrimental” or not. If the reflexive trigger portion – “when you discard a card this way” plus everything after – was just an activated ability instead, it would clearly be all upside! But having no control over the timing and being forced to discard a card every turn makes this harder to use. Pair that with the fact that it has a targeting restriction, so sometimes there just won’t be any cards it can destroy but you still have to discard anyways… And this falls on the “generally detrimental” side even with the reflexive trigger balancing out the downside as much as it can.
The following cards are notable but do NOT upgrade when missed:
“When Mesmerizing Dose enters the battlefield, tap enchanted creature, then proliferate.”
Most Auras that do things like tap their enchanted creature as soon as they enter the battlefield have a special fix when missed; we resolve that trigger immediately when it’s noticed. These sort of effects typically hit opponents’ creatures and we want to balance not obligating players to remind their opponents about triggers, but also not letting them to make an opponent miss a trigger.
But there are strict requirements to qualify for that exception. Since Mesmerizing Dose adds “then proliferate” to the end of its effect, it technically applies to more objects than just the enchanted creature, so it does not qualify for the special fix. Players have to be careful to announce this trigger when it resolves or it’ll be handled like any other missed trigger.
Surviving New Phyrexia is no simple feat, so be sure to keep these notes in mind and check back here (or check in with a judge you know) if you aren’t sure how a card should be handled. We’ll be back again for March of the Machines this spring – to explore the end of the war with Phyrexia, one way or another. Stay safe and we’ll see you then!