How naming choices too early for creatures with targeted triggers or copy effects works.

“My Clone targets your Huntmaster.” “I’ll play Wolfir Silverheart soulbonding the token.” “Exile all your creatures with my Angel of Serenity.”

Statements like this, technically speaking, aren’t correct. When you cast a creature spell, it doesn’t have a target, even if it has an ability that would require you to make a choice as it enters the battlefield (like Clone) or it has an ability that triggers upon entering (like the Wolfir and Angel). In perfect technical play, you’d announce your spell, pass priority to await any responses, then announce all relevant choices when the creature has been given the go-ahead to resolve. But players shortcut through things all the time! What happens if you prematurely announce something?

According to the Communications Policy in the Magic Tournament Rules, if you announce a choice that wouldn’t have occurred until the spell resolved, you’re held to that choice unless your opponent has a response. This can be a fabulous time-saver if you’re sure your opponent has no responses; your choice isn’t invalidated if you say it at the wrong time. This also means your opponent can’t try to trick you by announcing a seemingly bad choice, then changing his or her mind when you don’t have a counterspell.

However, what if your opponent does have a response? In this case, you’re free to announce a different choice (and may be legally obligated to, depending on the circumstances) even if the response ultimately did nothing to affect the game state. For example, if you announce “Wolfir soulbonding Huntmaster,” your opponent responds with Shock on the Huntmaster, and you Negate the Shock, you’re now free to resolve the soulbond trigger however you like when the Silverheart enters the battlefield. You can soulbond with the Huntmaster, or choose a different creature, or none at all.

Especially in these cases, remember that it’s important to have clear communication. Typically, you’d Unsummon your best creature in response to something like Clone while it’s still on the stack. However, against a card like Angel of Serenity, you might wait until it’s already on the battlefield before Unsummoning your creature; if the Angel’s targets are all illegal, the ability is countered, but if the Angel is still on the stack, its ability has yet to trigger – and your opponent can change his announcement and choose from among the new selection of legal targets!

Today’s tournament tip written by Jen Wong

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