When it’s missed: Triggers with non-visible effects

Wrapping up our series on missed triggers, we cover the triggers that don’t have an immediate impact on the visible game state. These triggers should be assumed to have resolved until you have proof that they were actually forgotten, which can only be provided by the controller of the trigger.

A triggered ability that affects the game state in non-visible ways: The controller must take physical action or make it clear what the action is the first time the change has an effect on the visible game state.

So what does that mean, exactly? The visible game state consists of basically anything that all the players can actually see, including life totals, which are free information. Once the information about whether the trigger has resolved becomes relevant and necessary to determine what is happening in the visible game state, the controller has to acknowledge that the trigger wasn’t forgotten at that time. The majority of triggers that fall in this category involve boosting power/toughness of creatures until end of turn. Let’s look at a variety of examples:

  • I attack with Akroan Hoplite and 3 soldier tokens. You block the Hoplite with your Anthousa, Setessan Hero, and say “Take 3, Hoplite dies.” This is my chance to acknowledge the +X/+0 trigger by saying “Anthoussa dies too.” The trigger isn’t missed.
  • My Medomai the Ageless hits you in combat. I cast Sphinx’s Revelation in my second main phase. I ask if you have any end step effects, because I have 8 cards in hand and I have to discard in my cleanup step. I discard, then I move to untap my permanents for my extra turn. The trigger isn’t missed.
  • I attack with Cavalry Pegasus and a human. You try to block the human with a goblin token. I allow the block and move to combat damage. The trigger is missed.
  • I control Guardian of the Ages, and you attack me. On my next turn, I attack you with it. The trigger isn’t missed.
  • I cast Lavinia of the Tenth, then pass turn. On your turn, you try to attack me with 4 soldier tokens, and I say “You can’t, they’re detained.” The trigger isn’t missed.
  • I attack you with Charging Griffin. You say “Ok, I take 2.” and I respond “No, take 3.” The trigger isn’t missed. Alternatively, you say “Take 2?” and I respond “Yes.” The trigger is missed.

The important thing to note with these triggers is that there’s no reliable way to ensure your opponent has missed a trigger before the point where it needs to be acknowledged. So if you choose to block that Charging Griffin with your Nimbus Naiad and ask “Trade?”, don’t be surprised when the Griffin survives combat. The missed trigger policy gives you the benefit of allowing your opponent to genuinely forget triggers, but not the right to get your opponent to miss them. If your decisions hinge on whether your opponent has remembered a trigger, you have options: Assume they remembered and play optimally, or ask about whether the trigger has resolved (e.g., “Ok, so that’s a 2/2?” Going the other way, the trigger’s controller also can’t try to trick you into thinking they forgot a trigger by saying “Yeah, it’s a 2/2” then claiming the trigger resolved later).

Today’s Tournament Tip written by Josh Stansfield

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