Ashcloud Phoenix seems like a really tough card to deal with. You kill it, and it comes back as a morph, only to be turned face up and deal more damage to you. But what if it dies while it’s still face-down? Is it really just impossible to kill?
Well, good news for players who have to face the firebird! It can only trigger to return to the battlefield if it’s face-up before it dies. You might wonder why it doesn’t trigger after it hits the graveyard, since it’s face up when you put it in the graveyard… Well, that’s a quirk about “leaves-the-battlefield” triggers. Rather than checking the game state right after an event, abilities that trigger from something dying or otherwise leaving the battlefield have to look back in time to just before the event to see what abilities existed and should have triggered from that event. Since a face-down Phoenix has no name and no abilities, when it dies, the Phoenix’s ability doesn’t trigger because the creature didn’t have that ability before it died. It just stays in the graveyard like any normal creature.
Today’s Rules Tip written by Josh Stansfield