Dream Eater’s Reflexive Trigger

Good morning, and welcome back to the waking world, free of tasty, delicious dreams (daydreams are bitter, fun fact). Today we’re talking about Dream Eater and we’re gonna go over Reflexive Triggers again. Some of you may remember that we talked about this new kind of trigger a few weeks back with Hypothesizzle, so this will be a bit of a refresher. For those of you who didn’t read that, this information may be entirely new to you- the best kind of information!

For a good long while, triggers liked using the phrase “if you do”. They’d be their usual When/Whenever/At EVENT, do THING. If you do, ADDITIONAL THING. Let’s look at Throwing Knife: WHENEVER equipped creature attacks, you may sacrifice Throwing Knife. IF YOU DO, Throwing Knife deals 2 damage to target creature or player. The gross thing here is that you select your target as soon as you put the trigger on the stack, but you don’t choose whether to sacrifice the Knife or not until the trigger resolves. So if you aim the knife at a creature and your opponent responds in a way you don’t like, you can just change your plans. They buff up the 2/2 you aimed the Knife at with a Giant Growth to make it a 5/5? Eh, let’s just not sacrifice the Knife this time. They sacrificed the creature to their Greater Good for value? Hey, your trigger is going to fail to resolve anyway, so you never even get the CHANCE to sacrifice the Knife! It’s kinda unintuitive and feels really gross to be on the receiving end of.

SO. Recently-ish, we’ve been seeing a new kind of wording. The wording we see on Dream Eater: not if you do, but when you do. This is what we call a Reflexive Trigger! It’s a triggered ability sort of ’embedded’ within another triggered ability. The first part is “When Dream Eater enters the battlfield, surveil 4.” Easy enough- filter your draws, get rid of the chaff, you know the deal. The next part: “When you do, you may return target nonland permanent an opponent controls to its owner’s hand.”. That second part is just a trigger that fires off when you Surveil 4 off of this Dream Eater, just like the Suveil 4 fires off of this Dream Eater entering the battlefield. So how is this different than the old ‘if you do’? Well, for starters, you don’t choose your target right away with this wording. Since the ‘target nonland permanent an opponent controls’ bit is part of the Reflexive Trigger, the target isn’t chosen until that trigger is on the stack. So you can Surveil 4 first, and then choose your bounce target based on what you find. Maybe you want to bounce their troublesome enchantment because you’re setting up a Negate, or because you know that you’re drawing a Cast Down so there’s no need to use the Dream Eater on their big creature. Or maybe you sandbag 4 lands and decide to go ahead and bounce the creature knowing that you didn’t find removal for it. It also means that your opponent can’t deny your Surveil 4 with a Dive Down, since that isn’t part of the targeted ability. Finally, the Reflexive trigger is ‘part’ of the original, it’s not a separate ability on Dream Eater. Remember that we put separate abilities apart from each other on a card- for keywords, we’ll sometimes use new lines, and sometimes just commas for space. But for non-keyworded abilities, if it’s part of the same block of text, it’s the same ability. This means that if someone kills your Dream Eater in response to the Surveil 4 trigger, you still get to bounce something!

Whew. This tip got a little heavy. We’ll try to go a little lighter on you this Friday. Have a great week, and we’ll see you soon!

Today’s Rules Tip was written by Trevor Nunez

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