What Is ‘Fizzle’, Anyway?

Welcome one and all! It’s a beautiful day, and we’ve got some hot, fresh, spicy rules tips, straight out of the oven for your consumption. And what could possibly be spicier than everyone’s… some people’s… my favorite Izzet card, Electrolyze! Yes, we’re going back into the deep mists of the past on this one to talk about everyo- okay, not going to try the same gag twice, but my favorite word in all of magic, fizzling!

The basic gist of “fizzling” is as follows: If a spell or ability with at least one target tries to resolve, and NONE of its targets are legal, then instead of resolving it… doesn’t. There’s a lot going on in that sentence, so let’s break it down. First up, the spell or ability needs to have had at least one target to start with- so if something, for example, takes “up to two targets”, but don’t select any targets, then it can’t ever fizzle. Likewise, if you cast Cryptic Command for its last two modes, then it doesn’t have any targets and is totally fizzle-proof, even though if either of the other modes were chosen it would have had targets.

Second, when it tries to resolve, it will only fizzle if none of its targets are legal. Usually, this means that its target has changed zones (such as ‘In response, I sacrifice that creature’), or that the creature gained something like Hexproof or Shroud in response. The important thing to remember here is that no matter how many targets you initially started with, you only need one of them to be still legal to avoid fizzling. I can kick Fight with Fire, shooting ten of your creatures, and even if you make nine of them Hexproof, that last one is still going to get Jaya’d. As long as there’s one target left, anywhere in the spell, it will work.

Here’s where we get to the weird part, though. When a spell fizzles, the entire spell fizzles. Which brings us back to Electrolyze. Electrolyze has either one or two targets. If, when it resolves, the chosen target/targets aren’t legal, then the entire spell will fail to resolve… and you won’t even get to draw a card. Even though the card draw doesn’t depend on the targets in any way, if the targets aren’t there, no part of the spell functions.

That’s not always bad, though! Consider a card like Deadly Designs. The triggered ability takes (up to) two target creatures and kills them, but sacrifices Deadly Designs. If the targets you were trying to kill with Deadly Designs were to become illegal, then the ability will fail to resolve- meaning the *entire* ability fails to resolve, so Designs doesn’t get sacrificed (EDITOR’S NOTE: Of course, Deadly Designs will just immediately trigger again since it still has 5 counters! But hey, maybe you’ll get to blow up two other creatures).

So, that’s fizzling in a nutshell. Just remember- it needs to start with at least one target, it needs to have no legal targets left, and no part of the spell or ability will resolve. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be golden! Until next time!

Today’s Rules Tip was written by Alistair Crook

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