Guardian Project and the “Legend Rule”

Welcome, bioengineers! I am Mutationist Alistair, and I’m here to talk to you today about the Guardian Project. As we all know, our strength is born from diversity, and the Guardian Project is an enchantment which costs 3G. What does it do for 3G? Whenever a non-token creature enters the battlefield under your control, if it doesn’t share a name with another creature you control or a creature card in your graveyard, you draw a card! Mostly, how this works is fairly accurate, but (and I am now going to drop character altogether for clarity) long time readers will recognize that rascally “, if” construct- that’s right, we’ve got an intervening if statement. So, what does that mean?

A brief reminder on intervening ifs: In order to trigger, the condition on the intervening if must be true when the trigger condition is met (that is, when the creature enters the battlefield) and to resolve, it has to still be true when the trigger resolves. All good so far. So, let’s dive in on when that gets weird.

Scenario one. You control no creatures, there are no creature cards in your graveyard. You cast a creature, any creature, and it enters the battlefield. Guardian Project triggers, and then your opponent rudely responds with a Murder. Your poor creature dies, and to add insult to injury you won’t even get a card out of it. When the Guardian Project trigger resolves, it will check the board and graveyard for anything with the same name… and in your graveyard, it will find a creature card with the same name. Whoops!

A similar thing happens if your opponent somehow flickers your creature in response to Guardian Project’s trigger- for example, with Eldrazi Displacer. When the Guardian Project trigger resolves, your creature is now a new object, distinct from the ‘original’. This means it is now another creature you control, and it has the same name as the ‘original’, so you won’t get to draw a card. (of course, you will get another Guardian Project trigger when the flickered creature re-enters the battlefield, so you’ll probably draw a card anyway. Slight punt on your opponent’s end, there.)

Now let’s get to the really weird stuff. Morphs! Face down creatures don’t have a name, which means it’s impossible for them to share a name with anything, so a Morph entering the battlefield will always trigger Guardian Project! Unfortunately, if you choose to turn it face-up with the trigger on the stack, it gains a name. That means when Guardian Project’s trigger goes to resolve, it’ll look back at the creature that triggered it and see a name, then ask “Hey, does anything else have this name?”. If you don’t have any other creatures (or creature cards in your graveyard) with the same name, you’re still good. If you do have another copy out there, you’ll lose your draw. Also, if your opponent tries to be cheeky as in Scenario 1 and blows up your Morph in response to the Project trigger? Well you’ll still draw! The trigger will be using “Last-Known Information”, meaning it looks back at what the creature looked like as it last existed on the battlefield. And back then it still had no name, so it can’t share a name with the ‘version’ of itself currently in the graveyard. Generally speaking, wait until after your Guardian Project triggers resolve to turn your Morphs face-up, yeah?

So, those are all the scenarios you’re likely to come across in day to day play, but just for fun, let’s look at a really weird example. Let’s say you control a Clone that’s presently a copy of a legendary creature (let’s say Marhault Elsdragon, because who doesn’t love learning about new bad legendaries from Legends?). You then play an actual Marhault Elsdragon from your hand. Due to the legend rule, you have to choose one to keep- and if you choose the real Marhault, then the creature card that ends up in your graveyard is called Clone- so surely you’d get a Guardian Project trigger? Unfortunately, no. While the trigger won’t be put on the stack until after the legend rule applies, intervening ifs check at the exact moment the trigger condition is met- and in that split second, you control two Marhaults. Shared name means no trigger, no trigger means no cards. Ah well.

So that’s everything you need to know- and a few things you didn’t need to know- about Guardian Project. Thanks for coming with me on this journey, and best of luck to you in wrenching every last card out of it! Until next time!

Today’s Rules Tip was written by Alistair Crook

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