Welcome back to the Rules Tips Blog! Today we’re going to be talking about the perennial second-in-command of the Orzhov Syndicate, Teysa Karlov. For 2WB you get a 2/4 Legendary Human Advisor that gives all your creature tokens vigilance and lifelink, which is fairly spicy already- but her first ability is the heavy hitter, here. “If a creature dying causes a triggered ability of a permanent you control to trigger, that ability triggers an additional time”. Getting shades of Panharmonicon there!
So let’s break that ability down a bit. The ability itself is sometimes confused with triggers, but it isn’t one. It’s a replacement effect that changes the event “a permanent you control triggers” to the event “a permanent you control triggers twice“. Teysa’s ability doesn’t use the stack and it can’t be responded to- it just doubles the triggers automatically. Of course, the two triggers DO use the stack, and CAN be responded to. This also isn’t ‘copying’ the trigger- should the trigger in question involve a choice (like Vindictive Lich in a 2 person game, for example!), you aren’t locked into the same choice for both triggers, as each one is a separate thing. You can also choose targets independently for each trigger, and since both are put onto the stack simultaneously, you’ll choose which one is going to happen ‘first’. In the Lich example, you could make your opponent discard 2 cards and THEN sacrifice a creature, or the other way around.
But… what does Teysa work on? That’s the real head-scratcher we’ve been seeing around this card. Does she work with ‘when you exploit’ triggers, or with Deathreap Ritual, or “graveyard from anywhere” triggers? No, no, and sometimes! The exploit triggers are looking for a creature being sacrificed by the Exploit triggered ability, not just for something dying. Something does technically die, but the trigger condition for them is more specific, so it won’t get doubled from Teysa. Same with Deathreap Ritual- that’s just an “at the beginning of each end step” trigger, not a “when something dies” trigger. It does have an intervening-if clause that’ll keep the trigger from properly being put on the stack if nothing died, but it still TRIGGERS whether or not something dies- it just won’t go on the stack. So no Teysa double there. “Graveyard from anywhere” triggers are interesting though. For those, it will work, but only if Teysa herself and the triggering permanent are still on the battlefield immediately after the death of the creature that caused the trigger. So let’s say we have a Turntimber Sower on board, and an animated land like Treetop Village. If that Village chump-blocks something big and dies, Turntimber Sower will go to trigger, and Teysa says “Hey, that’s technically from a creature dying! Double that.”, and you’ll get two Sower triggers. But if there were a board-wipe like Damnation, we don’t get two triggers- we don’t even get one. Since this is a ‘graveyard from anywhere’ trigger, the game can’t look back in time the way it does with leaves-the-battlefield triggers; since Sower isn’t on the battlefield to see the lands hit the graveyard (because Sower itself is ALSO in the graveyard at that point), and the game won’t look back in time, Sower doesn’t trigger at all. Since Sower doesn’t trigger at all, Teysa has nothing to double. Very important note: these ‘graveyard from anywhere’ situations are the only ones where Teysa and the triggering permanent have to be alive after the death of a creature! For regular ‘leaves-the-battlefield’ triggers, the game can look back in time.
Normal “when this thing dies” triggers and “Whenever a creature dies” triggers of your stuff will get doubled even if Teysa or the triggering permanent are going down. Let’s say you have four Blood Artists and one Teysa Karlov, and your opponent decides that’s no bueno. They throw a Flame Slash at Teysa. Teysa dying will trigger all four of your Blood Artists… which means that Teysa’s ability will double all those triggers as she dies. They’ll lose 8, not 4! The same is true if Teysa dies at the same time as the other things. The “Damnation to kill Teysa and the triggering creatures” trick from above won’t work here- each Artist has 5 triggers in that case (one for itself, three for the other Artists, one for Teysa), so Teysa will take that total up from 20 triggers to a staggering 40. So hey, keep that in mind if you wanna be cute and wipe your opponent’s board with a Teysa out- it won’t stop Teysa! Better hold onto a Path to Exile, just in case.
Today’s Rules Tip was written by Trevor Nunez