On the Origin of Delayed Triggers

One interesting thing that has popped up lately are triggered abilities that do nothing except set up a delayed trigger (DTAs). They’re few and far between – recent examples include Loyal Cathar and Grave Betrayal – and almost all, if not all, are “something died, do something with it later.”

The important trigger is clearly the second one – we expect players to remember at the end of turn that they should be returning creatures to play. The first trigger, not so much. It’s just a game-bookkeeping reminder with no effect on the game state. Certainly it’s not something that a player would acknowledge normally in play. “Your creature dies, therefore a trigger is created that will happen at end of turn.” Blech.

It gets worse when you take into account what else can go wrong here. Your creature dies and I say “I get that at end of turn”. Stuff happens, then I forget to get it from you. What do we do then? Alternately, it’s something the opponent wants to happen. They point it out at end of turn. Hmm, we never created the DTA. Guess we need to put that one on the stack now. So it comes back at the end of next turn?

The goal of policy in general is to have things work in an organic fashion. If something happens that’s relevant to the gamestate, it’s reasonable to expect players to call attention to that fact. Asking them to understand DTAs or call attention to the fact that nothing happened, but something will now happen later isn’t organic. If they pull the card out of the graveyard at end of turn (honestly, most of the time they’ll probably never even let it go to the graveyard), that seems like enough awareness, and arguing the opposite seems like rules laywering. So that’s bad.

This’ll probably require some IPG verbiage to formalize, which is annoying, since the set of cards that has this type of trigger is teeny and I hate having to write verbiage to cover situations that’ll almost never come up – most triggers that create DTAs also do something else, so the acknowledgement of that something else is sufficient. It looks like we need it here, though.