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Judge School
MTG cards


Magic 2014 introduced a completely unique card that allows copying triggered abilities. Let’s analyze how that happens in terms of the rules.

Translated by Witas Spasovski

Strionic Resonator

Strionic ResonatorStrionic Resonator has one activated ability that contains a tap symbol in its cost. Since Strionic Resonator isn’t a creature, you may activate it without being concerned with how long you have continuously controlled it. This ability has no limitations to the number of activations, but you will need to somehow untap the artifact to activate it again in the same turn.

Tezzeret the Seeker Voltaic Key Rings of Brighthearth

If the Resonator becomes a creature through Tezzeret the Seeker’s third ability, summoning sickness gets hold of it immediately, and you may not activate its ability unless you have continuously controlled it since the beginning of your most recent turn.

Voltaic Key’s ability allows untapping Strionic Resonator, which will make it possible to activate it once more. This whole procedure takes 5 mana total to perform under normal circumstances.

Rings of Brighthearth has a triggered ability that allows copying the Resonator’s activated ability which in its turn may allow copying a trigger*. Confusing, eh?

Strionic Resonator’s ability allows copying target trigger. If you don’t know what in the world that means, or you are confused with this truly confusing subject, I would recommend to switch to the judge school class on triggered abilities right away and study it thoroughly.

Empty The Warrens Corpsejack Menace Kalonian Hydra

Storm is one of those triggered abilities that beg to be copied. But don’t think that the second Storm brings more copies than the first one.

Triggers are often confused with replacement effects. Don’t get caught by that! The word “if” in the ability text doesn’t make it triggered!Corpsejack Menace’s ability may not be copied.

You may not copy Kalonian Hydra’s ability that puts counters on it as it enters the battlefield, because that is not a trigger.

However, the Hydra’s last ability may be copied with Resonator, and the opponent will certainly not enjoy that.

Alright, Strionic Resonator copies a trigger as an object on the stack. That means that you may only copy the trigger that has gone off and/or has already been put onto the stack. You may not copy the trigger that isn’t on the stack yet, or one that has already left the stack (no matter if it resolved, was removed or countered).

The Resonater’s ability is targeted. You cannot activate it “just like that”. If there is no legal target as you activate it, that would be an illegal action.

You may only copy a trigger you control. Someone else’s trigger is an illegal target for the Resonator’s ability, no matter how much you like it.

We get the copy of the trigger only when the Resonator’s ability resolves. If the target trigger isn’t on the stack as the ability resolves, it is countered and nothing big happens.

Now on to the most interesting part: copying triggers! This subject has a few mind-twisting rules. Here is one (I dared redact some parts of it not related to our topic):

(706.10)  To copy an ability is to put a copy of it onto the stack.

A copy of the ability copies both the characteristics of the ability and all decisions made for it, including modes and targets.

Choices that are normally made on resolution are not copied.

A copy of an ability is controlled by the player under whose control it was put on the stack.

A copy of an ability is itself an ability.

I hope everything is clear with “put onto the stack” - the game just creates a new object on the stack. It appears there directly, this isn’t the event of a trigger going off.

Let’s translate everything else to human language. The copy copies characteristics. A trigger has only one characteristic — its text. A careful reader would wonder: “What about its color?”. An ability has no color! Surprise! Its source does. For a copy of an ability, its source is the source of the original ability. If we copy a trigger of a red source, the copy will have the same red source. This sacramental knowledge will be useful when we talk about legality of the target.

We discussed modes of spells when taking a look at Cryptic Command. By and large, it is same for abilities. The mode for the original ability is chosen as it is put onto the stack. The copy doesn’t have the option to choose: it inherits the original’s choice.

Blizzard Specter Deceiver Exarch Orzhov Pontiff

If we control Blizzard Specter’s ability that returns a permanent, the copy will also return a permanent. We cannot change the mode of the copy to discarding.

When copying Deceiver Exarch’s trigger, the copy takes after the original mode. If the original untaps a permanent, the copy cannot tap a permanent - we don’t have that option.

When copying Orzhov Pontiff’s trigger, we get the same mode that was chosen when the original trigger was put onto the stack. If the original gives +1/+1 to our creatures, so does the copy.

Targets. The copy of a trigger has the same targets as the original. Strionic Resonator’s effect allows choosing new targets for the copy. This is where we apply the logical rule: we don’t have to change the targets even if they are illegal by the time we make this choice; but if we decide to change them, all new targets must be legal. We cannot change a target to an illegal one.

Dividing counters and damage. If dividing happens as the trigger is put onto the stack, such division is copied. If the division happens on resolution, the copy may divide things in its own way. Let me remind you that each target must get at least one unit of whatever is being divided.

Inferno Titan Jugan, the Rising Star Vastwood Hydra

When copying Inferno Titan’s trigger, we copy the number of targets and the amount of damage divided among them. If the original trigger has one target, its copy cannot have 2 or 3.

Suppose you control the trigger of Jugan, the Rising Star which allocates 3 counters onto one target and 2 onto another. The copy will have two targets. If you change them, you cannot divide counters as 1 and 4.

Vastwood Hydra’s trigger has no targets and allocates counters on resolution. That means you may choose other creatures at the copy’s resolution, and allocate the number of counters differently among them.

If a trigger supposes paying certain cost (mana, life etc.), the cost is paid separately for the copy.

Flameblast Dragon Savra, Queen of the Golgari Blind Obedience

Linked abilities normally appear in pairs, and an effect of one of them refers to the effect of another. Most commonly this uses the words “exiled card(s)”. In such case, this phrase refers to all cards exiled by both the original trigger and its copies (ref. rule 607.3).

Detention Sphere Duplicant Elite Arcanist

If you copy Detention Sphere’s trigger, you exile a lot of permanents (at least two with different names). Then as Detention Sphere’s second trigger resolves, all those cards return to the battlefield.

If Duplicant’s trigger is copied, you may exile two different creatures. But its text has been modified so that Duplicant will have characteristics of the card that has been exiled with its ability last.

If you copy Elite Arcanist’s trigger, you may exile two instant cards, such as Shock and Impulse. When activating his ability, we must set X=3, and we may cast no copies, one copy of either card, or both copies in any order**.

Sometimes you get not quite what you expect when you copy a trigger. You should read the card text carefully.

Aurelia, the Warleader Hellkite Charger

Aurelia’s trigger and its copy resolve during the same declare attackers step. This means you untap all your creatures and get an additional combat phase twice in a row. During the additional combat phase your attacking creatures are tapped (unless they have Vigilance), so they won’t be able to attack in the next additional combat phase. Sad face.

Hellkite Charger’s trigger goes off each time Hellkite attacks (not only during the first attack). This allows attacking multiple times, as long as you pay {5RR} at each trigger’s resolution.

If that trigger is copied by the Resonator, it will be the same as with Aurelia: the creature will untap twice after the combat phase in which both the original and the copy resolved. And the copy must be paid, too.

Peculiar situations:

Experiment One Huntmaster of the Fells

Suppose you control an Experiment One without counters and put a Burning-Tree Emissary onto the battlefield. Evolve triggers; it may be copied with the Resonator, but is it a good idea? After the copy resolves, Experiment One gets a +1/+1 counter. As the original Evolve trigger resolves, nothing happens, because Evolve is a conditional trigger, and its condition is no longer met!

If you copy the trigger that would transform Huntmaster of the Fells, it will still transform only once. This happens due to the new rule 701.25f*** introduced in Shadows over Innistrad.

* Since the ability is removed from the stack as the final stage of its resolving, you have the opportunity to choose Rings of Brighthearth' trigger as the target of Resonator’s ability, and blow up the opponent’s and the judges' brains. By the way, this doesn’t produce a loop. When the Rings' trigger resolves, it leaves the stack, so the Resonator’s activated ability will be countered on resolution due to having lost its only target.

** This happens due to the rule 607.3.

*** 701.25f If an activated ability of a permanent tries to transform that permanent, the permanent transforms only if it hasn't transformed since the ability was put onto the stack. The same is true for triggered abilities of a permanent that aren't delayed triggered abilities. If a delayed triggered ability of a permanent tries to transform that permanent, the permanent transforms only if it hasn't transformed since that delayed triggered ability was created.

Irina Samonova © 1999-2017

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