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Let's Open the Time Vault This Summer


About Riccardo Tessitori

Riccardo Tessitori
Riccardo Tessitori

Riccardo Tessitori is a level 5 judge from Italy (and former Pro Player ^__^); he judged a hundred professional events, headjudged 15 Grand Prix events in Europe, the United States and Asia and has been headjudging Pro Tours and World Championships since 2009:

  • Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
  • Pro Tour Austin 2009
  • Worlds Chiba 2010
  • Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011
  • Pro Tour Barcelona 2012
  • World Magic Cup Indianapolis 2012

Let's Open the Time Vault This Summer

Hello everybody!

Summer has arrived, the swimming pool at my gym is open and my skin is getting darker and darker… well, actually blond people just become red… and a new Core Set is about to be released (Slivers!!!).

Just like Core Sets include old cards from the early days of Magic, our four summer articles will include a new section: Time Vault, with a very detailed analysis of four cards that have become pillars of Magic history.

They will be Oath of Druids, Sylvan Library, Trinisphere and the one that gives its name to this short series: Time Vault.

Let’s read the questions you sent me during these two weeks and then dive into the Time Vault!

Happy reading.

Your Questions

Q: Under the new rules, from what I got out of it in regards to the land "counters" signifying how many lands you can play for the turn, it seemed to me like effects like "Rampant Growth" or "Farseek" act as though it were your land drop for the turn. I'm not sure if I'm correct on that. Also, would searching for a land with "Maze's End" and then putting it into play work the same as the way I think "Farseek" would or could I search with "Maze's End" and then replay it as my land for turn under the new rules? Thanks in advance.

A: We need to make a very important distinction: we can PLAY a land or we can PUT a land on the battlefield. Playing a land means taking a land card from our hand and performing the special action (one per turn) of making it enter the battlefield; this action uses the land counter. Putting a land on the battlefield can be done when a spell or ability resolves and instructs us to search for a land in our library (for example Farseek or Maze's End) and put it on the battlefield; this action doesn’t use the land counter, because there was an effect that allowed us to put it on the battlefield.

Q: I have a Flinthoof Boar and 3 other creatures out with no Mountain in play, making the Boar a 2/2. I attack with the team and my opponent is talking to himself aloud to help him declare blockers. He says in his ramblings to himself, neither to me nor asking a question "...the flinthoof is a 3/3 so I need to block here..." and blocks with something like a 3/2. Am I obligated under the rules of Misrepresenting Game State to correct my opponent, or am I allowed to not say anything until the damage step, that it is a 2/2?

A: Interesting, here we have one of the many situations where we need to make a difference between “fair play” and “competitive approach”. Each of us may have a very different idea of “fair play”, while all of us should follow the official rules of Magic; according to the tournament rules, you can wait until the moment damage is dealt before saying that your creature is a 2/2 and not a 3/3 like your opponent mistakenly thought. You are not responsible for what your opponent says (especially because he doesn’t perform any action by saying “your creature is a 3/3”); you are only responsible for what *you* say. If your opponent asks you anything like “Is your Boar a 3/3?”, you cannot reply “Yes” because you would be declaring a false statement. Now, moving to the idea of fair play, if you believe that the correct behavior is to inform your opponent that your Boar is 2/2 before he blocks, please do it. My stance on such a situation is: “At a regular tournament, my goal is to enjoy playing independently of who wins, and I inform my opponent before he blocks (or I allow him to block differently if I’m not fast enough in speaking to him); at a competitive tournament, my goal is to win the tournament and there is no way I’m going to help my opponent when he makes a mistake”

Please note that you can now send me your questions privately, without using Blackborder points; your questions will now substitute the “Questions of the week” and I count on you to send me a lot of interesting questions; I cannot guarantee that I will be able to publish all of them, but I will privately answer all of them and, sooner or later, I will be happy to publish all of them.

Time Vault Series – Oath of Druids

Today we are going to analyze a quite old but very strong card (banned in Legacy and played in Vintage): Oath of Druids.

First, let's take a look at the text of our card; it went through some text changes since its initial printing, with the most important change coming with M10. The current Oracle text is:

Oracle Text

At the beginning of each player's upkeep, that player chooses target player who controls more creatures than he or she does and is his or her opponent. The first player may reveal cards from the top of his or her library until he or she reveals a creature card. If he or she does, that player puts that card onto the battlefield and all other cards revealed this way into his or her graveyard.

Note that Oath of Druids works with a triggered ability. It uses the stack and it's possible to respond to it.

It goes on the stack at the beginning of the upkeep and asks you to choose an opponent who should have more creatures than you. Because the ability checks if the condition is true at the moment it would be put on the stack, you must make sure that you control fewer creatures than your opponent before you enter the upkeep step. Because nobody receives priority during the untap step (it doesn't matter if an ability triggers in this step, like with Wake Thrasher; the ability is put on the stack during the upkeep), the best way to make sure that Oath will work is to activate abilities or cast spells at the end of your opponent's turn.

It won't be possible to tap Forbidden Orchard in response to the triggered ability to make Oath give you a gigantic creature. If the condition isn't met at the beginning of the upkeep, the ability will be removed from the stack.

Though, if the triggered ability of Oath of Druids is put on the stack and the chosen opponent removes from the battlefield one of his creatures in response to the ability, you will still be able to activate Forbidden Orchard to give him a new creature and have the ability resolve. The legality of the targets and the meeting of the condition are checked only when the ability is put on the stack and when the ability resolves, not for the entire period when the ability is on the stack.

Finally, in case your opponent cannot be targeted (for example because of True Believer or Leyline of Sanctity), the triggered ability of Oath of Druids won't even be put on the stack.

Let's now take a look at some interesting situations that you may encounter during your games.

Q: My opponent plays with a deck based on Oath of Druids. He resolves the ability and puts on the battlefield Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. I could still win the next turn, but among the cards he revealed there is Dragon Breath and he says that he can resolve the ability of Dragon Breath, choose Emrakul as target and then kill me by attacking. My doubt is the following: Oath puts Emrakul on the battlefield and only afterwards it puts the other cards into the graveyard. Does my opponent's combo work?

A: The combo works. Dragon Breath and Emrakul were put respectively in the graveyard and on the battlefield at the same time because there is only one verb that instructs him to perform the actions, in the text of Oath of Druids. All triggered abilities check the game state after the event that made them trigger, and therefore Dragon Breath “sees” Emrakul entering the battlefield; this is equivalent to multiple creatures entering the battlefield at the same time and having triggered abilities that trigger when a creature enters the battlefield.

Q: My opponent tries to resolve the ability of Oath of Druids, but I control Grafdigger's Cage. How do these two cards interact?

A: The Cage doesn't prevent the ability of Oath of Druids from triggering and revealing cards from the library, but prevents the creature from entering the battlefield. The revealed cards will be put into the graveyard and the creature will stay on top of the library.

Q: My opponent milled Gaea's Blessing! What happens now?

A: You will finish resolving the ability, for two reasons. First, the cards aren't put directly into the graveyard, but only revealed; then, even though abilities trigger while the ability of Oath of Druids is resolved, they will be put on the stack only after the end of the resolution of the ability. For example, if Gaea's Blessing is revealed first and Angel of Despair is revealed afterwards. Their abilities trigger and will be put on the stack at the same time, in the order chosen by their controller.

Extra: what happens if, instead of Angel of Despair, the revealed creature is Snapcaster Mage, and I want to use his ability to give flashback to a Brainstorm in my graveyard? I will need to be careful and put first on the stack the ability that would shuffle my graveyard into my deck and second the ability that gives flashback to Brainstorm, which I will be able to cast while the ability of Gaea's Blessing is still on the stack. This trick doesn't work with sorceries like Ponder!

Q: I killed all the creatures my opponent has in his deck, why does he still want to use his Oath?

A: If Oath's ability cannot find any creature in the deck, it will perform as much as possible of the effect: it will reveal all cards in the deck and it will put them into the graveyard. At this moment its resolution will be complete and any ability from Gaea's Blessing will be put on the stack. Note that after shuffling the graveyard into the deck, the ability won't continue the process of revealing cards looking for a creature.

Q: Player A controls Oath of Druids. Player B, during his turn, casts Pithing Needle and names Oath of Druids, then he passes. The next turn, player A declares that he wants to resolve the ability of Oath of Druids and player B, hoping that player A doesn't know very well the difference between triggered ability and activated ability, says: “I remind you that my Needle named Oath.”

A: This situation is quite delicate. It's true that player B isn't giving false or ambiguous information and he's not removing the attention of player A from the "target" of his trick. Though, it's very clear that the intent of player B is to try to prevent player A from performing a legal action, implying that Pithing Needle is able to stop the ability of Oath of Druids.

Such a trick, used at this precise moment, is clearly illegal because it's based on making the opponent make a mistake by implying false information.

The trick might become legal (but still really borderline) if player B said at the end of his own turn a sentence like: ”Remember that Needle named Oath”. This way, player B isn't stopping player A in the moment when player A is trying to perform a legal action, as player B is mentioning his own Pithing Needle in his own turn, when the triggered ability of Oath of Druids cannot trigger.

This trick is in any case really borderline and I cannot guarantee that all judges would consider it legal; in a situation like this, my advice is to name Oath of Druids with Pithing Needle, and eventually put your Pithing Needle just next to your opponent's Oath of Druids (which, by the way, is a very common and wise way to remember which card was named) and say nothing.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

Don’t forget to submit all your rules questions for the next installment of Ask the Judge. Simply send me a personal message with all the rules questions you may have.

Ask the Judge Now!

You have the unique opportunity to ask Level 5 judge Riccardo Tessitori all the questions you want to!

You can ask him questions concerning rules problems, the life of a level 5 judge, DCI policies, interesting tournament situations and anything else you want to ask him!

See you in a couple of weeks!


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