Odyssey has naturally delivered a series of new judging challenges to us. From new mechanics to new cards, the coming few months will be a journey of discovery for all of us as we get comfortable with the new set. Fortunately, with the exception of new mechanics, we can turn to the Comprehensive Rules to figure out how to rule on how Odyssey cards interact with each other and those from other sets. This week, we'll cover a few of those that have been the subject of many players' questions.
Understanding triggered abilities is crucial to playing Standstill correctly
Standstill is a card that has generated numerous questions because it looks more complicated than it actually is. It's obviously very simple if only one spell is played. If multiple spells go on the stack, Standstill will trigger on each of them. Because there is a condition on drawing the cards (the sacrifice of the Standstill), only the opponent(s) of the last player to add a spell to the stack will draw the cards. Since the resolution of Standstill uses the stack, the player that draws the cards may add new spells to the stack, possibly countering the spell that originally triggered the Standstill.
Similar to Standstill, Mindslicer has a triggered ability: when it is put in the graveyard from play, each player discards his or her hand. If the Mindslicer is sacrificed as part of the cost of a spell or ability, its trigger will resolve first, emptying both players' hands, but the original spell is already on the stack (409.1a). For example, if a player announces Diabolic Intent and sacrifices the Mindslicer, his hand will be empty before the Intent resolves. He'll then go search for the card of his choice during the resolution of the Intent. Of course, Mindslicer's trigger may be responded to. The opponent could counter the Intent (or play any other Instants) before the Mindslicer's trigger resolves.
Note: Liquid Fire only has one target!
Liquid Fire is a card where there's division (5 damage divided as its controller chooses, between target creature and that creature's controller), but has caused some confusion because it doesn't fall under the auspices of 409.1e: the division isn't being done on multiple targets. Lava Burst has only one target-the creature. Therefore, division is done on resolution. A 5/0 or 0/5 split is possible. Because the division is done on resolution, the spell's controller has a great deal of flexibility in deciding how much damage will go where. Remember also that if the single target of Liquid Fire becomes illegal/invalid, the spell is countered on resolution (413.2a). For example, Johnny has a Shivan Dragon (5/5) which Linda intends to kill with her Liquid Fire. She announces Liquid Fire, and declares the Dragon as the target. In response, Johnny gives the Dragon Protection from Red. Linda does not get the choice to deal 0 to the Dragon and 5 to Johnny at that point, because the spell will never resolve.
Braids, Cabal Minion instructs players to sacrifice an artifact, creature, or land at beginning of upkeep. Like any beginning of upkeep trigger, it goes on the stack before the active player gets priority. Braids does not make a good combo with other beginning of upkeep triggers such as Reya, Dawnbringer. Reya's triggered ability is targeted, so the creature to be returned must already be in the graveyard at beginning of upkeep-so one could not, for example, sacrifice the Braids to itself and then use the Reya to bring it back. On the other hand, the player may stack the two abilities (Braids first, Reya second) so that Reya brings back a creature to be sacrificed to Braids.
Some players may find that the wording on Ember Beast is slightly confusing: "Ember Beast may not attack or block alone." This does not mean that the Beast must "gang block" an attacking creature. It means that Ember Beast is only part of a legal attacking or blocking declaration if there is another creature in it (500.2 and 500.3).
The copy spell must have a legal target for it to be put on the stack
Mirari is another card that has generated many questions. It triggers once and only once each time its controller plays an instant or sorcery spell. The original spell goes on the stack, then Mirari's trigger. When the trigger resolves, the controller chooses whether or not to pay 3. If he does, then he puts a copy of the spell on the stack, save that he may choose a new target for that spell (if applicable). There is no possibility for him to change other parameters of the spell. If the original spell was played with Kicker, the copy has Kicker; if it was played without, the copy cannot have it.
A potential oddity with Mirari is that there may be no legal target for the copy spell when the triggered ability resolves. For example, Curt has two Grizzly Bears in play. Randy plays Strafe (Strafe deals 3 damage to target non-red creature), targeting one of the Bears. Mirari's trigger goes on the stack. In response, Curt plays Rushing River with Kicker, targeting both of his Bears. The Rushing River resolves first, bouncing both Bears. When the Mirari's trigger resolves, Randy may still choose to pay 3 (perhaps he needs a mana sink for some reason). He cannot, however, put the copy spell on the stack, because there is no legal target for it. Of course, he can choose to not pay the 3. Naturally, then, the Strafe is countered on resolution (413.2a).
As with any new set, there are some cards that will give both Judges and players alike some difficulties. Odyssey is no different. Forewarned and forearmed, however, you're now ready to tackle those difficulties head-on.