Q: I recently built a Pandemonium deck around the evoke Elementals. Let's say I evoke a Briarhorn. Can I have it give itself +3/+3 before Pandemonium checks its power, having it deal 6 instead of 3? Alternatively, could I play another creature and respond to its Pandemonium trigger with an evoked Briarhorn, giving the other creature +3/+3 before Pandemonium checks its power?
–Andrew, Coral Springs, FL, USA
A: From the Magic Rules Corner:
Yes, and yes. For why, let's talk about triggered abilities (remember, those are the ones that begin with "when," "whenever," or "at"). The Reader's Digest version is that when more than one of them triggers at once, you get to pick what order to put them on the stack.
Triggered abilities aren't played—instead, they trigger when their trigger event occurs. This can happen any time, including during the resolution of a spell or ability, but the triggered ability isn't put on the stack until a player would receive priority (in other words, triggered abilities go on the stack before anyone can decide to do anything).
The relevant rule for handling multiple triggered abilities is 410.3, which reads in part:
If multiple abilities have triggered since the last time a player received priority, each player, in APNAP order, puts triggered abilities he or she controls on the stack in any order he or she chooses. (See rule 103.4.)
(It's not vital to your question, but "APNAP" stands for "Active Player, Non-Active Player"—or, in multiplayer, "Active Player, Next Active Player." In other words, the player whose turn it is puts all of his or her triggered abilities on the stack, then the next player in the normal turn order, until all players have put their triggered abilities on the stack. Bear in mind that this means that the active player's triggered abilities will resolve last.)
The part of 410.3 that helps answer your question is "in any order he or she chooses." Since you control Briarhorn, Pandemonium, and the other creature in your examples, you control all of the triggered abilities involved. Thus, you get to put them on the stack in any order.
It's also important to know that Pandemonium's triggered ability checks the creature's power when the ability resolves, not when it triggers. (The only case in which this would not be true is an ability that divides damage—but that's a Rules Corner for another Monday).
In your first example, there are three triggered abilities, all of which trigger on Briarhorn coming into play: one on Pandemonium and two on Briarhorn. Remember, all players have to pass priority before anything can resolve, which means everyone gets a chance to respond to each of these triggers. Let's look more closely at the sequence of events:
You play Briarhorn for its evoke cost. It resolves and comes into play. This triggers three triggered abilities.
- You choose in what order to put these triggered abilities on the stack. Remember, the first one on the stack will be the last one to resolve. To do what you want, put them on the stack like this:
- Briarhorn's evoke triggered ability (From the Comp. Rules: "When this permanent comes into play, if its evoke cost was paid, its controller sacrifices it.") *
- Pandemonium's triggered ability, choosing any legal target ("Whenever a creature comes into play, that creature's controller may have it deal damage equal to its power to target creature or player of his or her choice.")
- Briarhorn's other comes-into-play triggered ability, choosing itself as the target ("When Briarhorn comes into play, target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn.")
Briarhorn's non-evoke comes-into-play ability resolves. Since you chose Briarhorn as the target, Briarhorn gets +3/+3. It's now 6/6.
Pandemonium's triggered ability resolves and deals damage equal to Briarhorn's power—which is now 6—to the target you chose. Once again, if for any reason Briarhorn is no longer in play, Pandemonium will use whatever its power was when it left play (in your example this is 6, but don't forget to take into account any other changes, such as from Nameless Inversion or Ego Erasure).
Briarhorn's evoke triggered ability resolves. Because you paid the evoke cost, you sacrifice Briarhorn.
Presto! 6 damage for . Your second example has more steps, but is the same in essence. Let's walk through it briefly.
- You play a creature. For this example, let's say it's Axegrinder Giant—a simple creature without any triggered abilities of its own to confuse the issue. The creature spell resolves, and the creature comes into play. This trigger's Pandemonium's ability.
- You put Pandemonium's triggered ability on the stack, choosing any legal target.
- With that ability on the stack, you play Briarhorn for its evoke cost. (You can do this because it has flash.) This triggers three triggered abilities—the same three as the first example—all of which will go on the stack above the Pandemonium trigger for Axegrinder Giant. In this case it doesn't matter what order you put them on the stack, because you're not planning on changing Briarhorn's power before Pandemonium's triggered ability resolves.
- These triggered abilities all resolve one by one. Regardless of the order you chose, the end result is that Briarhorn deals 3 damage to whatever target you chose for Pandemonium's ability, Briarhorn is sacrificed, and Axegrinder Giant gets +3/+3. Axegrinder Giant is 9/7.
- The instance of Pandemonium's triggered ability that triggered when Axegrinder Giant came into play resolves. Axegrinder Giant deals 9 damage to whatever target you chose.
These same principles can help with all sorts of interactions, from Wild Pair / Primal Forcemage (you can choose to search with Wild Pair before or after the creature gets +3/+3) to Oblivion Ring / Vedalken Mastermind (you can return Oblivion Ring to owner's hand with its comes-into-play trigger still on the stack, triggering its leaves-play ability with nothing to return and removing your target from the game indefinitely).
Whenever you have a question about triggers, you may look at rules 404, "Triggered Abilities," and 410, "Handling Triggered Abilities," in the Comp. Rules. If you do, hopefully they'll answer your question.
(Just a little triggered ability humor there, folks. See you next week.)
* You can actually put Briarhorn's sacrifice ability and Pandemonium's triggered ability on the stack in either order. If Briarhorn is not in play when Pandemonium's triggered ability resolves, Pandemonium will use "last known information" about Briarhorn, including what its power was when it left play. The important thing here is that Briarhorn's +3/+3 trigger resolves before either of the other two.
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