Interfering with a Triggered Oath of Druids



  • Good morning, Vintage strategists.

    I was watching the Vintage Super League on YouTube and noticed something that really stood out to me.

    I've been playing Oath of Druids decks in Vintage for many years. Throughout that entire tenure, judges and players alike have been telling me the same thing: When an Oath of Druids trigger is on the stack, players can't increase or decrease the amount of creatures on the battlefield to change the outcome of the Oath of Druids. They've said that however the turn began is what the Oath of Druids will ultimately "see" upon resolution, regardless of what has changed since then.

    By clicking this link, you'll be taken to the exact time (22:08) when Shuhei Nakamura begins his turn. He controls fewer creatures than Brian Kelly and has the option to successfully activate Oath of Druids. Brian Kelly responds, with Nakamura's trigger on the stack, and taps his Forbidden Orchard to give Nakamura a spirit token, therefore equalizing the amount of creatures that both players control. Nakamura ultimately doesn't activate Oath of Druids and moves on to his draw step. (By choice, or due to inability?)

    I was under the impression that, once a turn began, creatures couldn't be added or removed to change the outcome of an Oath of Druids. Did Nakamura not activate his Oath of Druids on his own accord, or was Kelly's last-minute decision actually what "stopped" Oath of Druids from working? Eric Froehlich and Randy Buehler didn't seem surprised by what Kelly did. Froehlich even briefly acknowledged it.

    I'd like to get this straight once and for all. It's an important concept, especially for the Oath of Druids mirror match. How does adding and removing creatures work in relation to an Oath trigger going on the stack?

    Let's look at Example A:

    Bill is on the play and is going to take his first turn. He casts Mox Ruby, plays a Forbidden Orchard, and then casts Oath of Druids. It resolves. Bill passes the turn.

    Andrew draws a card and plays a Forbidden Orchard of his own. He taps it for blue, casts a Preordain, and then ends his turn. Both players have an equal amount of creatures.

    Can Bill untap, trigger Oath of Druids, and then respond to it by tapping his own Forbidden Orchard to increase Andrew's amount of creatures and change the outcome of Oath of Druids? Many judges have told me that this won't work, but I want to know for sure.

    If Kelly was able to add a creature to nullify an Oath trigger by equalizing the amount of creatures, why couldn't somebody remove or add creatures to cause Oath of Druids to trigger when it otherwise wouldn't?

    How about Example B?

    Bill is on the play and is going to take his first turn. He casts Mox Ruby, plays a Forbidden Orchard, and then casts Oath of Druids. It resolves. Bill passes the turn.

    Andrew draws a card and plays a Forbidden Orchard of his own. He casts Mox Sapphire. He taps them, casts Time Walk, and then ends his turn. Andrew takes his extra turn, taps his Forbidden Orchard, and passes.

    Let's say Bill untaps, triggers Oath of Druids, and then responds to it by tapping his own Forbidden Orchard and Mox Ruby to cast Fire//Ice, successfully killing off his own two tokens. Now that Andrew has two tokens and Bill has zero, can he successfully use Oath of Druids, even though he had more at the beginning of the turn?

    I realize that this thread will partially be a wash if Kelly's adding of a creature didn't actually change anything, and that Nakamura simply chose not to activate his enchantment, but regardless, let's get some clear answers.

    Thank you to all who are able to offer some insight on the finer details of triggering an Oath of Druids. I'd really like, once and for all, to definitively know how all of this works.



  • It all comes down to that pesky "intervening if" clause. In order for the ability to even trigger and go on the stack, it must be true at the beginning of the upkeep. From the official rule on gatherer:

    The targeted player controlling more creatures than the current player is a part of the targeting requirement. A player can’t be targeted by this ability unless it’s true, and the ability will be countered on resolution if it’s no longer true at that time.

    You can't manipulate the number such to influence whether or not it goes on the stack, but once it's on the stack (but hasn't resolved) you can.

    From the Magic Judges Blog: (http://blogs.magicjudges.org/rulestips/2011/09/the-intervening-if[/)

    If this additional condition is also true, then the ability will trigger and go on the stack. However this condition is checked again when the ability attempts to resolve. If this condition is not true at that point, then the ability will do nothing. In other words these triggers have two different times that they can ‘fail’ to do anything.



  • @Nefarias Oath doesn't actually have an Intervening if trigger, it has a restriction on what you can target, an opponent that controls more creatures that you do, but the end result is basically the same, unless for some reason you care that the trigger gets countered by game rules rather than simply removed from the stack.


  • TMD Supporter

    In example A you cannot tap to add a creature to the opponents side because there isn't a point in the untap step where you can do anything. You go to untap step permanents and such untap then you're immediately in the upkeep step at that point Oath of Druids has already checked and saw that the creature count is 1:1.



  • Unfortunately, what you've been told all your life is 100% incorrect. Oath's trigger will never go on the stack if it has no legal targets. For Oath, a legal target is a "player who controls more creatures than [me] and is [my] opponent."

    Conversely, if it has triggered and is on the stack, it checks on resolution if it's target is still legal. If the player you targeted no longer has more creatures than you, it is countered on resolution for having an illegal target, just as any targeted spell or ability in Magic would.

    The only wording that "locks in" a value or number on cast/trigger is something like Dragonlord's Prerogative. Those clauses specifically tell you when to check for Dragons and then later references whether you had the requirement filled at the time of casting.



  • Note that this rules subtlety is very pro-Rayne in Oath mirrors :P


  • TMD Supporter

    @diophan please elaborate?



  • And yeah, Jade is right. No intervening if here, just a very specific kind of target.



  • @Hagrid You have 1 more creature than your opponent during their upkeep and have 1 more orchard than they do. They have to put Oath of Druids on the stack, targeting you. You draw a card, tap your orchard(s), and equalize the number of creatures. Upon resolution of Oath's ability, your opponent cannot activate Oath. You also draw an additional card for each orchard they tap.

    Note that if you play on Magic Online it is very clear that this is exactly how the rules work. One of the great advantages of using MTGO is that you realize how this stuff works and can exploit timing issues to your advantage.



  • @JadePhoenix Heh, funny.

    The original wording had the intervening if, and when they cleaned up the wording the functionality stayed intact for a completely different rules intricacy. Interesting.



  • @Hagrid said:

    In example A you cannot tap to add a creature to the opponents side because there isn't a point in the untap step where you can do anything. You go to untap step permanents and such untap then you're immediately in the upkeep step at that point Oath of Druids has already checked and saw that the creature count is 1:1.

    Not quite. It has checked the creature counts in that it has had it's target assigned but the ability goes on the stack and thus anyone can respond to it.

    @Nefarias said:

    @JadePhoenix Heh, funny.

    The original wording had the intervening if, and when they cleaned up the wording the functionality stayed intact for a completely different rules intricacy. Interesting.

    I only just noticed this seemingly recent change as a result of this thread. Good to know these things but very strange that they would bother with errata that doesn't change the functionality of the card. They must have just wanted to make this kind of intricacy more obvious to players. Not sure it's more obvious though.

    @Greg I too have had a fair number of judges give the wrong ruling on this card as well. It can be extremely frustrating when it directly costs the game. It always comes as a surprise to discover how few people understand the details of how the Exodus oathes work especially considering the fame of Oath of Druids; however, I also had to seek out a definitive answer in order to learn the interaction as well at some point so I can't resent an Opponent for just not knowing.



  • Yes, the intervening if was removed when Oath got put on MtGO, I think. Anyone know what shenanigans they were trying to circumvent with "and is his or her opponent"? Just avoiding casual multi-player interactions with teammates? Any reason not to just use "target opponent who controls more creatures than you"?



  • Basically. If someone wants to Oath, they have to have more creatures to start the turn, and more creatures as the Oath ability resolves.

    (To beat an opposing Jace bounce effect, one can play double Oath, then off only one Orchard, give the opponent a token on end of turn. One untaps and trigger both Oaths, then with them both on the stack, give one's opponent another token. When the first Oath resolves, one get some kind of gigantic, likely flying, monster, and the opponent will still have one more creature. So the second Oath will resolve just fine, and one gets a second monster. Assuming one then just passes the turn, the opposing Jace can bounce a single monster, then on the ensuing turn, the remaining monster will be able to kill the Jace and dominate the board.

    -Pronouns edited to be much more passive-voicy and perhaps clearer-



  • @McAra The "you" is unclear in your sentence. It could refer to the Oath's controller. Same thing with "opponent", it could refer to the controller's opponents.



  • http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=397400

    "More creatures" must be true for the ability to trigger and for the ability to resolve favorably.



  • Two scenarios

    A) Villain has an Oath of Druids in play, no creatures. Hero has 1 creature. Villain's Oath triggers in his upkeep, in response: Hero removes his own creature from play, there are now no creatures.

    1. Can Villain still activate Oath?
    2. If so, can he choose to decline to

    --
    B) Villain has an Oath of Druids in play, no creatures. Hero has 1 creature in play. Oath triggers in Villain's upkeep. Hero flashes in a Containment Priest in response.

    1. Does Villain have to use Oath, or can they now decline?


  • @Dave-Kaplan
    In both situations oath goes on the stack during the upkeep.
    A) Upon resolution hero does not have more creatures, so oath cannot be activated.
    B) The "may" in oath of druids applies on resolution. Villain can either choose to activate or not to activate oath upon resolution.

    This thread and the FB conversation make me wonder what percentage of Oath triggers have been resolved properly in paper, even with the assistance of a judge :P

    It reminds of me of when my friends and I were testing for extended in high school. My friend had an oath deck, but with proxied oaths. He forgot the word "may" and kept milling out my other friend who was playing mind's desire. The latter friend was not amused when he read the Oracle text.



  • @varal said:

    @McAra The "you" is unclear in your sentence. It could refer to the Oath's controller. Same thing with "opponent", it could refer to the controller's opponents.

    ? That is exactly what I meant. I was using English rather than Magic-ese, maybe thats what I failed to convey. I will try to be more clear but I don't understand your confusion, so apologies if this doesn'the help:

    Why doesn't Oath say, "At the beginning of each player's upkeep, that player chooses one of his or her opponents who controls more creatures than him or her..." instead of the current wording. What technical issues are they avoiding with this wording?

    Edit: I see the confusion now, I was only wording it from controller's perspective, not what I intended with my other post.



  • @diophan I'm not sure why they changed the Oracle wording, because the original Exodus text makes it clearer that the creature count is checked both at the beginning of the Upkeep and at resolution. I think most players play the card correctly, though -- at least my experience on MTGO has been that players learn how Oath's trigger works very quickly.



  • @McAra It's the requirement to use the word target that makes the sentence weird.



  • @varal said:

    @McAra It's the requirement to use the word target that makes the sentence weird.

    Ah, I can see how making the text use "target" makes the wording tricky, now. Makes sense why they did it the current way.


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