April 11, 2013

Magic101 : Illegal Targets and Wrong Targets


Illegal targets and wrong targets are very common in Magic: the Gathering especially in our homes or local stores when we are playing casual Magic, play in our local FNMs or even in Grand Prix levels, that's why we need to call the attention of a Judge when we encounter these situations.

I happen to make a mistake in my last Grand Prix experience in Manila last 2012. It happened during the third game of a round when I was playing Esper Solar Flare (control) and my opponent was playing Red Green Aggro. It was already game 3 and 50 minutes was almost up. I was getting very impatient because I thought my opponent was playing very slow and I thought we could play the game faster because he was the aggro player. It was during his 4th turn when he tapped out with 4 mana and played a Thrun, the Last Troll, it was the first time that the card showed up in our match, and I thought it was a Huntmaster of the Fells and played a Mana Leak but then ooops! We then called a judge. And the ruling was that my Mana Leak went to the graveyard and the Thrun entered the battlefield afterwards.

At that time, I kind of expected that my Mana Leak will be coming back to my hand since the Thrun, the last Troll has a "can't be countered" clause in its text. However, it was actually a correct call by the judge. Just to clarify this to other players who originally thought the same as I did, The Thrun can still be "targeted" by a counterspell while it is on the stack however, the counterspell doesn't do anything since it cannot be countered. It is not the same as the idea of "Protection from counterspells" or anything. This is an example of a valid target and wrong targeting and these should not be made by players at all cost! ^_^

Another mistake that I observed in the past was Illegal Targeting. The first example that I will explain is Illegal targeting when there are really no valid targets. Back in the days during Worldwake, some people make the mistake of casting Searing Blaze to target their opponent even when their opponent has no creatures in play (and they have no creatures in play). This is a classic example of Illegal targets. Searing Blaze should have 2 valid targets, the player and a creature that player controls. Since the opponent didn't have a creature, it didn't satisfy the targets requirement of the spell and therefore, the Searing Blaze couldn't be cast in the first place. For errors like these, the player should just untap his lands and return the Searing Blaze in his or her hand.

I have attached the official rulings for this:
601.2. To cast a spell is to take it from where it is (usually the hand), put it on the stack, and pay its costs, so that it will eventually resolve and have its effect. Casting a spell follows the steps listed below, in order. If, at any point during the casting of a spell, a player is unable to comply with any of the steps listed below, the casting of the spell is illegal; the game returns to the moment before that spell started to be cast (see rule 717, "Handling Illegal Actions"). Announcements and payments can't be altered after they've been made.

Another Case is targeting an invalid target when there are OTHER valid targets.

Let us consider this scenario. What if the player casts a Doom Blade on an opponent's Thrun, the Last Troll but the player has a Raging Goblin in play?

At FNM, a judge might allow a player to take back the move if the intent was to target the opponent's Thrun. After all, FNM philosophy is to encourage player growth and knowledge about the game, so errors like this wouldn't be heavily penalized. However, in tournaments with higher RELs (Rules Enforcement Level), since Thrun has Hexproof and therefore is an invalid target of Doom Blade, the player would be forced to target his or her own Raging Goblin since there are no other valid targets in the battlefield.

Likewise, in the Searing Blaze example above, if the player had a creature in play, since to target himself is a "valid" player target and his or her own creature is also a valid target, then the player will be forced to target himself/herself and the creature he or she controls.

Even though these are basic rules, people sometimes make errors for these and it might be helpful to understand the details and how to properly address these errors to make our Magic: the Gathering experiences more fun and informative.

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