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Nessian Demolok, one of the latest creatures revealed in the Born of the Gods spoilers, reads:

Tribute 3 (As this creature enters the battlefield, an opponent of your choice may place three +1/+1 counters on it.)

When Nessian Demolock enters the battlefield, if tribute wasn't paid, destroy target noncreature permanent.

My interpretation of this (and I presume this will be covered in the FAQ, but I figure it's good to get it 'on the record' here...) is that this would be covered by section 614 of the comprehensive rules, particularly sections 614.1c:

614.1c Effects that read "[This permanent] enters the battlefield with . . . ," "As [this permanent] enters the battlefield . . . ," or "[This permanent] enters the battlefield as . . . " are replacement effects.

and 614.12a:

614.12a If a replacement effect that modifies how a permanent enters the battlefield requires a choice, that choice is made before the permanent enters the battlefield.

And that as a result, the choice whether to pay tribute or not is effectively made just before the creature enters the battlefield, and so in particular the choice of whether or not to pay tribute will be made before targets are chosen for the 'destroy target noncreature permanent' ability (which goes on the stack the next time a player gains priority). Does this look correct?

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Would the downvoter care to explain themselves? –  Steven Stadnicki Jan 21 at 22:58
    
It might be the fact that you're asking for rules speculation, since the rules aren't out yet. There's not really any way to write an authoritative answer yet, is there? –  Jefromi Jan 21 at 23:28
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@Jefromi Yes and no - it's possible that things could work differently than expected, but 'as this enters the battlefield' is standardized rules templating; I believe that section 614 of the comprehensive rules (and in particular, 614.12a) is the relevant rules sections for this, and I'll make that clearer in the question. –  Steven Stadnicki Jan 21 at 23:39
    
@Jefromi: If the exact wording comes from an official source, it's not that speculative. The ability is not complicated. –  Chad Miller Jan 21 at 23:47
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Also note the intervening if. Should tribute be paid, the ability will never go on the stack. (Phantasmal Image copying Inkmoth Nexus laughs in your general direction!) –  Affe Jan 22 at 0:47
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2 Answers

Yes, this would be similar to Clone effects. Let's say you Clone a Nekrataal:

  • You cast Clone
  • Clone resolves
  • As Clone comes into play, you choose Nekrataal
  • Clone's triggered ability triggers and you choose a target for it

None of the logic changes when it's your opponent making the decision.

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Does Tribute "happen" when cloning a Nessian Demolok? Can't remember. –  ikegami Jan 22 at 13:49
    
@ikegami: According to Clone's gatherer page: Any enters-the-battlefield abilities of the copied creature will trigger when Clone enters the battlefield. Any "as [this creature] enters the battlefield" or "[this creature] enters the battlefield with" abilities of the chosen creature will also work. –  Chad Miller Jan 22 at 14:51
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Correct.

The choice of placing the counters happens before Nessian Demolok enters the battlefield.

614.1c Effects that read “[This permanent] enters the battlefield with . . . ,” “As [this permanent] enters the battlefield . . . ,” or “[This permanent] enters the battlefield as . . . ” are replacement effects.

614.12a If a replacement effect that modifies how a permanent enters the battlefield requires a choice, that choice is made before the permanent enters the battlefield.

The ability is only placed on the stack after Nessian Demolok enters the battlefield.

603.2. Whenever a game event or game state matches a triggered ability’s trigger event, that ability automatically triggers. The ability doesn’t do anything at this point.

603.3. Once an ability has triggered, its controller puts it on the stack as an object that’s not a card the next time a player would receive priority. [...]

It's even implied by the card itself; "wasn't paid" is past tense. In fact, the triggered ability won't trigger at all if tribute was paid.

603.4. A triggered ability may read “When/Whenever/At [trigger event], if [condition], [effect].” When the trigger event occurs, the ability checks whether the stated condition is true. The ability triggers only if it is; otherwise it does nothing. If the ability triggers, it checks the stated condition again as it resolves. If the condition isn’t true at that time, the ability is removed from the stack and does nothing. Note that this mirrors the check for legal targets. This rule is referred to as the “intervening ‘if’ clause” rule. (The word “if” has only its normal English meaning anywhere else in the text of a card; this rule only applies to an “if” that immediately follows a trigger condition.)


Say you cast Nessian Demolok when you have priority. This is the order in which things happen:

  1. The choice of whether to pay tribute is made.
  2. The card (or copy thereof) is placed on the battlefield (with or without counters).
    1. If and if only tribute wasn't paid, the second ability triggers.
  3. Immediately after the casting ends, if the ability triggered, the triggered ability is placed on the stack.
    1. Targets are chosen.
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I think the fact that this card has an intervening if clause is the most important point. You select a target when the trigger is put onto the stack, but if the intervening clause fails, the ability is never put on the stack. –  Brian S Jan 22 at 15:26
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