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I am curious about how this scenario will play out:

I have both Athreos, God of Passage and Geralf's Messenger in play and Geralf's Messenger dies (with no +1/+1 counters on it) .

My guess is that it will work like this:

  1. Geralf's Messenger will leave the Battlefield (maybe even go to the graveyard?)
  2. Athreos, God of Passage's ability will trigger (and go on the stack?)
  3. The opponent that I target will have to choose to lose 3 life or put Geralf's Messenger back in my hand.
  4. If they lose 3 life, Geralf's Messenger will go back on the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it.
  5. If they choose not to lose 3 life, then Geralf's Messenger will go back to my hand.

Does that sound right? Basically I am trying to see if Geralf's Messenger will effect loss of 6 life before it is well and truly dead (as long as Athreos, God of Passage stays on the board).

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Basically I am trying to see if Geralf's Messenger will effect loss of 6 life before it is well and truly dead

Nope. Undying actually makes it worse for you.

I think your error is that you forgot about one of the key rules of MTG:

400.7 An object that moves from one zone to another becomes a new object with no memory of, or relation to, its previous existence. There are seven exceptions to this rule:

In this context, that means that when the Messenger leaves the graveyard, abilities that later try to move it from the graveyard won't find it since it doesn't exist anymore.


Here's what happens:

  1. Geralf's Messenger dies (is moved from the Battlefield to the graveyard) for whatever reason.
    1. Both its undying ability and Athreos's triggered ability trigger.
  2. The abilities that triggered are placed on the stack in APNAP order. A player decides the order in which his abilities are placed on the stack.

What happens next depends on the order in which you place the abilities on the stack.


If you place the Undying ability on the stack first and Athreos's triggered ability second.

  1. Athreos's triggered ability resolves:
    1. Return it to your hand unless target opponent pays 3 life.
  2. Undying resolves:
    1. If it's still in the graveyard, return it to the battlefield under your control with a +1/+1 counter on it.

So,

  • If opponent pays 3 life, it ends up on the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter.
  • Otherwise, it ends up in your hand.

He shouldn't pay any life, forcing you to cast it again.


If you place Athreos's triggered ability on the stack first and the Undying ability second.

  1. Undying resolves:
    1. Return it to the battlefield under your control with a +1/+1 counter on it.
  2. Athreos's triggered ability resolves:
    1. Target opponent may pay 3 life, but it doesn't matter if he does or not since the object to move no longer exists.

So,

  • If opponent pays 3 life, it ends up on the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter.
  • Otherwise, it ends up on the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter.

He shouldn't pay any life since it doesn't make a difference.

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Perfect! The first scenario is exactly what I am wanting. I am building an aggro EDH deck with Athreos and Undying/Persist. The idea is that they have to give me an endless supply of cards or take double damage from Athreos. Generally, I want them to not pay the life and give me the card back. The groups I play EDH with usually ends up with fairly long games, so we are frequently top decking. (I misstated that what I wanted was 6 damage when what I really want is the deterrent of 6 damage) –  Vaccano May 7 at 13:37
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I don't know if "undying makes it worse". Undying means they'll always give you the card, which is good. Maybe the statement "athreos makes undying worse"(rather than the other way around) may be closer to accurate. In any case, usually cards like this suffer from the fact that, since the opponent can choose, the effect gets diminished, he can plan and make good plays as a result. In this case you're forcing a decision, so you have more certainty. The uncertainty of opponent decisions can really hurt. –  Cruncher May 7 at 15:56
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Also, consider if you have a bunch of mana and a sacrifice engine. In this case they may ACTUALLY pay 3 to have the messenger come back, take another 2, just so that you can't loop damage with your excess mana anymore. –  Cruncher May 7 at 15:57
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