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We had a game with the following relevant cards: Trader and Witch. We're several turns into the game and the Curse pile has emptied. I have a Trader in my hand, and it's Barry's turn. Barry plays Witch to get the cards, I'd like a Silver.

I contend that even though the Curse pile is empty, I would gain a Curse (according to the wording on Trader) and therefore I can gain a Silver instead.

Barry says that since the Curse pile is empty, you wouldn't gain a Curse therefore you can't reveal Trader and in turn, cannot gain a Silver.

Who is right? If possible, please provide sources.

Trader: Trash a card from your hand.  Gain a number of Silvers equal to its cost in coins. When you would gain a card, you may reveal this from your hand.  If you do, instead gain a Silver.

Trash a card from your hand. Gain a number of Silvers equal to its cost in coins.
When you would gain a card, you may reveal this from your hand. If you do, instead gain a Silver.

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Also, by your reasoning, you could "buy" (thereby gaining) a curse from an empty deck and (instead, though not really) gain a silver. – The Chaz 2.0 Feb 29 '12 at 23:55
up vote 23 down vote accepted

"When...would" text is only applied when the event specified actually would occur; if it is impossible for any reason, then the conditional is ignored. The following is the relevant section in the FAQ:

19.2 "When would"

An ability that happens when an event would occur (such as when you would gain a card), happens before the event actually occurs (before you gain the card). Note however that this ability can only happen if the event would have otherwise occurred, i.e. if the event would have occurred if no when-would abilities had interfered (so you cannot for instance trigger a when-would-gain ability when "trying" to gain a card that's not available in Supply)

Donald X explicitly refers to this exact situation in this post on BoardGameGeek:

Trader only works if you really would gain a card. If you try to gain a card from an empty pile, you can't use Trader then. I see how this is a question and sadly it is not covered in the FAQ.

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Exactly what I was looking for, thank you. – phasetwenty Feb 29 '12 at 22:17

"When you would gain a card..." (source - Trader card)

The condition "would gain a card" is not satisfied when there is no card to gain. Hence, there is no reason to think that you should gain a silver. Key word: instead.

Your reasoning doesn't make any sense. What could it possibly mean to gain a curse from an empty curse deck?

GAIN: take a card and add it to your discard pile.

From the rules. Accessed leap day 2012, 16:19 GMT -6

There is no card to take. There is no gain.

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The focus was that you were commanded to gain a Curse by the Witch. That is the time that you have the option to reveal the Trader. – phasetwenty Feb 29 '12 at 22:07
@phasetwenty: To be pedantic, I think the idea is that you reveal the Trader when you would pick up the curse from the pile, not when you're commanded to do so. – Jefromi Feb 29 '12 at 23:17
Right. "instead of gaining a card,... " means "instead of taking a card and adding it to your discard...". – The Chaz 2.0 Feb 29 '12 at 23:46
To be more pedantic, by the "you must do all that you can do" rule, the Witch's "...gains a Curse card" is bypassed if there's no Curses to go around, since it can't be done. So there would never be a 'gain' event for Trader's Reaction to react to in the first place. – goldPseudo Feb 29 '12 at 23:48
To be more pedantic still... :) but seriously forks. I have yet to hear of a programming error on isotropic, so I recommend just playing a game with the card(s) in question in the future. – The Chaz 2.0 Feb 29 '12 at 23:54

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