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Say I have a creature with Persist and I give it Undying until end of turn. Later this turn, it is put into the graveyard, and I choose for the Persist ability to resolve before the Undying ability. Persist resolves, returning my creature from the graveyard to the battlefield with a -1/-1 counter on it.

At this point, I can think of three different things that might happen:

  1. Undying returns it to the battlefield with a +1/+1 and a -1/-1, which then cancel out.

  2. Undying never resolves because the creature can't be returned to the battlefield if it's already there, so it just keeps the -1/-1.

  3. Undying returns it to the battlefield as if it was just summoned with no counters on it, and then puts a +1/+1 counter on it.

I would assume that the second ability would 'fizzle' as explained in this question because the creature is not longer in the graveyard, making #2 correct, but I'm not completely sure. Could someone explain what happens after my poor death-resistant-battlefield-loving creature is put into the graveyard?


Undying: When this creature dies, if it had no +1/+1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield under its owner's control with a +1/+1 counter on it.

Persist: When this creature dies, if it had no -1/-1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield under its owner's control with a -1/-1 counter on it.

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Also, when you put an ability on the stack first, this implies that it is on the bottom of the stack, and resolves last –  user1873 Oct 16 '12 at 1:50
    
Whoops, edited to fix my LIFO issues. :) –  Gordon Gustafson Oct 16 '12 at 1:55
    
This property is actually the basis of a fairly powerful modern deck using Mikaeus, the Unhallowed with a persist creature and a sack engine (Sacrifice a creature: x ability). The better known equivalent combination is Melira, Sylvok Outcast instead of Mikaeus. –  WLPhoenix Oct 16 '12 at 20:55
    
This sort of interaction is similar to Persist with something that gets +1/+1 as it enters the battlefield, like an Ally deck. –  cdeszaq Oct 17 '12 at 12:37

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Both abilities trigger, and you decide the order that they resolve. If you choose to have Persist resolve first, then when Undying is trying to resolve, it fails to find the creature in the zone that it expects. Undying could normally find the creature that moved from the battlefield to a public zone (the graveyard), bu when Undying triggered it was looking for the Object that got moved to the graveyard where the object no longer is.

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:

400.7d Abilities that trigger when an object moves from one zone to another (for example, "When Rancor is put into a graveyard from the battlefield") can find the new object that it became in the zone it moved to when the ability triggered, if that zone is a public zone.

This all, is of course assuming that both abilities triggered (you said that they did). It is even possible for both abilities to not trigger (as ikegame mentions). This could happen for example if your Undying+Persist creature was dealt damage by a source with Wither and it had a +1/+1 counter. State-Based Actions would be checked, and the creature would be sent to the graveyard at the same time that the counters got removed.

704.5f If a creature has toughness 0 or less, it's put into its owner's graveyard. Regeneration can't replace this event.

704.5r If a permanent has both a +1/+1 counter and a -1/-1 counter on it, N +1/+1 and N -1/-1 counters are removed from it, where N is the smaller of the number of +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters on it.

The Comprehensive Rules give an example for Undying illustrating this:

704.7. If a state-based action results in a permanent leaving the battlefield at the same time other state-based actions were performed, that permanent’s last known information is derived from the game state before any of those state-based actions were performed.

Example: You control Young Wolf, a 1/1 creature with undying, and it has a +1/+1 counter on it. A spell puts three -1/-1 counters on Young Wolf. Before state-based actions are performed, Young Wolf has one +1/+1 counter and three -1/-1 counters on it. After state-based actions are performed, Young Wolf is in the graveyard. When it was last on the battlefield, it had a +1/+1 counter on it, so undying will not trigger.

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If the creature had neither +1/+1 nor -1/-1 counters on it, both abilities trigger as the creature dies. Since you control both, you place them on the stack at the same time, in the order you desire [CR 603.3b].

Whichever you placed on the stack last will resolve first (Last In, First Out), moving the creature to the battlefield and placing a counter on it.

Whichever you placed on the stack first will then resolve. It will be unable to find the card in the graveyard, because cards become new objects when they change zone [CR 400.7]. As such, it will fail to do anything to the card.

So,

  • If Undying was put on the stack last, you'll get a creature with a +1/+1 counter.
  • If Persist was put on the stack last, you'll get a creature with a -1/-1 counter.

If the creature had either a +1/+1 or a -1/-1 counter on it, only one of the abilities will trigger. It will proceed to move the creature to the battlefield and place the appropriate counter on it. If it had a +1/+1, it will come back with a -1/-1, and vice-versa.


If the creature had both a +1/+1 or a -1/-1 counter on it, neither of the abilities will trigger, so the card will stay in the graveyard. You are not likely to encounter this situation since +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters cancel themselves out as a SBA. But it is possible.


Let's look at your example. All three of your options are wrong.

#1 and #3 are wrong because Undying can't find the card. It's now a new object on the battlefield.

#2 is wrong because Undying does resolve. It simply doesn't do anything. That said, #2 does accurately describe the final state.

"Fizzle" usually refers to a spell getting countered on resolution for not having any valid targets [CR 608.2b]. Since Undying doesn't target, it cannot fizzle.

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