I have Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance on the table, with plenty of mana. My opponent casts a spell (for the sake of argument, lets say they cast Naturalize).

I say "In response, spin the top" i.e. Pay 1 mana to look at the top 3 cards of my library and put them back in any order.

Have I missed my Counterbalance trigger?


I am looking for an answer based on the Missed Triggers Policy that relates to tournament play of Competitive Rules Enforcement Level (REL) or higher. I would like to know whether, by activating my Divining Top without acknowledging the trigger, I have implicitly "chosen" not to reveal the top card of my library.

  • I * think* you have to activate counterbalance to add it's effect to the stack, then use sensei's top add it's ability to the stack. Now you get to resolve the top before the counterbalance effect.
    – Nick
    Apr 15, 2013 at 13:36
  • Counterbalance is a triggered ability rather than active, apologies if its just me being pedantic, but you can't ever activate it. my question is essentially along the lines of identifying whether or not the current missed trigger policy would consider the counterbalance trigger "missed" if it has not been announced before the divining top activation. It's whether it behaves the same way as jace, memory adept's trigger, wherein you need not say anything about the trigger until damage is dealt, and still have the trigger as resolved.
    – Patters
    Apr 15, 2013 at 13:40
  • Ah I read the "you may..." as you may add the ability to the stack, rather than adding it to the stack automatically and then choosing later.
    – Nick
    Apr 15, 2013 at 13:42

2 Answers 2


There have been some changes to the MtG Tournament rules.

Regular Rules Enforcement, there are really only two "rules." You aren't allowed to miss your own triggered abilities, and your opponent isn't required to remind you about them. The second one is a change that was put in at higher RELs a few months ago. Please note that this part applies only to triggered abilities. [...]

The new rules require the controller of a triggered ability to "demonstrate awareness" of a trigger before certain times for different types of triggered abilities. If a player fails to do this, the triggered ability is considered missed. What counts as demonstrating awareness? Let's look at the four cases:

Since you need to make a choice to reveal the top card of your library or not, this trigger is not considered missed at this time. Your opponent would likely need to ask, "Resolve?" with respect to their spell, and you would have to choose to pass, which would cause the trigger to become "missed".

A triggered ability that causes a change in the visible game state (including life totals) or requires a choice upon resolution.

The controller needs to acknowledge the change or choice before taking an action that he or she couldn't take before the ability would resolve. We want to make sure that the triggered ability is actually missed, so we allow for the possibility that you may cast instants or activate abilities in response. For example, if you attack with Geist of Saint Traft and then cast an instant before putting an Angel token onto the battlefield, the rules will assume that Geist's triggered ability is still on the stack. Only after you do something that necessarily has to be after the ability resolved, like attempting to assign combat damage, is the triggered ability considered missed.

  • 1
    I think the answer is clear... there is no "missed" trigger. The trigger goes on the stack whether or not anyone acknowledges it. It's not until it would resolve that there's the possibility of missing it. There's no rule that says that a player needs to acknowledge or mention each trigger that is going on the stack. A trigger going on the stack cannot be "missed"... only a trigger being resolved can be missed.
    – GendoIkari
    Apr 15, 2013 at 14:14
  • *Disclaimer... I am not a tournament player nor a judge... perhaps tournaments have some sort of rule about having to acknowledge each trigger that is going on the stack, but I'm pretty sure the MTG rules themselves don't. Triggers that get triggered always go on the stack, whether anyone acknowledges it or not.
    – GendoIkari
    Apr 15, 2013 at 14:17
  • @Gendolkari, The quoted sources however deal entirely with how triggered and activated abilities are put on to the stack and the order in which they are resolved. I feel pertinent lines from the Missed Triggers Policy should also be present to support this answer in that regard. As you say you are not a tournament player I'm guessing you haven't seen/heard of this policy, as it (currently) applies only to tournament level events.
    – Patters
    Apr 15, 2013 at 14:17
  • Right, I see. I wasn't aware that tournaments had special "missed trigger" rules. Carry on! :)
    – GendoIkari
    Apr 15, 2013 at 14:22
  • 1
    The emphasis on 116.2a is why you can't miss the trigger in this instance. As soon as you receive priority the ability is added to the stack. When it would resolve, if you skip over it, then you have missed it. So in this instance, by activating your top you have not missed the trigger, even if you imply that you are activating the top in response to the spell your opponent played. If you activate the top and then when you are done let your opponents ability resolve without resolving your counterbalance, then you have missed it. Also you can't forget to activate it purposefully.
    – Pow-Ian
    Apr 15, 2013 at 14:55

No, you haven't missed the trigger (yet).

The definition of a missed trigger is:

A triggered ability triggers, but the player controlling the ability doesn’t demonstrate awareness of the trigger’s existence the first time that it would affect the game in a visible fashion.

The sentence I bolded is key. For most triggered ability and for Counterbalance's ability specifically, the first time that it would affect the game in a visible fashion is when it would resolve. As long as it hasn't come time to resolve, it hasn't been missed yet. Putting it on the stack is not considered visible, but choosing targets and dealing damage is.

If you cause the game to move forward beyond the point when it would resolve, then it becomes a missed trigger, and the appropriate penalty and remedy are applied.

This applies to all REL. The difference between REL is only in penalties and remedies.

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