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Spinal Embrace:

Cast Spinal Embrace only during combat. Untap target creature you don't control and gain control of it. It gains haste until end of turn. At the beginning of the next end step, sacrifice it. If you do, you gain life equal to its toughness.

Phenax, God of Deception

As long as your devotion to blue and black is less than seven, Phenax isn't a creature.

If I have Phenax in play, and my opponent plays Spinal Embrace targeting it, and then gains control of it, but does not have enough devotion to make Phenax a creature, what happens? Do they gain control of Phenax permanently?

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    "Sacrifice it" means sacrifice the object you had targeted. There's no check to make sure it's still creature. That's the case even if the ability said "Sacrifice the creature" to resolve some grammar ambiguity. – ikegami Nov 23 '14 at 21:21
  • Maybe you think only creatures can be sacrificed, but that's not the case. 701.14a To sacrifice a permanent, its controller moves it from the battlefield directly to its owner’s graveyard. A player can’t sacrifice something that isn’t a permanent, or something that’s a permanent he or she doesn’t control. Sacrificing a permanent doesn’t destroy it, so regeneration or other effects that replace destruction can’t affect this action. – ikegami Nov 23 '14 at 21:25
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Your opponent will gain control of Phenax, then at the end of your turn they will sacrifice it and gain zero life.

When Spinal Embrace resolves, it creates two continuous effects:

  1. You control that Phenax.
  2. Phenax gains haste until end of turn.

and a delayed triggered ability:

At the beginning of the next end step, sacrifice Phenax. If you do, you gain life equal to its toughness.

So, right after Spinal Embrace resolves, your opponent controls Phenax and it has haste. Then, at the beginning of the next end step, the delayed triggered ability triggers and they sacrifice Phenax. Then they gain life equal to its toughness. However, rule 302.4 says

Power and toughness are characteristics only creatures have.

and rule 107.2 says

If anything needs to use a number that can't be determined, either as a result or in a calculation, it uses 0 instead.

When you sacrifice Phenax, it is not a creature, so it doesn't have a toughness. So, they gain zero life.

  • Your opponent will gain control of Phenax, not you. – jwodder Nov 23 '14 at 18:38
  • Oh, right, I missed who was who in the question. – murgatroid99 Nov 23 '14 at 18:39

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