8

If I trigger Emeria Shepherd ability of a Plains, may I choose to place the card in my hand instead of into the battlefield?

  • The other good thing to know here is when you make that decision - do you get to pick between all three options (leave it alone, hand, or battlefield) when it resolves? That's definitely true with simple optional triggered abilities, but a little less clear for the self-replacement effect. – Cascabel Nov 10 '15 at 20:13
6

You may choose to put the card into your hand, or onto the battlefield, or leave it in the graveyard.

Landfall — Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may return target nonland permanent card from your graveyard to your hand. If that land is a Plains, you may return that nonland permanent card to the battlefield instead.

Using Magic terminology, here is how Emeria Shepherd's ability reads:

[Keyword ability] - Whenever [trigger event], [optional one-shot effect]. If [condition], [optional self-replacement effect].

The result is that you have the following options:

  • Choose to apply the one-shot effect. Choose to apply the replacement effect. The card goes to the battlefield.
  • Choose to apply the one-shot effect. Choose not to apply the replacement effect. The card goes to your hand.
  • Choose not to apply the one-shot effect. The card remains in the graveyard.

603.4. A triggered ability may read “When/Whenever/At [trigger event], if [condition], [effect].” [...]

610.1. A one-shot effect does something just once and doesn’t have a duration. Examples include dealing damage, destroying a permanent, putting a token onto the battlefield, and moving an object from one zone to another.

614.1a Effects that use the word “instead” are replacement effects. Most replacement effects use the word “instead” to indicate what events will be replaced with other events.

603.5. Some triggered abilities’ effects are optional (they contain “may,” as in “At the beginning of your upkeep, you may draw a card”). These abilities go on the stack when they trigger, regardless of whether their controller intends to exercise the ability’s option or not. The choice is made when the ability resolves.

There are differing interpretations on whether the "may" makes the application of the replacement effect optional, or only the action of returning the card to the battlefield. It's a purely linguistic argument, so I won't get into it.

I will, however, quote Matt Tabak's ruling on this particular case that supports the interpretation taken by this answer:

The replacement is optional.

  • You're right about the conclusion, of course, but I'm not sure how satisfying the explanation is. Essentially the entire question is, does "may" make the self-replacement optional, or does it make the one-shot effect specified by the self-replacement optional? The rules you quote about optional effects are just about simple triggered abilities, with no mention of how they interact with self-replacement effects. – Cascabel Nov 10 '15 at 19:06
  • @Jefromi I'm not satisfied either. In my opinion, the rules covering this situation are ambiguous. "Because Matt Tabak said so." and "Because that's how other cards work." are not satisfactory explanations, which is why I chose not to include them in the answer. – Rainbolt Nov 10 '15 at 19:42
  • I see - that's something you could say in the answer, then. As-is the implication is that you're citing rules that fully back you up, so you're assuming the reader will just believe you (which is way worse than citing the rules manager's thoughts), or else forcing them to read very carefully in order to conclude that you're making a partially-supported decision based on ambiguous rules. – Cascabel Nov 10 '15 at 19:52
  • Whomever downvoted my answer: I hope you considered the fact that I at least provided a more detailed explanation than Vilmar's answer (which has zero downvotes currently). @Jefromi I will take your suggestion and add that information to my answer. – Rainbolt Nov 10 '15 at 19:55
  • @Jefromi Fixed. Now the reader can clearly see that the answer is based on a specific interpretation that happens to be supported by a ruling from Matt Tabak. The reader can then decide whether they are satisfied with that explanation. – Rainbolt Nov 10 '15 at 20:03
13

Yes, you can. When Emeria Shepherd triggers from Plains entering the battlefield, you target a nonland permanent in you graveyard to return it to your hand. Since it is a Plains, you may choose to return the permanent to the battlefield instead, but you don't have to.

  • 2
    I don't disagree, but why? How do you know that the "may" is read in that way? – Cascabel Nov 10 '15 at 20:03
  • 1
    @Jefromi Cause that's how English works. You can ask about it on English SE if you like. – DCShannon Nov 10 '15 at 21:11
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    @DCShannon Sometimes the Magic rules say very specific things about what is meant by certain kinds of phrasing. (In fact, both "may" and "instead" are loaded words.) In this case they don't, so the question is essentially about whether this means "...instead, {you may X}" or "you may {X instead}". If you really can decide unambiguously between those purely based on how English works, awesome - and that's a relevant explanation to include in the answer here, not something to brush people off to another site about. – Cascabel Nov 10 '15 at 21:25
  • Additionally, there is the 'may' option of targeting a nonland card in your graveyard for return to the graveyard. If the land is a plains, there is an additional May option that works as a replacement effect, which you've noted. – Drunk Cynic Nov 11 '15 at 3:17
0

I disagree with Vilmar's answer. I believe the "may" is not linked to the "instead". The "may" in this case means "return it to the battlefield" or don't return it at all. But I do think it's a bit an ambiguous wording.

Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may return target nonland permanent card from your graveyard to your hand. If that land is a Plains, you may return that nonland permanent card to the battlefield instead.

To look at the wording. Usually when the word instead is used, it is as if you actually replace the words of a previously mentioned phrase to other words so this is how I see it:

Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may return target nonland permanent card from your graveyard to your hand.

If that land is a Plains replace "to your hand" with "to the battlefield" in the above phrase. So it becomes:

Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may return target nonland permanent card from your graveyard to the battlefield.

  • 4
    The Rules Manager disagrees with this answer: tabakrules.tumblr.com/post/131309594414/… – diego Nov 10 '15 at 15:36
  • 1
    Or you could read it: you may (return that nonland permanent card to the battlefield instead) with the instead also being part of the Plains may. – JonTheMon Nov 10 '15 at 16:07
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    Disagree. If the card worked the way you think it does, it would have been templated like this: Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may return target nonland permanent card from your graveyard to your hand. If that land is a Plains, return it to the battlefield instead. – ghoppe Nov 10 '15 at 16:15
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    I guess I read it as "you (effect) instead" instead of "you may (effect) instead", thinking the word "may" is part of the replacement – Ivo Beckers Nov 10 '15 at 17:25
  • 1
    @IvoBeckers That is much clearer than what is written in your answer, and it makes sense to me. I cannot think of any good reasons why you are wrong. – Rainbolt Nov 10 '15 at 17:31

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