If my commander would die and I opt to move it to the command zone instead of the graveyard, does it cause a "when a creature dies" ability trigger?

An example would be Fool's Demise. If my opponent puts that on my commander, and then does lethal damage to it, would they get my commander or could I put it in my command zone?

I'd love any answer, but my playgroup needs an actual rule. So I would love a supporting rule citation.

up vote 4 down vote accepted

No, Commanders don't count as dying if they are moved to the command zone. The Commander rules actually call out this scenario explicitly in Play:

  1. If a Commander would be put into a library, hand, graveyard or exile from anywhere, its owner may choose to move it to the command zone instead.

    • This is a replacement effect. It applies last and may apply multiple times to an event.
    • The creature never goes to the original destination zone and will not trigger abilities that trigger based on going there (e.g. "dies" triggers).

The rules background behind this

I'm going to go deeper into this, in case your group needs more convincing than the Commander rules themselves. They might also want to know how this works for situations outside Commander.

1. Replacement effects mean the original thing never happeend.

The relevant rule from the replacement effects comprehensive rules is this one:

614.6 If an event is replaced, it never happens. A modified event occurs instead, which may in turn trigger abilities. Note that the modified event may contain instructions that can’t be carried out, in which case the impossible instruction is simply ignored.

That means an effect like this:

701.6a To destroy a permanent, move it from the battlefield to its owner’s graveyard.

... gets replaced with this:

Move {the commander} from the battlefield to its owner's command zone.

... and the first version never happened.

2. Dying means going from the battlefield to the graveyard.

That's very specifically spelled out:

700.4 The term dies means “is put into a graveyard from the battlefield.”

That means anytime anything makes that movement, it counts as dying, so sacrificing and destroying a card both mean it died. If it didn't perform that exact movement, it didn't die.

Your group might think that lethal damage or something always means dying, but really it means this state-based check happens ASAP:

704.5g If a creature has toughness greater than 0, and the total damage marked on it is greater than or equal to its toughness, that creature has been dealt lethal damage and is destroyed. Regeneration can replace this event.

So, lethal damage → destroy it → move it from the battlefield to the graveyard → it counts as having died, unless you moved it to your command zone instead.

  • 1
    If the OP does want to convince people of this directly, the other rule to quote is "700.4. The term dies means 'is put into a graveyard from the battlefield.' " The issue could well be that some people in his playgroup have the idea that "die" means something that includes taking lethal damage, rather than very specifically caring about going to the graveyard. – Cascabel Nov 26 '15 at 5:46
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    @Jefromi Thanks, I had a lot of trouble finding that one. – doppelgreener Nov 26 '15 at 6:05
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    @Jefromi I've done a big update to dive into this. Is that an accurate presentation? – doppelgreener Nov 26 '15 at 6:18
  • Fantastic answer! Thank you!!!! – Vaccano Nov 26 '15 at 6:39
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    The easiest way I thought to distinguish this is the Replacement effect. the "die" part or the "move to graveyard" part is replaced with "place back on the commander zone" meaning the "Die" hasn't happened and the triggered ability would not trigger from it. – ThunderToes Nov 26 '15 at 14:21

The word dies has a very specific meaning in mtg.

Dies used to be a keyword action in Magic similar to "destroy" and was reintroduced in Magic 2012 to replace the phrase "is put into a graveyard from the battlefield". "Dies" used to be a slang term for this occurrence before and is now officially used to signify triggers. It is exclusive to creatures while other card types still use the old phrasing.

700.4. The term dies means “is put into a graveyard from the battlefield.”

Although there is quiet a bit of slang usage of the term most of the slang usage out of a rules perspective is used incorrectly. There is a host of ways a creature can leave the battlefield and not die.

Things like exile, bounce and tuck effect will all remove the creature without it "die-ing"

SOURCE:

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