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Someone told me this a couple of day ago, and I want a second ruling. I was told if your commander gets Path to Exile'd and you choose to put it in the command zone, you don't to search your deck for the basic land, just like with Swords to Plowshares you don't gain life, due to the way the card is written.

  • Actually, you do get life from Swords to Plowshares. – ikegami Dec 8 '16 at 14:20
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This concerns the following rule:

CR 903.9. If a commander would be exiled from anywhere or put into its owner’s hand, graveyard, or library from anywhere, its owner may put it into the command zone instead. This replacement effect may apply more than once to the same event. This is an exception to rule 614.5.

If the Commander's owner chooses to apply the replacement effect, you perform the following instructions when resolving Path to Exile:

Exile target creature.Move target creature to the command zone. Its controller may search his or her library for a basic land card, put that card onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle his or her library.

There's nothing preventing the rest of the ability from resolving, so you do get to search your library for a land.

Similarly, you perform the following instructions when resolving Swords to Plowshares:

Exile target creature.Move target creature to the command zone. Its controller gains life equal to its power.

So, you do gain life.


Let's consider a different scenario. Say there's a creature on the battlefield with the following ability:

Whenever a creature dies, ...

Then, let's say you cast the following spell targeting a Commander:

Destroy target creature. Draw a card.

  • If the Commander's owner doesn't replace the effect,

    You perform the following instructions when resolving the spell:

    Destroy target creature (by moving it to the graveyard). Draw a card.

    The triggered ability will obviously trigger.

  • If the Commander's owner chooses to apply the replacement effect,

    You perform the following instructions when resolving the spell:

    Destroy target creature (by moving it to the graveyardcommand zone). Draw a card.

    Since the creature never died (never went to the graveyard from the battelfield), the triggered ability won't trigger.

Either way, you draw a card.

  • This implies control over where the commander goes by the player exiling it, which is wrong and misleading. The cards still do very much the same, but the player owning the commander may choose to put it in the command zone instead of into exile, as explained in the other answers. – TheThirdMan Dec 8 '16 at 17:21
  • @TheThirdMan, Fixed – ikegami Dec 8 '16 at 17:24
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    It's still misleading, and always will be with this approach - the commander's controller won't have to choose until the respective spell resolves, and they get to choose because the spell exiles a creature. Over-simplifying this by suggesting that cards do different things depending on which creatures are targetted is wrong and isn't helping anyone, especially in situations as uncomplex as this one. By abstraction, you're promoting that learning how replacement effects work is unnecessary. – TheThirdMan Dec 8 '16 at 17:36
  • Re "It's still misleading", There's nothing misleading; this is exactly what happens. /// Re "and always will be with this approach", There is no other approach. This is the "approach" defined in the rules. /// Re "the commander's controller won't have to choose until the respective spell resolves", I never said or implied otherwise. – ikegami Dec 8 '16 at 18:10
  • Re "Over-simplifying this by suggesting that cards do different things depending on which creatures are targetted", That's not an over-simplification. That's actually what happens. The spell's text doesn't change, but the spell's effect does as described. /// Re "you're promoting that learning how replacement effects work is unnecessary", To the contrary, I'm explaining how they work. – ikegami Dec 8 '16 at 18:28
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Yes, you may get a land (if you want to and can search your library).

Putting your commander in the command zone instead of the zone it would normally go to becomes relevant if an effect would trigger whenever the/a creature changes zones. This could be "whenever a creature dies" as in the example below or if a card refers to an exiled card (mimic vat). Your commander never died and is not exiled with the vat, if you chose to move it to the command zone.

An example would be, if you commander dies when equipped with skullclamp. If you want to draw two cards, you have to let it go into your graveyard - if you return it to the command zone, it doesn't die and you don't draw.

Since dieing is the most common scenario in which this replacement effect happens, you might also want to look at : Do commanders “die” if they go to the command zone instead?

thanks @doppelgreener, dieing is not the only situation in which it matters

  • "whenever a creature dies" wouldn't be relevant for a card that exiles though. – doppelgreener Dec 8 '16 at 10:46
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    This is correct. However, since the most common situation where the replacement effect matters is it dying I though it would be helpful to mention it. – RoHo Dec 8 '16 at 10:48
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From the official rules:

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 means that casting Path to Exile or Swords to Plowshares on a commander will - on resolution - allow it's controller to choose whether to put it in the command zone, or exile it (probably a bad idea). The spell, however, won't be affected by that choice, and the commander's controller will get to search their library for a basic land or gain life.

You're probably thinking of spells getting countered by the game rules for not having any legal targets, but that's not what's happening here. The Commander rules create a replacement effect, so Path to Exile fully resolves, just it's effect might be altered.

  • The spell is affected because it's the spell that places the Commander in the command zone. That's how replacement effects work. The key is that only the "move" part of the spell is replaced, while the rest is performed normally (as shown in my answer). – ikegami Dec 8 '16 at 17:32
  • @ikegami: This might be a misunderstanding - yes, the replacement effect alters the way each spell will work effectively (though very much unlike you suggested in your answer, as I added in the comments), but the spell won't be affected by the choice the commander's controller takes. – TheThirdMan Dec 8 '16 at 17:40
  • No, the replacement effect alters the way the spells work period. As its name suggests, it literally replaces part of the spell's effect by replacing one instruction with another. – ikegami Dec 8 '16 at 18:07

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