Time to Reflect says:

Exile target creature that blocked or was blocked by a Zombie this turn.

It's completely and utterly clear what the intention of this card is. That you can exile a target if that target blocked a Zombie, or if that target was blocked by a Zombie

However, what it says is that blocked or was blocked by a Zombie.

Magic is a rules-lawyer, literal-text-interpretation game, and that sentence (on its own) does not link that blocked to a Zombie.

If that sentence had been "return any creature that died or was blocked by a Zombie to hand, whatever zone it is currently in" then you would clearly allow it to target any creature that died for any reason whether or not it pertained to a Zombie.

A) Is there a specific ruling clarifying this anywhere (there's no card-ruling on The Gatherer)? B) If not, then what would happen at an FNM or at a formal tournament if I tried to argue my case?

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    @GendoIkari That's pretty much my point: there is no literal reading that's always correct, and you have to use some amount of common sense to understand the language. So when the OP says it's clear what the intention is, well, that's how we know what it means, not the rules-lawyer stuff that follows.
    – Cascabel
    May 12, 2017 at 16:35
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    Except that Magic is TOTALLY a rules lawyer game. It is a legitamate way to play the game to look for ways that the specific functionality of cards interacts with each other. See also Humility v Opalescence, the Chaos Orb legend, and the size of the rule book and the number of card rulings in general.
    – Brondahl
    May 12, 2017 at 16:42
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    Language is a tool for communicating, and Magic cards use it to communicate their functionality. Not all cards are written perfectly unambiguously, but every card can in fact be interpreted on the basis of "what was obviously intended" unless a rule specifically ascribes a different meaning to a word, phrase, or sentence structure on the card.
    – murgatroid99
    May 12, 2017 at 18:04
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    @Brondahl Yes, there are a lot of rules, and often a lot to be gained by thoroughly understanding them. That doesn't mean that absolutely everything in the entire game is specified solely by the rules without any reliance on understanding English. I wasn't saying that the entire game was played based on understanding intent, but rather that there are bits here and there which require some understanding beyond what's carefully spelled out by the rules.
    – Cascabel
    May 13, 2017 at 0:21
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    fwiw, I'm not sure what the rules say, but if you start going rules-lawyer on me for something with such clear intent as this, I wouldn't enjoy playing with you.
    – rahmu
    May 16, 2017 at 12:04

2 Answers 2


The sentence on that card is to be read as "Exile target creature that (blocked or was blocked) by a Zombie this turn"; parentheses mine. Both "blocked" and "was blocked" are linked to "by a zombie". You can confirm that from the rulings at the bottom of the oracle page of Time to Reflect that you linked:

Time to Reflect only cares that the second creature was a Zombie at the moment it blocked or became blocked by the target creature. If that Zombie has become a non-Zombie creature or left the battlefield, Time to Reflect can still target the first creature.

The two other cards containing the phrase "blocked or was blocked" are Heat Stroke and Sea Troll. Heat Stroke in particular would not make sense if "blocked" and "was blocked" were not both connected to "this turn", because "blocked" would not have any limitation in time. Similar for Sea Troll and Time to Reflect; if "blocked" was meant to stand alone, it would still contain some sort of time limitation, even if was something like "this game".

As for your second question regarding Time to Reflect, it can only target creatures. A creature is any object on the battlefield whose card types includes "creature" and that has values for its power and toughness. A creature card in the graveyard or anywhere else but the battlefield is not a creature, therefore it's never a valid target for Time to Reflect. Whenever you read a combination of card types without additional qualifiers, such as "creature", "land", "artifact enchantment" and so on, that is always shorthand for a permanent of those types, i.e. "creature permanent", "land permanent", "artifact enchantment permanent", and so on. Objects are permanents if and only if they are on the battlefield.

110.1. A permanent is a card or token on the battlefield. A permanent remains on the battlefield indefinitely. A card or token becomes a permanent as it enters the battlefield and it stops being a permanent as it’s moved to another zone by an effect or rule.

114.2. Only permanents are legal targets for spells and abilities, unless a spell or ability (a) specifies that it can target an object in another zone or a player, (b) targets an object that can’t exist on the battlefield, such as a spell or ability, or (c) targets a zone.

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    I'm confused where your last paragraph is coming from. Nothing in his question shows any confusion over what "creature" means, or asks a second question that you are answering by defining a permanent.
    – GendoIkari
    May 12, 2017 at 13:12
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    Maybe worth noting that Sea Troll's printed text is actually clearer on the meaning, and shows that both parts pertain to "blue creature".
    – GendoIkari
    May 12, 2017 at 13:14
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    You've misread something... he used an example of a different but similar sentence, which involved a creature that had died, but he wasn't asking anything about if you can target creatures in the graveyard. I suppose he should have said "creature card" instead of "creature" in his hypothetical example, but it seems clear he didn't have any confusion over that point.
    – GendoIkari
    May 12, 2017 at 16:47
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    Let me just say that you are massively overthinking this issue. Card text has to be interpreted according to the rules of the English language. I don't know those rules well enough to argue authoritatively either way; we would have to get an English major involved for that. All I know is that the obvious interpretation is correct in this case, for which I've tried to give circumstantial evidence because there is no rules reference that directly answers your case. Any judge, whether at FNM or elsewhere, would tell you the same.
    – Hackworth
    May 12, 2017 at 17:06
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    Both of your examples are less readable than the original. Card templating has to find a middle ground between readability and technical correctness, in order to let players focus on the game rather than deciphering card text.
    – Hackworth
    May 12, 2017 at 17:17

You don't get to interpret the English on cards. Magic isn't a rules-lawyer game, it's a rules-programmer game, where every word and formatting structure has a VERY specific meaning. There is no rules reference that adds (parentheses) to "Exile target creature that (blocked or was blocked by) a Zombie this turn" to remove ambiguity in the way you want, but I can guarantee you that there is no certified judge who will support the interpretation that you want to push. Thinking of the text on cards in terms of English, with all its imperfections and ambiguities, is a mistake.

But if you insist, here are some other ideas for you to push;

  • Lightning Bolt can target an opponent who has Leyline of Sanctity, because it says "(target creature) or (player)".
  • Chainer's Edict's flashback reminder text says to cast it from graveyard, "Then exile it". Doesn't it just get exiled from the stack immediately?
  • Hero's Downfall targets planeswalkers. Aren't the players planeswalkers in this game?
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    Your reasoning is off. If a player is supposed to not interpret the English on cards, and there is no rules reference to answer the question, then what is there to go by? Hint: It's absolutely necessary to interpret cards and rules according to the rules of the English language, exactly because there is no machine-readable text on human-readable cards. For example, rule 608.2c, in part, reads: "Don’t just apply effects step by step without thinking in these cases—read the whole text and apply the rules of English to the text.", emphasis mine.
    – Hackworth
    May 12, 2017 at 17:40
  • @Hackworth The issue here is that English has an ambiguity, but Magic doesn't. There is one interpretation of that sentence which is correct, and quibbling about it doesn't change anything, which is why Magic is closer to "rules programming" than "rules lawyering". If a ruling is needed, "no judge would ever let you do that" is sufficient. The writers of the CR didn't feel the need to explain reading, so there isn't much relevant literature there.
    – monoRed
    May 12, 2017 at 17:49
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    The fact is that Magic cards are written in English, and there are sometimes ambiguities in card text that require interpretation. Sometimes, even with Magic cards, you need a little common sense to determine which antecedent of a pronoun makes the most sense, or which interpretation of a sentence structure most likely matches the author's intention. This ambiguity is one of the reasons Magic cards have rulings and errata.
    – murgatroid99
    May 12, 2017 at 17:59

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