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Dread Defiler has the ability

{3}{C}, Exile a creature card from your graveyard: Target opponent loses life equal to the exiled card's power.

with the ruling

Use the card’s power as it last existed in your graveyard to determine how much life is lost.

The cards Varolz, the Scar-Striped and Soul Separator also exile cards from the graveyard and check their characteristics, and they have similar rulings indicating that they check the characteristics the card had in the graveyard, not in exile.

These rulings surprise me. I would expect them to check the characteristics of the card as it currently exists in exile, based on the highlighted section of rule 608.2g:

If an effect requires information from the game (such as the number of creatures on the battlefield), the answer is determined only once, when the effect is applied. If the effect requires information from a specific object, including the source of the ability itself, the effect uses the current information of that object if it’s in the public zone it was expected to be in; if it’s no longer in that zone, or if the effect has moved it from a public zone to a hidden zone, the effect uses the object’s last known information. See rule 112.7a. If an ability states that an object does something, it’s the object as it exists—or as it most recently existed—that does it, not the ability.

Deicide, for example, works the way I would expect. It has the text

Exile target enchantment. If the exiled card is a God card, search its controller's graveyard, hand, and library for any number of cards with the same name as that card and exile them, then that player shuffles his or her library.

but its corresponding ruling is different:

Deicide looks at the card in exile, not the permanent that was exiled, to determine if it is a God. For each of the Gods in the Theros block, it won’t matter what your devotion to its color(s) was. The card is a God card when not on the battlefield.

So, why do cards like Dread Defiler, Soul Separator, and Varolz look at the characteristics the cards had in the graveyard, not the characteristics they have in exile?

  • Note that the actual wording of Scavenge is different than what you quoted: “Scavenge [cost]” means “[Cost], Exile this card from your graveyard: Put a number of +1/+1 counters equal to the power of the card you exiled on target creature. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.” – ikegami Jul 26 '17 at 3:15
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    @ThunderToes, By the way, some cards automatically stop being Gods when they enter the battlefield, and become Gods when they leave the battlefield. See Athreos, God of Passage. (When it's not a creature, it also not a God as that's a creature subtype.) This means the ruling on Diecide is important in regular scenarios. – ikegami Jul 26 '17 at 7:43
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    @ThunderToes RE: cards whose P/T can be altered in the graveyard -> see Skullbriar, the Walking Grave? I swear that card was designed just to screw with the rules. I wonder if that is the caveat that ruling is accounting for. – Becuzz Jul 26 '17 at 12:19
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    Coming to this question now, not having seen the progression you guys have gone through to get here, it isn't really clear what is being asked. It might be worth it to edit it down a bit to try to clarify things, or scrap it and start over again. – Malco Jul 26 '17 at 15:22
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    I tried to edit to clarify a little, but the question in the title is still what I'm asking. – murgatroid99 Jul 26 '17 at 15:29
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There is a flaw in the basic premise of the question that these are conflicting rulings on comparable cards.

Deicide has an effect that moves an object to another zone and then further examines that card. This is what 'the expected zone' clause in 608.g covers. There is consistency in the rulings when an effect moves a card between public zones and then checks types using the present tense, it looks in the new zone. (See Defy Death). As opposed to an effect that moves a card between public zones and checks its type in the past tense (lots, Death's Caress). It seems that does not have particularly clear basis in comp rules without rulings clarifying the intended interpretation.

Dread Defiler has an effect that looks for characteristics of an object. Paying the cost for the ability that generated the effect moved that object, but the effect did not move the object.

So the two rulings are not in conflict.

Soul Separator is not doing a conditional check, so, assuming the ruling on it is correctly worded, that seems to be our plausible explanation. If it said "if that card is Power 5 or greater" we'd be in a pickle for which zone to check in I think...

I agree it is entirely possible for a rational person to have come to different conclusions from reading the comp rules and cards in isolation. Sometimes a card like Deicide with odd nonstandard templating just needs the guy who wrote it to explain what they intended. (The use of 'God card' rather than simply 'God' combined with two public zones makes it close to unique. Almost everything that checks the type/subtype of a "card" rather than a game object and involves a zone change also involves a hidden zone)

  • Soul Separator has an effect that moves the card then looks at it in the old zone. That's why I referenced that ruling here. – murgatroid99 Jul 26 '17 at 17:23
  • I would say the wording in that soul separator ruling is probably off based on the other evidence – Affe Jul 26 '17 at 17:53
  • Actually starting to think more the real answer is that the ruling on Deicide is worded poorly and it looks at the card because it says God card not just God, not really related to what zone it's in per se. – Affe Jul 27 '17 at 18:57
  • So you're saying the rulings for Soul Separator, Death's Caress and Marionette Master are all wrong? – ikegami Jul 28 '17 at 3:29
  • For deaths caress to be comparable to deicide it would say "if that card is a human card". That's very different from "if that create is/was human" (apparently, according to the ruling on deicide!) – Affe Jul 28 '17 at 3:36
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These abilities refer to characteristics of the card that was exiled, meaning those of the card in the graveyard. Scavenge even specifically says "the card that was exiled". The card in the graveyard ceased to exist when it was exiled.[CR 400.7] Since information is requested from an object that no longer exists, Last Known Information (LKI) is used.[CR 608.2g]

It would be different if it said "the exiled card's power". Then, it would look for the the stats of the object that was created in exile. It can find this new object if necessary.[CR 400.7h]

You're getting hung up on "the public zone it was expected to be in", thinking it means exile when it means the graveyard. That's the only zone the object could possibly be in because objects don't actually move from one zone to another. To move an object is to cause one to cease to exist in one zone, and to create a new one in a different zone.

400.7. An object that moves from one zone to another becomes a new object with no memory of, or relation to, its previous existence. There are nine exceptions to this rule:

400.7h If an effect causes an object to move to a public zone, other parts of that effect can find that object. If the cost of a spell or ability causes an object to move to a public zone, that spell or ability’s effects can find that object.

608.2g If an effect requires information from the game (such as the number of creatures on the battlefield), the answer is determined only once, when the effect is applied. If the effect requires information from a specific object, including the source of the ability itself, the effect uses the current information of that object if it’s in the public zone it was expected to be in; if it’s no longer in that zone, or if the effect has moved it from a public zone to a hidden zone, the effect uses the object’s last known information. See rule 112.7a. If an ability states that an object does something, it’s the object as it exists—or as it most recently existed—that does it, not the ability.


Exceptions

Deicide is the only example that counters this explanation, so I can only surmise its unique wording ("is a God card", as opposed to "is a God") is meant to convey this difference.

Cragganwick Cremator uses the object in the new zone, but the object was moved from a hidden zone, so the natural thing is to use the public object.

  • Deicide explicitly refers to "the exiled card". I specifically mentioned that was a different case. Assessing the rest of the comment. – ikegami Jul 26 '17 at 3:05
  • Cragganwick Cremator moves the card from the hand to the graveyard, and checks the characteristics in the graveyard (the zone that the card moved to). The point was to address the claim that "that card" specifically refers to the object in the zone that the card moved from. – murgatroid99 Jul 26 '17 at 3:24
  • Now that we've had time to analyse the exceptions, I've undeleted my original answer. Deicide is the only exception to it, so I can only surmise its unique wording ("is a God card", as opposed to "is a God") is meant to convey this difference. – ikegami Jul 28 '17 at 3:55
  • @murgatroid99: As I mentioned in my answer, Cragganwick Cremator mentions "that card" for reasons that have to do with a) it being a card not on the battlefield, which are always referred to as "[...] card", and b) it being a card coming from a hidden zone, therefore 608.2g doesn't apply. – TheThirdMan Jul 28 '17 at 9:04
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Normally, effects that involve cards changing zones will look at the characteristics of the object in the zone the object came from, also known as its last-known information.

608.2g If an effect requires information from the game (such as the number of creatures on the battlefield), the answer is determined only once, when the effect is applied. If the effect requires information from a specific object, including the source of the ability itself, the effect uses the current information of that object if it’s in the public zone it was expected to be in; if it’s no longer in that zone, or if the effect has moved it from a public zone to a hidden zone, the effect uses the object’s last known information. See rule 112.7a. If an ability states that an object does something, it’s the object as it exists—or as it most recently existed—that does it, not the ability.

Looking at cards like Dread Defiler, they refer to "the exiled card" - but that doesn't mean "the card as it exists in exile right now", it's simply a language construct similar to "that card" to provide context for the ability, referring back to what you did initially: "Exile a creature card from your graveyard". That card has changed zones, which is why last-known information is used.

This also explains why Marionette Master, Soul Seperator, and Varolz, the Scar-Striped (or the keyword-ability Scavenge) work the way they do.

This rule feels quite natural for cards that transition from the battlefield to another place. For example, if you control a creature with P/T 3/3, put a +1/+1 counter on it, and then Fling it at your opponent, you expect to deal 4 damage, not 3).


Exceptions to the above are only made for special cases. Effects look at the characteristics of the card in the zone it has been moved to if...

The card changing zones comes from a hidden zone

As stated in 608.2g, (emphasis mine):

[...] the effect uses the current information of that object if it’s in the public zone [...]

It makes perfect sense not to look at the card before anyone could see it. This is the reason why Cragganwick Cremator works the way it does.

The effect explicitly cares about the card that was moved between zones, instead of the object it used to be in the zone it used to be in

If an effect is phrased to specifically care about a card, such as Deicide does, you're really just looking at the card instead of the object it used to be (similar to how copy effects work). Last-known information is decidedly ignored because the card's creature types at the time don't even matter - what matters is the physical card, and whether that card has certain characteristics.

For comparison, similar effects usually refer to the permanent as it was, which for Deicide would be "If that enchantment was a God" (analog to Dismantle or Filigree Fracture, for example), indicating that last-known information is used as per the default. Deicide, however, creates a new context, with one of the different outcomes being that you only look at the card as it is in exile.

I can only take guesses on why Deicide was templated the way it works, but it seems to be by design within the scope of the Theros block, in order to be able to get the most out of the card, regardless of your opponent's devotion. Unlike the game mechanic that sometimes turns the Theros gods into creatures, while otherwise they just provide extra effects, they are always "there" flavor-wise, using their abilities, and only decide to engage into battle when the devotion towards them reaches a certain level. It that regard, it makes sense that the act of ridding yourself of a God (which is what's depicted on Deicide) doesn't only work on a creature, but also on the enchantment that might eventually turn into one - flavor-wise, there's no difference.

  • You're going to need to expand a little on your quotation of rule 608.2g. I quoted the same rule in my question to explain why I would expect those three cards to work differently than the rulings say they do. And I don't really understand the distinction you're making with the wording of Deicide, when Dread Defiler's wording is almost exactly the same. – murgatroid99 Jul 26 '17 at 16:38
  • Deicide has an EFFECT that moves a card and then looks at it in the new zone, within the effect. Dread Defiler has a COST that moves the card and then an EFFECT that uses LKI. I agree that funky "expected zone" wording in 608.g is kinda odd to wrap your head around in the context of how LKI works, but we all know and agree how the author intended Fling to work and if you read 608.g in that way ("expected zone" being interpreted as the place paying the cost put it) it breaks fling. – Affe Jul 26 '17 at 16:46
  • @murgatroid99 I'm quoting that rule because it provides the default: everything looks at last-known information, and that rule contains the exceptions I elaborated on either literally or by abstraction. Dread Defiler's wording appears to be almost the same, but it says "card" because you can't choose a "creature" in the graveyard, only a "creature card" - Deicide, however, mentions "card" in an entirely new context, meaning that from that point, what matters is the card, not the permanent. It might as well say "a random card from your Sideboard", as the object it used to be is irrelevant. – TheThirdMan Jul 26 '17 at 17:06
  • I quoted the rule in my answer to say that the default is looking at the current information, not the last known information. You simply quoted it again and stated the opposite, without any further elaboration on why it implies that. – murgatroid99 Jul 26 '17 at 17:27
  • @murgatroid99: Ah, now I understand... but I believe you read it wrong. We're exclusively talking about cards changing zones here, the way I see it, and the rule states "if it’s no longer in that zone, or if the effect has moved it from a public zone to a hidden zone, the effect uses the object’s last known information". Cards like Dread Defiler refer to "the exiled card", but that doesn't mean "the card as it is in exile right now", it's simply a language construct similar to "that card". It has changed zones, which is why last-known information is used. I shall add this to my answer. – TheThirdMan Jul 26 '17 at 18:01

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