8

Over My Dead Bodies is an unstable card that has Graveyard creatures fight in a sort of undeath. We also know that whilst they're involved in combat, they're also effectively on the battlefield, at least for the purposes of global effects. From the Unstable FAQ:

Will global effects affect the graveyard creatures?

Here's where silver-bordered rules get fun. Over My Dead Bodies allows you to attack or block with creature cards in your graveyard. If you do, for the duration of combat, the attacking and blocking creature cards are treated as if they are creature cards on the battlefield which means they can be affected by spells or abilities that would affect creatures on the battlefield. That means, for example, if you have a Lord of Accursed on the battlefield ("Other Zombies you control get +1/+1"), all your attacking and blocking graveyard creatures (which Over My Dead Bodies makes into Zombies) would get +1/+1 while in combat.

I'm interested to understand how these creatures' abilities can interact with combat, if at all. Let's assume to that end that Over My Dead Bodies is out, and I have a Brutal Hordechief and a Raving Dead in my graveyard.

Raving Dead has an ability that enforces how it attacks at the start of combat, and triggers on it dealing damage:

At the beginning of combat on your turn, choose an opponent at random. Raving Dead attacks that player this combat if able.

Whenever Raving Dead deals combat damage to a player, that player loses half his or her life, rounded down.

Brutal Hordechief has an ability that affects my attacks, and lets me choose blockers:

Whenever a creature you control attacks, defending player loses 1 life and you gain 1 life.

{3}{R/W}{R/W}: Creatures your opponents control block this turn if able, and you choose how those creatures block.

Do any of these abilities function while these creatures are in my graveyard? (Let's assume they're going to attack either way.) Am I dealing with just a vanilla 2/6 and a vanilla 3/3, or do I have to take into account any of these abilities as well? Are there specific kinds of abilities that do work and ones that don't? Has Mark Rosewater mentioned anything to clarify this?

  • 2
    Good choice of examples. – Alex P Dec 14 '17 at 16:30
4
+500

During combat, all creatures in your graveyard are treated as if they were on the battlefield. Anything they could do at this time while they were alive, they can do now even though they are dead.

This is covered in the Unstable FAQAWASLFAQPAFTIDAWABIAJTBT:

Do the graveyard creatures cause attacking or blocking triggered abilities to trigger?

Yes. Remember that they're treated as permanents on the battlefield while in combat, so a graveyard creature attacking will cause anything that triggers when a creature attacks (including its own abilities) to trigger.

With further confirmation that "on combat damage" abilities work on Mark Rosewaters Blogatog

wretchedor30 asked: I have out Over My Dead Bodies and attack with Phage the Untouchable. As she is in a graveyard, would it still cause game loss, or is the ability only relevant on the field?

MR: Her ability still works.

In regards to your specific examples:

  • Raving Dead's ability triggers at the beginning of combat (which is during the combat phase), so you will need to attack a random player. If that player doesn't block Raving Dead (perhaps they have no creatures in their graveyard) they will lose 2 life, and then half their remaining life rounded down.
  • If you control a Brutal Hordechief in your graveyard, when you attack during your turn each creature you attack with both alive and in the graveyard will cause the defending player to lose 1 life and you to gain 1 life. You also may use Hordechief's activated ability during combat, before blockers are declared.
  • The FAQAWASLFAQPAFTIDAWABIAJTBT says "If you do, for the duration of combat, the attacking and blocking creature cards are treated as if they are creature cards on the battlefield". Are you sure about the Raving Dead beginning-of-combat ability? – Michał Politowski Dec 15 '17 at 9:36
  • @MichałPolitowski I believe my interpretation of the rules are correct. The issue with the Un-sets is that it lacks the full coverage and clarity of the Comprehensive rules, so a lot of questions that come up just can't be answered with RAW. It forces you to go out and try to look into the designers head-space to determine RAI. I think that the intention is for creatures to be treated as if they are on the battlefield for the duration of combat, regardless of if they attack or not. – Malco Dec 15 '17 at 14:21
  • I understand that this is all strictly a RAI exercise. Given that, there is also the question "Can I target a graveyard creature that isn't attacking or blocking?", and the answer is "Not with anything that targets a creature on the battlefield. Remember you treat them as on the battlefield only while they're attacking or blocking." I don't think this should be read simply as "only during the combat phase". – Michał Politowski Dec 15 '17 at 14:27
  • @MichałPolitowski Hmm, that is a good point. If I were ruling this in my play group though I would probably say that things being told to attack still happen as it is in the spirit of the card. I suspect it could go either way though if you were to ask MaRo at Blogatog. – Malco Dec 15 '17 at 14:34
3

The overly literal answer

The card mostly gives us this to go on:

Creature cards in graveyards can attack and block as though they were on the battlefield

Rosewater's FAQ specifies a lot of details, but a common thread stands out: creature cards in graveyards are only treated as creatures on the battlefield while attacking or blocking.

Over My Dead Bodies allows you to attack or block with creature cards in your graveyard. If you do [emphasis added], for the duration of combat, the attacking and blocking creature cards are treated as if they are creature cards on the battlefield which means they can be affected by spells or abilities that would affect creatures on the battlefield.

Remember you treat them as on the battlefield only while they're attacking or blocking.

Remember that they're treated as permanents on the battlefield while in combat [emphasis added], so a graveyard creature attacking will cause anything that triggers when a creature attacks (including its own abilities) to trigger.

What does this mean in practice? Well...

  1. Combat begins with the beginning of combat phase. No creatures are attacking or blocking ("in combat") at this time.

    • Raving Dead's triggered ability "at the beginning of combat" will not trigger, because it is not actually in combat at this time.

    • Likewise, because Brutal Hordechief is not in combat, either, its activated ability cannot be activated at this time.

  2. We proceed to the declare attackers phase. All attackers are declared simultaneously, then we check what state-based actions or triggers will resolve.

    The card text itself says we can declare a card in a graveyard as an attacker. Rosewater's FAQ clarifies that this means it's virtually "on the battlefield" until end of combat. This is a continuous effect (c.f. the bit about how removing Over My Dead Bodies will instantaneously end it); thus, when we check for triggers after attackers are declared, all graveyard-creatures will see each other as "on the battlefield."

    • Brutal Hordechief's "whenever a creature you control attacks" ability will trigger, and it will "see" every attacking creature, living and dead.

    From this point until the end of the combat step, every attacking graveyard-creature is in combat, and therefore on the battlefield. None of the cards in the defender's graveyard are in combat yet, however, so none of them are on the battlefield.

    • Based on the implications in the FAQ (treat creatures as really, truly on the battlefield), you may now use Brutal Hordechief's activated ability now.
  3. The defender declares blockers. This is pretty symmetrical with the declare-attackers situation.

    • Brutal Hordechief's activated ability will let you force your opponent to block with cards in their graveyard (respecting the constraint that the living may only block the dead and vice versa). I think it's a bit of a confusing chicken-or-egg situation but the most sensible and intended reading is clearly "if it could be a creature that blocks, use the normal rules to figure out how it blocks, and then it becomes a creature if it has now joined combat."
  4. Damage is exchanged, then state-based effects and triggers happen as normal.

    • At this point, Raving Dead is still in combat (and therefore, on the battlefield), and it just did damage to a player, so its triggered ability will trigger. Simple.

So, 3 out of 4 abilities worked as intended, but the quirk about how you have to attack or block before your creature is "animated" means that beginning-of-combat triggers don't apply.

Simpler readings

I think it's pretty clear from Rosewater's FAQ answers that the intent of the card is to let you throw your graveyards at each other in combat, and the fun thing about it is really, really treating them like they're on the battlefield for the duration of combat.

I also think that, comparing the card text to the FAQ, it's clear that they struggled with a way to actually communicate that idea in Magic-legalese. Which is why the card actually says something very limited and most of the details about "you can use all your abilities and static effects apply and it's AWESOME!" are just in the FAQ.

In that light, I think it's reasonable to treat the Un-FAQ as not-quite-absolute, also. Just his best effort to communicate his vision using limited space and time, and likely only addressing the specific cases that came up during WotC's own design and playtesting.

If you feel like the best way to make sense of the card is to drop all these details about beginning of combat vs. declare attackers and just throw your graveyards at each other, I think it's reasonable to bend the normal flow of play and just say that abilities that technically trigger before a creature is "in combat" can still be used, as long as you triple-extra-promise that creature is actually going to attack or block later.

Basically, choose flavor-logic over rules-logic, if practical, because the rules-logic isn't going to hold perfectly anyway, and some of the corner cases that fall out (e.g. removing the randomness from Raving Dead) may actually end up rather unfun anyway.

(And if someone puts a Blazing Archon in their graveyard and says "now you can't attack me at all, MWAHAHA," go back to that overly literal section for the duration of that single argument.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.