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If my opponent attacks with Trepanation Blade and I use an instant that returns all attacking creatures to their owners hand, will the effect of the blade still play out?

The Blade says:

Whenever equipped creature attacks, defending player reveals cards from the top of his or her library until he or she reveals a land card. The creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn for each card revealed this way. That player puts the revealed cards into his or her graveyard.

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Yes, the ability will do as much as it can when it resolves

609.3. If an effect attempts to do something impossible, it does only as much as possible.

Trepanation Blade triggers whenever the equipped creature attacks. The ability is now on the stack, no matter what happens to the creature afterwards. If the creature has left the battlefield by the time TP gets to resolve, boosting its power will be impossible, but TP will still do as much as possible, i.e. the defending player has to reveal cards and put them into his or her graveyard.

  • that's pretty much what we figured, just wanted some confirmation, thanks – keith Dec 14 '17 at 20:04
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    The first sentence mentions that the ability does as much as possible. The rule quoted mentions that the effect does as much as possible. This is bound to mislead new players. There are cases where the ability actually won't do anything at all. For example, if I cast Bright Reprisal and the targeted creature dies before Reprisal resolves, then I will not draw a card. I would modify the opening statement to something like "Because the ability is not targeted, it will do as much as it can when it resolves." – Rainbolt Dec 15 '17 at 15:49
  • @Rainbolt, Noone says "The ability generates effects that do ...". Even the rules say to follow the instructions of the ability. – ikegami Dec 15 '17 at 17:23
  • Who deleted my comment and why? – Hackworth Dec 16 '17 at 9:16
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Trepanation Blade triggers "whenever equipped creature attacks", which means it triggers immediately after attackers have been declared. Whatever happens to the creature after that is irrelevant. Even if the creature dies, is exiled, or returned to your hand, the triggered ability will still resolve unless something else counters it.

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The ability of trepanation blade goes on the stack as soon as declare attackers happens before you have the opportunity to cast any spells. As is always the case in magic, removing the source of an ability already on the stack does not stop the ability itself from resolving. The only ways to stop this from happening are to:

  • Make the ability illegal, not possible in this case as there is no targeting involved.
  • Counter the ability using cards like Stifle or Void Slime

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