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Let us assume my commander somehow makes it to the top of my library (for example by the effect of Nephalia Academy) and when forced to draw it I instead want to put it in the command zone (for any reason).
From the rules:

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 seems to imply that one can, instead of putting ones commander in the hand, put the commander in the command zone from the library by a draw effect. Now this creates some questions for me:

  1. Is the card drawn known to the player during the draw, or only after the draw?
  2. Subsequently, if the top card is only presumed to be the commander, but is actually not, can the player be aware of this while drawing the card?
  3. Does the replacement of the destination replace the whole draw effect, or just a part of it? Is the card still drawn, even though it didn't go to the hand?
  4. Or, in other words: At which point during the draw action does the replacement of the destination occur?

P.S: This question can also be read as How does a draw work?, as rule 120 doesn't seem to cover details such as in the above questions.

  • A similar situation can happen with Jeskai Infiltrator; where a question can arise as to whether it should always be known which card is the commander. – GendoIkari Mar 22 '18 at 14:11
  • @GendoIkari: That is an easy one, as by 707.5: "At any time, you may look at a face-down spell you control on the stack or a face-down permanent you control (even if it’s phased out)." So you can always know which one is the commander, if any. – Simon Klaver Mar 22 '18 at 14:42
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    I don't think that resolves the issue for a couple reasons. For one, just because you may look at it, doesn't mean you have to or that you will. And also, 707.5 doesn't allow your opponents to look at it. When it comes to the rule about being dealt 21 commander damage, do you have to "prove" or "know" that you are dealing damage with a commander? These questions seem unaddressed in the rules. I think they relate, because both of them largely come down to "is a card's status as Commander public knowledge"? – GendoIkari Mar 22 '18 at 16:26
  • How would situation 2 even occur? Everyone knows their own commander. There's only 1 copy of any non-basic-land card per deck, and it's impossible under current game rules to get other player's cards into your own deck. Therefore, any instance of a card that matches the original commander must necessarily be that deck's commander. You'll definitely know while drawing that card. And since you draw one card at a time, just reveal it when you draw it. – ryanyuyu Mar 22 '18 at 16:34
  • @ryanyuyu You don't know "while" drawing the card; you only know after you've drawn the card. (Unless it turns out that the rule is that "commanderness" is always public information). – GendoIkari Mar 22 '18 at 16:37
14

Yes, you can replace drawing your commander by moving it to the command zone instead.

J. Sallé's answer already covers all the details about why drawing counts as putting the card into your hand from anywhere, which is what 903.9 lets you replace.

The answer hinges on the question of whether or not you can know that a card is your commander even when it is in a hidden zone. I found a post from the EDH Rules Committee saying that yes, it does:

Been following this one with some interest to see what people thought. Here's my thinking in writing the rule, and the outcome of discussing it with some of the MTG rules gurus (who don't set the rules for EDH per se, but do realize what does/doesn't work within the rules).

Generalness was explicitly made a property and not a characteristic because, among other things, characteristics can be copied and overwritten by effects and we don't want Generalness being either copied or overwritten.

paperwarrior's point about properties not being defined in the CR is correct. Technically, the closest term to what we want is 'status'... which is things like tapped, flipped,or facedown. Most players however, especially casual players like much of the EDH playerbase, aren't familiar with the magic definition of status... so using that term wouldn't be productive. That's the model we use for Generalness... similar to statuses it's a feature of the cardboard itself. Status flags can only be changed/copied explicitly by effects (so a copy of a tapped creature doesn't become tapped as a result), and statuses can be preserved across zone changes if the rules say so (which they do in the case of Generalness).

So, what are the outcomes of this model? For the most part they're what we want but the various rules gurus all agreed that the result in the "face down exile" case is unique. Long story short, the location of a General is known to all players at any time no matter which zone it's in, or whether it's face down/face up. That includes being in the library or face-down from something like Tuck+Grimoire Thief, and it means a player has the option to Command-zone their General instead of it being exiled face down.

This behavior dovetails, as mentioned, with the common approach of putting a general in a unique sleeve. And while it's unique for a card's position to remain known across SBA checks, there are some related precedents in the CR where a card's location remains known in the library during the resolution of a spell (extremely arcane precedent)

So what changes does this mandate for players? Not many... it only comes up in corner case scenarios. The only trick is shuffling. Shuffling is considered an atomic action in magic... it's indivisible and the player is not aware (technically) of any intermediate states. The deck goes from unshuffled, to shuffled, and the position of every card is randomized. So knowledge of the General's starting position shouldn't have any impact on the shuffling process. To implement that, a player shuffling his or her General into a deck in a different sleeve should take some steps to make sure he/she doesn't know where the General is going to end up. The easiest way to do so is usually a "blind cut" or two.

(If the General is in an identical sleeve, there are other minor steps players can take to make sure it doesn't get "lost in exile")

So, long story short:

  • Generalness is more like a status than a characteristic, however we just call it a 'property' to match player intuition.
  • The location and identity of a General is known to all players at all times, no matter what its status/effects/location.
  • It's only relevant in corner cases, but this is the implementation which causes the least rules headaches.

This is a ruling outside of the Comprehensive Rules; but Commander was designed from the beginning to be a more casual format; where the rules were originally created outside of the Comprehensive Rules, and only added in there later.

I believe that this rule also can logically follow from CR 903.10a:

903.10a A player that’s been dealt 21 or more combat damage by the same commander over the course of the game loses the game. (This is a state-based action. See rule 704.)

In order to know if you have been dealt 21 or more combat damage by the same commander, you have to know if a given object is a commander or not. The rules don't mention anything about a player having to reveal a card to prove that it is a Commander, rather you simply lose the game when dealt 21 combat damage.

So if you do not allow for it to be always known which card is the Commander, you could have a situation where a player has lost the game, but no one knows that that player has lost the game. 707.5 allows me to look at my own facedown permanent, but it doesn't require me to, and it doesn't allow other players to do so.

  • 2
    Looks like we came across the same post. :D +1 Needing to track Commander damage of morphed cards is one of the major reasons for this ruling, yes. – doppelgreener Mar 22 '18 at 17:12
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    Don't you just love that logic - "status is a term some players don't understand, so let's invent a new term that nobody understands" – Hackworth Mar 22 '18 at 19:26
  • Great answer. I couldn't sieve through mtgcommander's forums for the life of me to find a post even resembling this question. I guess hating Bulletin Boards doesn't help either. – J. Sallé Mar 23 '18 at 13:48
7

DISCLAIMER: Most of this answer could be interpreted as speculation. I'm posting this based on my understanding of the rules of the game, but it shouldn't be taken as the actual truth until consensus is reached.

I wasn't able to find any question even similar to this one in the MTGCommander.net forums, mostly because I don't think it would be profitable to put your commander back in the command zone when you could just cast it from your hand, save a few edge cases (like the newer generals with the Eminence ability, or even the banned ones like Oloro, Ageless Ascetic and Derevi, Empyrial Tactician).

One of the rules for drawing cards is:

120.1. A player draws a card by putting the top card of his or her library into his or her hand.[...]

And rule 903.9 reads:

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.

Notice that, when you draw a card, you put the top card of your library into your hand, which falls neatly into 903.9's ruling. However, it's assumed that you don't know what that card on top of your library is unless it's being revealed by a spell or ability. Even if it has been previously revealed, as long as it's not being continuously revealed (with an effect such as Future Sight or Courser of Kruphix), it's assumed that the players don't know what card is there until that card is drawn in your draw step1,2.

That said, there's another rule about commander which is usually overlooked when poring over the CR (emphasis mine):

903.3. Each deck has a legendary creature card designated as its commander. This designation is not a characteristic of the object represented by the card; rather, it is an attribute of the card itself. The card retains this designation even when it changes zones.

This is even followed by an example (again, emphasis mine):

Example: A commander that’s been turned face down (due to Ixidron’s effect, for example) is still a commander. A commander that’s copying another card (due to Cytoshape’s effect, for example) is still a commander. A permanent that’s copying a commander (such as a Body Double, for example, copying a commander in a player’s graveyard) is not a commander.

By definition, the library zone is kept face-down:

401.2. Each library must be kept in a single face-down pile. Players can’t look at or change the order of cards in a library.

Due to those rules specified above, it's my understanding that even if you don't know that the card on top of your library is your commander, by definition, it still is your commander, and you'd be able to use 903.9's replacement effect to put it into your command zone instead of into your hand. Since this is a replacement effect, according to CR614.6, the card is never actually drawn3,4:

614.6. If an event is replaced, it never happens. A modified event occurs instead, which may in turn trigger abilities. Note that the modified event may contain instructions that can’t be carried out, in which case the impossible instruction is simply ignored.

P.S.: The superscripted numbers 1,2,3,4 are what I believe to be the answers to your list of questions.

  • 1
    @Malco That doesn't mean it can't cause issues, of course. As your opponent, I could "randomly" choose to discard your commander with a discard spell, or destroy your manifested commander with a spell because I know what it is. – Hackworth Mar 22 '18 at 15:27
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    My playgroup does the same as Malco's, but I don't think there has ever been an instance of shuffling the commander into a deck simply because people always choose to put it into the command zone instead. That said, I believe Hackworth's argument is solid regarding the optional draw replacement effects. I'll try and refer this question to MTGCommander.net's forums. Hopefully one of the judges there should know how to solve this. – J. Sallé Mar 22 '18 at 15:47
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    I think the 21 damage from a commander rule can be used to suggest that Simon is correct; that perhaps the exact location of a Commander should always be publicly available. Otherwise, you can get issues such as Manifest where you might not be able to tell if damage was dealt by a Commander or not. The rule doesn't say "if you are dealt damage by a card that is publicly known to be a Commander". It is "if you are dealt damage by a Commander". If the "Commanderness" is not an always public attribute of a card, then you could get into situations where you can't know if you've lost the game. – GendoIkari Mar 22 '18 at 16:32
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    Some discussion about this (with no definite answer): tappedout.net/mtg-questions/… – GendoIkari Mar 22 '18 at 16:34
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    In other words, in order to follow the rule in 903.10a (21 commander damage), it necessitates always knowing which card is the commander. – GendoIkari Mar 22 '18 at 16:36
3

No, you cannot replace a commander card draw.

A (card) draw is a specific instance of putting a card into your hand:

  1. Drawing a Card

120.1. A player draws a card by putting the top card of his or her library into his or her hand. This is done as a turn-based action during each player’s draw step. It may also be done as part of a cost or effect of a spell or ability.

So one part of 903.9, the putting of the card to your hand from anywhere, would be fulfilled.

However, when a card changes zones (the commander goes from your hand to the top of your library), it becomes a new object:

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:

None of the exceptions apply.

Since the library is a hidden zone even to its owner, and even if both players knew that the current top card is your commander, you officially don't know that it's a commander card. You only know that after you have completed your draw, because the "anonymous" object represented by the top card of your library has become your commander card in your hand. By that time, it's too late to replace the draw event.

  • Worthwhile follow-up question: What happens if you play the game with your top card revealed, for example with Goblin Spy – Hackworth Mar 22 '18 at 14:45
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    I believe there's a rule that overrules this: 903.3. Each deck has a legendary creature card designated as its commander. This designation is not a characteristic of the object represented by the card; rather, it is an attribute of the card itself. The card retains this designation even when it changes zones. I'm adding this to my own answer, but I think it's worth discussing further. – J. Sallé Mar 22 '18 at 14:47
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    I don't understand how becoming a new object is relevant. Both the old object and the new one are the Commander. – GendoIkari Mar 22 '18 at 16:23
  • I think I misread this answer. Are you saying that a commander card drawn from you deck must necessarily end up in your hand? – ryanyuyu Mar 22 '18 at 16:42
3

Yes, you can move your Commander to the Command zone as part of drawing it, even if it was face-down on top of your library. It would not count as a draw; I'll cover why later in response to your question #3.

Commander-ness and location of a commander is always known at all times to all players, even in hidden zones.

Commander-ness of a card, no matter its state or location, is always known to all players. This includes when a card is face-down (such as via morph or face-down in exile) or in a hidden zone such as your hand or library. This much has been explicitly confirmed by the EDH Rules Committee. Genomancer, one of the EDH Rules Committee members, writes in 2010 in an FAQ thread on the official Commander forums:[note 1]

Long story short, the location of a General is known to all players at any time no matter which zone it's in, or whether it's face down/face up. That includes being in the library or face-down from something like Tuck+Grimoire Thief, and it means a player has the option to Command-zone their General instead of it being exiled face down.

[... further down in the summary, re-stated ...]

  • The location and identity of a General is known to all players at all times, no matter what its status/effects/location.

(“General” as used here means your Commander card.[note 2])

This effectively makes a Commander card “marked” in hidden zones: you're obligated to clarify that's a Commander card if you can know, and anyone including you is entitled to find this out. This ruling of needing to know commander-ness anywhere exists to handle effects like commander damage from morphed commanders (a 2/2 face-down commander still deals commander damage) and extends to all zones for various other corner cases.

My own EDH decks have my commander sleeved in a different color to the rest: you'll know where my commander is because it'll be the only red-sleeved card in an otherwise green-sleeved deck. If you don't have your commander in a different-color sleeve, you can “bookmark” your commander before putting it in a hidden zone or turning it face-down by slipping a scrap of paper to the sleeve that'll stick out the top, helping you and others track its location and commander-ness. Genomancer recommends the uniquely colored sleeve approach.

In that quote, Genomancer confirms that even in the case of Grimoire Thief exiling a card from a player's library, that player is entitled to know whether that card was their commander and, if so, they are entitled to replace the exile with a move to the command zone.

(If you didn't bookmark your commander, you could re-identify its position in a library by searching for it in your library, noting its position relative to the top or bottom, bookmarking it then, shuffling your library, and re-inserting your commander card into the right position.)


Note 1: Wizards of the Coast acknowledges Commander as being officially managed by the EDH Rules Committee on the official MTGCommander site (mtgcommander.com or mtgcommander.net — same site, two aliased domains), therefore EDH Rules Committee FAQ rulings are official rulings for how Commander works even from WotC's perspective. This will be news to some, but for examples of this deferment, the Full Rules link on WotC's Commander Format page links to http://mtgcommander.com/rules.php; and in each Commander edition's release notes WotC acknowledges MTGCommander.net as being the rules source. Consistently WotC has consistently indicated no interest in taking control of the game away from the MTGCommander EDH Rules Committee.

Note 2: The format's original name was Elder Dragon Highlander, and the card you chose was called your General. When WIzards released the first official Commander supplement in 2011, they couldn't use the “Highlander” name because of legal concerns — so instead their personal branding of the format was that it was called Commander, and the card you chose was your Commander card. The terminology here is interchangeable.

Answering your specific questions

  1. Is the card drawn known to the player during the draw, or only after the draw?

Game rules say you should know the card you're about to draw is your Commander card, because you have perpetual total access to that information.

If your Commander card is bookmarked or in a uniquely-colored sleeve, you'll know before the draw.

Otherwise if you don't know it's your commander but you want to move your commander to the command zone, I suggest handling it like this:

  1. Draw the card.
  2. See it's your commander. EDH rules say you should have been entitled to know this before you drew the card.
  3. Backtrack to just before you drew it. Move your commander card back out of your hand, and reveal that it's your commander to your playgroup.
  4. Say you're replacing the draw with a move to the command zone.
  5. Move your commander from the library to the command zone.
  1. Subsequently, if the top card is only presumed to be the commander, but is actually not, can the player be aware of this while drawing the card?

In theory, the player is entitled to have perfect knowledge of whether that card is their commander, and if it isn't, where their commander actually is in their deck. The player can be considered to be aware of this fact when they draw the card. Backtrack to just before the draw occurs if necessary.

  1. Does the replacement of the destination replace the whole draw effect, or just a part of it? Is the card still drawn, even though it didn't go to the hand?

The replacement effect replaces just drawing that specific card. Per the rules on drawing a card, drawing multiple cards is treated as drawing one card multiple times:

120.2. Cards may only be drawn one at a time. If a player is instructed to draw multiple cards, that player performs that many individual card draws.

Also, replaced effects aren't considered to have happened, so if you replace a draw, the draw never happened. From the rules on replacement effects:

614.6. If an event is replaced, it never happens. A modified event occurs instead, which may in turn trigger abilities. [...]

If you draw three cards with Concentrate and one is your commander, one of two things happens (your choice of which):

  • You draw two cards. One card moves from your library to the command zone.
  • You draw three cards. One of those cards in your hand is your commander, and your opponents are entitled to know this is true.
  1. Or, in other words: At which point during the draw action does the replacement of the destination occur?

You replace it as you take the action of drawing that specific card. If you cast Concentration whilst your commander is the second from the top card in your library, you'll do the following:

  1. Draw a card.
  2. Decide whether to draw your commander card, or move it to the command zone from your library. Do this before you would draw the third card — you must make this decision without knowing what that card will be.
  3. Draw a card.

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