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I was looking at Etali, Primal Storm, and one of the rulings listed surprised me; the card didn't work the way I thought it would based on the wording.

The ability:

Whenever Etali, Primal Storm attacks, exile the top card of each player's library, then you may cast any number of nonland cards exiled this way without paying their mana costs.

And the ruling:

Any cards not cast, including land cards, remain in exile. They can’t be cast on later turns, even if Etali attacks again.

I expected "cards exiled this way" to mean "cards exiled by Etali, Primal Storm's ability". Meaning that if I exiled a card by attacking this turn, and exiled a second card by attacking next turn, then both those cards would have been "exiled this way".

However, based on that ruling, it seems that "exiled this way" means "exiled by the resolution of the current instance of this ability".

Either of the two readings seem like they are valid interpretations based on the English meaning of the words. So it there a comprehensive rule that backs up that ruling; where "this way" is defined?

It would be really nice if all Gatherer rulings included a citation for a comprehensive rule that backs up the ruling.

  • I'm not certain but I think this would be based on the rules for a "linked ability". This is a single ability, so there's no linked ability which can see the cards set aside by it. It (the ability) can only see the cards it set aside itself). – Samthere Apr 9 '18 at 16:56
  • @Samthere I thought at first about checking the rules for linked abilities, but then figured that because it was only one ability; it wouldn't apply. – GendoIkari Apr 9 '18 at 16:58
  • Yes, the linked ability rules are specifically about multiple abilities printed on a single card. I think it's actually likely that this comes down to a templating convention, not a specific rule. – murgatroid99 Apr 9 '18 at 17:07
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    @GendoIkari, Re "I expected "cards exiled this way" to mean "cards exiled by Etali, Primal Storm's ability"", I can understand the confusion. In English, "this way" can mean "in this fashion", and thus not refer to a specific instance (e.g. "People driving this way are a danger.") However, MTG uses the more common use of "this": to single out a specific instance. In MTG, "this way" has the narrowest of focus. It doesn't also include similar instances. – ikegami Apr 10 '18 at 12:29
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    @GendoIkari, "Cast" is confusing in MTG. Sometimes, it's an instruction to cast immediately (e.g. Etali). Sometimes, it modifies what can be cast when you have priority (e.g. Flashback). And there's no clear way of distinguishing the two. I think this was a factor (perhaps only unconsciously) in creating the confusion over "this way". – ikegami Apr 10 '18 at 12:29
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No, “this way” is defined nowhere in the comprehensive rules. This specific kind of interaction also doesn't get spelled out explicitly in the rules for exile, resolving spells & abilities, effects, zones, etc. (Though there are some relevant touchstones.)

However, understanding Etali's behaviour doesn't come down to that definition. Etali works the way it does as a result of being a one-shot effect: it exiles some cards, then allows you to cast them, and that offer doesn't apply in future. You may only choose to follow up on this one-shot effect during that ability's resolution.

For you to be able to access cards from prior turns, one of two things would have to happen:

  1. The one-shot would have to reference all cards exiled with Etali so far, which would mean the following wording:

    Whenever Etali, Primal Storm attacks, exile the top card of each player's library, then you may cast any number of cards exiled with Etali, Primal Storm without paying their mana costs.

  2. Alternately, you'd have to be granted a continuous effect to be able to cast those cards later.

In case 2, the effect would have to carry a duration. Kheru Spellsnatcher and Hostage Taker both exile a card as a one-shot effect, then immediately also set up a continuous effect that allows you to cast that card for as long as it remains in exile (that's the duration). Alternately, the continuous effect can be provided by a static linked ability, as found on Nightveil Specter or Hedonist's Trove.

This means Etali could also be written one of two other ways, which would let you cast its spells at any time:

  • A one-shot that sets up a continuous effect (like Kheru Spellsnatcher):

    Whenever Etali, Primal Storm attacks, exile the top card of each player's library. For as long as those cards remain in exile, you may cast them without paying their mana costs.

  • A one-shot with a static linked ability providing the continuous effect (like Nightveil Specter):

    Whenever Etali, Primal Storm attacks, exile the top card of each player's library.

    You may cast cards exiled with Etali, Primal Storm without paying thier mana costs.

  • I'm not sure that the one-shot effect prevents my reading... Karn Liberated has a one-shot effect that exiles a card, and it still has another ability (a linked ability) that refers to those cards. – GendoIkari Apr 9 '18 at 17:10
  • Actually, your own example of Hedonist's Trove works also.. its first ability is a one-shot effect isn't it? – GendoIkari Apr 9 '18 at 17:12
  • @GendoIkari Karn's effect is different entirely: it tracks cards into exile because it needs to. – doppelgreener Apr 9 '18 at 17:12
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    For example, Etali, Primal Storm could have said "cards exiled by Etali, Primal Storm" instead of "cards exiled this way"... at least I can't see any reason why such an ability couldn't be printed. And if it were printed that way, it clearly would have worked the way I originally thought it worked. – GendoIkari Apr 9 '18 at 17:16
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    @GendoIkari Yep, if it was printed that way it would 100% work the way you first thought it worked. It would work like Nightveil Specter, which lets you cast those cards in later turns. – doppelgreener Apr 9 '18 at 17:18

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