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Situations we had tonight:

Opponent has a Laboratory Maniac and an Abundance on the battle field. I hold a terror in my hand with enough mana in untapped lands to cast it.

S1) Opponent moves to draw phase and has zero cards in library. Opponent chooses to draw a card. Can I kill his maniac and win the game?

S2) Opponent has a Staff of Nin and 0 cards in library at beginning of upkeep. He chooses to draw a card (as opposed to reveal), do I have a chance to respond with my terror? Or can I not respond?

Is it possible for me to beat my opponent in these situations with a well timed Terror?

  • I would suggest to simplify questions as much as possible - Abundance seems to have no relevance to the core question. If you mention cards that could be misinterpreted as being part of the question, it might lead answers into a wrong direction. If you think Abundance is relevant, please mention why. – Hackworth Jul 11 '18 at 10:33
  • @Hackworth, abundance is critical to this situation, otherwise I can terror during upkeep and force opponent to lose. – John Jul 11 '18 at 13:10
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I wrote the question, and in the course of writing the question, I figured out the answer. So, here's my stab at the answer.

S1) Drawing during the Draw Phase does not use the stack, so you cannot win in this situation. You must kill the Maniac before the draw phase, but with no maniac on the table, Abundance will keep them from losing the game.

This is covered in rule 504:

  1. Draw Step

504.1. First, the active player draws a card. This turn-based action doesn’t use the stack.

S2) Abundance is a replacement effect, so the decision about whether or not to use the abundance is made at the time of the draw. Thus, if you kill the Maniac at anytime before Nin's draw occurs, your opponent can just chose to use abundance, to avoid losing the game.

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    I believe that's correct, but you might want to clarify for future readers that in S2, the opponent never even gets to choose whether to draw until after you have made your choice about whether to cast Terror (and, if you chose to cast it, after it has resolved). – David Z Jun 16 '18 at 5:56
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It is not possible for use Terror to win here. As long as your opponent has Abundance in play, they cannot be forced to lose the game due to drawing from an empty library.

The key is that the choice to search instead of drawing is part of Abundance's replacement of the draw. This means that you do not have any opportunity to take game actions between them deciding to draw (or search) and them actually drawing (or searching for) a card (i.e. you do not receive priority). It doesn't much matter what else in going on in the game, as long as Abundance is in play.

While not strictly relevant to this point, part of this ruling for Abundance is insightful here:

...Since Abundance’s effect has you put a card into your hand instead of drawing a card, you’ll never be forced to draw a card with an empty library.

In the first situation you described, the best you can do is to not lose the game by using Terror on the Laboratory maniac. In the second situation, your opponent should always win the game; they can win off their draw step, so they can hold off on using Staff of Nin until you cast Terror and then respond with the Staff and win before Terror resolves.

Edit: I'm completely wrong about the second situation, totally forgot the text on Staff of Nin. Staff's draw is triggered, so is, in this situation, essentially no different from drawing during the draw step. I was confusing Staff with something with an activated draw ability, like Jayemdae Tome. (I can't believe I forgot how Staff of Nin works, that's one of of my best favourite cards)

  • You misunderstood the question. The core of the question was, "can I use Terror to prevent Lab Maniac from winning the game". Abundance only factors into in insofar as that the opponent has a choice between replacing his empty-library draws with either Lab Maniac or Abundance, but it has no bearing on the Terror-Lab Maniac-card draw timing question. – Hackworth Jul 11 '18 at 10:18
  • @Hackworth I think you've misunderstood the question. The final statement of the question, "Is it possible for me to beat my opponent in these situations with a well timed Terror?", makes it's pretty clear. – Rob Pallotta Jul 12 '18 at 23:04
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In that situation, Terror will not help you prevent the opponent from winning.

As you noted in your own answer, drawing a card during the draw step does not use the stack and thus cannot be responded to:

504 Draw Step

504.1. First, the active player draws a card. This turn-based action doesn’t use the stack.

Laboratory Maniac's ability creates a replacement effect. If you cant respond to the replaced event (card draw), you also can't respond to the replaced event (game win for your opponent), because the replacement effect happens exactly when the original effect would have happened.

Even if Lab Maniac's ability was a triggered ability (which is purely hypothetical because in that case it wouldn't work as intended, the controller of Lab Maniac would lose before winning the game), Terror still wouldn't help you because the Maniac's ability would already be on the stack and resolve eventually.

Your only chance to prevent the loss is to have Terror resolve before your opponent draws from an empty library. The Upkeep step happens before the Draw step, so that is the last opportunity to kill the Lab Maniac with spells or abilities.

As for Scenario 2, if the card draw is the result of Staff of Nin or any other spell or ability that uses the stack, you can react normally with Terror and prevent the Maniac's replacement effect by destroying him before the draw could even be replaced. Again, if a replacement effect happens, it happens at exactly the time when the original effect would. If the original effect never happens, then neither does the replacement:

614.7. If a replacement effect would replace an event, but that event never happens, the replacement effect simply doesn’t do anything.

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