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If I use The Scarab gods activated ability on a commander (regardless of whose commander it is), if the owner of the legendary creature in question sends their commander back to the command zone will I still get the token copy?

The activated ability says

{2}{U}{B}: Exile target creature card from a graveyard. Create a token that's a copy of it, except it's a 4/4 black Zombie.

Pretty sure I do in this case since the replacement effect occurs AFTER I exile with the scarab god.

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    The commander would have to be in a graveyard first, but if it's your own you can make that happen. – Arthur Jul 14 '18 at 5:45
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    Re "Pretty sure I do in this case since the replacement effect occurs AFTER I exile with the scarab god.", No. The replacement effect replaces exiling the Commander, so it can't possibly occur after exiling the Commander. – ikegami Jul 14 '18 at 7:26
  • Well, if I'm going to be honest under the technicality I'm incorrect, but I am right in saying that the replacement effect happened because of the scarab god. I think it would be easier to say and understand that the replacement effect A: doesn't use the stack. and B: it happens any time the commander would change zones. – Anti Her0 Jul 27 '18 at 8:47
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Yes, you get the copy.

400.7h (if moved to public zone) or 608.2g (if moved to hidden zone) allows the The Scarab Gods (TSG) to obtain characteristics to copy because it's still TSG that moves the card when the replacement effect is applied.


Let's start at looking at what happens without the replacement effect.

There are two instructions (verbs) to follow. First, The Scarab Gods (TSG) exiles the creature card. Then, the copy is made. TSG must be able to find the creature card in order to copy it, or else it wouldn't know what characteristics to give the copy. It's pretty obvious that it can (or the card would never work), but let's find out why.

A fundamental rule of MTG dictates that an object moving from one zone (e.g. the graveyard) to another (e.g. exile) doesn't truly move. What actually happens is that the original object ceases to exist in old zone, and a new object is created in the new zone.

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:

But TSG can find the creature card in exile. How? Well, it's because of one of the aforementioned exceptions.

400.7h If an effect causes an object to move to a public zone, other parts of that effect can find that object. [...]

So, because TSG is the one that placed the creature card in exile, it can find it there, and thus, can make a copy of the card (as it appears in exile).


Now let's look at what happens with the replacement effect.

Again, there are two instructions (verbs) to follow. First, The Scarab Gods (TSG) moves the Commander to the Command Zone (instead of exiling it). Then, the copy is made.

The key is that the replacement effect doesn't cause the Commander to move to the Command Zone; it causes TSG to move it there instead of exiling it. So, even though the Command Zone is not mentioned anywhere on TSG, 400.7h still applies, and the copy of the card (as it appears in the Command Zone) can be made.


But what if a replacement effect similar to the one that allows Commanders to be placed in the Command Zone instead of exile allowed the card to be placed in a hidden zone (e.g. a library) instead of exile. Would the copy fail then?

Well, The Scarab Gods (TSG) would not be able to find the card after it moved, so TSG wouldn't know its characteristics, and TSG wouldn't be able to make a copy of it, except for the following rule:

608.2g If an effect requires information from the game (such as the number of creatures on the battlefield), the answer is determined only once, when the effect is applied. If the effect requires information from a specific object, including the source of the ability itself, the effect uses the current information of that object if it’s in the public zone it was expected to be in; if it’s no longer in that zone, or if the effect has moved it from a public zone to a hidden zone, the effect uses the object’s last known information. See rule 112.7a. If an ability states that an object does something, it’s the object as it exists—or as it most recently existed—that does it, not the ability.

So even then, TSG would still be able to create a copy of the card (as it appeared in graveyard).

  • Let me know if anything needs clarifying – ikegami Jul 15 '18 at 6:42
  • so in summation, TSG ability has to be a public zone (unless otherwise specified by the exiled card) in order for me to gain a token copy? – Anti Her0 Jul 15 '18 at 6:43
  • No, revisit the last section. If it's not in a public zone, Last Known Information is used. So you get your copy no matter what (as per the summary at the top of my answer). – ikegami Jul 15 '18 at 6:44
  • Hmm, I see, I jumped the gun yet again.. Thanks, I was confused as the command zone reveals what the commander is, unless its a scheme or planar deck. So clarifying what the command zone is (as it was implied it was public) confused me a bit. – Anti Her0 Jul 15 '18 at 6:47
  • Because what I gathered (before reading the last bit) implied it had to be a "public zone" for me to gain a token. (for context) – Anti Her0 Jul 15 '18 at 6:52
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According to the comprehensive rules, as part of an effect resolving:

608.2c. The controller of the spell or ability follows its instructions in the order written. However, replacement effects may modify these actions.

So you do what the ability says, one step at a time. First exile the card, modified by the commander rule to be "exile or put in the command zone, as chosen by its owner". Then create the token. That's it.

As to what happens if one step (the exiling) doesn't happen as prescribed, I couldn't find a rule with direct application, but there is

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

While it doesn't directly apply in this case (it's not "impossible" to exile the card), it does reflect quite well the MTG rules philosophy when it comes to effects with multiple components: they are as independent as they can be.

Since the token creation doesn't say anything about "if that card was expired this way", it will continue regardless of what actually happens to the targeted card as the ability resolves. Even if some effect like "cards can't leave graveyards" were in effect, you would get your token.

  • If anyone finds a rules quote that applies more directly, that would be cool. – Arthur Jul 14 '18 at 5:56
  • The simplest rule that applies here is 608.2c: "The controller of the spell or ability follows its instructions in the order written. However, replacement effects may modify these actions..." There's nothing unusual about the situation described. You simply follow the instructions in order, and one of those instructions is modified by a replacement effect. – murgatroid99 Jul 14 '18 at 6:05
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    What do you mean "that rule doesn't apply"? That's the rule that describes how to resolve literally any spell or ability. The fact that the sentence I specifically didn't quote isn't relevant to this particular situation doesn't mean that the rule as a whole doesn't apply. – murgatroid99 Jul 14 '18 at 6:12
  • @murgatroid99 You're right. I tunnel visioned on the caveat. – Arthur Jul 14 '18 at 6:17
  • I don't understand why you omitted the second sentence of that rule and then said that you couldn't find a rule that applied to the instruction getting modified. – murgatroid99 Jul 14 '18 at 6:22

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