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In the new Guilds of Ravnica set Underrealm Lich is a creature that changes how you draw cards.

If you would draw a card, instead look at the top three cards of your library, then put one into your hand and the rest into your graveyard.

I am wondering how this card interacts with how Sylvan Library modifies your draw step.

At the beginning of your draw step, you may draw two additional cards. If you do, choose two cards in your hand drawn this turn. For each of those cards, pay 4 life or put the card on top of your library.

For example, during my draw step:

  • I look at the top three cards of my library, put one in my hand and the rest in my graveyard.
  • I look at the top three cards of my library, put one in my hand and the rest in my graveyard.
  • I look at the top three cards of my library, put one in my hand and the rest in my graveyard.
  • I then do not put any of those cards on top of my library.

In this situation where I have not returned any cards to my library, How much Life will I have to pay? Also do I even have the option to return cards to the top of my library?

15

This answer assumes you have invoked the "may" clause of the Sylvan library. If you haven't, then there's no question.

Since you have replaced your draws, with "look at top three cards ..." you are in fact not drawing cards.

After you replace all your draws, you move to the next step of Sylvan library. "Choose two cards in your hand drawn this turn." You don't have any cards in hand drawn this turn, so you can't choose any. [i.e. you can't put any back on top of your library.] So, the life loss portion doesn't apply.

Final state: 3 cards added to hand, 6 cards put in graveyard, and no life lost.

All the above, is essentially a walk through of

120.6c Some effects perform additional actions on a card after it’s drawn. If the draw is replaced, the additional action is not performed on any cards that are drawn as a result of that replacement effect or any subsequent replacement effects.

Keep in mind the "do as much as you can rule." of which, 120.6c is essentially an instantiation of in this case.

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

  • ...or, at your choice each turn, 1 card to hand, 2 in graveyard, no life lost. Sylvan Library has a "may". – Federico Poloni Oct 3 '18 at 19:52
  • @John based on the above comment your answer may be a bit unclear still. Can you specifically address whether or not you can put cards back on your library? Also if possible could you include some relevant Rulings from gatherer or comp rules? – Malco Oct 3 '18 at 20:47
  • Lovely combo for a reanimator deck – JollyJoker Oct 4 '18 at 9:06
  • I don't think this answer can be right. Sylvan library triggers at start of draw step, you draw 2 cards then 1 for your turn. That means you have 3 "Draw a card" each of which the Liche then substitutes with look at 3, put 2 in graveyard and 1 in hand. You have no cards in your hand that you drew so the if you do clause on library does nothing. – Tim B Oct 5 '18 at 16:21
  • @Tim B, Isn't that exactly what the answer says? Or are you saying the player shouldn't even attempt to choose cards? If so, you're wrong. Go read CR 117.12, which ends with the following: "The “If [a player] [does, doesn’t, or can’t]” clause checks whether the player chose to pay an optional cost or started to pay a mandatory cost, regardless of what events actually occurred." The cost was payed, even if it ended up being something other than drawing two cards, so the player is instructed to "choose two cards in your hand drawn this turn". – ikegami Oct 6 '18 at 8:18
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Similar to solving a system of linear equations with substitution, I used substitution to insert the text of Underrealm Lich into Sylvan Library.

At the beginning of your draw step, you may {look at the top three cards of your library, then put one into your hand and the rest into your graveyard.} twice. If you do, choose two cards in your hand drawn this turn. For each of those cards, pay 4 life or put the card on top of your library.

With that text, the "put in your hand" is not a draw, thus you cannot choose two cards drawn this turn and consequently not pay life or place on top of your library. Quick google brings up this source:

https://www.mtgsalvation.com/forums/magic-fundamentals/magic-rulings/magic-rulings-archives/288063-draw-a-card-put-a-card-in-you-hand

Wording in magic is very specific. For anything to count as a card draw it must have the word draw either on the card or in the rules backup for a keyword.

I haven't seen rules that contradict this.

  • 3
    Re "I used substitution to insert the text of Underrealm Lich into Sylvan Library", Careful. This often works, but not always. – ikegami Oct 6 '18 at 8:23

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