I've searched this and everywhere it says the Crypt Rats + Scythe of the Wretched combo works. But the Gatherer ruling for Scythe of the Wretched says something I found incompatible:

Scythe of the Wretched needs to equip your creature when the other creature goes to the graveyard for the ability to trigger, but it doesn’t matter whether the Scythe equipped your creature when the damage was actually dealt.

So if I equip the Crypt Rats with the Scythe, and use their ability to deal damage to all creatures, enough to kill the Crypt Rats themselves, what really happens when the Crypt Rats die? The ruling seems to mean that for this combo to work, the rats should be considered as both equipped and going to the graveyard. Is that possible?

How would this work if there are several creatures on the battlefield and the Crypt Rats have deathtouch (for example if I have a Ogre Slumlord in play)?

  • Are you asking whether or not the crypt rats counts as equipped by the scythe when the rats die? – Hackworth Nov 5 at 11:04
  • Right. Because at first I thought I would need to save the rats (make them indestructible, or able to regenerate), but it seems it's not necessary. – liberforce Nov 5 at 11:40
up vote 17 down vote accepted

Say you have Crypt Rats in play, equipped with the scythe. You activate their ability (either for 1 mana and the rats have deathtouch, or just by spending lots of mana). Either way, lots of creatures receive lethal damage. Here is what would happen:

  • The rats' ability resolves, dealing lethal damage to several creatures
  • After the ability has finished resolving, but before anyone gets priority, state-based actions are checked, and many creatures are destroyed
  • As these creatures are destroyed, the scythe triggers once for each creature destroyed this way, because
    1. They were dealt damage by the rats this turn, and
    2. The rats had the scythe equipped immediately before the destruction occurred*
  • Again, before anyone receives priority, all the scythe's triggers are put on the stack.

You now have a stack full of scythe triggers, each one returning a creature from their owner's graveyard to the battlefield under your control, with the scythe attached. You controlled the scythe, so you decide which order they are put on stack, which means that you decide which order these creatures enter the battlefield.

The order of resurrection may matter because the creatures enter the battlefield one by one, and may care about how many creatures are on the battlefield when they enter or how many creatures enter after them. The order really matters because the last one will be the one which ultimately ends up with the scythe equipped and therefore get +2/+2 and the resurrection ability, meaning you probably want that to be the rats.

*The scythe will trigger as though it's attached to the rats and the rats are alive when all the creatures are destroyed because of the following rule:

603.10. Normally, objects that exist immediately after an event are checked to see if the event matched any trigger conditions, and continuous effects that exist at that time are used to determine what the trigger conditions are and what the objects involved in the event look like. However, some triggered abilities are exceptions to this rule; the game “looks back in time” to determine if those abilities trigger, using the existence of those abilities and the appearance of objects immediately prior to the event. The list of exceptions is as follows:

603.10a Some zone-change triggers look back in time. These are leaves-the-battlefield abilities, abilities that trigger when a card leaves a graveyard, and abilities that trigger when an object that all players can see is put into a hand or library.

Example: Two creatures are on the battlefield along with an artifact that has the ability “Whenever a creature dies, you gain 1 life.” Someone casts a spell that destroys all artifacts, creatures, and enchantments. The artifact’s ability triggers twice, even though the artifact goes to its owner’s graveyard at the same time as the creatures.

"Whenever a creature dealt damage by equipped creature this turn dies" is such a leaves-the-battlefield trigger, and it therefore looks at the board state immediately before the destruction happened to determine whether it ought to trigger. Immediately before all the creatures are destroyed, the scythe was equipped to the rats, and lots of creatures dealt damage by the rats this turn are about to be destroyed, so the scythe triggers.

The gatherer ruling you quote is a clarification of a different sequence of events. For instance, say you first activate the rats' ability for 1 (somehow making sure the rats themselves survive), then equip the scythe to the rats, and then play, say, Wrath of God, then the combo still happens, even though the scythe wasn't attached to the rats when the damage was dealt.

If, on the other hand, you equip the scythe on the rats, deal one damage, unequip the rats (possibly by equipping it on another creature), then play Wrath of God, then the scythe doesn't trigger at all. It doesn't matter if the rats die because you unequip the scythe (and the +2/+2 it brings with it), or if the rats survive the unequipping and die from the Wrath. Immediately before the rats die, the scythe is not equipped to them, and therefore does not trigger.

  • 603.10a was what I was looking for, thank you. – liberforce Nov 5 at 14:12
  • 1
    @liberforce Note that what constitutes a leaves-the-battlefield trigger is also defined in the rules (603.6c). For instance, a trigger which says "Whenever [card] enters [zone] from anywhere, ...", like Darksteel Colossus, can never be a leaves-the-battlefiald trigger, and as such usually doesn't look back in time. – Arthur Nov 5 at 14:20
  • I pointed out the gatherer ruling more because it make a distinction between the equipped and the "other" creature, that seemed to imply that it couldn't be the same creature. – liberforce Nov 5 at 14:34
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    @liberforce The scythe is very much capable of returning the creature it is "currently equipping". In fact, that's the reason it gives +2/+2 and not +2/+1. – Arthur Nov 5 at 14:38
  • @liberforce Indeed it looks like "other" is a misleading word in that ruling. It is dealing with the usual/common case. – GendoIkari Nov 5 at 14:42

Yes, the combo works. When an equipped creature dies, it counts as equipped until immediately after it died.

State-based actions define what happens when a creature has received lethal damage:

704.5g If a creature has toughness greater than 0, and the total damage marked on it is greater than or equal to its toughness, that creature has been dealt lethal damage and is destroyed. Regeneration can replace this event.

Deathtouch only means that 1 or more damage from a source with deathtouch is considered lethal, rather than as much damage as the creature's toughness:

704.5h If a creature has toughness greater than 0, and it’s been dealt damage by a source with deathtouch since the last time state-based actions were checked, that creature is destroyed. Regeneration can replace this event.

That's what happens when the crypt rats deal lethal damage to themselves and possibly other creatures. If any state-based actions are performed, the checks are repeated until none are performed:

704.3. Whenever a player would get priority (see rule 116, “Timing and Priority”), the game checks for any of the listed conditions for state-based actions, then performs all applicable state-based actions simultaneously as a single event. If any state-based actions are performed as a result of a check, the check is repeated; otherwise all triggered abilities that are waiting to be put on the stack are put on the stack, then the check is repeated. Once no more state-based actions have been performed as the result of a check and no triggered abilities are waiting to be put on the stack, the appropriate player gets priority. This process also occurs during the cleanup step (see rule 514), except that if no state-based actions are performed as the result of the step’s first check and no triggered abilities are waiting to be put on the stack, then no player gets priority and the step ends.

This check after the rats have died leads to the next state-based action being performed:

704.5n If an Equipment or Fortification is attached to an illegal permanent, it becomes unattached from that permanent. It remains on the battlefield.

The rats, no longer being a permanent, is now an illegal target for the scythe to equip. Only now does the Scythe become unattached, so when the rat died, it had the scythe equipped. That is necessary for the Scythe's ability to trigger for all creatures that died from the rats' ability.

Now you have a number of triggers waiting to go on the stack, one for each creature that died. You put them on the stack in any order:

405.3. If an effect puts two or more objects on the stack at the same time, those controlled by the active player are put on lowest, followed by each other player’s objects in APNAP order (see rule 101.4). If a player controls more than one of these objects, that player chooses their relative order on the stack.

If you want a certain returning creature to be equipped with the scythe, you put that trigger on the stack first, so that it resolves last. Each creature returns to the battlefield, briefly gets the scythe equipped and uneqipped, until it remains on the last creature to return.

  • 704.3 is valuable too, thanks for your answer! – liberforce Nov 5 at 14:15

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