I was at an official tournament held by Star City Games. It was a draft.

My opponent had a Geist of Saint Traft. Having become a little frustrated with it, I had a momentary lapse in memory and I forgot that it had Hexproof. My opponent immediately called for a judge and told the judge to make me choose a new target. And so the judge told me that I had to choose a new target. This forced me to choose one of my own since he had no other creatures out.

I thought that I wouldn't be able to cast the spell at all since I never had valid targets chosen.

Can someone please explain what is supposed to happen at this point? I still feel that ruling was wrong but want to get an unbiased second opinion.

Thanks for your help!

  • 1
    I'm assuming that this tournament was run at Competitive (or possibly Professional) rules enforcement level, because you called it "an official tournament". Is that correct?
    – murgatroid99
    Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 23:29
  • Sorry, probably poor word choice there. When I said it was official I meant that it was DCI sanctioned, ran like a tournament, and had judges roaming around at the ready. It included an entrance fee and prizes. If I am missing criteria for what makes a tournament official please let me know. Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 3:01
  • 4
    Your description is fine. It's just that there's another dimension to describing tournaments, the "rules enforcement level", which describes how strictly the tournament is run, and has an effect on how judges are supposed to handle rules issues. I was guessing from your description that the tournament was run at the competitive rules enforcement level, and I answered based on that assumption. If you don't know which level it was, that's fine.
    – murgatroid99
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 5:43

3 Answers 3


The guide for judges handling rules infractions is called the Infraction Procedure Guide. The situation in question looks like a "Game Play Error — Game Rule Violation". The remedy section for that item says that a judge should first consider a simple backup. The backup rules say

To perform a backup, each individual action since the point of the error is reversed, starting with the most recent ones and working backwards. Every action must be reversed; no parts of the sequence should be omitted or reordered.

The GRV remedy section then further says that partial remedies can then be applied to only a specific set of situations, none of which match the situation in question. It is not inconceivable that a judge could interpret these instructions as allowing them to do a backup to after you announced the spell and before you chose targets, but that would be a stretch, and essentially inconsistent with rule 721.1:

If a player takes an illegal action or starts to take an action but can’t legally complete it, the entire action is reversed and any payments already made are canceled. [...] If the action was casting a spell, the spell returns to the zone it came from. [...]

The fact that the judge took their cue from the opponent when determining the remedy makes this additionally questionable. From that description it seems likely that they simply assumed that the opponent was correct, or knew what they were talking about.

In general, if you disagree with a judge's ruling or remedy, you can appeal in accordance with section 2.9 of the Magic Tournament Rules:

If a player disagrees with a judge’s ruling, they may appeal the ruling to the Head Judge. In larger, Premier-level tournaments (such as Grand Prix and Magic Tabletop Mythic Championships), with prior approval, the Head Judge may designate additional Appeals Judges who are also empowered to hear appeals. They will be wearing the same uniform as the Head Judge.


Assuming that the spell in question targeted as part of it's casting, this seems to be a rather unusual, and probably incorrect implementation of Rule 601.2 and 601.2c, and completely ignores 721.1.

Normally targeting an illegal creature would just roll back to before the casting started, but the combination of the 'unable' in 601.2's "If a player is unable to comply with any of the steps listed below, the casting of the spell is illegal;" and 601.2c's "The player announces their choice of an appropriate object or player for each target the spell requires" could be taken to mean that once a casting was started a play would have to complete it if there were valid targets.
However, this reading of the rules would need to completely ignore 721.1's "starts to take an action but can’t legally complete it, the entire action is reversed and any payments already made are canceled"

However, if the spell you cast did not target as part of resolution, and rather targets as part of a triggered ability (e.g. Oblivion Ring), the judges ruling would more than likely be valid.

Rules in question:

601.2. To cast a spell is to take it from where it is (usually the hand), put it on the stack, and pay its costs, so that it will eventually resolve and have its effect. Casting a spell includes proposal of the spell (rules 601.2a–d) and determination and payment of costs (rules 601.2f–h). To cast a spell, a player follows the steps listed below, in order. A player must be legally allowed to cast the spell to begin this process (see rule 601.3). If, at any point during the casting of a spell, a player is unable to comply with any of the steps listed below, the casting of the spell is illegal; the game returns to the moment before the casting of that spell was proposed (see rule 721, “Handling Illegal Actions”).

721.1. If a player takes an illegal action or starts to take an action but can’t legally complete it, the entire action is reversed and any payments already made are canceled. No abilities trigger and no effects apply as a result of an undone action. If the action was casting a spell, the spell returns to the zone it came from. Each player may also reverse any legal mana abilities that player activated while making the illegal play, unless mana from those abilities or from any triggered mana abilities they caused to trigger was spent on another mana ability that wasn’t reversed. Players may not reverse actions that moved cards to a library, moved cards from a library to any zone other than the stack, caused a library to be shuffled, or caused cards from a library to be revealed.

  • I don't follow your reasoning. It seems to me that the action was "Cast (some spell, which unhelpfully isn't named in the question)", and the judge forced OP to legally complete it. Are you saying that the action was "Cast (some spell, which unhelpfully isn't named in the question) targetting the Geist"? Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 15:52
  • 2
    @PeterTaylor Part of casting a spell that has one or more targets is choosing those targets. There is no action "cast Doom Blade", only "cast Doom Blade targeting [nonblack creature]". Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 19:26
  • @eyeballfrog That depends on the spell. There are a number of enchantment based removal spells that target upon resolution.
    – Matt
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 22:54
  • 1
    @Matt As murgatroid99 mentioned on my own answer, that isn't quite true. The enchantment itself doesn't target, the triggered ability that is put on the stack when it enters the battlefield does. This is why an Oblivion Ring can exile an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, for example.
    – setbitzero
    Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 15:09
  • 1
    @setbitzero Yes. I was a bit sloppy with my wording, but did not mean that it was the spell itself that does the targeting. Since we dont know the spell in question, PeterTaylor's first example is a plausible situation which eyeballfrog seems to suggest is not possible. I interpreted this to mean that eyeball frog thinks there are no cards like oblivion ring. It is easily possible for OP to play such a card and only attempt an illegal action after it has resolved, which a judge might remedy as stated in the question. This is what I meant with my comment.
    – Matt
    Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 15:24

Since you don't mention what spell you targeted the hexproof creature with, there is one scenario in which this sounds completely normal. If you cast a spell that doesn't explicitly target, but triggers an ability that targets upon entering the battlefield (such as an Oblivion Ring), then you are indeed forced to choose a legal target once it resolves, as the casting of Oblivion Ring was legal.

If you cast a spell that does explicitly target upon casting, then either of the answers by @murgatroid99 or @KMR would describe the situation correctly.

  • 3
    I want to clarify here that in the case of something like Oblivion Ring, the spell itself does not target. Rather, the triggered ability that triggers from the permanent entering the battlefield is what has a target.
    – murgatroid99
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 22:15
  • In particular, Fiend Hunter was in the same draft set as Geist and would have this interaction. Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 2:31
  • @murgatroid99 You're right, and my sentence left it a little ambiguous. I've updated for clarity.
    – setbitzero
    Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 15:01
  • @eyeballfrog Unfortunately (or fortunately?), no. You would not be forced to choose another target if you didn't wish to, as unlike Oblivion Ring, Fiend Hunter includes a "may" clause.
    – setbitzero
    Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 15:03
  • 1
    You still have to choose a target with Fiend Hunter, you just don't have to actually exile it.
    – murgatroid99
    Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 15:41

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