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For example, suppose I cast Wicked Wolf when my opponent has no creatures on the board. Wicked Wolf says:

When Wicked Wolf enters the battlefield, it fights up to one target creature you don't control.

Does Wicked Wolf's ability trigger even though opponent has no creatures? This usually won't matter, but if I'm e.g. intending to cast Ghalta, Primal Hunger afterwards opponent might want to remove Wicked Wolf before I get priority.

My intuition is that the answer is "yes", but there are things that cannot be put on the stack if there are no legal targets (e.g. Path to Exile) so I would like to confirm.

4

Yes, this ability will trigger and go on the stack even if there are no legal targets, because it targets "up to one" creature.

First, an ability triggering and being put on the stack are two separate events [CR 603.2, 603.3]. The full trigger condition for this ability is "When Wicked Wolf enters the battlefield" [CR 603.1]. This triggers unconditionally as soon as the creature enters the battlefield.

Then, the next time a player (you) would gain priority, you put the ability on the stack in a process that is mostly identical to casting a spell [CR 603.3a-d, 601.2c-d]. That includes choosing targets. In this case, the ability says "up to one target", so you can legally choose zero targets whether or not there are any legal targets available. If your opponent controls no creatures, you must choose zero targets. Since that is a legal choice, the ability will stay on the stack and there will be the normal round of priority before it resolves.


If the card was instead Ravenous Chupacabra, which has a similar ability but no "up to one" rider, the ability would still trigger but it would be removed from the stack before any player gains priority, because it would require a valid target and none would be available.

  • +1 but suggest emphasizing the final paragraph, since that's the core of the question (as opposed to the loophole on Wicked Wolf's wording). I'm considering editing the question to choose another ability without the "up to one" clause, such as Ravenous Chupacabra's. – Allure Oct 29 at 5:31
  • Is that better? – murgatroid99 Oct 29 at 5:50
  • I suggest two changes: (1) Re the last paragraph: I think the ability does not trigger as far as the game sees or cares. It briefly is put on the stack, and we use the spell casting rules for that. But then since it's illegal the game rewinds to before we did that & nothing will see the trigger having happened. I don't know how to phrase that right now. (2) Add to the first line “If targets were not optional, the ability wouldn't trigger at all.” – doppelgreener Oct 29 at 17:35
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    No, the ability triggers as soon as the condition is met. That's what 603.2 says. Then you put it on the stack the next time a player would gain priority, but it is removed from the stack if the casting becomes illegal, such as from having no legal targets (603.3d). – murgatroid99 Oct 29 at 17:40
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    It does trigger and then is put on the stack and then immediately removed from the stack. That's the sequence of events described by 603.2, 603.3, and 603.3d when a triggered ability triggers but has no legal targets. – murgatroid99 Oct 30 at 16:35

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