What happens if my opponent activates Tree of Redemption and I cast Twisted Image with the life-exchange ability on the stack?

Looking at the comp rules, these seem most relevant:

701.8a A spell or ability may instruct players to exchange something (for example, life totals or control of two permanents) as part of its resolution. When such a spell or ability resolves, if the
entire exchange can’t be completed, no part of the exchange occurs.

Example: If a spell attempts to exchange control of two target creatures but one of those creatures is destroyed before the spell resolves, the spell does nothing to the other creature.

112.7a Once activated or triggered, an ability exists on the stack independently of its source. Destruction or removal of the source after that time won’t affect the ability. Note that some abilities cause a source to do something (for example, “Prodigal Sorcerer deals 1 damage to target creature or player”) rather than the ability doing anything directly. In these cases, any activated or triggered ability that references information about the source because the effect needs to be divided checks that information when the ability is put onto the stack. Otherwise, it will check that information when it resolves. In both instances, if the source is no longer in the zone it’s expected to be in at that time, its last known information is used. The source can still perform the action even though it no longer exists.

Is the entire exchange ability countered because the Tree is dead by the time it resolves? Or do we use the "last known state" (toughness 0), thereby killing its controller?

  • 1
    There is some possibility for a sneaky trick here if you give the Tree +1/+1 first :-P
    – David Z
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 0:17
  • Rather interesting question. To be dastardly with it you'd have to give the Tree +1/+1 first as Alex said, then it'd be 14/1 when the ability resolves.
    – DForck42
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 7:50
  • 1
    To continue the digression: it's entirely possible that the Tree would already have been beefed up (e.g. Giant Growth) to make the toughness/life exchange better, so you might be able to hit pretty hard without extra effort.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 23:19

3 Answers 3


From the Oracle:

9/22/2011 If Tree of Redemption isn't on the battlefield when the ability resolves, the exchange can't happen and the ability will have no effect.

Which is consistent with the golden rule that if one rule says a thing can happen and another says it can't, can't wins.


State Based Effects (SBEs) are continuously checked at every sequence of stack/step/phase and when Tree of Redemption's (ToR) toughness == 0, he's no longer around for his ability to resolve legally.

  1. Player plays ToR's ability. Ability goes on stack. (At this time it's a legal ability as there's 13 toughness to the tree.)

  2. But Opponent, in response, plays Twisted Image (TI) targeting ToR. This goes to the top of the stack.

  3. No more fast effects are played and the stack is resolved, where spells/abilities at the top gets to resolve, followed by the next one and so on.

  4. TI's spell resolves, and causes ToR's Power/Toughness to be switched. At this point, SBEs are checked and causes ToR to go to the graveyard (Since it's toughness is 0).

  5. ToR's ability resolves, and at this point, since ToR is already in the graveyard, it's ability is unable to find it's target (which is ToR's toughness). Therefore this ability fizzles and nothing happens. SBEs are checked again and nothing has changed so nothing happens.

  6. Players move on, and the player in control takes the next action/phase in the game.

Sorry for the long-winded explanation, but I hope this clarifies fully on this event.

  • Great explanation!
    – DForck42
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 7:49
  • Hey, don't be sorry, detailed explanations are what's necessary to clarify why the cards interact that way. :)
    – ghoppe
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 15:09
  • 4
    Huh? I'm not seeing the word "target" anywhere in Tree of Redemption's rules text. You may want to clarify why the exchange doesn't happen, because that's not why.
    – adamjford
    Commented Nov 29, 2011 at 0:26
  • 3
    State Based Effect is a deprecated term. It's been State-based Actions for a while now :)
    – Affe
    Commented Nov 29, 2011 at 4:59

State-based actions happen automatically whenever a player would receive priority. One state-based action is the one that causes creatures with toughness 0 or less to be placed into their owner's graveyard. Also, exchanges can only happen if the entire exchanged can be completed (as per rule 701.8a quoted in the question.) How the entire play scenario goes down is like this, assuming it is a two-player game and it is Player 1's turn and she has priority:

  1. Player 1 activates Tree of Redemption's ability. It is put onto the stack. She then implicitly passes priority by not holding it.

  2. State-based actions are checked, then Player 2 (the opponent) receives priority. He casts Twisted Image targeting the Tree. This goes onto the stack on top of the Tree's ability. He then implicitly passes priority by not holding it.

  3. State-based actions are checked, then Player 1 receives priority. Player 1 passes priority by playing no more spells or abilities, which causes the top of the stack (Twisted Image) to resolve.

  4. Twisted Image switches the Tree's power and toughness.

  5. State-based actions are checked. This causes the Tree to be immediately placed into its owner's graveyard as it has 0 or less toughness.

  6. Player 1 receives priority, then passes it.

  7. State-based actions are checked. Player 2 receives priority, then passes it, which causes the top of the stack (Tree of Redemption's ability) to resolve.

  8. At this point, since the game is no longer aware of the Tree of Redemption object that created the ability and thus there is no toughness to exchange with the player's life total, the exchange specified by Tree of Redemption's ability does not happen, as per rule 701.8a quoted in the question.

  • 2
    "Also, exchanges can only happen if the entire exchanged can be completed" - this is the key point.
    – Alex P
    Commented Nov 29, 2011 at 0:55

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