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In a Commander game I cast Lich + Sudden Substitution and swapped Lich for one of my opponents' creatures, giving him 0 life. My opponent plays Laboratory Maniac and proceeds to make us both draw our entire libraries.

So the question is, who wins?

I obviously lose from drawing out, and he wins from Lab maniac trigger, but even though the Lab Maniac trigger is a replacement effect, he'd have 0 life and lose the game when my Lich leaves the battlefield when I lose as well.

Since I'm assuming this all resolves at the same time, what would the final result be? Draw? Is it the person who loses the least that wins? Does he win because one trigger states he wins or does the 0 hp take priority?

Thanks.

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    Wouldn't you have already lost the game when you used Sudden Substitution to give away your Lich?
    – nick012000
    Dec 3, 2021 at 10:07
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    @nick012000 Sudden Substitution exchanges control of a spell, not a permanent on the battlefield. Lich does not set your life to 0 until it resolves.
    – Allure
    Dec 3, 2021 at 15:52
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    @Allure Sudden substitution exchanges control of a noncreature spell and a creature (permenant).
    – Caleth
    Dec 6, 2021 at 14:42

3 Answers 3

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All of this happens as part of the same resolution, yes, but it doesn't all happen at the same time. Or, well, it kind of depends on how you define "time"; my point is that there is a definite sequence to the events that occur, and it's that order that determines who wins and loses.

The first thing that happens during resolution of a spell or ability is that players follow the instructions that the spell or ability lists as its effect. In other words, you do what the card says (or what the hypothetical card would say, if there isn't a real card). The details depend on exactly which spell or ability it is, but we're assuming that at some point during this process your opponent draws a card from an empty library. Because of Laboratory Maniac's replacement effect, that event is literally replaced with your opponent winning the game. The winning doesn't queue up and come later; it happens right at that very moment. Everything stops. The game is now over. It doesn't matter if anyone has zero life or if any other player drew from an empty library or who controls what permanents.

However, if your opponent didn't immediately win the game at that point, then the players would finish following the spell or ability's instructions; then the spell card (if there is one) would be put into the graveyard; then it's time to check what the game calls "state-based actions", which are things like:

  • A player who has drawn a card from an empty library since the last time state-based actions were checked loses the game
  • A player who is at zero life or less loses the game

So at this point, you would lose the game because of the card-drawing state-based action. If your opponent is the only player remaining in the game at that point, because it's a two-player game or because everyone else was already eliminated, your opponent wins due to being the only player left (and again, that happens immediately).

On the other hand, if there are additional players still in the game, it continues on to process all the effects of you losing and leaving the game. One of those is that all cards you own also leave the game, so in particular, your opponent no longer has your Lich. Then, because a state-based action was taken (you losing the game), the game checks again for any state-based actions that might now be applicable; it sees that your opponent has 0 life, and thus your opponent loses the game, not having a Lich in play to prevent it. Then the game checks again, and let's say no more state-based actions are taken, so it's done checking and play proceeds.

Note that at no point in all this does anyone have the chance to play spells or activate abilities or take any other voluntary game actions. Playing spells and abilities and so on can happen before all the stuff I described, or after all the stuff I described, but not in the middle of it. (Well, players can still concede at any time. And some cards let you play things at weird times. Don't worry about it. :)

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  • FYI: There was a suggested edit submitted for this post that I rejected on account of it doesn't actually seem like it's necessarily a useful add. However, you may want to check its content and see if there's anything you want to add from it. Dec 3, 2021 at 18:06
  • @doppelgreener I suggested that edit because without it the answer as currently written is factually incorrect about a point that is relevant to the question.
    – Douglas
    Dec 3, 2021 at 18:52
  • The answer does assume that there are more than two players in the game, but it is factually correct within that domain. It would be reasonable to expand on that section to address the case where the game only has two players, but that whole section is already a bit of a tangent from the part directly answering the question, so I think it would be ok to not be exhaustive there.
    – murgatroid99
    Dec 3, 2021 at 19:27
  • @murgatroid99 I don't see any indication of such an assumption, in either this answer or the question. In fact, the repeated singular references to "[my/your] opponent" strongly imply to me that there is only one opponent, and the question's closing point of asking about "the person who loses the least" makes sense only in the context of a game with no other players.
    – Douglas
    Dec 3, 2021 at 19:49
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    To be more specific, in the phrase "one of my opponents' creatures", "opponents'" is a plural possessive, which means that there are multiple opponents. If there was only one opponent, it would say "one of my opponent's creatures".
    – murgatroid99
    Dec 3, 2021 at 20:14
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Your opponent wins since they tried to draw a card while their library was empty with a Laboratory Maniac in play. Once a player wins, the game ends. Being at 0 life doesn't matter anymore. More technically, losing the game due to having 0 life is a state-based action, and those aren't checked for since the game is over.

104.1. A game ends immediately when a player wins, when the game is a draw, or when the game is restarted.

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Your opponent wins because Laboratory Maniac's effect doesn't occur for the case where a player loses or would lose, but specifically when they draw with an empty library, and replaces the normal effects due to its magic "instead" clause (if, for example, they had a variety of similar effects, they would all attempt replacement and they would choose one)

Note that this is a replacement effect, not a triggered ability, so there is no opportunity to act to prevent them from winning once they would draw enough cards to win

What Happens

  • some effect goes on the stack with a winning (losing) quantity of draws
  • opportunity to cast spells
  • original effect resolves
  • player attempts to draw with (or draws through) an empty deck
  • this draw is replaced by Laboratory Maniac effect (this prevents them from losing the game)
  • player "wins the game" action (no opportunity to cast spells)
  • effects related to a player winning are checked (nothing applies; while, for example, if you had cast Angel's Grace before the draw effect resolved, you would be safe all through the current turn because it explicitly states "[..] and your opponents can't win the game")

Your (owned) Lich leaves with you, but they have already won and would win if you left any other way (such as Door to Nothingness without other players in the game; though they would also lose, but after you, if there were any other players in the game in that case because only you would leave the game, while Laboratory Maniac still defeats them all before its controller can lose!)

Note that in a multiplayer game, you could prevent their winning by exiting the game before the card draw effect begins resolving, taking your Lich with you (you still lose first), and leaving them with 0 life, where they now lose too, despite being about to resolve a winning play

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