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If I play Humble Defector, and then put Mind Control on it, can I keep using the Defector without losing control of it?

I found a thread on reddit about this. The accepted answer there says you would still lose control of the Defector, citing rule 613 regarding the order that continuous effects are applied.

This explanation doesn't seem right to me. Humble Defector has an activated ability, but Mind Control has a static ability. Shouldn't the change from Defector's ability be overwritten the next time state based actions are checked?

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  • Homeward Path might accomplish what you're hoping for.
    – Jedediah
    Feb 21 at 19:32

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The Reddit thread is correct. You lose control of Humble Defector.


Control changing effects like those on Humble Defector and Mind Control are governed by the Layer System, specifically Layer 2.

Any effect which would change the controller of the object you’re evaluating. Any ability or spell that generates this type of effect should contain the word ‘Control.’

When Mind Control enchants a creature, this creates a continuous effect changing ownership of the creature. Note that within a layer, continuous effects are applied in timestamp order. This means that if another instance of Mind Control would later enchant that creature, the new Mind Control is the one that ultimately determines control over the creature.

With regards to Humble Defector, while it is an activated ability on the card as opposed to a static ability like on Mind Control, it still creates a continuous effect that continues to apply even after the ability is done resolving. This continuous effect is no different than if a player cast another copy of Mind Control on it.


This is supported by the rules on continuous effects.

611.1. A continuous effect modifies characteristics of objects, modifies control of objects, or affects players or the rules of the game, for a fixed or indefinite period. (Control changing effects are continuous effects.)

611.2. A continuous effect may be generated by the resolution of a spell or ability. (The activated ability on Humble Defector creates a continuous effect)

611.2a A continuous effect generated by the resolution of a spell or ability lasts as long as stated by the spell or ability creating it (such as “until end of turn”). If no duration is stated, it lasts until the end of the game. (Since Humble Defector does not state a timeframe for the control changing effect, the effect lasts until end the end of the game or until the creature leaves the battlefield, whichever comes first.)

611.3. A continuous effect may be generated by the static ability of an object. (This is the continuous effect created by Mind Control.)

Please see Mtg Wiki: Continuous Effects for more details


State-based actions do not govern creature control effects. There are 24 entries for cases governed by state-based-effects, none of which talk about control of creatures.

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  • I still think the rules are not fully clear in regards to the fact that Humble Defector's ability creates a continuous effect, rather than being a one-shot effect. The definition of "continuous effect" in the rules does state that one thing it can do is "modifies control of objects"; but that's not the same as saying that it's impossible for a one-shot effect to also modify control of objects. Rulings indicate that all control-changing effects are continuous rather than one-shot, but I don't think it's stated in the rules anywhere.
    – GendoIkari
    Feb 21 at 19:49
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    I would instead interpret rule 611.1 as saying that those things are by definition continuous effects. There are no effects that are sometimes one-shot, and sometimes continuous.
    – murgatroid99
    Feb 21 at 20:39
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    Helpfully under the Glossary Continuous Effect is defined as An effect that modifies characteristics of objects, modifies control of objects, or affects players or the rules of the game, for a fixed or indefinite period. so it's pretty clear.
    – KMR
    Feb 22 at 0:20
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    I guess the part that isn’t clear is that due to these effects not having a fixed period; the “indefinite period” is implied but the English language doesn’t make it clear that there is a period of time at all. The simple phrase “gain control of something” in English can validly be interpreted as a thing that would have no time span attached; as something you just do once and then it’s done.
    – GendoIkari
    Feb 22 at 1:47
  • @GendoIkari I've added specific rulings that demonstrate that continuous effects created by abilities continue to apply unless the ability that generates the effect explicitly says it doesn't. See the section on 611.2a.
    – DenisS
    Feb 23 at 0:16

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