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The text of Phantasmal Image says:

You may have this creature enter the battlefield as a copy of any creature on the battlefield, except it's an illusion in addition to its other types.

Is it therefore possible to clone a legendary creature with Phantasmal Image? I think there may be three possible outcomes:

A. The copy made by Phantasmal Image is kicked out of the game, as it is a copy of a current legendary creature and would therefore have the same name.

B. The copy made by Phantasmal Image stays, as it has the Illusion creature type in addition to other types and therefore is not an exact copy of the original.

C. The copy made by Phantasmal Image stays, as it continues to be considered a Phantasmal Image rather than the original.

How do the rules of Magic the Gathering rule on this? In addition, if the Phantasmal Image remains, what would happen if a second Phantasmal Image made of the same initial creature was created?

2 Answers 2

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D. If Phantasmal Image is copying a creature you control, you choose whether the original or the Image stays on the battlefield, the other is sent to the graveyard.

The 'legend rule' is a state-based action, as described in rule 704.5:

704.5. The state-based actions are as follows:
...
[other state-based actions]
...
704.5j If a player controls two or more legendary permanents with the same name, that player chooses one of them, and the rest are put into their owners’ graveyards. This is called the “legend rule.”

Copy rules are determined by rule 707:

707.2. When copying an object, the copy acquires the copiable values of the original object’s characteristics ... . The copiable values are the values derived from the text printed on the object (that text being name, mana cost, color indicator, card type, subtype, supertype, rules text, power, toughness, and/or loyalty), as modified by other copy effects, by its face-down status, and by “as . . . enters the battlefield” and “as . . . is turned face up” abilities that set power and toughness (and may also set additional characteristics). Other effects (including type-changing and text-changing effects), status, and counters are not copied.

While Phantasmal Image is not an 'exact' copy of the legendary creature, it does have the same name. Therefore, the legend rule applies. This means that all but one of the legendary creatures under your control with that name will die, but you get to choose which one survives. And if the legendary creature you copied was under an opponent's control, nothing happens.

As a historical note, the way the legend rule works has changed several times. It used to apply to all legendary permanents, not just ones you control, and at one point only the oldest version survived, and then later all copies would be sent to the graveyard. This made cards like Clone or Phantasmal Image very popular in Commander (then EDH), as you could use them to get rid of your opponent's commander, even if it was indestructible or had shroud or hexproof.

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  • The historical note is incorrect. Originally the first/oldest copy survived. This was a problem because it often turned games into a race for the first to play the legendary (at the time I believe it was Lin Sivvi dominating the meta) would win, so in 2004 that rule was changed to nullification - all copies would be put into the graveyard, and finally changed again in 2013 to the current one, where each battlefield is separate and the player chooses which one is going to survive.
    – Andrew
    Feb 28 at 16:42
  • @Andrew- whoops, thanks for the correction. I remembered that clones could be used as little murderbots, but had forgotten the details. And I didn't know about the original version - that rule change predated my entrance to the game. Feb 28 at 22:41
  • @Andrew Just in case it causes confusion for future readers, there are no separate battlefields. Only hands, graveyards, and libraries are player-specific.
    – Hackworth
    Feb 28 at 23:42
  • @Hackworth True, it's not technically correct but a way people often use to refer to the permanents controlled by a given player - I should have been more specific.
    – Andrew
    Mar 1 at 14:10
  • @ArcanistLupus famous game in the pro tour caused that first change where Jensen got beaten down by the Angry Lady while he had a few copies of her in his own hand, just couldn't play them (Lin was just banned when she became the most visible example of the problem a few years earlier)
    – Andrew
    Mar 1 at 14:16
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You could always choose a legendary creature for a clone effect. That is certainly not illegal play. If you copy a legend your opponent controls then the game goes on with both players having the same legend in play. If you copy on of your own legends then the legend rule kicks in and one of the gets sent to the graveyard.

If you clone a phantasmal image with another one the new one will come into play as a 0/0 and die next time state based actions are checked. Clone effects generally only copy what is written on the card.

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