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This is regarding playing MTG:A, with the option "Auto Order Triggered Abilities" turned off.

I have a green deck that utilises counters and multipliers.

Three of the cards in question are:

Branching Evolution - (If one of more +1/+1 counters would be put on a creature you control, twice that many +1/+1 counters are put on it instead)

Hardened Scales - (If one of more +1/+1 counters would be put on a creature you control, that many plus one +1/+1 counters are put on it instead)

Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider - (If you would put one or more counters on a permanent or player, put twice that many of each of those kinds of counters on that permanent or player instead)

Now, I have the option turned on that allows me to select the order that abilities resolve in.

If I do something that involves adding a +1/+1, I get the choice of which order Vorinclex and Branching Evolution resolve in, but, not Hardened scales - which I just can't understand.

For example, if I did something to add a +1/+1 - I would like it to go, Hardened Scales (to go to 2), Branching Evolution (to go to 4), Vorinclex (to go to 8), however, it usually goes Branching Evolution (to go to 2), Vorcinclex (to go to 4), Hardened Scales (to go to 5).

I've been playing MTG on and off for many years and this is something I can't find in the rules and I'm quite confused about.

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3 Answers 3

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The effects from Hardened Scales, Branching Evolution and Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider are not triggered abilities; triggered abilities are defined by Comprehensive Rule 603:

603.1. Triggered abilities have a trigger condition and an effect. They are written as “[When/Whenever/At] [trigger condition or event], [effect]. [Instructions (if any).]”

None of the three effects above meet that pattern so they are not triggered abilities. So what are they? The answer is they are replacement effects, defined by CR 614:

614.1. Some continuous effects are replacement effects. [...] replacement effects apply continuously as events happen—they aren’t locked in ahead of time. Such effects watch for a particular event that would happen and completely or partially replace that event with a different event. They act like “shields” around whatever they’re affecting.

614.1a Effects that use the word “instead” are replacement effects. Most replacement effects use the word “instead” to indicate what events will be replaced with other events.

This explains why Arena's "Auto Order Triggered Abilities" option has no effect on these. You instead want Arena's "Auto Choose Replacement Effects" option from the same place in the settings; selecting this will allow you to choose the order in which the effects are applied.

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  • Are you saying that if I turn on the auto triggered ability setting, I would still have got the option to select between Branching Evolution and Monstrous Raider? - In any case, thank you and marking as answer! :) Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 20:26
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    No, "Auto Order Triggered Abilities" has no effect on any of this as none of the cards you mention have a triggered ability. Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 20:31
  • That's the thing that confused me so much... I do get that popup asking me to select... but as both of them double the counters, it obviously made no difference.... I never had the popup before changing the setting. In any case, both are now off and it is doing what I want. Thank you so much for explaining. Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 21:50
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There's no game rules basis for this; this is a game client error.

If you control all three of these permanents and put a +1/+1 counter on something you control, they are all replacement effects applying to that event and you can choose the order of all three.

This is normal behaviour in the paper game: the usual advice is to apply effects like Hardened Scales before doublers.

You should report this to the Arena team.

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    Or potentially the OP is misunderstanding the Arena interface - in particular, "Auto Choose Replacement Effects" is a different option from "Auto Order Triggered Abilities". Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 13:06
  • @PhilipKendall Even so, I would expect auto-choosing of replacement effects to know how to maximize counters, since more is almost always better.
    – Cadence
    Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 18:47
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    @Cadence Arena is massively under-resourced from a development point of view, and I don't think think this interaction has ever really been important from a competitive point of view (especially as its Historic only, and Historic has been even more ignored from a development point of view). Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 19:27
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    @Cadence That would not only be a much larger development effort than, say, just ordering by timestamp, but also a performance hit on the server that would have to simulate all possible orderings and their consequences on the game state, posing the risk of a combinatorial explosion. And yes, there are always those pesky exceptions where getting more counters is worse.
    – Hackworth
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 15:11
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The applicable game rule in this case is 616, Interaction of Replacement and/or Prevention Effects. (Effects which modify the number of counters another effect puts on a permanent are replacement effects; they replace the original event of putting X counters with a new event of putting Y counters. You can tell they're replacement effects because they use the word "instead".)

616.1. If two or more replacement and/or prevention effects are attempting to modify the way an event affects an object or player, the affected object’s controller (or its owner if it has no controller) or the affected player chooses one to apply, following the steps listed below.

Rules 616.1a through d list replacement effects which must come first: self-replacement (when a card modifies its own text, such as the Cleave keyword), effects that change whose control a card enters under, cards that become copies as they enter, and cards that enter transformed. Since none of these apply, 616.1e allows them to be chosen in any order.

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  • Thanks, however, all three cards say instead... Why is Hardened Scales the only one that is excluded from allowing me to select the order? Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 19:03
  • All the cards allow you to choose the order, which is why you can get the desired effect if you turn off "Auto Order Replacement Effects". Why it doesn't work by default is because Arena has some heuristics for ordering these things and they happen not to work in this case. If you're playing on MTGO, you always have to manually choose the order of replacement effects, so just be grateful Arena (mostly) gets this right. Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 19:22

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