I was in a commander game with some friends and I was playing rogues. I popped the saga The Trickster-God's Heist stealing their commander, then I wanted to return that card to my hand with say Alley Evasion, or Fading Hope. Can I keep their commander in hand or can they return it to the command zone?
You can never return an opponent's commander (or any other card) to your hand
All cards that return cards to hands always specify that they return the card to their "owner's hand". A card's owner is not its controller. While a card's controller can change throughout a game, the card's owner cannot. You will always own all the cards that you started the game with, and never gain ownership of any of your opponents cards.
Card you own will never enter your opponent's hand, library, or graveyard. More than being unallowed, there are simply no cards (outside of Un-sets) which do such a thing. And of course, this means that cards your opponents own will never enter your hand, library, or graveyard.
If you were to use Fading Hope on your opponent's commander that you control, it would return to your opponent's hand. They could choose to use the commander redirection rule to have it return to the command zone instead, but it would never enter your hand regardless.
108.3. The owner of a card in the game is the player who started the game with it in their deck. If a card is brought into the game from outside the game rather than starting in a player’s deck, its owner is the player who brought it into the game. If a card starts the game in the command zone, its owner is the player who put it into the command zone to start the game.
400.3. If an object would go to any library, graveyard, or hand other than its owner’s, it goes to its owner’s corresponding zone.
12Technically, there are some old cards that do change a card's owner. All of them are only allowed when playing for ante, a game mode where the mode itself already means that at least one card, selected at random, will change ownership as a result of the game (unless the game ends in a draw). Playing for ante is hardly ever done, for obvious reasons.– DouglasFeb 19 at 5:45
4@Douglas: It should probably also be noted that playing for ante may constitute gambling in some jurisdictions, and you could theoretically get into legal trouble over it. In practice, I highly doubt most authorities are going to care unless you're conducting a tournament or something (which would have to be unofficial, as DCI/WotC prohibit ante in sanctioned events).– KevinFeb 19 at 23:38
1@Douglas There are some silver border cards as well. Mar 14 at 3:39
As neither silver bordered/acorned nor ante cards are legal in any constructed format (outside a playgroup rule 0ing them in) the cards that can change ownership of cards tend not to be relevant.– AndrewApr 20 at 15:48
Owner vs Controller
When one plays Magic, reading the card in detail is important because the words that are not in parentheses describe what the card does free of any interpretation.
The effects in spells are generally written following the same formula, they state what the card will do, for example "deal 3 damage" or "draw a card", when it will do it, for example "when it enters the battlefield" (the exception being non-permanents like sorceries and instants whose effect comes in play the moment they resolve) and who/what is affected by that effect, for example "target player" or "each opponent".
Here in that second part is usually where "owner" and "controller" are important, when a card states that an effect affects a permanent (like a creature) "you control", it affects any permanents that entered the battlefield under your control and haven't had a controller change (which can occur with effects of spells like Mind Control).
110.2. A permanent’s owner is the same as the owner of the card that represents it (unless it’s a token; see rule 111.2). A permanent’s controller is, by default, the player under whose control it entered the battlefield. Every permanent has a controller.
110.2a If an effect instructs a player to put an object onto the battlefield, that object enters the battlefield under that player’s control unless the effect states otherwise.
So then Fading Hope should work right, it just lists that it affects a "target creature", well yes, the spell does work but it doesn't do what you may think.
In Fading Hope and all spells that return a target creature to the hand (but not just this type of spells, it happens in a lot of other types too), the part that describes what the effect does is the one that causes the confusion.
In Fading Hope as an example the card says
Return target creature to its owner's hand. If its mana value was 3 or less, scry 1.
It targets any creature in the battlefield, but it returns it to its owner's hand, not its controller's hand.
The owner of a permanent is the one who started the game with the card that represents it in their deck, sideboard or command zone, so your opponent will always be the owner of their commander, and that can't change no matter what.
You can change the controller of said commander, but the owner will stay the same as initially.
So what happens when you cast Fading Hope in the commander you stole is
- You target the commander who is owned by your opponent
- Assuming the spell resolves it goes to its owner's hand, as stated in the card
- Your opponent can decide to move it into the command zone because of the rules of commander
- If its mana value was 3 or less you scry 1
The end result is the same if you cast the spell on the opponent's commander before you steal it or after.
108.3. The owner of a card in the game is the player who started the game with it in their deck. If a card is brought into the game from outside the game rather than starting in a player’s deck, its owner is the player who brought it into the game. If a card starts the game in the command zone, its owner is the player who put it into the command zone to start the game. Legal ownership of a card in the game is irrelevant to the game rules except for the rules for ante.
1This might go a bit too far in going back to basics; we can probably assume the reader understands the basics of how the text of a card's text works, and probably should assume that since it's not in the scope of the actual problem. Feb 19 at 22:05
I've played MTG for 8 years, but I've only recently started playing EDH so new to the concept of it– DD Boi64Mar 1 at 11:22
1@doppelgreener I disagree in this case, since the entire question hinges on a misunderstanding of the difference between controller and owner, which I would say is pretty core basics to the workings of Magic: the Gathering– AndrewApr 20 at 15:45