While playing MTG, who is responsible for a triggered ability and what is the limit in time to claim it?

Let put an example:

Using the activated ability of Obsidian Fireheart, I add a counter on one of my oponent's lands. Then I end my turn and they start untapping their cards.

Is it my responsibility to tell them "hey!, don't forget to lose your 1 life" and can they intentionally foreget it otherwise?

Also, if it's my responsibility to tell them, what is my limit in time to do so?

  • House rule was to conduct untap and upkeep in parallel. If you untapped all your lands and you forgot to leave one tapped to pay for my Nefs Asp having damaged you that one time before, then you took one again, and I can point that out at any time before you end your turn. But if you're going to nettle with a card that I can do nothing about, then you're keeping score.
    – Mazura
    Jun 4, 2023 at 22:03

2 Answers 2


In general, it is always both player's responsibility to ensure the game rules are followed; quoting from the Tournament Rules, section 1.10 "Players":

Players are responsible for [...] Maintaining a clear and legal game state.

The exact rules around missed triggers are complicated and vary by Rules Enforcement Level (REL), but in general:

  • Players are responsible for triggers they control
  • You are not required to point out missed triggers your opponent controls to your opponent - but unless you're in a real competitive situation, consider doing so, particularly if you are playing against a less experienced player as this makes you a Good Person™.
  • If you accidentally miss a trigger which is beneficial to you, there is in general no penalty.
  • Accidentally missing a trigger which is detrimental to you is a minor penalty.
  • Deliberately missing a trigger is a major penalty.

As always, if you end up in a situation with missed triggers or anything else, the correct action is to call for a judge and let them sort it out. It's what they're there for.

  • Consequently, If I understood well: The owner of the land is the triggers controller and responsible of getting the 1live dommage. However, when in non-competitive game (without judge), what is supposed to be the penalty? Jun 4, 2023 at 12:18
  • 1
    If you don't have a judge, sort it out between you. If you can't sort it out between you in a friendly game, don't play with that person. Jun 4, 2023 at 12:22
  • 1
    Yes, sure! It was to understand what kind of penalty applies. As begginers, we usually miss lot of triggers, thus, assuming some type of penalty is also an incentive to play better. Jun 4, 2023 at 12:25
  • 6
    The penalties in the rules are essentially "out of game" effects: warning, game loss, match loss, tournament disqualification. None of those are particularly helpful for a friendly game, if you think penalties will make you play better I suggest making some up: doing the dishes, buying the next round at the bar or whatever. Jun 4, 2023 at 12:54
  • @PhilipKendall the "what kind of penalty applies" part is IMO important and worth including into the answer since that's not obvious. Jun 5, 2023 at 11:04

In the olden days (pre-covid) the answer would be different depending on the REL (Rules enforcement level) of the event.

Pre-release were entry level events and celebratory in nature. If somebody missed a trigger, no big deal. The event was meant to celebrate the new set.

FNMs were somewhere in the middle, depending somewhat on the concentration of Spikes, Johnnies and Timmies at the event.

At a PTQ or GP things were different. Here people came to compete. Here both players were expected to keep accurate game states. In these types of matches lack of rules knowledge or the forgetting of a trigger was not considered a valid reason to loose a match.

If a player was under some misconception in regards to rules it was not acceptable to remain silent for some benefit. Competitive mtg has always desired the better player to win, not just the better rules lawayer

  • Is this not still true today? Jun 4, 2023 at 13:50
  • I dunno, I was under the impression in person mtg events don't exist anymore.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jun 4, 2023 at 13:52
  • 1
    There's still in-store pre-releases and the pro tour is still held in paper; not to be confused with the Arena Championship. Jun 4, 2023 at 13:58
  • @PhilipKendall All those events were started in 2022. We did have a certain amount of time without in person MTG.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jun 5, 2023 at 8:02

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