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Tail Swipe says "choose target creature". Usually when there is a choice it goes around hexproof and does not target. Does Tail Swipe target creatures and trigger Legolas, Master Archer? Why is it phrased like that?

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    Related question: Why do some cards say "choose target"?
    – Andrew
    Dec 12, 2023 at 23:46
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    I would like to point out that if a card says "target", it targets, and thus does not get around hexproof. It it does not say the word "target", then it does get around hexproof. (With some exceptions, such as aura spells.) The presence of absence of other words such as "choose" are irrelevant for determining whether the spell targets or not. (The question of why the it was written "choose target" has been answered by other people.)
    – Han Guo
    Dec 15, 2023 at 6:54

1 Answer 1

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Tail Swipe targets two creatures, one controlled by you, the other controlled by an opponent.

Choose target creature you control and target creature you don't control. If you cast this spell during your main phase, the creature you control gets +1/+1 until end of turn. Then those creatures fight each other.

Why does it say "choose"? More of an English phrasing reason than a rules reason, in my opinion. Here's my (bad) attempt at wording this card without it:

?? Target creature you control gets +1/+1 if you cast this spell during your main phase then fights target creature you don't control ??

That intervening "if" clause makes the whole thing very confusing.

"Choosing" each target first and then describing what happens with each makes much more sense. Key here is that the +1/+1 (if applicable) needs to happen before the creatures fight, so you can't invert the order without changing how the card works.

"Choosing" the targets doesn't mean they aren't targeted; if your opponent's creature has hexproof or shroud, you won't be able to target it. If your own creature has shroud, you won't be able to target it. The second reference to "the creature you control" is talking about the already-targeted creature; that won't get around shroud.

If you control Legolas, Master Archer and target him with Tail Swipe, both of Legolas' abilities will trigger:

Reach

Whenever you cast a spell that targets Legolas, Master Archer, put a +1/+1 counter on Legolas.

Whenever you cast a spell that targets a creature you don't control, Legolas deals damage equal to its power to up to one target creature.

You can choose to let the +1/+1 counter resolve before the "bite" ability.

Both of Legolas' abilities will resolve before Tail Swipe. You can also choose a different creature to get the "bite" effect than the one you fight with the Tail Swipe.

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    This does not answer why it does say ‘choose’. What would be lost if choose word was omitted?
    – Euphorbium
    Dec 12, 2023 at 18:21
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    The choice of targets is written in a separate sentence from the effect for clarity. "Choose target..." is the standard wording for that kind of template. It has no meaning beyond that. It is the absence of the word "target", not the presence of the word "choose", that determines that a choice happens at resolution time instead of when casting the spell.
    – murgatroid99
    Dec 12, 2023 at 18:27
  • @Euphorbium Consider how it could potentially be worded without "choose"... I tried to come up with it and it's basically impossible. "Target creature you control and target creature you don't control fight each other" is simple enough. But with the addition of the special "if you cast this spell during your main phase" effect, it just can't fit in there anywhere.
    – GendoIkari
    Dec 12, 2023 at 20:20
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    @Euphorbium The reasoning for why they use the words "choose target" is to pull the choice of targets out of the middle of the text and put them at the beginning of the ability, this was covered on this question. It helps clear up any possible confusion of when you have to choose targets.
    – Andrew
    Dec 12, 2023 at 23:52
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    Good point, @Andrew. Edited.
    – BradC
    Dec 13, 2023 at 14:53

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