Thursday, October 23, 2014

Anafenza, the Foremost Confusing Card

At Grand Prix Los Angeles, some rules question about Anafenza, the Foremost made the rounds.

It turns out that this card is completely unique in the annals of Magic cards in what it does, or tries to do, and as with many firsts, there are some possible kinks in the process. Here's the scenario:
Active Player (AP) control Anafenza. The Non-Active Player (NAP) controls Glory Seeker enchanted with Herald of Torment and Temur Banner enchanted with Ensoul Artifact. AP casts End Hostilities. What cards end up in the graveyard and what cards end up in the exile zone?

Let's start with the easy ones.
Anafenza, the Foremost will most certainly end up in the graveyard, since it doesn't affect its controller.

Ensoul Artifact will also end up in the graveyard, since it is in no way, shape, or form a creature.

Glory Seeker will end up in exile because it is a creature controlled by Anafenza's opponent.

That leaves us with the Herald of Torment and the animated Temur Banner, which are opposite sides of a coin. Herald is something that is printed as a creature, but is currently not due to being bestowed. Temur Banner is a noncreature that is currently animated to be a creature. Whatever your answer, for consistency's sake, these 2 things should act different.

The correct answer is that Herald of Torment will end up in the graveyard and Temur Banner will be exiled. These results bother people, including many excellent judges for various reasons. The problem as they see it, is the wording of Anafenza, which uses the "from anywhere" clause. "From anywhere" has been most prominently seen on Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and her Eldrazi broodmates, which causes these cards to act differently from most other "goes to the graveyard" triggers. Namely, they trigger from the graveyard and evaluate the state of the card in that zone. This means that a Clone copying an Emrakul will not trigger the graveyard shuffle because in the graveyard it is just a Clone. Meanwhile, a Clone copying Wurmcoil Engine will trigger and leave behind 2 tokens upon its death because its trigger looks back at what it was on the battlefield and sees the Artifact Wurm.

This leads many people to view Anafenza's ability in the same light, that it has to evaluate the object as it would be in the graveyard, hence thinking that the Herald should be exiled and the Banner shouldn't. But there's an important distinction. Anafenza doesn't have a triggered ability! She has a replacement effect, and by definition, a replacement effect can only modify an object before it changes zones (weird Theros God corner cases aside). On the battlefield, Herald of Torment is just an enchantment aura, and Temur Banner is still a creature. Anafenza treats them accordingly.

What about the fact that Anafenza refers to "creature cards"? This is another part of the wording that is tripping people up. You see, creatures on the battlefield aren't creature cards. Yeah. Really. They are just "creatures" or "creature permanents." Creature card specifically refers to things in the hand, library, exile, etc. This makes people think that the ability can't possibly affect things like Temur Banner that are only temporarily animated while on the battlefield. Look! The physical card doesn't say creature on it. It isn't a creature in any other zone.

I think it's possible that Anafenza is worded a bit poorly to convey its full effect. But "If a creature card or creature permanent..." is needlessly wordy and just confusing. Oops, and that now includes token creatures, which are creature permanents (but not cards... is the wording now internally inconsistent?)


  1. So what do we do with tokens? Do they die if our opponent controls Anafenza, or do they go to exile instead?

  2. They don't they go into the graveyard triggering abilities it is a bad ruling on a bad card.

  3. About time they printed a card to stop graveyard cheaters.

  4. About time they printed a card to stop graveyard cheaters.