Copy effects

Some objects become or turn another object into a copy of a spell, permanent, or card. Some effects put a token onto the battlefield that is a copy of another object. These effects, and only these effects, will use the word copy, either as a verb or as a noun. ,

Copying permanents

This is the most common way a player will copy something. There are three ways in which an object on the battlefield can be copied:

  • a spell resolves as a permanent that enters the battlefield as a copy of an object already on the battlefield (Clone);
  • a spell or ability creates a token that's a copy of an object already on the battlefield (Spitting Image);
  • an object on the battlefield has an ability that can make it into a copy of an object already on the battlefield (Shapesharer).

Regardless of the way a permanent becomes a copy of something else, the following rules will always apply.

Copiable values

When copying permanents, the copy acquires only the copiable values of the original object's characteristics. For a regular permanent, the copiable values are the values that derive from the text[1] printed on it.

Note that, as the copy acquires the mana cost and the color indicator, it will also acquire the color of the object. Notably, copy effects do not copy any counters on the object, any static effects currently applying to it, the status of the object (tapped or untapped, flipped or not), the illustrator, and the set number.

Example. Polis Crusher is tapped, monstrous, and has three +1/+1 counters on it. If Clone enters the battlefield as a copy of Polis Crusher, it will become a card with the name "Polis Crusher", mana cost of Mana2.gifManar.gifManag.gif, and type Creature - Cyclops. It will have the following abilities: trample, protection from enchantments, "Mana4.gifManar.gifManag.gif: Monstrosity 3", "Whenever Polis Crusher deals combat damage to a player, if Polis Crusher is monstrous, destroy target enchantment that player controls". It will have the power and toughness of 4/4 and it will come into play untapped.

Note how the copied permanent being tapped, monstrous, and with three +1/+1 counters on it was not copied.

Example. Phyrexian Totem's ability is used to make it a 5/5 black Horror artifact creature with trample. Then a Clone enters the battlefield as a copy of Phyrexian Totem. The Clone will not be a 5/5 black Horror artifact creature with trample. It's a copy of a non-animated Phyrexian Totem. Of course, it will become a creature if its ability is activated.

Entering the battlefield as a copy

Some permanents specify that they become a copy of something "as [this permanent] enters the battlefield" or that "you may have [this permanent] enter the battlefield as" a copy of something. It's very important to understand that these are not triggered abilities; rather, these abilities are a subset of replacement effects. The decision of which object to copy is made while the spell is resolving or the permanent is otherwise entering the battlefield, and never targets anything. Thus, the copying object enters the battlefield already as a copy; it does not enter the battlefield and then become a copy - there's no moment in time when the permanent is on the battlefield without being a copy. Notably, this means that permanents that enter the battlefield as a copy of another object will trigger enter-the-battlefield abilities printed on the copied permanent.

Example. If a Clone enters the battlefield as a copy of Kor Skyfisher, the enter-the-battlefield ability that returns a permanent you control to its owner's hand will trigger.

Choices made for a permanent are not usually copied when copying that permanent. Instead, when an object enters the battlefield as a copy of a permanent that requires a choice "as [this permanent] enters the battlefield", the controller of the copy will be able to make new choices for it.

Example. I control a True-Name Nemesis, for which I obviously chose my opponent. Then my opponent plays a Clone, and chooses to copy True-Name Nemesis. The choice I made for my True-Name Nemesis is not copied; my opponent will choose the player for his copy of True-Name Nemesis.

If a permanent becomes a copy of another permanent with such an ability, its controller will not be able to make any choice, as the copy did not enter the battlefield again.

Example. A face-down Vesuvan Shapeshifter and a Voice of All for which red was chosen are on the battlefield. Vesuvan Shapeshifter is turned face up and becomes a copy of Voice of All. The choice of color is not copied, and since the Vesuvan Shapeshifter did not enter the battlefield, Voice of All's replacement effect does not kick in. No color is chosen, so the ability that would grant it protection will have no effect.

Copying spells

Some spells or abilities create a copy of a spell while it's on the stack. A copy of a spell is itself a spell, even though it has no card associated with it.

All choices made as the original spell was cast are copied. This includes mode, targets, the value of X, how it will affect multiple targets, and so on. This also includes whether additional or alternative costs (such as kicker, overload or entwine) were paid. Choices that are normally made on resolution are not copied. If an effect of the copy refers to objects used to pay its costs, it uses the objects used to pay the costs of the original spell or ability.

Some copy effects[2] allow the controller to choose new targets for the copy. The controller can leave any number of the targets unchanged, even if they would be illegal. However, if he decides to change any, new targets must be legal.

Example. Twincast is played copying Fling. The amount of damage dealt to the target is equal to the power of the creature sacrificed to pay for the original spell. A new target can be chosen only because Twincast allows it.

A copy of a spell was never cast, so abilities that trigger on spells being cast won't trigger.

Example. If you're in the process of killing me with a Brain Freeze with a high storm count, I can certainly copy your Brain Freeze with a Twincast, but as the copy appears directly on the stack without being cast, its storm ability won't trigger.

On the other hand, some effects (such as Elite Arcanist and Isochron Scepter), copy a card and then allow you to cast the copy. In this case, the copy is created in the same zone the original object is, and then the copy is cast while the ability is still resolving.

Example. Fire // Ice is imprinted on Isochron Scepter. After Isochron Scepter's ability is activated, a copy of the Fire // Ice card is created in the exile zone while Isochron Scepter's ability is resolving. Then, the controller of Isochron Scepter's ability can choose to cast either Fire or Ice and add it to the stack.

Hic sunt dracones!
What follows deals with a topic that is very complicated and definitely not required for a judge candidate. If you are studying for your test, we suggest you to skip to the next page. If you are already certified and want to enlarge your knowledge, proceed at your own risk.


Interaction of copy effects

We said above that the copiable values of a permanent are derived from its text, and its text alone. However, there are exceptions to this. Most notably, if I try to copy a permanent that's already copying something else, the "copy of a copy" has the form of what was copied in the first place.

Example. A Goblin Guide and a Clone that copied the Goblin Guide are on the battlefield. The original Goblin Guide gets Terminated, then I cast a second Clone choosing the Clone already on a battlefield for the copy effect. The second Clone does not enter as a 0/0 Shapeshifter; it is actually a copy of the Goblin Guide, too.

Some copy effects modify the copying process, causing the copy to gain an ability or not to copy certain aspects. Such exceptions are considered part of the copy effect. Any such exception or modification to a copy effect becomes part of the copiable values for the copy, so a copy of a copy keeps all of them.

Example. As Sakashima the Impostor enters the battlefield, Snapping Drake is chosen as the creature it will copy. It will become a Legendary Creature – Drake named "Sakashima the Impostor", with a mana cost of Mana3.gifManau.gif and base power and toughness 3/2. It will have flying and "Mana2.gifManau.gifManau.gif: Return Sakashima the Impostor to its owner's hand at the beginning of the next end step."

Now, a Phantasmal Image enters the battlefield, copying Sakashima the Impostor, who is currently impersonating a Snapping Drake. It will become a Legendary Creature – Drake Illusion named "Sakashima the Impostor", with a mana cost of Mana3.gifManau.gif and base power and toughness 3/2. It will have flying, "Mana2.gifManau.gifManau.gif: Return Sakashima the Impostor to its owner's hand at the beginning of the next end step." and "When this creature becomes target of a spell or ability, sacrifice it."

If a Clone enters the battlefield copying the Phantasmal Sakashima the Snapping Drake... You get the idea.

Copying morphed and transformed cards

Another effect that can affect the copiable values of a permanent is turning that permanent face down. If a face-down card is copied, the copy will be a 2/2 colorless creature with no name, no types, no abilities, and no mana cost. Note that the copy will not be a face-down creature: it will be a face-up vanilla 2/2. On the other hand, if a face-down creature becomes a copy of something else, this effect will be "masked" by the morph effect, so the creature wills stay a faceless 2/2 - but if I turn it face up, I'll reveal the thing it copied. Yes, it's complicated.

When copying a double-faced card, only the face that is currently up is copied. If the creature that's copying the double-faced card is not a double-faced card of its own, it can't ever transform, no matter how hard we try. Being double-faced is a physical property of a card (much like being a token), and as such is not part of the copiable values.

Example. We cast an unassuming Clone. Then madness begins:

  • If Clone copies a face-down Blistering Firecat, it enters the battlefield as a a 2/2 colorless creature with no name, no types, no abilities, and no mana cost, because these are the copiable values set by the face-down status. Clone is still face up and thus it cannot turned face up.
  • If Clone copies a face-up Blistering Firecat instead, and then an Ixidron is cast, the cloned Blistering Firecat will be turned face down, but can be turned face up paying it's morph cost of Manar.gifManar.gif. The copy effect had the Clone acquire the face up values and it keeps them, even though while it's face down its characteristics are set to a 2/2 faceless creature.
  • If Clone copies a Ravager of the Fells, it becomes exactly what we see: a bloodthirsty werewolf. Moreover, it cannot transform back into Huntmaster of the Fells, even if the requirements are met, as Clone is not a double-faced card!

The case of a Delver of Secrets becoming a copy of a Ravager of the Fells courtesy of Cytoshape is left as an exercise to the reader.

  1. The text of a permanent consists of: name, mana cost, color indicator, card type, subtype, supertype, rules text, power, toughness, and/or loyalty
  2. Most of them, actually.