Missed Triggers


As a player and a Level 1 judge, you should know all the rules regarding triggered abilities, but if you need to refresh your knowledge, you should start by reading CR 603.

Are you ready? Lets dive in…

In this exercise we won’t be talking about the triggered abilities themselves and how they work, but we will talk about to do once something bad happened.

The problem with triggered abilities is that while tokens and counters are usually represented somehow, triggered abilities are rarely represented on the stack, and no one has to do anything for them to get there. As a result, a trigger might go on the stack and resolve without anyone noticing. This affects the game policy in two ways:

  1. This infraction carries small-to-no-penalties

  2. This infraction is relevant only if there is a tangible change to the gamestate

Because triggered abilities are so easy to miss, the controller of the ability is the only responsible if it gets missed. An opponent is never penalized for missing a triggered ability (even if it was missed on purpose).

The Infraction

A trigger is considered to be missed only if it would have some effect of the gamestate. If a triggered ability reads “At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice a creature”, but a player controls no creatures, not pointing the ability isn’t considered missing it, since it will change nothing in the gamestate. Forcing a player to point such a trigger would be tedious and unnecessary.

So, when should a player point his trigger?

  • If the ability requires a target, as soon as it goes on the stack (since it can’t go on the stack without a legal target)

  • If it has a visible change to the gamestate, do the change or point the trigger before taking any game actions (unless those actions can be taken while the ability is still on the stack)

  • If it will change the rules of the game, the controller should state it or prevent an opponent from breaking the new rules

  • If the ability would have an invisible effect, point it out as soon as it becomes visible

If the controller of the triggered ability, and he alone, doesn’t comply with the relevant case, his trigger is considered to be missed. An opponent not pointing out a trigger or waiting until it benefits him before pointing out a missed trigger is never considered to have committed an infraction.

Anything other than these cases, is not a missed trigger.

If a trigger was missed, try to apply the following fixes in order. If you can’t apply one fix, try the next one until one works:

  1. Resolve the trigger immediately if it’s one of these cases:

    1. If there’s a default action (usually "If you don't ..." or "... unless"), resolve using the default action (the opponent can choose not to resolve it)

    2. It’s an enter-the-battlefield trigger, of an aura, and it affects only the enchanted permanent in a visible manner (like tapping it)

    3. It’s a delayed triggered ability that moves objects to another zone (the opponent can have it resolve when the next phase starts and a player would get priority)

  2. If more than a turn passed (see exact definition on the IPG) or the duration of the effect should have ended already, do nothing

  3. When all else fails, ask the opponent if he wants the trigger to go on the stack (if he chooses to put it on the stack, put it where it should’ve been or at the bottom if you can’t, and it can’t affect anything that shouldn’t have been affected originally)

There is no penalty for missing a trigger, unless it fits one of these cases:

  • The ability is usually bad for its controller (even if it might be good in some cases)

  • The ability affects both players equally, but the forgotten trigger would benefit the controller and not his opponent

In these cases, the penalty is upgraded to a warning (and investigating for cheating should be considered).


It’s dangerous to answer the questions alone. Read these:

Missed Trigger section in the IPG (IPG 2.1)

Triggered Abilities Rules (CR 603)

You can also read Toby Elliott’s blog for more details


Do you feel ready? If so, here’s your challenge - for each situation, please answer these three questions:

  1. What is the infraction (and why)?

  2. What is the penalty (and to which player)?

  3. How do you fix it (and why)?

1. Situation 1


AP played a land without drawing an extra card for his Howling Mine.

2. Situation 2

AP played a land without drawing an extra card for his opponent's Howling Mine.

3. Situation 3


AP played a land without putting another card into his hand for his Dark Confidant. His life total is 2.

4. Situation 4

NAP blocks with a creature token created by Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker on her last turn.

5. Situation 5

AP attacks with a creature token created by Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker on his previous turn.

6. Situation 6

AP crews a vehicle and attacks. After combat damage, NAP’s life total is 1, at which point AP calls a judge, claiming that NAP forgot his Carnival of Souls trigger when the vehicle was crewed.

7. Situation 7

AP attacks, and then remembers he forgot Ampryn Tactician’s trigger when it entered the battlefield on his previous turn.

8. Situation 8

NAP blocks, and then remembers she forgot Ampryn Tactician’s trigger when it entered the battlefield in her last turn during the second main phase.

9. Situation 9

AP attacks, and NAP crews a vehicle during the declare blockers step. At this point, AP remembers they forgot NAPs Death Match’s trigger earlier in the turn when a creature entered the battlefield under APs control. She chooses to give the vehicle -3/-3 and then NAP calls a judge. It was an honest mistake.

10. Situation 10

NAP uses her Grizzly Bears to block AP’s Werewolf Ransacker. After blockers are declared but before the combat damage step, NAP calls a judge and claims that her opponent should have transformed it into Afflicted Deserter at the beginning of his upkeep. She did it on purpose.