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Judge tips – Continuous effects

As we continue to explore things on the Level 2 Magic Judge test, we move to Continuous Effects. To learn more about One-Shot Effects, go here.

So what is a Continuous Effect? Well, according to the Comprehensive Rules (CR) number 611.1A, a Continuous Effect modifies characteristics of objects, modifies control of objects, or affects players or the rules of the game, for a fixed or indefinite period.

Seems pretty simple but, as with anything in Magic, nothing is ever that simple.

As we continue to read section 611 of the CR, we see CR611.2, a continuous effect may be generated by the resolution of a spell or ability.

Sure, makes sense. You cast a spell, it does something to modify things when it resolves and Bang! We have a continuous effect. So, like what?

Well, the spell could give our creatures flying until the end of turn (modifies the characteristics of the object). Or, perhaps you cast an enchantment that allows you to gain control of an object for as long as you control the enchantment (changes control of a permanent). You get the point.

But the rules don’t stop there. Let’s look at 611.2b Some Continuous effects generated by the resolution of a spell or ability have durations worded “for as long as…” If the “for as long as” duration never starts, or it ends before the moment the effect would first be applied, the effect does nothing. It doesn’t start and immediately stop again, and it doesn’t last forever.

As an example, let’s take a look at my favorite vampire, Olivia Voldaren.
OliviaOlivia’s second ability reads, 3BB: Gain control of target Vampire for as long as you control Olivia Voldaren.

We can see this activated ability creates a continuous effect that says you gain control of a Vampire for as long as you control Olivia Voldaren. If a player destroys Olivia in response to the activation of the ability, no control change happens.

Seems easy enough, right? Good. Let’s not complicate it further.

  1. 611.2C. If a continuous effect generated by the resolution of a spell or ability modifies the characteristics or changes the controller of any objects, the set of objects it affects is determined when that continuous effect beings. After that point, the set won’t change. (Note that this works differently than a contiuous effect from a static ability.) A continuous effect generated by the resolution of a spell or ability that doesn’t modify the characteristics or or change the controller of any object modifies the rules of the game, so it can affect objects that weren’t affected when that continuous effect began. If a single continuous effect has parts that modify the characteristics or changes the controller of any objects and other parts that don’t, the set of objects each part applies to is determined independently.

I really like the example used in the CR so I am going to use it here.

Example: An effect that reads “all white creatures get +1/+1 until end of turn” gives the bonus to all permanents that are white creatures when the spell or ability resolves – even if they change color later—and doesn’t affect those that enter the battlefield or turn white afterward.

In other words, if you cast a spell like Ethereal Guidance and then cast a creature, that new creature will not get the bonus.EtherealGuidance

Now let’s look at CR611.2D. If a resolving spell or ability that creates a continuous effect contains a variable such as X, the value of that variable is determined only once, on resolution.

This is pretty simple, if a spell says something like, all creatures get +x/+x where X is the number of lands you control, we look at the number of lands we have in play when the spell resolves and we lock it in.

611.2E. If a resolving spell or ability both puts a nontoken permanent onto the battlefield and created a continuous effect stating the permanent “is [characteristic],” that continuous effect applies simultaneously with the permanent entering the battlefield. This characteristic is usually a color or creature type. If the continuous effect says the permanent “becomes [characteristic]or “gains [an ability],” that effect applies after the permanent is on the battlefield.

So let’s see here. If we cast a spell that says “… return a creature card from your graveyard to play. That creature is a Black Zombie in addition to its other types.” That means if we bring a 2/2 Bear Cub into play using a spell that then turns it into a Black Zombie in addition to its other types, we have a continuous effect.

Here is the CR Example: Arbiter of the Ideal puts an artifact, creature, or land card onto the battlefield and says, in part, “that permanent is an enchantment in addition to its other types.” An ability that triggers whenever an enchantment would enter the battlefield would trigger. The permanent doesn’t enter the battlefield then become and enchantment. 

The last part of the rules on continuous effects deal with continuous effects generated by the static ability of a permanent.

The rules state a continuous effect can be generated by the static ability of an object. Basically, if you have something that gives all creatures you control +1/+1 and is not a one-shot effect, it qualifies here. The emblem created by Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is a good example. Gideon Emblem

CR 611.3 a-c continues to talk about how this interacts with permanents entering the battlefield. To sum up, if you cast a 1/1 creature while having the above emblem in play, it enters the battlefield as a 2/2. It does not enter as a 1/1 then become a 2/2.

Also, if you have something that turns into a creature like a Rakdos Keyrune, it will get the bonus from the emblem. RK

This is because the effect is continuous and not a one-shot.

Continuous effects are not too difficult to understand once you know how to identify them. If you are having trouble, hopefully this helped some.





© 2016, Patrick Cossel. All rights reserved.

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About Patrick Cossel,

I am a journalist and gaming enthusiast.

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