Archmage Ascension and empty Library

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I have Archmage Ascension with six quest counters on it and an empty library. Do I lose when game asks me to draw a card?
You will lose.  When an effect offers you a choice you may not choose an impossible option except for drawing a card from an empty library.  Since Archmage Ascensions effect is optional you can not choose to use it if your library is empty.
Why searching an empty library for a card is impossible? I it is possible to shuffle an empty library. I understand that finding a card is impossible, but why one may not search for a card? On the other hand... How can you replace drawing if drawing is impossible... I'm confused.
701.15c If a player is searching a hidden zone simply for a quantity of cards, such as “a card” or “three cards,” that player must find that many cards (or as many as possible, if the zone doesn’t contain enough cards).

this makes it sound as though it is possible to search an empty library for a card
proud member of the 2011 community team
It is.  Searching an empty library is not an impossible action, finding a card may be but that doesn't matter.  You are free to use the search option for any card draws, and as of such you won't lose the game.

DCI Level 2 Judge

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120.6a An effect that replaces a card draw is applied even if no cards could be drawn because there are no cards in the affected player‘s library.

Sean Stackhouse Level Two Judge (Yay!) Maine

It is.  Searching an empty library is not an impossible action, finding a card may be but that doesn't matter.  You are free to use the search option for any card draws, and as of such you won't lose the game.

My problem isn't with the search your library part, it is with the put that card into your library part.  It is perfectly possible to search an empty library for a card, but it is not possible to put that card in hand.  For an analogy consider a card that gives you the option to pay 2 life and sacrifice two creatures or to lose ten life when you have ten life and one creature.  Even though part of the first action is possible it is over all an impossible action, so you must take the second option.

701.15c If a player is searching a hidden zone simply for a quantity of cards, such as “a card” or “three cards,” that player must find that many cards (or as many as possible, if the zone doesn’t contain enough cards).

this makes it sound as though it is possible to search an empty library for a card

If a card tells you to do something you do as much as possible.  So if a card tells you to search for three card and put them in your hand and your library only has two cards in it you put two cards into your hand.  If a card tells you two sacrifice two creatures and you only have one then you sacrifice one creature.  However if a card gives you a choice and one of the options is impossible you must choose the other.  For example, if a card gave you the option of sacrificing two creatures and you only have one then you can't choose that option.

120.6a An effect that replaces a card draw is applied even if no cards could be drawn because there are no cards in the affected player‘s library.

Normaly you can't replace an action which isn't going to happen due to being impossible.  For example if an indestructible creature is equipped with a totem armor then targeted with a doom blade, since the creature can't be destroyed the totem armor's replacement effect won't happen and the armor won't be destroyed.  However the rule you quoted allows you to replace draws even if they are impossible due to your library being empty.  Therefore Sages of the Anima will prevent you from decking yourself.  The problem with Archmage Ascension is that when you apply the replacement effect it offers you a choice and the rules for making choices don't allow you to choose an impossible action.
drawing from an empty library is not impossible
it just (usually) results in a game loss

120.3. If there are no cards in a player’s library and an effect offers that player the choice to draw a card, that player can choose to do so.
proud member of the 2011 community team
608.2d If an effect of a spell or ability offers any choices other than choices already made as part of casting the spell, activating the ability, or otherwise putting the spell or ability on the stack, the player announces these while applying the effect. The player can't choose an option that's illegal or impossible, with the exception that having an empty library doesn't make drawing a card an impossible action (see rule 120.3). If an effect divides or distributes something, such as damage or counters, as a player chooses among any number of untargeted players and/or objects, the player chooses the amount and division such that at least one player or object is chosen if able, and each chosen player or object receives at least one of whatever is being divided. (Note that if an effect divides or distributes something, such as damage or counters, as a player chooses among some number of target objects and/or players, the amount and division were determined as the spell or ability was put onto the stack rather than at this time; see rule 601.2d.)



Under a very precise reading of the rules, MJwhitefield appears to be correct. The "draw a card" is being replaced by an impossible action and since you can't choose to do an impossible action you cannot to replace the draw event.

I rather doubt this was how the card was intended to work, though (and I could be quite wrong about that -- who knows). If that IS the case, then it needs to be reworded slightly.
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neither drawing from an empty library nor searching an empty library is impossible
I quoted both rules that cover that.

usually drawing from an empty library results in a game loss, but it is not impossible.
proud member of the 2011 community team
"Search your library for a card, put that card into your hand, then shuffle your library" is never an impossible action. You are always able to search your library as long as the library zone exists. You just may not find anything when you search it.

This is different than "put the top card of your library into your hand."
neither drawing from an empty library nor searching an empty library is impossible
I quoted both rules that cover that.

usually drawing from an empty library results in a game loss, but it is not impossible.



Ah yes you did. My apologies.

701.14c If a player is searching a hidden zone simply for a quantity of cards, such as "a card" or "three cards," that player must find that many cards (or as many as possible, if the zone doesn't contain enough cards).



It seems you can indeed replace an event with searching and finding (or in this case lack of finding due to the library being empty). However, he still cannot put a card into his hand as the replacement effect says to do. This part is still impossible to do, is it not?

This is not my sig.
"That card" refers to the card that you will find. If you do not find a card, you cannot put it into your hand, so you just ignore that part.

You do not need to look into the future to determine if later actions might be impossible if you fail to find a card.
"That card" refers to the card that you will find. If you do not find a card, you cannot put it into your hand, so you just ignore that part.

You do not need to look into the future to determine if later actions might be impossible if you fail to find a card.



Emphasis mine.

Firstly, actions are done in the order they are written. We're not looking into the future at all here. We're just following a set of instructions in the order they are written.

So let's do that. Search for a card. We can do that with a library of zero cards as the rules very specifically say we can. No problem there. Now we can't actually FIND a card as there are no cards to find. Again, because the rules say we can, that's not impossible either. However, we get to the part of about putting that card into your hand. This is impossible as you yourself say with the bolded text above. Since part of the replacement effect is impossible to do, we cannot choose it as an option (as the rules which were given in prior posts state).

Let's try a different experiment. A creature reads "Search your library: ~This~ deals one damage to target creature." Now we all agree that you could activate the ability even with zero cards in your library. Again the rules allow for this.

Now a different creature: "Put a card from your library into your hand: ~This~ deals one damage to target creature." If your library is empty you cannot activate the ability because you have no cards in your library AND there is no rule stating that you can do this even with no cards in your library. You simply cannot pay the cost. Its impossible to do.

Granted neither of these cards are likely to exist, but they DO illustrate that one is possible to do while the other is not.

Lastly, you cannot siply "ignore that part". An action is either possible to do or it isn't. In this case if it isn't possible to do, then you cannot choose it. If a card read "Lose ten life or sacrifice a creature" you can't simply choose to sacrfice a creature and then ignore it because you don't have a creature. The choice wasn't possible in the first plce meaning that chossing that choice is an illegal action.
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so what happens when you fail to find a land with Terramorphic Expanse?
since you cannot put it onto the battlefield tapped can you not use the card at all since you are allowed to fail to find it for any reason?
proud member of the 2011 community team
so what happens when you fail to find a land with Terramorphic Expanse ?
since you cannot put it onto the battlefield tapped can you not use the card at all since you are allowed to fail to find it for any reason?



You follow the instructions written on the card and ignore any of the effect that's impossible to do.

That's completely different because you're not making a choice in this case. No where does the card have you choose anything. This whole thread goes to show what happens when you can't make a legal choice. It has nothing to do with what happens when you're forced to an impossible event and the text offers no choice in the matter. (The rules are quite clear in this case already anyway.)
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you choose to activate the fetchland, isn't that a choice?
depending on your library you maybe also choose not to find a land.
proud member of the 2011 community team
Sure, its a choice(in a very broad sense of the word), but its a legal one. Nothing prevents you from paying the cost.

What we're talking about here is very specific according to the rules: An effect which gives you more than one choice to do something. You simply cannot choose one of those choices if its impossible to do.
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Firstly, actions are done in the order they are written. We're not looking into the future at all here. We're just following a set of instructions in the order they are written.

So let's do that. Search for a card. We can do that with a library of zero cards as the rules very specifically say we can. No problem there. Now we can't actually FIND a card as there are no cards to find. Again, because the rules say we can, that's not impossible either. However, we get to the part of about putting that card into your hand. This is impossible as you yourself say with the bolded text above. Since part of the replacement effect is impossible to do, we cannot choose it as an option (as the rules which were given in prior posts state).

If you are at the point where you realize that you cannot put a card into your hand, because you have searched your library and failed to find a card, then you have already made your choice and performed the action. You cannot go back and undo it.
If you are at the point where you realize that you cannot put a card into your hand, because you have searched your library and failed to find a card, then you have already made your choice and performed the action. You cannot go back and undo it.



That's specious reasoning at best. That would mean I could choose to sacrifice a creature if I forgot I had no creatures in play. Besides, if your library is empty then you already know that you cannot carry out all the instructions for the replacement effect. You'd know that one part of the effect is impossible when you had to make a choice. Since you cannot choose a choice which is impossible, you still cannot choose it.

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Parallel Thoughts

I found a more extreme answer to prove that you can indeed do what we've been stating.  Look at the second ruling for parallel thoughts, it's a very similar situation, but instead you are replacing the cards with cards exiled.  It states that even after all the cards you put asside in exile are gone you can still choose that option and in essence skip your draw.  It's the same with the ascension, your searching a zone, whether you find anything or not doesn't matter.  What matters is that you are able to search the zone, since that's not impossible the draw is replaced. 

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Well, that may be how its been ruled, but it isn't supported by the rules as far as I can tell.
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What about this:

101.3. Any part of an instruction that’s impossible to perform is ignored. (In many cases the card will specify consequences for this; if it doesn’t, there’s no effect.)

614.6. If an event is replaced, it never happens. A modified event occurs instead, which may in turn trigger abilities. Note that the modified event may contain instructions that can’t be carried out, in which case the impossible instruction is simply ignored.
What about this:

101.3. Any part of an instruction that’s impossible to perform is ignored. (In many cases the card will specify consequences for this; if it doesn’t, there’s no effect.)

614.6. If an event is replaced, it never happens. A modified event occurs instead, which may in turn trigger abilities. Note that the modified event may contain instructions that can’t be carried out, in which case the impossible instruction is simply ignored.



Uhm, not to be dense, but I'm not certain how either of these apply here. 101.3 isn't relavent because one cannot choose an impossible action as part of a choice. 614.6 doesn't seem to apply to this either. Why is it that you think it would?

This is not my sig.
Uhm, not to be dense, but I'm not certain how either of these apply here. 101.3 isn't relavent because one cannot choose an impossible action as part of a choice.

I agree. But one chooses a possible action: searching the library. Putting a non-existent card into player's hand is impossible so it is skipped due to 101.3
614.6 doesn't seem to apply to this either. Why is it that you think it would?

modified event may contain instructions that can’t be carried out, in which case the impossible instruction is simply ignored - putting non-existent card into hand is impossible. Impossible instruction is ignored.

I might want to choose to go into a forest searching for an invisible purple unicorn. This is choosing a possible action, right?
I think that the fact that I will never be able to find one is irrelevant. I decided to do something possible.

Parallel Thoughts

I found a more extreme answer to prove that you can indeed do what we've been stating.  Look at the second ruling for parallel thoughts, it's a very similar situation, but instead you are replacing the cards with cards exiled.  It states that even after all the cards you put asside in exile are gone you can still choose that option and in essence skip your draw.  It's the same with the ascension, your searching a zone, whether you find anything or not doesn't matter.  What matters is that you are able to search the zone, since that's not impossible the draw is replaced. 



Paralleel Thoughts' second ruling clearly sounds as if it allows you to choose an impossible action.
Perhaps it's outdated and should have been deleted long ago?

If this ruling is valid, then it certainly covers the current situation: <em>Archmageing on an empty Library would be allowed.
(I believe not, but hey! that's just me!)



Wizards of the Coast: NOT ANYMORE outsourced to Elbonia

Maybe we've been looking at this the wrong way.  We've been looking at it whether or not the replacement effect's effect is possible or not and trying to determine if you can choose the replacement effect in that case.  The issue is that if there is a choice that you can not choose an impossible choice.  However the choice seems to be in the case of the archmage ascension is whether to draw a card or replace the draw.  Regardless on what the replacement effect is, it is possible to replace the draw.  If it there was not a may in the ability no one would question that it is legal to replace the draw, even if the replacement effect yields an imposible action.

DCI Level 2 Judge

Rockford, Illinois


Abundance seems to agree with this interpretation.


Wizards of the Coast: NOT ANYMORE outsourced to Elbonia

I agree. But one chooses a possible action: searching the library. Putting a non-existent card into player's hand is impossible so it is skipped due to 101.3



If that is how its interpretated then with a card that read "Lose 10 life or pay 2 life and sacrifice 2 creatures", you'd be able to choose the second option even if you didn't have two creatures to sacrifice. You could pay two life and then "fail to carry out the rest of the instructions".

The way I read it, the enitre choice must be legal, not just the first part of it. Obviously there are some rulings that go against what I'm saying, but if we're to infer that only the first part must be carried out then cards like the one above would play very very different than they currently do.

As the rules stand now, I'd still say you can't choose such an action. Either these rulings need to fall in line with the current comp rules or the comp rules need to be adjusted slightly to allow for exceptions. The current situation illustrates that the rule applies in some situations but not others.
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Sorry, I haven't read all the posts but hasn't the original question been answered with rules support? :P

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If that is how its interpretated then with a card that read "Lose 10 life or pay 2 life and sacrifice 2 creatures", you'd be able to choose the second option even if you didn't have two creatures to sacrifice. You could pay two life and then "fail to carry out the rest of the instructions".

The way I read it, the enitre choice must be legal, not just the first part of it. Obviously there are some rulings that go against what I'm saying, but if we're to infer that only the first part must be carried out then cards like the one above would play very very different than they currently do.

As the rules stand now, I'd still say you can't choose such an action. Either these rulings need to fall in line with the current comp rules or the comp rules need to be adjusted slightly to allow for exceptions. The current situation illustrates that the rule applies in some situations but not others.

"Lose 10 life or pay 2 life and sacrifice 2 creatures" is a choice between an effect (losing 10 life) and paying a cost (pay 2 life and sacrifice 2 creatures). It's right that you can't choose to pay the cost if you can't pay it entirely.

But here with Archmage Ascension there is no cost involved. You choose between drawing a card and replacing that draw with something else. It's true that you can't choose to perform an impossible action. However, replacing a draw is always possible as long as the draw itself is possible, which is the case even if the library is empty. So instead of drawing in an empty libray, you will search you library for a card, fail to find it, fail to put it into your hand, and shuffle your library (shuffling an empty library is possible, see rule 701.16f).

But here with Archmage Ascension there is no cost involved. You choose between drawing a card and replacing that draw with something else. It's true that you can't choose to perform an impossible action. However, replacing a draw is always possible as long as the draw itself is possible, which is the case even if the library is empty. So instead of drawing in an empty libray, you will search you library for a card, fail to find it, fail to put it into your hand, and shuffle your library (shuffling an empty library is possible, see rule 701.16f).


Only abilities such as Maralen of the mornsong's first ability break Archmage Ascension...

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What two options are we choosing between here? The first option is "Draw a card." The second option is either (a) Replace that draw or (b) "search your library for a card, put that card into your hand, then shuffle your library."

If we're choosing between drawing and (a), then it's always possible to do. If we're choosing between drawing and (b), then we need to make a further distinction.

Does the game count the cards in your library to make sure that you have enough to put into your hand? If Archmage Ascension read "search your library for 15 cards," would you have to count to verify that there were actually 15 before choosing to replace the draw?

If it read "search your library for a basic land," I think it would be clear that you can choose to replace the draw even if there were no basic lands in the library, since you'd actually have to look at the cards to find out. Granted, there's a clause to distinguish searching for any card from searching for a specific type of card (701.15c), but then would that make it so "search your library for a basic land" could legally replace drawing from an empty library?

As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the comprehensive rules that addresses the bolded question above, and until we can answer it, we will never really resolve this.
This is all my interpretation

There's a difference between an effect offering you choices and not being able to pick a legal one because of the rules, and a replacement effect containing impossible actions. I can find nothing in the rules that says a replacement effect has to be possible to apply, so I think it's entirely legal to pick something impossible and end up doing nothing. Or in these cases, searching an empty zone and coming up empty.

Replacement effects that require something to happen in order to "succeed" are very clearly worded that way, like Lake of the Dead.

Even if the replacement effect contains a choice in the form of "...may", and you cannot follow that choice, you have already replaced the event with this modified version. This wasn't the choice of an effect to get this far, it's simply following the rules for applying replacement abilities. So if you now can't do it, anything that's been replaced just won't happen.

An effect that gives you 2 or more choices is not a replacement effect, nor is an "unless..." statement in a triggered ability. These are the ones that require legal choices.

If anyone has any counter examples I'd be interested to see

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Does the game count the cards in your library to make sure that you have enough to put into your hand? If Archmage Ascension read "search your library for 15 cards," would you have to count to verify that there were actually 15 before choosing to replace the draw?

no, you can always choose to replace the draw, the fact that the instructions in the replacement may not be able to be carried out is irrelevant.

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I think the rule that we're hung up on is 608.2d, which deals with making choices for resolving abilities. In part:

608.2d If an effect of a spell or ability offers any choices [...] the player announces these while applying the effect. The player can’t choose an option that’s illegal or impossible [...]
Example: A spell’s instruction reads, “You may sacrifice a creature. If you don’t, you lose 4 life.” A player who controls no creatures can’t choose the sacrifice option.

In the example above, even if the player were allowed to choose the sacrifice option, the "if you don't" clause would still cause him to lose life. But the interpretation in the example states that the option couldn't be chosen anyway because it's impossible. Based on that, it should be impossible to put a card into your hand if that card doesn't exist.

The thing in this example is that we need to fail to find a card before we determine that the card doesn't exist. I don't think the game checks for whether an event would be possible in the future to determine whether you could chose it now. If Archmage Ascension told you to "shuffle your graveyard into your library, search your library for a card, put that card into your hand, then shuffle your library*," that would clearly be possible. Except if both zones were empty. The complexity could be increased indefinitely. The game will not check for far reaching consequences when deciding now whether something is possible.

I'm still leaning towards being able to choose to search even with an empty library, but I can't seem to understand why the rules would forbid or allow it.

*Awkward wording, I know, and they wouldn't write an ability this way. But they could, and the ability helps show my point only when it is worded like that.
I think the rule that we're hung up on is 608.2d, which deals with making choices for resolving abilities.

A replacement effect is not a resolving spell or ability, so 608.2d does apply to it.
with the exception that having an empty library doesn't make drawing a card an impossible action

drawing a card from an empty library is never impossible thus the draw can be replaced
once replaced you do as much as you can

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Ok, I think I understand now. We're only being given the option to replace the draw, and it doesn't matter what it gets replaced with. If that turns out to be impossible, nothing will happen. For example, if an ability read "If you would draw a card, you may instead sacrifice a creature," you'd be able to choose to sacrifice even if you had no creatures.

I also understand now that 608.2d doesn't apply here, because Archmage Ascension's ability doesn't use the stack. The game doesn't even care whether one choice would be impossible, so it's meaningless to talk about whether or not "put that card into your hand" is possible or not.

Is all that correct?
I'll try to summarize an answer because this thread is becoming a clutter...


120.6a An effect that replaces a card draw is applied even if no cards could be drawn because there are no cards in the affected player’s library.



This rule tells us we can apply Archmage Ascension replacement effect to replace the draw from an empty library.

Once it's done, the player either search his/her empty library and fails to find a card or just don't search the library, look, it's a "may"...

Any disagreement on the present issue? Any agreement on the present issue?

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For example, if an ability read "If you would draw a card, you may instead sacrifice a creature,"


This kind of ability could be slightly functionnally different:
"If you would draw a card, you may instead sacrifice a creature, if you don't, draw a card"

And no it will not loop (unless you have two permanents with that text.

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