Personal Incarnation's "owner only" restriction

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I think the restriction in Personal Incarnation can be made shorter and more clear about who can activate it, by making it similar to how this restriction is written on cards like Knight of the Holy Nimbus.

The restriction currently reads:


  • ... Any player may activate this ability, but only if he or she owns Personal.


But it can read be:


Or maybe even:


  • ... Only that player may activate this ability.

The rules specifically state that only a permanent's controller can activate its abilities.

Rule 602.2.
To activate an ability is to put it onto the stack and pay its costs, so that it will eventually resolve
and have its effect. Only an object’s controller (or its owner, if it doesn’t have a controller) can
activate its activated ability unless the object specifically says otherwise. Activating an ability
follows the steps listed below, in order. If, at any point during the activation of an ability, a player is
unable to comply with any of those steps, the activation is illegal; the game returns to the moment
before that ability started to be activated (see rule 717, “Handling Illegal Actions”). Announcements
and payments can’t be altered after they’ve been made.


The restriction "only Personal Incarnation's owner may activate this ability" is not mutually exclusive with "only its controller may activate this ability", so I believe that would mean you could only activate the ability if you both own and control Personal Incarnation.
Rules Advisor
I don't think we should take Knight of the Holy Nimbus as an example of clear and precise templating.
I actually think Knight of the Holy Nimbus is fine, since obviously its controller can't be "an opponent".
Rules Advisor
The restriction "only Personal Incarnation's owner may activate this ability" is not mutually exclusive with "only its controller may activate this ability", so I believe that would mean you could only activate the ability if you both own and control Personal Incarnation.

I see your point, and the difference from cards like cards Knight of the Holy Nimbus (whose statement always contradicts 602.2). But I don't think my suggestion would be any less contradictive to 602.2 , even though the owner and the controller can be the same player. When the owner won't control it, it will be contradictive to 602.2 and the golden rule will apply. Otherwise you could argue that the restrictoin of KotHN doesn't work as well, even if it is exclusive (602.2 says only it's controller can & its restriction says only the controller's opponent can --> no one can)

Also, we have Martyrdom as an example where this can already happen.

I don't think we should take Knight of the Holy Nimbus as an example of clear and precise templating.

Why not, what's wrong with it? If they didn't consider it valid they would've changed it. Or are you suggesting that it needs to change?

Is there a ruling on Martyrdom that says you can activate the ability if you lose control of the creature?

To counter your other point, say that you control Sapseep Forest. Can your opponent activate its ability if she controls two green permanents and you don't?
Rules Advisor
Is there a ruling on Martyrdom that says you can activate the ability if you lose control of the creature?

I can't find a written ruling that says that, but I'm sure that this is how it works considering its printed text, but it may be worth inquiring.

Nonetheless, I believe my point about KotHN not working otherwise still stands. If KotHN works, that means the "may" in it is meant to give permission, otherwise it wouldn't really contradict 602.2 and no player would be able to activate its ability. Thus, the "may" in Martyrdom and in my suggestion would give permission that could contradict 602.2.

To counter your other point, say that you control Sapseep Forest. Can your opponent activate its ability if she controls two green permanents and you don't?


No, because It doesn't use a "may" or a "can" which implies it's only meant to restrict, not to give permission. Also, even If we'd say it gives permission,  "Activate this ability" refers to the controller of the card , so it doesn't apply to your opponent.

However, I'm starting to think Sapseep Forest's restriction would read better if it said:"You can't activate this ability if you don't control two or more green permanents."
I suppose at this point the question is whether restrictions on who can activate an ability are treated the same as restrictions on when that player may activate the ability. I actually now think that "only its owner may activate" would work. An official ruling would be preferable, however.
Rules Advisor
Maybe Martyrdom could be made to generate a replacement effect rather than grant an activated ability. At the same time it should be changed to prevent damage from permanents, so it would include planeswalkers as well. (its printed version dosn't restrict only to damage dealt to players or creatures):



  • Martyrdom - Choose target creature you control. For each 1 damage that would be dealt to a permanent or a player this turn, you may have that damage dealt to that creature instead.


This could apply to Personal Incarnation as well:


  • Personal Incarnation - For each 1 damage that would be dealt to Personal Incarnation, its owner may have that damage dealt to him or her instead.


Edit:
This is a functional change but I think it's a favorable one. With an activated ability, if you redirect 1 damage, and it gets redirected back, you would be able to redirect it again (if you activated the ability twice). With my suggestion, once you redirected 1 damage, if it gets redirected back, you won't be able to redirect it again, because the same replacement effect already applied to it.
This is a functional change but I think it's a favorable one. With an activated ability, if you redirect 1 damage, and it gets redirected back, you would be able to redirect it again (if you activated the ability twice). With my suggestion, once you redirected 1 damage, if it gets redirected back, you won't be able to redirect it again, because the same replacement effect already applied to it.


Whilst it is a functional change, I would argue that the functionality is closer to the printed wording.
Right you are. There's also Soltari Guerrilas to consider.

But maybe it's not so fitting for Martyrdom after all. Since it's being so general about allowing you to redirect any amount of damage, it might be argued that it should allow redirecting the same instances of damage more than once, which would require an activated ability.

But maybe it's not so fitting for Martyrdom after all. Since it's being so general about allowing you to redirect any amount of damage, it might be argued that it should allow redirecting the same instances of damage more than once, which would require an activated ability.


I'm not so sure that is implied by the cards text.  After all the text implies a single replacement effect which normally can't apply to the same event twice.  Imagine the hypothetical ability 'If any amount that would be dealt to you that damage is dealt to this creature instead.'.  Despite specifying any amount of damage, it's clear that this ability can only apply once even if the damage is redirect back to you.
I pointed out the inconsistency between Martyrdom and Personal Incarnation on another thread back in July 2011. It hasn't been updated since then, so sadly I doubt it'll get updated based on this one either.
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