Copying spells that divide damage among any number of targets.

Asked by Scud422 1 week ago

If you copy a spell that says "this does X damage divided as you choose among any number of targets" with an effect that says "you may choose new targets for the copy," can you have a different number of targets with the copy?
I assumed that if you copied something like Arc Lightning or Conflagrate (with x=3) you could do something along the lines of: 1 damage to 1 creature and 2 damage to another with the original and 3 damage to your opponent with the copy. But I was looking over the rulings for The Mirari Conjecture and saw this confusing paragraph: "If the spell has damage divided as it was cast (like Fight with Fire does when kicked), the division can’t be changed (although the targets receiving that damage still can)." I've never seen anything like this in the rulings for other copy effects and couldn't find anything along those lines in the comprehensive rules.

Gidgetimer says... #1

706.10. To copy a spell, activated ability, or triggered ability means to put a copy of it onto the stack; a copy of a spell isnt cast and a copy of an activated ability isnt activated. A copy of a spell or ability copies both the characteristics of the spell or ability and all decisions made for it, including modes, targets, the value of X, and additional or alternative costs.

As you can see the targets get copied and then you can change them. You can't target more of less things than the original did. Now this doesn't stop you from. Doing 1 to a creature and 2 to your opponent with one and 2 to a creature and 1 to your opponent with the other. But you do not get to change the number each targets.

May 12, 2018 7:32 a.m.

Rhadamanthus says... Accepted answer #2

The key thing to know is that a copy of a spell is an exact copy, including all the decisions you made while casting it. Modes, targets, divisions, the payment of additional or alternative costs, etc. This is why effects that copy spells specifically give you permission to change the targets, otherwise they wouldn't be very interesting. The copy effect doesn't say you can change the division of damage, so you don't.

May 12, 2018 8:45 a.m.

Scud422 says... #3

Thank you both for helping me understand this. To try to help anyone else who came upon this thread here's further clarification and an example. Let's say your opponent has an 0/1, a 1/1, a 3/3, a 4/4, and a 5/5, and you have a spell that says "this deals 7 damage divided as you choose among any number of targets." and a way to copy that spell. If you have the first spell do 4 damage to the 4/4 and 3 damage to the 3/3, then your copy would also have to do 4 and 3 damage because you've essentially changed the text of the spell to read "this does 4 damage to any target and 3 damage to a second target." So if you want to kill all of your opponents creatures, you'll have to do some hard math to figure out how to split the damage. You would have to split the damage of both spells to do 1, 1, 2, and 3 damage; the first spell would do 1 to the 0/1, 1 to the 3/3, 3 to the 4/4, and 2 to the 5/5 then the other spell would have to do 1 to the 1/1, 2 to the 3/3, 1 to the 4/4, and finally 3 to the 5/5. That seems like a lot of hoops to jump through for the same result, right? Well, unfortunately you have to make all these decisions before passing priority to your opponent so if your opp counters the copy, all you've killed is the 0/1.

May 12, 2018 6:43 p.m.

Scud422 says... #4

This does make me wonder though, is it mathematically possible to come up with a scenario where a copied "Y damage divided as you choose" couldn't kill Y*2 toughness worth of creatures?

May 12, 2018 6:51 p.m.

Gidgetimer says... #5

Yes. A spell that does 4 damage divided as you choose cannot kill an X/3 and an X/5. It is easier to find cases where you cannot kill X*2 toughness when you only have two targets. As a matter of fact any two different odd toughnesses will not work. The more different targets you add the easier it is to find a solution to kill them all.

Now this doesnt mean that there are not sets larger than 2 that this is true of, X/1 X/5 X/8 is also unkillable. But we are diverging into a mathematical question that is way out of my depth of how large is the largest set that cant be killed.

May 12, 2018 9:18 p.m.

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