Today we analyze Gifts Ungiven, that has been reissued in Modern Masters. This wonderful card allows us to learn the notion of “search” and the situations where one may search and fail to find.
Before we start reading the text of our today’s card, I suggest I first illuminate the concept of searching for cards.
“Searching is not finding.”
“A Clash of Kings” by George Martin
As with many other instructions on Magic cards, the “search” one doesn’t quite match its semantic meaning in the regular language. Even in terms of plain logic, “to search” is not really “to find”.
There are two different concepts of searching in Magic. In one case, you do not really have to find what you are searching for. In another, you are bound to find something. How do you tell these two cases from one another? It’s not that hard, you just have to comprehend what for and where you are searching.
Where? The key thing to understand here is whether the searched zone is open or hidden. In contemporary Magic we have seven zones: Library, Hand, Battlefield, Graveyard, Exile, Stack and Command zone. Some really old cards mention the Ante zone that is not used in any official events.
Open zones are those in which all players can see the faces of cards in them, excluding cards that are in them face down as a result of an effect. As such, open zones are Battlefield, Graveyard, Exile, Stack and Command zone.
Hidden zones are those in which not all players can see the faces of the cards. Library and Hand are hidden zones, and they remain such even if an effect reveals cards in them to all players (Telepathy).
Now, if an effect instructs a player to search an open zone, the player is bound to find the object of this search, provided it is possible to find it. If a hidden zone is searched, multiple ways are possible, and for these we need to answer the what for question.
What for? If the player is searching a hidden zone, and is looking for cards with certain characteristic(s) at that, he or she is not bound to find any. If the effect instructs to just find a certain number of cards, he or she must find that many cards (or the possible maximum within that number, if the zone has less cards than required by that effect).
Finally, after you perform the search, you may need to reveal the found cards to all players. Usually, that necessity to reveal is printed on the card (it may also potentially appear behind ability keywords).
The effect of Vampiric Tutor does not prescribe you to reveal the found card. You don’t need to reveal it, even though you are bound to find it.
The effect of Mystical Tutor instructs you to find and reveal an instant or sorcery card. This means you are not bound to find one, but if you have, you must reveal it.
Some effects limit the possibility to search libraries for cards:
Now let’s get back to the subject of this article. The text of Gifts Ungiven spells the following:
Gifts Ungiven is an instant spell, which means you may cast it any time you have priority. This spell is targeted (its text contains the word “target”). It targets an opponent, so you cannot target yourself (even if you despise yourself, you are still not an opponent to yourself) or your teammate, for instance in 2HG. The target is chosen in the process of casting the spell. That target must be legal when choosing it; the legality is checked again as the spell resolves.
The effect of Gifts Ungiven instructs you to find up to 4 cards in your library (which is a hidden zone). And not just any cards, but rather cards with different names. What are your options?
Finally, the effect of Gifts Ungiven instructs to shuffle the library. No matter if you searched your entire library or only some part of it (for instace being limited by the cunning opponent’s Aven Mindcensor), or even could not search at all (if your cunning opponent cast a Shadow of Doubt that resolved before your Gifts Ungiven), or you could but chose not to find anything, — you have to shuffle your entire library anyways.
- ⇑ Fetchland — slang expression for the cycle of lands from Onslaught block. The cycle was later continued in Zendikar. A fetchland may be sacrificed to search the controller’s library for a land of certain two subtypes and put it directly into play available for use ( Bad River, Wooded Foothills, Arid Mesa etc.). This term is occasionally expanded to include virtually any other land allowing to search a library for another land.
Translated by Witas Spasovski