How Magic Cards work
Chains of Mephistopheles

Chains of Mephistopheles Russian

Last Modified 29.03.2020

Warning! Reading this week card’s text aloud three times may lead to accidental summoning of the Satan.

Chains of Mephistopheles

Oracle Text:


If a player would draw a card except the first one he or she draws in his or her draw step each turn, that player discards a card instead. If the player discards a card this way, he or she draws a card. If the player doesn't discard a card this way, he or she puts the top card of his or her library into his or her graveyard.

Chains of Mephistopheles is an enchantment.  It is cast or brought onto the battlefield by demons  some effect and stays there until demons take it some other effect destroys it or otherwise makes it change zones.

Chains of Mephistopheles has a single static ability that creates a replacement effect. This type of effect is easily recognized by the word “instead” hidden somewhere in that diabolic incantation. These effects replace one event with the other so that the first event never actually occurs.

Now let’s read the card’s text.

The basic event this effect is waiting for is a card draw. Specifically, Chains look for any draw, except the first one in the draw step of the player. That card is being drawn normally. Well, except sometimes miracles happen. Every other card draw is going to be replaced according to the scheme described below. Additionally, the cause of the draw is absolutely irrelevant when we deal with the devil Chains of Mephistopheles; Chains effect will work whether the card draw is part of the payment for a spell or ability or part of result.

Instead of drawing a card, player is instructed to conduct a bloody ritual  discard a card from his hand. And if he does (because the hand isn’t empty) then he gets to draw a card*.

If a player can’t discard a card (because his hand is empty, for example), then he mills, i.e. puts the top card of his library into his graveyard.

Here is a chart describing the process:

How does Chains of Mephistopheles work
Library of Leng

If you also have the Library of Leng in play along with the Chains, you may safely discard a card, put it on top of your library, and draw it again.

Library of Leng Oracle text:

You have no maximum hand size.
If an effect causes you to discard a card, discard it, but you may put it on top of your library instead of into your graveyard.

If there are multiple replacement effects that replace the drawing of a card, the affected player chooses the order in which they are applied. Sometimes this leads to situations when some effects can’t be applied because the event they would replace is no longer going to happen. For example, if there are two Chains of Mephistopheles on the battlefield, each ability will try to replace every draw (except the first draw in the draw step). The replacement effects are applied one after the other. So, the player will need to discard due to the first application of the Chains. If he does, he gets to draw another card. This draw is subject to the second replacement effect. However, if the application of the first replacement results in milling a card, the second effect will not have an event to replace.

Golgari Grave-Troll

If you have a Golgari Grave-Troll in the graveyard and Chains of Mephistopheles is on the battlefield, you have two effects that can replace your draw. So, if you get to draw a card, you may choose which to apply. If you choose to use Dredge instead of drawing and return Golgari-Grave Troll to your hand, Chains of Mephistophele’s ability will have nothing to replace.

If you choose to apply the Chain’s effect first and you have a card in hand, you’ll discard and draw. This draw can be replaced with Dredge. If you don’t have cards in the hand the moment you draw, you’ll mill instead and won’t be able to use Dredge.

Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar
Rites of Flourishing
Chains of Mephistopheles

What happens if we have Rites of Flourishing, Tomorrow, Azami’s Familiar and Chains of Mephistopheles on the battlefield?

At the beginning of our draw step, Rites of Flourishing’s ability triggers, then, we get to draw a card for the turn. This draw isn’t replaced by Chains of Mephistopheles; however, Tomorrow’s ability lets us mess with the top three cards of our library and put one directly into our hand without actually drawing it. On resolution of the Rites’ trigger, we get to draw another card and… voi-la! it’s still the first card that we are going to draw during our draw step, so the Chains’ effect isn’t applied to it either. So, diabolic enchantment sulks in the corner and we get to mess with the top three cards again!

There are special rules for replacement effects that replace card draws:

614.11. Some effects replace card draws. These effects are applied even if no cards could be drawn because there are no cards in the affected player’s library.

614.11a If an effect replaces a draw within a sequence of card draws, all actions required by the replacement are completed, if possible, before resuming the sequence.

614.11b If an effect would have a player both draw a card and perform an additional action on that card, and the draw is replaced, the additional action is not performed on any cards that are drawn as a result of that replacement effect.

Sylvan Library

From the perspective of the game, each draw is a separate event. If you need to draw X cards, it means you have X separate card drawing events.

Sylvan Library’s ability triggers at the beginning of the draw step; then, we get to draw for the turn. Chains of Mephistopheles ignores that draw. On resolution of the Library trigger, if you choose to draw cards, the effect of the Chains is applied: each card draw is replaced with discard/draw or mill. According to the rule 614.11a these events happen one-by-one.

Rule 614.11b doesn’t apply for Sylvan Library’s ability, because a player doesn’t perform actions on the drawn cards. So, the rest of effect continues to perfom.

The rest of Sylvan’s effect is ignored only you haven’t actually drawn any cards that turn, but this kind of situation is very rare.

Fa’adiyah Seer

If a Fa’adiyah Seer’s ability was activated and its controller has cards in hand, due to the Chains of Mephistopheles, the card draw will be replaced with discard/draw. The card drawn this way doesn’t need to be revealed or discarded (even if it’s a land card). This part of the ability’s effect is ignored because of rule 614.11b.

Civilized Scholar

Note that the resolution of the last part of the Scholar’s ability will happen normally even after applying Chains of Mephistopheles’ effect, because Scholar’s ability effect doesn’t interact with the card drawn, but instead with the card you choose to discard.

Because Chains of Mephistopheles instructs us to discard, this means that other effects that reply to discards can also apply. For example:

Asylum Visitor

If we discard Asylum Visitor, we can cast it via Madness.

Some advice: do not play Chains of Mephistopheles if you don’t want to be hated by judges!

Translated by Witas Spasovski