How Magic Cards work
Sneak Attack

Sneak Attack Russian

Last Modified 29.03.2020

Tonight we will have a surprise attack on dragons, which is, of course, dangerous (they can actually wake up…), but not entirely hopeless especially if we have an Emrakul up our sleeves. So, let us sneak some attacks!

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus!


Sneak Attack

Oracle Text:


{R}: You may put a creature card from your hand onto the battlefield. That creature gains haste. Sacrifice the creature at the beginning of the next end step.

Sneak Attack is a red enchantment, which has only one ability. Once we see a colon in the textbox, we understand that it is an activated ability which costs a single red mana to activate. We do not see any restrictions for activation in the textbox, which means we can activate it any time we have priority and as many times as we can pay for it. Whatever happens to Sneak Attack after its ability has been activated in no way affects its existence and resolution.

Upon resolving we have the following ability effect:

You may put a creature card from your hand onto the battlefield. That creature gains haste. Sacrifice the creature at the beginning of the next end step.

I highlighted the main words in the effect text. These words guide us to most important parts:

  • You can choose not to put the creature card onto the battlefield. For instance, if a cunning opponent reacted to the ability activation in a way which is now disadvantageous for you: Gather Specimens.
  • That creature was never cast. This means that casting spells triggers won’t happen. If creature mana cost has variable X in it and is not defined in the card textbox, X is considered to be equal to 0. But there is a good side to it: this creature cannot be countered and countering Sneak Attack ability would require specific spells like Disallow which are not that numerous.
Myojin of Night's Reach

Myojin of Night’s Reach will not have a divinity counter on it as it was not cast from your hand. It was just put onto the battlefield from hand.


A creature entering the battlefield as a result of the Sneak Attack ability will not affect Storm count.

Protean Hydra

Protean Hydra will enter the battlefield as a 0/0 creature and at the closest SBA resolution (before you can do anything) will go straight to the graveyard.

Now some good news: all creature EtB-triggers shall work perfectly well as they do not care how the creature happened to be there and was it played or not:

Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique
Rune-Scarred Demon

There are plenty of amazing creatures with very useful EtB-triggers, for example, Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique or Rune-Scarred Demon.

If a legendary creature enters the battlefield which already has a legendary creature with the same name controlled by the same player, first all EtB-abilities trigger, then SBA are checked, and one of these creatures goes to its owner’s graveyard, then triggers go on the stack and only after that active player receives priority and is able to do anything.

  • The creature entering the battlefield gains haste. This means you can activate its abilities which have a tap symbol in its cost. You can attack with this creature (if it appeared on the battlefield before declare attackers step, of course).
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Sneak Attack

If our cunning opponent controls Karakas and we have Sneak Attack on the battlefield and sources for 2 red mana, then having Emrakul in hand is twice as better! We activate Sneak Attack ability and get Emrakul onto the battlefield. If our opponent uses Karakas ability to return Emrakul back to our hand we activate Sneak Attack one more time, get Emrakul online and smash with it as Emrakul would have haste!

If we are already attacking with Emrakul, then its Annihilation ability was triggered and is now, at least, on the stack, as the opponent would receive priority only after the triggers go on the stack, we then receive priority and pass. Our opponent can return Emrakul back to our hand and avoid being hit for 15, but anyway he or she would have to sacrifice six permanents.

Not that bad anyway ©.

  • Upon Sneak Attack ability resolving a delayed triggered ability is created (the word “at” helps us) which activates only once — at the closest end step.
Blind Obedience

If Sneak Attack ability is activated at the end step, then the creature will be on the battlefield for the whole turn cycle (the closest end step will be during the next turn). This allows us to outplay our cunning opponent who controls Blind Obedience: the creature would enter the battlefield tapped during the opponent’s turn, untap during your untap step and would be able to attack.

This kind of trigger tracks a specific object, i.e. we wouldn’t be able to save our creature turning it into a pumpkin. We would have to sacrifice our pumpkin, which is not cool.

What is cool is that delayed triggers activate, as a rule, only one time which is exactly our case. Our trigger addresses a specific moment in a game: the closest end step after the trigger is created.

Soul Sculptor

If you were putting Emrakul onto the battlefield, but got a worthless enchantment instead, then upon trigger resolving you’d have to sacrifice this enchantment.

Restoration Angel

If an object moves from a zone to another one it becomes a new object. This object does not have any relation to the delayed trigger and you would not have to sacrifice it.


If the delayed trigger is countered, it won't trigger for the second time. The creature would remain on the battlefield.

Things are getting more interesting when we can somehow skip the end step:

Sundial of the Infinite

If the next end step for the creature which entered the battlefield via Sneak Attack ability was the one that you skipped due to forced ending of the turn, then the creature would remain on the battlefield until the next end step.

If the delayed trigger had been activated and had been put on the stack, and then it was exiled from the stack by an effect ending the turn, then the creature would remain on the battlefield. The delayed trigger will not activate for the second time.

If a creature has an ability which activates at the beginning of the end step, then it activates at the same time as the Sneak Attack delayed trigger. The controller puts those triggers on the stack in whatever order suits him or her.

Archwing Dragon

If the delayed trigger is put on the stack first and then the Archwing Dragon trigger is placed on the stack, then Archwing Dragon will return to its owner’s hand and it would be impossible to sacrifice it.

Sphinx Sovereign

Even if you sacrifice Sphinx Sovereign first, its trigger resolves and uses the latest information available on the Sphinx Sovereign state.

  • Upon resolving the delayed trigger you will have to sacrifice this creature.
    If our cunning opponent were to steal the creature, which we put onto the battlefield via Sneak Attack ability, then we would not be able to sacrifice it as we would be no longer controlling it. The opponent does not have to sacrifice it as it is we who control the delayed trigger and who are prescribed to perform sacrifice.

P.S. Sneak Attack and Show and Tell see play in Legacy. You can find a primer on SneakShow deck.

Translated by SnK