Afterlife (Exile Triggers)

Afterlife — When ~ becomes exiled, <effect>. If ~ would leave the battlefield, exile it instead.

Example Cards

Priests of Khem 1B (Circeus)
Creature — Hound Cleric
Afterlife — When ~ becomes exiled, you may pay 2G. If you do, put target card from your graveyard on top of your library. If ~ would leave the battlefield, exile it instead.
1/1

Grim Outlook 1BB (Circeus)
Enchantment — Aura
Enchant creature.
Enchanted creature gets +1/-1 and has intimidate.
Afterlife — When ~ becomes exiled, target creature gains intimidate until end of turn. If ~ would leave the battlefield, exile it instead.

Discussion

I think exile triggers are parasitic. Exiling doesn't happen a whole lot, and it feels very heavy-handed to design a lot of cards that exile things just so they can trigger cards that want to be exiled. At least the afterlife cards above work with themselves; they exile themselves and also have an exile trigger. But it still feels like a forced way to make something matter.

It's possible to make anything in Magic "matter" by designing lots of cards around them, but it's important that it's something players want to care about. For example, you could make a Magic set where it's important to tap an opponent's permanent during his or her draw step. There could be mechanics that say "When you cast this, tap target land at the beginning of the next draw step" and mechanics that say "Whenever you tap an opponent's permanent during that player's draw step, put a +1/+1 counter on this." And if there is a critical mass of those cards, it will probably function as a Magic set. You could make the set care about that thing, but it's not necessarily something players want to care about.

Another example is Zendikar. Early in design, they tried assigning different land manipulation effects to each color. Each color got 2 of the following: bouncing lands, sacrificing lands, recovering lands from grave, fetching lands, putting lands into play. (I'm not sure about the exact effects; it was something like that.) But it wasn't good enough. I think it must have felt like, "why the heck am I spending so much effort juggling lands around different zones when I just want to fight with my creatures and cast spells?"

For most players, I suspect that the emotional difference between exile and destroy is also very small and it's not something players want to particularly care about. While I gave an exaggerated example of a set that cares about something that doesn't register in any way on an emotional level (tapping during an opponent's draw step), compare that to this description of how players reacted gleefully when a set allowed them to legitimately care about creature tribes, something they wanted to care about.

If we were to make exiling something that players want to care about, I think exiling should have a solid flavor definition behind it, at least within this set. Only mechanics that make it feel like the creature is entering an afterlife should be used for exile. If exiling really feels like the dead creature went to heaven, then cards like some cleric sanctifier that gives you 3 life whenever a creature is exiled can start to have an emotional connection.

Things like "exile a card from a library" or "as a cost, exile a card from hand" would not work for that. I'm not even sure "when this dies, exile it" connects enough with the afterlife flavor. It happens too automatically to feel like the creature is entering an afterlife; and if we were to do that we might as well do death triggers instead.

- Chah


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