Magic Wizards: Prime Speaker Zegana and Ezuri, Claw of Progress

I think it helps that when I play Magic: the Gathering with a group of friends, I do so with a guy who is a lawyer at heart, another who is a politician at heart, a woman who is a geochemist at heart, and another guy who is an engineer at heart. Throw in your friendly neighborhood logician/philosopher and you’ve got a group who really wants to know the ins and outs of the rules. You’ve also got a group of people who aren’t afraid to do their research. This is a good thing, because sometimes Magic gets messy, especially when you are playing Elder Dragon/Highlander (EDH), where every deck has somewhere close to 60+ unique cards and the interactions seem endless.

Unlike the previous post about Fellwar Stone, I feel fairly certain that the issue we are dealing with in this post is not outdated. It wouldn’t do for Wizards to ban two cards from Commander that are printed in their latest round of pre-constructed product, so this post should be safe for quite some time.

Does Prime Speaker Zegana trigger Ezuri, Claw of Progress?

If you’re familiar with the Commander 2015 pre-constructed deck Swell the Host, then you know it is built around a Legendary Elf Warrior named Ezuri, Claw of Progress.

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Because Ezuri gains experience whenever a creature with power 2 or less enters the battlefield under your control and uses that experience to put +1/+1 counters on other creatures, you want to be casting as many small creatures as you possibly can.

The deck also features a Legendary Merfolk Wizard named Prime Speaker Zegana.

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Zegana is a 1/1 creature which enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it, where X is the greatest power among other creatures you control. Zegana also works great when you need some card draw, because when it enters the battlefield you also get to draw cards equal to its power.

While we were playing the other night, a friend cast Prime Speaker Zegana while Ezuri, Claw of Progress was on the battlefield and it wasn’t entirely clear to all of us whether or not Zegana triggers Ezuri’s experience increase. On the one hand, the individual who cast Zegana thought that since the creature was 1/1 it would first trigger Ezuri’s extra experience and shortly thereafter would gain the +3/+3 from Ezuri (or maybe more — I don’t remember the greatest power among creatures but since Ezuri was out I know it was at least three). On the other hand, some at the table thought that Prime Speaker Zegana would not trigger Ezuri because the counters would arrive before Ezuri could check. Needless to say, we needed a third opinion.

This concern is not limited to Prime Speaker Zegana and Ezuri, Claw of Progress. The same issue could arise with any pair of cards in which the first card checks the power or toughness of creatures entering the battlefield and the second  card gains +1/+1 counters when it enters the battlefield.*

In the instance where Ezuri, Claw of Progress is already on the battlefield at the time Prime Speaker Zegana is cast, Zegana will not trigger Ezuri and the player in control of Ezuri will not gain any experience. Zegana will receive a minimum of 3 +1/+1 counters because Ezuri is a 3/3 creature. Though the printed power and toughness on Zegana is 1/1, there is never a time when Zegana is on the battlefield and has a power and toughness less than two.

If this is less than clear, we can examine what would happen if cards like Prime Speaker Zegana entered the battlefield as their printed power and toughness (in this instance 1/1), got checked by Ezuri, Claw of Progress, and following both of those steps, gained 3 (or more) +1/+1 counters. However, to drive the ruling home I would like to substitute for Zegana an Artifact Creature named Arcbound Bruiser which takes advantage of the Modular mechanic that was introduced in Mirrodin.

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Arcbound Bruiser has a printed power and toughness of 0/0 with Modular 3, which means that it comes into play with three +1+1 counters on it and it grants another Artifact Creature those counters when it enters a graveyard. If Arcbound Bruiser were to enter the battlefield with its printed power and toughness, as some might suggest Prime Speaker Zegana ought to, it would have a toughness of 0 and therefore go directly to the graveyard. It would not trigger Ezuri, Claw of Progress, and there would never be a target for the three +1/+1 counters. Oops. You just wasted five mana. It is because of issues like this that cards like Prime Speaker Zegana checks after its +1/+1 counters have been added. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and vice versa. If Arcbound Bruiser is a 3/3 and not a 0/0, then Prime Speaker Zegana will always be at least a 4/4 when Ezuri is on the battlefield and not a 1/1.

I hope this was informative. As for topics, the Commander 2015 deck Seize Control gains its name because you can dominate other creatures and make them your own. What is your favorite creature in all of Commander 2015 to steal and why? I know this deck can get insane, especially as you can seize control of another player’s commander, pump up your experience from two sources, and use the experience in two different ways. I’d love to hear of other insane combinations that are now available with a dominate deck and the option to get mana outside of your general’s colors.

 

* If you can think of cards that either check the power and toughness of creatures entering the battlefield or cards that gain +1/+1 counters when they enter the battlefield (outside of Ezuri and Zegano, of course), please let me know. If I can add those card names into the body of this post, it might help a few more people to find this page and understand the general rule.

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