Precursor Golem

Today’s article is about everyone’s favorite rules headache, Precursor Golem. This spell-slinging simulacrum creates more interesting rules interactions than your average Standard-legal expansion, and today I’m going to explore a few of them which involve (il)legal targets and modal spells.

Here’s the situation: I have a Precursor Golem on the battlefield, and I cast Saheeli’s Artistry with both modes targeting a single Golem. What happens, and why? The answer may seem simple on the surface, but this is a fairly complex interaction and understanding it fully will require a breakdown of several rules.

First I’ll address the basic interaction. Let’s assume that Precursor Golem and its two Golem tokens are the only creatures on the battlefield. I cast Saheeli’s Artistry targeting the Precursor with both modes, which triggers Precursor Golem’s ability. The ability causes me to copy Saheeli’s Artistry for each other Golem on the battlefield (in this case it’s two copies, one for each of the two Golem tokens). Because I chose both modes when I cast the original spell, each copy of Artistry has both modes selected. From the Comprehensive Rules:

700.2g A copy of a modal spell or ability copies the mode(s) chosen for it. The controller of the copy can’t choose a different mode. 

So I get two copies of each Golem token and two copies of Precursor Golem, each of which creates its own pair of Golems when it enters the battlefield. Not a bad result! However, let’s say I want to get tricky with things. I have these two copies of Saheeli’s Artistry, and Precursor Golem says “each copy targets a different one of those Golems.” It sounds like I can fulfill that requirement by targeting a Golem token with one of the two modes, and use the other mode to target Precursor himself to get some bonus Golems! Unfortunately, this is not the case. Here is the relevant excerpt from the Comprehensive Rules:

706.10d Some effects copy a spell or ability for each player or object it “could target.” The copies are put onto the stack with those targets in the order of their controller’s choice. If the spell or ability has more than one target, each of its targets must be the same player or object. If that player or object isn’t a legal target for each instance of the word “target,” a copy isn’t created for that player or object.

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When an effect copies a spell, unless that effect specifies that “you may choose new targets for this copy” you cannot make any choices about targeting. As the copies are created by Precursor Golem‘s ability, they are assigned to each valid target without your input.

If any Golem is not valid for each instance of the word “target”, a copy is not created. This means that if I control an Amoeboid Changeling, which is a Golem, I will not copy Saheeli’s Artistry targeting it; Amoeboid Changeling is not an Artifact and is therefore an invalid target for the first mode of Saheeli’s Artistry .

As you can see, there are a few rules under the surface that make understanding Precursor Golem’s interactions a little tricky. However, I hope this guide helps out and gives you a better understanding of Magic’s rules as a whole (and a few tricky ideas!). Thanks for reading, join us next week when we cast Shahrazad with Thousand-Year Storm on the battlefield!

(…I’m kidding, probably)

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