When it comes to really weird cards, you’ll find that we absolutely love them. Typically this relationship is not a healthy one; what conceivable way can we make this odd thing work? Viability be damned, I’m going to play this little weirdo. But within the heap of nonsense we consider, there are diamonds in the rough. One such uncut diamond is Sundial of the Infinite.
At first read, a simple question comes to mind: Why would we want to end our turn? That seems like an unnecessary way to kneecap ourselves. Sure, we can end the turn prior to the end step, but for what puropse?
Ending the turn this way means the following things happen in order:
1) All spells and abilities on the stack are exiled. This includes spells and abilities that can't be countered.
2) All attacking and blocking creatures are removed from combat.
3) State-based actions are checked. No player gets priority, and no triggered abilities are put onto the stack.
4) The current phase and/or step ends. The game skips straight to the cleanup step. The cleanup step happens in its entirety.
As the Scryfall.com rulings explain, the turn immediately jumps to the cleanup step. This skips everything between, removes everything from the stack, and the next time a player gets priority will be the upkeep of the next player in turn order. We discard down to seven cards, check state-base actions (i.e. check if a creature is dying due to damage that is marked on it), and any “until end of turn” effects end. These are all extremely important, so let’s break them down.
The Next End Step
There are a plethora of cards that have some form of the phrase “at the beginning of the next end step.” As we’ve mentioned before, Planebound Accomplice smiles from ear to ear when he sees this card. His close relative Sneak Attack has the same effect, but for creatures. When introducing Sundial of the Infinite to the picture, things can get odd, as there are some minutia we have to keep track of.
Effects that say “At the beginning of the next end step” create a delayed trigger. Apprentice Necromancer, for instance, has this type of ability. If we activate his ability to reanimate a creature, the ability will also create a delayed trigger. At our end step, the trigger will put an effect on the stack instructing us to sacrifice the creature we reanimated. If we used Sundial of the Infinite to end the turn during our second main phase, we would keep our creature on our turn, but the delayed trigger would trigger on our opponent’s end step because that is the “next end step.” In order to circumvent the sacrifice entirely, we need to pass to our end step and let the effect go onto the stack. We’ll gain priority before the effect resolves, and that’s when we’ll use Sundial of the Infinite to end the turn. The delayed trigger is “spent” when it goes onto the stack, therefore our opponent’s end step won’t cause the trigger to occur again. Got it? Good. Now let’s see how we can use this to our advantage!
Unearth is a neat ability, but being one-time-use really limits its value. I enjoyed it while it was in standard, but never played with it after it rotated. Years later, I was looking at Commanders for a Grixis Commander deck when I found Sedris, the Traitor King. A Commander deck about value in the graveyard to reanimate seemed fun, but I needed a way to not lose my creatures permanently. That’s when I first discovered Sundial of the Infinite‘s true power.
Similar to Apprentice Necromancer, unearth has a delayed trigger that will exile our creature at the beginning of the next end step. We just need to let that trigger go on the stack on our end step, then activate Sundial of the Infinite; now we have ourselves a permanently reanimated creature! How about paying three mana for Torrential Gearhulk to recast Entomb? Where do I sign?
Whip of Erebos is another great reanimator to use with Sundial of the Infinite, as it basically has its own unearth ability. The wording is slightly different, but its delayed trigger can be circumvented with Sundial of the Infinite just like unearth!
Something important to note about the previous two examples: if the creatures we reanimate leave the battlefield for any reason, they will be exiled. This is a replacement effect, not a delayed trigger, so Sundial of the Infinite can’t get rid of it for good. However, there are a few ways around it:
If the creature is being exiled as a part of an effect like Conjurer’s Closet, the replacement effect doesn’t happen; the creature is already being exiled, so it can’t be “exiled instead.” This means we can use Conjurer’s Closet or Thassa, Deep-Dwelling to get rid of those pesky exile effects. When the creatures re-enter the battlefield, they are new objects with no connection to the unearth ability, its delayed trigger, or its replacement effect.
“Until End of Turn”
514. Cleanup Step
514.2. Second, the following actions happen simultaneously: all damage marked on permanents (including phased-out permanents) is removed and all “until end of turn” and “this turn” effects end. This turn-based action doesn’t use the stack.
“Until end of turn” effects are what are known as continuous effects. As rule 514.2 states above, these “until end of turn” effects end during the cleanup step. Act of Treason, Giant Growth, and Disfigure are simple examples of this. While it does sound fun to make a Giant Growth permanent, this can’t be done with Sundial of the Infinite. Don’t go building a deck based around stealing creatures unless you’re packing blink effects like Conjurer’s Closet or Ephemerate, okay?
Eyeing the Stack
Using temporary reanimation and circumventing its built-in safeguards is a fun strategy for a deck centered around Sundial of the Infinite. But what about some other uses for the card?
Prior to Sundial of the Infinite, Time Stop was the only way to abruptly end the turn. This card was (and still is) used, more often than not, to skip someone’s whole turn or to stop literally anything. We can’t use Sundial of the Infinite on other player’s turns, but we can use it like a Time Stop in response to shenanigans as long as it’s our turn. If ending the turn results in all spells and abilities being removed from the stack and no player gaining priority for the remainder of the turn, we can use this to our advantage.
Imagine this: We declare a bunch of attackers after casting some big spell like Overwhelming Stampede. Our opponent then plays Rout at instant speed, which will result in all of our creatures dying. If we respond by activating Sundial of the Infinite, the turn just ends. No spells resolve, no combat damage ends up being dealt, and all we lose is a second main phase. It’s not an ideal situation, had we been holding onto some spells for that phase, but it’s likely better than losing our entire board.
Similarly, if the opponent to our immediate left has Vedalken Orrery or Leyline of Anticipation and has been waiting to cast their spells until our end step, now we have some leverage over them. If they try to flash something in right before their turn, we effectively have a one mana counterspell.
And… That’s It.
While Sundial of the Infinite isn’t a card that needs a novel-length breakdown, its few uses are barely seen elsewhere. It can cause some mild rules annoyances for the unprepared, so hopefully that group no longer includes you. Who knew that ending the turn before it was ready would do so much?
This card isn’t an auto-include in every deck, even though it is colorless. Carefully consider why you might need this card before including it. If you want to abuse “at the beginning of the next end step” delayed triggers, then you’re in the right mind set. Maybe you have an opponent who always plays spells during your turn all the time and you’re sick of it; this might be a worthwhile inclusion just to stick it to them. Otherwise, it’s a fun gimmicky card that might make you consult your local judge, just to be sure you’re using it right. Join me next time when I use Baton of Morale to give a bunch of creatures banding and give my local judge a migraine.