Modal describes a spell spell or ability in Magic that gives the caster a choice of two or more effects when it is cast or otherwise put on the stack.
A modal spell or ability begins with "Choose one —" (or "Choose two —", etc.) followed by multiple possible effect choices, or modes. When a modal spell or ability is announced its controller first chooses one of the modes to take effect before choosing its target or targets if it requires any. The earliest modal spell is Healing Salve, although initially it didn't have the "Choose one -" wording. It was reworded when reprinted in Urza's Saga.
There are several variations of modal spells and abilities:
- "An opponent chooses one —" appears on three spells, Fatal Lore, Library of Lat-Nam and Misfortune, all from Alliances.
- "If [event], instead choose one —". This is a modal replacement effect. This wording was used for Time Vault's Oracle text at one point, but is no longer on any cards.
- "Choose two —" appears on a cycle of cards (Command cycle from Lorwyn); the caster is given a choice of four effects, and as expected allows the user to use two of them.
- "Choose one or both —" has appeared a few times in the Alara block and Zendikar; two effects are given, and the caster is allowed to choose either for resolution. This is to allow flexibility if the caster prefers to use only one effect (or is forced to, for lack of a valid target for one half), while allowing the capability to perform both if required. This was an updated wording for effects similar to Hull Breach, which was forced to list out all three options.
- "Choose one that hasn't been chosen —" appears on Demonic Pact.
In August 2014, along with the rules update for Khans of Tarkir, the templating for modal abilities was changed from its previous semicolon-separated prose list format to a bulleted list, making them more readable. All existing modal cards received errata on Oracle to have bullet points, and all subsequent modal cards (e.g. Jeskai Charm) have been formatted this way.
The keyword ability entwine allows the caster to choose all options by paying an additional cost.
From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (Core Set 2019 (July 13, 2018))
- Modal, Mode
- A spell or ability is “modal” if it has two or more options in a bulleted list preceded by instructions for a player to choose a number of those options, such as “Choose one —.” See rule 700.2.
From the Comprehensive Rules (Core Set 2019 (July 13, 2018))
- 700.2. A spell or ability is modal if it has two or more options in a bulleted list preceded by instructions for a player to choose a number of those options, such as “Choose one —.” Each of those options is a mode. Modal cards printed prior to the Khans of Tarkir set didn’t use bulleted lists for the modes; these cards have received errata in the Oracle card reference so the modes do appear in a bulleted list.
- 700.2a The controller of a modal spell or activated ability chooses the mode(s) as part of casting that spell or activating that ability. If one of the modes would be illegal (due to an inability to choose legal targets, for example), that mode can’t be chosen. (See rule 601.2b.)
- 700.2b The controller of a modal triggered ability chooses the mode(s) as part of putting that ability on the stack. If one of the modes would be illegal (due to an inability to choose legal targets, for example), that mode can’t be chosen. If no mode can be chosen, the ability is removed from the stack. (See rule 603.3c.)
- 700.2c If a spell or ability targets one or more targets only if a particular mode is chosen for it, its controller will need to choose those targets only if they chose that mode. Otherwise, the spell or ability is treated as though it did not have those targets. (See rule 601.2c.)
- 700.2d If a player is allowed to choose more than one mode for a modal spell or ability, that player normally can’t choose the same mode more than once. However, a few modal spells include the instruction “You may choose the same mode more than once.” If a particular mode is chosen multiple times, the spell is treated as if that mode appeared that many times in sequence. If that mode requires a target, the same player or object may be chosen as the target for each of those modes, or different targets may be chosen.
- 700.2e Some spells and abilities specify that a player other than their controller chooses a mode for it. In that case, the other player does so when the spell or ability’s controller normally would do so. If there is more than one other player who could make such a choice, the spell or ability’s controller decides which of those players will make the choice.
- 700.2f Modal spells and abilities may have different targeting requirements for each mode. Changing a spell or ability’s target can’t change its mode.
- 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. (See rule 706.10.)
From the Comprehensive Rules (Core Set 2019 (July 13, 2018))
- 114.7. Some effects allow a player to change the target(s) of a spell or ability, and other effects allow a player to choose new targets for a spell or ability.
- 114.7a If an effect allows a player to “change the target(s)” of a spell or ability, each target can be changed only to another legal target. If a target can’t be changed to another legal target, the original target is unchanged, even if the original target is itself illegal by then. If all the targets aren’t changed to other legal targets, none of them are changed.
- 114.7b If an effect allows a player to “change a target” of a spell or ability, the process described in rule 114.7a is followed, except that only one of those targets may be changed (rather than all of them or none of them).
- 114.7c If an effect allows a player to “change any targets” of a spell or ability, the process described in rule 114.7a is followed, except that any number of those targets may be changed (rather than all of them or none of them).
- 114.7d If an effect allows a player to “choose new targets” for a spell or ability, the player may leave any number of the targets unchanged, even if those targets would be illegal. If the player chooses to change some or all of the targets, the new targets must be legal and must not cause any unchanged targets to become illegal.
- 114.7e When changing targets or choosing new targets for a spell or ability, only the final set of targets is evaluated to determine whether the change is legal.
Example: Arc Trail is a sorcery that reads “Arc Trail deals 2 damage to any target and 1 damage to another target.” The current targets of Arc Trail are Runeclaw Bear and Llanowar Elves, in that order. You cast Redirect, an instant that reads “You may choose new targets for target spell,” targeting Arc Trail. You can change the first target to Llanowar Elves and change the second target to Runeclaw Bear.