Sphinx's Tutelage - Beginning at the End

Charlotte Sable • February 15, 2021

Obeka, Brute Chronologist by Jesper Ejsing

Hello and welcome to the inaugural installment of Sphinx's Tutelage! 

In this series, I'll be looking at some of the more rules-dense commanders out there and explaining how they work, what works with them, and what doesn't (but looks like it does).

So who am I and why should you listen to me? I'm Charlotte Sable. I've been a Magic judge since 2009 (and Level 3 since 2015). I'm a certified rules nerd who went to my first-ever sanctioned event mostly to get a DCI number so I could write the Rules Advisor test. I'm also a member of the Commander Advisory Group, but my role in that group won't be particularly relevant to what I do here. I've previously written for Cranial Insertion, the longest running rules Q&A site, as well as for my own rules blog on tumblr where I answered almost 20,000 questions between 2012 and 2020. To put it bluntly, I know my stuff when it comes to rules.

The Rules Of Obeka, Brute Chronologist

In my first column here on Commander's Herald, we're going to begin at the end... of the turn. Today we're going to be looking at Obeka, Brute Chronologist, who has already landed in the top eight most-built Grixis commanders on EDHREC. So why all the hype around this Ogre Wizard? It's not just the amazing Jesper Ejsing art, but rather her ability to end a turn early. Ending the turn is an incredibly powerful effect but involves a lot more than just those three words suggest.

Ending the Turn

So what does it mean to end the turn, exactly? Let's look at the rules for it, which are found in rule 717.1 of the Comprehensive Rules:

  • 717.1. Some cards end the turn. When an effect ends the turn, follow these steps in order, as they differ from the normal process for resolving spells and abilities (see rule 608, "Resolving Spells and Abilities").
  • 717.1a If there are any triggered abilities that triggered before this process began but haven't been put onto the stack yet, those abilities cease to exist. They won't be put onto the stack. This rule does not apply to abilities that trigger during this process (see rule 717.1f).
  • 717.1b Exile every object on the stack, including the object that's resolving. All objects not on the battlefield or in the command zone that aren't represented by cards will cease to exist the next time state-based actions are checked (see rule 704, "State-Based Actions").
  • 717.1c Check state-based actions. No player gets priority, and no triggered abilities are put onto the stack.
  • 717.1d The current phase and/or step ends. If this happens during combat, remove all creatures and planeswalkers from combat. The game skips straight to the cleanup step; skip any phases or steps between this phase or step and the cleanup step. If an effect ends the turn during the cleanup step, a new cleanup step begins.
  • 717.1e Even though the turn ends, "at the beginning of the end step" triggered abilities don't trigger because the end step is skipped.
  • 717.1f No player gets priority during this process, so triggered abilities are not put onto the stack. If any triggered abilities have triggered since this process began, those abilities are put onto the stack during the cleanup step, then the active player gets priority and players can cast spells and activate abilities. Then there will be another cleanup step before the turn finally ends. If no triggered abilities have triggered during this process, no player gets priority during the cleanup step. See rule 514, "Cleanup Step."

You got all that? Was that a bit obtuse obtuse? Let's look at an example:

I cast Day's Undoing during my precombat main phase. It starts to resolve, so everyone shuffles their hand or graveyard into their library and draws seven cards. I control Cosi's Trickster, so it triggers three times, once for each opponent. Now we begin the process of ending the turn. First, those Cosi's Trickster triggers cease to exist, so they'll never go on the stack. Then we'll exile everything that is on the stack, which currently is just the Day's Undoing. We now skip over to the cleanup step, which means ending the precombat main phase and completely skipping the combat phase and post combat main phase as well as the end step. We now go to the cleanup step. One of my opponents controls a Locust Miser, so my maximum hand size is five and I need to discard two cards. If nothing triggers off of me discarding these cards, then we go to the next player's turn after the cleanup step is done. However, if I controlled a Bone Miser, then it would trigger for the cards I discarded and those triggers would go on the stack. Because triggers need to go on the stack, players will get priority, which is abnormal for the cleanup step. Once the triggers resolve and everyone passes priority the cleanup step ends, but because of the triggers earlier there then will be a fresh cleanup step. The turn will only finally end after a normal cleanup step where nothing triggers and thus no players get priority.

What doesn't work with Obeka?

Right, so, Obeka basically lets you skip the delayed downsides of anything you can think of, right? Not exactly. If you're building an Obeka deck, it's imperative that you understand the difference of "until end of turn" effects and "at the beginning of your next end step" effects.

Effects that last until end of turn wear off in the cleanup step, and ending the turn doesn't skip the cleanup step. This means that temporary theft effects like Word of Seizing or Threaten can't be made permanent by ending the turn. Unfortunately, a fair few of these sorts of effects show up on Obeka's page, so a good number of players out there don't seem to understand the difference. This can probably be chalked up to end step triggers being written out as "at the end of turn" on older cards, which muddies the issue a lot. 

As for effects that trigger "at the beginning of the next end step" or at any other particular time, Obeka can get rid of these for you, yes, but you need to time Obeka's ability carefully or you might end up dealing with the triggers again later. When a trigger is set up to happen at a later time it's known as a delayed trigger, and these delayed triggers will watch for that time to happen and aren't cleared away when turns end. So, in order to make sure an "at the beginning of the next end step" trigger doesn't come back to haunt you on the next player's turn, you'll need to wait until your own end step and let that delayed trigger go on the stack before you activate Obeka's ability. (Note: There are a few such delayed triggers that can only trigger on a specific turn, mostly on effects like Final Fortune. These triggers can be avoided by ending that turn at any point before they resolve.)

For example, the resolution of Ideas Unbound sets up a delayed trigger that will make you discard three cards at the beginning of the next end step. If you end your turn with Obeka before your end step begins, then that delayed trigger will wait around until the next end step that does begin and go on the stack then, forcing you to discard three cards on that later turn. In order to not have to discard any cards at all, you'll need to let the delayed trigger go on the stack in your end step and only then end the turn with Obeka, banishing the trigger to the shadow realm.

What does work with Obeka?

As mentioned earlier, Obeka is great at stopping delayed triggers from going off, so in addition to end step triggers (e.g. the delayed exile on tokens from encore), she works really with end-of-combat triggers like the ones from the myriad mechanic or Flamerush Rider

Normally you'll use Obeka on your own turn, since other players won't agree to end their own turns early, but in the situations where you haven't used Obeka on your own turn, she can be an effective political tool that can let you extract favors and get deals to help opponents out of bad situations. 

Are an opponent's attacking creatures getting blown out by Settle the Wreckage? Offer to save them by ending the turn. 

Is someone casting an overloaded Cyclonic Rift on another player's turn? Help yourself and the other two players at the low cost of ending the active player's turn early.

Sadly, Obeka can't be used as a Fog for defenders since the attacker won't want to end their turn, but there are plenty of other good political uses for her ability.

What to look for

In summation, if you're looking to build a deck around Obeka, you should look for effects that create delayed triggers ("At the beginning of the next end step" and "at end of combat" are the most common ones you'll find). Here's a brief list of mechanics that Obeka makes better: myriad, unearth, encore, and evoke. (Note that with unearth, the creatures will still be exiled if they would leave the battlefield.) You should also avoid effects that last "until end of turn" or can only happen "this turn," since Obeka can't stop these effects from ending. 

A few of my favorite cards that can go in an Obeka deck and haven't been mentioned earlier are Hellkite Courser, Cauldron Dance, and Mirror Mockery.

Suggestions Please!

So the time has come to tap Obeka and end this article, but before I go, I would love to hear from all of you about what commanders you'd like to see me cover in future articles. Please send me your suggestions on twitter @JqlGirl or in the comments below! I would also love to hear any feedback you may have about the series in general. Thanks for reading, and join me again soon for your next lesson.

Charlotte has been playing Magic since 1994 and a Magic judge since 2009. She has previously written for Cranial Insertion and her own Q&A blog at magicjudge.tumblr.com. She is also a member of the Commander Advisory Group.