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This question is very similar to my previous questions here and here, so hopefully I've finally found a spell where this question makes sense.

Jeremy Crawford clarified in the 19/JAN/2017 Sage Advice segment of the Dragon Talk podcast that a spell targets something if it affects that thing.

The Twinned Spell Metamagic states:

When you cast a spell that targets only one creature and doesn’t have a range of self... Emphasis mine

I am not sure how to interpret this section though and see two options.

  1. The spell needs to target exactly one creature and nothing else.
  2. The spell needs to target exactly one creature and then also any number of non-creature things, such as objects.

The question I've been wanting to ask is which interpretation is correct, but there's no reason to ask that question unless some spell makes it meaningful or important, so hopefully this does that.

However, in the podcast Crawford does say fireball is not eligible to be twinned "Not only because initially you're not even targeting a creature, you're actually targeting a point in space...", and this seems to imply that my first interpretation is correct, but I am not sure.

This matters because Nystul's magic aura has the following in its spell description:

You place an illusion on a creature or an object you touch so that divination spells reveal false information about it... False Aura: You change the way the target appears to spells and magical effects, such as detect magic, that detect magical auras...

This spell initially targets a creature but later it can affect, and thus target, spells and magical effects. It is debatable whether the spell itself is targeting divination spells and the like, but Crawford has said that you cannot twin dragon breath as the action it grants can target other creatures besides the first. Nystul's is similarly a later effect of the spell altering how something works, and so, to me, it is targeting those spells and magical effects.

Which interpretation of "only one creature" is correct?

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The spell needs to target exactly one creature in order for twin to work...

... but there are caveats.

As you've noted, the Twinned Spell metamagic option begins its description with:

When you cast a spell that targets only one creature...

A 2015 errata to the PHB added this note to the description of the Twinned Spell metamagic option:

To be eligible for Twinned Spell, a spell must be incapable of targeting more than one creature at the spell’s current level.

This means that a spell like Chaos Bolt, though it does initially target only one creature, is ineligible to be twinned because it can target more than one creature.

Further, as you point out, spells - like Fireball - that instead target points in space are also ineligible to be twinned. (More on Fireball later)

Nystul's Magic Aura, on the other hand, can only target one creature, but it can also target an object, and that's where the complication comes from.

According to this question about the Heat Metal spell, spells that target objects are ineligible to be twinned. Particularly because objects are not creatures, and the Twinned Spell metamagic option explicitly makes mention of "creature" and not "object."

This leaves us in an interesting predicament, as Nystul's Magic Aura fulfills the requirement of only being capable of targeting one creature, but also that it can instead target an object.

This DM would interpret that to mean that if you target a creature with Nystul's Magic Aura, you could then twin the spell and choose a new creature to also be affected. However, if you choose an object as your original target, you could not then twin the spell.


A few words on the podcast (and subsequent rules interpretation) you mention:

As of January, 2019, Jeremy Crawford's - or any other staff, for that matter - public statements are no longer considered official rulings. Only the Sage Advice Compendium is considered official as far as rulings go. Many of the past statements regarding rules clarifications have been published in the SAC, but many have also been excluded (or just haven't been published yet). This means we can only rely on what is published in the SAC, and we should throw out all previous rulings in tweets, podcasts, etc.

We can find the 2019 SAC here. I searched for mentions of "target," "Nystul," and "affect." I read through all the occurrences of the aforementioned words. Unless I missed something, the SAC does not currently appear to define anything in regard to spells automatically targeting things they affect. Where there might be exceptions, they seem to be explicitly covered in the description for a given spell. Funny enough, Fireball is one such spell. It initially targets a point in space and then treats the affected creatures like targets (emphasis mine):

Each creature in a ... sphere ... must make a Dexterity saving throw. A target takes 8d6 fire damage...

However, like I mentioned, this is explicitly phrased in the spell description, and not an assumption we make because the spell affected additional things. "Affect" does not automatically translate to "target" unless the rules say it does.

Nystul's Magic Aura targets one creature or object and affects them the way the spell describes (emphasis mine):

The target can be a willing creature or an object...

"The target" in this case is explicitly defined. Later, if another spell targets the same target, Nystul's defines how that other spell behaves. That is the extent of the interaction. We choose Nystul's targets when we cast the spell. We do not suddenly have additional targets when someone else targets our target. Nystul's does not make mention of the other spells becoming targets, so we cannot consider them to be.

Jeremey Crawford's ruling on Dragon's Breath directly contradicts the reasoning of the 2015 PHB errata. Dragon's Breath targets "one willing creature" and that's it. Later, regarding the breath attack, it says (emphasis mine):

Each creature in that area must make a Dexterity saving throw...

Note that unlike Fireball, this spell does not declare the affected creatures to be targets. The fact that the breath attack granted by the spell can affect multiple creatures does not change the fact that the spell only targets one creature. This means that Dragon's Breath is, in fact, an eligible target for the Twinned Spell metamagic option.

The confusion Jeremy Crawford's initial Dragon's Breath ruling caused is a great example of why the decision was made to retcon all rulings from before 2019.

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Nystul's Magic Aura says:

You place an illusion on a creature or an object you touch so that divination spells reveal false information about it. The target can be a willing creature or an object that isn't being carried or worn by another creature.

The key word here is or, you choose a single creature or object that isnt being carried or worn.

Twinned Spell says two important things:

When you cast a spell that targets only one creature and doesn’t have a range of self

To be eligible, a spell must be incapable of targeting more than one creature at the spell’s current level.

This means that it can only be applied if the spell has a singular target, and that target is a creature, and if the spell's range is not self.
Additionally, the spell must not be capable of targeting more than one creature at the level you are casting it.

This means if you choose a spell which targets a single creature when cast at level 1, but can target more creatures at a higher cast level (such as 2 targets at level 2), as long as you only cast that spell at level 1, you can use Twinned Spell on it.

In the case of Nystul's Magic Aura, you target one creature or object; so as long as you use it to target a creature, you can Twin the spell to target a second creature (but not an object).

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