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In Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Ebony Maw, a Child of Thanos and member of the Black Order, has captured Doctor Stephen Strange and is taking him to Titan. Maw attempts to take the Time Stone from around Strange's neck (encased in the Eye of Agamotto) but it burns him (or seems to). The following exchange occurs:

STRANGE: It's a simple spell, but quite unbreakable.

MAW: Then I'll take it off your corpse.

And later:

STRANGE: You'll find a dead man's spell very hard to break.

In this, it seems Strange is saying this to keep himself alive instead of letting Maw kill him. However, it seems as if Strange may be bluffing. Was he lying to Maw or would the spell have been left there in his death?

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Strange Was Telling the Truth

The speculative answer, based on interpretation of film events: There was no reason to lie to Ebony Maw; the two had already tested each other. Strange understands Maw’s skills as a magician, and Maw understands Strange to be a competent sorcerer — despite Maw’s dismissive taunts.

Thanos himself outright told Doctor Strange that he respects his skills as well so it’s likely that when the Maw dismissed Strange’s skill he was only saying what he had said in an attempt to throw him off guard for advantage in the fight.

Ebony Maw doesn’t really believe Strange’s skills with magics were truly lacking and Maw’s taunts don’t mean mean to imply he didn’t think it would be a massive pain in the butt to undo the spell. Obviously he just felt it would easier to torture Strange into undoing it himself. Maw was really likely just to be scared to face Thanos if Strange was right, and dismantling the protective spell proved difficult even if not impossible.

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    I agree with you, but the answer would be better, if there was any in-universe evidence for your thoughts....
    – Tode
    Nov 24 at 7:02
  • @TorstenLink Thanks, and agreed. I added caveat to make clear mine is speculative. Admittedly I am hard pressed to find authoritative validation; it’s not like the script explicitly states every word intending Strange to state truth or anything: “DOCTOR STRANGE (TELLING THE TRUTH): You'll find a dead man's spell very hard to break.“ Nov 24 at 14:30
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    Generally speaking most fictional magic systems ascribe a great deal of power to sacrifices, especially self-sacrifices. If Maw wound up killing Strange while torturing him without Strange giving up the spell, that death would reinforce the locking spell, quite possibly beyond anyone's ability to undo.
    – Shadur
    Nov 25 at 19:22
  • @Shadur But what if Maw was sacrificing Strange to break the spell? With magic, it’s sacrifice all the way down. Nov 26 at 13:56
  • @SillybutTrue The power of a sacrifice comes from how much you value what you're giving up. Precedent for that rule goes back all the way to Genesis, chapter 4.
    – Shadur
    Nov 26 at 14:45

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