EIP-6913: SETCODE instruction

SETCODE allows accounts to replace their code without clearing their state.

I hope this is adopted before, else when, SELFDESTRUCT is broken, to preserve the ability of accounts to replace their code.

PR: Add EIP: SETCODE instruction by wjmelements · Pull Request #6913 · ethereum/EIPs · GitHub


Tentative EVM assembler support: SETCODE by wjmelements · Pull Request #15 · wjmelements/evm · GitHub

In my opinion, it would be best if SETCODE and the removal of SELFDESTRUCT were implemented in the same fork. We’ve seen this scenario before when call and sload/store were repriced, which ended up breaking contracts. Although the issue was later resolved with a type 1 transaction, repeating the same mistake could be avoided by implementing both changes in the same fork.

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This is my response to the Dedaub report, reiterating my advocacy for SETCODE.

I’ve made the following changes today:

  • Changed opcode from 0x49 to 0xfc
  • Disable within DELEGATECALL

Disabling within DELEGATECALL has the advantage that mutable code will be easier to identify in static analysis.

Consider the following contracts (this is a pseudo code, not a valid solidity)

contract Child {
   external killMe() {
   external setCode(code) {

contract Driver {
   Child child
   external run() {

In order to provide a more precise definition of the expected behavior, it is suggested to further clarify the mechanism related to selfdestruct and setcode operations. The current specification states that selfdestruct clears the pending setcode, but it should be noted that in this example, setcode is executed after selfdestruct. The effect of selfdestruct is not observable until the end of the transaction, allowing for the possibility of reentering the selfdestructed contract and executing setcode on it.

To address this, it is proposed to introduce a more explicit definition, leveraging the language used in the yellow paper’s description of substate. Section 6.1 of the yellow paper defines substate as follows:

“Throughout transaction execution, we accrue certain information that is acted upon immediately following the transaction.”

Building upon this concept, it is recommended to introduce an additional element in the substate, referred to as ‘setcode set.’ This set would consist of accounts with associated pending code that need to be updated following the completion of the transaction.

Upon completion of the transaction, accounts included in the ‘selfdestruct set’ would be removed from the ‘setcode set.’ The remaining ‘setcode set’ would then be processed, and the associated code would be updated accordingly.

By adopting this refined definition, several benefits can be achieved. First, it clearly demonstrates how selfdestruct and setcode operations work together, highlighting the preference of selfdestruct. Second, it explicitly states that the result of the ‘setcode’ operation is not observable until the transaction is fully completed, providing a clearer understanding of the expected behavior.

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Pending the meeting yesterday SELFDESTRUCT is likely to be disabled on mainnet before SETCODE is adopted. But suppose on some alternative chain they both coexisted.

Because SETCODE as currently defined takes effect after its call scope returns (as opposed to the end of transaction), the well-defined behavior for the code you provided would work as follows:

  • The Child contract is marked for deletion by selfdestruct
  • The Child contract’s code is updated by setcode
  • After the transaction, the Child account is cleared by the selfdestruct

You are proposing to move SETCODE to the end of the transaction. I do not want this behavior because I want the parent contexts to be able to run validations (like EXTCODESIZE) on the result and revert if unexpected behavior occurred.

In this case, it would be beneficial for SETCODE to function similarly to RETURN in the CREATE and CREATE2 contexts. In other words, SETCODE should immediately conclude the execution and update the contract code. Allowing the execution to continue after calling SETCODE introduces the risk of undesired behavior, whereas an immediate return is a well-established behavior of CREATE calls, thus minimizing the risk of undesired behavior.

By adhering to the immediate return behavior of CREATE calls, the risk of unintended consequences and the need for extensive analysis to identify and resolve potential issues associated with executing additional calls or delegate calls after SETCODE is significantly reduced.

Might as well allow SETCODE in CREATE and CREATE2 as another way to finish contract creation instead of using RETURN

To ensure comprehensive coverage of the SETCODE behavior, it is important to consider the scenarios involving STATICCALL and CALLCODE opcodes:

SETCODE calls in a static context created by STATICCALL should indeed fail. Therefore, it is recommended that all SETCODE calls within a static context, established by the use of STATICCALL, be disallowed.

When it comes to SETCODE inside a CALLCODE opcode, it is suggested that its behavior align with that of DELEGATECALL. This means that SETCODE inside CALLCODE should have the same effect as executing SETCODE inside DELEGATECALL. This ensures consistency and expected behavior across opcode variations.

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Returning early, as you suggest, does not simplify the issue because parent contexts may also be executing code from the modified account.

Executing with code different than the code of the current account is well-defined already due to the specification of DELEGATECALL. So it is not necessary to return immediately as you suggest. Matching the behavior of DELEGATECALL post-update should simplify analysis.

For the same reason, it’s also not necessary to defer the code update to the end of the current scope. So I will be updating the EIP to remove the deferral. It will simplify the specification. It will also allow the update to validate itself with EXTCODESIZE and EXTCODECOPY, rather than relying on a parent context.

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Thanks. Though we agree the rule is obvious it is important for the specification to say so explicitly to minimize ambiguity. I will add these clarifications to the EIP today.

Updated: Update EIP-6913: Remove Deferral and Clarify Staticcall by wjmelements · Pull Request #7081 · ethereum/EIPs · GitHub

Thanks for updating the spec

Just to clarify the expected behavior, assume the following scenario

Contract A currently executes a code belonging to the contract A account
Contract A calls SETCODE and the change is applied immediately
As a result of SETCODE Contract A no longer executes a code belonging to the contract A account, it is an orphaned code
Contract A continues the execution and calls SETCODE again

Do you expect failure or success?

If success then the ability to execute SETCODE should be established at the start of message call and preserved until the message call is finished

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Please forgive me for banging on about the same thing again and again. But the current definition of “the currently executing code that does not belong to the executing account” is not well defined for making an allow/fail decision for SETCODE.

Consider the following scenarios:

  1. Contract A performs a delegatecall to itself, followed by a SETCODE operation.
  2. Contract A performs a delegatecall to Contract B, which has the same code as Contract A, and then calls SETCODE.

In the second scenario, where Contract A delegatecalls to Contract B with identical code, it becomes challenging for the contract itself to distinguish between the two cases. The executing contract is unaware of the source of the code it is currently running.

One could argue that SETCODE in the second scenario should be allowed as well since the code being executed is the same.

Additionally, as previously mentioned, one could argue that after the first SETCODE operation, the remaining execution is not running the code belonging to the executing account. This distinction can be easily verified by comparing CODECOPY to EXTCODECOPY.

To address these concerns, I suggest to redefine the decision criteria in terms of how the message call was entered:

When in a STATICCALL context:

SETCODE should be disallowed (FORBID).

When in a non-STATICCALL context:

SETCODE should be allowed if the current message call was entered via a CALL operation or if it is the first call from an externally owned account (EOA) to an existing contract (excluding the initial contract creation call).
SETCODE should be disallowed (FORBID) in all other cases, covering variations of DELEGATECALL, CALLCODE, CREATE, CREATE2, and non-STATICCALL contexts other than CALL or first call from EOA to an existing contract.

By redefining the decision criteria in this manner, the specification becomes easier to understand and helps address numerous corner cases. It ensures that SETCODE behavior aligns with the context of the message call, resulting in a more coherent and predictable execution model.

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If success then the ability to execute SETCODE should be established at the start of message call and preserved until the message call is finished

Yes this is a better way to define it if we want to allow multiple SETCODE in the same scope. I wonder though if there is a security advantage to disallowing a second modification within the same scope.

Suppose some on-chain static analysis could be used to validate code. It could be used by another contract to validate that likely-immutable accounts are indeed immutable. Assuming SLOAD is much cheaper than on-chain static analysis, a set-once registry could be useful. Such a registry would benefit from the assumption that SETCODE cannot succeed twice in the same call-scope, as otherwise you could set the code to be immutable, register, and then set it to a mutable implementation. I suspect mutli-SETCODE makes on-chain validation that code remains immutable impossible.

The high gas cost of SETCODE should make multiple-SETCODE unlikely to be the optimal way to do anything, especially while DELEGATECALL remains available. REVERT is the best way to abort an upgrade. I don’t expect any iterative algorithm to be able to use less gas than alternative approaches.

So I am planning to remove multi-SETCODE unless we can think of a good reason to keep it. Removal of multi-SETCODE improves static analysis. With this belongs-to specification:

  1. An account with immutable code cannot later have mutable code.
  2. Mutable code can only be made immutable by invoking SETCODE
  3. A context successfully invoking SETCODE prevents itself or any parent contexts from running SETCODE on the same account, unless REVERT or abort undoes the change.
  4. The cascading behavior of Revert/Abort would also modify any state modifications conditioned upon reverted code changes.
  5. A contract that performs a mutation after verifying some non-empty account’s code was immutable can be confident the code will remain immutable.

Consider this

contract Decoy {
    external killMe() {

contract Mutable {
    external setCode(code) {

contract Deployer {
    external registerAsImmutable() {
        decoy = create2_metamorphic(Decoy)
        // decoy does not contain setcode therefore it will be registered as immutable
        // it does contain selfdestruct but since selfdestruct is largely immutable now it passes the check
    external deployMutable() {

The attacker first calls registerAsImmutable to register the address as immutable, and then calls deployMutable to deploy a mutable version of contract.

This attack relies on changes to selfdestruct opcode behaviour to bypass the registry verification. It is reasonable that registry will consider the selfdestruct as acceptable for immutable contracts.

The safest option for this sort of registry is probably require(caller = origin)

I assume the following still possible with new rules

contract Boostrap {
    // method called setContractCode
    external setContractCode(code) {
        setcode(code) // evm opcode

contract ComplexSetup {
    // method called setContractCode
    external setContractCode(code) {
        setcode(code) // evm opcode
    external setup(parameters) {
       // set state using sload, sstore etc

contract FinalContract {
    // ... some useful methods
    // might have setContractCode(code) to support upgradability

contract Deployer {
    external deploy() {
        contract = create2(Bootstrap) // or create
        // contract has setContractCode method
        // I assume I am allowed to call setcode right after create?
        // at this point contract has setContractCode and setup methods
        // I am still allowed to call this method since there are no parents that called setcode

The more I contemplate the proposal to propagate the invocation of setcode to parent message call frames, the less enthusiastic I become about it. The rules involved seem quite intricate, and I’m struggling to envision how they can be effectively implemented. It appears that this approach necessitates maintaining a significant amount of internal state to accommodate the rules. Since restrictions are not propagated to children frames the contract can call setcode again as soon as a new message call is entered. This fact further complicates the matter.Upon exiting the message call, the ability to call setcode for the contract should either be restored to its previous state or kept disabled.

In my opinion, the rules are overly complex and provide only marginal benefits. Therefore, I advocate for allowing multiple SETCODE calls instead. If someone needs to verify whether a contract meets specific requirements, they should perform this verification from the trusted entry point. In other words, ensuring that the verification call is the first one in the transaction would serve that purpose.

I’m designing the SETCODE specification with the assumption that eip 6780 will be accepted.

I don’t know what you mean here. The belongs-to rule is simple: you can only SETCODE if you are executing the code belonging to the account. The enumeration I made in my prior post are good properties of this rule, not more rules. All of those properties are violated by multi-SETCODE.

That is desirable, and consistent with what you would expect, as such child frames would be using the updated code.

I don’t wish to constrain security in this way. It would mean more accounts would need to assert that their CALLER is the ORIGIN, which would prevent various kinds of account abstraction.

I was thinking about how to implement restrictions on the number of setcode operations, we can introduce a new field called msgCallIndex associated with each message call. The first message call in a transaction will have msgCallIndex equal to 1. Subsequent message calls created by operations like CREATE, CREATE2, STATICCALL, DELEGATECALL, CALL, or CALLCODE will receive an index from a monotonically increasing sequence. For example, the second message call will have msgCallIndex equal to 2, the third will have 3, and so on. We use a 64-bit field to store msgCallIndex, which provides more than enough space. Querying the msgCallIndex has a cost similar to querying other message call information like the address, which is 2. msgCallIndex is not an new opcode, it is an internal field maintained by vm for each message call.

Additionally, we add a non-persistent mapping to each transaction state called setcodeLastMsgCallIndexes and defined like this mapping(address => uint64) setcodeLastMsgCallIndexes. This mapping stores the last msgCallIndex value at which setcode was called for each address. The structure of this mapping is similar to how TLOAD/TSTORE is implemented and incurs a cost of 100 to read and 100 to update. setcodeLastMsgCallIndexes is an internal structure maintained by vm during a transaction execution.

The implementation of setcode after the usual checks (e.g., current message call is the first one or entered via CALL code, non-static message call) can be effectively done as follows:

// the cost is 100 to query the mapping + 2 for address + 2 for msgCallIndex
// check that this message call did not call setcode yet
// also check that there were no children message calls that called setcode
// since children will set mapping to a higher value than the current msgCallIndex
require(setcodeLastMsgCallIndexes[address] < msgCallIndex) 

// the cost is 100 to set the mapping + 2 for address + 2 for msgCallIndex
// this line will prevent parents from calling setcode since parent message calls have lower msgCallIndex
// it will also prevent this message call from calling setcode again
setcodeLastMsgCallIndexes[address] = msgCallIndex


The revert mechanism can be implemented similarly to TLOAD/TSTORE. The log is maintained, and it is applied to setcodeLastMsgCallIndexes to restore the previous state if needed.