Saturday School #1

Posted in Feature on October 26, 2002

By Rune Horvik

Welcome to the first installment of our new weekly feature here on, "Saturday School."

"Saturday School" is all about the rules of the game, specifically, rules questions that our readers have. To answer them, we've recruited Rune Horvik of Oslo, Norway. Besides being a certified level 4 judge, Rune is also the NetRep for the DCI Judge Mailing List and the Organized Play Manager for Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. So he knows his stuff!

You can send your rules questions to our Ask Wizards address, Please put the word "rules" somewhere in the subject line. Starting next week, we hope to have the cumulative contents of this column be searchable to help you find the answers you need.

On to this week's questions!

General / Older Card Questions

Q: Let's say I have an Angel of Retribution in play and my friend on the opposite team decides to put an Armadillo Cloak on it. When my Angel deals combat damage to one of his Charging Trolls, would he gain life or would I gain life? Why?
--Joe from San Diego, California

A: Whenever a card reads "you" it means the controller of the spell or ability. It only matters who controls the Armadillo Cloak, not who controls the enchanted creature. Because your opponent played the Cloak, he is considered its controller, even though it is on your creature. Your opponent will gain life for all the damage your Angel deals, since he controls the Cloak.

See "You" in the Comprehensive Rulebook Glossary.

Q: If a Multani, Maro-Sorcerer is played and an opponent plays a Counterspell in response, is the Multani countered even though it has the ability: Multani, Maro-Sorcerer can't be the target of spells and abilities?
--Sean Lerman, USA

A: Abilities on permanents usually only apply when the permanent is in play, unless they say or imply otherwise. The Multani can be targeted and countered while it's still on the stack.

See the Comprehensive Rulebook 402.8.

Believe it or not, dear sirs, many players still find it difficult to understand the rules of M:TG here in my country. Some are having problems about using the stack or the stack itself. There are still many cases of this kind that I want to ask you about, but these two cases should be enough…

Q: My friend has a Malevolent Awakening in play. He then casts a Mesmeric Fiend and looks at my hand and chooses a non-land card from it and removes that card from the game permanently by sacrificing the Mesmeric Fiend to the Malevolent Awakening. He said that it happened because he sacrificed Mesmeric Fiend before the effect of Mesmeric Fiend's ability resolves. And it got me asking, is this possible? How did he have the chance to look at my hand if Mesmeric Fiend did not come into play? And is it in the cards text that said "when Mesmeric Fiend leaves play, return the removed card to its owners hand" which he eventually ignored… And he applies this to the Faceless Butcher by removing my creature from the game permanently…

A: This trick works by letting the Fiend come into play, then responding to the comes-into-play ability by sacrificing it to the Malevolent Awakening. (In other words, he must sacrifice it after he targets you with the Fiend, but before actually looking at your hand.) This will cause the leaves-play ability to be put on top of the comes-into-play ability, and it will resolve first. When the leaves-play ability resolves, it will not return a card, because none has been removed yet. Then the comes-into-play ability resolves, and he will get to look at your hand and choose a card to remove. Since the Mesmeric Fiend is gone now, the card will never have a chance to return (unless you Wish it back). The same applies to many of the other Nightmares, like Faceless Butcher.

Q: Another friend of mine joined a M:TG tournament and he learned that you use two abilities in a price of one. For example, he has two Forcemage Advocates in play. He said that it is possible to activate both of their abilities by returning only one card in a graveyard to its owner's hand. And again the stack is his reason. My reason for not believing this is this: you activate the first Forcemage Advocate's ability by choosing an opponent's card in his/her graveyard and returning it to owners hand and if you respond before doing so and use the second Forcemage Advocate's ability to target the same card then it will make the effect of the first Forcemage Advocate illegal or fizzle because of the response. Am I right or wrong?
--Ted Tayona, Philippines

A: Spells and abilities that have no legal targets on resolution are countered (formerly "fizzled"), but if at least one target is legal, the spell or ability will resolve as normal against those targets.

Forcemage Advocate has two targets, the card in the graveyard, and the creature that gets a counter. If you have more than one Advocate, you can choose the same targets for each of them. The creature will get a counter even if the targeted card isn't in the graveyard anymore when the ability resolves, as long as the other target (the creature) is legal.

See the Comprehensive Rulebook 413.2a.

Q: Over the past week I have been having extremely heated arguments with a group of certain Magic enthusiasts over the exact rules for Book Burning. Would you please clearly state what would happen when Book Burning is played?
--Jake Armstead

A: When Book Burning resolves, each player, starting with the active player, gets the option to take 6 damage. If no player chooses to take 6 damage, the targeted player puts the top six cards from his or her library into the graveyard.

The confusion about Book Burning lies in the formatting of the text on the card. Some players mentally insert a comma at the first line break, causing the card to look like it says "Unless a player has Book Burning, deal 6 damage to him or her and put the top six cards of target player's library into his or her graveyard." That is not how it works.

Q: If a creature has protection from white and Wrath of God is played, does Wrath of God affect it? Also, if a creature has protection from black, can Avatar of Woe destroy it?
--Nicole Berdy, Plano, TX

A: "Protection from X" has 4 functions, abbreviated D-E-B-T: All Damage from X is prevented; the creature can't be Enchanted by X, can't be Blocked by X, and can't be Targeted by X.

Wrath of God doesn't deal damage, enchant, block, or target, so it can destroy a creature with protection from white.

Avatar of Woe targets the creature it wants to destroy, so it can't target creatures with protection from black.

See the Comprehensive Rulebook 502.7.

Q: Could any one try to explain to me the rules of and differences between "playing a creature" and "putting a creature into play?" Scenario: My opponent has threshold and Hunting Grounds in play. In my main phase I announce to play my Shadowmage Infiltrator, well aware of the possible response from my opponent, who is capable of putting a creature into play. In his hand he has Mystic Snake, which can counter my spell, but he also has Meddling Mage. Why can't he use Meddling Mage as a counter? I mean, why can't he put the Mage into play in response to my spell, and name a card that can't be played – my card which I just played – and make it illegal to play, and therefore counter my spell? According to the rules of resolving the stack – resolving from top to bottom – it seems legal enough (we think!). If not, why does the trick with Hunting Grounds and threshold work with the Mystic Snake as a counter?

A: "Playing a creature" means you put the creature card on the stack, pay the cost, and waits for it to resolve. When a spell or ability instructs you to "put a creature into play," you just do it when you're told, and this can't be responded to or prevented.

Meddling Mage's ability says you can't play the named card. This means you're not allowed to put it on the stack. If the card is already on the stack when the Meddling Mage enters play, the Mage can't do anything about it. The Mage only stops you when you're about to put the spell on the stack. This is different from Mystic Snake, which can counter a spell when it comes into play. Since the Shadowmage Infiltrator is on the stack when the Snake is put into play, it's a legal target for the countering ability.

Q: With the card Decimate you get to destroy a land, creature, enchantment, and artifact. My friend says that you must destroy one of each of these if there is only one out in play, even if you control it. Example: one enchantment, two artifacts, four lands, and six creatures are in play. You play Decimate. Do you have to destroy the one enchantment if you control it, or can you choose not to?

A: A spell needs all targets present to be played. Since Decimate says it targets 4 different things, it needs 4 different targets to be played. When it resolves, all 4 are destroyed.

See the Comprehensive Rulebook 409.1c.

Onslaught Questions

Q: If I change a Mistform Wall into creature type Flagbearer and then my opponent tries to play a Shock targeting my Daru Cavalier, will the spell have to target my Flagbearer?
--Troy Barboza, Yarmouth, MA

A: Just having creature type Flagbearer doesn't do much on its own. All the "real" Flagbearers (like Coalition Honor Guard) have an ability that says "Whenever a spell or ability an opponent controls is put onto the stack, if that spell or ability could target a Flagbearer in play but doesn't, that opponent changes one of its targets to a Flagbearer." Just having the creature type doesn't give it this ability, so your opponent is free to Shock your Cavalier.

Q: Let's say that I control six creatures, and my opponent controls five creatures. I play Standardize (choosing Orgg, although it doesn't matter), and then follow it up with Peer Pressure. If both spells resolve, I know that I gain control of all creatures. But since Standardize's effect ends at the end of that turn, do I still control all of my opponent's creatures, even though they are not Orggs anymore?

A: When Peer Pressure resolves, you perform the instructions, choose a type, then the player with most creatures of that type gains control of all of them. You only do this when the spell resolves; after the spell has resolved it doesn't matter which creature type the creatures have anymore. You'll keep control of all the creatures.

Q: If I control three Rotlung Reanimators and someone casts a Wrath of God, do I end up with three Zombie tokens or nine? In other words, does Rotlung Reanimator's ability trigger if it goes to the graveyard the same time as another Cleric and are they cumulative?
--Jonathan Abesamis, Richmond, CA

A: When a permanent leaves play, it "looks back in time" to check what was in play for triggered abilities. Since all the Reanimators are Clerics, and trigger on Clerics going to the graveyard, they will all see each other and themselves going to the graveyard at the same time. You will end up with 9 tokens.

See the Comprehensive Rulebook 410.10d.

Q: Could an Artificial Evolution change the creature type that you chose for something like a Cover of Darkness?
--Zac Cornell, Columbia, MD

A: No. Artificial Evolution, and other effects like it (Sleight of Mind, Magical Hack), can only change text that's actually on the card. They can't change choices made.

Q: Can Crown of Suspicion be placed on one-toughness creatures like Voidmage Prodigy, then sacrificed to kill all other one-toughness creatures of the same type, in this case Wizards?
--Bock Chwee Yih, Singapore

A: No. When the Crown is placed on the creature, its toughness will be zero. When the game checks for state-based effects afterwards, the creature will die before you can play any other spells or abilities (like sacrificing the Crown). The Crown will just be put in the graveyard along with the creature.

See the Comprehensive Rulebook 420.

Q: I have a Heedless One in play, along with a Llanowar Elves, Wellwisher, and Elvish Pioneer. My opponent plays Infest, thus killing the Llanowar Elves, Wellwisher, and Elvish Pioneer. Does the Heedless One die, or become a 1/1?

A: All creatures gets -2/-2, so first the small Elves go to -1/-1, and the Heedless one to 2/2. Then the game checks for state-based effects, and the small Elves are destroyed. The Heedless One's power/toughness changes to -1/-1, and will be destroyed as well.

Q: Does a person whose non-land permanent has been targeted with a Chain of Acid have to pay the mana cost of the spell to copy it, or just say that he or she is copying the spell?

A: When you copy a spell, the copy has "all costs paid for." The player only needs to say that he or she copies it, and the copy is put on the stack.

See the Comprehensive Rulebook 503.10.

Q: I couldn't help but notice Future Sight, the blue enchantment from Onslaught, and its potential brokenness. Are you able to discard the top card of your library over and over again to a Psychatog or Wild Mongrel? Also, can you use the cycling ability with the top card?
--Ryan Ruth, Poland, OH

A: No and no. Future Sight lets you play the card from the top of your deck. To play a card means you put it on the stack, and (usually) pay its mana cost. It's not considered being in your hand for other effects like discard and cycling.

Q: If I use a Cephalid Looter to draw one card then discard a card, but instead of drawing I pay 1 mana and hit my opponent with two damage from Words of War, do I still have to discard a card? It says draw then discard, so if I don't draw then do I have to discard?
--Taylor Dearr, Miami, FL

A: The draw and the discard are two separate parts of the effect, and don't depend on each other. You still have to discard even if you skip the draw.
There are some cards that work otherwise if you replace the draws (Read the Runes, Sylvan Library); these say "cards drawn this way" or something similar to link the discard to the draw.

Q: I have a question about a new card from Onslaught, Spy Network. I tried to play that card, but my friends told me that this card doesn't work if there are no face-down creatures in play. I checked the card and it's says: "Look at… any face-down creatures he or she controls." As I can understand any means that there could be from 0 to 999, but my English is not good enough so I ask for your help.
--Juan Carlos Jaillita, Bolivia

A: "Any" means any whole number from 0 and up. If there are no face-down creatures, you obviously can't look at any, but all the other parts of the effect will work as normal.
The spell has only one target (the player), and if the player is a legal target when it resolves, you perform as many of the actions as possible. If you can't perform some of the actions, they're just skipped.

Q: If you play Goblin Pyromancer and your Goblins get +3/+0, then you played a bounce spell like Repel on the Pyromancer, would the Goblins in play still be destroyed at the end of the turn?

A: No. The "destroy all Goblins" ability is a separate ability, and only triggers if the Pyromancer is in play at the end of turn. If it's bounced before that, that ability won't apply.

Rune will answer more of your questions next week and every week here at "Saturday School."

Send your rules questions to

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