Saturday School #11

Posted in Feature on January 18, 2003

By Rune Horvik

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If you don't see an answer to your question here, try our Searchable Rules Database.

Beginner Questions

Slate of Ancestry

Q: If I can't use Wild Mongrel's ability with an empty hand, why can I use Slate of Ancestry with an empty hand?

A: Slate of Ancestry has "discard your hand" in the cost. This means "discard all the cards in your hand". It doesn't matter how many cards you have, as long you discard all of them and have none left afterwards. Wild Mongrel requires that you discard a card to pay the cost, so you must discard one card.

Q: Can I use Deflection to play a Final Fortune on my opponent? Will he lose the game after his next turn?

A: No, you can't. Deflection only lets you change targets, and Final Fortune doesn't use the word "target" anywhere. "You" is always the player that played the spell.

Q: What exactly is a "Goblin card?" Meaning, can I get a Goblin Bombardment when I play Goblin Matron?

A: A Goblin card is a card with creature type Goblin. You can only get creature cards, you can't get any other cards, even if they have Goblin in the name.

Onslaught Questions

Q: I have a Gratuitous Violence in play and a Leery Fogbeast on the table. My opponent has a Daunting Defender and a Battlefield Medic. He attacks with the Daunting Defender, and i block with the Leery Fogbeast. He then puts a damage prevention shield for 2 on his Defender with the Medic. How much damage does my Fogbeast deal to the Defender?

A: How much damage is dealt to the defender depends on the order all the effects are applied in. Both the damage preventions and Gratuitous Violence are replacement effects, and when multiple replacement effects try to do something with the same event (the damage dealt) the controller of the affected permanent chooses the order they're applied in. The best way for your opponent to apply the effects are to first apply the damage prevention effects (reducing the 4 damage to 1) and then Gratuitous Violence, doubling it to 2 damage, meaning that the Defender survives.

The player can choose to apply Gratuitous Violence first (doubling 4 damage to 8) and then applying the damage prevention (reducing the damage to 5), but this is usually not in his interest.

This is covered by rule 419.6 and 419.7 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: I just read the preview for Phage the Untouchable… Will I lose the game if my Phage is targeted by Astral Slide?

A: You will lose the game when Phage returns to play, yes. When Astral Slide returns Phage to play at the end of turn, the game sees that it came into play from the removed from the game zone, not from your hand, so you will lose.

Q: Can I avoid losing half my life when I attack with Ebonblade Reaper by waiting until after blockers are declared to morph it? My friend says that when I turn it over, I should lose half my life because it is attacking.

A: You won't lose any life if you turn it face up after attackers have been declared. The Reaper has a triggered ability that only triggers when you declare attackers. If it's face down at this point, the game doesn't see the ability, and you won't lose any life. Turning the Reaper later won't trigger the ability.

Q: I have two Lightning Rifts in play and my opponent has a Ravenous Baloth. When I cycle a card and say I'm going to deal 4 to the Baloth and he sacrifices it, do I have to pay mana for the Rifts' activations?

A: No, you don't. When you cycle the card, you put the triggered ability from the Rift on the stack, and choose targets, you make the mana payment when the ability resolves. If the player sacrifices the Baloth before the triggered abilities have resolved, the target won't be legal when the abilities resolve, and the abilities will be countered. You won't get the option to pay mana at all.

Skulking Ghost

Q: If the only non-land permanents in play are my Astral Slide and my Skulking Ghost, and my opponent cycles a card, do I have to target (kill) my Ghost?

A: Yes, you have to target the Ghost. When Astral Slide triggers, you must choose a target and put the ability on the stack, even if you don't want to use the ability. You choose if you want to remove the creature when the ability resolves.

Q: Does Ankh of Mishra cause you to lose two life when you use a fetchland like Windswept Heath?

A: Yes, it does. Ankh of Mishra triggers any time a land is put into play, regardless of the method used to put it into play. It will trigger on lands put into play by effects like fetchlands as well as playing lands from your hand the regular way.

Q: I have a Mistform Wall and my opponent has a Thoughtbound Primoc. When should I make the Wall into a Wizard to steal the Primoc?

A: You should, and must, make the Wall into a Wizard after the ability has triggered, before it resolves.

Note the following: Thoughtbound Primoc has a conditional trigger, it will only be put on the stack at the beginning of your upkeep if one player controls more Wizards than any other player. If both players have the same amount of Wizards (even none), the ability doesn't go on the stack, and changing your Wall to a Wizards won't help at all.

If you want to gain control of a Primoc, both players must have a different number of Wizards in play at the beginning of the upkeep, and you must have more Wizards than your opponent when the triggered ability resolves, for example by changing two Mistform Walls.

Q: My opponent taps five Elves to activate Voice of the Woods, and in response I use Artificial Evolution on the Voice to change "Elves" to "Snakes." I say the ability is countered, but my opponent (and the judge) said it wasn't. Why?

A: Changing the cost after the ability has been played and paid for won't affect the ability on the stack. Articifial Evolution needs to resolve before the ability of Voice of the Woods is played to have any effect.

Q: My friend has a deck that uses Traumatize on himself… at one point he wanted to put an Undead Gladiator from his graveyard to his hand, but I said he couldn't because it say "return it to your hand," but it was never in his hand! It went right from his deck to his graveyard. Is this correct?

A: No, it's not. "Return it to your hand" is just shorthand for "move the card from [whatever zone it's in] to your hand". Sometimes space is limited on cards, and sometimes the editing team tries to save text by using wordings like that.

Q: Can I use Dispersing Orb to sacrifice and return the same permanent to my hand? Like if my opponent tries to kill my Mahamoti Djinn, I can sacrifice it to return it to my hand?

A: No, you can't. You can target it, and then sacrifice it, but when Dispersing Orb resolves, the target is illegal and the ability is countered. The Djinn in the graveyard is not the same Djinn that was in play, the game doesn't track cards across zones in the game.

Q: What happens if I choose a creature type that isn't in my deck when I activate a Riptide Shapeshifter?

A: Not very much. You reveal cards from your deck until the deck is empty, and then you shuffle the revealed cards back into the deck. You don't start over again, looping infinitely.

General / Older Card Questions

Q: I block a Jolrael's Centaur with a Spectral Lynx. Is the Lynx affected by the Centaur's flanking or not since he is pro-green? Or is flanking a colorless ability? --Cory Martin, Frankford, Ontario

A: The Lynx will be affected by the flanking and die. Protection from [quality] does 4 things, abbreviated D-E-B-T:

1) Damage from [quality] sources is prevented

2) Can't be Enchanted by [quality] enchantments

3) Can't be Blocked by [quality] creatures

4) Can't be Targeted by [quality] spells or abilities

Flanking is a keyword meaning "Whenever a creature with flanking is blocked by a creature without flanking, the blocking creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn". It doesn't deal damage, enchant, block or target, and is not affected by protection.


Q: What would happen if you used Legerdemain to exchange control of an opponent's creature with another one that you've already controlled through Persuasion or Confiscate? Both a friend and I believe the wording would allow you to switch control, then the controller of the enchantment would regain control of that creature. Does this work?

A: No, this doesn't work. Both Persuasion/Confiscate and Legerdermain have continuous effects that sets the controller of the permanent. To determine who the controller is, the effects are applied in timestamp order (the order the effects resolved), last effect "wins". It doesn't make any difference if the effect comes from a permanent or not.

Q: I want to know if damage dealt by my Arrogant Wurm to a Phantom Tiger during my attack phase spills over to the other player or if the Phantom only loses a counter.

A: Damage from the Wurm can trample over to the player if you want to. When assigning damage from a trampler, you need to assign enough damage to the blocker to kill it, without taking damage prevention effects into consideration. You would normally assign damage equal to the blockers toughness to the blocker, the rest to the player. When damage resolves, the Tiger would prevent damage to itself, and lose a counter, but the damage assigned to the player remains unchanged.

Q: What would happen if you cast Cagemail on Mirror Wall? Could you still use the Wall's ability to make it attack?

--Tom Callister, Walla Walla, WA

A: No, you can't. Normally, Mirror Wall has one restriction that prevents it from attacking – it has the creature type "Wall". Activating its ability removes the "can't attack due to being a wall" restriction, but doesn't affect any other attacking restrictions affecting it. When it's enchanted with Cagemail it has two different things stopping it from attacking. Activating its "may attack as though it were not a wall" ability won't make it able to attack, it just removes one of those restrictions. Cagemail (or Pacifism) will still stop if from attacking.

Q: I have an Advance Scout in play, and my opponent attacks with two Jackal Pups. I block one and let first strike damage resolve, killing a Pup. Then, before regular damage, I use the Scout to give the other Pup first strike. I say that the Pup won't deal damage because first strike damage is over, but my opponent complained that that wasn't the "intent" of first strike. Who is right?

A: Your opponent is right. The rules say that, all creatures that didn't deal combat damage in the first strike damage step deal their damage in the "regular" combat damage step. Giving a creature first strike after first strike damage has been assigned doesn't prevent it from dealing its damage in the regular damage step. Similarly, a first striking creature doesn't get to deal damage twice if you remove first strike away from it after first strike damage has resolved.

Q: Can I play kicker on an Urborg Emissary if I play it using Aluren?

A: Yes, you can. Aluren lets you play the creature without paying the mana cost, you can still pay any optional costs if you want to. You still have to pay the additional costs, Aluren only covers the mana cost.

Q: I read that Enchant Creature spells don't say the word "target" on them, but are considered targeted spells when you play them. Are there other cards like this with the word "target" implied?

A: No. All spells and abilities except local enchantments use the word "target" when they have targets.

Q: Can I use Envelop to counter a Ghitu Fire played as an instant?

A: Yes, you can. Ghitu Fire is still a Sorcery spell when you play it with kicker, it's just played under other timing rules. The spell doesn't become an instant spell, you're just allowed to play it when you could play an instant.

Q: I know about the "Nightmare trick" using Faceless Butcher and Nantuko Husk to remove a creature permanently. Is there a way to use Laquatus's Champion to make someone lose six life permanently?

--Mike Wilson, Philadelphia, PA

A: No, there isn't. The Nightmare trick works when there is something physical to remove, like cards or creatures, and "returning" something before you remove it causes it to be removed forever. Laquatus's Champion doesn't mark something specific to be removed/returned, it just says gain/lose life, so you can't make someone lose life forever.

Q: When I play Time Spiral, do I have to say in advance which six lands I will untap, or can I wait to see what I draw?

A: You choose which lands to untap as the last part of the resolution of the spell, after you have drawn your new hand. You only choose X, mode, target, kicker, buyback, targets, how targets are affected, how damage is divided among targets and pay costs when you play a spell or ability. All other choices are made when the spell or ability resolves, in the order stated on the card.

Q: Can two Mogg Flunkies attack together?

A: Yes, they can. You check whether an attack is legal or not after declaring all attackers. Both Flunkies will see each other attacking, and the game will allow the attack.

Q: What happens if I use Aura Graft to move a Steal Enchantment onto itself?

--Tim Calhoun

A: You can't do this. A local enchantment is never allowed to enchant itself (Rule 214.8f in the Comprehensive Rulebook), and you must choose a new, legal permanent for it to enchant (Rule 214.8d).

Q: Some cards, like Powder Keg, say "you may put a counter on it," meaning you can forget. But others, like, Verdant Force, seem mandatory. What happens in a tournament if you forget to use the Verdant Force ability?

--John Samson, Flint, MI

A: This is an offense we call "Procedural Error – Major", you would receive a tournament Caution or Warning. If the error was discovered in the same turn, you would usually be allowed to put the token into play, but if you have passed your turn, it's usually considered too late to fix, as many decisions have been made without the token in play. This goes for all abilities where you forget something mandatory.

Planar Void

Q: There is a Planar Void in play. Can I cast Ray of Revelation and flash it back "faster" than the Void can remove it?

A: Yes, you can. When Ray of Revelation first resolves, it goes to the graveyard, and Planar Void triggers, and the ability is put on the stack. Each player can then play instant spells and abilities, and you can use the flashback of the Ray.

Q: I have a 1/1 Skeleton Scavengers in play. If my opponent plays the –2/-2 half of Consume Strength on it, can I regenerate it enough times to have it survive? We had a big argument about it. If it doesn't work now, did it ever work that way?

--Roger, Australia

A: This doesn't work under the current rules. Skeleton Scavengers grows when it regenerates, this means "when it dies, but lives instead", when the regeneration shield is used up, it doesn't grow when you activate the ability.

Since Consume Strength lowers the toughness to zero, regeneration shields won't work, and the Scavengers are put into your graveyard as a state-based effect.

The trick worked under 5th Edition rules, where a creature with zero toughness was treated as any other creature with lethal damage, and could regenerate every time it would die, so it could grow enough to survive.

Q: I have one life and my opponent has 3. Why can I play Lightning Bolt on him with a City of Brass but not a Grand Coliseum? I lost a match in this way (I don't own four Cities), but I don't see the difference.

--Jeff Bradstreet

A: The difference lies in how the cards are worded. City of Brass says "Whenever City of Brass becomes tapped, it deals 1 damage to you". This triggers when the card is tapped, and is a regular triggered ability, and goes to the stack. You can win the game with the trigger on the stack by killing your opponent before the trigger resolves.

Grand Coliseum deals the damage as a side-effect of tapping it for mana, it's part of the mana ability and will resolve at the same time as you get the mana, and you'll die before you can use it.

Rune will answer more of your questions next week and every week here at "Saturday School." You can search past Saturday School questions using our Saturday School Searchable Rules Database.

Send your rules questions to

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