Saturday School #14

Posted in Feature on February 8, 2003

By Rune Horvik

Send your rules questions to level 4 judge Rune Horvik at He answers approximately 30 questions every week.

Can't find the answer to your question? Maybe he's already answered it! Try the Saturday School Searchable Rules Database.

Beginner Questions

Llanowar Elves

Q: How long do the lands from Llanowar Elves' ability stay in play?

A: Llanowar Elves doesn't make land - it makes mana. The rules say that Forests have the ability ": add to your mana pool." Llanowar Elves has the same ability, so you can tap it for mana just like you would tap a Forest.

(And, like all mana, it will remain in your mana pool until the end of the current phase, or until you spend it.)

Q: When a creature is tapped, can it still use abilities that don't require it to tap?

A: Yes, it can. Abilities without the tap symbol can be activated as many times as you can pay for it, even when the creature it’s on is tapped.

Q: Can you Unsummon a creature that was created by Centaur Glade? If so, would you be able to play it again and for what mana cost?
--Chris McGuire, Leominster, Massachusetts

A: You can play Unsummon on token creatures, tokens are treated just like regular creatures while in play. When the token is returned to its owner’s hand, it will cease to exist (tokens can only exist in play), so you won’t ever get the chance to replay it.

Q: My friend plays a Mistform Mask on his Towering Baloth. He then gives it the type Bird. He says that all Birds have flying and that his Towering Baloth has flying. I say that isn't true. Who is right?

A: You are right. Having a particular creature type doesn’t affect the game unless there is an effect that says that something happens. The only creature types that have special effects are “Wall” and “Legend”, Walls can’t attack, and there can only be one Legend with each name in play at the same time. (And remember that not all birds can fly; think of penguins and ostriches).

Q: I have a Force of Nature, but the writing is in French. I do speak a little French, but my friend complains that I shouldn't be able to use it. It is a house rules thing, but we won't be able to agree since it is a good card. What would you suggest to settle this?

A: You’re allowed to use any Magic card in tournaments, and the card is played as if it had the most current English Oracle text. The Oracle is a document that has updated wordings for all cards, and it’s available at If you have a copy of this available, you can look up the “real” text of any card in any language. If you can provide the real wording of the card, your friend should let you use it.

Q: On the card Masked Gorgon it says that green and white creatures have protection from Gorgons. My friend taps his Visara the Dreadful to destroy my Voice of the Woods. I say my Elf has protection form Gorgons because it's green. Am I right if Masked Gorgon is not in play?

A: "White and green creatures have protection from Gorgons" is not a rule of the game; it is an ability granted by Masked Gorgon whenever it is in play.

Text on cards only has an effect if the card is in play unless the card says otherwise. Masked Gorgon doesn’t say anything in particular about always being in effect. If you can’t see that the card exists, it doesn’t do anything.

Legions Questions

Volrath's Shapeshifter

Q: I know you have to be tired of Phage questions but… If I have Humility in play, can I use Sneak Attack or Show and Tell to put out a Phage and not lose? Then, later, attack and destroy the Humility? There HAS to be a way around her drawback, and I'm determined to find it.

A: If you have Humility in play when Phage enters play, her ability won’t exist when she enters play, so the ability won’t trigger, and you won’t lose the game. The ability can only trigger when Phage comes into play, so destroying the Humility later won’t cause you to lose.

Incidentally, Volrath's Shapeshifter is a good way of getting around anything that happens when you put a card into play, since it will already be in play when it changes form.

"Attack with Volrath's Shapeshifter; discard Escape Artist. No blockers, damage on the stack, discard Phage. Good game."

Q: Is the ability of Seedborn Muse triggered, or do I just untap "along with" my opponents?

A: Seedborn Muse’s ability is static and just “happens” in your opponent’s untap step. Both you and your opponent untap all your permanents at the same time in his or her untap step.

Q: Can I shoot a Daru Stinger for one with a Sparksmith in response to the amplify ability?

A: You can’t respond to the amplify ability; the person playing the amplify creature reveals the cards before the creature comes into play, and then the creature comes into play with the +1/+1 counters. The creature is never in play un-amplified, it will have the bonus before you have the chance to shoot it.

Q: I see that Swooping Talon can lose flying, but what happens if I provoke a ground creature with it and then don't use the "lose flying" ability? What or how can that provoked creature block?

A: Provoke tells a creature to block “if able,” and if you provoke a non-flying creature to block a flying creature, it won’t be able to block, and nothing particular happens. If it cannot block the creature that provoked it, the defending creature will be available to block other creatures.

Q: If my Drinker of Sorrow is blocked by a Hill Giant, can I put damage on the stack and then sacrifice it to a Nantuko Husk to avoid sacrificing a permanent? Or do I not need to do that because I can sacrifice the Drinker to its own ability when it assigns damage?

A: You can put damage assignments on the stack and sacrifice it to avoid sacrificing permanents. The Drinker has a triggered ability, and it will only trigger if it is in play when damage is dealt (resolves). If you sacrifice it to the Husk before damage has resolved, you won't have to sacrifice a permanent.

If the Drinker is in play when damage is dealt, it will die from the damage from the Hill Giant. The triggered ability goes on the stack, and when it resolves, and you will have to sacrifice a permanent that is in play at that time.

Q: Can I cycle a Gempalm Incinerator if there are no creatures to target?

A: Yes, you can, the actual cycling ability is not targeted. If there are no targets for the triggered ability, the triggered ability won’t go on the stack, but this won’t affect the “draw a card” ability.

Q: If I turn a Bane of the Living face up with a Skirk Alarmist, can I pay X?

A: No, you can’t. Since you didn’t turn the Bane by paying the Morph cost, the game will use the value of zero for X, and creatures will get –0/-0 (nothing happens). You only get to pay X when you pay the morph cost.

Q: Is it possible to counteract the provoke ability of my opponent's Deftblade Elite by using my own Crafty Pathmage on it?

A: Yes, it is. Since provoke says that the provoked creature has to block “if able”, making the attacker unblockable means that you won’t be able to block it.

Q: If I have a Wall of Hope in play and someone Shocks it twice, do I gain 3 or 4 life?

A: You gain 4 life. All the damage from the lethal Shock is dealt at the same time, and you will gain life equal to the amount of damage dealt, even if it exceeds the Wall’s toughness.

Q: If I have a Dark Supplicant, another Cleric, and a Planar Guide, can I activate the Supplicant, then respond by using the Guide to remove all three Clerics from the game for a turn? This seems like a great way to get more than one Scion of Darkness into play.
--Scott Horwath

A: This doesn’t work, as you have to sacrifice the three Clerics as a cost when you activate the Supplicant’s ability, and it’s not possible to respond by removing them with another effect. They are all in the graveyard by the time any player can respond.

General / Older Cards Questions


Q: Can you clarify how Smother affects these cards: 6/6 Ivy Elemental, Kavu Titan with kicker, Clone of Kavu Titan with kicker, and a Dance of Many token of Shivan Dragon. Extra costs and copy effects are confusing me.

A: Smother looks at the converted mana cost (CMC) of the target, you get the CMC by adding up all the numbers and symbols in the mana cost in the top right corner of the card.

An is counted as zero when the card isn’t on the stack, so Ivy Elemental has a CMC of 1 while in play, and can be destroyed.

Kavu Titan has a CMC of 2, this doesn’t change even if the kicker has been paid, so it can be destroyed.

Clone and other copy cards also copies the mana cost of the creature it copies, so a Cloned Kavu Titan will also have a CMC of 2, and can be destroyed. Note that Clone only copies what’s printed on the card, so you won’t be able to pay the kicker on a Cloned creature, since it only gets the kicker ability when it enters play, way to late to pay for it.

Tokens generally don’t have a mana cost, but if it is a copy of another permanent, it will copy all characteristics, including the mana cost. A Dance of Many token copy of Shivan Dragon will have a CMC of 6, and can’t be targeted by Smother.

Q: If Callous Oppressor is played and my opponent chooses Wizard, then I use it to take his Slipstream Eel, what happens if he makes the Eel a Wizard with Imagecrafter?

A: If he lets the Oppressor’s ability resolve, you get to keep the Eel. Abilities with targets only check if the target is legal when you activate the ability, and when the ability resolves. If you gain control over the Eel, changing the Eel later will have no effect.

If your opponent makes the Eel a Wizard in response to you activating Callous Oppressor, the ability will be countered as the target isn’t legal when the ability resolves.

Q: Let's say you have in play a Clockwork Beast and a Citadel of Pain, which deals damage for untapped lands. Could you tap lands during your upkeep to try and put extra counters on the Beast, even if it already has 7? The text says it can't have more than 7 counters, but does that mean they fall off, or does it prevent any attempt to try and add counters beyond the limit, even from cards like Giant Fan?

A: You can try to put more counters on the Beast, the ability will just do nothing when it resolves if it already has 7 counters, but you can do this to just spend mana. The ability doesn’t stop you from trying to put counters on it, but counters after the seventh just won’t appear. This is also true if you use Giant Fan.

Q: I have a Dracoplasm in play. If I play a Clone and copy the Dracoplasm, do I have to sacrifice creatures as the Dracoplasm does, or am I copying the current state of the Dracoplasm?
--Adam Marquette

A: You have to sacrifice creatures to the Cloned Dracoplasm. You choose which creature to copy “as” Clone comes into play, and all effects that are done “as” the Cloned creature comes into play also happen (for example, you would get to choose a card when you Clone a Meddling Mage). You always copy what’s printed on the card, you never copy choices made or other modifications (like the number of creatures sacrificed).

Q: I have two questions about Quirion Dryad: 1) If I have in play a Quirion Dryad and then play a multi-colored spell that includes green (like Gaea's Skyfolk), does it still get a +1/+1 counter? 2) If I have the Dryad in play and I playing a multi-colored spell that is white and blue, like Absorb, can I get two +1/+1 counters?

A: Quirion Dryad will trigger when you play a white, blue, black or red spell, and only once per spell. A multicolored spell is all the colors in its mana cost, so it will trigger off a Gaea’s Skyfolk. Since it will only trigger once for each spell, it doesn’t matter how many colors the spell is. You only get one counter for the Absorb.

Defense of the Heart

Q: If I have Defense of the Heart and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa in play, can I turn some of my opponent's lands into 1/1 creatures during my upkeep to be able to use Defense of the Heart?
--Brenden Petersen

A: Defense of the Heart triggers at the beginning of the upkeep, before any abilities can be played, and if your opponent doesn’t have three or more creatures at that time, it won’t trigger. You won’t be able to use any abilities before Defense of the Heart checks how many creatures your opponent has.

Q: If I control a Rotlung Reanimator and one of my opponent's Clerics dies, who gets the 2/2 token?

A: You get the token, since you control the source of the ability, and it doesn’t say that the controller of the dead Cleric gets the token.

Q: An opponent plays Duress on me and all that is in my hand is Tainted Pact and a creature. Can I let him see my hand and choose a target for the Duress (Tainted Pact) and then since the target is an instant cast it in response to him targeting it?
--Jeremy, Naniamo, BC, Canada

A: No, you can’t. The card is chosen and discarded during the resolution of Duress, and no player gets priority to play spells or abilities until after Duress has fully resolved. You will never able to play the card discarded, unless it has Madness.

However, note that you could play Tainted Pact in response - i.e. before the Duress resolves. That way, the Pact will go off before Duress does. And if you fetch a creature or a land card, the Duress will be unable to affect you.

Q: I have two Engineered Plagues in play, both set to creature type Elf, along with a Sorceress Queen and an Imagecrafter. Can I change the power/toughness of an opponent's creature with the Sorceress Queen's ability, then change that creature's type to Elf using the Imagecrafter, and thereby kill my opponent's creature as a state-based effect? What if I do it in reverse?

A: This trick will work if you resolve Sorceress Queen’s ability first, then activate Imagecrafter. Since the activation of Imagecrafter changes what the Plague affects, the Plague is said to “depend” on Imagecrafter, and will be evaluated after it, thereby killing your opponent’s creature.

If Sorceress Queen’s ability resolves last, it will overwrite all previous modifiers to power and toughness, making the creature a 0/2 that will survive.

Q: How does Laquatus's Disdain work with madness spells? Are they considered played from the graveyard? If not, where are they played from?
--Troy Barboza

A: Cards with madness are played from the removed-from-game zone. When you discard a card with madness, you remove it from the game instead of the putting it in the graveyard, the card is not played from the graveyard.

Q: If I put Entangler on my Phantom Centaur and block three creatures, will my Centaur lose all of its counters or just one?

A: It will lose just one counter (if no creatures have first strike or double strike). Phantoms lose counters “the next time” damage is dealt to them, and all regular combat damage is dealt at the same time, meaning it will lose only one counter each combat step. If one of the attackers has first or double strike, the Phantom would lose two counters, since it receives damage in two separate steps.

Alter Reality

Q: Iridescent Angel is on the stack. Can I use Alter Reality to change one of the protections to one it already has?

A: No, you can’t, since The Angel doesn’t have any color words on it. Alter Reality can only affect words printed on the card, “all colors” is not something that can be changed.

Q: If I am at less than 10 life and activate a Skirk Fire Marshal with Spirit Link, will I die?
--Chris Uehlein, Portland, OR

A: You will die. Spirit Link has a triggered ability that goes on the stack after the damage it triggers from has been dealt, and you will lose the game to the state-based effect of having zero or less life before you can gain life from Spirit Link.

Q: If I play a Gilded Drake and take control of an opponent's Visara the Dreadful, can Visara tap to kill the Drake? If so, what happens to Visara?
--Sebastian Cerutti

A: Visara can tap to kill the Drake. If Visara kills Gilded Drake before the exchange is made, your opponent will keep Visara, as all exchanges must be legal, and he can’t give Visara away unless he gets the Drake in exchange.

After the exchange has been made, the creatures have no “relation” anymore, doing something to one of them won’t affect the other in any way.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

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