Saturday School #17

Posted in Feature on March 1, 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

Viashino Cutthroat

Q: I have a Vampire Hounds in play and three Viashino Cutthroats in my hand. I discard them to pump the Hounds up, then they go back to my hand and I do the same thing next turn. My friend says I can't do that because the Viashinos have to be in play for them to go back to my hand. Who's right?
--Greg Hartwig

A: Your friend is right. Abilities only work when cards are in play, unless they say otherwise. For the ability to return from the graveyard, they have to specifically say that they do. (Rule 402.8 in the Comprehensive Rulebook).

Q: I announce my attack with a Phantom Tiger, and my opponent uses his Whipcorder to tap it in response. I argue that since tapping is a cost of attacking, that it resolves instantly and the Whipcorder's ability has no effect. He argues that because the ability is a "fast effect" that it resolves before the attack would even be declared, and the attack is prevented. Who is right?

A: You're both partially right. It works like this:

At the beginning of the combat phase, both players have the chance to play instant spells and abilities (the expression "fast effect" isn't used anymore). At this time, you can use your Whipcorder to tap any of your opponent's potential attackers to stop it from attacking. It has to be done before you see which creatures attack, though if he only has one creature, it's not so hard to guess.

When both players are finished playing spells and abilities, attackers are declared, and tapped. Once you let your opponent start choosing attackers, it's too late to tap them to stop them from attacking.

Read more about the combat phase in sections 306-311 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: If I play Regeneration on an opponent's creature can I still pay the one green to regenerate it and thereby tap it? Who "owns" this ability?

A: The Regeneration ability is part of the enchantment (it doesn't say that the creature gains the ability), so the controller of the enchantment is the only one who can activate it. You would be the only one who could use it to regenerate the enchanted creature.

However, this doesn't mean you can simply tap your opponent's creatures whenever you want. The regeneration ability sets up a protective shield which says "If an effect would destroy this creature, instead tap the creature, remove all damage from it, and remove it from combat."

The creature won't get tapped until the shield is actually used. Most of the time, you'd prefer your opponent's creatures to be destroyed instead of just being tapped, so regenerating them won't be very useful to you.

Q: Can two Legends with the same name but different titles be in play at the same time? For example, "Ertai, the Corrupted" and "Ertai, Wizard Adept."

A: Yes, they can. The Legend Rule (420.5e) looks at the full name of the card, including "titles". The Legends with different titles are from different time periods in the storyline, and are considered separate - they can co-exist when summoned.

Q: If I used Ambassador Laquatus to remove 9 cards from someone's library and they only had 7, would he lose the game at that point or on his turn?

A: He would lose the game the next time he would draw a card. There is a rule (420.5g) that says that "a player who was required to draw more cards than were in his or her library loses the game". Removing cards from the library isn't drawing cards, so this rule doesn't apply here. Instead, the effect does as much as possible, removing all the cards that are there, and the next time the player would draw a card, and can't, he or she loses.

Legions Questions

Ward Sliver

Q: If I have a Shifting Sliver or a Ward Sliver (protection from green) and a Hunter Sliver, is it possible to force a green Elf to block a Sliver?
--Ward van Hoof

A: No, it's not. Provoke tells the chosen creature to block if able. Shifting Sliver says that Slivers can only be blocked by Slivers, so the Elf won't be able to block it, and protection from green makes the creature unblockable by green creatures, so the Elf can't block it either. If a provoked creature isn't able to block the creature that provoked it, it's free to block another attacker if there is one.

Q: Suppose I have a Ward Sliver (protection from black) and Crypt Sliver. I know I can't use black Slivers to regenerate my other Slivers, but if I use other non-black Slivers, like Quick Sliver, can I regenerate my Slivers using my Quick Sliver? Will the tap ability count as a "black" ability (since it came from a black Sliver) or "green" ability (because i tapped my Quick Sliver)?

A: You can regenerate your Slivers by tapping non-black Slivers. An ability has the color of the source while it's on the stack, and the source of the ability here is the Sliver you tapped. If you tapped a Quick Sliver, the ability is green, for example. It doesn't matter how the source creature has the ability, the game only looks at the color of source.

Q: I have a Glarecaster in play, and my opponent attacks with an Essence Sliver. I tap the 6 mana required to activate Glarecaster's ability and redirect the damage to my friend. What is the total effect on his life? Does the Essence Sliver gain him back all the life that he loses due to Glarecaster's ability because it is still dealing damage, or does my friend lose life?

A: Glarecaster redirects the damage, but it's still the Essence Sliver that deals the damage, so its ability will trigger, and give life back to the player. Note that Essence Sliver's ability (and similar abilities, like Spirit Link) is a triggered ability that triggers on the damage being dealt. The damaged player will first lose the life, then the life gain ability goes on the stack. If the damage causes the player to have zero life or less, the player dies from lethal damage before the life gain resolves.

Q: My opponent plays Morgue Theft and target the Symbiotic Wurm in his graveyard. If I pay the morph cost and turn my Willbender face-up, can I change the target of Morgue Theft to one of the cards in my graveyard? If yes, the targeted card goes to whose hand? Mine or my opponents?

A: You can't make it target cards in your own graveyard. When Morgue Theft says it targets a "creature card from your graveyard", it's talking to its controller, so it means "a creature card from my controller's graveyard". Willbender can't make it target something that it wouldn't usually be able to target.

Q: My opponent turned over a Willbender to change the target of my Profane Prayers to me. He claimed that the Willbender could reverse the effect of Profane Prayers so I would lose life and he would gain it. I thought that it would cause me to lose life but that I could keep the life gain. Who is right?
--James Myers, Lansing, NY

A: You are right. Willbender only changes the target, but "you" on the spell is still the controller of the spell, the player who played it. "You" can not be changed. If a player ends up targeting him- or herself, he or she would lose and gain life at the same time, and the spell wouldn't have any noticeable effect.

Laccolith Rig

Q: Is there a difference between combat and first strike damage? The situation I am referring to is what would happen if a Ridgetop Raptor enchanted with Laccolith Rig was blocked?

A: There is no difference between first strike damage and "regular" combat damage. First strike damage is combat damage. When the Raptor is blocked it deals neither first strike nor regular combat damage.

Q: When a player discards a card such as Basking Rootwalla from his hand and puts it into play, does the Rootwalla go to the graveyard before entering play? In other words, when a player plays a card for its madness cost, does the card go to the graveyard before being played? If so, Withered Wretch's ability would pretty much destroy decks like U/G Madness.

A: The Basking Rootwalla played with madness doesn't go to the graveyard before it enters play. When you discard a card with madness, you can choose to remove it from the game instead of putting it in the graveyard, and you can then play the card. It can't be removed by Withered Wretch unless you chose to not use the madness, but then you can't play the card either.

General / Older Card Questions

Q: I play a spell that my opponent doesn't like. In response to it he plays Fact or Fiction and chooses the pile with a Counterspell in it. He then proceeds to counter my original spell. Is this legal? Can you add to the middle of a stack that is already resolving? I've tried looking at the rules and I think this falls under 408.1c but I'm not sure I understand the subtleties of it. Thank you for your time.
--George Zemke

A: You are allowed to add new spells and abilities to the stack after resolving a spell, yes. When both players pass priority in succession, only the top spell resolves, then the players again get priority to play spells and abilities. You can only put spells and abilities on top of the stack, but you can let one spell resolve, and then add another to the stack. 408.1c is the rule that says this. You can use a Counterspell you drew off a card-drawing effect to counter another spell that's on the stack. It used to work differently under older rules, where you couldn't play more spells or abilities until the batch of spells and abilities already played had finished resolving.

Q: How exactly would an opponent copy Chain of Smog? Would they have to pay the mana cost or could they just send it back to you?

A: There is no cost to copy Chain of Smog, the player would only have to say that the spell should be copied when it resolves. The copy of the spell is put directly on the stack, you don't have to pay anything extra for it.

Q: How does the Slate of Ancestry and Words of War combo work? For example if my opponent (who has four creatures in play), uses his Slate of Ancestry and activates his Words of War four times, will he:

a. draw three cards and deal 2 damage to 4 targets

b. draw three cards and deal 2 damage to 1 target

c. draw no cards and deal 2 damage to 4 targets

Can you explain why?

A: Option c is the correct one. When you draw multiple cards, the cards are drawn sequentially. For example, an effect that tells you to "draw 4 cards" is read "Draw a card. Draw a card. Draw a card. Draw a card". Words of War replaces "Draw a card" with "Deal 2 damage". When one of the draws is replaced, it's no longer a "draw", and the other activations of Words of War will apply to the upcoming draws. The end effect will be that all four draws are replaced with damage dealing.


Q: If I have an Undead Gladiator and an Ichorid in my graveyard, can I respond to Ichorid's effect by activating Undead Gladiator's ability by discarding a black creature card, then remove that card when Ichorid's effect resolves? I think that since Ichorid's ability never says "target black creature card," and says "may," I can determine the card to be removed when Ichorid's effect resolves.

A: You're exactly correct. Ichorid's ability doesn't target, and is chosen when the ability resolves. The ability triggers at the beginning of the upkeep if Ichorid is in the graveyard, and you can then respond to that ability by using spells or abilities that put cards in your graveyard.

Q: On the card Savage Firecat it has the text, "Whenever you tap a land for mana, remove a +1/+1 counter from Savage Firecat." Now, say my opponent plays this card, and then he taps 3 mountains for mana to play something. Does that mean that my opponent must remove 3 counters from it, making it a 4/4, or does he only have to remove 1 counter from it?

A: Your opponent must remove 3 counters. Savage Firecat's ability triggers every time the game sees the trigger condition happen, the ability triggers. Tapping three lands will trigger the ability three times.

Q: I had two creatures out and both where enchanted with Pacifisms by my opponent and then I played Cataclysm. We had the argument of who should choose first because I wanted to wait for him to choose one enchantment and then I could choose my other creature. He wanted to wait for me to choose a creature so then he could choose the Pacifism on it as his enchantment.

Who choose first if anyone and how do you know what to do in this situation?

A: Whenever a spell or ability asks players to make choices, the active player (the player whose turn it is) always makes his or her choices first (says rule 413.2d). You played Cataclysm (a Sorcery), so I assume it's your turn. When Cataclysm resolves, you will choose your permanents, then your opponent will choose his, and then all the others will get sacrificed simultaneously.

Q: In the old Icy Manipulator prints (Alpha, etc.) there was a sentence in the description saying "No effects are generated by target card", but in the new print (Ice Age) it's been removed. The question is, even without the last sentence, is the ability still valid? I mean, do I actually void the target card's effect by tapping it?

A: All cards should be played according to their current Oracle text (found at, regardless of what's printed on them. Wordings used on old cards may not make much sense if you apply them using the current rules. What the text means, is that the ability of the cards aren't automatically activated when you tap the card. For example, tapping an opponent's land with Icy won't automatically put mana in his or her mana pool.

In fact, that sentence was removed because it made people ask this question.

Q: I was playing my Cleric deck against someone with an Astral Slide deck. I was trying to sac a Cleric to a Cabal Archon, and my opponent responded by sliding my Cabal Archon. He says that by removing it from the game, the ability doesn't take place. I say that the ability goes on the stack and then the Archon is removed from the game, but the ability still resolves. Who's right?

A: You're right. Once an ability has been played, its existence is independent of the permanent which generated it. The Archon's ability has been played: now the only way to stop it from happening is to counter it - for example with Bind, or True Believer.


Q: What happens if I Pariah an opponent's Thrashing Mudspawn? I can see some interesting interactions there, but I'm not familiar on how ownership rules work in relation to a "you" on a card.

A: "You" always refers to the controller of the ability. Since you played the Pariah, you're the one who controls it, even when it's sitting on your opponent's creature. So - whenever Thrashing Mudspawn is dealt damage, your opponent loses that much life. Whenever you are dealt damage, your Pariah redirects this to Thrashing Mudspawn, and the damage will trigger Thrashing Mudspawn's ability so your opponent loses life.

Q: If I have four Phantom Nantukos in play, can I tap all four of them and put the counters on a single one, giving one Phantom Nantuko four +1/+1 counters on one turn?

A: No, you can't. Whenever a permanent refers to its own name in the text, it means this permanent. Phantom Nantuko can only put counters on itself, not any other creatures with the same name. This is rule 202.2 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: If my opponent enchants one of my creatures with a Spirit Link, will he gain the life or will I? We really weren't sure on this so I decided to come to the number one authority.

A: He will gain the life, since he controls Spirit Link. "You" is always the player controlling the ability, and abilities that trigger from permanents are controlled by the player who controls the permanent.

Q: I have a card call Simplify and it says: "Each player sacrifices an enchantment." My question is: If an opponent puts a "bad" enchantment, like Wanderlust, on one of my cards, can I sacrifice that "bad" enchantment?
--Juan Guillermo Beltran

A: No, you can't. Even if the Wanderlust is on your creature, it is still controlled by your opponent, and you can only sacrifice permanents you control. Of course, since Simplify forces each player to sacrifice an enchantment, if your opponent only has one, he or she has to sacrifice Wanderlust.

Q: I like to play with Elven Warhounds but I am unsure of how the combat damage (if any) and the Elven Warhounds' ability are resolved in combat.

A: If an Elven Warhounds gets blocked, it won't usually deal or receive any combat damage at all.

When your Elven Warhounds are blocked, the blocking creatures will leave play almost immediately, without getting a chance to assign any damage. (yes, even before first strike damage.)

However, even after the blockers are gone, the Warhounds will still count as blocked. A blocked creature can't deal any damage to the defending player. (unless you give it Trample, of course, in which case all its damage goes straight to the defending player.)

Read the Runes

Q: In your December 7th column, you answered a question about Read the Runes. Here was your answer:

"The 'for each card drawn'-clause means you won't have to discard or sacrifice unless you did actually draw a card (Abundance and the Words from Onslaught can replace 'draw' with another effect)."

Do you really mean "unless you did actually draw a card," emphasis on the "you"? Or did you mean "someone"? What if "you" didn't actually draw a card, because your opponent play Plagiarize before Read the Runes resolved? Would "you" (as defined by the rules) still have to discard or sacrifice? The card states "for every card drawn this way," not, "for every card you drew this way."
--Robb Davis, Toronto

A: I meant "someone". Read the Runes looks at any draw generated by its effect, and causes gives the controller of the spell the choice of discarding a card or sacrificing a permanent. I don't always list every possible interaction with the card asked about and other cards, it would make this column be even longer than it is. In all cases except the one with Plagiarize, "you" will be the controller of Read the Runes - Plagiarize is the only effect that can "steal" a draw.

Q: I have Humility in play (it was there at the beginning of this turn). Now I play a Staunch Defenders. Does its ability trigger or is the ability removed from the creature before it is in play? If yes, when?

A: The Staunch Defenders' ability won't trigger, Humility's continuous effect makes the creature come into play without any abilities.

Rule 408.2 in the Comprehensive Rulebook says "Continuous effects that modify characteristics of permanents do so simultaneously with the permanent coming into play. They don't wait until the permanent is in play and then change it. Because such effects apply as the permanent comes into play, apply them before determining whether the permanent will cause an ability to trigger when it comes into play."

Q: I have a question about this combo: Am I allowed to return Blastoderm with the ability of Stampeding Wildebeests?
--Marco Marolla, Germany

A: Yes, you are. The Wildebeests' ability doesn't target (it doesn't use the word "target"), so you can return any green creature.

Q: Since playing a creature with it's morph ability counts as playing a creature spell, can you put a morphed creature face down into play as the 2/2 by using a creature ability such as the Elvish Piper's ability? What about Show and Tell?
--Billy Moreau, Dubuque, Iowa

A: You can't put creatures into play face down with Elvish Piper (or Show and Tell), you can only use Morph when you play creatures, not when they are put into play by an effect.

Q: Since you need to pay to activate the ability of Thornscape Master, but the Master himself is green, do creatures that have protection from red avoid this 2 damage?

A: No, protection from red won't help. An ability will have the same color as its source, no matter what activation cost is needed to activate it. Therefore, Thornscape Master's abilities are both green.

Protection from red means, in part, "can't be the target of abilities from red sources". Note that it doesn't refer to "red abilities", only "red sources". Since the ability belongs to the Thornscape Master, it's an ability from a green source.)

Poll Results

Can Unsummon target something in your graveyard?
No it can't. Unless an effect specifically refers to something outside play, it will only affect things in play.348119.3%
No it can't. A "creature" only exists in play: in your graveyard it's just a "creature card".351119.5%
No it can't, for both the above reasons.966553.7%
Yes it can.1335 7.4%
Can Coastal Drake target something in your graveyard?
No it can't. Unless an effect specifically refers to something outside play, it will only affect things in play.404230.6%
No it can't. A "Kavu" only exists in play: in your graveyard it's just a "Kavu card".181413.7%
No it can't, for both the above reasons.590044.6%
Yes it can.147011.1%

The correct answers for the questions last week are:

Can Unsummon target something in your graveyard?

No, it can't, for two reasons - Spells and abilities can only target permanents in play unless they specifically say otherwise (Rule 217.5b), and "creatures" only exist in play, when not in play, cards with type "creature" are just "creature cards" (says current rulings).

Can Coastal Drake target something in your graveyard?

No, it can't, because like above, spells and abilities can only target permanents in play.

Now what is "a Kavu"? We're not 100% sure, your answers are part of our debate for how some rules should work.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

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