Saturday School #18

Posted in Feature on March 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

Devoted Caretaker

Q: I have a Devoted Caretaker in play and my friend played a Wrath of God (or Upheaval). I argued that I could use my Caretaker's ability to protect himself and all my other permanents from Wrath (or Upheaval). Am I correct?
--Ray Wat, Bristol, UK

A: No, you aren’t. Having protection from [quality] has four properties, 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

Neither of the mentioned Sorcery spells deal damage, enchant, block or target, so protection from Sorcery spells does not affect them. Wrath of God and Upheaval do not target anything, because they don’t use the word ‘target’.

Q: I want to kill my opponent's Prodigal Sorcerer with my pumped up Taunting Elf. Can he prevent his Tim from being forced to block by tapping it? And if so, in which phase must he do this? And if so, in which phase can I use my Seeker of Skybreak to untap it again and still force it to block? Or is this impossible?
--Stefan Comtesse

A: He can prevent Prodigal Sorcerer from blocking by tapping it (assuming it doesn’t have “summoning sickness”), if it’s tapped when blockers are to be declared, it’s not able to block. The last chance to tap the Sorcerer is after attackers have been declared, before declaring blockers. This step is also the step in which you would untap it with Seeker of Skybreak, but your opponent is free to tap it again after the Seeker’s ability has resolved, so he can probably keep it from blocking anyway.

Q: Crypt Sliver has the ability "All Slivers have ': Regenerate target Sliver.'" If Crypt Sliver blocks an attacker and would be killed, can it regenerate itself? My brother says it can, but I think it can't. How can it block if it is tapping to regenerate itself?

A: The Sliver can block and regenerate itself. Both players have the option of playing instant spells and abilities in combat after blockers have been declared, and tapping a blocking creature after it has been chosen as a blocker doesn’t change the fact that is is blocking, it just happens to be tapped.

Q: Would Withered Wretch be able to remove cards with regenerate, like Drudge Skeletons, from the game before their controller could regenerate them after they have been destroyed?

A: No, it can’t, because creatures regenerate instead of being destroyed. They never actually leave play at all - instead, they are tapped, and all damage on them is removed. To regenerate, a regeneration shield must be set up before the creature would be destroyed, which is typically done in response to the spell or ability that would destroy it.

Q: If a spell targets more than one creature, do I have to target that many legal targets to play the spell? For example: Swelter deals 2 damage to two target creatures. If there's only one creature in play may I play Swelter?

A: No, you may not. You must choose legal targets for all targets whenever you play a spell or ability, and you’re not allowed to choose the same target twice. If a spell has multiple targets, you can’t play it unless you can target all of them (for example, you can’t play Decimate unless you can target an artifact, a creature, an enchantment and a land).

Legions Questions

Krosan Vorine

Q: Imagine I attack with Krosan Vorine. I use provoke on opponent's creature, say, Fugitive Wizard. Now, my opponent declares that he blocks my Krosan Vorine with another creature and then says he won't block it with Fugitive Wizard since that block would be illegal. Sounds like complete opposite of the rules. But imagine following scenarios:

  1. Having Familiar Ground in play and attacking with a Sliver, while having two Hunter Slivers in play. Simply said, what if you have a creature that is blockable only by one creature, but with double provoke? According to this ruling, each provoked creature would "stop" the other from blocking, making the creature effectively unblockable.
  2. What if the provoked creature leaves play or becomes otherwise unable to block?

Now, an important ruling from Stephen D'Angelo:
"C.7.Ruling.1 - You are not forced to maximize the number of 'must attack' (or block) creatures that you can declare. [WotC Rules Team 1997/08/05]"

So I want to ask: Is Krosan Vorine really unblockable by creatures other than the one it provoked? Or is this just a mistake? If it's really the true ruling, please, explain why. I can understand that the card is probably DESIGNED to be like that, but I can't really deduct that just from the wording and rules.
--Marek 14

A: Krosan Vorine can only be blocked by the creature it provoked, if that creature can block when declaring blockers. The rules for creatures that “must attack” or “must block” changed when Legions was released, but the documents haven’t yet been updated to reflect this. The basic summary of the new rule is that if a creature “must block”, you’re not allowed to declare a legal block without this creature if it could be declared as a blocker.

The summary of the new rule is that if a creature “must block”, it can push aside creatures that don’t have to block. To see whether a must block requirement can be satisfied, you have to look at whether it’s possible to move other creatures out of the way, without causing any of their own requirements to stop being satisfied.

In case 1, the attacking Sliver forces two creatures to block it, but it can be blocked only by one. The defending player is free to choose which of these two creatures will block: neither one takes priority over the other. However, it’s not legal to block it with a creature that doesn’t have to block.

In case 2, if the provoked creature leaves play or is unable to block, it can’t block, and you’re free to declare another creature as blocker.

The ruling is saying that you don’t have to count how many requirements you’ve satisfied. For example, suppose a creature has triple provoke. It targets one creature once, and another creature twice. The double-provoked creature doesn’t take priority over the single-provoked one.

Q: If I have Words of Worship and two Graveborn Muses in play, when must I pay for Words of Worship's ability to replace card drawing? May I draw cards singly until I feel I have enough and then pay the remaining Words activations, or is all the card draw (and loss of life) a single stack item?
--Drew Thompson, Andover, MA

A: You must pay for the Words’ ability before the triggered ability that draws the cards resolves. Each Muse has a triggered ability, and when it resolves, it counts the number of Zombies and tells you to draw that many cards; it’s a single item on the stack. You can’t activate the Words in between the separate draws, so you must determine how many draws you want to replace before you start drawing. Note that since you have two Muses, you can resolve one of the Muses’ abilities before choosing to activate Words before drawing for the other Muse.

Q: In Saturday School #12, you answered a question about Mistform Ultimus, explaining that it retains every creature type while Humility is in play. My question is, while Humility is in play, does Mistform Ultimus lose the ability that allows it to attack? (Since it's apparently still a Wall.)
--Dan Matteson, Palm Bay, FL

A: Mistform Ultimus loses the ability to attack with Humility in play, and since it’s a Wall, along with all creature types, the rules prevent it from attacking.

Ertai's Meddling

Q: According to the Oracle wording for Ertai's Meddling it removes the targeted spell from the game until all the Delay counters are removed then it is put onto the stack as a copy of the targeted spell. What happens if I use Ertai's Meddling to delay an opponent's Phage the Untouchable? Will my opponent lose the game due to Phage's comes into play ability?

A: Your opponent will lose. When the counters from Ertai’s Meddling are gone, the card is put on the stack as a copy of the Phage spell. It’s not the original spell, and it wasn’t played from the hand.

Q: My friend taps a Timberwatch Elf to give his Wellwisher something like +5/+5 to protect it from a Lava Dart, but in response I play Artificial Evolution on the Timberwatch Elf to change "Elf" to "Ape." I say that the Wellwisher dies, but he says that it also changes the Timberwatch's type and saves the Wellwisher by giving it +1/+1 because of the Evolution's "Change the text of target spell or permanent by replacing all instances of one creature type with another." Who is right?

A: Wellwisher will live, but not for the reasons you give. Changing the wording on the source of the ability of Timberwatch Elf won't influence the text of the ability already on the stack. Artificial Evolution changes the text and creature type of Timberwatch Elf, so it will be an Ape, but the ability on the stack will still count Elves, and if there are any other Elves in play (which there seem to be, based on your question), they will still be counted, and Wellwisher will get a bonus.

Q: Does the X on Bane of the Living affect itself? If I pay 3 for the X, will Bane of the Living die too?

A: Bane of the Living will also die. “All creatures” means exactly that – all creatures get -3/-3, including itself. It will then have 0 toughness, and dies.

Q: I am playing a green amplify Beast deck with two Wirewood Savages in play. I play a Feral Throwback and draw two cards, then reveal three beasts from my hand (one from the cards I just drew). My opponent asks which ones were in my hand before I drew the cards and will only allow counters for those ones. I insist that it doesn't matter when I got the cards in my hand, as long as I reveal them at the right time. Who is right?

A: Your opponent is right. Amplify is applied as Feral Throwback enters play, and you can only reveal cards you have in your hand at that time. Wirewood Savage has a triggered ability, which will go on the stack and resolve some time after the Beast has entered play, far too late to reveal cards for the Amplify ability.

General / Older Card Questions

Q: I have a Booby Trap in play with the "trigger card" named "Merfolk of the Pearl Trident." I sac a Memory Jar and my opponent draws 7 cards. If two of those cards are Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, does he take 10 or 20 damage?
--Pete Bradshaw

A: He takes 10 damage. Booby Trap will trigger twice, and when the first triggered ability resolves, you sacrifice it, and your opponent takes 10 damage. When the second triggered ability resolves, Booby Trap is not there, and you can’t sacrifice it. Since you didn’t sacrifice it, the “if you do”-clause won’t apply, and no damage is dealt.


Q: When I sacrifice a Havoc Demon to Victimize, are the two creatures I want to put back into play affected by Havoc Demon's ability?

A: No, they aren’t. You sacrifice the Demon as part of Victimize’s cost. The triggered ability is then put on the stack on top of the Victimize spell, and will resolve before Victimize. When the triggered ability resolves, all creatures in play gets -5/-5, and then you put the targeted creatures into play. Continuous effects from triggered abilities that affect characteristics of permanents (like power/toughness) only affect permanents in play when the ability resolves, says Rule 418.3b in the Comprehensive Rulebook. Creatures coming into play later are not affected.

Q: I pay the kicker cost on Skizzik when I play it. I finish my turn. I don't have to sacrifice it. My opponent takes his turn. Now, do I have to sacrifice it at the end of his turn? Or possibly at the end of my next turn? The way it's worded, I'm not sure if it only checks if the kicker cost was paid the turn it was played or if it is continuously checking. Also, what would happen if Skizzik returns to play from something like Astral Slide or a "nightmare" creature? If the card has left play, would it lose all memory of having its kicker paid?

A: If you paid the kicker, you won’t have to sacrifice it at the end of any turn, the card knows that kicker was paid for it when it was played. If Skizzik somehow leaves play (by Astral Slide or nightmares), and is returned, it has no memory of what it was before, and its kicker is not paid, so you have to sacrifice it at the end of the turn.

Q: Do you have to have an untapped land in order to use Chimeric Idol's ability?

A: No, you don’t. Tapping the land is just part of the Idol’s effect, it’s not part of the cost. Activated abilities are always written as “cost:effect”, the costs are before the colon, the effect is after. The only cost to activate Chimeric Idol is the payment of zero mana, you don’t need any untapped lands to activate the ability

Q: I have an Elvish Lyrist enchanted with Pattern of Rebirth. If the Pattern is the only enchantment in play, can I use the ability of the Lyrist targeting the Pattern and still put a creature into play?

A: That works fine. You choose the Pattern as the target of the ability, and sacrifice the Lyrist. When the Lyrist is put in the graveyard, Pattern of Rebirth triggers and you can put a creature into play. This happens long before the ability that would destroy the Patter resolves (or tries to resolve. It will actually be countered because its target is missing.)

Q: If I have a Terravore out and there are 2 lands in graveyards (so he's a 2/2) and I play Wildfire, does it die?

A: It won’t die if there are at least 5 lands the graveyards when Wildfire has finished resolving. You don’t check for lethal damage until after the spell has finished resolving, and if the creature has a higher toughness than it has damage (4), it will survive.

Rootwater Mystic

Q: Can I use the Rootwater Mystic's ability to look at more than one card in a library? If I spend , do I get to look at the top two cards of your library?
--Pete Bradshaw

A: No, you can’t. The Mystic lets you look at the top card, but the card doesn’t move from the library when you look at it. If you activate the ability again, you get to look at the same card.

Q: I have a Phantom Centaur in play, and I enchant it with an enchantment that raises its toughness, like Armadillo Cloak. What will happen when damage is dealt to it after it has lost all +1/+1 counters? Will the damage be dealt, and will it die if the damage is enough, or is the damage prevented, although there aren't any counters left to remove?
--Cor Schoonbeek, Hoogezand (Holland)

The Phantom will live. Any time something tries to deal damage to it, there are two effects that happen: one prevents the damage, and the other removes a counter from the Phantom. These effects are separate. Even if you can’t remove any counters, the first effect will still prevent the damage.

(Similarly, if Flaring Pain has been played so that the first effect can’t prevent the damage, the second effect will still remove a counter.)

Q: If I play a Cabal Therapy naming Circular Logic, knowing that my opponent has 2 in his hand, can he counter the Cabal Therapy using the madness cost of one of the Circular Logics by discarding it to the Cabal Therapy?

A: No, he can’t. When Cabal Therapy resolves, your opponent has to discard all copies of the named card. He is allowed to use the madness ability, but he won’t get the chance to play them until after Cabal Therapy has finished resolving.

Ersatz Gnomes

Q: If I want to use my Shock against a creature with protection from red, can I use the old card Ersatz Gnomes to make the Shock colorless?

A: No, this doesn’t work. You can’t change the color of a spell until it has been played, and you can’t play a spell without a legal target. You’re not allowed to play Shock (a red spell) against a creature with protection from red.

Q: I have a Standard Bearer out and I put a Diplomatic Immunity on it. Later in the game my opponent tries to Firebolt me. I say that he must Firebolt the Bearer, and that the spell then "fizzles." He says that Diplomatic Immunity overrides the Flagbearer ability. My defense is simple: It doesn't. I believe that the abilities do not conflict, avoiding the issue of what came on first. I say this because Diplomatic Immunity says cannot, which I believe means at least in this context "Spells are allowed to target enchanted creature, but if they do, they will fail." So in the end, my question is: what exactly does cannot mean?

A: “Cannot” means that you can’t ever choose the enchanted creature as a target for a spell or ability. You are never allowed to choose illegal targets for spells or abilities, so the Standard Bearer won’t be able to change the target of any spell or ability to itself (says Rule 415.2 in the Comprehensive Rulebook). You only check for legal targets at two times, whenever a target is chosen (when a spell or ability is played, or a target is changed), and when the spell or ability resolves.

Q: I'm playing against a Psychatog deck and he has 'Tog on the field. I play Ground Seal but he say he can still pump 'Tog by removing cards in the graveyard. Who is right?
---Shawn Nicholson

A: Your opponent is right. Ground Seal only prevents players from targeting cards in a graveyard, but Psychatog’s ability doesn’t target the cards (it doesn’t say target), it just lets you remove the card to pay the cost of the ability.

Q: I have a Spreading Plague in play. I choose to use Exhume when my opponent and I have only black creatures in our graveyards. According to rule 413.2d, the person playing the spell that makes people make choices has to make his choice first. If I put my black creature out would it die when he puts his black creature out since they both came out at the same time?

A: Both creatures would die if they have the same color. Spreading Plague triggers for each creature comes into play, and when the triggered ability resolves, it destroys all the creatures with the same color as the creature that triggered it (or with the same color as the creature last had if it’s no longer in play). Both the returned black creatures would trigger Spreading Plague, and they would both be destroyed as they have the same color.

Q: My opponent has killed two of my Elvish Vanguards. He later plays a Patriarch's Bidding, calling out Zombie, while I call out Elves. I say that the Vanguards both get the +1/+1 counter (similar to the way Firecat Blitz + Mana Echoes works), but everyone else at the table say no. Who's right?

A: You are right. The creatures come into play at the same time, then you check for triggered abilities. Both Elves will see the other Elf coming into play at the same time as itself, and they will both get a counter.


Q: I have this card Fling, and I have a bunch of creatures with high power. What I have done in the past is sacrifice multiple creatures for this one cost, but my friends say that I can only do this once. Who is right?
--Sean Fahey

A: Your friends are right. The Oracle text of Fling reads in part: “As an additional cost to play Fling, sacrifice a creature.” You can only pay additional costs once unless they say otherwise.

Q: According to its Oracle text, Sylvan Library's effect is: "At the beginning of your draw step, you may draw two cards. If you do, choose two cards in your hand drawn this turn. For each of those cards, pay 4 life or put the card on top of your library." If I use Sylvan Library, but activate Words of War three times (thus drawing no cards), what happens? If I have not drawn any cards I cannot choose any, and it seems that since I can't choose any cards the clause "for each of those cards..." has no effect. Will I still have to pay life?
--David Sealy

A: If you haven’t drawn any cards this turn, you don’t have to pay any life. Words of War replaces the “draw” with another effect, so Sylvan Library won’t see any cards being “drawn”, and you won’t have to put any cards back or pay any life. Note that if you don’t replace all the draws, but actually draw some cards, you will be forced to put back the cards you have drawn, or pay life to keep them.

Q: Am I able to use Confound to counter a creature with a comes-into-play ability that targets one of my creatures?
--Anthony Humphrey

A: No, you aren’t. Confound can only counter spells that target creatures, and a comes-into-play ability is an ability, not a spell. To do what you want, you need something which says it can counter abilities – e.g. Diplomatic Escort.

Q: How and why does Gangrenous Goliath's ability work if it doesn't say it can be used while it's in a graveyard?
--Cory Cooper

A: Rule 402.8 in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that “Abilities function only while the permanent with the ability is in play unless the ability states otherwise or unless the ability can only work, trigger, or be played in a zone other than the in-play zone.” Since the Goliath can only be returned from the graveyard when it’s in the graveyard, you can only play the ability at that time, when it’s in the graveyard.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

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