Saturday School #20

Posted in Feature on March 22, 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


Q: If a player plays Befoul or Dark Banishing to destroy a non-black creature, can they target a Patagia Golem? In other words does a creature have to have a color before it can be non-black?

A: If something isn't black, then it's nonblack. Befoul and Dark Banishing can destroy any creature that isn't black, including Patagia Golem.

Q: I was playing a type 2 match with my friends. When I tried playing a Femeref Archers from Mirage, my friends argued that since the Mirage Archer is a Summon Archer, and the Seventh Edition Archer says Creature - Soldier, I can't use my Mirage Archer. I see their point but I'm not convinced. Can you help us out?
--Amanda, Canada

A: You can use the old Femeref Archers. All cards should be played using the Oracle wording of the cards. The Oracle supercedes any written text on any card. The Oracle wording of Femeref Archers match the wording on the Seventh Edition Archers, and they’re both played as being “Soldiers”.

Q: I play Soul Link on Shepherd of Rot. Is it considered damage when I tap the Shepherd of Rot?
--Rick C.

A: No, it isn't. Loss of life is often caused by damage, but they aren't the same thing.

Shepherd of Rot isn't dealing any damage - it doesn't use the word "damage" - so it can't trigger Soul Link.

Legions Questions

Q: My opponent has a Keeper of the Nine Gales and 2 other birds in play. I have two provokers, plus some other creatures. I declare the end of my main phase. Opponent passes. I declare three attackers, provoking his Keeper and one other Bird. Now comes the confusion.

The opponent claims that in response to the provoke, he can tap his Keeper and Birds and the provoke will untap them thus allowing him to tap them yet again before he declares blocking, making them invalid blockers. I understand the second part. However my claim is that provoke is part of the "declaring attack" step during which no fast effects can be played, so he only gets to tap his Birds once, making them invalid blockers.

The judge then tells us that provoke goes on the stack after the attack, but seems to imply a different effect of: opponent taps, then provoke untaps them and forces them to block. So not only does he only get one tap he is still forced to block and can't avoid provoke. Which one of these is true? Is there a nice dissertation on this somewhere?
--Russell D. Steen

A: The “declare attackers” step is laid out in the Comprehensive Rulebook, section 308, and it works like your opponent says.

1) The attacking player chooses attacking creatures, no spells or abilities can be played during this declaration.

2) When a legal set of attackers has been chosen, abilities that trigger on attacking creatures go on the stack, for example Provoke. Provoke is a triggered ability with a target, so the target is chosen when the ability is put on the stack.

3) Both players may then play spells or abilities. Tapping the Keeper and two Birds is allowed.

4) The Provoke resolves, and the targeted creatures untap.

5) Both players may then play spells or abilities, and if you tap the Keeper and the other Bird at this time, they won't be able to block.

6) When both players pass in succession on the empty stack, the game moves to the next step, the declare blockers step

Note, however, that provoke says "may." If your opponent uses his Keeper, you can choose to not untap it (and it won't have to block).

Q: If I have two Spectral Slivers in play, do all my Slivers get "2: This creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn?" or do the abilities stay separate?

A: All Slivers will get two instances of “2: This creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn”. The cost for each ability must still be paid separately, you can’t pay for two abilities with the same mana, so having this ability twice has no particular extra effect.

Q: I use a Wizard deck with Riptide Laboratory and Chromeshell Crab. When I flip the Crab up is it possible for me to target my Wizard and what I want from my opponent, but then return my Wizard to my hand and still gain control of my opponent's creature?

A: No, this doesn’t work. Chromeshell Crab makes an exchange, and any time an exchange is made, you must give something to get something back. Bouncing your creature before the exchange is made will make the exchange fail. The reverse will also fail – if you activate the Crab’s “return” ability before the Laboratory’s “exchange” ability, the exchange will be made, but the Laboratory’s ability fill be countered, because it can only target creatures you control, and you don’t control the exchanged Wizard anymore.

Beacon of Destiny

Q: Beacon of Destiny reads: "The next time a source of your choice would deal damage to you this turn, that damage is dealt to Beacon of Destiny instead." What does it mean by source? Does that mean only one creature or spell? I've looked through a lot of the Saturday School questions and even the comprehensive rules but I couldn't really find anything that dealt with the word "sources". Can you please explain what it means? It's been subject to frequent debate in my playgroup, and I really need it cleared up.

A: “Source” is defined in rule 419.7c and the Glossary of the Comprehensive Rulebook. It says in part - “If an effect requires a player to choose a source, he or she may choose either a permanent or a spell on the stack (including one that creates a permanent) or any card or permanent referred to by a spell or pseudospell on the stack.” You can only choose one source, for example a creature or a spell.

Q: If provoke is cumulative, why isn't first strike? How can I tell which abilities "stack" and which don't?
--Chuck K.

A: In general, if an ability is triggered (starts with “at”, “when” or “whenever”), it’s “cumulative”, with each instance of the ability triggering when appropriate. Static abilities that modify the rules don’t add up, having “Flying” multiple times doesn’t make the creature “fly higher” for example, unless they say something like "this creature may block an additional creature", of course.

If an ability is activated (i.e. if it's written as cost: effect), it's not cumulative - each instance of an activated ability has to be activated and paid for seperately.

Provoke is a triggered ability, and it will trigger every time the trigger condition is met (the creature attacks). If the attacking creature has provoke twice, the triggered ability goes on the stack twice. The same goes for other triggered abilities, like Flanking and Rampage.

First strike is a static ability that modifies the combat damage step so that there will be two damage steps instead of just one. saying that "there are two damage steps" many times doesn’t do anything special, the ability just says it creates a second step, not multiple steps for each instance of first strike.

General / Older Cards Questions

Q: If I have Island Sanctuary and Words of Worship in play, would I gain life and stop all ground-based non-island-walking creatures from attacking me? Would they both resolve since I am not drawing a card?

A: This wouldn’t work. Both Island Sanctuary and Words of Worship have replacement effects that modify the draw, and they’re applied in the order you choose – but once you apply one of the effects, it’s not a “draw” effect anymore, so the other replacement effect won’t do anything. If you choose to apply Island Sanctuary first, you can’t be attacked by ground-based non-island-walking creatures, but then you can’t gain life from the Words, since there is no draw to replace. If you apply the Words first, you can’t choose to “skip” the draw, since there is no draw to skip anymore.

Death Pits of Rath

Q: I have a Phantom Nishoba in play. My opponent has a Rootwater Hunter and Death Pits of Rath. He uses Rootwater Hunter's ability to destroy my Phantom. As the damage is prevented it won't be destroyed, it will only lose a counter, right? Or does it die?

A: Phantom Nishoba will only lose a counter – damage that is prevented is never dealt, and nothing that triggers off damage being dealt will see any damage.

Q: I have a Dream Halls in play. Can I discard a card with madness, and then discard another card to play the madness card? Can I discard Fiery Temper to play Radiant Kavu, then discard Volcanic Hammer to play the Fiery Temper?

A: You can’t discard cards to pay the cost of spells played with madness. Dream Halls can only replace the regular mana cost of a spell, it can’t be used pay alternative play costs like Madness or Flashback.

Q: My friend plays a Mana Flare on his turn. I have a Karplusan Forest out. I say that I can tap it for colorless, and then add a red or green mana to my mana pool without taking any damage. However, he says that that doesn't work because the red or green mana comes from a different ability of the land. Which one of us is right?

A: Your friend is right – you can only add one mana of the same type as the one you tapped the land for - if the land was tapped for colorless, Mana Flare will add one colorless mana to your mana pool. The Oracle text of the card says this.

Also, note that if you tapped the Karplusan Forest for red mana, Mana Flare can't make green. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about different abilities or not.

Q: I use Pulsemage Advocate's ability. Then, after choosing the 3 cards that I'm going to return, can I use Withered Wretch's ability to remove the 3 cards instead of letting my opponent get those cards back? And do I still get to return a creature card in my graveyard?

A: You can do this, and you still get to return your own creature. The Advocate has four separate targets, and if at least one of these are legal when the ability resolves, the effect will do as much as possible with the targets that are still legal.

Q: If I have a Glory and a Reya Dawnbringer in play, and they both get destroyed by a Hurricane, can I use Glory's ability to give Reya protection from green, or would the effect already have resolved?

A: The effect would already have resolved, and it’s too late to play the protection-ability of Glory. All creatures that are dealt lethal damage by Hurricane are put in the graveyard at the same time, Reya is in the graveyard when you get the chance to activate Glory – too late to save her.

Q: If Darkest Hour is out, and I play Alloy Golem, and I chose red, would it turn into black or would it be red?

A: It would be black. Alloy Golem’s text is “characteristic setting” – it defines the initial color of the card, and will be overwritten by any effect that changes the color of the card.

Q: Can you make a Morphling bigger than a 5/1 by increasing the toughness to a 0/7 then pumping it the other way to a 6/1?

A: No, this doesn’t work. Creatures can have negative power, but it’s treated as zero for all purposes except raising and lowering the power. If you pump Morphling to have 7 toughness, its power will be –1, it will remember this when you try to pump the power up again.

Q: If my opponent hits me with a Blinding Angel, can I use Aggravated Assault to get an attack phase after all?
--Ophir Nemtzov, Israel

A: Blinding Angel causes you to skip your next combat phase, and if you use Aggravated Assault to create an additional combat phase in your turn, you will have at least one combat phase.

Q: I have a Nightscape Familiar in play. Then I play Crosis, the Purger. According to Nightscape Familiar ability, red and blue spells cost 1 less to play. Crosis costs 3UBR. Would Crosis cost 1UBR instead?

A: No, it wouldn’t. Nightscape Familar can only affect each spell once, it has only one ability that reduces costs. It would be different if the card had said “Blue spells cost 1 less to play. Red spells cost 1 less to play”.

Q: I control a Lowland Basilisk enchanted with a Fire Whip. It is my opponent's main phase and he has a generic 2/2 out. I tap the Lowland Basilisk and deal one damage to the 2/2. Will it die at the end of the combat phase?

A: Yes, it will. Fire Whip gives the Basilisk the ability to tap to deal damage, and the Basilisk’s built-in ability will trigger any time it deals damage for whatever reason. It will set up a delayed triggered ability, destroying the damaged creature at the end of combat. Note that if you do this after the combat phase in the turn, the ability is delayed until the end of the combat phase next turn.

Q: I have Lashknife Barrier, Spirit en-Kor, and few other creatures in play. My opponent casts Lightning Bolt on my Spirit. If I redirect all damage from it to other creatures, does the Barrier prevent all damage? If so, would I be able to "redirect" every damage one by one to Spirit, and prevent it all with the Barrier?

A: Lashknife Barrier prevents one damage to each creature in play, so if you redirect the damage to as many creatures as there are points of damage, it will all be prevented.

Note that the damage isn’t “dealt” when you redirect it, you set up shields that say that the damage goes somewhere other than originally assigned when it resolves. When the damage is dealt, Lashknife Barrier prevents one damage to each creature that would take damage, other damage to the creatures is still dealt. You don’t prevent one damage each time you activate the redirection of the en-Kor.

Q: My opponent attacks with a Wild Mongrel. I block with a Festering Goblin, and give the Mongrel -1/-1 when the Goblin dies. She discards a card in response, giving the Mongrel +1/+1. When the turn ends, which effect ends first? Does the Mongrel die?

A: In the cleanup step in the end phase, all “until end of turn” effects end and damage is removed at the same time, regardless of whose turn it is. The Mongrel will live.

Q: If I cycle three cards, I would be discarding three cards from my hand as part of the cycling costs. Can the discarded cards count as Vengeful Dreams additional cost, and remove 3 of my opponent's attacking creatures?
--Boby Yo, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A: No, they can’t. Costs of separate abilities must be paid separately – part of the cost of cycling is discarding the card, so if you discard the card to cycle it, you can’t use it to pay for Vengeful Dreams as well.

Q: I was wondering if you could use Voltaic Key to untap a Time Vault or is Time Vault a special condition that can ONLY be untapped if you skip a turn?
--Robert Smith

A: You can untap Time Vault with Voltaic Key, but this doesn’t do anything in particular. The Oracle text of Time Vault says that you have to remove a “time counter” from Time Vault in addition to tapping it to take an extra turn. The only way you can put a time counter on Time Vault is by choosing to skip a turn. As you can see, you're not the first person to think of this combo.

Q: My opponent plays a Disenchant on my Illusionary Mask and he succeeds. I had previously played a creature with the Mask's ability. Can I turn it face up even if I don't control an Illusionary mask?

A: Yes, you can. When you activate Illusionary Mask, you also set up the condition to turn the card face up – it’s part of the Mask effect. Illusionary Mask doesn’t need to be in play to turn the creature face up.


Q: Is it possible to take more than one creature each upkeep with one Genesis?

A: No, it isn’t. Genesis has a triggered ability that goes on the stack once (at the beginning of your upkeep). You choose a target, and you may pay mana to return that creature. It doesn’t say you can target multiple creatures, so you can only return the one creature.

Q: I have a Subversion in play. My friends say that during my upkeep, if I forget to tell them to lose a life each and gain life myself then it doesn't happen and I miss my chance. I argue that because the word 'may' is not on the card that the effect is mandatory so it has to happen, like untapping your cards as a question asked last Saturday. Please could you let me know who is right as this argument has been running ever since the card was released!

A: The effect is mandatory (it doesn’t say “may” anywhere), so you’re not allowed to forget about it. If you do forget it, you have to go back and correct the situation. In general, it’s hard to back up things that happened several turns ago, but if it’s noticed in the same turn, it’s not difficult to fix the problem.

Q: My opponent has a Spiritmonger in play with a Rancor attached to it, and an empty hand. I play a Recoil targeting the Spiritmonger. Do the Spiritmonger and Rancor both go to his hand immediately, then he chooses and discards a card, or does Recoil take priority before Rancor can return to his hand and he must discard the Spiritmonger?

A: When Recoil resolves, Spiritmonger is returned to its owner’s hand, then he or she discards a card. Rancor remains in play and doesn’t go to the graveyard until after the spell has finished resolving, when state-based effects are checked. Local enchantments only check if they’re enchanting valid permanents when you would get priority, not during resolution of spells or abilities. Rancor’s ability triggers when it’s put in the graveyard and is returned to the hand, long after Recoil has finished resolving.

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