Saturday School #22

Posted in Feature on April 5, 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

Northern Paladin

Q: I was playing against a friend and he was using a Northern Paladin against me. He used its effect — pay to destroy target black permanent — and his target was my swamp. Can he do that, or is a swamp not considered a black permanent?

A: He can't do this. Although lands do count as permanents, they don't have a color. A card's color is defined by the symbols in the mana cost, and since lands have no mana cost, they are colorless. Lands can be given a color by other effects, such as Deathlace, but by default, they have no color.

Q: My opponent has Krosan Colossus in play and I play Armadillo Cloak on it. On his next turn he plays Benevolent Bodyguard, sacrifices it and gives protection from white to Krosan Colossus. He says that because Armadillo Cloak is white and green it can't affect Krosan Colossus and must be destroyed. I say that the Cloak stays, because the Colossus should have had the protection when I played the Cloak. Who is right?
--Juhani "Juice" Lindfors, Finland

A: Your friend is right. Regularly during each turn (whenever someone gets a chance to play a spell), the game checks for something called State-Based Effects (read more about these in section 420 in the Comprehensive Rulebook). One of these is “A local enchantment that enchants an illegal or nonexistent permanent is put into its owner's graveyard.” A creature with protection from white or green can't be enchanted by white or green enchantments, so Armadillo Cloak falls off when the ability from Benevolent Bodyguard has resolved.

Legions Questions

Q: Is it possible to play a Lavamancer's Skill on a Toxin Sliver and during my main phase tap it to deal one damage to a certain creature in order to destroy it due to the Sliver ability? And what if I use this very same Sliver to block one attacker and then I tap it to target another attacker? Is it possible to destroy both attackers? What's the difference, if any, between "combat damage" and "damage?"
--Josnei Dias, Brazil, Aracaju-SE

A: Toxin Sliver's ability can never be triggered by using Lavamancer's Skill. It can only be triggered by “combat damage”, which is the damage that gets dealt automatically by creatures when they attack or block.

Other damage does not count as combat damage, even if it's dealt by an attacking or blocking creature during combat.

Therefore in your first example, Toxin Sliver will have no special effect. In the second example, it will destroy the creature it's blocking, but will have no special effect on the other creature.

Q: I used a Riptide Mangler's ability on Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer controlled by an opponent. If my opponent were to play more lands, would the Mangler's power go up?

A: No, it won't. Riptide Mangler's ability reads the current power of the targeted creature when the ability resolves, and sets its own power to that. The effect gets information from something in the game, and will just get the current value; it won't change along with Molimo. This is explained in rule 413.2f of the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Imperial Hellkite

Q: I morph Imperial Hellkite. I don't have any Dragons but can I still search through my deck anyway?

A: Yes, you can. Effects that let a player search do not require that whatever is searched for can actually be found. You have to shuffle the library after searching even if you don't find a Dragon, of course.

Q: If I play both a Seedborn Muse and a Rising Waters, can I untap my lands but make others be subject to the Waters?
--Ashod Oshagan

A: Yes, you can. Rising Waters only prevents lands from untapping in their controller's untap step, not in their opponent's. Seedborn Muse will automatically untap all your lands in your opponent's untap step.

Q: My opponent has a Withered Wretch in play with enough mana to activate it over and over again. If it's my turn, and I discard Roar of the Wurm to Wild Mongrel, can he remove it with the Wretch before I can play it from my graveyard with flashback? I was pretty sure that he could because the ability on Mongrel is triggered by discarding the Roar, which would put it into the graveyard, but I said that I'd check up on it.

A: You are correct. When you activate Wild Mongrel and discard Roar of the Wurm, the Mongrel's ability is put on the stack, and your opponent can respond to this by activating Withered Wretch. Since you can only play sorceries when the stack is empty, he can remove your Roar before you can play it.

Note that the answer is different if you use something like Fact or Fiction, or Merfolk Looter. These discard the Roar as part of their effect, instead of their cost. Since it's your turn, you'll be the first person to get priority after that effect, and you can play the Roar straight away. So by the time your opponent has a chance to respond, the Roar will be on the stack, not in the graveyard.

General / Older Cards Questions

Rith's Grove

Q: Do the abilities from Lairs, like Rith's Grove, go on the stack? If so, my opponent can destroy the land that I targeted in response, can't he? Also, if so, and I only have Lairs in my hand and in play, I can play one and tap it for mana before I'm forced to sacrifice it?

A: Yes, the “return a land or sacrifice the Lair” ability uses the stack. However, this ability doesn't target anything (it doesn't use the word “target”), so you won't choose a land until the ability resolves.

In other words – yes, your opponent can destroy your lands in response (assuming he has one of the few land-destruction effects that isn't a sorcery)… but unless he's destroyed every land you control, you can just choose one of the remaining ones.

As for tapping it for mana, yes, you can do this. The Lair ability goes on the stack when it comes into play, then you get priority at which point you can tap it for mana. When the Lair ability resolves, you may have to sacrifice it, but you still have the mana.

Q: Can Mishra's Factory activate and attack the first turn it comes into play? I say it's still a land, so it wouldn't have summoning sickness, but my friend says I could not because it turns into a creature, therefore having summoning sickness. Who's right?
--J. Warren

A: All cards have “summoning sickness,” but it only affects creature. Once Mishra's Factory becomes a creature, all rules that apply to creatures apply to it. So if the card came into play this turn – regardless of whether it was a creature then – it's not allowed to attack.

Q: Back in the day, there was a card named Xanthic Statue. When you play its activated ability, it becomes an 8/8 artifact creature with trample until the end of turn. My friend and I had an argument on whether that creature would have summoning sickness or not. If it does what is the point of giving it trample?
--Scott Obernesser

A: Permanents only have “summoning sickness” if you haven't controlled them since the beginning of your turn. It doesn't matter what type the permanent has at the beginning of your turn, if you controlled it since the beginning of your turn, it can attack if it's turned into a creature.

Q: How does the replacement effect of buyback work when the spell gets countered? My friend says that if a spell gets countered, then the card will go to the graveyard, regardless of whether the buyback cost was paid or not. I say that the spell will be countered, but the replacement effect will still occur, returning the card to its owner's hand.

A: Your friend is right. The rule for Buyback (502.16) says “put this card into your hand instead of into your graveyard as the spell resolves”.

If the spell is countered, then it doesn't resolve, so this rule has no effect.

Note: this is different from Flashback, whose rule says “remove this card from the game instead of putting it anywhere else any time it would leave the stack”. So when a Flashbacked spell is countered, it still gets removed from the game.”

Q: If I can Fact or Fiction for a pile of five and a "pile" of zero, meaning a pile of zero is still a pile, then why is zero damage considered "no damage?" Using the same argument, can't I say I put zero damage on the stack in order to activate Shadowmage Infiltrator with Engineered Plague in play?

A: Rule 419.5 in the Comprehensive Rulebook specifically say that if a source deals zero damage, it does not deal damage at all, and abilities that trigger on damage being dealt won't trigger. The game needs to see “some” damage for the ability to trigger, and “no damage” is not dealt.

Nobody said every part of the rules works the same. For different types of effects, different answers make sense. When you're dividing combat damage, it's natural to assign 0 damage to something, but when you're dividing damage between the targets of a Violent Eruption, it's not.

Gaea's Liege

Q: I have Celestial Dawn and he has Gaea's Liege. If Gaea's Liege turned all my lands into forests then I was able to cast Celestial Dawn, would all my lands that were turned into forests turn back to plains? Would they be plains and forests at the same time or just plains? My friend argues that Gaea's Liege says that my lands are still forests unless Gaea's Liege is removed from play.
--Ronald Dator, Manila, Philippines

A: The type of the lands depends on the timestamp of the effects that are active. The timestamp of Gaea's Liege's effects were set when the activated abilities resolved, the timestamp of Celestial Dawn was set when it came into play. Any lands that were turned into forests before Celestial Dawn came into play will be plains, any lands turned into forests after Celestial Dawn came into play will be forests; the latest effect “wins.” This is covered in rule 418.5d in the Comprehensive Rulebook, also see “Timestamp” in the Glossary.

Q: I play Cursed Scroll's ability targeting a Birds of Paradise. I have a Mountain and a Volcanic Island in my hand and name Mountain. If my opponent picks Volcanic Island out of my hand does the Birds die?

A: No, it doesn't. Cursed Scroll only looks at the name of the card when it determines if the right card is picked. Volcanic Island has the type mountain, so anything that affects the type mountain can affect it, but it's not named Mountain, so any effect that looks at the name of the card won't see it as a mountain.

Q: If someone at two life were to play an instant that killed the other person, would Spellshock's damage resolve before the instant's? Or vice versa? Or is it a draw?
--Eric, Minnesota

A: The player who played the instant would die first. The triggered ability from Spellshock is always put on the stack on top of whatever triggered it, and will resolve first. That player will lose the game before the instant can resolve.

Q: My Wild Mongrel attacks and my opponent declares no blockers and we get to "damage on the stack." She then activates her Circle of Protection: Green. If I now discard to make my Mongrel white, is the resolving damage green or white?

A: The damage is white. All damage that is dealt has the color the source has when the damage resolves (and if the source is no longer in play, it has the color the source last had). Note that the damage isn't on the stack, only an assignment saying that “Wild Mongrel deals N damage”. When combat damage is dealt (resolves), the Mongrel deals the damage with the color it currently has.

Q: Can you pump a Wild Mongrel with a Chains of Mephistopheles in play nonstop (or until your deck runs out)?

A: No, you can't. Chains of Mephistopheles only interacts when you would draw a card, saying that you must discard a card before you draw the card. The “If the player discards a card”-clause only explains what happens if you discard a card to the replacement effect, it later has another clause explaining what happens if you don't discard a card.

Chains of Mephistopheles does not interact with regular discard effects.

Recurring Nightmare

Q: Can you explain why Recurring Nightmare seems impossible to get rid of except by a counterspell? Also, could you explain if Bind could be used to counter the Nightmare's ability and what would happen if that were to occur?

A: Recurring Nightmare is hard to get rid of because it's returned to its owner's hand when the ability is activated. If its controller has priority, the card is returned to hand when the activation cost is paid, before the other player can respond. Note that the ability can only be played as a sorcery, so if the other player has priority and targets Recurring Nightmare, there's little the controller of Recurring Nightmare can do about it. But smart players tend to play the Nightmare only when they plan to use it immediately, keeping it off the table at all times the opponent has priority.

Bind (and Interdict) can counter the effect of Recurring Nightmare – the “return target creature card from your graveyard to play”-part. They can't counteract the cost, which is sacrificing a creature and returning the card to its owner's hand.

One last thing - although Bind doesn't work, Abeyance does. If you play Abeyance in response to the Nightmare spell, then the Nightmare's ability can't even be announced.

Q: What would happen if your opponent cast something like Dominate on a creature you've enchanted with Fire Whip? Would the Fire Whip be destroyed or would your opponent gain control of it?

A: The Fire Whip would find itself enchanting an illegal permanent, and would be put into its owner's graveyard by a state-based effect as soon as a player would get priority (see rule 420 in the Comprehensive Rulebook).

Q: If I have a Marsh Crocodile in my hand and no other cards, can I play the Crocodile, then discard, then return a creature to my hand, or do I have to discard the returned creature?
--Steven Harrower, Edinburgh

A: Both the abilities of Marsh Crocodile trigger at the same time, and its controller can order them as he or she chooses. You choose whether you want to discard first, then return a creature, or the other way around.

Q: If I have three land and play Frantic Search, will I be able to play an Arrogant Wurm with madness? Or won't the lands untap in time?

A: You can play the Wurm with Madness. You must first fully resolve Frantic Search (draw, discard, untap) before the triggered ability that allows you to play the Wurm is put on the stack. The lands untap in time.

Q: What happens if I use a Memory Jar with say 4 cards in my hand, then get it back somehow (with, for example, Goblin Welder), then use it again with the 7 cards still in my hand? Do I get all 11 cards back at end of turn?
--Willem Boskaljon

A: You don't get to keep all the cards. Each activation of Memory Jar creates a delayed triggered ability (discard your hand, return the removed cards) that goes on the stack at the end of turn. “This way” on Memory Jar refers to the cards that were removed from the game with that activation. At end of turn, both the delayed triggered abilities go on the stack, and when they resolve, you discard your current hand, get one removed “hand” back, then you discard your hand, and return the remaining removed cards. You choose the order the triggers go on the stack, so you can choose whether to keep the 4- or 7-card hand.

Q: I attack with a Gorilla Berserkers and a Scryb Sprites. My opponent controls three untapped creatures: two Watchdogs and a Suntail Hawk.

Now which of the following blocking sets are legal:

1. No blocks

2. Block Scryb Sprites with the Hawk

3. Block Gorilla with all 3 creatures
--No Netterstrøm

A: All sets of blockers you suggest are legal.

Number 1 is legal because the Watchdogs can't block the Scryb Sprites, and the Hawk can't be forced to block anything.

Number 2 is legal because the Watchdogs can't force Suntail Hawk to block a specific creature, and when the Hawk blocks Scryb Sprites, the Watchdogs can't block because the Berserkers can only be blocked by 3 or more creatures.

Number 3 is legal, as all creatures are allowed to block the Berserkers.

Q: If I attack with Phyrexian Slayer and my opponent blocks with a white creature that has protection from black, does Phyrexian Slayer's ability still trigger? I think it does because it doesn't target the creature. Am I right or wrong?

A: You are right. The only requirement for the ability to trigger is that the Slayer is blocked by a white creature. The ability does not damage, enchant, block or target the other creature (which is what protection works against), so the protection can't stop the ability from happening, the blocking creature will be destroyed by the Slayer's effect.

Stand or Fall

Q: If I have two Stand or Falls in play, will the effects work cooperatively, effectively making 3/4 of the defending creatures unable to block, or will only the latter ability to resolve win out (overwriting the effect of the first one)?
--Nick Calabrese, Watertown, Conn.

A: The two effects interact like this: at the beginning of combat, each of the abilities trigger. When the first resolves, the creatures are divided, and the creatures in the pile not chosen are marked “can't block”. Then the other ability resolves, and you divide the creatures again. You have to divide all the creatures again, also the ones that can't block. Only the creatures that were in the chosen pile for both abilities can block, the others are marked “can't block.” In other words: yes, 3/4 of the creatures will be unable to attack.

Q: We understand how Turf Wound stops land from being played by an opponent when played early, such as the upkeep or draw phase. My question is how does Turf Wound effect the resolution of spells and effects that play land when they are added to the stack in response to those effects. Example: Windswept Heath's effect, or sacrificing a Diligent Farmhand, or playing Rampant Growth.
--Podlizard, A.K.A. Wayne Grauel

A: Turf Wound only affects lands that are played the “normal” way. Lands put into play by effects are not “played” they are just “put into play”, and are not affected by Turf Wound.

Q: I have a Horn of Greed already in play and I play Manabond. I have five land cards in my hand and I use Manabond to put all of them into play during my discard phase. Does the use of Manabond trigger Horn of Greed and do I draw 5 cards? If so, is that the end of my discard phase or can I keep playing land cards and drawing for as long as I like?

A: Putting lands into play with Mana Bond does not trigger Horn of Greed. Horn of Greed only triggers when lands are “played,” not when they are “put into play” by other effects.

Q: Say I had a deck containing Chain of Plasma and Guerrilla Tactics. I cast the Chain, which my opponent copies. I then discard the Tactics, and copy the Chain again. Does my opponent control the copy of Chain of Plasma that he/she made, meaning I would get to deal the 4 damage from Tactics (opening up combo opportunities)? Or do all copies belong to me?

A: Your opponent controls the copy he or she made because he or she put it on the stack, so if you choose to discard to copy it, Guerilla Tactics can deal 4 damage.

Death Spark

Q: I have a few creatures in play and the top card of my graveyard is a Death Spark. When I play Jokulhaups, what determines the order in which the cards go to the graveyard? Would I be able to get my Death Spark back on the next upkeep assuming I played a land after the Jokulhaups resolved?

A: When multiple cards go to the graveyard at the same time, each player chooses the order his or her cards are put into their own graveyard. You can choose to put your creature cards in the graveyard first, so that you can play Death Spark next upkeep (assuming you played a land so you can pay for it).

Q: Looking back at the Aether Flash/Plated Sliver question from last week, is it possible to play a Quick Sliver and two Plated Slivers in such a way so that none of them dies to Aether Flash?

A: Yes, you can. Play Quick Sliver first, it resolves, Aether Flash triggers and goes on the stack. Play Plated Sliver #1 in response, Aether Flash triggers again. Then play Plated Sliver #2, Aether Flash triggers for the third time. All the Slivers will now have three toughness, and they'll survive taking two points of damage.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

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