Saturday School #24

Posted in Feature on April 19, 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

Venomspout Brackus

Q: Can a Venomspout Brackus use its ability on a Giant Spider if the Spider is blocking a flyer?

A: No, it can't. Giant Spider can only block as if it has flying, it does not have flying for any other purpose, meaning it can't be affected by the Brackus' ability.

Q: Some of my older white Soldiers have an ability called "banding." What does that do?

A: Banding is an ability that modifies the rules for declaring attackers, declaring blockers, and assigning combat damage. The full rules for banding are described in section 502.10 in the Comprehensive Rulebook, but the basic premises are as follows:

When attacking, the attacking player may have attacking creatures form “bands”. Each band can contain any number of creatures with banding, and up to one creature without banding. A band attacks “together” - in other words, if a creature blocks one member of the band, that creature will automatically block every other member, too - even if it couldn't usually block them. (For instance: suppose your opponent controls a 3/3, and you have a pair of 2/2s. By attacking with the 2/2s banded together, you can guarantee that if the 3/3 blocks, it will die.)

The other part of banding is similar to the card Defensive Formation. When combat damage is being assigned, if it could be assigned to a creature with banding, then that creature's controller gets to choose how the damage is distributed. (This applies any time combat damage is being distributed. For example: an attacking band gets blocked; or an attacker gets blocked by several creatures, one of which has banding; or Ironfist Crusher blocks several creatures at once, one of which has banding; or even when an attacker with trample gets blocked by a single creature with banding.)

Q: Can Thorn Elemental be blocked? My friend claims that its ability means it cannot be blocked.

A: Thorn Elemental can indeed be blocked. Its ability says that it can deal damage to the defending player as though it weren't blocked, but this only modifies how combat damage is assigned, not whether it can be blocked or not. When Thorn Elemental's controller assigns its combat damage, he or she chooses whether it should assign damage to the defending player or to the blocking creature.

Q: If creatures can use abilities that don't require them to tap the turn they come into play, can Serra Angel attack the turn it comes into play?

A: No, it can't. There is a rule saying that you can only attack with creatures you have controlled continuously since the beginning of the turn, unless they have haste (308.1 in the Comprehensive Rulebook).

Legions Questions


Q: If I have Stasis and Seedborn Muse in play, will my permanents untap during other player's turns? I'm unclear on what skipping a phase actually does.

A: Your permanent won't untap. Seedborn Muse says that you untap all your permanents during your opponents' untap steps, but Stasis causes all players to skip their untap steps, meaning that nothing that happens in untap steps happen at all.

Q: If I put Lure on a Krosan Vorine and provoke a creature, will the other defending creatures be able to block my other attackers?

A: Yes, the unprovoked creatures can block other attackers. Lure only affects “creatures able to block enchanted creature”. If a creature isn't able to block the Vorine (because of the Vorine's restriction) then it's unaffected.

Also, note that the provoked creature does have to block the Vorine - that option satisfies two requirements, whereas any other block would only satisfy one. So the provoked creature takes priority.

Q: I used Lava Burst on my opponent's creature, and he unmorphed a Willbender and tried to make the Lava Burst target me instead. I said it couldn't be redirected, but he said that "change the target" is not the same as "redirect." Who is right?

A: Your friend is right. Redirection and changing targets are two separate things. “Redirection” of damage only happens when damage resolves, and causes damage assigned to something to be dealt to something else. As long as the spell is still on the stack, you're allowed to use spells or abilities like Willbender's to change the target of the spell.

For examples of actual damage redirection abilities, see the cards Warrior en-Kor and Beacon of Destiny.

Q: If a face-down Silent Specter dies, will it trigger Compost? Or is it colorless?

A: It won't trigger Compost. When permanents leave play, the game looks back at what the card looked like in play to determine if anything triggers (Rule 410.10d in the Comprehensive Rulebook). Since the card didn't have a color in play, Compost doesn't trigger, even if the card is black in the graveyard.

Q: I have a True Believer in play, and my opponent plays Innocent Blood. I say that the Believer protects me, since Innocent Blood says "each," meaning it targets each play separately. My opponent argues that I'm wrong. Am I?

A: You are wrong. True Believer only prevents you from being the target of spells or abilites, you're still vulnerable to things that don't target. Innocent Blood doesn't use the word “target”, so it has no targets. “Each” and “all” do not mean “target.”


Q: If my opponent control a Wayward Angel with threshold enchanted with my Custody Battle, and no other creatures, what happens if he doesn't sac a land to the Battle?

A: At the beginning of the upkeep, both abilities trigger. Both the abilities are controlled by your opponent (Custody Battle gives the ability to the creature it enchants, meaning that the controller of the enchanted creature controls the triggered ability). Your opponent can put the ability on the stack in the order he chooses. He can order them so that he gives you the Angel first, and is then unable to sacrifice a creature or he can order them so he has to sacrifice a creature first (which has to be the Angel), and he's then unable to give you control over the Angel. The latter is usually the better play.

Q: If I have a Conspiracy in play, can I play two copies of Visara the Dreadful or any other Legend?

A: If you have named something other than “Legend” for Conspiracy, you can have multiple Visaras in play. The Legend Rule (only one of each Legend can be in play) only applies if the creatures have the type Legend. If they are something else, like Goblins, you can have several copies in play.

General / Older Cards Questions

Q: If I attack with a Thresher Beast with Lure on it, will the defender have to sacrifice one land when blocking, or one for each blocking creature?

A: The defender only has to sacrifice one land. The ability triggers when it becomes blocked – that is when the status of the creature goes from “unblocked” to “blocked”, and that only happens once, regardless of the number of blockers. It would be different if the card had said “Whenever Thresher Beast is blocked by a creature” – that would trigger once for each blocking creature.

Q: If I control a Crimson Acolyte and a Shifting Sky set to red, can the Acolyte be killed by a Weakness, or will the enchantment fall off before taking effect?

A: The Acolyte can be killed. The Weakness spell is black until it enters play, at which point it's turned red by Shifting Sky. After it has resolved, the game checks for state-based effects, and finds that two effects apply – a creature has zero toughness, and a local enchantment enchants an illegal permanent. All state-based effects resolve as a single event, so the Acolyte is put into the graveyard at the same time as Weakness. Section 420 in the Comprehensive Rulebook explains the concept of state-based effects.

Q: Will a Suq'Ata Firewalker die if it blocks a Raging Goblin (or another red creature)? Is damage targeted?

A: Suq'Ata Firewalker dies if it receives combat damage from Raging Goblin or another red creature. Damage is not targeted, though it's often dealt by spells or abilities that do target. Only spells or abilities that use the word “target” have targets. Assigning combat damage does not involve targeting any creatures.

Q: I attack with a threshold Stone-Tongue Basilisk. My opponent blocks with eight 2/2 Zombies. Do I kill all the Zombies?

A: Not unless the Basilisk has 8 power or more. Abilities that trigger on damage being dealt only trigger if one or more points of damage are dealt. When the Basilisk assigns combat damage, it only has four points of damage to divide, meaning it can destroy four of the blockers, the other four blockers receive no damage from the Basilisk, so they survive.

Q: If I Clone a Thornscape Battlemage (or other creature with kicker), can I pay the kicker?

A: No, you can't. Clone copies the creature as it comes into play, and at this time it's far too late to pay kicker. Kicker can only be played when you play the creature, and when you play the Clone, it doesn't have the kicker text, so kicker can't be paid.

Ill-Gotten Gains

Q: When I play Ill-Gotten Gains, do I have to declare which three cards I want to return?

A: Not until the spell resolves. Since the spell doesn't target the cards, you don't choose the cards until you come to that part of the effect of the spell. You perform the actions in the order listed, meaning you can return some of the cards you discarded. The active player chooses which cards to return first, then the non-active player.

Q: I have a Death Match in play. If I play Nature's Revolt, do my 2/2 lands immediately trigger Death Match? If I play a new land, will it trigger?

A: Playing Nature's Revolt won't trigger Death Match, as no creatures are coming into play, you just have some lands already in play changing into creatures. The cards are already in play, and won't trigger any comes-into-play abilities. Lands played later will come into play as both creatures an lands, triggering Death Match.

Q: I'm having trouble with triggered effects. My opponent has a Standstill, and I play Lightning Bolt. He sacrifices the Standstill, draws three, and then counters the Bolt with a card he drew. Is this right?

A: This is right. Players are allowed to add more spells and abilities to the stack after the spell or ability has resolved. It works exactly as you described.

Q: If I Donate a creature enchantment, who gets to pick the new target? Me or my opponent?

A: Nobody does. Donate doesn't change what the enchantment enchants (like Crown of the Ages or Aura Graft do), it just changes who controls it. For many local enchantments, it doesn't matter who controls it. Giant Strength gives the enchanted creature +2/+2 regardless of who controls it, though changing the controller of Regeneration would change who could activate its ability, and changing the controller of Spirit Link would change who gained the life.

Q: How do multiple copies of Future Sight interact?

A: Not a whole lot. Each copy tells you to reveal the top card, and lets you play the card as though it were in your hand. You only have one top card, revealing it twice doesn't do anything in particular.

Q: You said earlier that it is possible to Animate Dead a Deadly Insect, even though it cannot be the target of spells or abilities. So can I Animate Dead a White Knight?

A: You can animate it, but when the game sees that the White Knight is enchanted by a black enchantment, it will be put into the graveyard by a state-based effect, causing the White Knight to be destroyed shortly after. The difference is that protection from black includes “can't be enchanted by black enchantments.” Deadly Insect's ability doesn't say that.

Q: Can you explain the errata on Phyrexian Dreadnought? How is "when it comes into play" different that "if it would come into play?"

A: Phyrexian Dreadnought's ability replaces the entire “comes-into-play”-event with “sacrifice 12 power of creatures, if you did, put it into play, if you didn't, put it in the graveyard.” This assures that the card can't ever come into play if you don't sacrifice creatures. If it had said “when it comes into play, sacrifice 12 power of creatures…”, it would trigger any comes-into-play abilities, like Pandemonium, for potentially abusable effects.

If it helps, a clearer (and mostly equivalent) ability would be “Before Phyrexian Dreadnought comes into play, sacrifice 12 power of creatures. If you don't, put Phyrexian Dreadnought into your graveyard instead of into play.”

Bloodfire Infusion

Q: My friend enchanted his creature with Bloodfire Infusion and Spirit Link, and then tried to gain a bunch of life by sacrificing it. I said that I didn't think that worked, but I couldn't explain why. Does it?

A: It doesn't. Spirit Link only triggers when the enchanted creature deals damage, and in this case, it's the Bloodfire Infusion enchantment that deals the damage, not the creature.

Let's imagine that he had a Bloodfire Kavu with Spirit Link on it instead. It still wouldn't work, as the creature is sacrificed to pay its own activation cost. The Kavu and any enchantments on it are in the graveyard when the ability resolves and the damage is dealt, and Spirit Link can't trigger. Spirit Link can only trigger if it is in play when the damage resolves.

Q: I control Aether Charge and Ravenous Baloth. I play a Longhorn Firebeast. My opponent chooses to take five damage. Can I sacrifice it to the Baloth? How much total damage will my opponent take? How does this all work?

A: When the Firebeast comes into play, its own ability and Aether Charge trigger and are put on the stack in the order you choose.

Longhorn Firebeast's triggered ability goes on the stack, and when the ability resolves, the opponent chooses if he or she takes five damage, and if he or she does, the Firebeast is sacrificed right away, making it impossible to sacrifice it to the Baloth. It's possible to sacrifice the Firebeast to the Baloth while the triggered ability is on the stack, but then the opponent can simply choose not to take 5 damage.

Aether Charge's ability doesn't require that the Beast that triggered it is in play when the ability resolves, so you are always able to have it deal 4 damage to your opponent when it resolves.

The end result is that either you gain 4 life and your opponent takes 4 damage, or that you gain 0 life and your opponent takes 9 damage. It is also possible that your opponent takes 4 damage and you still have the Firebeast in play.

Q: What would happen if I had a Lifeline and a creature in play and then cast a Ball Lightning? Would the Ball Lightning stay in play at the end of my turn, go to the graveyard, or set up a loop to draw the game?

A: It depends if the Ball Lightning survives until the end of turn or not, but in any case, there wouldn't be an infinite loop that would draw the game. All abilities that trigger "at end of turn" trigger at the beginning of the end step. If the permanent isn't in play at this time, it won't trigger - the abilities only get one chance to trigger each turn.

If the Ball Lightning survives until the end of a turn, its ability triggers and you sacrifice it. Since there is another creature in play, Lifeline's ability triggers, and will be put on the stack the next time an end of turn step occurs, which would be in your opponent's end of turn step if it's your turn. When the Ball Lightning returns to play, it's too late to sacrifice it in THAT turn, and it stays in play until the end of the next turn (assuming it's not destroyed before then).

If Ball Lightning somehow is destroyed before the end of the turn, Lifeline's ability triggers and returns Ball Lighting at the end of that turn step, causing it to live through the next turn, and then be sacrificed at the end of that turn, returning again at the end of the turn after that.

So you can never sacrifice Ball Lightning to its own effect AND return it to play with Lifeline in the same turn.

Q: A Krovikan Vampire kills an animated land in combat. Does the land come back into play? It isn't really a creature.

A: The land comes back into play. The only requirement is that it's a creature when it's put into the graveyard, the effect doesn't care which type the card has when it returns.

Q: Is it possible to animate a Serra Avatar with a Doomed Necromancer? Or is it shuffled in immediately?

A: You can't animate it. It's shuffled in immediately, instead of being put in the graveyard. The Avatar is never in the graveyard, meaning it can't be returned from there to play. Effects that say “instead” are replacement effects, which replace an event with another, and the original event never happens.

However, if you do manage to get an Avatar into the graveyard - for example, by taking its ability away with Humble, then killing it - you can use Doomed Necromancer just fine.

Q: What happens if I play Death Pit Offering with no creatures in play?

A: Death Pit Offering comes into play, it doesn't matter if you don't have any creatures. As Death Pit Offering comes into play, you're asked to sacrifice all the creatures you have. There are none, so nothing is sacrificed. The sacrifice is not a cost or requirement to put it into play, it's a detrimental side-effect that happens when Death Pit Offering comes into play.

Q: I play a spell and my opponent casts Force Spike. If I pay the , can my opponent play another Force Spike, or does my spell resolve? What is the window for countering spells?

A: Your opponent may play another Force Spike. After a spell has resolved, players receive priority to play more spells and abilities. The top spell on the stack only resolves when both players pass priority in succession without doing anything. There is no “window” for countering spells, unlike older version of the rules. A spell can be countered any time before it resolves.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

Latest Feature Articles


January 24, 2022

Where to Find Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Previews by, Wizards of the Coast

It's time for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty previews! To help our readers and preview seekers, we've created this handy guide to preview season. January 27 at 9 AM PST is when everything begins...

Learn More


January 21, 2022

Boseiju Reaches Skyward by, Emily Teng

In the heart of Towashi is Boseiju, the oldest living tree on Kamigawa and the only remnant of Jukai Forest left within city limits. Boseiju Reaches Skyward | Art by: Zezhou Chen At th...

Learn More



Feature Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All