Saturday School #25

Posted in Feature on April 26, 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.

Rules Poll: Your Intuitive Interpretations

The gurus are arguing again, about a case where the intent of the rules isn't very clear. We don't want the rules to be confusing (not more confusing, at least), so we thought we'd ask you, the “general public”, which answers would be more intuitive to you.

Darkest Hour
If a spell affected “black cards,” which of these things would you expect to be affected?

(A) A white card turned black by Darkest Hour?
(B) A Possessed Centaur whose controller has threshold?
(C) A Clone that is copying a black creature? NoneA onlyB onlyC onlyA and BA and CB and CA, B and C
Nantuko Monastery
If a spell affected “creature cards,” which of these things would you expect to be affected?

(D) An animated Nantuko Monastery?
(E) A Copy Artifact which is copying an artifact creature?
NeitherD onlyE onlyD and E

Thanks for your votes.

Beginner Questions

Q: If I attack with a Gorilla Titan with no cards in my graveyard, what are all of the possible ways that the Titan could lose +4/+4? What if my opponent Shocked another one of my creatures in response to my attack or if he blocked another creature and dealt it lethal damage? What about instants? Can you clarify when the Gorilla Titan would get the bonus or not during the attack phase?
–-Anthony Ventimiglia

A: Anything that causes a card to stay in your graveyard will make the Titan lose its bonus. This can happen if you discard cards into your graveyard, one of your permanents is destroyed, cards from your library are put into the graveyard by Millstone-like effects, or spells you played resolved and were put into the graveyard. That should cover the most common possibilities.

In combat, you assign damage using the power the creature has when you start the combat damage step. When all combat damage assignments are done, the amount of damage the Titan deals is locked in, even if its power changes later. If the Titan has assigned 8 points of damage, it will deal all that damage even if you end up having a card in the graveyard before the damage resolves.

Gorilla Titan immediately becomes 4/4 when a card is in the graveyard, so if it has been dealt at least 4 points of damage before this happens, it would be destroyed by lethal damage.

Accursed Centaur

Q: My friend always plays Accursed Centaur on the first turn (because it's one black mana) but he has no creatures out, so I argue that he can't play it because he has no other creatures to sacrifice. Am I right?
–-Joe, NYC

A: You're not. He can play the Accursed Centaur. Its ability only applies when it comes into play, and at that time it asks him to sacrifice a creature. He does have one – the Centaur. If he doesn't have anything else to sacrifice, he'll end up sacrificing the Centaur.

Q: I block a Thorn Elemental with a 7-power first strike creature. Both of my friends say the Thorn Elemental still deals damage as though it wasn't blocked. I say that the damage is dealt as normal combat, since the Thorn Elemental doesn't have first strike. Thus, if the Thorn Elemental dies in the first strike phase of damage, there is no creature to deal damage during the normal damage phase. Who's right?

A: You are right. Thorn Elemental's ability modifies how it assigns combat damage – instead of having to deal damage to the creature blocking it you can choose to have it deal all the damage directly to the defending player. You can only apply this when Thorn Elemental would normally assign damage, and if it's killed by a first striker before you get to the regular combat damage step, it won't be able to deal any combat damage at all.

Legions Questions

Q: I have out Seedborn Muse. My opponent puts out Mist of Stagnation. Do my permanents all untap during HIS untap phase? Our Judge ruled they did not. That didn't make sense to me.

A: The judge was wrong, all your permanents do untap during his untap step. Mist of Stagnation says that permanents don't untap during their controller's untap steps. This only applies during their own untap step – Mist of Stagnation does not prevent untapping permanents in your opponent's untap step.

Web of Inertia

Q: My opponent has Web of Inertia and Withered Wretch in play. Can I cycle a card, then remove it from my graveyard to pay the Web's cost before he can use the Wretch's ability to stop my attack phase?

A: Your opponent would be able to remove the card with Withered Wretch before you can remove the card to the Web. Web of Inertia has a triggered ability that goes on the stack, and you can only remove a card to it when it resolves. You have to give priority to your opponent to play spells and abilities after you have cycled the card, and your opponent can remove the card at this time.

Q: I have two Riptide Manglers in play and they both have Rancors (+2/+0). They are both 2/3. I use the ability of one Mangler and target the other Mangler to make the first Mangler a 4/3. Then use the ability of the second Mangler and make it a 6/3. Can this be done?
–-Saguid Mahecha

A: This can't be done. Riptide Mangler's ability just reads the current power of another creatures and applies it to itself. You apply power/toughness modifiers in timestamp order, and since the Rancor was played before the Mangler ability, Mangler's ability overwrites it, causing the Rancor bonus to basically be ignored.

Q: If I use Conspiracy to change everything's creature type to say, Goblin, then I can reveal Goblin cards to Aven Warhawk's amplify ability, because it is now a Goblin?

A: Under these circumstances, you can reveal any creature card in your hand to amplify the Warhawk. Conspiracy's Oracle text says that all creatures you control and creature cards you own that aren't in play are of the chosen type. All creature cards in your hand would be Goblins, as would the Warhawk spell that is on the stack.

Q: I have a Conspiracy in play–naming Wizard–and a Mistform Ultimus. What creature type(s) will the Ultimus count as being?
–-James Ringold

A: It will be a Wizard. A card's printed text is always evaluated before any continuous effects are applied to it, so anything that changes the creature type of the Ultimus would cancel it having all creature types, and just give it the one chosen type.

General / Older Card Questions

Mana Drain

Q: What happens when you Mana Drain a morph creature? Do you get three mana or mana equal to the creature's mana cost?

A: You get no mana, actually. Mana Drain gives you colorless mana equal to the converted mana cost of the spell played. Face-down spells have by definition a converted mana cost of zero (says rule 502.26a), the rules for morph just tell you to pay 3 mana when you play it

Converted mana cost is always found by looking at the symbols in the top left corner of the card. Cards that don't have any symbols, such as tokens, animated lands and face down cards, are considered to have a converted mana cost of zero. The amount actually paid for the spell might be something completely different. Some effects adjust what you have to pay when you play a spell, but nothing changes the converted mana cost.

Q: I have a Fastbond in play. My opponent removes five of my lands from play with Parallax Tide. When the Tide goes away, we are unsure if I take damage from Fastbond. It doesn't seem like I should. Does the same hold true if I play and sacrifice a Flooded Strand on the same turn with Fastbond in play?

A: Fastbond's current Oracle text is in error, and will be changed in the next Oracle update, to be released after the Scourge prerelease.

Fastbond's Oracle text says that you take 1 damage whenever you put a land into play other than the first in the turn. The ability doesn't care how the lands got into play, as long as you were the one putting the lands into play. Playing Flooded Strand and then sacrificing it to put a land into play will cause you to take 1 damage. When Parallax Tide leaves play, you return the lands you controlled that were removed from the game to play, causing you to take 1 damage from each.

Fastbond's “damage” ability only applies when you play a land, that is when you use your special action to play a land, usually from your hand. It doesn't apply when other effects, like Parallax Tide or Flooded Strand put lands into play.

Q: If a Phyrexian Dreadnought is brought into play with an Illusionary Mask is the sacrificing of 12-power worth of creatures ignored?

A: Yes, it is. If a card comes into play face down, it has no abilities, and the game doesn't see that you need to sacrifice anything to put it into play. If you later turn the creature face up, it's already in play, so its ability won't apply then, either. This combo is quite popular in Type 1 tournaments, I hear.

Q: If I copy a Mox Diamond with Copy Artifact, do I have to discard a land card?

A: You don't have to discard a land. The discard is only done when the Mox is played, not when it comes into play. This also applies when it's copied – Copy Artifact ignores any costs to play the card, it just comes into play as a copy of the permanent.

Q: Can a player who looks at an opponent's cards (with, say, Spy Network) write down the cards he sees or does he have to memorize them?
–-Tim Jordan

A: The Universal Tournament Rules allow a player to take any notes at any time during a game. Memorization is not required.

Q: My opponent played a Pouncing Jaguar and then tried to enchant it with Rancor. I activated Cursed Scroll before Rancor resolved, and destroyed his Jaguar. Does the Rancor return to his hand or go into his graveyard?
–-Jimmy Novikov, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

A: Rancor goes to his graveyard. Rancor's text says that it returns if it goes to the graveyard from play. If the creature it tries to enchant is gone when Rancor resolves, Rancor never comes into play, and its ability won't trigger, since it didn't go to the graveyard from play.

Tangle Wire

Q: About Tangle Wire… You remove a fading counter at the beginning of the upkeep, yet you are also forced to tap things at the same time. Do they occur simultaneously or do I choose the order they'll be placed on the stack?
–-Jimmy Novikov, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

A: Tangle Wire has two triggered abilities that trigger at the same time, and the controller of Tangle Wire chooses which goes on the stack first. So yes, you choose whether you tap the permanents first or remove the counter first. Resolving the “remove a counter” ability first will cause you to tap fewer permanents.

Q: If I play Recoup targeting Lab Rats, can I pay the buyback? Will it do anything?

A: You can pay the buyback cost any time you play the spell, however, it won't do anything special. When the spell resolves, buyback replaces "this card goes to your graveyard during resolution" with "this card is put in your hand." Flashback replaces "this card goes to any zone from the stack" with "this card is removed from the game."

If flashback is applied first, buyback is no longer applicable, so the card gets removed from the game. If buyback is applied first, flashback is still applicable and the card still gets removed from the game.

Q: What happens when Wall of Nets blocks Pit Spawn? Is the Pit Spawn eternally trapped out-of-play at the end of combat? Or does it get to come back next turn?
–-Jesse McElhaney, Springfield, Ohio

A: The Pit Spawn won't actually be removed at all. Wall of Nets' ability triggers at end of combat, and it only triggers if it's in play at this time. Pit Spawn's ability removes the Wall from the game before the end of combat, so the Wall never triggers, and Pit Spawn remains in play.

Q: I have Saproling Infestation in play; what happens when a spell–such as Thornscape Battlemage–is played with two kicker costs? Since the kickers are both played on one creature at the same time, does it trigger Saproling Infestation twice?
–-Josh Hunter, TX

A: Saproling Infestation triggers when any kicker cost is paid. Iif you play a Battlemage paying both kicker costs, Saproling Infestation triggers twice, and you get two tokens.

Titania's Song

Q: I have a Portcullis in play that is currently causing a couple creatures to be removed from game. I play a Titania's Song and attack with Portcullis. Portcullis dies valiantly. Since it had no abilities when it hit the graveyard, what happens to the creatures it removed?

A: The creatures stays removed forever (unless you get them back with a Death Wish or Ring of Ma'Ruf). If Portcullis doesn't have the ability that returns creatures when it goes to the graveyard, it won't trigger, and the removed creatures will never return to play.

Q: When you use Grinning Totem, do you have to pay the mana cost on the card you take from your opponent's deck?

A: You have to pay the mana cost. Grinning Totem says you may play the card as though it were in your hand, and doesn't say “without paying its mana cost”. Compare it with Spelljack, for example.

Q: I was playing online (which is supposed to be perfect rules-wise), and I had a Sacred Ground and a Nature's Revolt. My opponent played Infest, but when it resolved, my Sacred Ground didn't put my land back into play. So either my deck is based on an incorrect interpretation of what 'causes' means on Sacred Ground, or Magic Online has a bug. Sacred ground doesn't say 'destroyed' – shouldn't it work?
–-Todd Ozawa

A: Magic Online was right. Sacred Ground triggers when an effect controlled by your opponent causes you to put a land into your graveyard, however, your opponent's Infest doesn't directly cause the lands to be put in the graveyard. Infest gives the land-creatures -2/-2, then after it has resolved, the game checks for state-based effects, and sees that there are creatures with zero or less toughness in play, and puts these in the graveyard. State-based effects aren't controlled by any player – it's the game rules that put the lands in the graveyard, and these aren't controlled by any player. It would be the same if the land-creatures were destroyed by damage. Sacred Ground only triggers when the effect directly destroys the land.

Q: Can I use Artificial Evolution on the text "Walls can't attack?"
–-Harry Vanpelt

A: You can play Artificial Evolution on any card, and all relevant text is changed, including the card's creature type and reminder text. If Artificial Evolution is used to change all instances of "Wall" into something else, the Wall reminder text will also be affected. However, this won't make creatures of the new type unable to attack. It's just reminder text, which is now inaccurate.

Note that if you play Artificial Evolution on a Wall card, and change the word “Wall” to something else, you will change the Wall's creature type. It will be able to attack.

Balthor the Defiled

Q: If I have two copies of Kamahl, Pit Fighter in my graveyard and I activate Balthor the Defiled's ability (, sac it: return all red and black creatures in all players graveyards into play). Would I only have one Kamahl, Pit Fighter in play or both?

A: You would end up with no Kamahls in play. The Legend Rule (420.5e in the Comprehensive Rulebook) says that “if two or more Legends or legendary permanents with the same name are in play, all except the one that has been a Legend or legendary permanent with that name the longest are put into their owners' graveyards. In the event of a tie, each Legend or legendary permanent with the same name is put into its owner's graveyard.”

Since both Kamahls have been into play for the same amount of time, none is considered to have been in play longer than the other, and they are both destroyed.

Q: Is it possible to enchant Grinning Demon with Stupefying Touch to prevent the loss of the 2 life every turn?
–-Travis Lamoy

A: This won't work. Stupefying Touch only prevents you from playing activated abilities (these are always printed as "cost:effect" on the card), it has no effect on triggered abilities that trigger on some game event, like the beginning of the upkeep.

Q: I activated Pernicious Deed, and my opponent responded with Interdict. What happens to the Deed? Does it go to the graveyard? Does it stay in play? What happens?
–-Chuck Gabel, Cincinnati, Ohio

A: The Deed goes to the graveyard when you activate the ability – it's part of the activation cost. Interdict counters the ability some time between when it's activated and resolved; you never get any paid costs back when a spell or ability is countered.

Q: I Lava Burst my friend's Water Elemental for 6 damage. In response, he plays Cho-Manno's Blessing, giving protection from red to the Elemental. He argues that since protection from red prevents red damage, the Lava Burst is negated. I argue that the rule on Lava Burst saying that damage cannot be prevented overrides the protection from red.

A: What you say is partly true – if damage can't be prevented, protection can't stop the creature from taking damage, and damage prevention is one of the aspects of protection. However, protection has another aspect that is more important here – if a permanent has protection from red, it can't be the target of red spells or abilities. This will cause the Lava Burst to be countered, so it doesn't get to deal any damage to the Elemental at all.

Q: If I have a Dispersing Orb in play and gained control of my opponent's Nantuko Husk with Custody Battle, could I sacrifice the Husk to put my Custody Battle back into my hand, or would Custody Battle go into the graveyard too quickly?

A: The Custody Battle would go into the graveyard too quickly. Dispersing Orb's ability requires that you sacrifice the creature to pay the activation cost, while the permanent isn't returned until the ability resolves, which happens some time later. Right after the ability has been activated, the game checks for state-based effects, and it sees that Custody Battle is no longer enchanting anything, and it's put in the graveyard. When the Dispersing Orb ability tries to resolve, the targeted permanent isn't in play anymore, and the ability is countered, doing nothing.

Q: What will happen to my opponent's land if I play a Mana Short during my upkeep if I have a Price of Glory in play? Will his land be destroyed or just tapped?

A: His lands will just be tapped. Mana Short taps the lands and empties the player's mana pool, but doesn't force a player do draw any mana from the lands. If the lands aren't tapped for mana, Price of Glory doesn't trigger.


Q: If I have a Cowardice and a Disruptive Pitmage in play, can I play Robe of Mirrors (or any creature enchantment) on my Disruptive Pitmage without returning it to my hand? I think I can because it doesn't say target.
–-Michael Hinderaker

A: Playing the Robe causes you to return the Pitmage. All local enchantments (cards that say enchant [something]) require a target when you play them (says rule 214.8c in the Comprehensive Rulebook). This is the only exception to the rule that says “only things that use the word ‘target' actually target.”

Q: When you look at older cards that give poison counters (i.e., Marsh Viper), they say "If a player has ten or more poison counters, that player loses the game." My friend says that the text is like the Flagbearer text and there needs to be something in play with that text for it to have an effect. I say it's part of the rules and acts like reminder text and you'll lose even if there's nothing with that text in play. Who is right?

A: You are right. The Oracle lists the text in parenthesis, it's just reminder text. It's covered by game rule 420.5h, causing a player with ten or more poison counters to lose the game even if no “poison” creatures are in play.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

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