Saturday School #28

Posted in Feature on May 17, 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

Innocent Blood

Q: I have no creatures but my opponent does. I play Innocent Blood; he argues that I can't play it unless I have a creature that I can sac. True?

A: False. Innocent Blood doesn’t target anything, and has no special requirements when you play it. When Innocent Blood resolves, it just asks each player to sacrifice a creature. If a player doesn’t have any creatures, that player can’t sacrifice anything.

Q: If I have a creature with protection from creatures, such as Beloved Chaplain, and I block a Force of Nature, do I still take trample damage?

A: Yes, you do. When assigning combat damage and trample, you only consider the creature’s toughness, how much damage it has already taken, and how much damage other creature dealing damage at the same time assign to it – damage prevention effects like protection doesn’t matter at this time. You must assign enough damage to the blocking creature to destroy it, any remaining damage can trample over.

Force of Nature would typically assign 1 damage to the Chaplain and 7 to the player. When combat damage resolves, the damage to the Chaplain is prevented by the protection, but the damage to the player is dealt as assigned.

Q: I have Soldiers in play. My opponent changes his Mistform Shrieker to a Soldier and sacrifices it to Endemic Plague. Then I use Lightning Blast to kill the creature. He said I can't because sacrifice always comes first. I know it can because it is always "last in first out" and sacrifice is no exception. Who is right?
--Chester Valdellon, Philippines

A: He’s closest. The moment he plays Endemic Plague, the creature gets sacrificed, because the sacrifice is an additional cost to play the spell. Although the effect of a spell goes onto the stack, and resolves “last in first out”, its costs get paid straight away, and you can’t respond to them.

So if you wait until your opponent shows you the Endemic Plague card and taps his lands, it’s too late to Lightning Blast the creature.

Of course, any time you think your opponent is going to play the Plague, you could Blast a creature to stop him – for example, in response to him using the Mistform ability.


Q: My friend says "whenever a land is tapped, it will make mana accordingly, even if you don't play its mana ability." So if I use Twiddle or Mana Short to tap his lands, will the lands still make mana or are they just tapped?
--Henry Nimbo

A: Your friend is incorrect. For a land to produce mana, its controller must specifically activate it. Just tapping the land to some effect, like Mana Short or Twiddle, won’t produce any mana.

Q: Does the beginning of my upkeep happen once or can it be interpreted as a period of time in which I may have abilities triggered? Specifically, if I discard a Gigapede from my hand to return another Gigapede from the graveyard, can I interpret the time as still during the beginning of my upkeep so that I can trigger the newly discarded Gigapede's ability?

A: The beginning of your upkeep (and the beginning of any other phase and step) happens only once. When you get to this point, any abilities that trigger at the beginning of the upkeep trigger, after this, you’re past the beginning, and anything else that triggers at the beginning of the upkeep can’t trigger anymore.

Gigapede’s ability triggers if it’s in the graveyard at the beginning of the upkeep, then it goes on the stack. You discard when the ability resolves, and this is long past the beginning of the upkeep, so the second Gigapede won’t have the option to return until the beginning of your next upkeep.

Q: Can a face-down creature block a creature with fear? Meaning, is colorless the same as artifact?

A: Usually, face-down creatures can’t block creatures with fear, since they aren’t artifacts. Artifacts are colorless, but not all colorless permanents are artifacts.

Q: I don't understand Zephid's Embrace. If the enchanted creature can't be targeted, how does Zephid's Embrace target it?

A: Local enchantments only target when you play them, and the ability of the enchantment doesn’t start working until the spell has resolved. When the enchantment resolves, it no longer targets the creature, it just “enchants” it, so the Embrace’s ability does not stop itself from enchanting the creature.

Q: I have four Goblins, one of which is a Reckless One. My opponent kills one of the Goblins. When does Reckless One get smaller? Right away, or at the end of turn?

A: It gets smaller right away. Reckless One constantly recalculates its power and toughness.

General / Older Cards Questions

Flesh Reaver

Q: If I have 4 life, and my opponent has 4 life, and I attack with a Flesh Reaver, do both of us die if it is unblocked? The wording on the card seems to suggest that it is a simultaneous effect, but I've heard people claim that your opponent takes the damage before you do.

A: Your opponent dies. The ability is a triggered ability (it starts with “whenever”), and goes on the stack when the trigger condition is true. Before the ability that causes you to lose life is put on the stack, and that damage is dealt, the game checks for state-based effects, and sees that your opponent is at zero life, causing him or her to lose the game.

Q: I am at two life and have an Exalted Angel in play. My opponent attacks with two 2/2 creatures. I block one with the Exalted Angel. When do I get the life gain from the Exalted Angel? Does the life gain from the Exalted Angel save me or do I die first?

A: You die first. The life gain ability from Exalted Angel is a triggered ability, and goes on the stack after the trigger event has happened. All the combat damage is first dealt, the Angel triggers, then the game checks for state-based effects, sees that you are at zero life, and you lose the game, even if you are scheduled to gain some life soon after.

Q: If I have a City of Traitors and I put a Lair into play, for example Rith's Grove, will I be able to return the City to my hand for the Grove's ability before I have to sacrifice the City to it's own ability?

A: You can return the City if you want. When the Lair land comes into play, both the Lair ability and the City ability trigger, and you choose the order they go on the stack. If you put the City-ability on the stack first, then the Lair, the Lair’s “return a land” ability resolves first, and you can return the City. The City of Traitors’ ability won’t do anything then, since you can’t sacrifice something that’s not in play anymore.

Q: I play a Vivify on my opponent's land, then play a Parallax Dementia on it. At the end of the turn, the land stops being a creature and the Parallax Dementia is destroyed. Due to its leaving play effect, does it destroy the land or can it only destroy the target if the target is a creature?

A: It destroys the land. When an effect describes a specific object (like “enchanted creature”, or “that artifact”), the description is just there to clarify what the effect refers to. The game doesn’t actually care whether the object still matches that description.

Q: I have Nostalgic Dreams and three other cards in hand and a Mirari in play. There are three cards in my graveyard. Can I pay to end up with 6 cards in hand?
--John Russell, Pittsburgh, PA

A: Yes, you can. You play the Dreams, target the three cards in your graveyard, pay the costs and discard the three cards in your hand. Then Mirari triggers, and when you pay , you put a copy of the Dreams on the stack with the costs paid for, and you can target three new cards, for example the three cards you discarded for the original Dreams spell.

Nantuko Shrine

Q: I was playing Online against someone with a Nantuko Shrine in play. He had no cards in his graveyard, and played Explosive Vegetation. I played Force Spike on it, and then he got a Squirrel token! My first question is why? And the second is, how can I avoid giving him Squirrels?

A: He got the token because you countered the Vegetation in response to the triggered ability, so when the triggered ability resolved, the game saw that there was a card in the graveyard with the same name as the spell that triggered the Shrine, and produced a token.

If you had first let the triggered ability from the Shrine resolve (producing no token), then countered his spell, he wouldn’t get any tokens.

Q: I was playing in a friendly game, and had a The Wretched with a Lure on it. My opponent had two White Knights. I attacked, and a long debate ensued over what should have happened. I argued that since I wasn't targeting anything, I should gain control of the Knights. My opponent argued that their protection from black ability should prevent that from happening. Who's right?
--Scott Vajdos, Waco, Tx

A: You are right. The Wretched’s ability doesn’t use the word ‘target’, so it doesn’t target the Knights, or in any other way stop the Knights from being affected by the ability, so you would gain control over them.

Q: Can I use Questing Phelddagrif to deck an opponent? (pay as much as possible and let him draw all his library?) Or can the opponent chose if he wants to draw or not? Who makes the choice?
--Mark, Sydney

A: You can’t deck your opponent like this unless your opponent wants to be decked. The ability says that the targeted player may draw a card, so your opponent has the choice of whether to draw or not.

Q: If there is a Planar Chaos in play, and an uncounterable spell is played (Scragnoth, etc.), does a coin still need to be flipped?
--Max Levin, West Windsor, NJ

A: You still have to flip the coin. The ability doesn’t care if the spell is uncounterable or not, it will try to counter the spell regardless. If the spell can’t be countered, the part of the ability that counters the spell will just end up doing nothing.


Q: Is it possible to play Breakthrough with X as zero, and just draw 4 cards?

A: Almost. You still only get to keep X cards, so you’ll end up having to discard your entire hand when the spell has resolved.

Q: If a Coffin Queen grabs a creature from the graveyard with protection from black, does the creature's protection make it leave the game, or does it stay in play as long as Coffin Queen remains tapped?
--M Howard

A: It stays in play as long as Coffin Queen is tapped. The ability only checks for legal target at two times – when you activate it, and right before it starts to resolve. At both of these times, the targeted creature is in the graveyard, and its protection is not active. Once the ability has resolved, it doesn’t matter if the creature has protection or not – it will still stay in play.

Q: I have a Genesis in my graveyard. I pay , and want to put Genesis back into my hand. My opponent says this doesn't work since that would take him out of my graveyard, and he needs to be in the graveyard in order to play the ability. Can Genesis return to my hand or not?

A: Genesis can return to your hand. Genesis’ ability only checks if it’s in the graveyard when it triggers and when it starts resolving, after that, it doesn’t matter if it’s in the graveyard anymore, it’s allowed to return itself.

Q: I have a Glory in my graveyard. Would Heartstone reduce the cost of its activated ability?
--X. Poy

A: No, it wouldn’t. Since Glory isn’t in play, it’s not a creature (it’s just a creature card), and it’s activation cost would not be reduced.

Treetop Village

Q: If you use Spike Weaver and move +1/+1 counters on to a Treetop Village, do they stay on permanently?

A: They stay on permanently. The counters don’t require that whatever they are on is a creature, they just don’t do anything special when Treetop Village isn’t a creature. When you activate the Village again, the counters start to apply again.

Q: If I use a Shifty Doppelganger in conjunction with Dual Nature, does the copy of the creature I just put into play gain haste as well (because of Doppelganger's effect)?

A: The copy won’t have haste. Dual Nature just creates a token copy of the creature, but doesn’t get any other special bonuses or abilities that the original creature would get – it just copies the printed card.

Q: If I use Ixidor, Reality Sculptor to morph my opponent's Skinthinner, who picks the creature to be destroyed by Skinthinner's ability?
--Mattimus, TX

A: Your opponent picks the target, since he or she controls the Skinthinner. A triggered ability is always controlled by the player who controls the permanent that generated it, unless it says otherwise. The controller of the ability chooses the target.

Q: If I have a Spellbane Centaur in play, can my opponent target my creatures with the morph ability of Chromeshell Crab?
--Svetozar Urumov

A: No, he can’t, because the Crab is blue. It doesn’t matter that the Crab was colorless just before the ability triggered - by the time its targets are chosen, the Crab is blue, so the ability is an “ability from a blue source”, and Spellbane Centaur affects it.

Q: If I have a Verdant Succession in play and I have a face-down Krosan Colossus in play that gets Shocked, does it count as a green creature when it goes to the graveyard or a colorless creature for Verdant Succession's effect?

A: It counts as a colorless creature. Anything that triggers of a permanent leaving play uses the characteristics (including color) the permanent had when it last was in play. This is covered by rule 410.10d in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Soulcatcher's Aerie

Q: My opponent Shocks my face-down Ascending Aven. Does it trigger my Soulcatcher's Aerie when it hits the graveyard?
--Damon G.

A: No, it doesn’t. This is covered by rule 410.10d in the Comprehensive Rulebook, since it triggers on something leaving play. Since the creature wasn’t a Bird when it was put into the graveyard (it was a face-down “blank” creature” – the Aerie won’t trigger.

Q: Can Ixidor's Will be played when there are no Wizards in play?
--Ed Shumway, Three Rivers, Michigan

A: It sure can, but it doesn’t do much. When it resolves, the controller of the spell may pay for each Wizard in play. If there are no Wizards in play, the controller can choose to pay zero mana (which can always be done), or that the spell is countered.

Q: If I have a Crystalline Sliver in play, do my other Slivers in play not "inherit" the abilities of each Sliver? Is the text "All Slivers get [an ability]" an ability and thus countered by the Crystalline Sliver?

A: All the Slivers inherit each other’s abilities even with Crystalline Sliver in play. The text is an ability, but it doesn’t target the other Slivers (it doesn’t use the word ‘target’), so they can still share abilities.

Mirror Strike

Q: I know Glarecaster's ability can be activated once combat damage is locked in, to stop an opponent from somehow removing his own creature from combat to prevent the damage. My question is: Can Mirror Strike be used in the same way, or would waiting until the combat damage is on the stack make me take the damage anyway?

A: The answer is “sort of”.

The combat phase is divided into 5 steps:

  1. Beginning of combat
  2. Declare Attackers
  3. Declare Blockers
  4. Combat damage
  5. End of combat

At the beginning of step 4, players “assign” combat damage – that is, they decide how it will be distributed. After it’s been assigned, removing a creature from combat doesn’t change the amount it’s going to deal. Other ways of modifying combat damage – for instance, replacement effects – still work, though. (Glarecaster and Mirror Strike both use the word ‘instead’, so they are both replacement effects.)

A replacement effect applies when damage gets dealt. (That happens later on during step 4). Since they don’t care about damage being assigned, they don’t care whether you play them before step 4 or not. That’s why your Glarecaster trick works.

Unfortunately, there is one important difference between the two cards: Mirror Strike can only target an unblocked creature. (This means an attacking creature which isn’t blocked.)

If you play Mirror Strike after combat damage has been assigned, and your opponent removes his creature from combat in response, then the creature is now an illegal target. Mirror Strike will be countered, and you end up taking the combat damage as assigned!

In other words: although Mirror Strike can theoretically do what you want, your opponent can exploit this loophole, which means you’re better off playing Mirror Strike before step 4. That way, if the creature gets removed from combat, at least it won’t assign damage to you.

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