Saturday School #3

Posted in Feature on November 9, 2002

By Rune Horvik

Rune answers more of your rules questions, including the often-asked "What creature type are lands?"


Q: When a land is turned into a creature, and the card that does it doesn't specify a creature type, what is the creature type of the land? Can I name that creature type to use with cards like Endemic Plague or Engineered Plague?

A: If the effect that changes the land to a creature doesn't specify a type, it doesn't have one. Most land-creatures can't be affected by cards like the ones you mention. This also goes for artifact creatures which don't have a subtype listed (Masticore is a plain typeless artifact creature, while Draco has Dragon as a creature type).

Q: My opponent just played a Counterspell targeting a creature I'm attempting to cast. Can I cast Deflection, targeting the Counterspell, and have it target itself instead?

A: No, you can't. Spells can never target themselves. However, there is a trick you can do with Deflection. The last part of the resolution of a spell is that you put the spell card in the graveyard. As the Deflection resolves, it's still on the stack until it has finished resolving, so when you choose the new target for the Counterspell, you can choose the Deflection. The target changes right away, then the Deflection card goes to the graveyard. When the Counterspell resolves, the Deflection is not a legal target anymore, so the Counterspell is countered.

Q: I've searched every rules database I could find, and I'm still not sure how "gating" works. My question is: Can I play my Doomsday Specter without having a blue or black creature in play to "bounce"?

As far as I could understand the rules, a "comes into play" effect simply does nothing if it can't resolve.

A: When the Doomsday Specter comes into play, the triggered ability is put on the stack. When it resolves, you are asked to choose a blue or black creature you control, and return it to your hand. This happens after the Specter has come into play, so if it's still in play, it will be among the creatures you choose from. You will have to return the Specter itself to your hand if there are no other options. If there are actually no blue or black creatures in play when the ability resolves (for example if the Specter has been destroyed or changed color), the ability will do nothing.

Q: Just a question to ask, if a creature card (like Blastoderm) contains the text "can't be the target of spells and abilities," can I enchant it? The enchant card's (such as Pacifism) text does not contain the word "target." Is it true?

A: Local Enchantments target when they're played (Rule 214.8c in the Comprehensive Rulebook), so you can't play a Pacifism on a Blastoderm. This rule only applies when you play them, using the stack. If you put local enchantments into play through other means (via Replenish or Tempting Wurm), they don't target, and you can put them on anything that's valid to enchant. A local enchantment put on a permanent that later becomes untargetable won't fall off, it only cares about the permanent being able to be target when you play it.

Q: If my opponent is attacking me with a creature, can I use Chamber of Manipulation, or an instant spell with a similar ability, to gain control of it? If so what happens to that creature... is it still attacking me?

A: A creature is removed from combat when it changes controller (Rule 306.2 in the Comprehensive Rulebook). It no longer counts as an attacking creature, and it won't deal combat damage to you.

Q: The cards City in a Bottle, Golgothian Sylex, and Apocalypse Chime all reference cards from a certain expansion. If my opponent has out a Feldon's Cane from Fifth Edition and I activate Golgothian Sylex, what happens? What about a Chronicles Cane?

A: These cards look for the expansion symbol of the cards. Golgothian Sylex looks for the Anvil symbol, and this is found on the original Antiquities card and the Chronicles reprint, but not on the Fifth Edition version. Cards reprinted in sets other than the original sets and Chronicles won't be affected by the expansion-hosers.

Q: I have Multani's Presence in play. If I cast Shock at my opponent's Mogg Fanatic, and he sacrifices it at me in response, do I get to draw a card? Is that what "countered" means, or does it mean "countered by a spell or ability the opponent controls?"

A: There are two ways for things to be countered, one is to use an effect that says that a spell or ability is countered (Counterspell), the other happens when all of a spell or ability's targets are illegal when the spell or ability resolves. Both of these ways will trigger a Multani's Presence. The Shock in your question has no legal target when it resolves, so you get to draw a card.

Q: I play Hypnox from my hand using the necessary mana. My opponent then casts an Unsummon instant spell on it. My friends say that the Hypnox returns to my hand. But I think that the Hypnox should have taken all his cards, thus taking his Unsummon too, so he never had that card to play. My logic is that the Unsummon spell targets creatures. The Hypnox is still a spell while on the stack right? So he can only target the Hypnox after it resolves and becomes a creature. And when it resolves I also immediately take his cards, not giving him the chance to Unsummon.
--Andrew Douglass

A: The Hypnox has a triggered ability that goes on the stack when it enters play, and then both players have the chance to respond to the ability. The cards aren't removed from the game until the triggered ability resolves, and your opponent can use his or her cards until then. Note that Unsummoning the Hypnox before the triggered ability resolves has the effect of removing all the cards in the player's hand permanently from the game (as described in this column two weeks ago, regarding Nightmares that leave play before their comes-into-play abilities resolve).

Q: When I play my Battle Screech, can I flash it back the same turn by tapping the two Bird tokens I just received and another creature, or can't I? I thought I could, but some people at my school, where I usually play Magic, say I can't, because you can't tap the Birds the turn they come into play. Who's right?

A: You can flash it back tapping the two Bird tokens you just put into play and another creatures. Creatures can't activate their own abilities that use the symbol, but they can be used to pay costs of other spells or abilities, including Battle Screech and the Lords from Onslaught, like Voice of the Woods.

Q: My opponent plays Temporary Insanity on my turn with eight cards in his graveyard and wants to take control of my Thorn Elemental that was played this turn and is untapped. Is he allowed to do this, or must the target be tapped?

A: He's allowed to do this. Untapping the creature is just one part of the effect, the other parts will happen as usual even if the creature is already untapped.

Q: If I attacked with an Avatar of Might (8/8 trample) and my opponent blocked it with a 3/3 Hill Giant and bounced the Giant before damage was on the stack with a Boomerang, would he take the full 8 or just 5, or none?
--Ian Lin, Bunaby, BC

A: When you assign damage with trample, you must assign enough damage to deal lethal damage to the blocking creature. If the blocking creature isn't there anymore when you assign damage, you assign all the combat damage from the trampler to the defending player (Comprehensive Rulebook rule 502.9c). So in this case your opponent would take 8.

Q: If I animate my opponent's Plateau (say with Kahmal, Fist of Krosa) then cast Eradicate on it, which of the following do I get to remove from his hand, library, and graveyard: Plateaus, Plains, Mountains, other red or white dual lands, or none of these?

A: You get to remove all the Plateaus. Eradicate looks at the card's name, and the Plateau is named "Plateau". Even though it counts as a Mountain and a Plains for other game effects, it's not named Mountain or Plains.

Q: If my opponent has a Balthor the Stout in play, when I cast my Balthor the Defiled, will he be sent to the graveyard based on the Legend Rule?
--Ben Snyder, Kittanning, PA

A: The Legend Rule (420.5e in the Comprehensive Rulebook) looks at the full name of the card, including the "titles." Balthor the Stout and Balthor the Defiled are two different creatures, as are Kamahl, Pit Fighter and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa.

Q: I just noticed that Aether Rift forces me to discard a card at random from my hand each turn and if it's a creature card, any opponent is allowed to pay 5 life to counter the effect of it coming into play. If I discard a Basking Rootwalla or an Arrogant Wurm to the Aether Rift do I get to play the madness before or after the decision to pay five life is made?

A: The text of Aether Rift has been changed from what's written on the card to "work" with madness. (You can click the card name to read the Oracle text.) With the current text, you first reveal the card. If the card is a non-creature card, you discard it, if the card is a creature card, it's put into play unless a player chooses to pay 5 life. If a player pays 5 life, the card is discarded. This means that madness may only be used after the decision whether to pay or not is made, and only if the life was paid.

Q: If I flash back a Ray of Revelation, a white spell, for its cost of , is it then a green spell? A green and white spell? Still a white spell? What about cards with no colored mana in their flashback costs, like Battle Screech?

A: Flashback is an alternate play cost, and doesn't affect the spells color. All spells have the color of the mana symbols in the corner of the card, except spells from split cards like Fire/Ice, which have the color of the mana symbols on the half that is played.

Q: Why does Standstill read "If you do" as opposed to "each other player draws 3 cards"? Isn't the sacrificing mandatory?
--Jon Gorb, Algonquin, IL

A: The sacrifice is mandatory, but it's part of the effect of the triggered ability; it doesn't happen until the triggered ability resolves. If you play spells in response to the triggered ability, Standstill will trigger again. Standstill is sacrificed when the first triggered ability resolves, and only the opponents of the player who played the last spell get to draw the cards.

Q: When Phyrexian Reaper becomes blocked by a green creature, does it still take the damage from the blocking creature?

A: Phyrexian Reaper's ability triggers on it becoming blocked. You can't assign combat damage until you've resolved everything that triggers on blocking, so the blocker will be destroyed before you can put combat damage assignments on the stack.

Q: How do you decide who is the winner of a tournament if the two decks competing in the finals both consist of 56 basic land and four copies of Island Sanctuary? Neither player can do damage, and neither can be "decked."
--Eric J. Herboso

A: If you're in the finals of a single elimination tournament, and no player can win or lose, you can declare the match a draw. If these players should meet in a single elimination before the finals, and there is no way that they can win any amount of games, you flip a coin to determine the winner. This is the only time you would ever flip to determine who wins. Matches can't end in a draw in single elimination rounds except the finals. Usually games are determined on life totals when time runs out, first change in life totals if the scores are equal, or you play more games if you have untimed rounds. Since these rules can't be applied with these decks, flipping a coin is the only way to determine the winner. Sadly.

In all other cases, flipping a coin to randomly determine the match result is an offense that can end in disqualification from the event.

Q: I read in an article that Charging Troll's regeneration ability could be used to "dump" extra mana, even without it taking lethal damage. Does this mean that Debt of Loyalty allows you to take control of opposing monsters at instant speed, regardless of how much damage they're dealt?
--Brian Chen, Massachusetts

A: First off, Debt of Loyalty has had it's wording updated to work under Sixth Edition rules. (You can click the card name to read the Oracle text.) There is a difference between activating the regeneration ability (setting up a regeneration shield), and regenerating, which means "being destroyed and using up a regeneration shield." The first part of Debt of Loyalty sets up a shield on the target, and when that shield is used up (the creature is destroyed and regenerated), you gain control of the creature. "That way" on the card refers to the shield it creates itself. It doesn't care about creature regenerating in other ways.


Q: Can my opponent wait to see what card I reveal with Erratic Explosion before responding with activating a Battlefield Medic?
--Trung Lai

A: No, he can't. The things that are done when you announce a spell are the following (and are only done if they apply to that spell or ability: Choose if flashback or morph is used, put the spell or ability on the stack, choose mode, choose X, choose if kicker or buyback is used, choose if other additional costs are to be paid, choose targets, choose how different targets are affected and how things that are divided among targets are divided, and pay the costs (Rule 409.1a-g in the Comprehensive Rulebook).

Everything else is done when the spell or ability resolves, and is done as one single action to the game. If the spell or ability has several steps, there is no chance to play something in between the steps.

When the Erratic Explosion starts resolving, you reveal cards until you find a non-land card, then the damage is dealt, and the revealed cards are put back in the deck. When the spell has finished resolving, the game checks for state-based effects, and if the creature has lethal damage, it's destroyed before anyone can respond. If he wants to use damage prevention, this must be used before the spell starts to resolve and the cards are revealed.

Q: Artificial Evolution is played targeting Rotlung Reanimator and all instances of Cleric are replaced by Zombie. Other than being really abusable with Nantuko Husk and similar cards, it creates a couple of confusing interactions with other cards.

1) Is it now creature type "Zombie Zombie" (per the rules for multiple creature types, it now has two distinct creature types, each zombie.)

A: It now has two instances of the creature type Zombie. This has no different effect on the game than having the creature type once.

2) So, for Feeding Frenzy, it should count as two Zombies, as that spell counts creature types, and creature with dual creature types count as both, yes?

A: No. Feeding Frenzy determines X by counting the Zombie creatures in play. The "double Zombie" is still only one creature, so it is only counted once. It doesn't count the number of Zombie creature types.

3) But for Coat of Arms, it only counts as one because Coat of Arms references creatures of that creature type... right?

A: Right. This works like described above. For each creature, the game counts the number of other creatures having any of types it has. It's not relevant how many times the creatures count as the various types.

Q: If there is a City of Solitude in play, can I cycle cards during my opponent's turn? If my opponent cycles a card on his turn with a City of Solitude in play, can I use my Lightning Rift? It seems like a triggered ability, but it also seems like it has an activation cost.

A: You can't cycle cards during your opponent's turn if he has City of Solitude in play, because cycling is an activated ability (Comprehensive Rulebook section 502.18). Lightning Rift has a triggered ability which triggers and goes to the stack when a player cycles a card, but since the City stops all activated abilities, you can't use mana abilities, like tapping lands, to put mana in your pool. In most cases you won't be able to get mana to pay for the Rift.

Q: My opponent is at 6 life. If I resolve a False Cure against him and then play Reverent Silence with the alternate cost, does my opponent get a chance to respond before he dies?

A: False Cure sets up a triggered ability. Your opponent will first gain 6 life, then the triggered ability goes on the stack, saying "lose 12 life." This can't be countered, but the player has the chance to respond before the triggered ability resolves.

Q: If I want to counter a face-down creature spell using Prohibit, do I need to pay the kicker cost or not? I suppose the easier way to ask this is: How much mana would I have to spend to counter a face-down creature using Spell Blast?

A: Face-down spells have no mana cost, so you can counter them with an un-kicked Prohibit. The mana cost is not related to the 3 mana you pay when you play morph cards, which is an alternate cost required play cards with morph. You can Spell Blast a face-down creature spell for .

Q: I was playing in a game with my friends, one has the preconstructed "Bait and Switch" from Onslaught. When a Frightshroud Courier uses its ability on a Mistform Dreamer made into a Zombie, will it still have the bonus when it becomes an Illusion again?

A: Yes it will. The Courier's ability is targeted, and it checks if the target is legal when you activate it, and when the ability resolves. Once the bonus has legally resolved, it will apply to the creature without checking its creature type again.

Q: I want to confirm the way the counters from Aurification are handled. Can a creature like Mistform Dreamer--which has a counter from Aurification on it--change it's type away from Wall so it may attack?
--Craig Johanson

A: Yes it can. When you have multiple effects that change characteristics of something, they're applied in timestamp order (which has a long explanation in the Comprehensive Rulebook section 418.5c). The effect from the Mistform Dreamer will be evaluated after the Aurification if it resolved after the Aurification came into play, so it will overwrite the existing creature type. If the chosen type is something other than Wall, it can attack.

Q: If I have a Goblin Machinist in play, and I use its ability, what would happen if I revealed something with X in its mana cost (such as Blaze, for example)? Some of my friends say that X is always read as ten or eleven, and some say that X is always zero. Which one is it?
--Ross Askanazi, Hudson, OH

A: "X" on cards not on the stack is zero, so if you reveal a Blaze, it has converted mana cost of 1, and will give a +1/+0 bonus. Even though it's often played to deal ten or eleven points of damage, the X counts as zero with the Machinist, since the card isn't played, it's just revealed by the effect. Read more on X (and Y and Z) in the glossary of the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: My opponent attacks with a face down creature I suspect is a Hystrodon. I use Prismatic Strands naming green. He puts the colorless 2 damage on the stack and then morphs the Hystrodon. I understand that I take the two damage, but does he get to draw the card?
--Brian, Portland, OR

A: You don't actually put the damage on the stack, this is just a popular shortcut for saying that you put combat damage assignments on the stack. You put the assignment that "this creature deals 2 damage to the opponent" on the stack. Then he turns it face up, and it's a green Hystrodon. When the combat damage resolves, the game sees that the source of the damage is green, and the damage is prevented by Prismatic Strands. The Hystrodon's ability won't trigger because no damage is dealt. All combat damage use the color the source has when the damage resolves, or the last known color of the source if it's no longer in play.

Q: I played a Clone from Onslaught and chose to copy my opponent's Anurid Brushhopper. My opponent then discards two cards to remove the Anurid from the game; does the Clone die as a 0/0 or it can choose another creature to copy? Similarly, if I cast a Clone and my opponent responds by making his Morphling untargetable, do I get a 0/0 Clone?

A: When Clone comes into play, its controller chooses a creature to copy. He or she chooses among all the creatures in play. The effect is part of the effect that puts the card into play, so it can't be responded to after the choice has been made. Your opponent needs to remove the Brushhopper before you make the choice, and then you're allowed to choose something else (if there is something else to choose). Since the effect isn't targeted, you're allowed to choose an untargetable Morphling. If there are no creatures to choose from, or you choose not to copy any of the creatures, the Clone is 0/0, and will most likely be destroyed right away from having zero toughness.

Q: If you cast a Chain of Plasma, and you are at 3 life and your opponent is at 3 life, does he die first? Or does he get a chance to react and discard a card to make it a draw?
--Danny Li, Brooklyn, NY

A: When the Chain resolves, you deal 3 damage to the target, who then gets the chance to discard a card and choose a new target for the copy. Unfortunately for him, the game checks for lethal damage when the Chain has finished resolving, and he will lose the game, even though the Chain copy is on stack, targeting you.

Rune will answer more of your questions next week and every week here at "Saturday School." You can search past Saturday School questions using our Saturday School Searchable Rules Database. Send your rules questions to

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