Saturday School #30

Posted in Feature on May 31, 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

Mana Short

Q: I have a question about priority. The rules say that at the beginning of most phases and steps, the active player gets priority. If that's true then what was the point of printing Mana Short if you can't play it on your opponent's turn during their main phase?

A: The active player always gets priority first during their own phases, but the other player gets priority when the active player passes, so you can still play Mana Short in his main phase, just after the active player has played something. Mana Short is most often played in your opponent’s upkeep, though, tapping all your opponent’s lands, keeping him or her from playing anything at all in the main phase. Mana Short is also often used in your opponent’s end step, preventing him or her from countering your spells on your turn, for example.

Q: My opponent has five Elves including a Taunting Elf and a Timberwatch Elf. He attacks with a Taunting Elf and pumps it with his Timberwatch. Then I used Chastise to kill it. How much life will I gain? Will the Timberwatch Elf take effect first or is it last in, first out?
--Chester, Philippines

A: How much life you gain depends on when you play Chastise. You can either play it in response to the activation of the Timberwatch Elf, giving you zero life, or you can play it after the Timberwatch Elf’s ability has resolved, giving you 5 life.

Spells and abilities always resolve in “last in, first out” order, but you’re allowed to play more spells and abilities after anything has resolved.

Q: If I play Seismic Assault, then another Seismic Assault, and then discard a land from my hand, do I deal 2 damage or 4?
--Alexander Barnett

A: You deal 2 damage. Each Seismic Assault has a separate activation cost (which is listed before the colon in the card’s text), and they must be paid separately. You have to discard the land to one of the Seismic Assaults, you can’t pay two costs with the same discard.

Q: I have a Mishra's Factory in play and I want to change it to creature and block with it. Is there a possibility for my opponent to destroy it before it is declared as a blocker?
--Tomas Langer

A: Yes, there is. Your opponent can destroy it any time before blockers are declared. After any spell or ability has resolved, like for example the Factory activation, the active player gets priority to play more spells and abilities, then the non-active player gets priority. Declaring blockers doesn’t happen until the beginning of the Declare Blockers step, and that step can’t begin until both players pass priority in succession. You can’t declare blockers “as an instant”.

Q: My friends were arguing about Confound and Faceless Butcher. One of my friends played Faceless Butcher and my other friend played Confound. Can he counter it because of Faceless Butcher's targeting effect?

A: No, he can’t. Confound can only counter spells that target creatures (instants and sorceries). Faceless Butcher doesn’t target when it’s a spell, it has a triggered ability that triggers when it comes into play. Once it’s in play, it’s not a spell, and can’t be targeted by Confound – he would have to use an effect which can counter abilities (e.g. Stifle or Diplomatic Escort) to counter the triggered ability from the Butcher.

Scourge Questions

Decree of Silence

Q: I have Decree of Silence in play, and my opponent plays Wrath of God just to burn a spell. Can I Stifle my own Decree to let his Wrath resolve? Will the Decree get a counter?

A: You can counter the Decree’s triggered ability, and when you counter it, you counter all its effects – both “counter the played spell”, “put a depletion counter on Decree of Silence” and the check for three or more counters on the Decree. The Wrath will resolve as usual, and the Decree won’t get a counter.

Q: We were playtesting with new cards, and at the end of one of my turns, my opponent tapped eight mana and cycled Decree of Justice. He was hoping to put tokens in play, but I had Stifle and countered the cycling trigger. I then told him he had to burn for 5 since he never gets the chance to pay X. Am I right, and how would you (as the judge) handle this in a tournament?

A: This would depend a bit on the the type of tournament. Going strictly by the rules, the player has to either spend the five mana on something else, or take mana burn at the end of the phase. At less strict tournaments, like prereleases, Friday Night Magic or regular store tournaments I would probably let the player untap the lands used to pay the unused mana, assuming that nothing else has happened in the game.

Q: I've heard about an "infinite combo" that involves Patriarch's Bidding for two Bladewing the Risen with Angelic Chorus or Pandemonium in play, but I don't see how that works. Does it?

A: This works quite well. The Bidding puts the Bladewings into play at the same time, and their comes-into-play abilities trigger, as would Angelic Chorus or Pandemonium. When a player would gain priority, the Legend Rule (420.5e in the Comprehensive Rulebook) kills off both of them as a state-based effect, since none have been in play longer in the other. Then you put the triggered abilities on the stack, targeting one Bladewing with each triggered Bladewing ability. The Bladewings return to play when these abilities resolve, starting the cycle over. You can choose to stop the loop at any time by choosing not to use one of the Bladewing abilities. You use this loop to gain as many life as you wish with Angelic Chorus, or deal as much damage as you want with Pandemonium.

Q: My opponent attacks with an Ambush Commander and five forests with two mana untapped. I play Rain of Blades. In response, my opponent pays and sacrifices the Commander to make itself bigger. Then in response to that, I play Wing Shards. He says he won't have to sacrifice any forests, but they were attacking. What happens?

A: Not much happens. When an attacking creature stops being a creature, it’s immediately removed from combat, and it stops being “attacking” (says rule 306.2 in the Comprehensive Rulebook).Wing Shards has no visible effect. Note that the forests won’t get to deal any damage, either, if they haven’t assigned combat yet.

Ambush Commander

Q: If I control a Wirewood Hivemaster and an Ambush Commander, does that mean whenever I play a forest I get a 1/1 Insect token?
--Richard Edwards, Perth Australia

A: This is correct. When a forest comes into play, it’s immediately turned into an Elf, and the Hivemaster sees this as an Elf entering play. Since it’s not a token, you get a 1/1 Insect token.

Q: I have a Krosan Drover in play and play a Shivan Dragon for . Will the Dragon Fangs in my graveyard be put onto it?

A: Yes, it will. Converted Mana Cost is always found by looking at the symbols in the top right corner of the card – and Shivan Dragon’s Converted Mana Cost is always 6. It doesn’t matter what you actually paid for the spell.

This is true for all cost-changing effects, including Draco, Avatar of Woe, Dream Halls, Temporal Aperture, etc. It doesn’t apply to playing a card face-down, though.

Q: I play an 8/8 Ivy Elemental for . Will the Dragon Fangs in my graveyard be put onto it?

A: No, it won’t. The game loses track of the value of X once the Elemental comes into play, so Dragon Fangs will see Ivy Elemental’s Converted Mana Cost as 1 when it’s in play – X in a mana cost is always considered to be zero except when the spell is on the stack.

Q: If I play a storm spell and then use Mischievous Quanar to copy it, will the copied spell's storm ability trigger?
--Justin McWhorter, Ohio

A: No, it won’t. This is because storm only triggers when the spell it’s on is played, it doesn’t trigger when it’s just put on the stack. The Quanar just puts the spell directly on the stack without playing it.

Mind's Desire

Q: The Scourge FAQ reads that a creature card with morph can not be played face down if it removed from the game with Mind's Desire. Why? Mind's Desire allows to PLAY a card and 502.26b reads "You can use morph to play a spell from any zone from which you could normally play it."
--Denis Mikheev

A: You can’t play cards removed with Mind’s Desire face down because you can only play a removed card “without paying its mana cost”. Morph is an alternate way to play the card, allowing you to pay “rather than paying its mana cost”. If you aren’t paying the card’s mana cost in the first place, then you can’t replace it with the morph cost.

Mind's Desire interacts with Morph just like Temporal Aperture and Aluren - they all give alternate means of playing the card, replacing the mana cost. They are mutually exclusive - you can only use one such effect, since you can only choose to not pay the mana cost once.

Q: If I play a morph creature face down, will it count for a storm spell played later in the turn? I have seen many turn-three morphs die to Scattershot.

A: Morph creatures played face down are still spells, so they count for Storm. Scattershot will be copied at least once, and you can choose to deal at least 2 damage to the creature.

Q: What is the interaction between Form of the Dragon and Nefarious Lich? Can you replace the life gain of Form of the Dragon with card drawing from the Lich until you don't want to draw any more cards?
--Ted Packard

A: When Form of the Dragon sets your life total to 5, the game sees a life loss or life gain based on the difference in your life total and “5”. For example, if you’re at 2 life, the game sees that you’re about to gain 3 life, and the Lich will replace this with “draw 3 cards” instead. If you’re at more than 5 life, you just lose enough life to be at 5 life – the Lich only triggers on damage, not on life lost by other means, so you don’t have to remove any cards in the graveyard. If you are at exactly 5 life, there is no change in life total, so nothing special happens.

Q: Can I put counters from Forgotten Ancient onto Blastoderm? If so, can I use those counters for the purpose of fading?

A: You can move counters onto the Blastoderm, as the Ancient’s effect isn’t targeted (it doesn’t say target). You can’t use those counters for fading, fading uses special counters named “fade counters” that are different from +1/+1 or any other type of counters.

Q: I have a Psionic Gift on a Soul Collector, then I tap it to deal 1 to a creature, then play Wrath of God, what would happen?
--Phil S.

A: When the Wrath has finished resolving, you put the damaged creature into play under your control. Since it received damage from Soul Collector, it’s eligible to return when it’s destroyed – even if it was destroyed by some other effects.

Q: In the Card of the Day section, it said that "If you put Day of the Dragons' comes-into-play ability on the stack and then Disenchant it, all your creatures will be Dragons permanently." How is this possible?
--Philiipe Bélanger

A: The editor was just describing the end result of the process – your creatures don’t become Dragons – they are replaced by Dragon tokens.

If Day of the Dragons is disenchanted in response to the comes-into-play trigger, the leaves-play trigger will resolve first, and forces you to sacrifice all the Dragons currently in play (there are most likely none), and then return the removed creatures to play (but there are none to return). When the comes-into-play trigger resolves, Day of the Dragons replaces all your creatures currently in play with 5/5 Dragon tokens. (This works much like killing off a Faceless Butcher creature in response to its comes-into-play ability). It will look like all your creatures just became 5/5 Dragon tokens.

Q: If I use Wirewood Symbiote to put an Elf back in my hand, can my opponent kill the Elf in response?

A: No, he can’t. The Elf is returned as part of paying the cost of the ability, and this can’t be responded to.

Trap Digger

Q: If I put a bunch of trap counters on my lands with Trap Digger, then Trap Digger dies somehow, can I still use the trap lands to deal damage?

A: No, you can’t. The option to sacrifice the lands only exist on Trap Digger, and if there are no Trap Diggers in play, the trap counters don’t do anything in particular.

Q: I block a Goblin Warchief with a face-down Frontline Strategist, assign 2 damage, then morph it. I know the Goblin's damage is prevented, but I'm unsure about the Strategist. It was not a Soldier when damage was assigned.

A: All non-Soldiers combat damage will be prevented, and this is checked when the damage resolves. Damage prevention is a replacement effect and it checks the characteristics of the damage when the event it tries to replace (combat damage resolving) happens. It’s worth noting that the characteristics of combat damage are checked using the status the sources have when the damage resolves, not when it’s assigned. If the Strategist is a Soldier when the damage resolves, its damage is not prevented.

Q: If I have a way to turn my face-down Raven Guild Initiate into a Bird, can I return it to my hand at any time without using the stack?

A: Yes, you can. If you change the face-down Initiate to a Bird (for example by using Imagecrafter on it), you can return it to your hand to pay for its own morph cost. Paying the morph cost doesn’t use the stack.

Q: If I Confiscate a Karona, False God, how long will I retain control of it? Does the Confiscate override the switching ability?

A: You retain control of it until the next upkeep. Confiscate’s control effect causes the controller of Confiscate to have control over Karona, but later control effects will effectively overwrite this. In the next upkeep, the player whose turn it is will gain control over Karona, regardless of other control effects.

General / Older Card Questions

Heart Sliver

Q: If Heart Sliver and Brood Sliver are both out, can Brood Sliver's new tokens attack the turn they're created?

A: Only if you have more combat phases in the turn. Usually there is only one combat phase each turn, which contains several steps. During the Declare Attackers step, you declare any number of attacking creatures. Later, during the Combat Damage step, they all deal combat damage. Brood Sliver’s ability triggers when combat damage resolves, and the tokens enter play after this. Since these tokens weren’t in play during the declare attackers step, they missed their chance to attack.

If you have more combat phases (for example using Aggravated Assault), the new Sliver tokens can attack in the next combat phase.

Q: Mistform Sliver's ability states in "addition to it's other creature types." Could you pay 1 turn it into a "Goblin Sliver" then pay 1 again and turn it into a "Elf Goblin Sliver?"

A: That is correct. Mistforms usually overwrite all other creature types they have when you change their creature type, but Mistform Sliver specifically gives extra creature types – it doesn’t replace the old ones.

Q: My opponent has a Phantom Centaur in play, and I play Violent Eruption. Can I distribute the damage like so: 1 to the Centaur, another 1 to the Centaur, another 1 to the Centaur to kill it, and 1 to my opponent? The general consensus in my playing circle is that yes, I could do this, but it seems highly dubious that this would be legal.

A: You can do this, but it won’t kill the Phantom Centaur. All the damage dealt by Violent Eruption is dealt simultaneously. If you deal 3 damage to a Phantom, it doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing it with Violent Eruption, Lightning Bolt, or Hill Giant: the damage will all be prevented, and the Centaur will lose one counter.

Q: If a Butcher Orgg is blocked by a creature with protection from red, can I still assign the damage to any number of targets, or does it deal no damage because of the protection from red?

A: You can still assign damage to any number of targets. When dividing combat damage, protection doesn’t do anything in particular – it only kicks in when the damage resolves, preventing any damage with the qualities specified. You can divide the damage as you choose between the defending player and/or the creatures he or she controls.

Q: My opponent has a Selfless Exorcist enchanted with an Unquestioned Authority. Can he remove a Visara the Dreadful from my graveyard and keep the Exorcist alive?

A: Yes, he can. Unquestioned Authority gives protection from creatures, which prevents damage from sources with the quality “creature”, and since Selfless Exorcist says that it’s the Visara card that deals the damage, the damage will be prevented.

Beacon of Destiny

Q: On my turn I Solar Blasted my opponent's Beacon of Destiny; he activated its ability in response choosing my Krosan Tusker. When I attacked he stated the damage was redirected to his now-deceased Beacon. Was that how it should have happened?
--Dave, Moorpark, CA

A: No, it wasn’t. Rule 419.6c in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that if either the creature that the damage is redirected from or the creature the damage is redirected to is no longer in play or no longer a creature, the redirection effect does nothing. Since the recipient of the damage is no longer in play, the damage stays where it was originally assigned – to your opponent.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

Latest Feature Articles


January 19, 2022

Era of Enlightenment by, Grace Fong

The artisans of Kamigawa chose to commemorate the Era of Enlightenment by weaving a wall tapestry of embroidered silk. Era of Enlightenment | Art by: AMAYAGIDO With the guidance and wi...

Learn More


January 18, 2022

The Shattered States Era by, Grace Fong

The artisans of Kamigawa pride themselves on their ability to infuse storytelling into their craft. They felt the hilt of a masterwork sword would be the most appropriate place to immorta...

Learn More



Feature Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All