Saturday School #31

Posted in Feature on June 7, 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

Sadistic Hypnotist

Q: What does the phrase "Play this only any time you could play a sorcery" mean? Do I have to play a sorcery first?

A: It means the ability is played using the timing rules for sorceries - i.e. you can only play it during one of your own turn's main phases, and only when the stack is empty. You don’t have to play any sorceries first, but the phrase imposes a restriction on when you can play the ability. Usually, you can activate abilities any time you have priority, but some abilities have effects that would be unbalanced if you could use them at any time, so they have been restricted for use only on your own turn when the stack is empty, you can’t use them in response to anything or on opponents' turns.

Q: I have a question about declaring blocking creatures. The Treetop Scout card says it can only be blocked by a flying creature. If my opponent has a Silklash Spider that says "Silklash Spider may block as though it had flying," can he block my Treetop Scout?

--Fausto Videira, Portugal

A: Yes, it can. For the purposes of blocking, and only for blocking, the Spider is considered to have flying.

Q: My opponent has a Masticore. I activate Pestilence five times, and he regenerates the Masticore in response. Now when the fourth activation of Pestilence resolves, the Masticore regenerates, but then will the fifth activation kill it?

A: No, it won’t. When something regenerates, three things happen (defined in rule 419.6b in the Comprehensive Rulebook): All damage from it is removed, it’s tapped, and it’s removed from combat. Masticore takes the first 4 points of damage, regenerates, the damage is removed, and then it takes the fifth point of damage, which will be the only point of damage on it.

Q: My brother plays Natural Emergence, making all of his lands 2/2 creatures. I say that if I play March of Souls, then his lands will turn into tokens and no longer be lands. He argues that his lands can't be changed into tokens, because on Natural Emergence it says that they are still lands, and won't be affected. I argue back that they are creatures, and the March of Souls will affect them. Who is right?

--Sohan Jain

A: You are right. When Natural Emergence is in play, each affected land is a land creature. Like artifact creatures, they can be affected by anything which affects lands, and also by anything which affects creatures.

March of Souls will destroy all creatures; it doesn't care whether they're lands or not.

Scourge Questions

Parallel Thoughts

Q: If you have 2 Parallel Thoughts out, what happens? Do you end up taking one card from each pile or do you wait until the first pile is gone to draw from the second one?

A: If you would draw a card, you may instead take a card from either pile, but not both piles. Each Parallel Thoughts has a separate pile if refers to, and if you would draw a card, the replacement effect from each wants to replace the “draw” with “put the top card from the removed pile into your hand”. Since you are the effected player, you choose which effect is applied first, effectively choosing which pile you take the card from. Once you have replaced the draw with a replacement effect, the second replacement effect can’t apply, since there is no draw to replace anymore.

Q: I have a Parallel Thoughts in play with 5 cards left. I cast Read the Runes with 5 mana for . Can I get all cards under Parallel Thoughts without any side effects?

--Chok, Philippines

A: Yes, you can. Parallel Thoughts replaces Read the Runes’ draw with another effect that isn’t a draw (it just puts the cards from the pile in your hand), and Read the Runes sees that “no cards were drawn this way, so no sacrifice or discard is needed”.

Q: Can I Stifle the second part of Read the Runes and just draw X cards with no drawbacks?

A: No, you can’t. You can only Stifle triggered abilities (which always contain the word "when", "whenever", or "at") or activated abilities (which are written "cost:effect".) The sacrifice on Read the Runes doesn't match either of these descriptions, so it's just an effect of the spell. Stifle can't counter it.

Q: I'm playing a game where I have a Daru Stinger and a Forgotten Ancient in play. My Daru Stinger has two +1/+1 counters on it from amplify, and I have put three +1/+1 counters on it from my Forgotten Ancient. When I use Daru Stinger's tapping ability, does he deal out five damage now or still just the two from amplify?

--David Beatty, Lakewood, OH

A: It deals 5 damage. Daru Stinger’s ability looks at all +1/+1 counters on it, all counters of the same type are interchangeable and look exactly the same – it doesn’t matter where the counters came from.

Forgotten Ancient

Q: I have a Forgotten Ancient with one +1/+1 counter on it. He is 1/4. Now my opponent plays Death Pulse targeting the Forgotten Ancient. My question is: When does the Forgotten Ancient get the +1/+1 counter from its ability? When Death Pulse is put on the stack or when it resolves? Does he die or survives he as a 0/1?

--Sven Breisacher

A: It survives. Forgotten Ancient’s ability triggers whenever a player plays a spell, so after the Death Pulse has been played, its ability goes on the stack. When the ability resolves, the Ancient gets a counter. Then Death Pulse resolves, and the Ancient is 0/1, and lives.

Q: I have two Force Bubbles in play and my opponent hits me with a 6/6 Wurm token. Can I keep both Bubbles in play?

A: No, you can’t, one of the Bubbles will get all the counters, and will be sacrificed. Each Force Bubble has a replacement effect, and as the affected player, you choose the order to apply them. When you apply Force Bubble’s effect, you have to replace all damage dealt at the same time, so the first Bubble will take all the counters, and go away. There won’t be any damage left for the second Bubble to replace.

Q: Can I copy a spell multiple times with a Mischievous Quanar? For instance, play a Firebolt, unmorph the Quanar to copy it, re-morph the Quanar, and then unmorph the Quanar again to copy it? --Jed Meshew, Georgia

A: You can copy it multiple times if you have enough mana to turn the Quanar face down again. When you turn it face up again, its ability triggers again, and you can copy a spell on the stack, you can copy the same spell if it’s still on the stack.

Q: What happens when you play Transcendence with Sulfuric Vortex? I mean Transcendence says that you gain two life for each damage you take, but the Vortex says you gain no life. With the two of them in play... are you invincible? I know that can't be, but could you clear this up for me?


A: Your guess is right - with these two cards in play, it’s not possible for the player to die from gaining or losing life. He or she takes any damage as normal, and the triggered ability from Transcendence will then try to give 2 life for each life lost. Sulfuric Vapors prevents the player from gaining any life, so he or she stays at the lower life total. There are alternate win conditions that don’t depend on life totals, though, such as running the player out of cards, killing the player with poison counters, or using cards such as Coalition Victory.

Q: What happens when I put Extra Arms on my opponent's creature, and that creature attacks?

A: The ability triggers, and you choose a target for the ability. The creature then deals 2 damage to the target. A triggered ability is always controlled by the controller of the source of the ability, and even if the creature enchants your opponent’s creature, you control the enchantment, and choose the target for the ability.

Q: How do two Decree of Silence work when in play simultaneously? If my opponent played a spell, would both cards get a counter? Or do I get to chose which one gets a counter?

A: Both cards get a counter. Each of the Decrees’ abilities trigger whenever an opponent plays a spell, and when they resolve, they try to counter the spell, and puts a counter on the Decree that triggered. These effects don’t depend on each other, and even if the spell has been countered by another effect, the Decree still gets a counter.

Guilty Conscience

Q: Will Guilty Conscience kill a Tephraderm if the Tephraderm attacks?

A: No, it won’t. Tephraderm deals 4 damage to the player or the creature that blocked it. Guilty Conscience triggers, and deals 4 damage to Tephraderm, which probably survives, since it has 5 toughness. Tephraderm’s abilities only trigger when creatures or spells deal damage to it, not when enchantments or other permanents deal damage to it, so it won’t trigger on the damage from Guilty Conscience.

Q: My opponent has Krosan Drover in play and attempts to play a Wirewood Guardian for five mana. In response I kill the Drover. What happens?

A: Nothing special happens. When your opponent has priority and plays a spell, he’s allowed to complete the announcement of the spell and pays all costs before you are allowed to respond. After the cost has been paid, killing the Drover has no impact on the spell that has already been played.

Q: Does Stabilizer prevent landcycling? Is landcycling considered cycling for all purposes?

A: The answer is “yes” to both questions. Rule 502.18c in the Comprehensive Rulebook describes landcycling - it’s like cycling in all aspects, except that you can fetch a land instead of drawing a card. So Stabilizer can stop you from using it, Fluctuator can reduce the cost, and so on.

Technically, the rule only states this for triggered abilities, but the intention is that it behaves like Cycling in every way.

Q: Can I sacrifice my Bladewing the Risen to, let's say, Nantuko Husk, in response to it's come-into-play ability and return itself to play?

A: No, you can’t. Bladewing the Risen’s ability triggers when it comes into play, and you must choose a target for the ability before you can respond to it. Bladewing is not in the graveyard at this time, so you can’t choose it as a target.

Q: Does Pemmin's Aura give the abilities to the enchanted creature? If I put it on my opponent's creature, can he use the abilities?

A: No, it doesn’t. The Aura doesn’t say that the creature “gains” or “has” the abilities, so the abilities are controlled by the controller of the enchantment. If you control the enchantment, only you can activate the abilities, even if it’s on the opponent’s creature.

So yes, you can use Pemmin's Aura to give your opponent's creatures +X/-X and kill them.

Q: Does Temple of the False God count as one of the 5 lands needed in order to use it?

--Joe Moore, NY

A: Yes, it does. The only restriction to activate it is that you must have five lands in play. The game sees all your lands, including the Temple. It doesn’t say “five other lands”.

General / Older Cards Questions

Elvish Guidance

Q: If my opponent taps a land with Elvish Guidance on it, can I respond to Elvish Guidance's ability by playing Artificial Evolution change all instances of Elf to Wombat? --Scott Jones

A: No, you can’t. Elvish Guidance’s ability is a triggered mana ability. It’s a triggered ability that triggers from an activated mana ability and produces additional mana. Mana abilities do not use the stack, and can’t be responded to. Read more about mana abilities in section 406.1 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: I have Anger and Symbiotic Wurm in the graveyard (and a Mountain in play). I play Doomed Necromancer and want to use it right away on the Wurm. Can my opponent stop this with a Smother?

A: No, Smother can’t stop this. When the Necromancer has resolved and come into play, you, as the active player, get priority, and can activate it before any player can do anything. The Necromancer is put into the graveyard right away, and won’t be a legal target for creature removal spells when your opponent gets priority. A better option would be to remove the card that was targeted in the graveyard, using cards such as Coffin Purge.

Q: My opponent attacks me with a Rootbreaker Wurm and I block it with a 5/5 creature and a Wirewood Herald. He doesn't want my Herald to die so he chooses to deal all the damage to the 5/5 creature, but the Wurm has trample. My question is: Can he deal all combat damage to my 5/5 without dealing trampling damage?

--Fausto, Coimbra Portugal

A: Yes, he can. He can divide the damage between the blocking creatures as he chooses, and he’s allowed to put all the damage on just one of the creatures. If he wants any damage to trample over to you, he must assign lethal damage to all the blockers, but he’s allowed not to trample if he doesn’t want to. The rules for trample can be found in the Comprehensive Rulebook, section 502.9.

Q: If I Terror my opponent's Beast in response to him using Contested Cliffs, will the dead Beast still damage my creature? He said something about "last known information," but that seems crazy.

A: "Last known information" does get used in some cases, but it's not relevant here, because there are special rules which apply to targets. Because the dead Beast is an illegal target for the ability, it won’t deal any damage.

(Rule 413.2a in the Comprehensive Rulebook says in part: “If a target is illegal, the spell or ability can't perform any actions on it or make the target perform any actions”. Contested Cliffs tries to make the creature perform the action of dealing damage, but this rule prevents it.)

By contrast, consider the very similar ability on Tahngarth, Talruum Hero. This ability doesn't target Tahngarth, so if you destroy him in response to it, there is no change to the amount of damage he deals. The game will use his "last known information" - i.e. the power he had just before he left play - to determine how much damage is dealt.

Q: Why isn't the effect of Berserk Murlodont written "All Beasts have Rampage 1"?

--Brian Galley, NJ

A: The Murlodont’s ability doesn’t give Rampage. Rampage 1 gives +1/+1 for each creature after the first blocking the creature, but the Murlodont’s ability gives +1/+1 for every creature blocking it, including the first one. So the Murlodont's ability is able to give a bonus even when there's only one blocking creature. writer Ben Bleiweiss speculated in an article that the Rampage ability isn’t used anymore because it is too weak, since most of the time players won’t block with more than one creature, which won’t trigger the ability.

Feroz's Ban

Q: If Feroz's Ban is in play, do morph creatures still cost to play?

A: No, you have to pay to play morph creatures with Feroz’s Ban in play. Morph replaces the regular mana cost of the spell (which is zero for face down spells), but you still have to pay any additional costs that apply. Morph says you have to pay , and then the Ban tells you to play extra.

Q: Does Abeyance cancel activation effects if the effect is already on the stack?

A: No, it doesn’t. Abeyance just stops you from playing the spells or abilities (putting them on the stack), but it doesn’t affect anything that’s already on the stack.

Q: Can lands that don’t normally tap for mana (like Maze of Ith and Wooded Foothills) tap for or if there is a Riftstone Portal in the graveyard?

A: Yes, they can. Riftstone Portal gives the mana ability to all lands you control, not just the ones that can tap for mana. All your lands will be able to tap for or .


Q: I play Oblation on a token creature. Since my opponent doesn't actually shuffle the token into his library, does he get to draw two cards?

A: He gets to draw two cards. Technically, the token is shuffled back into the deck, and is only removed from the library after the spell has resolved, when the game checks for state-based effects. However, in most cases, it’s highly impractical to shuffle coins or pieces of paper into the deck just to pull them out afterwards, so you just shuffle the deck without the token, and then draw the cards.

Q: Can Aven Cloudchaser destroy Humility?

A: No, it can’t. Continuous effects that modify characteristics of permanents do so simultaneously with the permanent coming into play. They don’t wait until the permanent is in play and then change it. Humility’s effect modifies the Aven Cloudchaser as it comes into play, so the Cloudchaser no longer has any abilities when it actually comes into play.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

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