Saturday School #32

Posted in Feature on June 14, 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

Seal of Removal

Q: If my opponent announces he's going to use his Seal of Removal, can I remove it from the game with Legacy Weapon so that its effect never goes on the stack?

A: No, you can’t. When your opponent has priority to play spells and abilities, he’s allowed to play them and pay all costs before you can do anything about it. Your opponent can pay the cost of the Seal (sacrificing it) and put the ability onto the stack before you’re allowed to respond. Since the Seal is gone when you get priority, you won’t get the chance to use Legacy Weapon on it. And since the ability is already on the stack, destroying the Seal wouldn't stop the effect from happening anyway.

Q: My opponent has a protection from black creature. Can I attempt to play Terror on it so I can subsequently Thoughtlace my Terror?

A: No, you can’t. You must choose legal targets for spells and abilities when you play them. Targets must be legal upon declaration AND resolution, not one or the other.

Q: I had Undead Warchief and Withered Wretch in play. The my opponent played Starstorm for 2 damage. My opponent said that my Wretch dies because Undead Warchief has already dead and the Wretch isn't 4/3 any longer. I'm confused. With the 2 damage, does the damage assign to each creature at the same time and until end of turn or not? Did my Withered Wretch really die or not?

A: Damage to both creatures is dealt at the same time, and when Starstorm has finished resolving, the game checks for state-based effects – and in this case, one applies: a creature has lethal damage. The Warchief has 2 toughness and 2 damage, so it’s destroyed. Since the Warchief has left play, the Wretch is now a 2/2 creature, also with 2 damage, so it is destroyed as well. Damage remains on a creature until the cleanup step at the very end of the turn, and if a creature has damage equal or greater to its toughness, it’s destroyed.

Q: I have Aether Charge and Mistform Dreamer in play. I pay 1 to make Mistform Dreamer a beast. Does Aether Charge now let me deal damage?
--Steven Gilroy

A: No, it doesn’t. Aether Charge only triggers when a creature comes into play – that is when a creature comes from somewhere out of play to “in play”. Creatures changing types or otherwise changing forms will not trigger any “comes-into-play”-abilities.

Q: If a 3-power first strike creature like Battering Craghorn is blocked by a 5/3 Twisted Abomination and the Abomination regenerates, would the Craghorn die?

A: No, it wouldn’t. When a creature regenerates, it’s removed from combat, and if it was killed by first strike damage, it won’t get to assign regular combat damage.

Q: Can I use Artificial Evolution to make my Symbiotic Elf into a Symbiotic Wurm so that I'll get seven tokens when it dies?

A: No, you can’t. Spells that change the text of cards can’t change proper nouns, like card names. Also, even if you could change the name to be “Symbiotic Wurm”, it would still have the ability that only puts two Insect tokens into play, not seven.

Scourge Questions

Decree of Justice

Q: If player A plays a spell that puts token creatures into play under his control (e.g. Decree of Justice, Battle Screech, Roar of the Wurm) and player B uses the triggered ability of Mischievous Quanar to copy this spell, who gets control of the tokens of the copied spell, A or B?
--Christof Leng

A: Player B gets the tokens from the copies. Tokens are controlled by the player who controls the spell or ability that put them into play, and the spell copy is controlled by the player who put it on the stack, which is the Quanar’s controller. This is described in section 216.1 and the Glossary entry for “control” in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: If I enchant my Raven Guild Master with Extra Arms and then target the opponent to take the damage from the Extra Arms, does the Master's ability trigger?
--Pat Viviano

A: No, it doesn’t. Raven Guild Master’s ability only triggers on combat damage. Combat damage is the damage dealt during the combat damage step of the combat phase by attacking creatures and blocking creatures. It doesn’t include damage dealt by spells and abilities during the combat phase or any other kinds of damage.

Q: Is it impossible to lose to "decking" with a Parallel Thoughts in play? Even one with no cards under it?

A: You can’t lose this way with Parallel Thoughts in play unless you really want to. You can replace the draw with putting the top card from the pile into your hand. You won’t get a card if there are no cards left, but at least you won’t lose because you didn’t draw a card.

Q: If a Goblin goes to the graveyard when I have a Goblin Sharpshooter and a Faces of the Past in play, do I get to untap the Goblin Sharpshooter twice (and deal two damage)?

A: Yes, you do. Both the ability from the Sharpshooter and Faces of the Past triggers, and go on the stack. You’re allowed to respond with the Sharpshooter’s “ping” between each ability resolving.

Q: If I use Mind's Desire to remove a card with cycling, such as Tranquil Thicket, from the game, can I play its cycling ability? Mind's Desire says the cards can be played as though they are in my hand. Also, can the cards that are removed be used to pay Compulsion's activation cost?
--Warren Eng, Seattle, WA

A: You can only play the cards as though they were in your hand. Playing a spell card means casting the spell - paying its costs and putting it onto the stack. Playing a land card means putting the card into play as your special once-per-turn action.

You can’t use other abilities on the cards, like cycling, and you can’t discard them.

Q: If I have access to "infinite" mana and I have Pemmin's Aura on a creature, can I use the -1/+1 ability until I get a 0/6000 creature and then use the +1/-1 until I get a 3000/3000 creature and then give it flying? Would this strategy work?
--Brian Stark, AZ

A: No, it wouldn’t. The game treats negative power as zero for most purposes except raising and lowering it. The game knows the creature’s real power (which would be something like -5998), and uses this number when you want to raise the power back up again.

Endemic Plague

Q: My opponent sacrifices a Mistform Ultimus to Endemic Plague. Is there a type I can name with my Mistform Warchief to save it? Can I name "no type"?
--Stephen Hayes

A: You can’t name “no type” – you must choose a legal, existing type when you choose a creature type. Endemic Plague sacrificing Mistform Ultimus will destroy all creatures with a creature type.

Q: My Exalted Angel has been removed from the game by Extract. When I play Dimensional Breach, Can I get my Exalted Angel back by Dimensional Breach's effect?
--Chinabut Suksangiam, Bangkok, Thailand

A: You can’t get the Angel back. When Dimensional Breach says “one of the removed cards” it refers to the cards removed by its own effect, you can’t put cards removed by other effects into play.

Q: Can I Stifle my Force Bubble so that I don't have to sacrifice it if it has four or more depletion counters?

A: You can Stifle the ability that says you must sacrifice Force Bubble, but this is a so-called state-triggered ability, that will trigger any time the trigger condition is true. Once the ability has been countered, it will do another check, see that there are still four or more counters, and it will trigger again. In the end you will run out of Stifles, and you will have to sacrifice it. Read more about state-triggered abilities in section 410.11 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: Can I counter the mana generation of Mirari's Wake with Stifle? If yes, does it last for the rest of the turn or does it counter only one time (I mean, for one land)?

A: You can’t counter mana abilities, since they don’t use the stack and can’t be responded to. The mana goes into the mana pool right away, before any player can try to counter it.

If you do Stifle a triggered ability, you will only counter that one instance of the ability. It's still able to trigger again later in the turn.

Q: When Nefashu attacks, can you give one creature -5/-5?

A: No, you can’t. You first choose how many targets you want, then choose which targets. You can’t choose the same target multiple for a spell or ability, says rule 409.1c in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Compare the ability of Shambling Swarm, which can give a single creature -3/-3.

Shambling Swarm

Q: I have Mana Echoes and Goblin Lackey in play. I attack with the Lackey and put combat damage on the stack. I use the Lackey to put a Siege-Gang Commander in play. When does the mana get added to my mana pool? And how much mana would I get if the Lackey was the only other Goblin in play?

A: You get the mana when the triggered ability from Mana Echoes resolves. Mana Echoes triggers every time a creature enters play, so it would trigger when the Commander comes into play and for each of the tokens.

Mana Echoes and the ability from the Commander trigger at the same time, so you choose the order they go on the stack. If you put Mana Echoes’ ability on the stack first, then the Commander’s ability, the tokens will be put into play first, and Mana Echoes will trigger for each of them. The three Echoes-triggers from the tokens would let you get 0 or 5 mana (5 Goblins in play), and so would the first Echoes-trigger from the Commander. The maximum amount of mana you can get is 20 mana. You would get all this mana in your combat phase, so you are not able to play any sorceries or permanents with it, though.

If you put the “put tokens into play” ability on the stack first, the first Echoes-trigger would only give you 2 mana, while the triggers from the tokens would give you 0 or 5 for each, for up to 17 mana maximum.

Q: My opponent's life total is 19 and I attack him with Ebonblade Reaper, he takes the damage and goes to 9. Then I play Final Punishment; is he dead?

A: No, he’s not. Final Punishment makes the player lose life equal to the amount of damage he has been dealt, it doesn’t count life lost through other means, like the Reaper’s life loss ability.

Q: What happens if I control Transcendence, Sulfurous Vortex, and 20 creatures and my opponent plays Biorhythm?

A: Since you have Transcendence in play, I assume that you have less than 20 life. Biorhythm wants to set your life total to 20 by making you gain enough life to be at 20. However, since the Vortex replaces all life gain with “no life gain”, nothing happens to your life total.

General / Older Cards Questions


Q: Biorhythm is played and a player responds by sacrificing land to Zuran Orb to gain life. If he has no creatures when Biorhythm resolves but has gained 4 life from sacrificing the land, does he die or does he live with 4 life?
--Joe Crites

A: He dies. Biorhythm sets the life total depending on how many creatures are in play, responding to the ability will make the player gain life before the spell resolves, but this won’t affect what your life total is after it has resolved. And once your life total becomes 0, there is no time to use the Zuran Orb. You die when state-based effects are checked.

Q: If I enchant Goblin Medics with Arcane Teachings and tap it (using the Arcane Teachings ability), will it deal 2 of damage instead of one?
--Orlando Siquiera

A: It will deal 2 damage, 1 point from Arcane Teachings and 1 point from the triggered ability that triggers when it becomes tapped. You can choose different targets for the two abilities if you want to. Note that Goblin Medics' ability triggers when it taps; tapping it is not a cost like it is on Prodigal Sorcerer.

Q: What happens if I control both Dueling Grounds and Grand Melee at the same time?
--Dustin S., Boston, MA

A: Only one creature can attack and only one can block, but one creature must attack if possible, and one creature must block if possible. Grand Melee wants all creatures to attack and block if able, but Dueling Grounds restricts the number of attackers and blockers to one, so only one creature will be able to attack and only one will be able to block.

Q: If I use Artificial Evolution to change a creature spell's type while on the stack, will the change be permanent? Similarly, if I use Blind Seer to change a creature spell's color while on the stack, will the change be permanent?

A: Artificial Evolution will. Rule 415.3 in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that “if an effect edits any characteristics of a spell that becomes a permanent, the effect continues to apply to the permanent when the spell resolves.”

Blind Seer's effect last only lasts until the end of the turn, of course, so any changing done to the spell will affect the permanent only until the end of the turn, not permanently.

Q: What happens if you Spelljack a Mirari copy of a spell? Normally the card itself would be removed from game but with a Mirari copy you only have a pseudospell... is the pseudospell removed and the card available to play as normal or is the pseudospell removed and because it's not a card Spelljack does not allow me to play it?

A: When you remove a copy of a spell from the game, it ceases to exist. Spelljack will counter the copy, then remove it from the game, and it will cease to exist, so you won’t be able to play the copy.

Seismic Assault

Q: If I have a Seismic Assault and a Future Sight in play, and the top card of my library is a land card, can I use Seismic Assault's ability to deal damage to my opponent with the land card on the top of my library and put it in my graveyard afterwards?

A: No, you can’t, since Future Sight only allows you to play the top card as though it were in your hand, you can’t discard it or use it for other effects. Play has a very specific definition in Magic; it is not synonymous with "use."

Q: I have a Graveborn Muse in play my opponent has a Lavaborn Muse in play. At the beginning of my upkeep I have 2 cards in my hand; will I take 3 points of damage?
--Francois Vaillancourt

A: You will take 3 points of damage. On your turn, your triggered abilities go on the stack first, then the triggered abilities from the other player goes on the stack. The ability from Graveborn Muse goes on the stack first, then Lavaborn Muse’s ability, so you will take 3 damage before you draw cards from Graveborn Muse’s ability.

Q: Do effects on cards such as Mobilization's "attacking doesn't cause [something] to tap" mean that the cost of attacking is removed? If that's the case, then can I activate Whipcorder's ability to remove a potential blocker and then attack with the Whipcorder (since I don't have to pay the cost for attacking anymore)?

A: Tapping a creature when it is declared as an attacker is not a cost, attacking simply causes creatures to become tapped, says rule 308.2 in the Comprehensive Rulebook. Another rule, 308.1, says that tapped creatures can’t attack, which prevents your tapped Whipcorder from attacking.

Of course, you have the option of doing this the other way round: attack with the Whipcorder, then tap it to remove a potential blocker before blockers get declared. That does what you want. You can't attack with tapped creatures, but it doesn't matter whether they get tapped afterwards.

Q: This is regarding a previous question about Oblation played on a token creature. Now impractical or not, I would think it would be crucial that you do indeed shuffle the token into the library. Since the token doesn’t get removed from the game until after the spell resolves, there is a chance that you would draw the token. The token would then be removed from the game (out of your hand) after the spell resolves, thus only netting the controller of the token 1 card drawn instead of two. Is this how it would happen?
--Sebastian Massey

A: Not exactly. Oblation’s effect says that the player must draw 2 cards, and since the token isn’t a card, it’s ignored for this purpose. If the token is on top of the deck, the player just draws the top two cards from his or her deck.

Volrath's Shapeshifter

Q: I have Volrath's Shapeshifter in play and the top card of my graveyard is a Psychatog. If I remove the Psychatog from the game to give the Shapeshifter +1/+1, what happens?
--Gani J. Sunadim, Australia

A: First the ability goes on the stack, saying that the creature gets +1/+1 when the ability resolves. Then the cost is paid, the cards are removed and the Shapeshifter stops being a Psychatog. The ability is still on the stack, and it knows which creature it’s supposed to pump. Rule 503.11 in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that if an effect refers to a permanent by name, the effect still tracks that permanent even if it changes names or becomes a copy of something else, so the Shapeshifter would still get the bonus.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

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