Saturday School #33

Posted in Feature on June 21, 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

Wall of Deceit

Q: Let's say that you attack with Wall of Deceit face down (which is legal), you are blocked by a 1/1 creature then they use Shock to destroy it. If you morph Wall of Deceit then wouldn't that mean you have attacked with a wall which is illegal. If you attack with it shouldn't it have to stay face down?
--Matt Fisher Washington, DC

A: No, it shouldn’t. You only check for legal attackers as you declare them. After a legal attack has been declared (with the face-down wall), the game doesn’t recheck whether the creature is able to attack or not – turning it into a wall later in the combat phase doesn’t stop it from attacking or remove it from combat.

Q: When playing Flash of Insight, what order do you put the cards in when placing them on the bottom of your library?

A: You choose the order. Rule 217.2d in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that “if an effect puts two or more cards on the top or bottom of a library at the same time, the owner of those cards may arrange them in any order. That library’s owner doesn’t reveal the order in which the cards go into his or her library.”

Scourge Questions

Erratic Explosion

Q: If I use Mischievous Quanar's ability on an Erratic Explosion, do I have to reveal for each spell or just once and copy the damage?
--Bob Johnson

A: You have to reveal a card for each spell. The copy has the same text as the original, and when it resolves, you have to do what the spell says – reveal cards until you find a non-land card, and the target takes that much damage. Copies of spells have all costs paid for, but you still have to perform all the actions of the effect. Revealing the cards is not a cost - it doesn't say "As an additional cost to play Erratic Explosion, ...".

Q: If my opponent was to have a Parallel Thoughts out with seven cards under it, what would happen if I were to gain control of the Parallel Thoughts with something like Confiscate or Aura Thief?

A: Any time you would draw a card, you can choose to replace the draw with putting a card from the pile you removed into your hand – but since you didn’t remove any cards (your opponent did), you don’t get a card, you just end up not drawing.

Q: With Parallel Thoughts, could I search for less than seven cards if I wanted to?

A: No. When you are simply asked to search for "a card," you must find a card if one exists. You can only refuse to find the card if the effect specifies what its characteristics must be - e.g. "a Goblin card."

Q: If I have two Krosan Drovers in play, does that mean that creatures with converted mana cost six or more now cost four mana less?

A: Yes, it does. Each Drover will reduce the cost by . You only reduce the generic mana cost, you don’t reduce the colored mana requirements.

Note that the spell's converted mana cost is still 6. Drovers don't actually change the cost of a spell, they just reduce the amount you have to pay when you play it.

Illusionary Mask

Q: My opponent activates his Illusionary Mask for , and I Stifle it. Does whatever the face-down creature is get put into the graveyard?
--Carl Wauer, Muskegon, MI

A: No, it doesn’t. Stifle counters the entire ability, which is everything after the colon in the text. Your opponent would never be allowed to put the creature card into play at all, and has to keep it in his hand.

Q: How does Decree of Silence work with storm? Will it counter the first three copies?

A: Decree of Silence only triggers when you play a spell, playing a spell card means casting the spell - paying its costs and putting it onto the stack. It doesn’t trigger for spells put on directly on the stack by other effects, such as Storm. The Decree will counter the “original” spell, but it won’t affect the copies put on the stack by the storm ability.

Q: I have Bladewing's Thrall in play and my opponent has Death Match. He plays a Catacomb Dragon and targets the Thrall with Death Match. Do I get the Thrall back from the graveyard because a Dragon came into play?

A: No, you don’t. Since the Thrall’s ability only can work when it’s in the graveyard, it doesn’t trigger if the Thrall isn’t in the graveyard when the Dragon comes into play. Since the ability doesn’t trigger, it doesn’t return to play. This is covered by rule 402.8 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: Is it possible to use Artificial Evolution to stop or alter the morph trigger of Frontline Strategist?

A: Only if you play Artificial Evolution on the Strategist while it’s face down. Artificial Evolution continuously changes text on the card, so when the Strategist is turned face up, “Soldier” is changed to another type if you have chosen to change it, and the ability will affect the type you have chosen.

However, changing the text on the source won’t affect the ability on the stack, so you must play Artificial Evolution before the card is turned, and in most cases, you won’t know that it is a Frontline Strategist at this time.

Q: Does Form of the Dragon reset my life to 5 at the end of turn even if I go below 1 at some point?

A: Only if you are still alive, through for example Soul Echo. Unless you have some effect saying that you don’t lose for having zero or less life, you would lose as soon as you got below 1 life.

Q: My opponent told me I have to sacrifice my Boneknitter to Call to the Grave because it is a Cleric, but I said no because it is a Zombie. Who is right?

A: You are right. When an effect refers to a specific characteristic (such as Zombie or non-Zombie) it checks only for that characteristic. Since Boneknitter is a Zombie, it isn't a non-Zombie. you can’t sacrifice it.

General / Older Cards Questions

Nefarious Lich

Q: I have in play: Psychatog, Confessor, and Nefarious Lich. My opponent plays a Disenchant on the Lich, then passes priority. In response, I discard to the 'Tog, gain a life from the Confessor, then draw a card in place of gaining a life from the Lich. Repeat, until I draw a Counterspell to negate the Disenchant. Do I have the timing right on this?
--Tim Wing, Brooklyn Park, MN

A: This would work, the timing is correct.

Psychatog's ability goes on the stack on top of Disenchant, then Confessor's ability goes on the stack on top of that. When Confessor's ability resolves, you draw a card. You then have an opportunity to play Psychatog's ability again, still in response to the Disenchant. Repeat until you find Counterspell, and counter the Disenchant, which is still on the stack.

Q: If you have Zombie Infestation in play and two Strength of Lunacy in your hand, can you discard them both for madness and enchant the resulting 2/2 token with them?

A: No, you can’t. The ability from Zombie Infestation goes on the stack before the madness triggers from discarding the cards, so you have to play the cards removed from the game before the token comes into play. You can play them on any other creatures in play, but the token you wanted to make isn’t in play yet.

Shaman's Trance

Q: Can a player use Shaman's Trance to remove creatures from an opponent's graveyard to boost up Sutured Ghoul's power/toughness?

A: That’s not possible. Shaman’s Trance only allows cards to be played from the graveyard (put on the stack, and paying their costs), the player can’t use them for any other purpose.

Q: I play Time Stretch and pay the to copy it with Mirari. If I target myself with the copy, are the turns cumulative? It only says "...takes two extra turns after this one." so it doesn't sound like it stacks up. And if I choose a different target player, would I go first after I finish this turn? I take my 2 turns, then he takes his?

A: Yes, the extra turns are cumulative. After this turn, you will take two extra turns, then two more extra turns.

When extra turns are created, they are inserted right after the current turn, this means that the most recently created turn is the first turn taken. The Mirari-copy resolves first, so the turns created by it are taken last, the turns created by Time Stretch are taken first. All the extra turns are taken, new extra turns just push the others back in the sequence.

Q: Do cards like Tidal Warrior make nonbasic lands into basic lands? I ask because I want to know it their abilities will save my lands from Wasteland and Ruination.

A: Cards which say that a land becomes a basic land type, like Island or Mountain, turn the land into a basic land. The land is no longer nonbasic, and Wasteland and Ruination will no longer be able to affect it. This is described in rule 214.9f in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: How does Arc Lightning interact with Sulfuric Vapors? Does it deal 4 damage divided any way I choose? Or do I divide the 3 damage as I choose, and then each target that successfully receives damage takes an additional damage (for a possible total of 6 damage)?
--Mike B., Amherst, MA

A: Sulfuric Vapors modifies the damage as it’s being dealt. When you play Arc Lightning, you divide 3 damage as usual, and when it resolves, each target receives an extra point of damage.

Depending on how many targets you chose, it could do 4 to 6 damage.

Icy Manipulator

Q: What does Mono Artifact mean? I have a really old Icy Manipulator, and I want to know how to play it correctly.

A: Mono Artifact was used in early editions of Magic before the tap symbol () was introduced. Mono Artifacts could only be used once per turn – this was later indicated by having the artifacts tap when used. All Mono Artifacts now have the tap symbol in their Icy Manipulator.

Q: If I Smother a black Zombie token (from Rotlung Reanimator) with a Compost in play, do I get to draw a card? My friend says that since the token is not a card and Compost explicitly states to draw "when a black CARD goes to the graveyard" I shouldn't draw.

Who is right?
--Alessandro Mariotti

A: Your friend is right – Compost only triggers when a card goes to the graveyard, and tokens aren’t cards, even if you sometimes use token cards to represent them, says rule 200.1 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: Is the life change from Biorhythm, Form of the Dragon, and Blessed Wind considered "gaining" or "losing" life? Or is it just a "change?" Does Sulfuric Vortex affect these changes?

A: If an effect sets your life total to a specific number, you gain or lose the appropriate amount of life to put you at that life total. Sulfuric Vortex will replace any life gain with “gain no life”, so if the effect wants to raise your life total, you just remain at your current life total.

Q: Can my opponent Smother one of my creatures once my combat phase has started in order to prevent my Goblin Goon from attacking? He can only do that in response to my attack phase, correct, and if he does do I get a chance to play another creature?

A: Your opponent can play Smother in the beginning of combat step, which is in the combat phase, before attackers have been declared. It’s not possible to “respond” to the combat phase – what actually happens is that you pass priority in your main phase, then your opponent can choose to play Smother then, or pass as well, and move into the combat phase.

If your opponent plays Smother in your main phase, you can play more creatures, if he plays Smother in the beginning of combat step, you don’t get to play more creatures.

Whim of Volrath

Q: My opponent activated Balthor the Defiled, and in response I played Whim of Volrath with buyback to change black to green. He then wanted to use Alter Reality to change it back. Could he?
--Ben Ausdenmoore

A: This won’t work at all. Balthor is removed from the game as part of the activation cost of his own ability, so you won’t have the opportunity to play the Whim on it once the ability have been activated. Whim of Volrath can only affect permanents in play, not abilities on the stack. You couldn’t play Alter Reality on the ability either.

In any case – changing text on an ability’s source won’t affect the ability that has already been activated – for example, if you activate Western Paladin to destroy a white creature, changing the text of the Paladin with Whim of Volrath won’t change the text of the ability on the stack.

In general, however: if you can successfully use Whim of Volrath to change the text of a permanent, then yes, your opponent will usually be able to use Alter Reality to change it back.

Q: If I'm playing with Chance Encounter and I play Mana Clash, do I get to put luck counters on Chance Encounter for every coin flip I make?

A: No, you don’t. Chance Encounter only counts coin flips that are called for by a card's effect, and only if that flip calls for a winner or a loser. Mana Clash doesn’t let any of the players call the flip, and does not interact with Chance Encounter, and neither does Goblin Assassin.

Q: Does Winnow allow me to destroy a face-down creature if there are more than one in play?
--Aaron Paccione, Ontario, Canada

A: No, it doesn’t. Face-down cards don’t have names, so nothing can have the same name as a face-down card.

Q: I have out five green creatures and a Slate of Ancestry. If I use the Slate, and my opponent responds with a Hibernation, will I have to discard all my creatures?

A: No, you won’t. You discard your hand to pay the activation cost of the Slate when you activate it (activation costs are listed before the colon), so you don’t have to discard the returned creatures.

Major Teroh

Q: I have a Visara the Dreadful and an Avatar of Woe in play. My friend plays a Major Teroh and sacrifices it right away without letting me do anything. Is he allowed to do this? If so, why?
--Timothy Fisher, Manchester, MD

A: He’s allowed to do this. On his own turn, he gains priority to play spells and ability after the Major has resolved, and he can then sacrifice it before you can do anything about it.

It would work even if it came into play on your turn – if you tap Visara or the Avatar to destroy Major Teroh, he can just sacrifice it in response, removing all black creatures from the game.

Q: If I reanimate a Feral Throwback with a Zombify, can I reveal Beast cards in my hand for the amplify ability? The reminder text implies that it's possible.
--Taylor Tan, SF

A: You can do this. Amplify lets you reveal cards to put counters on the Throwback as it comes into play, regardless of where it comes from or how it was put into play (except with phasing). The old counters are gone, though, you put a “new” creature into play, and it has no knowledge of what it was or how many counters it had before.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

Latest Feature Articles


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


January 17, 2022

The Dragon-Kami Reborn by, Emily Teng

The dragons of Kamigawa are some of the most powerful and enduring kami around. However, not even they are free from pain and death. The Dragon-Kami Reborn | Art by: Alix Branwyn Many ...

Learn More



Feature Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All