Saturday School #38

Posted in Feature on August 9, 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.

Answer Revision

Ambush Commander

From last week’s column:

Q: My opponent and I are playing, and during his turn he puts an Ambush Commander into play. On my turn, I use Control Magic on the Ambush Commander. Whose Forests are 1/1 Elves? My opponent claims his are, because of how 418.5a works, and the Control Magic is applied "after" the Ambush Commander makes his forests 1/1 Elves. I say that my forests are 1/1 Elves, because control is not a characteristic, and when the game looks at "Forests you control are...", it looks at who controls the card, which sets up a dependency issue, under 418.5b-d, and you apply Control Magic "first". So, who is right (and why)?
--Brian D. Schenck

A: You only look for dependency within the same "layer" of effects. Due to an error, the "control" layer is not defined in the rules - so you first apply the type-changing effect (changing all your opponent's Forests into 1/1 Elves), and then the control effect (giving you control of the Ambush Commander) is applied later, causing it to not be animated.

The Magic Rules Manager, Paul Barclay, comments: "This is an oversight in the new rules, not an intentional change. The rules team are going to be fixing the error. Tell people to play it the sensible way for now."

There you have it, folks. Control Magic does make the Commander animate your lands.

Beginner Questions

Northern Paladin

Q: My opponent has a Northern Paladin out with enough mana to activate its ability (it is untapped). I have a facedown Skinthinner. I flip it face up to kill his Northern Paladin, can he activate the paladin's ability and destroy the Skinthinner in response? I said he couldn't at all, but he said he could. He also said that both were destroyed. Can you tell us what should happen in this situation?

A: He's exactly right. In Magic, there aren't many things which happen instantaneously. In this case, when you flip up the Skinthinner, its ability triggers and goes onto the stack. (The stack is a sort of limbo, where spells and abilities sit while they're waiting to resolve.)

So, while the ability is on the stack, both players have a chance to "respond" to it. In this case your opponent played the Paladin's ability (which also gets put on the stack and waits to resolve).

After that, if nobody has anything else they want to play, the last thing put on the stack will resolve: the Northern Paladin's ability destroys your Skinthinner. This doesn't stop the Skinthinner's ability, though - it's triggered now, so it will have its effect regardless of whether the Skinthinner is alive. So after another pause where both players can respond to it, the Skinthinner's ability will resolve and destroy the Paladin.

Q: If I sacrifice a Twisted Abomination to put a 1/1 counter on a Carrion Feeder, can I then regenerate it and repeat this process as many times as I can?

A: No, you can’t. The rules for sacrifices, found in the Glossary of the Comprehensive Rulebook, says that regeneration doesn’t work with sacrifices. Sacrificing a permanent doesn’t destroy it, and regeneration or other effects that replace destruction can’t affect it.

Eighth Edition Questions

Urza's Tower

Q: If I have out some Urza's lands (Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Tower) and a Coat of Arms and then animate my lands, do they get bonuses from each other for having the type "Urza's?"
--Chris Drew

A: No, they don’t. Coat of Arms looks for shared creature types, and “Urza’s” is a land type, not a creature type. Land types aren’t turned into creature types even if the lands are turned into creatures, they aren’t interchangeable. The lands won’t get a bonus unless they share an actual creature type.

Q: I have out a Zombie Infestation and Teferi's Puzzle Box. at the beginning of my draw step can I respond to putting my hand at the bottom of my library by discarding them to Zombie Infestaition, then still draw cards due to the Puzzle Box's second part?

A: No, that won’t work. The Puzzle Box’s ability is all one ability. When it starts resolving, it counts your hand, and you put all the cards in your hands under the library and you draw that many cards. If you discard your hand before you put the hand under, you have no cards and also draw no cards. You can’t do anything between putting the hand on the bottom of the library and drawing the other cards.

Q: If an opponent has Underworld Dreams in play and you have True Believer, when you draw a card will the dreams deal damage to you?
--Tyler, NJ

A: Yes, it will. Underworld Dreams’ ability doesn’t target (since it doesn’t say “target”), so True Believer won’t affect it.

General / Older Questions

Preferred Selection

Q: Now that the active player just draws a card for his turn without using the stack, is Preferred Selection going to be given errata? Or will it just work differently now, basically lining up the card for the next turn instead of for this turn?
--Andy Clautice

A: The new rule for the draw step draw action doesn’t change the functionality of Preferred Selection in any significant way. You still have a draw step, you just draw the card before putting Preferred Selection’s ability on the stack.

Under the previous set of rules, the draw step draw always went on the stack after any triggered abilities in the draw step, so you would still draw the card for the turn before resolving Preferred Selection abilities.

Q: I have Future Sight in play and play Spy Network. What cards can my opponent see as Spy Network resolves?

A: He or she gets to see the top card of your library before Spy Network resolves, and the card that remains on top of the library afterwards. Rearranging the cards happens instantaneously, you see the state before and after, you don’t reveal the cards as you are rearranging them.

Q: I have a Bog Wreckage in play along with a Harvester Druid; can I say that my Druid can produce any color of mana due to the fact that it says, "T: Add to your mana pool one mana of any color that a land you control could produce". Now, my Bog Wreckage could produce any color mana when it sacrifices itself, so does that mean Harvester Druid can produce any mana in a situation like this?

A: It does. Harvester Druid (and also Reflecting Pool) looks at all the mana abilities and sees all the kinds of mana the land could potentially produce, it doesn’t care if the mana can’t be produced right now.

Another example: if you have Tainted Wood in play without any swamps, the Wood can't produce green or black mana. But Harvester Druid can, because it sees that the Wood could potentially produce green or black mana.

Q: I have a Soul Collector enchanted with Lavamancer's Skill and a Nantuko Husk. If the Collector shoots itself and then I sacrifice it to the Husk, it will come back into play, right? If so, can I keep sacrificing it and brining it back so that I have a 100/100 Husk?

A: It will come back into play, but Lavamancer’s Skill won’t, so this is not something you can repeat as long as you want. When you sacrifice Soul Collector to the Husk, the game sees that Lavamancer’s Skill no longer enchants anything, and it’s put in the graveyard. While the Soul Collector will return, the enchantment won’t. The returned Soul Collector doesn’t know anything about the “old” Soul Collector, and it hasn’t taken any damage, so if that Soul Collector is sacrificed, it won’t return.


Q: If I tap 4 swamps to activate Hecatomb.... can I also have the lands add 4 black to my mana pool and then use Pestilence to do another four damage?
--Charley Murdock, VA

A: No, you can’t. You can use the lands either to pay the cost of the Hecatomb or to pay the activation cost of the lands’ built-in mana ability. You can’t pay costs for two different things with the same action. As soon as you pay one cost, the land is tapped, so you can't tap it again to pay for the other.

Q: I have a Sparksmith and a Cowardice in play. Do I take damage when I shoot creatures with the Sparksmith?

A: No, you won’t. Since Cowardice triggers off Sparksmith’s ability targeting the creature, Cowardice’s ability goes on the stack on top of Sparksmith’s, and will return the creature to its owner’s hand first. Since the target for Sparksmith’s ability isn’t legal when the ability tries to resolve, it’s countered and has no effect, meaning that nothing is damaged.

Q: When does Oversold Cemetery check if you have four or more creatures in your graveyard? Does it check when it goes onto the stack, or when it resolves. The main problem was that I had two Oversold Cemeteries in play and four creatures in my graveyard. Do I take two creatures or just one because when the second Cemetery ability resolves there are now only three?
--Chris Uehlein, from Portland, OR

A: It checks both when the ability triggers when it resolves. A triggered ability with an if-clause triggers if the condition is true, and it checks again when the ability resolves. If the condition is false at either time, the ability does nothing. See rule 404.3 in the Comprehensive Rulebook for the full rule. In your case, both Cemeteries trigger, and the first ability resolves as normal, since there are 4 creatures in the graveyard. When the second triggered ability resolves, there are only 3 creatures left in the graveyard, and the trigger condition is no longer true, so nothing happens.

Q: During my opponent's upkeep—he has a Form of the Dragon in play—can I play Gilded Light so that I protect myself? Will he be forced to kill himself (if there are no creatures in play) by assigning himself as the target of the 5 damage? In the same situation, what will happen if I have an Ivory Mask in play? Can he still target me? Does he have to kill himself?

A: Form of the Dragon triggers at the beginning of the upkeep, and you must choose a target for it when you put it on the stack, before any spells or abilities can be played. The Form can target you, but if you play Gilded Light in response, you are an illegal target when the Form ability resolves, and it’s countered, doing nothing. If you have Ivory Mask in play, you can’t be chosen as a target at all, so your opponent would have to target himself. If he’s at 5 life or less when the ability resolves, he would die.

Q: If I have a Merfolk Looter and two forests in play, can I tap the Looter, draw a 3rd land, discard an Arrogant Wurm and then play the third land and madness the Arrogant Wurm if I don't pass priority? It has been an argument at my local card shop for a long time now and I'd really like to know.
--Chris Johnson

A: Interestingly enough - yes, you can do this. Here's the sequence of events:

  1. The Looter's ability resolves. You draw a land, then discard the Wurm, removing it from the game. The Madness triggered ability goes onto the stack.
  2. You get priority. (You could play spells and abilities now, but you can't play the land, because the stack isn't empty). Let's assume you pass, and your opponent passes.
  3. The Madness triggered ability resolves. It says "Until you pass next, you may play the Wurm any time you could play an Instant".
  4. You get priority. Since the stack is now empty, you can play the land. And because it's a land, it simply comes into play; you don't have to pass.
  5. You get priority again. You haven't passed yet, so you're still able to play the Wurm, and use your new land to pay for it.
Worldgorger Dragon

Q: What would happen if I sacrificed Defense of the Heart to search for two Worldgorger Dragons? Do I get two beautiful Worldgorger Dragons or do they keep coming in and out of play?
--Zack Celizic

A: You don’t have a loop, you just end up having one beautiful Worldgorgeous Dragon alone in play, and one Dragon is removed from the game forever. It goes like this:

  1. The Dragons come into play at the same time.
  2. Both their comes-into-play abilities trigger and go on the stack.
  3. The first Dragon’s comes-into play ability resolves, removing the second Dragon from the game, triggering the second’s leaves-play ability.
  4. The leaves-play ability from the second Dragon resolves, returning nothing, since no permanents have been removed by that Dragon.
  5. The comes-into-play ability from the second Dragon resolves, removing the first Dragon (which is in play).
  6. The first Dragon’s leaves-play ability triggers, and returns the second Dragon. This is considered a new permanent, and has no knowledge of its former existence.
  7. The (new) second Dragon’s comes-into-play ability triggers, removing all other permanents in play, leaving only the (new) second Dragon in play.
The first Dragon is now removed forever. It could only return when the Dragon that removed it left play, but that Dragon no longer exists, and the first Dragon has no longer an option to return unless you Wish it back.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

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