Saturday School #39

Posted in Feature on August 16, 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

Planeswalker's Scorn

Q: On your turn can you discard cards from your hand without being told to so that an enchantment like Planeswalker's Scorn doesn't work next turn?

A: You can't discard cards unless something tells you to, like a spell or ability, or if you have more than 7 cards in your hand when the turn ends.

Q: My friend has a Blinking Spirit on the table. I'm attacking with a Necratog. My friend blocks the Necratog with his Blinking Spirit and activates its ability to put it into his hand before it dies and considers my Necratog as blocked. I say this is illegal. Who's right?
--Daniel Ruppert, Germany

A: Your friend is right. Players may play spells and abilities both after blockers have been declared and after damage has been assigned, and Blinking Spirit can be returned to its owner's hand in either of these steps. The Necratog remains “blocked,” and if your opponent wants, the Spirit can even deal dealt combat damage after having left play. See the Glossary entry for “Blocked Creature” in the Comprehensive Rulebook for more information.

Q: Is it possible to play the activated ability of Shackles or Shimmering Wings if these cards are in my graveyard? In my library? Controlled by my opponent? If an opponent plays a spell such as Disenchant on Shackles (or Shimmering Wings), can I use its ability to return it to my hand and thus counter the spell?
--Jonathan Cole

A: No, you can't. In general, you can only play activated abilities of the permanents in play that you control. There are a few exceptions, such as when the card says it does something in another zone or if it moves the card from another zone (see rule 402.8 in the Comprehensive Rulebook for the full rule), but the abilities of the cards you mention can only be activated when they are in play, and only if you control them.

As for your second question: yes, you can do that to protect these cards. Spells never resolve immediately - they get put onto the stack, and then both players get a chance to respond. If you respond to a Disenchant by playing the enchantment's ability, yours will resolve first, returning the enchantment safely to your hand. After that, when Disenchant tries to resolve, it will be countered because it has no legal target.


Q: I have a Nightmare, Cabal Coffers, and eight Swamps in play. I use the Coffers to change my Nightmare from an 8/8 to a 14/14. My friend says I can't do this. Who is right?

A: Your friend is right. Nightmare's power and toughness are set by the number of Swamps in play, and even though Cabal Coffers gives you black mana equal to the number of Swamps in play, it doesn't give you more Swamps, and the size of Nightmare is unchanged. Swamps are the actual land cards; the little skull symbol on them represents "black mana," not Swamps.

Q: When I attack with a 2/2 face-down creature, my opponent says he takes the damage. In response, can I turn the creature face-up? Let's say it's an Exalted Angel? If able, does he take 2 damage or 4 damage from the Angel?

A: Usually, when players say that they “take the damage” it means that they choose not to block the attacker. Regardless of what your opponent says, he won't force you to skip the declare blockers step. You will always have a chance to turn the creature face up before damage is assigned, and thus deal 4 damage rather than 2.

Eighth Edition Questions

Teferi's Puzzle Box

Q: If I have Symbiotic Deployment in play, am I affected by Teferi's Puzzle Box?
--Aditya Sahai, OH

A: No, you aren't. The ability of Teferi's Puzzle Box triggers at the beginning of the draw step, and since you don't have a draw step, the Puzzle Box has no effect on you.

Q: I have Grave Pact out and I sacrifice my Festering Goblin to my Nantuko Husk. My opponent has only one creature. So does my Husk become a 4/4 or do I have to apply the -1/-1 to the Husk, making it a 3/3?

A: Most likely, you want to target your opponent's creature, keeping your Husk at 4/4. Both Grave Pact and the Goblin's ability trigger when Festering Goblin is put in the graveyard, and you have to choose a target for the Goblin's ability before resolving any of them. This means that you can target your opponent's creature even though you know he will sacrifice it shortly after.

Q: When I play Plow Under, who decides the order the lands go back on top of my opponent's library?
--Joe Horak, Columbus, OH

A: The owner of the library chooses. 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, says rule 217.2d in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: If Zur's Weirding is in play and a player is out of cards in his library, does he lose during his draw step, or does the enchantment's replacement effect prevent that?

A: The player loses if he or she must draw when there are no cards in the library. Zur's Weirding modifies the draw, so that if another player pays 2 life, the card isn't drawn, it's put into the graveyard instead. This works even if the library is empty – and the player survives. However, if the no other player pays life, Zur's Weirding says that the card is drawn, and the player loses.

General / Older Cards Questions

Gorilla Titan

Q: I have a Gorilla Titan in play with a Brilliant Halo enchanting it, and there are no cards in my graveyard. I attack. My opponent blocks it with a 4/4 creature. Damage resolves, the Gorilla Titan lives, and the combat phase is over. Then, during my 2nd Main Phase, my opponent disenchants the Brilliant Halo. Would my Gorilla Titan die?
--Mike Auen, Raleigh, NC

A: The Gorilla would die. Brilliant Halo's ability is triggered, when it's put in the graveyard from play, an ability goes on the stack, and this will return the Halo to the owner's hand when it resolves. After the ability has gone on the stack, the game checks for state-based effects, and at this time, the Gorilla is 4/4 with 4 damage, and it's destroyed from lethal damage.

Q: I have Lethal Vapors in play and my opponent has Crypt Sliver. Can he use Crypt Sliver's ability to regenerate his new Slivers that he plays, or would the enchantment destroy the creature before he could use this ability?

A: Your opponent can do this. Lethal Vapors' ability is triggered and goes on the stack when a creature comes into play. If he responds by putting a regeneration shield on the creature, the creature would survive.

Q: My opponent is at 2 life with Academy Rector enchanted with Pattern of Rebirth. I attack him with two Wild Mongrels. He claims that he can block, and go get Multani, Maro-Sorcerer and Worship to keep himself alive. He claims it's because damage uses the stack, and he can somehow stay alive. Is this right?

A: This doesn't work. When combat damage resolves, the game checks for state-based effects, and applies all of them at the same time. He would die at the same time as the Rector, so he would be dead long before he gets to search for any cards.

Q: With Goblin Warchief in play, can I play Goblin Sledder for free?

A: No, you can't. The Warchief can only reduces the generic mana requirement, it can't reduce the amount of colored mana you need to pay.

Compare this with Edgewalker. It does reduce colored mana costs, so it can make Nova Cleric or Dark Supplicant free to play.

Q: If I have a Necropotence out and I pay five life during my turn, can my opponent Disenchant it so that the cards that are removed from the top of my library stay removed, if he can do this is there any way that I can pay the life and get the cards even if he disenchants it?
--Daniel Salinas, Ottawa Ontario, Canada

A: You still get the cards even if Necropotence is disenchanted. When you remove the cards from the game, you set up a delayed triggered ability that triggers at the end of turn, giving you the cards. This ability is independent of the Necropotence card, and will trigger even if Necropotence has left play.

Ramosian Rally

Q: Can you tap a creature that still has summoning sickness to pay the optional cost of Ramosian Rally?
--Fred Gallegos

A: Yes, you can. Summoning sickness only stops creatures from attacking and using activated abilities with the TAP symbol – the creatures can still be tapped for other effects and to pay costs of other spells or abilities.

Q: Regarding War Tax: The errata states:

: Creatures can't attack this turn unless their controller pays for each attacking creature. This cost is paid as attackers are declared.

Does this mean that the payment is on a per creature basis and a subset of the attacking creatures may be allowed to attack, OR that the TOTAL cost for all creatures must be paid for ANY of the creatures to attack?
--Fred Gallegos

A: War Tax imposes an extra cost which must be paid while attackers are being declared. You seem to be talking about using War Tax after attackers have been declared; in that case it has no effect, since it's missed the chance to apply.

Here's how it usually works: Your opponent uses War Tax. Then, later that turn, you declare attackers, paying for each creature you choose to attack with. If you can't pay that much mana, you'll just have to choose fewer attackers.

Q: I've got a Covert Operative in play. On his turn, my opponent plays Lingering Death on my Operative. If I play a Crown of Awe on the Operative during my turn, will the protection from black prevent the triggered ability from causing me to sacrifice the operative at the end of my turn?

A: The protection given by the Crown will cause Lingering Death to fall off (since creatures with protection from black can't be enchanted by black enchantments), and when the turn ends, the ability won't trigger as the enchantment is no longer in play.

If you hadn't given the creature protection before the ability triggered, it couldn't be saved by giving it protection after (with for example Benevolent Bodyguard), since the effect doesn't damage, enchant, block or target the creature, but if you remove the enchantment before end of turn will cause the ability to not trigger at all.

Q: If I have a Fires of Yavimaya in play then play Ovinomancer, could I activate him in response to his "comes into play" ability, thereby returning him to my hand so I don't sacrifice him or bounce any of my lands?
--Joseph Pate

A: You could do this. When the comes-into-play ability finally resolves, you are given the option of returning three lands to your hand, and you can choose not to do that. You're then asked to sacrifice the Ovinomancer, which will fail since it's no longer in play.

Q: What happens when I try to Disenchant a Veiled Sentry?

A: The Sentry's ability triggers and goes on the stack on top of Disenchant. When it resolves, Veiled Sentry becomes creature, and stops being an enchantment (it doesn't say it keeps its old type). When Disenchant tries to resolve, the target is no longer legal (it's not an enchantment or artifact), so Disenchant is countered.

Q: I have access to an arbitrarily large amount of mana via the Palinchron/High Tide combo. I play a Starlight Invoker, and before I can use it, my opponent unmorphs a Chromeshell Crab and tries to exchange control of the Invoker. In response, I try to gain an obscene amount of life with the Invoker. We are confused by how this will work, if it does at all. I have investigated rule 421 and think that my opponent and I pick numbers and determine how many times the life gain occurs. What occurs in this situation?

A: As rule 421.2 says, since you control all the actions in the loop (there is only one), you choose how many times the Invoker is activated, and you gain the appropriate amount of life. After that, you switch control of the Invoker and the Crab unless anyone does anything to stop that.

By the way, it's not possible for your opponent to unmorph his Crab before you can use the Invoker. It's your turn, so you will be the first person to get priority after the spell resolves. (This doesn't have much effect on the outcome, though.)


Q: I was playing against a friend and he had an Aluren in play and a Wild Mongrel, he had no mana and discarded an Arrogant Wurm and play it "free" with the Aluren. I said he couldn't do that because its mana cost is 5, but he said that his cost is 3 because he played it with madness. Who is right?

A: You are right. Aluren looks at the converted mana cost of the card, which is always found by adding the numbers and symbols in the top right corner of the card. Arrogant Wurm's converted mana cost is always 5.

Also note that you can't combine effects that replace the mana cost of cards – madness is an alternate way of paying for a spell, and so is Aluren. You're only allowed to play the card from the removed-from-game zone by paying the madness cost, you can't use Aluren to play the removed cards.

Q: I successfully activate Kamahl, Fist of Krosa's ability to give all of my creatures +3/+3 and trample until end of turn. My opponent allows it to resolve. He then plays Humble targeting my Kamahl. Is Kamahl's power and toughness 0/1 or 3/4?

A: Kamahl is 0/1. To find Kamahl's power and toughness you apply the effects in the order they occurred: he started out 4/3, then became 7/6, then reverted to 0/1.

If Humble had been played in response to the activation of Kamahl, he would first be 0/1 then pumped to 3/4.

Q: A player uses Sneak Attack to put out a creature, then his opponent cycles a card for Astral Slide and removes the Sneaky creature from the game. When that creature comes back into play, does its owner still have to sacrifice it?
--Dylan Brossoit

A: The creature doesn't have to be sacrificed, in fact, it can't be sacrified. When a permanent leaves play, it loses all memory of its previous existence. When it returns at the end of turn, it's considered a new creature, and is not the same creature that was put into play with Sneak Attack.

Q: Regarding Shahrazad: Someone told me that they made a ruling about conceding a game, and that if you concede while in a sub-game, that you concede the entire game. I looked up and down several websites and couldn't find anything regarding this rule. Is this in fact true?

A: This is not true. You're allowed to concede just the subgame, putting you back in the previous game. If you want to concede the entire game, you're allowed to do so, but you will specifically say so if you want to do this.

Q: My question is really one of how an old card interacts with the stack today. Basalt Golem says that if it becomes blocked, you bury the blocker at the end of combat and put a 0/2 artifact creature token into play with the creature type Wall. My question is: so what happens if the Basalt Golem, with the help of, oh say, a Dragon Scales, gets big enough to kill off the blocking creature with damage? Does the creature die, or become a brick? When exactly does the change into a token take place?
--Matthew White of Cottage Grove, MN

A: When the Golem is blocked, it sets up a delayed triggered ability that triggers at end of combat. When it resolves, it first destroys the creature that blocked, then the creature's controller puts a token into play. Putting the token into play doesn't require that the blocker was destroyed by the ability, and the game can use “last known information” to find out who controlled the creature.

In other words: if the Golem kills the blocking creature with combat damage, the creature will die normally and then become a brick.


Q: I have a Humility in play and then I play Knighthood. Do all my creatures have first strike or do they remain 1/1's with no abilities?
--Forrest Fischer

A: They will have first strike. None of these abilities are “characteristic-setting”, “type-changing” or similar (which would affect the order they were applied in), so they are applied in timestamp order, the order they started working. First Humility takes all abilities away, then Knighthood gives them first strike.

Q: I have a question concerning Argothian Enchantress. Does it have to block Taunting Elf or creatures with that kind of abilities?
--Peter Bevk

A: It has to block Taunting Elf if it can. The Elf's ability doesn't target (it doesn't say "target"); all creatures that can block it must block it, even if they have protection or are untargetable.

Q: The other day at my local card shop there was a debate about counterspelling and Mirari. What happened was I played a Corrupt and Mirari'd it, then my opponent played a Counterspell on my original Corrupt. He then said that because he countered the original Corrupt, I couldn't Mirari it. I said I could because i still "played" it. Then they called the old judge that used to work there and he said that I couldn't Mirari it. I still don't believe them and was hoping for you to clear up the situation.
--Dustin Murphy, Phoenix Arizona

A: You can Mirari the Corrupt, even if the original is countered. When you play the original Corrupt, Mirari triggers and locks in which spell is supposed to be copied. When the ability resolves, you can pay to copy the spell. The game knows what the original spell was, and if you pay you get the copy, even if the original has been countered in the meantime.

Q: My opponent has Pyrostatic Pillar in play. I play Circle of Protection: Red which will trigger Pyrostatic Pillar. Can I pay the one mana to prevent the two damage from Pyrostatic Pillar with the Circle of Protection I just brought in? How would that interaction work on the stack?

A: You can't do this. Pyrostatic Pillar triggers when the spell is played (put on the stack), and it will resolve before the Circle actually comes into play. You will be dealt the damage before your Circle actually comes into play, so you can't prevent it that way.


Q: If I Clone a creature with amplify, do I get to amplify the Clone?

A: Yes, you do. Rule 503.5 in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that if something comes into play “as a copy of” something else, and whatever is copied also comes into play “as” or “with” something, those abilities also take effect as you put it into play. Amplify's full text is “as this comes into play, reveal…” and will be applied when you Clone a creature with Amplify.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

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