Saturday School #40

Posted in Feature on August 23, 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

Tsabo's Decree

Q: Say someone had 2 Zombies, 4 Wizards, 3 Birds, and 2 Mercenaries. If the rules of tribes are correct, then naming the creature type Zombie Wizard Bird Mercenary with Tsabo's Decree will destroy all their creatures. Is that right? I assume this because if a creature can have the type Zombie Cleric and be a Zombie and a Cleric, then destroying all Zombie Wizard Bird Mercenaries would work.
--Ellis Heneghan, Andover, Massachusetts

A: This is not right, for two reasons. First, "Zombie Wizard Bird Mercenary" is four types, not one, and Tsabo's Decree only asks you to choose one type. So you can only choose one word - "Zombie", or "Wizard", etc. This is explained in rule 212.1e in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Second, if you could choose "Zombie Wizard Bird Mercenary" for Tsabo's Decree, it would look for creatures with all of those types - most likely, that's only Mistform Ultimus. (Think about what "Destroy all blue Wizards" would mean. Compare it with "Destroy all Zombie Wizards".)

Q: If a creature such as Drudge Skeletons gets -1/-1 and it is regenerated, would the effect of it getting -1/-1 still exist? I know that all damage to the creature is removed but the rulebook does not say anything about -X/-X.

A: -X/-X effects would still apply, only damage is removed. If an Uthden Troll (2/2) with a –1/-1 effect on it takes 1 damage and regenerates, it’s still a 1/1 after having regenerated.

Note that if a creature dies due to having zero toughness, such as your Skeletons, it’s put in the graveyard as a state-based effect; it’s not destroyed, so it can’t be regenerated.

Q: I play a Fact or Fiction. My opponent separates the cards into two piles with only the top card showing in each. He then told me that I couldn't touch the piles to view their content, I was only able to choose. I didn't argue (I was going to win the game either way). I was just wondering what the rules are surrounding this. I mean, there is nothing that says I can't look, so I'm a little confused.
--Robert Bialkin

A: Both players are allowed to look through any pile unless a rule or effect says you can’t. Piles made by Fact or Fiction are fair game for both players to look through.

Q: My friend and I had a battle. He attacked using his Wonder and I blocked it with my Soul Collector that I had just morphed up. After a while the Wonder under my control was killed. My friend said that it is now in his graveyard and all his creatures had flying but I said that it was going to go into my graveyard since it died under my control. Which of us is right?

A: Your opponent is right. Rule 217.1a says that if anything would go to a library, hand or graveyard that isn’t its owner’s, it goes to its owner’s library, hand or graveyard instead. You can never have your opponents’ cards in your graveyard (or library or hand).

Eighth Edition Questions

Intruder Alarm

Q: Will Intruder Alarm untap Phyrexian Colossus when another creature is played? If it does, do I lose 8 life?

A: Intruder Alarm will untap all creatures when another creature is played, also the Colossus. The Colossus only has a restriction saying it doesn’t untap as usual during the untap step, but effects can untap it at other times. You don’t lose any life, since you didn’t pay the cost of the uptap ability. You only lose life when you use the built-in ability to untap the Colossus, when other effects untap it, nothing special happens.

Q: I control an Intruder Alarm. When I play Ambush Commander, do I untap my Forests? And if I have Intruder Alarm and Ambush Commander, what's happens when I play a Forest?

A: When the Ambush Commander comes into play, Intruder Alarm triggers and goes on the stack. The Forests are immediately turned into creatures by the Commander’s effect, and the triggered ability will untap them.

When you play a Forest, it will be a creature when it’s in play, and Intruder Alarm will trigger, untapping all your creatures (including all your Forests).

Q: If I have both a Thieving Magpie and a Coastal Piracy in play and the Thieving Magpie deals its combat damage, how many cards do I draw?

A: You draw 2 cards. There are two triggered abilities present, one from the Magpie, and one from Coastal Piracy. Both of these trigger on the same event (combat damage being dealt to the opponent by the Magpie), and both will let you draw a card.

Q: With the introduction of the keyword fear, will old cards with "can't be blocked except by black or artifact creatures" be changed to have fear? And also, can fear be manipulated by cards such as Mind Bend?
--Andrew Schaefer

A: All cards that formerly said "can't be blocked except by black or artifact creatures" have been changed in the Oracle to have “fear” instead. Since fear is a keyword, and the color word doesn’t appear on the card, it can’t be manipulated by Mind Bend or similar effects.

Phyrexian Plaguelord

Q: My opponent attacks with three vanilla 2/2 creatures. I have Festering Goblin, Phyrexian Plaguelord, and Grave Pact in play. Is there any way for me to trade my Goblin for all three of his creatures? What is the best I can do?
--Brian Ty Kelley, Portland, OR

A: Unfortunately, Grave Pact is irrelevant here. It doesn't combine well with the Plaguelord at all. When you use the Plaguelord, you put the -1/-1 ability on the stack and choose a target for it straight away. Then, Grave Pact's ability gets put on the stack on top of the Plaguelord's, and resolves before it. Your opponent can simply sacrifice the creature that the Plaguelord is about to kill.

So, here's the best you can do: Block two attackers with the Goblin and the Plaguelord. Sacrifice the Goblin, and target the unblocked creature with both -1/-1 effects. Your opponent will probably sacrifice that creature to Grave Pact.

When combat damage is dealt, the Plaguelord kills the creature it's blocking. The other attacker deals no damage, because it was blocked by the Goblin.

Two out of three isn't bad, right? If you want, you could now sacrifice the Plaguelord to kill the remaining creature.

Q: If I had an Ancient Ooze in play, as well as a land enchanted by Living Terrain, would that give the Ooze +4/+4 for its mana cost? If not, what would it get?
--Katie Cooper, New Brunswick Canada

A: The Ooze wouldn’t get a bonus from the land. The land’s converted mana cost is still zero. Each permanent has its own mana cost, and the Ooze won’t be pumped up by the converted mana cost of any enchantments.

Q: I have a Distorting Lens in play and my opponent has Absolute Law. I play Flametongue Kavu. Is there any way I can make it kill one of his creatures?

A: No, there isn’t. When the Kavu comes into play, you must choose a legal target for its ability right away, and at that time, the Kavu is red, so there won’t be any legal targets, and the ability will be removed from the stack. You can’t play the ability of the Distorting Lens until after this.

General / Older Card Questions

Skirk Alarmist

Q: I had a question about Skirk Alarmist's interaction with Weaver of Lies. If I use Skirk Alarmist's ability to flip up an Imperial Hellkite, what happens if I then pay to unmorph a Weaver of Lies? If I choose to turn my Hellkite face down, do I still have to sacrifice it?

A: Turning the Weaver face up will let you turn any number of creatures with morph face down. This still won’t prevent you from having to sacrifice the Hellkite, as it is still the same permanent, just looking different. The term “sacrifice it” refers to the permanent that was turned face up, and the game will find the Hellkite and force you to sacrifice it, even if it’s now face down again.

Q: Regarding enchantments with comes-into-play abilities like Steely Resolve, can I Stifle the comes-into play-ability that makes the controller choose a creature type? If so, will my opponent have another chance to choose a creature type in subsequent turns or is the enchantment forever useless?

A: You can’t stifle Steely Resolve’s choosing of creature type, because it's a static ability, not a triggered or activated ability. The text “as [something] comes into play…” indicates a replacement effect affecting how the permanent comes into play, and this doesn’t use the stack, so it can’t be Stifled.

Note: "As [something] comes into play" is different from "When [something] comes into play". 'When' signifies a triggered ability, which can be Stifled just fine. 'As' signifies a replacement effect, which cannot. In its Eighth Edition reprinting, the wording for Death Pit Offering changed from "As" to "When", so Stifle + Death Pit Offering is now a combo.

Q: Does the change to the draw step for Eighth Edition affect the way Plagiarize works? When should I play Plagiarize if I want to steal my opponent's draw?

A: It hasn’t changed much. You can still “steal” your opponent’s draw, but since you can’t respond to the draw step draw anymore, you need to play Plagiarize in your opponent’s upkeep for the effect to be active in the draw step.

Q: If a creature with morph is being played face-down, but is countered with Desertion, will it come into play face-up or face-down? Please explain.

A: It comes into play face up. The original spell is countered, then the card is put into play in its default state, which is face up. The card that is put into play has no knowledge of how it was originally played.

Q: I Sneak Attack out a Gilded Drake and swap it. Since Sneak Attack reads 'sacrifice' and a player may only sacrifice his own creature, what happens at end of turn? Must I sacrifice the creature I've gained with the Drake; is the Drake 'sacrificed' even though an opponent now controls it; or do both creatures remain in play?

A: Both creatures remain in play. At the end of turn, the delayed triggered ability from Sneak Attack asks for you to sacrifice the Drake, but you can’t, since you don’t control it. The effect fails to do anything.

Q: How does Illusionary Mask interact with a morph creature? If you play the creature using the Mask, can you pay its morph cost to flip over the creature? If it has an unmorph ability like Skinthinner, will that ability happen if its turned up by the Mask?
--David Brody, Atlanta

A: Rule 502.26d in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that you can turn any face-down permanent face up by paying its morph cost – it doesn’t matter why it’s face down. If the creature is face down because of Illusionary Mask you can either turn it up by paying the morph cost or by removing the mask counters on it.

Skinthinner’s ability (and similar) trigger on the card being turned face up, so it will also trigger if you turn it face up using the mask ability; it doesn’t require that you paid the morph cost.

Storm Seeker

Q: The other day my friend tried to play Storm Seeker after I'd played Yawgmoth's Will and attempted to do 17 points of damage (7 cards in my hand, 10 in my graveyard) on the idea that because of Yawgmoth's Will these cards were "in my hand". Is this right?
--Victor Van Scoit, Ft. Worth, TX

A: No, this isn’t right. Yawgmoth’s Will says you can play the cards as though they were in your hand - that is, if they're spells, you can cast them, and if they're lands you can put one into play. They aren’t in your hand for any other purpose, so they don’t count as being in your hand for Storm Seeker.

Q: If I activate the ability to destroy Lethal Vapors a hundred times, would I skip my next hundred turns?

A: Yes, you would. Assuming the game doesn’t end before then, your opponent will take the next 101 turns before you get to take another turn.

Q: What happens when I Eradicate a morph? Does it get to see the morph's true identity as it leaves play? Do I still get to sift through my opponent's hand and library even if Eradicate does not see a real identity? Heck, if I look through my opponents library upside down, all the cards in the deck look just like the morph... Similarly, what happens with an Eradicated Clone? Do I look for the name of the creature the Clone copies, or do I look for Clones?

A: When the morph leaves play, you get to see which card it really was; however, you don’t get to search for that card. When anything needs information from a permanent that has left play, rule 410.10d in the Comprehensive Rulebook tells you to look at the permanent as it looked when it was last in play (this is known as Last Known Information). Eradicate will let you look for cards that have no name, but you won’t be able to find any.

Copy creatures like Clone has the characteristics of whatever they are copying, including the name, so if you Eradicate a Clone you get to remove all creatures with the same name as the copied creature. You can’t find “Clone”.

Q: If in a game I attack with Phage the Untouchable and my friend blocks with Akroma, Angel of Wrath, which creature will die?
--Juan Manuel Herrera, Mexico City, Mexico

A: Only Phage will die. Akroma has first strike, so before Phage has a chance to deal any damage, she will take 6 damage from Akroma, and be destroyed. Moreover, Akroma has protection from black, which causes all damage from black sources to be prevented.

For both these reasons, Phage has no chance of damaging Akroma. Since Phage's ability only triggers when damage is dealt, it won’t trigger, and Akroma will live.

Skyship Weatherlight

Q: I have two Skyship Weatherlights in my deck, and I draw one and play it, temporarily removing several cards from the game. However, a couple of turns later, my opponent destroys it before all of the removed cards have been recovered. If I were to draw the other Skyship Weatherlight, could I play it and use it to retrieve the cards removed by its predecessor in addition to any cards that it removes on its own?
--Kate Hartman, Tewksbury, NJ

A: You can’t get the cards removed with the first Skyship with the second. Whenever an ability refers to a card by its name, it looks for that specific card. One Skyship Weatherlight can’t get cards removed by any other Skyship Weatherlight.

Q: Let's say I have boat loads of mana out and I play a Lightning Bolt and then Radiate to make a copy of it hit every legal target; if I played Mind's Desire would I get storm copies of that for every Lightning Bolt created by Radiate?
--Bryan, Plymouth, NH

A: No, you wouldn’t. Storm only counts spell played the usual way, not copies made by Radiate or other effects. The original Bolt would count, as would Radiate, but the copies do not count for storm.

Q: I have a face-down Mischievous Quanar, and I play a Traumatize. Then I morph up my Mischievous Quanar and make a copy of Traumatize, will I take half and then half of that, or will I take half and then take the same number like the first Traumatize? Ex: My friend has 50 cards in his deck; will I take 25 cards with both Traumatize, or will it be 25 and then 12?

A: It would be 25, then 12. The number for “half” isn’t determined until the spell resolves, so the first would see “half” as 25, the second would calculate “half” from the remaining cards.

Q: I have Blood Moon in play. Can my opponent play a Flooded Strand and use it before Blood Moon affects it?

A: No, he can’t. Blood Moon changes the lands the moment they come into play, it comes into play as a Mountain, and won’t have the ability to be sacrificed.

Q: My opponent plays Nature's Revolt. On my turn, I play Humility. Can we tap our creature-lands for mana anymore? What happens if they’re played in the opposite order?
--Eu-Ming Lee

A: You can’t tap the creature-lands for mana at all, regardless of the order the enchantments are played in. Humility takes away the abilities of all creatures, including the mana abilities of the creature-lands. If there had been a later effect giving mana abilities, you could use them, but since Nature’s Revolt just animates the lands, their built-in abilities will always be removed by Humility.


Q: I have a Mirari in play, and I would like to know if I can use Mirari on Reminisce to shuffle my graveyard into my library with the actual spell and then shuffle Reminisce from my graveyard into my library after the spell resolved using the copy from the Mirari. I'm just a little fuzzy on the timing of Mirari's copy of Reminisce and the resolution of the actual spell.
--Daniel McLeod

A: This doesn’t work. Mirari triggers on the Reminisce being played, and the copy will always be put on the stack on top of the original spell. When the copy resolves, the original is still on the stack, so it can’t be shuffled in at that time.

There is a way to do this, though: if you counter the original Reminisce before the copy resolves, then Reminisce (and your counterspell) will be put into the graveyard immediately. Afterwards, when the copy resolves, it will be able to shuffle in those cards.

Q: If I had a Nefashu on the table and there were only two other creatures in play, could I attack? There would be only 3 targets to distribute the 5 -1/-1 across. Without legal targets, is the Nefashu restricted to being a blocker?

A: Nefashu says that it affects up to five target creatures. You always have the option of targeting fewer than five creatures - even zero - if you want. (Note that if you choose fewer targets, each one will still get only -1/-1. Nefashu's ability is not like Shambling Swarm's.)

Also, Nefashu's triggered ability happens "When Nefashu attacks" - i.e. it's a consequence of attacking. If you were somehow stopped from announcing it, only the ability would be affected; Nefashu can always attack.

Q: I have a question regarding your Ovinomancer/Fires of Yavimaya ruling from Saturday School #39. My understanding based on Comprehensive Rules 413.2c is that you cannot choose an option that's impossible to do. The choice on this particular "comes into play" triggered ability is made upon resolution…correct? If so then the option of sacrificing the Ovinomancer is not a legal or valid choice at the time it is made. Please let me know if I am wide of the mark on this one.

A: When you’re given the choice “Do A or do B”, you aren't permitted to make a choice that is impossible. However, the Ovinomancer’s wording is different. It says “sacrifice it unless you return three basic lands to your hand”. The Glossary entry for “unless” in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that this phrase is equal to “You may return three basic lands to your hand. If you don’t, sacrifice it”. The Ovinomancer gives you only one choice: you may return three lands. You can choose not to do this, and then the “penalty” happens: you must sacrifice Ovinomancer, which is now impossible, since it’s no longer in play.

Wheel and Deal

Q: I play an Akroma, Angel of Wrath. My friend plays a Wheel and Deal in response, and says I have to discard the Akroma with my hand. I argue that Akroma is already on the stack and no longer in my hand, and he says that he didn't have a chance to play his instant. Does my Akroma go to play or does she go to the graveyard with the rest of my hand?
--Kevin Brown

A: If it’s your turn, the stack is empty and you have priority, you can play Akroma before your opponent has the chance to play anything. When you play the spell, it goes to the stack, and is no longer in your hand. If your opponent responds to this with Wheel and Deal, you can’t discard Akroma since it isn’t in your hand.

Your opponent could have played Wheel and Deal in your upkeep or draw step, but in your main phase, you have priority until you pass it, so you can play Akroma before your opponent can do anything.

It is not legal for your opponent to wait until you play a powerful spell and then decide that he meant to play Wheel and Deal on you right beforehand.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

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