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Q: What is priority? I'm playing magic for quite some time now but never heard of it. What is it and how is it used?
--Tom, Rotterdam, Netherlands
A: Since players often want to do things in the game at the same time (which isn’t possible), we have a system called priority that determines who is allowed to play things at any given time. You can only play spells and abilities when you have priority.
The active player (who has the turn) gets priority at the beginning of each step and phase, so the active player always has the first chance to play anything in his or her own turn. The player keeps priority until he or she is done playing things, and then passes priority to the other player, who can then play spells and abilities, or pass again. If both players pass without playing anything in between, the top spell or ability on the stack resolves, and the active player gets priority afterwards, starting the cycle again. If both players pass in succession, and the stack is empty, the game moves to the next step or phase in the game.
For more, see rule 408 and the Glossary entry for "Priority" in the Comprehensive Rulebook.
A: You get the mana. Birds of Paradise has a mana ability, and it gives you the mana right away when the Birds are tapped. A general rule is that destroying the source of an ability doesn’t stop the ability from working.
2) Also, another question: I sac my Pernicious Deed for 4, and my opponent says, "In response I play Naturalize to destroy it." I think that he wont be able to do that because I've already sacrificed it to pay the cost, and therefore its no longer a target for Naturalize. I'm not sure about that one, so can you help out?
A: You’re right, the Deed is sacrificed when you activate the it, so it’s not a legal target for Naturalize. Additionally, if your opponent tried to Naturalize it first, you can activate the Deed in response. As long as you have mana untapped, he can't stop you from using the Deed with a Naturalize.
Q: I have a Puppeteer in play and my opponent an Elvish Piper. How does priority work during my opponent's upkeep? I want to use the Puppeteer to tap the Piper and the opponent wants to tap him to play a creature.
A: Your opponent gets priority first in his or her upkeep, so your opponent can tap the Piper to put a creature into play before you can tap it. Your opponent can also tap the Piper in response to you trying to tap it with the Puppeteer. You can't really stop the Piper with the Puppeteer.
Q: All my friends and I normally tap our lands then play the spell, but I was once told that the correct way was to announce the spell, place it on the board, then tap your lands for mana, which of these ways are correct?
A: Both of these are allowed, but tapping the lands and getting the mana after having announced the spell is usually better, since it can in some cases give you better options.
An example: You have Skirk Prospector, Goblin Warchief, and two Mountains. You want to play Siege-Gang Commander, which usually costs . If you first announce the spell, you lock in the cost (being , since the Warchief reduces the cost by ), then you pay it, using the two Mountains and sacrificing the Warchief and the Prospector to the Prospector’s ability. This would not have been possible if you had gotten all the mana before playing the spell, since the Warchief would not be in play at the time when the spell would be played, and the spell would not be cheaper.
Eighth Edition Questions
A: No, Maro will still live. You don’t check the toughness of a creature during the resolution of the ability, only after, when a player would get priority. Even if your hand is momentarily empty, the game doesn’t check Maro’s toughness at that time.
Q: Recently I played a friendly game of Magic with a friend of mine. I played a white deck featuring Chastise and he was playing another white deck which featured Reconnaissance. When he attacked me with a creature, I played Chastise to gain life and destroy it. But then he used the ability of Reconnaissance to remove it from combat. What happens to the creature? Is it destroyed and do I gain life equal to its power, or is it simply removed from combat and my Chastise rendered completely useless?
A: Reconnaissance removes the creature from combat, meaning that it’s no longer attacking. It’s no longer a valid target for Chastise, and the spell is countered, so it has no effect.
Q: A friend of mine has this very irritating land destruction deck. For this reason I put a single Sacred Ground in my deck. He plays Misguided Rage, and I have to sacrifice a land because I have no creatures or artifacts out. He says that I can't get it back with Sacred Ground because sacrificing the land is controlled by me and not him. I say that the effect of Misguided Rage is controlled by him, which allows me to put the land back into play. Who is right?
A: You are right. Spells are controlled by the player who played them, and that’s the only thing Sacred Ground looks for. It doesn’t matter who chose the land that was sacrificed, only who controlled the spell, and that’s your opponent. You get the land back.
Q: Maybe you could clarify exactly how to handle the following situation. I control Aether Flash and Nature's Revolt, so whenever a land comes into play it is dealt 2 damage and sent to the graveyard. But my opponent controls Sacred Ground. What happens if she plays a land? The obvious answer (the land bounces back and forth forever until someone concedes) doesn't really seem right...
A: Her lands come into play and die. Aether Flash deals damage to the lands, but don’t destroy them directly. When a player would gain priority afterwards, the game checks for state-based effects, sees a creature with lethal damage, and destroys it. Sacred Ground only returns lands that are destroyed directly by a spell or ability, but it doesn’t return lands destroyed by the game rules (which nobody control).
In other words, damage never destroys creatures. The rules destroy them if they have taken sufficient damage.
Q: I have always been puzzled about the following situation. I have Defense Grid in play and my opponent plays Force of Will by the alternate cost (pitching a card and losing 1 life) during my turn. Does he still have to play 3 colorless to play it? Defense Grid state during each player's turn, spells played by another player cost an additional , but Force of Will states you can pitch a blue card and lose 1 life instead of paying Force of Will's mana cost. Is the +3 from Defense Grid added to the mana cost? If so, will he still have to pay 3 despite removing a blue card and losing 1 life to ignore the cost?
A: He still has to pay . Cards with alternate ways of playing them only replace the mana cost, which is printed in the upper right corner of the card. Any other costs still have to be paid as normal.
Q: My opponent has a Millstone out and I have an Ivory Mask. Can he still use the Millstone on me? It says "target player's library." He says that Millstone is not targeting the player, only his library. But I think that it targets the player. Who is right?
A: You are right. All spells and abilities that target a players [something] target the player, and Ivory Mask will stop that.
Q: I play Hymn to Tourach, and my opponent discards Guerrilla Tactics to deal 4 damage to my Serra Angel. Can I protect it with my Devoted Caretaker? Is the discarded Tactics considered to be an instant?
A: You can protect it with the Devoted Caretaker. The Guerilla Tactics card is still the source of the triggered ability, and protection from instants will prevent the damage from Guerilla Tactics, even if it’s discarded.
Q: Can I bluff an activation of Elvish Piper? Meaning pay and tap it if I have no creatures in hand? If I do have a creature in hand and I activate the Piper, am I obligated to put it into play?
A: You can activate Elvish Piper without a creature in hand, and nothing special happens when the ability resolves. If you do have a creature, you must put it into play, since the Piper doesn’t give you the option of not doing it. In a tournament, the judge will verify that you have no creatures in hand so you don’t have to reveal your hand to the opponent to prove it.
General / Older Card Questions
A: Yes, he will. Effects that ask if a split card’s characteristic (such as converted mana cost) matches a specific value, the answer is “yes” if either of the sides match the value. Since both sides of Fire/Ice have a converted mana cost of 2, your opponent must discard it. Likewise, Void for 1 will cause the player to discard Assault/Battery, since one of the sides has a converted mana cost of 1. This can be found in rule 505.6 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.
Q: My opponent played a Consumptive Goo and with no other creatures in play, used Consumptive Goo's ability on itself. He said it doesn't die because it gets the +1/+1 counter. I disagree. Does the Goo stay alive or die?
A: The Goo stays alive. While the Goo is 0/0 for a short while during the resolution of the spell, the game doesn’t check for state-based effects (such as if the creature has a toughness greater than zero) during resolution, it waits until after the spell has fully resolved, and at that time, the Goo has got the counter, is 1/1, and lives.
Q: I have a Lightning Rift in play and an Eternal Dragon in my hand. I cycle the Dragon for a Plains, keep priority, put the land into play, and then use it to pay for the Lightning Rift's triggered ability. This seems to be similar to the madness ability. Does it work?
A: No, it doesn’t. Lightning Rift triggers off the cycling ability, so it has to go on the stack on top of the “search for a land” landcycling ability. You have to pay for Lightning Rift’s ability before you get the land. Also, in the case of madness, the stack is empty for a brief period of time, where you can play the land – this is not the case here.
Q: My opponent attacks with his Masticore. I block with my White Knight, and after blockers is declared, I play Humble on his Masticore. Can my opponent put a regeneration shield on his Masticore in response to Humble? Will this allow the Masticore to survive the combat damage?
A: He can respond by putting on a shield, and the Masticore will survive. Humble only remove abilities on creatures, it doesn’t remove effects, such as regeneration shields, that are already on it.
Q: I had a question involving the stack when using a Mischievous Quanar. Let's say I have a Quanar face-down and two blue mana and one colorless mana available to morph it. My opponent plays Insurrection. I respond by morphing my Quanar and copying his Insurrection. Does my copy automatically go on top of the stack, or do I get to choose what order they're put on? Or is there another option?
A: The copy goes on top of the stack – it’s not possible to put anything in the middle of the stack. Your Insurrection copy would resolve first, and the original would resolve last, meaning that your opponent would still end up having all the creatures in the end.
Q: Can you deal fractional damage to a creature or player? For instance, if there are two 3/3 creatures and a Furnace of Rath in play, can I destroy both creatures by playing Rolling Thunder, paying 3 for X, and dealing 1.5 damage to each creature? This subject has been the subject of long debate between my friend and I. It would be great if you could answer it. Thank you.
--Jonathan Bohn, Wisconsin
A: It’s not possible to deal fractional damage – you must divide the damage in whole numbers. The Furnace’s has a replacement effect, which only doubles the damage as it’s being dealt, during the resolution of the spell. You divide 3 damage between the creatures (probably 1 and 2), then the damage is doubled to 2 and 4, meaning that one of the creatures will survive.
Q: My opponent has out a Skyshroud Behemoth. I enchant it with Backfire on my turn. Then my opponent attacks me his next 2 turns. He says I die first, and he wins. I argue that because of Backfire, we die at the same time and the game's a draw. who's right?
A: Your opponent is right. Backfire has a triggered ability that triggers on the damage being dealt. The damage is first dealt to the player damaged by the Behemoth, then the game checks for state-based effects, and sees that you are dead before the Backfire ability goes on the stack.
Q: If my opponent attacked me with a Raven Guild Master and I played Captain's Maneuver and redirected it's damage to my opponent, would they then have to remove the top ten cards of his library from the game?
A: Your opponent would have to remove cards. The redirected damage is still combat damage dealt by the Guild Master, and the damaged player has to remove cards. Damage redirection effects are one of the few things that can cause a creature to deal combat damage to its own controller.
A: If you would be dealt damage (from Underworld Dreams or Sulfuric Vortex), you put a counter on Delaying Shield instead, Lich won’t trigger since the damage didn’t happen. In your upkeep, you’ll lose 1 life for each counter on Delaying Shield. This will trigger Transcendence. When Transcendence’s ability resolves, the life gain is replaced by either the effect from Sulfuric Vortex, where nothing happens, or Lich’s effect, causing you to draw cards, your choice. If you draw cards, your opponent’s Underworld Dreams will trigger, and you’ll add counters to Delaying Shield instead of taking damage.
Q: If I activate Library of Alexandria to draw a card, but untap it (say with a Deserted Temple) while the ability is still on the stack, then activate it again, is the second draw countered because I have eight cards in my hand, or has it already been 'played'?
A: It has already been played, and you’ll draw another card. The Library has a restriction that only allows you to activate it with 7 cards in hand, but after activation, it doesn’t recheck your hand size.
A: No, that doesn’t work. Mind Twist will first discard up to 10 cards from your hand, and Spiritual Focus will trigger once for each card discarded. After Mind Twist has finished resolving, you gain 2 life, and you may draw a card (optional, since it says “may”). The card you drew will not be discarded, since Mind Twist has finished resolving.
A: No, it won’t. Ambush Commander and Living Lands only change lands that are in play to creatures. The land cards in your hand are not creatures, and you still have to follow the normal rules for playing lands, which usually has a once-per-turn limit.
Q: If one player had a Nosy Goblin and the other had a face-down creature, and the Goblin's owner used its ability, could the second player turn his card up in response? If so, what would happen to the Goblin?
A: The Goblin is sacrificed as you pay the cost of it’s ability. The ability calls for “target face-down creature”, and if the creature isn’t face down when it resolves, the ability is countered because the target is illegal. Costs are not refunded, and the Goblin stays dead.
A: He gets the 3/3 creature. All the permanents are destroyed at the same time, and the game looks back in time to right before the trigger moment, to determine if anything triggers, and sees the Elephant Guide. It triggers, and he gets a token.
A: You can, if X is 2 or less. On the stack, the value of X is used to determine a spell’s converted mana cost. If X is higher than 2, the converted mana cost of Blaze is above 3, and it can’t be targeted by Blaze, but if X is 2 or less, you can Liquify Blaze.
Q: My opponent plays a Flametongue Kavu and targets my Transmogrifying Licid. Can I move the Licid onto the Flametongue in response, and move it off again before the ability resolves? Or will my Licid die?
A: In this case, the Licid will die. It’s still the same permanent, even if it changes form from creature to enchantment and back again, and the Kavu’s ability will track it all the time, and if it’s a creature when the ability resolves, it’ll take the damage and die. If you leave it as an enchantment until after the Kavu’s ability has resolved, however, it will survive, because if the Licid isn’t a legal target (a creature) when the ability resolves, the ability is countered and deals no damage.
A: The creature is still returned. When the ability resolves, it will do as much as possible of its effect. The game will remember which creature was enchanted, and the creature will be returned even if the enchantment isn’t there anymore. The enchantment itself will not come back, as it was destroyed and can only return from play.
A: Mogg Fanatic can target itself. You choose targets before paying costs, so it can target itself and then be sacrificed to pay the cost. Marker Beetles has a triggered ability that triggers when it’s put in the graveyard, and you can only choose targets for it when the ability is put on the stack after the creature is gone from play. It can’t target itself, because it’s not in play when you choose targets.
Thanks to Lee Sharpe for feedback and proofreading.