Saturday School #44

Posted in Feature on September 20, 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


Q: If I have no creatures can I still play Skulltap?
--Jamie Pacris, N Vancouver, Canada

A: No, you can't. If you can't pay the cost of a spell when you play it, the action is cancelled and reversed - it's not possible to get a spell through without being able to pay all its cost.

Q: My friend and I were playing and he wanted to use Revive to bring a Forest card from his graveyard to his hand? I wasn't sure if the forest is green or colorless? I looked in the rules, but did not find what color "land" was.
--Chris Bor

A: Land cards are colorless unless they have been changed by a spell or effect. You can find a card's color by looking at the mana symbols in the upper right corner of the card, if it doesn't have any colored symbols, and no text saying that they are a certain color, cards are considered colorless.

Q: I was battling with my cousin and I played a Goblin Grappler which has provoke. My cousin played a Thalakos Seer which has shadow. If i attacked with my Goblin Grappler and used provoke would Thalakos Seer have to block? My cousin says no because he has shadow. I say yes. Who is right?

A: Your cousin is right. You can provoke any creature that can be targeted by the ability, but it won't automatically give the creature the ability to block. Provoke forces the creature to block if it's able to, but since creatures with shadow can't block creatures without shadow, it's not able to block the Grappler.

Q: I played a Phage the Untouchable with 2 Islands left untapped. My friend countered it with a Rewind, and I played Meddle. Since there was no other creature spell played, would the Rewind be countered since it would have no other legal target? I say it would, but my friend says that my Meddle would be countered because the redirection must be redirected to a legal target. Who is correct here?
--David, New Jersey

A: Neither of you are correct. When Meddle resolves, it sees that the target of Meddle isn't targeting a creature (creatures exists only in play, and the Phage on the stack is a creature spell), and does nothing.

If you had used a redirection effect which could actually affect Rewind (Deflection, for example), then you would be able to counter the Rewind. Here's how – while Deflection is resolving, there are three spells on the stack: Phage, Rewind, and Deflection. Rewind can't target itself (the rules say spells can't target themselves), but it's able to target either of the other two.

In other words: you can make it target Deflection itself! Immediately afterwards, Deflection will finish resolving and leave the stack, so when Rewind tries to resolve, it will find that its target is missing, and it will be countered. Result: your Phage resolves as normal, and your opponent doesn't get to untap any lands.

Q: I've a question about the card Quash. It says "Counter target instant or sorcery spell. Search its controller's graveyard, hand, and library for all cards with the same name as that card and remove them from the game. That player then shuffles his or her library." Can I play it against a non-legal target (like a creature)? The creature will come into play because not countered but can I look into my opponent's graveyard, hand and library for other creatures with the same name? The two sentences of the cards are totally separated.

A: You must choose legal targets for spells and abilities when you play them, and the target of Quash is an "instant or sorcery spell." You can't play the spell at all without a legal target. If the target somehow becomes illegal after Quash has been played (for example countered by another spell), the entire Quash spell is countered on resolution, and you don't get to search.

Eighth Edition Questions

Rukh Egg

Q: My opponent played a Rukh Egg. I then played Confiscate on it during my turn. Later, when the Egg is destroyed, who gets the token? I say I do because I controlled it when it left play, but my opponent argued that he got the token because the Rukh Egg to his graveyard, not mine. Who is right?

A: You are right. Abilities that trigger on something leaving play looks back in time to right before the trigger moment to determine what triggers and who controls the ability. Since you were the last controller of the Egg, the ability triggers for you, and you get the token. See rule 410.10d in the Comprehensive Rulebook for more information.

Q: In Saturday School #42, you said that Sulfuric Vortex won't affect the ability of Worship because Worship's ability doesn't involve life gain. What makes Worship different than Form of the Dragon? You have repeatedly said that when Form of the Dragon resets a player's life total to 5, it counts as life gain or life loss, and it can be prevented by Sulfuric Vortex.
--Tony Bendinelli, South Bend, IN

A: Sulfuric Vortex and Worship are quite similar to each other. Sulfuric Vortex says, effectively, that if an effect would make a player's life total increase, instead nothing happens. And Worship says, effectively, that if damage would make your life total decrease, instead nothing happens.

The two don't interact. Sulfuric Vortex nullifies life-gaining effects, and Worship nullifies life-losing effects. They are both very different from Form of the Dragon, which tries to cause a life-gaining or life-losing effect.

Living Terrain

Q: What happens to my Living Terrain when I play Natural Affinity and Pyroclasm?

A: The two effects that change the type of the land are applied in the order they started, so if Natural Affinity is played after Living Terrain, all lands will be 2/2 creatures, including the enchanted land. Pyroclasm will deal 2 damage to all creatures, and all lands will most likely die.

To make this trick work, you'd need to play all three spells on the same turn. First, play Natural Affinity, making all lands 2/2. Then enchant a land with Living Terrain, making it 5/6. Then play Pyroclasm to kill all the other lands.

Q: Connecting to a question from last week about the interaction between Aether Flash, Nature's Revolt and Sacred Ground. What if Lethal Vapors is in play? Will this cause a loop ending in a draw?
--  Fblthp, the Lost

A: It would cause a loop and draw the game if Nature's Revolt is in play, and one player has Lethal Vapors and the other player has Sacred Ground and plays a land. The land will be destroyed by Lethal Vapors, Sacred Ground returns it, and the loop will go on forever unless someone wants to destroy Lethal Vapors at some point in time. Aether Flash is not really part of the combo, since lands destroyed by damage won't be returned by Sacred Ground, since they're destroyed by the game rules, not a player.

Q: Will Sacred Ground save an animated Treetop Village from Lightning Bolt?

A: No, it won't. Lightning Bolt simply deals 3 damage, it can never destroys anything. Instead, just after the Bolt resolves, the game rules will look around for lethally damaged creatures, and destroy any that they find. Sacred Ground only triggers when spells destroy things, not when the game rules do, so it will have no effect here.

Q: I have an Aether Flash out and my opponent plays a Yavimaya Enchantress. I said that the Enchantress dies because its ability triggers after the Aether Flash's. He thinks the opposite though. Who is right?
--Eric Imhoff, Cincinnati, Ohio

A: None of you are exactly right. The Enchantress has a static ability that applies all the time it's in play - it's not triggered (doesn't start with "at", "when" or "whenever"), as soon as the Enchantress is in play, it gets the bonus. It will be 3/3 from the instant it's in play, and will not die to the 2 damage from Aether Flash.

Q: Can a Royal Assassin destroy itself?

A: No, it can't. Since you choose targets before you pay costs, you must legally target a tapped creature before you tap the Assassin to pay the cost.

General / Older Card Questions

Ancient Ooze

Q: My question deals with Ancient Ooze. My opponent had a creature with converted mana cost of two, and another with converted mana cost of 3, making Ancient Ooze a 5/5 creature. During his attack phase, he attacks with all three creatures. I block his other two creatures, killing them. I don't block Ancient Ooze. He casts Enrage with 10 mana. Do I take 15 damage, or 10? The consensus was that I would still take the 15 damage, but it raised an interesting question. At what point during the combat phase would the game see that the other creatures are gone and Ancient Ooze has a power and toughness = 0/0?

A: All regular combat damage happens at the same time, so the blockers deal damage to the blocked creatures as the same time as the Ooze deals damage to you. All the creatures are alive when the Ooze assigns damage, so yes, it does assign the full 15.

The game's check for lethal damage is a state based effect, so it's checked every time a player gets priority. (Basically, that's every moment of the game, except while a spell or ability is resolving). Straight after combat damage resolves, before anybody can do anything, the lethally damaged creatures will die. And straight after that, the Ooze will die too.

Q: If a permanent with its kicker cost leaves play via Tawnos's Coffin and is returned to play later, is the kicker still applied?
--Sean Lannin, Seattle

A: Yes, it is. Tawnos' Coffin's Oracle text says that the creature phases out. When phased-out creatures return, they remember their past histories, such as counters and if kicker was paid. Read more about phasing in section 502.15 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

(Note that Tawnos' Coffin – and Oubliette, incidentally – only work this way because of their new wording. Other effects of this type, such as Astral Slide and Liberate, will make the permanent forget that its kicker was paid.)

Q: When combat damage is placed on the stack is it treated as 1 or multiple sources? The reason I ask is when Phantom Centaur is dealt damage by 3 creatures you only remove one counter as the damage counts as one source – but if I have a Sphere of Duty and get damaged by 3 Grizzly Bears it is my understanding that it will prevent all 6 points of damage. Is this the case? If so why?

A: Yes, Sphere of Duty will prevent all 6 damage. Be careful when using the term "source": it always means a single object which deals damage. When 3 Grizzly Bears attack, they are always 3 sources of damage, even though they deal that damage simultaneously.

The difference between Sphere of Duty and Phantom Centaur is in their wordings. Sphere of Duty applies "If a green source would deal damage to you". This applies to each green source that deals damage, so if damage is dealt by 3 sources, it will apply 3 times.

Phantom Centaur, on the other hand, simply applies "If damage would be dealt to Phantom Centaur". It doesn't refer to a "source" at all, so no matter how many sources deal damage, it can prevent all of it in one go.


Q: Can you explain how Fork interacts with a spell with kicker paid, a spell with buyback paid, and a spell with storm?

A: Fork puts a copy of the targeted spell on the stack, and the copy has all the costs and options of the original locked in, except for color, and you may choose new targets for the copy. A Fork-copy will have kicker paid if the kicker was paid on the original, but you can't pay additional kicker for the copy.

The same goes for buyback – if buyback was paid for the original, the copy will also have it paid. However, these days Fork creates a copy of a spell instead of being one itself. If you Fork a spell with buyback paid, the copy will also have it paid, so it will return to your hand (and disappear). You can't get the Fork itself to return to your hand this way.

A Forked spell with storm will not trigger storm, since the copy wasn't played, it was just put directly on the stack.

Q: In your article on September 13th you explained about announcing a spell and then paying the mana vs. getting the mana first then announcing the spell. My question is about Lion's Eye Diamond. Why can't it be used to pay for a spell if you announce it first and then sacrifice the Diamond, discarding your hand (the spell already announced is no longer in your hand), and getting the mana? I'm assuming it can't be done because a judge at a recent event said that it can't be, but your example about the goblins and sacrificing them for mana seems very similar.

A: It's very similar, and would work except for the line added to the Diamond's Oracle text: "Play this ability only any time you could play an instant". You can't play instants during the announcements of spells or abilities, so you need to activate it before you play the spell you wish to pay for, and the hand is gone before you get the mana to spend. This change was made to mirror its original functionality, under Fifth Edition rules.

Q: If I had an Aluren and two Krosan Drovers in play, could I play a Rorix Bladewing from my hand with out paying its mana cost?

A: No, you couldn't. Aluren looks at the converted mana cost of the card, and this is always found by adding up at the numbers and symbols in the top right corner of the card. Krosan Drover can only make it cost less to play it – almost nothing can change the actual cost on a card.

Q: I was at a tournament recently, and in one of the final matches my opponent and I shuffled our decks and gave them to each other to cut. He then cuts my deck in half like normal, but I have my own trademark cut where I kind do the same thing as normal but I separate the deck into thirds and not into halves. He then picked up his deck and started shuffling after I cut it. Every time he gave his deck to me to cut I would do the same type of cut I usually do and he would shuffle. After about five minutes of shuffling I told him if he does that one more time I am going to call him on stalling the game and get him DQ'ed. He then says that if his opponent doesn't cut the deck in a normal way, by one half, then he is allowed to reshuffle. Is this true? Could I have called him on delaying the game if he kept doing this?

A: The DCI definition of "cut" is "One time only, removing a single portion of a deck and placing it on top of the remaining portion without looking at any of the card faces. Anything more than this one cut is considered a shuffle". If you cut the opponent's deck using another method than putting one part of the deck on top of the rest of the deck, it's considered a shuffle - but your opponent is still not allowed to shuffle any more. If you shuffle your opponent's deck, all he or she is allowed to do afterwards is cutting it, so your opponent won't have the opportunity to reshuffle the deck.

Transmogrifying Licid

Q: Can I put Transmogrifying Licid on a creature, Shatter the creature, and save my Licid by ending the effect before it goes to the graveyard?

A: No, you can't. The creature stops being an artifact when you end the Licid's effect, and Shatter will be countered on resolution because the target is illegal. Either the Licid is on and dies as an enchantment, or it is off and the creature is not an artifact. You can't have both.

Q: My opponent has in play 2 Llanowar Elves (tapped) and a Blastoderm. I attack with a face-down creature, he blocks with Blastoderm, my creature dies. After I attack I play Slice and Dice, hoping to kill all his creatures. He says Blastoderm can't be target of spells, so Blastoderm takes no damage. Is he right?
--Emiliano, Uruguay, South America

A: He's not right. Blastoderm can't be the target of spells or abilities, but Slice and Dice doesn't target anything (it doesn't say the word "target"). Hence, the Blastoderm's ability is irrelevant here: it will take 4 damage from Slice and Dice, and will most likely die.

Q: My play group is still unsure about the Frontline Strategist's morph ability. I have a Strategist face down, another Strategist in play face up, and two Bird Soldiers. I attack with all four creatures and my opponent blocks each of them with four Goblins so I turn the Strategist face up. I say that all my creatures take no damage and deal damage to his but he says that only the Strategists deal damage and the Bird Soldiers don't because in addition to being Soldiers, they're also Birds. Who is right?

A: You are right. Rule 413.2g in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that "An effect that refers to characteristics of an object checks only for the value of the specified characteristics, regardless of any related ones the object may also have." This means that as long as the creatures are Soldiers, the answer to the questions "is this a non-Soldier" is no, and they will deal damage.

Q: I have a Goblin Sharpshooter and my opponent has three 1/1 Elves. He plays a Shock on my Sharpshooter. In response I tap my Sharpshooter to kill one Elf. But, can I kill the other two Elves using my Sharpshooter before it dies by the Shock?

A: Yes, you can. When the Sharpshooter kills the first Elf, its triggered ability triggers, and goes on the stack on top of the Shock that's still waiting. When the ability resolves, you can untap the Sharpshooter and kill another Elf – and repeat this for the third elf before Shock finally resolves and kills the Sharpshooter.


Q: Can I get a rules clarification concerning Tephraderm's damage returning ability? The following situation came up last weekend. My opponent had a creature boosted with Blanchwood Armor enchantment to 11/10 total, and when it attacked, I blocked with my Tephraderm (4/5). But then we couldn't decide if how much damage Tephraderm would actually take so as to determine how much damage it would do back to the attacker. Does lethal damage stop at the Tephraderm's toughness (5 in this case), or is it the total applied damage based on the power of the attacker (the attacker doesn't have trample, and there is only one blocker)?
--Bruce Patenaude

A: The full damage (11) is dealt to the Tephraderm, and when the triggered ability resolves, it will use that number for the damage that's dealt back to the attacker. It's possible for a creature to take more damage than its toughness.

Q: Let's say a Femeref Enchantress had a Holy Strength on it. Now a Terror is played on it, and it is destroyed. Does the effect of the card allow them to draw a card when the Holy Strength goes into the graveyard along with the Femeref Enchantress?

A: No, it doesn't. This is because the Enchantress is destroyed first by Terror, but the enchantment sticks around a bit longer. Local enchantments without anything to enchant are put into the graveyard when state-based effects are checked next, in this case right after Terror has resolved. Since the Enchantress is already dead, the ability isn't active, and you don't get to draw a card.

Q: I have a Dragon Mage in play, Words of Waste, and seven mana. I attack with my Dragon and it deals damage to my opponent. Can I activate my Words of Waste to make him discard his entire new hand?
--Andy of N.Y.

A: You can make him discard all but one card. Rule 413.2d says in part that players make choices in order (active player first, then the non-active player), then all actions are carried out simultaneously. Since card drawing is done sequentially, players draw one card at a time, both at the same time.

Assuming that you activate Words 7 times first: First, you both discard your hands. Then you're supposed to draw a card each at the same time, but Words replaces your draw with an opponent's discard, and your opponent fails to discard since he or she doesn't have any, and then draws the first card. As the second card would be drawn, you skip the draw, and your opponent discards the card he or she has, before drawing another. Repeat this process until you have skipped seven draws. Your opponent would keep the last card in his or her hand.

Q: If a player destroys Mobilization after his or her opponent has declared his or her attacking Soldiers, do those Soldiers tap as a result?

A: No, they don't. When attackers are declared, they either get tapped, or they don't. From then on, it doesn't matter what happens to Mobilization.

Decree of Silence

Q: If Decree of Silence already has two counters on it, and your opponent plays a third spell, can the Decree's triggered ability "counterspell" that spell and yet not be sacrificed if its controller can bounce (ala Boomerang) or recycle (ala Oblation) the Decree? How does this work? Why would one have priority to split the resolving trigger into two parts: allowing the "counterspell this" ability to resolve and then interrupting the "add the third bead, sacrifice this" ability with a bounce/recycle effect?

A: Yes, this trick works. It has nothing to do with "splitting" the triggered ability; all you need to do is respond to the trigger by bouncing the Decree. The trigger will still resolve, and when it does so, it will do all its effects in order: First, counter the spell that was played. Next, put a counter on the Decree – oops, we can't do that, never mind. Finally, check whether there are three or more counters on the Decree. Last time we saw it, there were only two counters, so it's fine, we don't try to sacrifice it.

Q: I attack with a 1/1 Goblin and my opponent blocks with a Galina's Knight with Zephid's Embrace on it. I then play Venomous Breath on the Goblin. My opponent refuses to believe that the Knight dies. Can you explain why?
--Sacha Platteeuw, The Netherlands

A: Zephid's Embrace protects the Knight against spells that try to target it. Unfortunately, Venomous Breath only has one target (it only says "target creature" once), and that's the Goblin, not the Knight. It simply affects the Knight without targeting it, so Zephid's Embrace is irrelevant here.

Protection from red has four effects - damaging, enchanting, blocking, and targeting - abbreviated DEBT.

  1. The Knight can't be damaged by red sources. This is irrelevant - Venomous Breath says it affects all creatures blocking the Goblin, regardless of whether the Goblin can deal any damage to them.

  2. The Knight can't be enchanted by red enchantments. This is obviously irrelevant, since there aren't any red enchantments in this case.

  3. The Knight can't be blocked by red creatures. Again, this is obviously irrelevant, since the Goblin isn't blocking.

  4. The Knight can't be the target of red spells or abilities. This is just a weaker version of Zephid's Embrace, and we've already seen why that one doesn't work.

None of the effects you've mentioned can stop Venomous Breath from working. "Destroy all" effects, like Wrath of God and Perish, ignore protection because they don't target or damage anything. Venomous Breath is just another "destroy all" effect, and it has the same advantage as the others.

Q: If my opponent plays a nonblue instant during my turn (ie: Shock – though any nonblue spell will work), could I play Thoughtlace targeting that spell, and then play Seedtime after the Thoughtlace resolved and take an extra turn? Or would the Seedtime have no effect because the spell was not blue when my opponent played it?

A: Seedtime looks for a blue spell having been played by an opponent, it doesn't look for a blue spell having been on the stack. For Seedtime to have its effect, the spell must have been blue at the moment it was played.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

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