Saturday School #53

Posted in Feature on November 22, 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.

Mirrodin Questions

Q: If I imprint a Muscle Burst on Isochron Scepter, will the second part of the effect work with the copies?

A: The second part works with the copies, each copy will count the number of Muscle Bursts in all graveyards for the bonus. Of course, only actual cards in the graveyard would be counted. The copies themselves don't count as cards. (In fact, the copies will cease to exist as soon as they reach the graveyard.)

Isochron Scepter
Q: I was wondering how Isochron Scepter and Defense Grid would interact. Say I have a Counterspell or similar imprinted onto my Scepter, and my opponent has a Defense Grid in play. If I wanted to counter something he is playing on his turn, would I have to pay the 3 mana for the Defense Grid?

A: Yes, you would. Spells played with the Scepter are still affected by effects that modify the cost to play spells, and since the Scepter specifically says that you play the spell when the spell resolves, you have to pay 3 mana for the spell, in addition to the 2 mana it cost to activate the Scepter.

Q: If I have an Isochron Scepter imprinted with a Shrapnel Blast, can I sacrifice that same Scepter when I activate it to use the Blast?

A: Yes, you can. When the Scepter’s ability resolves, you can play the Blast, and you can sacrifice any artifact you control to pay its additional cost. After the Scepter has been activated, the game doesn’t require that the Scepter itself is in play anymore for the copied spell to take effect.

Q: What would happen if I were to use a Sculpting Steel on an artifact that says it comes into play tapped? Would it come into play tapped, or would it be untapped?

A: Sculpting Steel copies everything on the card it copies, and this includes any modifiers to how it comes into play, such as it coming into play tapped, with counters, or similar. If you Sculpting Steel a card like Nevinyrral’s Disk, the copy also comes into play tapped.

Q: After Scythe of the Wretched is attached to a creature that has been destroyed and returned, can it be moved by paying the equipment cost? And if it is removed, does the returned creature go back to the graveyard?

A: After the creature has come back, the Scythe can be moved just like any other equipment. The returned creature stays in play, the ability doesn’t say that anything happens when the creature is no longer equipped with the Scythe.

Q: I have a Slith Ascendant equipped with a Banshee's Blade and a Fireshrieker. If I attack and the Ascendant is not blocked, when exactly do the +1/+1 counters and charge counters get added? How much damage do I do to my opponent?

A: Both the Blade and the Ascendant’s abilities trigger when combat damage is dealt. If you assume that there are no counters present when you start, the Ascendant would first deal 1 damage in the first combat damage step, and then both the abilities trigger. Each of the abilities put on counters, so the Ascendant would be 3/3 in the second combat damage, and would deal 3 more points of damage, for a total of 4. The abilities would trigger again, and Slith Ascendant would be 5/5 after the attack, with two counters on the Ascendant and two counters on the Blade.

Q: I have a question about Disciple of the Vault. If I sacrifice a token artifact creature, does that count as an artifact entering a graveyard from play, and thus deal 1 damage, or does this not work?

A: This works. The Disciple’s ability triggers on any artifact that is put in the graveyard, including artifact creatures. Tokens go to the graveyard just like regular creatures, and then cease to exist, but they still have time to trigger any abilities that look for permanents going to the graveyard.

Disciple of the Vault
Q: Suppose I have a couple of Myrs (say ten) and two Disciples of the Vault. My opponent plays a Wrath of God or Pyroclasm. Does it mean that my opponent will be dead due to my two Disciples?

A: Yes, it does. When dealing with abilities that trigger off permanents leaving play, the game looks back in time to right before the permanents left play to see if anything triggers. All the Myrs left the play at the same time, and right before this, the Disciples were in play. Each destroyed Myr would trigger each Disciple of the Vault, and your opponent would lose 20 life.

Q: Can I use Power Conduit to put a counter on Time Vault, for example one from Magistrate’s Scepter, and then untap it with Voltaic Key to take another turn?

A: This won’t work. There are many different types of counters, and Time Vault requires that you remove a time counter to activate its ability, while Power Conduit creates charge counters, and they don’t have the same type. You have to actually skip the turn to put a time counter on Time Vault.
However, Magistrate’s Scepter uses charge counters, and if you can get counters from somewhere, you can use Power Conduit to give extra counters the Scepter can use, to get an extra turn a bit faster.

Q: I play a Spellweaver Helix and imprint for example Hammer of Bogardan and a Thoughtcast. If my opponent were to play Thoughtcast, would I then copy Hammer of Bogardan and "play the copy" even though it is the other player’s turn?

A: Yes, you would. The Helix lets you break the rules and play the imprinted card right away, even though it’s during the resolution of an ability and even during another player’s turn. This is the only chance you have to play it – you can’t wait until later, you have to play it right away or not at all.

Q: When you activate Goblin Charbelcher, when do you choose targets? Everybody seems to disagree with me that you choose it on activation, they believe the damage is set, then the target is chosen.

A: You choose the target when the ability is activated. Any time an ability has a target, the target must be chosen when the ability goes on the stack, even though the text of the card can make it look like you do something before the target is chosen. See section 409.1 in the Comprehensive Rulebook for all the steps that are taken when playing a spell or ability.

Q: I have a Glissa Sunseeker out on play, my opponent has a Great Furnace. Since Great Furnace counts as an artifact, can I tap my Sunseeker without having any mana in my mana pool to destroy his furnace?

A: Yes, you can. Since the artifact lands have no mana cost, their converted mana cost counts as zero. Glissa can destroy artifact lands and other zero-cost artifacts without any mana in the mana pool.

Q: If I have a Clockwork Steed with 4 +1/+0 counters on it, and I use Power Conduit to turn those counters into +1/+1 counters do they still get removed during combat?

A: No, they don’t. Clockwork Steed tells you specifically to remove +1/+0 counters, and these are different from +1/+1 counters. If there is a +1/+0 counter on the Steed, you have to remove that, but if you have changed all of them into +1/+1 counters, you don’t have to remove any.

Q: If an instant or sorcery card is revealed when using Gate to the Aether, what happens?

A: Nothing happens – the card just goes back to the library. After the card has been revealed to all players, you may play it if it is an artifact, creature, enchantment or land card, but it doesn’t say that anything special happens if the card is not of the given types, so the card just remains where it was, on top of your library.

Older/General Card Questions

Q: Are there any abilities that produce mana that aren’t considered mana abilities? For example, Metalworker produces mana, but requires more than tapping. Is this still a mana ability or is it an activated ability that produces mana, but can be Stifled?

A: All activated abilities that produce mana (like Metalworker and basic lands), and triggered abilities that trigger off mana abilities (like Wild Growth) are considered mana abilities, and don’t use the stack, so they can’t be countered. If they have additional effects, these are resolved at the same time as the mana is produced. Triggered abilities that don’t trigger off a mana ability still use the stack, for example, if Cathodion dies in combat, it gives you three mana, but can be Stifled.

Q: A question came up in a game that my friends and I were playing. An effect was activated, making my opponent sacrifice a permanent, and he said that +1/+1 counters on his creature were permanents and tried to sacrifice them, I let it go for that game but was wondering just what kind of counters, etc. actually count as permanents, I know that creature tokens and such do but, do +X/+X counters, time counters, mine, charge, etc counters actually count as separate permanents?

A: No, they don’t. Permanents are either artifacts, creatures, enchantments or lands that are in play. Tokens are usually creatures, and are also counted as permanents. A counter is a marker placed on an object or player, either modifying its characteristics or interacting with an ability, they are not permanents.
Note that a local enchantment is also a permanent, separate from the thing it enchants. Counters work quite differently from local enchantments.

Q: If I play Brand, do I gain control of a permanent enchanted by Confiscate? I know I don't gain control of Confiscate, so how does that work?

A: With Brand, you gain control over all permanents you own, that is all cards that started in your deck and all tokens created by your spells and abilities. If there are multiple effects that change control over a permanents, these are applied in timestamp order (the order they started working in), and whoever has the last effect gets the card. In this case, Brand will be the latest effect, and you will gain control over the permanent. It will still be enchanted with Confiscate, but the enchantment won’t have a visible effect anymore.

Q: I was wondering, my friend and I were playing Magic the other day and he used a control deck against me. The combo he had used a Disruptive Pitmage and Pemmin’s Aura. I don't think that he can use the Aura to untap the Pitmage, wait to see if I pay the cost and then recounter it again, because my spell would have already resolved before he could untap his creature. Who is right?

A: Your friend is right in this case. The Pitmage’s ability is used in response to the spell your friend is trying to counter, and after it has resolved, each player will have the chance to play spells and abilities again (this happens after every spell and ability that resolves). He can wait to see if you pay or not, and if you pay, he can use the Aura, untap the Pitmage and activate it again, forcing you to pay another mana or let the spell be countered.

Q: What happens if I cast a Fact or Fiction with only four cards in my library? My opponent said that I can't reveal five cards so the card has no effect. I argued I can reveal four cards, and he should separate them in two face-up piles.

A: You are correct. The spell tries to do as much as possible, and if you don’t have enough cards in your library, you reveal all of them, and your opponent has to separate them in two piles. If you only had one card left, your opponent would have to split the cards in a pile with no cards, and another with the one card, and you could choose either pile.
Fact or Fiction only reveals cards, it doesn’t draw them, so you won’t lose the game for playing it with less than five cards remaining.

Q: I'm confused about "flashback". Is it a spell or ability? Can I play it for less mana if I control a Familiar? For example, I have two Thunderscape Familiars, and I have already played a Chainer's Edict. Will I have to play it for 7 mana or for 5?

A: Flashback is a static ability that lets you play the card with the ability for the flashback cost if it is in the graveyard. When you use it, you are playing a spell - it can be countered just like any other, and it will trigger Forgotten Ancient, for example.
Although you aren't paying the spell's actual mana cost, you're still paying mana as part of playing a spell. That's the only thing the Familiars are checking for, so yes, they will reduce the cost you need to pay for it by each. You will be able to flash the Edict back for .

Q: If I have a Portcullis and two creatures in play, and I play a Karmic Guide, would it count as coming into play even though it is removed from the game? Would the ability take effect and I get to put a creature into play from my graveyard, or would I have to wait until Portcullis leaves play?

A: Karmic Guide comes into play, and Portcullis ability triggers at the same time as the Karmic Guide’s ability. Since you control both the permanents, you get to choose the order the abilities go on the stack. Portcullis ability will remove Karmic Guide from the game regardless, and the returned creature will also be removed, since Portcullis triggers again when the new creature comes into play.

By the way, Karmic Guide has been given errata so that it only triggers "if you played it from your hand", not if it gets put into play any other way. So when Portcullis gets destroyed and returns Karmic Guide to play, you will not get to put a second creature from your graveyard into play.

Q: I suppose my question is really about damage sources and protections. My opponent has a Bloodfire Colossus in play, and I have a Disciple of Law and a Beloved Chaplain. I know that both could easily block the Colossus (being a red creature) but what happens when the Colossus's ability is activated? The Disciple's protection reduces his damage to zero, but does the Chaplain's "protection from creatures" ability save him?

A: Yes, it does. Protection looks at the source of the damage to determine if the damage is prevented, and in this case, the source of the damage is a creature, and the damage is prevented.

Q: I have eight or more cards in my hand, with Fiery Mantle as one of them. At the end of my turn, I discard the Fiery Mantle. What happens?

A: Nothing special happens, as Fiery Mantle’s ability will only return it to your hand if it went to the graveyard from play. It needs to be in play when it’s destroyed, it won’t return if countered or discarded.

Q: I had Story Circle out with red as the chosen color, and my friend played Mind Bend on my circle changing it to black. I said he couldn't do this because Story Circle says," The next time a source of your choice of the chosen color would deal damage " instead of actually listing a color.
Can he change the color with Mind Bend even though Story Circle says chosen color is instead of actually listing a color in the text of the card?

A: No, this doesn’t work. Mind Bend and similar cards can only change text that is actually printed on the card (or, for a token, text that was defined by the effect that created the token). They can’t change choices that have been made or abilities given by other effects.

Q: When you play a spell and then play Hindering Touch, the storm ability activates. Do you counter two spells unless your opponent pays 2 mana for each, or do you counter one unless your opponent pays 4 mana?

A: You get to choose. You can either have the storm copies target the same spells as the original, so the player has to pay more mana to avoid the spell being countered, or you can change the targets, countering other spells on the stack (often useful in counterspell wars). Each storm copy has a separate target, and you can have them target any spell on the stack.
Note that storm counts all the spells that have been played this turn, not just your own. So if your opponent has played a spell, and then you play a spell and a Hindering Touch, storm will give you two extra Touches, not one.

Q: I was wondering whether you could activate Jabari's Banner several times on the same creature to make blocking creatures receive more than -1/-1 when they block?

A: This works. Jabari’s Banner gives the creature flanking, and multiple copies of flanking add up. Flanking is a triggered ability, and each instance of the ability will trigger separately – five copies of flanking means that a non-flanking creature that blocks it will get -1/-1 five times. Jabari’s Banner taps to activate, though, so to achieve this you need to untap the Banner, or have multiple Banners.

Q: Can I Stifle the Goblin Piledriver´s +2/+0 ability, since it has protection from blue?

A: Yes, you can. Stifle only targets the triggered ability, it doesn’t target the Piledriver itself, and the copy doesn’t have protection. Stifle can counter the triggered ability so the Piledriver won’t get the bonus.

Q: I have read the rules how to play the Magic: the Gathering Trading Card Game. The question is. What does the playmat look like?

A: You’re allowed to organize your playing area as you like, but the playmat used for high-level events can be found in this edition of Magic Arcana. Typically, you will have your library on either your left or right side, with the graveyard between the library and you. Lands are typically kept to the back of your side of the play area, while permanents such as creatures are kept in the middle.

You are free to organize your play zones however you want, though, as long as it is clear what you are doing. Arranging your cards to confuse your opponent is not a good option.

Q: The rules say "The deck must have at least 60 cards", so can I for example have 100 cards in my deck?

A: You can have any number of cards in your constructed deck as long as you have at least 60. One deck type, using Battle of Wits, wins if you have more than 200 cards remaining in your library in your upkeep.
The only limit on size in tournaments is that you must be able to “sufficiently randomize” your deck within 3 minutes before a game.
In general, it is recommended to stay close to 60 cards, though, since that will improve the odds of drawing “the good cards” in your deck. The more cards you have, the harder it is to draw the specific card you want when you need it.

Thanks to Laurie Cheers for feedback and proofreading.

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