Saturday School #74

Posted in Feature on April 17, 2004

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.


Last week, I answered a question which involved having Culling Scales in play, along with Tel-Jilad Chosen (a creature creature with converted mana cost 2 and protection from artifacts).

Culling Scales
The main feedback question I got over the last week was "since you're not allowed to target the Chosen, won't you have to target something else instead?" – and the answer to this question is "not if it's the only permanent with the lowest converted mana cost". The target of Culling Scales is "target nonland permanent with the lowest converted mana cost among nonland permanents in play" – which has two requirements: the permanent must be "not a land", and it must have "lowest converted mana cost among nonland permanents in play". Both of these must be satisfied to be a legal target, and you can't choose something with a higher converted mana cost if something if the permanent with the lowest cost is not legal to target.

Darksteel Questions

Q: My brother and I are at a stalemate. He says that when I play Dueling Grounds and he has Nemesis Mask on his Spincrusher that he gets to choose the blocking creature because they are all forced to block if able, but since Dueling Grounds only allows one blocker, I think I have the choice to which one blocks his card. He says that because he's the only one not forced to act that he gets to pick which one blocks for me.
-- Josh (and Chris) Hamilton

A: Your brother is incorrect. The defending player always gets to choose the blocking creatures, Dueling Grounds and Nemesis Mask only modify the rules for declaring blockers – they don't change who chooses the blockers. You can block with any one of your creatures, though you must choose a blocker – it would be illegal to not block at all.

Q: My friend and I both have a Platinum Angel out in play. He is at 0 life and has a Darksteel Reactor with 20 counters on it. He then plays Echoing Truth on his Platinum Angel. What would happen and does it matter which Angel he played it on?
-- Marsh Frye

A: Your friend would lose. When the 20th counter is put on the Reactor, the "win" ability triggers, and it goes on the stack when a player gets priority. Your friend can then respond with Echoing Truth to destroy the Angels – it won't matter which Angel he targets, they will be returned to their owners' hands at the same time when Echoing Truth Resolves. After that, the game checks for state-based effects, and since your friend is at 0 life, he loses the game, even if the "win"-ability is still on the stack – he won't win until the ability resolves, and since he loses before this, he can't win.
If you both had been at 0 life (or less), the game would have been a draw.
If your friend had chosen to not play his Echoing Truth, the "win"-ability would resolve, but since both have Platinum Angels, nobody can win, and the ability does nothing. Darksteel Reactor would then re-trigger, go on the stack, and the process above would repeat itself infinitely, causing a draw, unless your friend chooses to play Echoing Truth to remove the Angels or the Reactor.

Arcbound Stinger
Q: I have an artifact creature that can't be the target of spells or abilities. Am I allowed to assign modular counters to that creature? Are modular +1/+1 counters a spell or ability? For example, I have a Dross Golem out with a Whispersilk Cloak on it, then my Arcbound Stinger dies, can I put the counters on the golem or not?
-- Michael Burke

A: You can't put counters on the Golem.
Modular is two abilities - a static ability that modifies how the card comes into play, and a triggered ability that lets you put counters on an artifact creatures when it goes to the graveyard. The latter is what you are asking about here – it's a triggered ability, with a target. Since the Cloak says you can't target the creature it's equipping, you can't put any counters on it with the modular ability.
(This isn't because of the counters themselves, however. Effects that don't target anything, such as Forgotten Ancient or Titania's Boon, can put +1/+1 counters on your Golem.)

Q: If I Ray of Command or Grab the Reins my opponent's Memnarch, can I use Memnarch's ability to take control of itself so I won't have to return it back to my opponent at the end of turn?

A: This works. Since Memnarch's ability doesn't end, and is controlled by you (since you controlled Memnarch when you activated it), this ability will still be active and let you have control of Memnarch, even if the temporary control effects wear off.
The reason why the creatures usually return to their original controller when the turn ends is that the control effect ends – they aren't explicitly returned to their controller by the effect.

General/Older Card Questions

Zur's Weirding
Q: Suppose I have Zur's Weirding and a Megrim in play. If my opponent draws, and I decide to pay two life, will Megrim be triggered to deal two damage to my opponent?
-- Leo van Nierop

A: No, it won't. Zur's Weirding just "reveals" the top card of the library, then any player may pay 2 life to put it in the graveyard. If a player pays, the card moves directly from the library to the graveyard. This doesn't use the word "discard", so Megrim will ignore it.

Q: When I have Scythe of the Wretched equipped to a creature, and that creature deals damage to itself, but does not die, and if I sacrifice that creature, does it come back to play?
-- Aivo Paas

A: Yes, it does. The Scythe has a triggered ability that triggers any time a creature the equipped creature has damaged this turn goes to the graveyard – even if it's not destroyed by that damage. The game will remember that it was damaged by the equipped creature until later, and as long as Scythe is still on the creature when you sacrifice it, the Scythe triggers and brings it back.

Q: When I play a Yawgmoth's Will, does the Will itself get removed from the game or not, allowing me to use it multiple times with stuff like Regrowth and Timetwister?
-- Richard Rollins

A: Yawgmoth's Will will remove itself from the game. Its replacement effect (that all cards that are to be put in the graveyard are removed from the game instead) starts when the Will resolves, and usually, the card itself goes to the graveyard as the last part of the resolution. Since the Will-effect is active, it ends up being removed from the game, so you can't bring it back unless you Wish or Ring of Ma'Ruf for it.

Peer Pressure
Q: When I use Peer Pressure, can I choose "no type" for creatures that don't have a type, so if I use a Natural Affinity along with it, I get all the lands?
-- Artem Sheprling

A: No, you can't. When something instructs you to choose a creature type, you must choose a type, and you are limited to choosing a type that already exists in the game. The full list of current creature types can be found in the Glossary of the Comprehensive Rulebook under "Creature Type".

Q: If I play Wash Out, can I choose grey or colorless to return all artifacts to their owners' hands?
-- Eric Crockett

A: No, you can't. When something instructs you to choose a color, you must choose a color, and you can only choose between the five colors of Magic, white, blue, black, red and green.

Q: Can I use a Goblin Welder to get a Chalice of the Void and then pay mana to get the counters?
-- Chris Arnold

A: No, you can't. An X in the mana cost can only be paid when you play the card as a spell, using the stack, not when you put the card directly into play through alternate means, such as Goblin Welder. It won't have any charge counters on it, which is the same as having chosen zero for the X – it will counter spells with a converted mana cost of zero.

Energy Flux
Q: I have some artifact lands and Sacred Ground in play. My opponent has Energy Flux in play. During my upkeep, if I can't pay the upkeep due to Energy Flux, do I get my artifact lands back due to Sacred Ground? Is there a loop if I tap an artifact land for mana, put it in the discard pile, bring it back directly into play due to sacred ground, tap it for mana again, etc. Eventually, can this loop give me infinite mana in my upkeep phase?
-- Frank Wang

A: This is not a loop, and can't give you infinite mana. Energy Flux has a continuous effect that gives all artifacts the ability "At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice this artifact unless you pay ". This ability is considered to be on the artifact itself, and in your upkeep, you are the controller of this ability, since it comes from one of your permanents. It also means that Sacred Ground won't trigger, since it was not your opponent's spell or ability that caused the land to be put in your graveyard.

Even if Sacred Ground had been able to return the lands, it would not be a loop, since the upkeep-ability triggers only at the beginning of the upkeep – artifacts that come into play later in the upkeep won't trigger the ability this turn, and you wouldn't have to pay for them.

Q: I played a Duplicant and targeted a face-down creature controlled by my opponent. The creature turned out to be an Imperial Hellkite. What does my Duplicant look like? Is it a 2/2 colorless, or a 6/6 red Dragon creature?
-- Jeff Boes

A: It's a 6/6 Dragon. The Duplicant uses the creature type, power and toughness that is printed on the card (though not the color), not the information it had in play, and when the card is removed from the game, it's by default removed face up so you can see its values.

Q: I have a Circle of Protection: Black in play and my opponent casts Rain of Tears on my last untapped land. Can I activate the circle to protect me from the Drain Life I'm sure he's holding, or does the source have to be in play or on the stack at the time I activate the Circle? My opponent insisted I couldn't choose a source I didn't know about yet.
-- Conrad Corbett

A: Your opponent was correct. When something asks you to choose a source, you choose either a permanent in play or a spell on the stack (including one that creates a permanent) or any object referred to by an object on the stack. You can't choose anything else, even if you know that it's there. You must choose the source when the activation of the Circle resolves, you can't wait until later.

Q: If there is more than one Timesifter in play, how to they resolve at the beginning of upkeep. Do we compare cards from the top of our libraries for the First Timesifter for the next turn, and then compare the next card of our libraries for the turn after and so on for every Timesifter in play? Or are redundant copies of Timesifter irrelevant?
-- William Hurst

A: Each Timesifter's ability is resolved individually, and they have separate abilities, so you can end up with multiple extra turns. The cards used to compare converted mana costs of the first Timesifter are gone when that ability is dealt with, and you remove new cards for each later Timesifter. Make sure to keep track of who gets the extra turns and in which order they happen. The last extra turn created is the first one taken.

Q: I control a facedown Bane of the Living and my opponent controls two 1/1 Arcbound Workers and a 0/2 Ornithopter. When I morph my Bane for 2BB, causing all creatures to get -2/-2 until end of turn, can my opponent cause the Modulars to die first, thus putting their +1/+1 counters on the Ornithopter and ensuring its survival?
-- Pat McMichael

A: No, he can't. After the ability from Bane of the Living has resolved, the game checks for state-based effects, and each creature with a toughness of zero or less is put in the graveyard at the same time. This means that all the creatures are gone before the modular ability triggers, and there won't be a legal target unless there is also an artifact creature in play with higher toughness.

Q: I play Mind's Desire and remove Time Spiral from the game. Since after I play Time Spiral I have to remove it again, am I allowed to recast it because it is still removed and my turn has not ended?

A: No, you are not. Once the Time Spiral has been played by the Mind's Desire's effect, Mind's Desire loses track of it, and you can't play it again. In general, once a card changes zones, effects lose track of the card, and when the card is removed from the game again, it's no longer considered to be the card that was removed by Mind's Desire.

Volcanic Island
Q: If I play Molten Rain targeting a Volcanic Island, does Molten Rain deal two damage to the Volcanic Island's controller?
-- Scott Kenyon

A: Yes, it does. Even though Volcanic Island has two basic land types, it is a nonbasic land. To be a Basic land, its type line (in the Oracle) would have to be "Basic Land – IslandMountain", not just "Land – IslandMountain".

Q: If my opponent has two Elvish Champions and a bunch of small Elves in play, and I play Solar Tide selecting to destroy creatures with power 2 or less, are all of his Elves destroyed, or only his Champions?
-- Nathan Markson

A: Only the Champions are destroyed. When Solar Tide resolves, all the creatures that match the chosen criteria are destroyed at the same time, and it doesn't go back to recheck if this causes any other creatures to be eligible for destruction. This means that all the other Elves would remain in play, though now without the bonus from the Champions.

Q: I control no creatures and have no creatures in my graveyard, while my opponent has several both in play and in his graveyard. I play Living Death. Can I counter it in response to putting creatures into play, and if I can, does it mean that he will put all the remove all the creatures from graveyard from the game, and those from play will go to his graveyard?

A: This doesn't work. Everything on Living Death is part of the same effect, and you must either counter all of it, or none of it. You can't counter just parts of a spell.

Callous Oppressor
Q: My question is that if a creature is controlled by Callous Oppressor, and that creature takes lethal damage or is destroyed, does the Callous Oppressor die, or does it simply stay in play?
-- Ben Kovalenko

A: Callous Oppressor stays in play. The Oppressor only sets up the effect that lets you control the creature, it's in no way "linked" to the other creature. Even if the Oppressor or the controlled creature is destroyed, the other one remains in play (though if the Oppressor leaves play, control over the other creature would be lost).

Q: Suppose there are four creatures in play, and my opponent casts Savage Twister for 5. I respond by casting Reflect Damage. Is my opponent dealt 5 damage? Or, since there are four creatures and Savage Twister deals 5 damage to each of them, is my opponent dealt 5*4=20 damage?
-- Ricky Donato

A: Your opponent would take 20 points of damage. Reflect Damage affects "the next time" that Savage Twister tries to deal damage. Since Savage Twister deals all 20 damage at the same time, all 20 gets reflected to its controller.

Q: When do I choose the source of Reflect Damage? Is it when I cast Reflect Damage, when Reflect Damage resolves, or at any time after Reflect Damage resolves (but before the turn ends)?
-- Ricky Donato

A: You choose the source when Reflect Damage resolves. The only things you choose as you cast a spell are "choose one" choices, targets, how to distribute effects among targets, and how to pay costs.
The phrase "a source of your choice" doesn't include the word 'target', and it's not one of the other things you choose on announcement, so it's done when Reflect Damage resolves. You then set up a "shield" that redirects the damage the source would deal next.

Q: Do the Familiars (Thornscape Familiar etc.) reduce the cost of X spells by one, the same as spells with specific values? I was concerned that the Familar may see the X value as zero and so not reduce it.
-- Phil Brutton

A: Familiars look at the total play cost of the spell, and then reduce it by 1. When on the stack, the spell knows the value of X. When playing the spell, you first choose the value you want for X, then determine the cost of the spell (adding or subtracting any modifiers), then you pay the final cost. For example, you play a Blaze. You choose X to be 5 to deal 5 points of damage. The cost to play it would be + (for the Familiar), the total cost to play the spell would be .

Grizzly Bears (a 2/2 green creature) and Crusade ("white creatures get +1/+1") are in play.
The Bears is affected by Purelace (it's white) and Humble (it's 0/1).

Thanks to Laurie Cheers and Lee Sharpe for feedback and proofreading.

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