Rule #1: Read the Card

Posted in Feature on August 28, 2004

By John Carter

Today we're staying inside, and after our normal Q&A session we're going to say hello to a new student.

First I'd like to talk about last week's column. I asked our principal (one could say “editor”, but that doesn't fit the theme) for a message board thread starting last week. I want to hear from the class regarding how Saturday School was going as well as glean ideas that might be useful. In particular, I took a very relaxed approach to the answers (putting flavor over form) and wanted to gauge the response. Last week set a good bar, and you'll find this and later columns will retain some of the friendly banter but also have an injection of more specific rules references. Ultimately, what I'm after is helping you not only read the rulings, but also retain the information, and I'll use all sorts of devices to accomplish that goal.



Thought Dissector
Q: If I tap ten mana for Thought Dissector and no artifacts are revealed do I have to sacrifice it? – Gbmaniacmmd

A: No. No “artifact card is revealed this way”, so you don't sacrifice the Dissector.

*Extra* Thought Dissector with artifacts works just like the old card Helm of Obedience does with creatures.

Q: I add a Fate counter to Oblivion Stone and later I sacrifice it to destroy things, will it be destroyed? --b1iivg82

A: Having a fate counter on the Oblivion Stone will not save the Oblivion Stone. The Oblivion Stone will be sacrificed and in the graveyard long before you need to worry about whether it will be destroyed. (Sacrifice and destroy are not the same thing.)

Q: Can Bringer of the Red Dawn be used to take control of a Pristine Angel? –Edward W.

A: Not normally. The Red Bringer targets the creature it takes. If the Angel is untapped, she has protection from all colors (including red). If she's tapped, you could target her, but her controller could respond by playing a spell and using the Angel's triggered ability to make the Angel an illegal target.

Q: If I equip Scythe of the Wretched to Triskelion and ping one to Tri and ping four to an opponent …*screech!* --Randy V.

A: Sorry, I had to end this one early… Pentavus has five counters, Triskelion has three. You might want to check of the history of Scythe of the Wretched. And don't forget Saturday School rule #1-- read the card.

Longer Answers


Goblin Cannon
Q: I was wondering about Goblin Cannon. I have tried a million times and can't get more than one damage out of it. I was hit by it 19 times in 1 round plus he killed off my 5/5 Myr Enforcer and my 3/3 Frogmite. How can this be possible if you have to sacrifice this artifact after the damage is dealt? –Johnny B.

A: The key is that you don't sacrifice it until it's ability resolves. Since the cost is just “2”, you can keep activating it over and over. Once one of those abilities resolves the Cannon will blow up, but all those other activations have already been fired off.

*Extra* If you're playing MTGO, the game defaults to passing priority after activating something. You can either turn this off, or you can use a temporary hold so you don't pass priority (this is why many people only get one shot with the cannon). To retain priority regardless of your setting, hold down the Ctrl key while playing the ability (or spell in other cases). This will let you respond to yourself so you can crank as many shots through the cannon as you can before it blows up.

Q: When Disciple of the Vault is in play, does Damping Matrix prevent that card from using it's ability? --Jeremy

Q: What exactly does a Cursed Totem do? --Mark H.

A: These two cards are very similar. Let's take a look at the Oracle text:

Damping Matrix
Activated abilities of artifacts and creatures can't be played unless they're mana abilities.
Cursed Totem
Players can't play creatures' activated abilities.

Both of these cards are shutting down various activated abilities. Activated abilities always have a “[cost] : [effect]”, so looking for a colon on the card is an easy indicator of an activated ability. Looking at Disciple of the Vault, we see “Whenever an artifact is put into a graveyard…” No colon means it's not activated, so neither Damping Matrix nor Cursed Totem would stop the Disciple.

If we had a Shock Troops, the Matrix or Totem would stop you from being able to use the Troops' activated ability [CR 403.1].

If we had a Birds of Paradise, the Totem would stop the Bird, but the Matrix would not (because permanents that tap for mana are using “mana abilities” [CR 406.1]).

Q: If I play Wrath of God then the opponent plays Counterspell. Can I play Orim's Chant to stop Counterspell? --Phongpraphan S.

A: No, Orim's Chant will not affect anything already on the stack.
This and similar questions come up a lot. “Play” means “the act of playing a spell, land, or ability”. If something has already been played, then starting a chant isn't going to help. Looking at PS's question itself we can see that the Counterspell has already been played—we're now just waiting for it to resolve.

*Extra* If you really want to avoid a Counterspell, try the Orim's Chant first. Let the Chant resolve, and then your opponent won't be able to play the counter at all.
Alternatively, you could use Overmaster for a similar effect.

Darksteel, Darksteel, Darksteel

Q: My friend equips Darksteel Gargoyle with Cranial Plating to increase its power to 5 and attacks with it. I tap Intrepid Hero to target the Darksteel Gargoyle. Will it remove the Darksteel Gargoyle from combat even thought it wouldn't be destroyed? --Alan X.

A: No, the Gargoyle doesn't even notice your Hero's ability and is still attacking [CR Glossary: Indestructible].

Q: I have a Darksteel Colossus in play and wish to use it as the target of my own Divine Offering. Would I still gain 11 life? --Dirk M.

A: Divine Offering doesn't need to actually remove the target from play. So long as the target is legal [413.2a], you'll gain life equal to it's converted mana cost.

Q: My friend attacked me with his Darksteel Gargoyle. He also used Chastise on that same creature, but it is indestructible. –vanillatwisted

A: Much like Divine Offering, Chastise will try to destroy the darksteel creature and have your opponent gain life.

*Extra* If you Chastise the creature before letting combat damage resolve, you won't stop the damage, but you could gain enough life to negate the damage.

Chastising a regenerating creature would still let you gain life, but when the regeneration happens, that creature will be removed from combat. If combat damage has not been put on the stack, you won't take damage from the regenerated creature.

A New Student


Krark-Clan Ironworks
Q: I'm new to the game and am very confused. There is an artifact called "Krark-Clan Ironworks". It's been called a big mana producer. I read the card and it says "Sacrifice an artifact: Add 2 to your mana pool". I have other types of cards that also add to the manna pool when tapped. Do these mana stay in the pool or are they there for the turn and then leave the pool? I had played Forgotten Cave and tapped it for a mountain thinking that I put a counter representing it as a mountain and that it stayed out there like the land cards. I was told that this was not the case. Could you please clarify this for me? --Clare B.

A: Hi there, Clare, and welcome to school. Let's unravel this mystery one step at a time…

New players often think that tapping a land for mana means you get one of those lands for a turn. This isn't true. Mana is like fruit juice. You squeeze the fruit, and you get juice, not more fruit. So when you tap (squeeze) a Mountain, you get red mana (juice). Forgotten Cave also taps (gets squeezed) for red mana (red juice). Forgotten Cave and Mountain are different, but they make the same juice, I mean mana. The Cave comes into play tapped as a drawback that offsets the benefit of being able to cycle the Cave.

Mana doesn't last forever. If a phase (that's a chunk of a turn) ends, then you'll take mana burn—one life lost for each unused mana. You can think of it as the juice drying up and causing a sticky mess, if you want to keep the analogy alive. Some phases have step in them (combat is a popular one). You won't burn between steps, but you will need to use mana you've produced before the phase itself ends. And no, tapping a land with an effect such Icy Manipulator doesn't squeeze any mana out of the land—it taps, but you won't have to burn.

So now we know that land makes mana, and that mana is this invisible stuff that gets used to power other things. Sometimes people will use dice or other things to remind themselves how much mana they currently have in their pool. This is especially useful when generating a lot of mana in a short period of time. Krark-Clan Ironworks is one such tool for making lots of mana.

Looking at the ability, we see that KCI is an activated ability (remember the Damping Matrix question from earlier? [cost] : [effect]). And because it adds mana to your mana pool, we know it's a mana ability. This means the ability doesn't use the stack and can be used while announcing other spells or abilities. Basically, the Ironworks turns all your artifacts into very temporary mana boosts. This can be used to melt down useless artifacts for extra mana, or it can be used to stuff several artifacts in a row into the Ironworks in order to make lots of mana fast which is then spent on a lethal Fireball or some other dangerous spell or ability. Because the Ironworks itself is an artifact, you could even melt it down for two mana—just be sure to do that as the last thing to sacrifice because once it goes away you won't be able to sacrifice anything left.

One hot trick was pulled off with KCI and Goblin Cannon at Pro Tour Seattle this year. A TOGIT (The Only Game In Town, a New Jersey team) player needed to deal three damage with the Cannon, but he only had the four lands he used to play a Krark-Clan Ironworks and the Goblin Cannon. The player tapped his four lands for mana. He spent two to do the first point. He responded by spending the last two to do another point. And then he announced the ability a third time. When it cam around to paying two more mana for the third activation, the player sacrificed the Cannon to the Ironworks (legal because mana abilities can be played while announcing other abilities) and paid for the third point. The Cannon was lost either way, but with the help of KCI, one last vital point was dealt, and the TOGIT team went on to win that match.

Roll-y Poll-y

Here are the results from last week's poll:

What sort of Magic person are you?
Casual player 7511 83.6%
Pro player 823 9.2%
Casual player, certified judge 484 5.4%
Pro player, certified judge 165 1.8%
Total 8983 100.0%

I'm glad I asked this question because it really does clarify the purpose of Saturday School. That purpose is to reach out to the casual players and the new players. Of course I'll happily include complicated or hard questions as they come up, but most of those discussions and debates will be happening on the Rules Q&A forum of the Community Boards. Over time I expect the proverbial bar will be raised here at Saturday School, but the types of questions people are asking will always drive the column. In keeping with that, you'll find that the link for submitting questions to Saturday School is now up and running.

This Week's Poll

[The survey originally included in this article has been removed.]

Originally I had intended to include a cram session this week. Sometimes the bell rings before teach even notices. Well then, next week we'll have a cram session, and the week after that you can expect a big and tasty field trip based on five days in San Francisco. Class dismissed.


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