Saturday School #58

Posted in Feature on December 27, 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.

In this week’s column, I want to review some of the most common issues we get questions about.

General Questions

Combat Phase

Q: I have been looking through several pages for an answer to "Can the defending player tap the creatures I have assigned to attack to prevent them from attacking?" I am confused as some have stated that they can yet others say they cannot. I need to know one thing specifically. At what point do you tap your attacking creatures?

A: The combat phase has five steps:
1) Beginning of Combat Step
2) Declare Attackers Step
3) Declare Blockers Step
4) Combat Damage Step
5) End of Combat Step

You choose your attacking creatures and tap them at the very start of step 2. If your opponent want to tap your creatures to prevent them from attacking, he must do this in step 1, before you have chosen which creatures attack. Once your opponent lets you start declaring attackers, it's too late to tap them to stop them from attacking. The attacking creatures become tapped when the game determines that you have declared a legal set of attackers. Rule 308.2 in the Comprehensive Rulebook describes when attackers get tapped.

Note that you have to give your opponent the opportunity to do something to your creatures in step 1 before you choose attackers – you're not allowed to rush straight to step 2 to stop your opponent from tapping your creatures.


Blood Frenzy

Q: When exactly does a creature stop becoming an "attacking" creature? When casting Blood Frenzy on your opponents attacking creature, can I wait for the combat damage to go on the stack, and then cast Blood Frenzy, I will not take 4 extra damage, but the creature will die, right? When is the last time that I could legally play a restricted "attacking or blocking" creature on a creature? A: A creature stops being attacking or blocking when the combat phase is over. There is a step in combat after combat damage has resolved, called end of combat, and both players can play spells or abilities at this time. If the creatures are still around, they still count as attacking or blocking if they were in combat, and you can play spells and abilities that target attacking or blocking creatures. This means that you can play Blood Frenzy on a surviving attacker or blocker, giving it +4/+0 (far too late to change how much damage it deals) and destroying it at end of turn.

First Strike / Double Strike

The rules for First Strike can be found in the Comprehensive Rulebook in section 502.2, the rules for Double strike in section 502.28.

Q: What would happen if you enchant a Ridgetop Raptor with Reflexes? Will it gain first strike as a separate ability and be able to inflict first strike damage, then double strike damage, and do twelve points of damage?

A: Having both first strike and double strike has no particular effect on the game. Combat only has two damage steps, first strikers and double strikers deal damage at the same time in the first damage step, having both abilities doesn't let the creature deal damage an extra time.


Phantom Nishoba

Q: If I attack with a phantom creature (say, Phantom Nishoba) and it is blocked by two of my opponent's 1/1 creatures, would it lose two counters or just one? A: All regular combat damage is dealt at the same time. The phantoms look at "the next time" damage would be dealt, and only see damage being dealt once. Only one counter is lost, regardless of how many blockers there are. Note that if one of the creatures has first strike, and the other one hasn't, the'll deal damage at two separate times, and the phantom will lose two counters.

Q: If a Slith creature (like Slith Predator) has double strike, does it get two counters if it is unblocked?

A: It gets a counter each time it deals damage, so it gets two counters if it deals damage in both combat damage steps. The only times it wouldn't get two counters is if the damage it deals in a step is prevented.


Dragon Tyrant

Q: How do double strike and trample interact with each other, as in Dragon Tyrant? Can I assign half of lethal damage to the blocker knowing that double strike will kill it?

A: Creatures with Double Strike assign their damage in both combat damage steps, and you must assign lethal damage to the creature before anything can trample over to the player. You can assign parts of the damage to the player if the blocker would be destroyed by the rest of the damage. For example, if the Tyrant is blocked by an 8-toughness creature, it would have to assign all 6 points of damage to the blocker in the first damage step. In the second damage step, it could assign just 2 points to the blocker, since 8 damage matches its toughness, and the remaining 4 points of damage can trample over.

The rules for Trample can be found in section 502.9 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.


The rules for protection can be found in section 502.7 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: How does protection work?

A: Having protection from [quality] has four properties, abbreviated D-E-B-T:

1) Damage from [quality] sources is prevented
2) Can't be Enchanted or Equipped by [quality] enchantments
3) Can't be Blocked by [quality] creatures
4) Can't be Targeted by [quality] spells or abilities

For example, a creature with protection from red has all damage to it from red sources prevented, can't be enchanted by red enchantments, can't be blocked by red creatures, and can't be targeted by red spells or abilities.

The quality can be almost anything, like a color, a creature type, or a card type

Anything that does not do one of these four things, like Obliterate for example, will still affect the creature.


The rules for tokens can be found in section 216 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: I have a question regarding what happens to token creatures when they are killed. I've seen players use combos of Battle Screech to put Bird tokens into play and Soulcatchers' Aerie to add +1/+1 counters "whenever a Bird is put into your graveyard from play." When a bird token is killed, Magic Online adds a +1/+1 counter to Soulcatchers' Aerie, but obviously the token does not physically exist in the graveyard. Is this a mistake, or does the token legally go to the graveyard before disappearing?
--Ed Christian, East Stroudsburg, PA, USA

A: Tokens go to the graveyard as regular creatures, and are removed as a "state-based effect" when a player gets priority again. They stay in the graveyard long enough to trigger abilities, like the one of Soulcatchers' Aerie, before they are removed. In casual play, people generally don’t bother putting the token (coin/piece of paper/dice) in the graveyard because it’s removed right after, but it’s supposed to be put in the graveyard. Read more about this and other State-Based Effects in the Comprehensive Rulebook, section 420.

Converted Mana Cost



Q: Can you clarify how Smother affects these cards: 6/6 Ivy Elemental, Kavu Titan with kicker, Clone of Kavu Titan with kicker, and a Dance of Many token of Shivan Dragon. Extra costs and copy effects are confusing me.

A: Smother looks at the converted mana cost (CMC) of the target, you get the CMC by adding up all the numbers and symbols in the mana cost in the top right corner of the card. The converted mana cost is never affected by effects that increase or reduce the cost to play spell.

An is counted as zero when the card isn’t on the stack, so Ivy Elemental has a CMC of 1 while in play, and can be destroyed.

Kavu Titan has a CMC of 2, this doesn’t change even if the kicker has been paid, so it can be destroyed.

Clone and other copy cards also copies the mana cost of the creature it copies, so a Cloned Kavu Titan will also have a CMC of 2, and can be destroyed. Note that Clone only copies what’s printed on the card, so you won’t be able to pay the kicker on a Cloned creature, since it only gets the kicker ability when it enters play, way to late to pay for it.

Tokens generally don’t have a mana cost, but if it is a copy of another permanent, it will copy all characteristics, including the mana cost. A Dance of Many token copy of Shivan Dragon will have a CMC of 6, and can’t be targeted by Smother.

Card-specific Questions

Q: Can I use Stifle to counter Leveler's come into play ability and avoid removing my library?

A: Yes, you can. Leveler has a triggered ability (starting with the word "when"), so it can be countered with Stifle, and you keep your library.



Q: What happens if I have a Shared Fate and then play a Leveler? This would probably do nothing but the opponent can never gets to draw again so does this gets him to deck?

A: You remove your library from the game, and your opponent won't have access to more cards. He still won't lose, as no cards are actually drawn. Shared Fate replaces the draw effect with “remove a card from the opponent's library from the game”, so the original draw goes away, and then the replacement effect does nothing, since it's not possible to remove the card anymore.

Q: Can I somehow have my opponent remove his library from the game when I play Leveler, using cards such as Deflection or similar?

A: No, you can’t. Leveler’s ability triggers for its controller when it comes into play, and locks in who “you” is. The ability isn’t targeted, and it’s not possible to change who “you” is.

Q: If I play Meddling Mage and name Counterspell, does an Isochron Scepter with Counterspell work.

A: It will still work. The Mage’s effect only prevents you from playing cards with the given name, and the copies created by the Scepter are copies of cards, not actual cards. When you play them, you are playing spells, but not playing cards, so this is not affected by Meddling Mage.


Spellweaver Helix

Q: How do those cards that play copies of spells (Isochron Scepter and Spellweaver Helix) interact with storm? Copies of spells that are put on the stack (as with Mirari) don't count because they aren't played - but what about copies that are played (as those two artifacts do)? Will their storm triggered abilities work? Do spells played by those artifacts count as spells for other storm triggered abilities?

A: Both the cards you mention let you play spells, and they therefore count for storm. If you have played a spell with the Scepter, then play Scattershot, you get to create a storm copy as well. The spells played with the Scepter or the Helix are played just like regular spells, and they will trigger storm.

Q: I see that I'm allowed to imprint Fire/Ice on Isochron Scepter but I don't understand why. I thought the converted mana cost of that card was 4.

A: The converted mana cost of Fire/Ice is actually "2 and 2". Each side has a separate mana cost, both of which are 2. The Scepter asks if the converted mana cost of the card is 2 or less, and since at least one side says "yes", the card can be imprinted

You're probably confused by the different ways costs are treated. If you do an action based on the mana cost of a split card, you will do that action twice. (For example, Pain/Suffering has mana cost "1 and 4". If you reveal it for Planeswalker's Mirth, you will gain 1 life and 4 life, for a total of 5.)

If an effect tests a split card's converted mana cost for some quality, then it will be satisfied if either side has that quality.

(For example, if somebody casts Void on you when Pain/Suffering is in your hand, you will discard it if the player chose either 1 or 4.)

Isochron Scepter is testing the cost of the card, not using it to do an action, so it will be satisfied if either side has converted mana cost 2 or less.

Q: Can I pay entwine and kicker costs from spells imprinted on Isochron Scepter? Will it cost me additional mana?

A: You may pay any additional costs to the spells (such as kicker and entwine). This will cost additional mana, as the Scepter only replaces the mana cost of the card, which is the cost in the top right corner of the card. Any additional costs must be paid separately. This includes costs that aren't optional, like sacrificing an artifact to Shrapnel Blast.


Platinum Angel

Q: What happen if I have a Platinum Angel, and my opponent reduces my life to 0 or I deplete my library? Do I continue playing with 0 life or with a depleted library, or is it a draw?

A: You continue to play the game. You can't lose, and your opponent can't win, so you just continue until you win in some way, your opponent loses, the Angel leaves play (so you can lose afterwards) or until the game draws in another way.

Q: What happens if I control a Platinum Angel and my opponent controls his own Platinum Angel and as the games goes on neither angel gets destroyed? Do we play forever? -- Tyler Sheffield

A: If both players have Platinum Angels in play, and no ways to win the game (for example, if you have empty libraries and no useful cards in hand or in play), the players can choose to draw the game and move on to the next game. The other option would be to sit and stare at each other forever, which isn't a good solution, and not legal in tournament play.

Q: Can Stifle help get a Phyrexian Dreadnought or Lotus Vale into play easier?

A: No. Phyrexian Dreadnought and Lotus Vale have replacement abilities that modify how they enter play – the abilities are not triggered or activated, and can't be countered by Stifle.


Phyrexian Dreadnought

Q: Can you explain the errata on Phyrexian Dreadnought? How is "when it comes into play" different that "if it would come into play?"

A: Phyrexian Dreadnought's ability replaces the entire “comes-into-play”-event with “sacrifice 12 power of creatures, if you did, put it into play, if you didn't, put it in the graveyard.” This assures that the card can't ever come into play if you don't sacrifice creatures. If it had said “when it comes into play, sacrifice 12 power of creatures…”, it would trigger any comes-into-play abilities, like Pandemonium, for potentially abusable effects.

If it helps, a clearer (and mostly equivalent) ability would be “Before Phyrexian Dreadnought comes into play, sacrifice 12 power of creatures. If you don't, put Phyrexian Dreadnought into your graveyard instead of into play.”

Q: If a Phyrexian Dreadnought is brought into play with an Illusionary Mask is the sacrificing of 12-power worth of creatures ignored?

A: Yes, it is. If a card comes into play face down, it has no abilities, and the game doesn't see that you need to sacrifice anything to put it into play. If you later turn the creature face up, it's already in play, so its ability won't apply then, either. This combo is quite popular in Type 1 tournaments, I hear.

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