Saturday School #77

Posted in Feature on May 8, 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.

Darksteel Questions


Goblin Dirigible
Q: Can you use the mana from Vedalken Engineer to untap Goblin Dirigible during your upkeep? In other words, is Goblin Dirigible's ability a triggered ability or an activated ability?
-- Marc Suys

A: You can't use the mana from the Engineer to untap Goblin Dirigible. Goblin Dirigible has a triggered ability (which always start with the words "at", "when" or "whenever"). Activated abilities are always worded in the form "cost:effect". You can only use the Engineer's mana to play artifact spells or activate artifact abilities, you're not allowed to use the mana to pay mana during the resolution of another spell or ability, even if it is a triggered ability from an artifact.

Q: If I have a Molder Slug and a Brown Ouphe in play, and my opponent has a Darksteel Colossus. If he has to sacrifice the Colossus during his turn, can I counter its "shuffle into library"-ability with the Ouphe so that it would go into the graveyard?

A: No, you can't. Darksteel Colossus has a static ability that creates a replacement effect that will cause the Colossus to be shuffled into the library instead of going to the graveyard. This is not an activated ability, and can't be targeted by the Ouphe.
Replacement effects don't use the stack – they just modify an event as it happens, and this is not possible to counter with spells or abilities.
This effect is not optional – your opponent can't choose to put the card in the graveyard, even if he wants to, unless it loses the ability with Humble or Humility.
Read more about replacement effects in section 419 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: If I have three counters on Aether Vial, can I tap it on my opponent's turn and put a three mana cost creature into play and block with it?
-- Lane L. Warner

A: Yes, you can. Activated abilities can be used whenever you could usually play an instant unless it has a special restriction (like the equip ability, which can only be used whenever you could play a sorcery). If an activated ability has a restriction like this, it will always say so.
You are allowed to activate the Vial after your opponent has declared attackers, put a creature into play, and block with it.
Activated abilities are described in section 403 of the Comprehensive Rulebook.


Aether Vial
Q: Can you play more than one creature off tapping Aether Vial once? For example, if you have four charge counters on Aether Vial, can you play two creatures costing two mana each?

A: This doesn't work. Aether Vial says that you may put "a" creature card into play, you're not allowed to put multiple cards into play at the same time with this effect. The creature card you put into play must have the exact same converted mana cost as the number of counters on the Vial, you can't add up creatures to reach that number.

Q: If I have a Darkest Hour in play and my opponent plays a Mycosynth Lattice, all permanents will be artifacts, but would all creatures also be black, or would they be just artifacts?

A: The permanents would be colorless artifacts. The effects are evaluated in timestamp order, and since Mycosynth Lattice came into play last, the effect that makes the permanents colorless would be evaluated last, and the permanents will be colorless.
However, if Darkest Hour came into play last, the permanents would be black, since Darkest Hour's color change would overwrite that of the Lattice.

Fifth Dawn Preview Questions

Q: I have a question regarding Bringer of the Black Dawn in Fifth Dawn. It allows a player to pay one mana of each color instead of the original mana cost to play the creature. If I have a Mycosynth Lattice in play, will I then be able to use any land and still cast the Bringer using only 5 mana?
-- Ryan Currie

A: Yes, you may. When you play the spell, you decide if you want to use the regular mana cost or the alternative cost. Mycosynth Lattice lets you spend mana as any color mana, and you can say that one is red, one is blue and so on, and you can use this to pay the alternative cost.


Extraplanar Lens
Q: If I have a Joiner Adept in play and play an Extraplanar Lens imprinting a Forest, will all my Forests create two of any mana? Possibly a mana each of two different colors?
-Matt Curtis

A: Your Forests can tap for two mana of any one type. The Adept lets you tap the land for any kind of mana, and Extraplanar Lens's triggered ability will then add another mana of the same type.
If the land produced more than one type of mana (like Crystal Quarry), you get to choose which of the types the additional mana is, but if it only produced one mana, the extra mana must be of the same type.

General/Older Card Questions

Q: Nether Spirit says " may return Nether Spirit to play" can I do that even if it wasn't put in the graveyard from play, for example because I had to discard it?
-- Petro Feliciotti

A: Yes, you can. The phrase "return [something] to play" means to put it into play from the zone it's in. It doesn't matter how the card got there in the first place, just that it's in the requested zone when the effect resolves, in Nether Spirit's case the graveyard.

Q: What happens if you activate Dominating Licid, targeting itself? Would it be considered enchanting nothing and put into the graveyard?
-- Kyle Williams

A: This is correct. The Licid has a legal target when it resolves (it is a creature), so the effect does what it says – it turns the Licid into an enchant creature. However, rule 212.4g in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that it's illegal for an enchantment to enchant itself, and the next time state-based effects are checked (right after resolution), the Licid will be put into its owner's graveyard.


Dominating Licid
Q: A few weeks ago, my roommate and I were playing, and I had just cast a Dual Nature. On his next turn my roommate casts a Dominating Licid, creating a Dominating Licid token. We stared at that for a few minutes and decided we didn't want to deal with the problems of a Dominating Licid token enchant creature. But I ask, what would happen if he had used the Dominating Licid token to attempt to gain control of one of my creatures?
-- Will Vesely

A: The Dominating Licid token acts just like a regular Dominating Licid, it has all the characteristics and functions the real card has, and he can still use it to gain control of your creature. The only difference is that it doesn't have a physical card associated with it, which isn't necessary for it to have an effect.

Q: What happens if you target a creature with Duplicant, then the creature leaves play in response, for example being sacked to an Arcbound Ravager? Does the Duplicant come in just as a 2/4? Or is it countered since it has no legal target?
-- Jon Bartlett

A: The Duplicant comes will just be a 2/4 creature with no imprinted creature. The Duplicant has to come into play for its ability to trigger, and if the target is removed in response, the ability will be countered and do nothing. This doesn't do anything to the Duplicant, except that nothing is imprinted on it, and it's just 2/4.

Q: I've got Goblin King in play and also some Goblins. Then I play Blood Moon. Are my goblins now unblockable?

A: Yes, they are, if your opponent has a Mountain or nonbasic land in play. Creatures with mountainwalk are unblockable if the defending player controls a land with the type Mountain, this can either be a "natural" Mountain, or nonbasic land that has the type for some other reason, like Blood Moon. It looks for the land type, not the name of the card.
The rules for landwalk can be found in section 502.6 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.


Weaver of Lies
Q: My friend and I were playing and he was using his morph deck. He was constantly flipping his creatures face down by using two Weaver of Lies. I Play a Dark Banishing on one of his face-down Weaver of Lies. In response, he grabbed all of his morphed creatures and set them out in new places so I couldn't be sure which one was which. He said that that the rulebook never states that he can't do that. What I want to know is if it would be considered legal because I checked my rulebook and I can't find anything on this subject.
-- Brett Matter

A: Your friend is not allowed to do that. Rule 504.4 in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that if you control multiple face-down spells on the stack or face-down permanents in play, you must ensure at all times that your face-down spells and permanents can be easily differentiated from each other. This includes, knowing the order spells were played, the order that face-down permanents came into play, which creature attacked last turn, and any other differences between face-down spells or permanents.

Q: If I have a War Elemental in play and I play a Flamebreak, will my Elemental survive this action or will it be put into my graveyard?
-- Lucas Weinspach

A: War Elemental will be destroyed. Flamebreak deals damage to both the Elemental and the player at the same time. The Elemental's ability to get counters triggers, but before you can put the ability on the stack, the game checks for state-based effects, and at this time, the Elemental has 3 damage, which is more than its 1 toughness. The Elemental is destroyed, and then the triggered ability won't be able to put any counters on the Elemental because it's no longer in play.

Q: My friend was playing with Dauthi Slayer, which has the shadow ability, and equipped it with Neurok Hoversail, which gives it flying. Can this shadow block a creature with flying, like my Shivan Dragon?
-- Julien Cremers-Laurent

A: No, it can't. Creatures with shadow can only block or be blocked by other creatures with shadow. Even though the creatures both have flying, they can't block each other, since one has shadow and the other has not.
The rules for shadow can be found in section 502.8 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.


Teferi's Veil
Q: I cast a Reins of Power while my Teferi's Veil is in play, and attack with all of the recently reined in creatures. Under whose control are they when they phase back in? If they remain under my control, must I continue to attack with them each combat phase in order to retain control?
-- Clay Doss

A: They phase back in under your opponent's control in your untap step. Rule 502.15b says that they return in the untap step of the player who controlled them when they phased out, but rule 502.15g says that effects with limited duration (such as until end of turn) are unable to affect the permanents when they are phased out, so you won't control the creatures when they return.
Phasing in only looks at who controlled the creatures when the left play, not who will control them when they return.

Q: Can I activate my Timberwatch Elf in my cleanup step, targeting an Elf, and then untap my Timberwatch in my untap step while the elf that was targeted still has +X/+X?

A: No, you can't.
First of all, you can only play spells and abilities in the cleanup step if something happened to give you priority then (for example if a state-based effect needs to be dealt with). Anytime this happens, there will be another cleanup step afterwards, which will end any new effects that last "until end of turn". It's not possible to carry over any effects that last "until end of turn" to another turn.
This is different from abilities that trigger "at end of turn". These trigger at the start of the end of turn step. So, if you play a card which says "at end of turn" in your end of turn step, it won't trigger until the end of the next turn.

Q: Can I change a Swamp into an Island with Mind Bend?

A: Yes, you can. Mind Bend will replace all instances of a basic land type with another, and while the name can't be changed, the word on the type-line of the card will be changed, and the word Island will be changed to Swamp. By doing this, the land will lose its old mana ability (it's no longer has the Island-type), but it will gain the ability to tap for black mana, since it now has the Swamp-type.


Q: I have a Sparksmith and two other Goblins in play, and I use the Sparksmith to deal damage to a creature. If the ability is on the stack when one of those Goblins dies, the damage dealt is 2 damage, not 3, right?

A: Correct. Sparksmith counts the number of Goblins in play to determine how much damage is dealt, and this is done when the ability resolves, like most things (see rule 409.1a-i in the Comprehensive Rulebook to see which things are determined when the ability is activated). Destroying a Goblin in response will lower the amount of damage Sparksmith can deal.

Q: On the other hand - if I have a Spikeshot Goblin equipped with a Bonesplitter, and I use the ability to deal damage to a creature, and while that ability is on the stack the Goblin is destroyed, the damage dealt is 3. Why is there that difference?

A: The difference lies in how the game determines how much damage is dealt.
Spikeshot Goblin deals damage equal to its power, and if it's no longer in play when the ability resolves, the game uses the last known information about the Goblin, and that means it deals 3 damage, since that was the power the Goblin had when it was destroyed.
This is from rule 413.2f in the Comprehensive Rulebook.
Sparksmith counts something, also done when the ability resolves. Counting Goblins does not ask for any information about a specific permanent no longer in play, and will just use the number from the Goblins currently in play.

Q: I have Mesmeric Orb in play. If one of my creatures that has an enchant creature spell attached to it has attacked, and is now tapped, does the enchant creature spell that is attached to it tap as well, meaning that I have to put more cards in from my library into the graveyard?

A: No, it doesn't. Local enchantments (and equipment) that are attached to a permanent do not tap even if the permanent they are attached to taps. These permanents only tap if a spell or ability specifically taps them, they will usually not tap on their own.


Dual Nature
Q: If I have a Dual Nature in play and I play a creature with morph face down would Dual Nature create a token when I play the creature face down, or when the creature is turned face up? If it creates a token when it is face down, will I be able to turn it face up for the creatures morph cost and use its ability?
-- DJ Whitworth

A: Dual Nature triggers when a creature card comes into play, so the token is created right after the creature has been put into play. It does not trigger when the card is turned face up, as the card is already in play, it just changes which side is up.
When copying something, you can only copy the text that is visible, and if the creature is face down, the only things that can be copy is that it's a 2/2 creature with no name, color or other abilites. The token is always face up – it can't copy "being face down". The token will have no knowledge of what's under the creature it copied, and doesn't have the option of turning into that.

Q: If you play Blanchwood Armor on one of your creatures, and an opponent either takes control of the creature or changes the target to one of their creatures, are your Forests still fueling the Blanchwood Armor's ability, or are the opponent's Forests fueling it (or are these two different circumstances)?
-- Corey Erb

A: It will always use the number of Forests the controller of Blanchwood Armor controls to determine the bonus. The word "you" refers to the controller of the enchantment, and this is the player who controls the it, regardless of what it's enchanting. Changing control of the creature doesn't affect who controls the enchantment on it, so the bonus will remain the same, even if another player controls the creature.

Q: I played Hindering Touch to counter my friend's Darksteel Colossus. I debated that he has to pay 4 mana because the Colossus counts as a spell and Hindering Touch has Storm. He argued he only had to pay 2 because the Colossus was the first spell of the turn and that it hasn't hit the table as a successful spell. Who's right?

A: You are correct. Storm counts the number of spells that have already been played this turn to determine how many copies are created, it doesn't matter if the spells have resolved yet. Hindering Touch can only target spells on the stack, and since a spellhave already been played, there will be at least one storm copy, and your friend has to pay at least 4 mana to avoid the Colossus being countered.

Q: If I activate a Mindslaver, and my opponent has a fetch land in play (Polluted Delta etc.) and leaves it in play, can I have him sacrifice that land during his turn and not find a land card, even if he had the basic lands that could be fetched in his library?

A: This is correct. If you're required to search a zone not revealed to all players for cards matching some criteria, you aren't required to find those cards even if they're present. Even if both players can see the library, it's not "revealed", and you can choose to have the search fail. This would be noticeable in a multiplayer game, where only the player who searches and the player who controls the turn are allowed to look at the library.

Results of last week's poll:

A player casts Fireball and chooses X to be 6. He targets three separate creatures. In response, his opponent returns one of the creatures to his hand. How much damage will Fireball do to the two remaining creatures?
2 each 10220 79.4%
3 each 2657 20.6%
Total 12877 100.0%

The correct answer is "2 each", because the Fireball had three targets when it was played, and it still has three targets when it resolves, even though only two of them are legal. Fireball divides 6 damage equally among three targets, which means that the legal targets take 2 damage each, and the illegal target can't be affected.

One comment I got a lot was that it should deal only 1 damage to each target – since there is an extra payment for having more than one target, some of the mana should go to pay for the extra targets. However, this payment is not part of X, it's an extra cost that is paid in addition when the spell is played.
The full cost to play the spell in the question would be + + = .

Thanks to Lee Sharpe for feedback and proofreading.

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