Saturday School #79

Posted in Feature on May 22, 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.

Fifth Dawn Questions

Q: If I have Mycosynth Lattice in play and play a card with Sunburst ability (like Infused Arrows), do I get one charge counter for each mana I spent to play it, since Mycosynth Lattice has: "Players may spend mana as though it were mana of any color"?
--Fabricio Puppi

A: No, you don't. Mycosynth Lattice lets you use all your mana as though it was white, blue, black, red or green; but it doesn't changethe mana. For example, if you only have Islands in play, you pay only blue mana for the Infused Arrows spell, and that is what the Sunburst ability will see, even if you spend it as if it were any color.

Q: I have a question regarding Vedalken Shackles. It says on the card "gain control of target creature whose Power is less than the number of Islands you control as long as Vedalken Shackles remains tapped". What happens if either you make the creature weaker until end of turn, gain control of it, and after the end of turn the creature is too big, or if you lose islands while Shackles is tapped? Do you retain control of the creature or does it go back when Shackles' condition is no longer fulfilled?

A: You retain control of the creature. Vedalken Shackles only checks the targeting condition at two times – when the ability is activated, and when it resolves. After you have successfully gained control of the creature, the only thing the effect cares about is that the Shackles remain tapped.
Like other cards with the same wording, it's not possible to use Vedalken Shackles to gain control of more than one creature – once the Shackles are untapped, the effect ends immediately, and if the Shackles are untapped before the effect starts, it does nothing.
This is explained in rule 418.3d in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: If you were playing with Engineered Explosives and your opponent had 3 Ornithopters and a few Phyrexian Walkers out could you play Engineered Explosives for zero and then use it to kill the Ornithopters and Phyrexian Walkers or do you have to pay something for X?

A: You can choose X to be zero, and activating the Explosives' ability will destroy all nonland permanents with converted mana cost zero, which includes Ornithopters, Phyrexian Walkers and most tokens (ones that aren't copies of something with a higher mana cost).

Q: I have an Endless Whispers in play, and there are no creatures in play at this point. Then I play an Accursed Centaur, but since there are no other creatures in play, its ability requires me to sacrifice it. Endless Whispers would put it into play under my opponents control, who also would have to sacrifice the centaur, since he controls no other creatures. Under whose control would the centaur end up?

A: The Centaur would be destroyed and switch controller each turn until someone sacrifices a creature to keep it. Endless Whispers tells the targeted player to put it into play at end of turn, and when the Centaur returns and is sacrificed, it won't return again until the next end of turn, which is in the next turn. This cycle will repeat each turn until someone decides to sacrifice something to keep the Centaur in play.

Q: Can I have more than 4 Relentless Rats in my sideboard, or does its ability only work for my deck?

A: You can have as many Relentless Rats as you want between your library and sideboard. Your deck is considered to be the sum of your starting library and sideboard, usually you can have 4 copies of a card between the two, but there is no such restriction on Relentless Rats.

Q: I have a question regarding Eyes of the Watcher. The wording says "whenever you play an instant or sorcery spell...", am I correct to say that a copy of a spell put on the stack by Isochron Scepter, Panoptic Mirror or even Spellweaver Helix satisfies the condition for Eyes of the Watcher as well?
--Kian Seg

A: You are. All the cards you mention first create a copy of the imprinted card, then you may play it, and when you play it, it's a spell which will trigger the Eyes.
Note that this isn't true for other effects which place a copy of the spell directly on the stack without you actually playing it.

General/Older Card Questions


Star Compass
Q: If I play Fertile Ground on a land, can I then use Star Compass to add any mana of any color I want to my mana pool?
-- Joel Harms

A: No, you can't. Star Compass can only tap for mana a basic land can produce. Fertile Ground has a triggered ability that generates mana when the land is tapped, but it doesn't give the ability to the land – it's Fertile Ground that generates the mana. This is different from Joiner Adept which does give a mana ability to the land.

Q: If I play Consume Spirit on a creature, and the creature is destroyed in response, do I still gain the life?
--Karolis Dzeja

A: No, you don't. Consume Spirit has a target, and when a spell has no legal targets when it tries to resolve, it is countered and has no effect at all, including any non-targeted parts of the effect.
This is rule 413.2a in the Comprehensive Rulebook

Q: I put the card Eater of Days into play, after I waited for the two turns to pass, I used Donate to give Eater of Days to my opponent. If I then cycled a card and targeted my opponent's Eater of Days with my Astral Slide, who would have to skip their next two turns, me, or the opponent I Donated Eater of Days to?
-- Michael Reid

A: You would skip the turns. When Astral Slide returns Eater of Days to play, it comes back under its owner's (your) control, and its ability triggers for you, not your opponent, and you have to skip two more turns.


Monkey Cage
Q: I have Monkey Cage in play. If I cast Tooth and Nail to bring in two Darksteel Colossuses, do I get 11 Ape tokens or 22?
--Ari B. Lipkin

A: You get 22 tokens. Monkey Cage has a triggered ability that triggers whenever a creature comes into play, and it will trigger multiple times if several creatures come into play before Monkey Cage is sacrificed.
Monkey Cage is only sacrificed as part of the ability's effect, and the sacrifice is not a requirement for getting the tokens – you do as much as possible when the spell resolves, and later resolutions of the Cage's ability will be unable to sacrifice it, but the tokens will still be put into play. It would be different if the ability had said "...sacrifice Monkey Cage. If you do, put tokens into play...", this would only let you get tokens once – when the Cage is sacrificed.

Q: If I use Razor Barrier to give a creature protection from artifacts, does equipment equipped to that creature "fall off"?
-- Mihai Nica

A: Yes, it does. One of the things protection does is make it unable to be equipped by equipment with the stated quality (in this case artifacts), so all equipment that is currently equipping the creature will become unattached, which means it doesn't equip anything at all.
This is a state-based effect, rule 420.5k in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: If you have a Mirari's Wake in play and attack with a Gemini Engine would the Twin token be 4/5 like Gemini Engine or would it get the effect of Mirari's Wake and be 5/6.
--Bryan Gonzales

A: It would be 5/6. When the triggered ability from the Engine resolves, it reads the current power and toughness from Gemini Engine (which is 4/5, 3/4 with a +1/+1 bonus). Then it puts the token into play with these values as base value, which is increased further by Mirari's Wake – it gives +1/+1 to all creatures in play.


Echoing Decay
Q: I have a question about the power of a creature. If my opponent attacks with a 1/3 creature and I use a card like say, Echoing Decay to make it a -1/1 creature until end of turn. At this point I decide not to block his creature. What will happen to my life total? Will I gain 1 life or do I still lose 1 life. We couldn't figure out what to do with it.
--Marvin Tijssen

A: You won't lose any life. It's not possible to deal negative damage, if an amount of damage is less than zero, it's treated as zero, and there won't be a change to your life total.
This is explained in rule 104.2 in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: Psychogenic Probe deals 2 damage to a player when he or she shuffles his or her library. I play Visions on an opponent and choose to shuffle his library. Although I'm shuffling his library, would he still recieve 2 damage?
--Dennis Bergsma

A: He still receives the damage. The current Oracle text of Visions says that "you may have that player shuffle that library", so the player shuffles his own library – very few cards today have a player shuffle a library he or she doesn't own. Psychogenic Probe only triggers when a player shuffles his or her own library, not when another player shuffles it.

Q: My opponent's graveyard is empty, I target my Thran Foundry on him to deal some damage with Psychogenic Probe. Does he still need to shuffle his or her empty graveyard in his or her library?
--Dennis Bergsma

A: Yes, he does. The Foundry's effect calls for the player to shuffle his or her graveyard into his or her library, and you can do this even when the graveyard is empty – you just end up shuffling the library. This will trigger Psychogenic Probe to deal 2 damage.


Wurmskin Forger
Q: Wurmskin Forger says that you can "distribute three +1/+1 counters among any number of target creatures." Can that be none? If so, I assume the counters are just lost. If not, can you tell me what rule prohibits zero targets for that card?

A: You can only choose no targets if no targets exist. You can choose one, two or three targets, but not zero. Usually, you can choose zero when you can choose "any number", but as you have three counters to distribute, it won't be legal to not distribute them at all, and if at least one legal target exists, you must choose it.
Rule 409.1e says that if you have something to divide, each target must receive at least one of whatever is being divided, and you can't legally divide three on zero targets.
If no legal target can be chosen (for example if all creatures in play are untargetable due to some effect), the ability is just removed from the stack, doing nothing.

Q: I have a Lich's Tomb in play, and my opponent casts Searing Wind, targeting me. I don't want to have to sacrifice ten permanents, so can I sacrifice Lich's Tomb first and not have to sacrifice nine more permanents? Or do I sacrifice all of the permanents at once, so it doesn't matter if I choose to sacrifice Lich's Tomb first?
--Nick Worobess

A: You have to sacrifice ten permanents. When you lose the 10 life, the Tomb's ability triggers, and it tells you to sacrifice ten permanents when it resolves. You have to sacrifice the permanents at the same time, it's not done in any particular order.

Q: Are the charge counters on Aether Vial permanent or do they leave play when you use them to bring a creature into play?

A: The counters stay on Aether Vial. The ability doesn't tell you to remove any counters, so they stay on the Vial until the Vial leaves play. Some effects (Power Conduit) can remove the counters, but they won't go away by themselves.


Mistform Wakecaster
Q: I have a Mistform Wakecaster out and use its , ability to make all my creatures Wizards. After that, I play a Llanowar Elves. Would the Llanowar Elves creature type be a wizard until end of turn? One of my friends says that it wouldn't because Mistform Wakecaster's ability is finished before I play my Llanowar Elves and that it only counts my creatures in play at that time.

A: Your friend is right. Rule 418.3b in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that 418.3b Continuous effects from spells, activated abilities, and triggered abilities that modify the
characteristics of something won't affect it if it weren't affected when the continuous effect began. Creature type is a characteristic, and since the Elves weren't in play when the effect started, they will not be affected and still be Elves.

Q: Is it possible to force your opponent to concede (give up) the game by using Mindslaver's effect?

A: No, it's not. While you will make all other decisions for the controlled player, you are not allowed to make the player give up. This is specifically prohibited by rule 507.3b in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: I have played a Dimensional Breach early in the game. Then I play a second Dimensional Breach. Will the second batch of permanents be put in a separate pile? Then would I return a permanent from each pile during my upkeep? Or do all removed permanents get lumped together, only returning one to play each upkeep?

A: All the removed permanents end up in the removed from game zone, which isn't ordered in any particular way, but each effect from Dimensional Breach knows which cards it removed, so you can think of the cards as being in two separate piles. Each upkeep, each effect generates a triggered ability that will return a permanent from its associated "pile" to play.

Results of last week's poll:

You have Humility and Natural Emergence in play. Do your lands have First Strike?
Only if Humility was played before Natural Emergence. 7219 48.6%
Only if Natural Emergence was played before Humility. 968 6.5%
No 6679 44.9%
Total 14866 100.0%

The correct answer is "No". Since Natural Emergence has a type-changing effect (changes lands to creatures), all of its effects are applied in the same layer (layer 4). Humility has an "other continuous effect", which is applied in layer 5, and will always overwrite and remove the first strike ability of the lands.
See rules 418.5a and b for explanations of which order effects are applied in.

Thanks to Lee Sharpe for feedback and proofreading.

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