Saturday School #82

Posted in Feature on June 12, 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


Vedalken Engineer
Q: I have a question about the Vedalken Engineer. If I want to use his ability to play a Pentad Prism, can I add two different colors of mana to my mana pool, giving the Prism two counters, or do the two mana have to be of the same color (and therefore, the Prism comes into play with only one counter)?
-- Stijn van Osch

A: Vedalken Engineer taps for two mana of any one color, which means that the mana you get must have the same color. Using only the Engineer to play Pentad Prism will only give it one counter, as it will only be paid for by one color of mana.

Q: I have a question regarding Goblin Cannon. After activating it X times, but before the activations resolve, can I bounce it back to my hand (for example with Into Thin Air), so I don't have to sacrifice it, and still deal damage?

A: This works fine. The sacrifice is just an effect that happens when the damage is dealt, it's not a requirement that the Cannon is sacrificed for the damage to happen. If the Cannon leaves play for some reason before the ability resolves, you will not be able to sacrifice Goblin Cannon, but the damage is still dealt.

Q: If I use the ability of Bringer of the White Dawn to bring back a Suntouched Myr at the beginning of my upkeep, will it have a counter on it?
-- Denis Sauzedde

A: No, it won't. Since you didn't pay the mana cost of the Myr, but put it directly into play from an effect, it doesn't get any counters from sunburst. Sunburst only works if you pay mana for playing the card. It comes into play as a 0/0 creature, and goes to the graveyard.


Grafted Wargear
Q: The ability on Grafted Wargear is not completely clear. It says that when it becomes unattached, sacrifice the permanent. Who sacrifices it? You? The controller? I ask this because I am interested in what happens when you attach it to an opponent's creature via Magnetic Theft.
-- Elvin Ong

A: The controller of the Wargear sacrifices the permanent – triggered abilities from a permanent are controlled by the player who controls the permanent with the ability, and the controller performs all actions unless it says otherwise. If you have attached your Grafted Wargear to the opponent's permanent, you will be asked to sacrifice the permanet when the Wargear becomes unattached. However, you can't sacrifice a permanent you don't control (says the Glossary entry for "sacrifice" in the Comprehensive Rulebook). Since you don't control your opponent's permanent, nothing happens when you try to sacrifice it, and the creature just remains in play, unequipped.

Q: In the situation above, if I have an Energy Chamber in play, do I have the time to put a counter on the Suntouched Myr before it goes back to the graveyard?
-- Denis Sauzedde

A: No, you don't. Once the Myr enters play, and the Bringer's effect is complete, the game checks for state-based effects (this happens between each spell and ability resolving, and between each spell or ability put on the stack). The game sees a creature with zero toughness, and puts it into its owner's graveyard – this happens before any player gets the chance to play anything to try to save it, and before you can sacrifice it to anything.


Energy Chamber
Q: I have a question about Energy Chamber. If I want to put the counters on a noncreature artifact, does the noncreature artifact have to be an artifact that accepts counters, or can the counters be placed on a card such as a Howling Mine?

A: You can place charge counters on any noncreature artifact. If the artifact has no way to use the counters, they just have no particular effect. If you have no other artifacts in play, you can put charge counters on your own Energy Chamber, if you don't want to put counters on your opponent's artifacts.

Q: If I have Krark-Clan Ironworks in play, can I tap and sacrifice my Millstone for mana to pay for its own ability?
-- G. Y. Hyun

A: This won't work, because there is an additional cost to activating Millstone (tapping it). When paying costs for a spell or ability, you have to play the mana abilities first, then pay costs in the order you choose. If you sacrifice the Millstone to get mana, it won't be possible to tap it later, and you're not able to pay the full cost.
This is from rules 409.1g and h in the Comprehensive Rulebook.
However, if the ability had been one you don't need to tap or sacrifice the permanent it's on, for example Goblin Cannon, you could still pay all the costs after getting the mana, and this idea would work in that case.

Q: I have Endless Whispers and Skeleton Shard in play. I also have Bottle Gnomes, and I sacrifice it to gain life. Then, before my turn can end and the effect of Whispers resolves, I use Skeleton Shard to return Bottle Gnomes from my graveyard to my hand. Does the opponent still gain control of it or not?
-- Paul Stegman

A: Your opponent won't gain control of it. If the artifact isn't in the graveyard when Endless Whispers' ability resolves, the ability won't do anything. When the card leaves the graveyard, the effect loses track of it, and the card will not be returned if it's in any other zone.


Salvaging Station
Q: Can Salvaging Station bring an Artifact Land from my graveyard into play?
-- Klaas Wit

A: Yes, it can. Lands have a converted mana cost of zero, and since it's also an artifact, and not a creature card, it qualifies to be returned by the Salvaging Station.

Q: Maybe I'm just not thinking about this right, but in a recent deck in Inquest magazine they posted a deck that used Avarice Totem. Part of the trick of the deck was to pay 10 mana and switch the totem with one of your own permanents then respond to it by switching it with one of your opponent's permanents. The article said you would get your opponent's card, keep the Totem and he would get your card. How exactly does this work?
-- Jason Caudill

A: This trick works by using the stack. Like you say, target your own permanent first, then your opponent's. The last ability to be put on the stack resolves first, so your opponent will gain control of the Totem, and you gain control of your opponent's permanent. Then the first ability resolves, and it switches your other permanent for the Totem. It doesn't matter that you don't control the Totem anymore, all the effect does is switch controller of the two permanents, and your opponent ends up getting your (hopefully useless) permanent.
Note that if your opponent has five mana available, he can respond by switching the Totem for something else in the short while he has control of it, which would ruin your plan, so this trick should be done when your opponent doesn't have mana available.

Q: If I pay and activate Chimeric Coils' ability to turn in into a 1/1 creature , can I use the ability again later in the turn to pay and make it a 3/3?

A: Yes, you can. The last activation of the ability will overwrite the first, and the Coils will be 3/3, ignoring the 1/1 from before. The mana won't add up to make it a 5/5 creature, though.
Activating the Coils ability will only set its initial power and toughness, though, any other modifiers are still applied afterwards. For example, if there is a +1/+1 counter on the Coils, it would still apply with the new initial characteristics, and in the example above, the Coils would go from being 2/2 to 4/4.


Rude Awakening
Q: If I play Rude Awakening for the second ability, with Endless Whispers in play, and one of my lands die, what happens?

A: The land returns to play under your opponents control at the end of the turn. As a creature, the animated land has the ability given by Endless Whispers, and when the land goes to the graveyard, this sets up a delayed triggered ability that returns the card to play at the end of the turn. This happens even if the land is not a creature card – the phrase "that creature card" just refers back to whatever left play, and will return it, regardless of which form it actually has when gets returned. This is described in rule 404.4c in the Comprehensive Rulebook.

Q: I'd like to know whether Fist of Suns lets you include entwine costs of spells in the five different colored mana.
-- Roger Marti

A: No, it doesn't. Fist of Suns only replaces the mana cost, entwine (and kicker and buyback) are additional costs that still need to be paid if you want them to happen. Fist of Suns only lets you pay instead of the cost that's printed in the corner, anything else is a separate cost.

Q: What happens with Relentless Assault and Vedalken Orrery? My friend thinks that he's allowed to attack on his opponent's turn with this because he can play it any time he could play an instant. But I think this won't work because the opponent would have an additional combat phase then, am I right?

A: You are right. If you play Relentless Assault in your opponent's main phase, there will be an additional combat phase and main phase afterwards. Your friend will not be able to attack in this extra combat phase, even though he created it. Only the active player (the player whose turn it is) is allowed to declare attackers in a combat phase, the other player can just declare blockers. All he will accomplish is to give his opponent another attach phase, which is usually not a good strategy.

If you play Relentless Assault in any other phase than a main phase, it will have no effect, because it says "after this main phase, there is an additional combat phase...".


Ageless Entity
Q: If I have 20 life, an Ageless Entity in play, and use a Beacon of Immortality. do I gain that extra 20 life and put on 20 counters on Ageless Entity, or does my life total just go to 40?
-- Mario Romero

A: You gain 20 life, and Ageless Entity gets 20 counters. Any time your life total goes up, the game sees this as "gaining life", and Ageless Entity triggers off this. It gets counters equal to the life gained, which is the difference between the new and the old life total.
Likewise, if an effect sets your life total to a lower value, the game sees it as a life loss.

Q: I have a Sylvok Explorer and my opponent has a Mirrodin's Core in play. Does Mirrodin's Core need to have a charge counter in order for the Explorer to be able to produce mana of any color?

A: No, it doesn't. Sylvok Explorer looks at the mana the land could produce, not necessarily right now. Since Mirrodin's Core has the ability to produce any color of mana, the Explorer can also tap for any color of mana. Likewise, if your opponent has a Gaea's Cradle, the Explorer can tap for green mana even if there are no creatures in play.

General/Older Card Questions

Q: Can Insubordination be put on a Wall? Does it deal damage to it, because Walls cannot attack?
-- Steve Cole

A: Insubordination can be played on a Wall, since a Wall is a creature. Enchant creature-cards can be played on any creature, if there are additional restrictions, they are listed in the text box. Insubordination doesn't have any extra restrictions, and it doesn't matter for if the creature isn't able to attack at all, for any reason. All it does is check if the creature attacked this turn, if it didn't, it takes two points of damage.


Fangren Firstborn
Q: Fangren Firstborn's text says "Whenever Fangren Firstborn attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on each attacking creature." - do I put the counter on before damage or after damage?

A: You put the counter on before the damage. Fangren Firstborn's ability triggers when it is declared as an attacker, and goes on the stack when you get priority right after. This is before blockers are declared, and long before damage is assigned and dealt.

Q: If my friend plays Flaring Pain, does that mean that none of my creatures can block for me? Does it mean that I must take direct damage since blocking is preventing damage.

A: This is not correct. Flaring Pain stops effects that prevent damage from working, such as protection, and other effects that specifically say that damage is prevented (like Samite Healer). It does not affect your ability to block, or your ability to counter spells that would harm you.
Blocking is not considered to be "preventing damage" even though it stops damage from being dealt to you.

Q: If I play Grab the Reins with Entwine on my friend's creature, can I attack with it then sacrifice it in the same turn?

A: No, you can't. When Grab the Reins resolves, you must perform all the actions during resolution, you can't hold off parts of it until later. Grab the Reins will give you control of the creature, and you can then sacrifice a creature to deal damage to something, but you can't do anything in between.


Greater Harvester
Q: I've got a question about Greater Harvester. At the beginning of my upkeep, its ability triggers, forcing me to sacrifice a permanent. Do I have to choose the permanent I'm going to sacrifice as soon as the ability goes onto the stack, or can I respond with a Raise the Alarm, choosing one Soldier token as target?

A: You choose which permanent to sacrifice when the ability resolves. The only things you choose when a triggered ability goes on the stack is mode (if the ability uses the phrase 'choose one --' or '[a player] chooses one --'), targets, and how the targets are affected. Anything else is done on resolution. This means that you can play Raise the Alarm in response, and sacrifice one of the tokens to the ability.

Q: What happens if I have 2 copies of Sylvan Library in play?

A: It would depend on what you do with the extra cards you draw.
The first thing you do in your draw step is to draw your card for the turn. Then both the Sylvans' abilities trigger and go on the stack. When the first ability resolves, you may draw two cards, and then you can either put two cards drawn this turn back, or pay 4 life for each card you want to keep.
If you don't pay any life, you put both cards back, and you may look at the same cards when the second Sylvan's ability resolves, and you get the same choice once again. You only get to look at more cards if you pay life to keep one or more of the cards when the first ability resolves.
You don't get to draw four extra cards at once.

Q: What's the interaction between Mycosynth Lattice and Chrome Mox? Does the Mox still produce colored mana or not? Will it produce any mana at all?
-- Vittorio Giovara

A: With Mycosynth Lattice in play, Chrome Mox will not produce any mana at all. Mycosynth Lattice makes all cards not in play colorless, and since imprinted cards are removed from the game, they are not in play, and therefore colorless. Chrome Mox can only tap for colored mana, and if the imprinted card doesn't have a color, no mana is produced.


Shrapnel Blast
Q: Is there any way to stop someone from playing Shrapnel Blast? For example by destroying the artifact in response with Oxidize or Viridian Zealot?

A: If your opponent has priority to play spells, there is nothing you can do to stop him from playing the spell, although you can counter it later. When a player has priority, he can put the spell on the stack and pay all its costs before you can respond. You can only play Oxidize and Viridian Zealot after the spell has been played, and since the cost has already been paid, it's not possible to do anything to the artifact.

Q: As I understand it, tokens are generally considered "owned" by the controller of the effect that puts them into play. Does this also apply to tokens put into play not under your control? For example, do I own the tokens produced by Varchild's War-Riders even though they come into play on my opponent's side?

A: Rule 200.4a in the Comprehensive Rulebook says that a token's owner is the player who controlled the spell or ability that put it into play, and a token's controller is the player who put it into play.
Since you put the tokens into play with an ability from your creature, you are the owner of these tokens. If you play Brand, you will gain control of all the tokens the War-Riders gave your opponent.

Q: I noticed that Chromatic Sphere reads a lot like Goblin Cannon's. Does this mean I can pump more than just one mana into it?
-- Joseph W. Salesky

A: Chromatic Sphere can only be activated once. The big difference between the Sphere and Goblin Cannon is that the Sphere is sacrificed as a cost to activate its ability, and Goblin Cannon is sacrificed as an effect.
Activated abilities follow the template "cost:effect". Anything before the colon is a cost that needs to be paid to put the ability on the stack, any thing after the colon is an effect that happens when the ability resolves. Since you sacrifice Chromatic Sphere the first time you activate it, it won't be possible to respond by activating it again.

Q: If I use Vedalken Engineer's ability to activate Chromatic Sphere, can I then use that mana for anything? Like a mana conversion so to speak?
-- Joseph W. Salesky

A: This works fine. There is no link between the mana you use to activate Chromatic Sphere and the mana it produces. The mana it produces is mana you can use for anything, it doesn't matter that the Engineer's mana could only be used for artifacts.

Results of last week's poll:

You have a Vedalken Orrery in play, and during your opponent's turn you play Journey of Discovery with entwine as an instant. Are you allowed to put two lands into play during your opponent's turn?
No. 8018 55.8%
Yes, any time you could play an instant. 4453 31.0%
Yes, but only in the main phase when you have priority and the stack is empty. 1901 13.2%
Total 14372 100%

The correct answer was, as the majority thought, "No". Journey of Discovery and similar cards that say that you may play additional lands in a turn only increase the maximum number of lands you are allowed to play in a turn. The rule for when you can play a land (212.6a) say that you may only play lands in your own main phase when the stack is empty, and this won't happen in your opponent's turn. You can play a maximum of two lands that turn, but there will not exist a moment where you are actually allowed to play these lands.

Thanks to Lee Sharpe and Jeff Vondruska for feedback and proofreading.

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