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Pojo's Magic The Gathering
Judge's Corner

6.14.02 - Targeting at Threshold 

Q: My opponent is at 3 life. I have Boneshard Slasher and Enslaved Dwarf in play and two other red creatures. I have six cards in my graveyard. My only way to get threshold is to sac the Enslaved Dwarf, targeting the Boneshard Slasher. When is the Slasher targeted? Since sacrificing the Dwarf is part of the cost of the ability, is the Dwarf card in the graveyard when the Slasher is targeted, forcing me to sacrifice the Slasher?

-Tom Smegal

A: I was forced to research this one, and found the following ruling in D'Angelo's Files, attributed to Jeff Jordan, dated May 14:

"A card may achieve Threshold during the announcement of a spell or ability. If so the Threshold ability text starts at the time Threshold is gained."

Also sourcing 409, in playing a spell or ability, we find that targeting is done (409.1c) before costs are paid (409.1f). Saccing the Dwarf is a cost to play its ability. So since when we target the Slasher, we only have 6 cards in the graveyard, the Slasher's ability won't trigger off being targeted by the Dwarf. So you'll end up doing 4 damage with the Slasher, winning this game (unless your opponent can target the Slasher again to make it go away).


Q: I have some questions about Soulcatchers' Aerie and Battle Screech. 

A: Soulcatchers' Aerie
Whenever a Bird is put into your graveyard from play, put a feather counter on Soulcatchers' Aerie.
All Birds get +1/+1 for each feather counter on Soulcatchers' Aerie.

Battle Screech
Put two 1/1 white Bird creature tokens with flying into play.
Flashback--Tap three untapped white creatures you control. (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)


Q: Once the bird tokens made with Battle Screech die, do they put a counter on the
Soulcatchers' Aerie?

A: Yes. Soulcatchers' Aerie looks for any creature of type bird that is put into the graveyard (from play).


Q: If I have two Soulcatchers' Aerie in play, do they each get a counter for every bird that goes into my graveyard?


A: Yes. Each Aerie will trigger for each bird put into your graveyard from play, so each one will receive a counter and all birds will receive a bonus from each Aerie.


Q: Okay, I can't wrap my mind around Morphling's ability to do the +1/-1 and -1/+1. Say Morphling (3/3) goes against a Marsh Crocodile (4/4). I can understand that the player controlling Morphling could tap lands to boost up Morphling's defense or offense, depending on how he wanted to handle the situation. But, I don't see how he could boost up his attack, then boost up his defense - killing the Croc, but keeping the Morphling alive? Wouldn't the two abilities just balance the other out?


A: I apparently have to go through the intricacies of combat here for you.

Let's say Morphling is blocking Marsh Crocodile. Before damage is dealt, you pump him (+1/-1) once, making him a 4/2. Then we put combat damage on the stack. After combat damage is on the stack, we pump Morphling down (-1/+1) three times, making him a 1/5. Noting 310.4,

310.4. Combat damage resolves as though it were a pseudospell. When it resolves, it's dealt as originally assigned. This happens even if the creature dealing damage is no longer in play, its power has changed, or the creature receiving damage has left combat.

we see that the Morphling will deal the amount of damage that he was originally assigned to deal (4), regardless of its current power. 

Incidentally, this is a corollary to the second mantra ("Increasing the power of creatures once their damage has been put on the stack won't make them do more damage."), in that decreasing the power of creatures after damage is on the stack won't make them do less damage.


Q: When a card states take an extra turn after this one does it count as one of the final 5 turns when time is called at a tournament?

A: When time is called at a sanctioned tournament, and unfinished games get 5 more turns, and then the match is complete. The match doesn't care who takes the 5 extra turns; it just counts 5 extra turns and ends the match.

For example, during the second extra turn, you play Time Walk. You end up taking the third turn, your opponent takes the fourth, and you take the fifth, and then the match is over. You do not get a "sixth" extra turn; you just make the Time Walk turn one of the five.


Q: Also what would happen if I were able to legally play seedtime on turn 5? Do I get to play another turn or is the game simply over since the rules say five more turns after time is called?

-Shane Irons

A: The match is over.


Q: Here is a question on Unnatural Selection. Let's say my opponent has 3 Wild Mongrels in play. If I made 1 of those Wild Mongrels a legend, would the other 2 die? Or would I need to make all 3 of them legends? Or does nothing happen at all either way? 


A: You'd need to make all 3 of them legends to kill 2 of them. The Legend rule doesn't care about permanents with the same name unless both of them are legendary.

420.5e If two or more Legends or legendary permanents with the same name are in play, all except the one that has been a Legend or legendary permanent with that name the longest are put into their owners' graveyards. This is called 'the Legend rule.' In the event of a tie, each Legend or legendary permanent with the same name is put into its owner's graveyard. (If two permanents have the same name but only one is a Legend or is legendary, this rule doesn't apply.)


Q: Can a Faceless Butcher's ability to remove a creature from the game be played on a creature with protection from black?

-Ben Albright

A: No. The Butcher won't be able to target the creature with Protection from Black.

502.7b A permanent with protection can't be targeted by spells with the stated quality….


Q: All my friends say that when you play a Waste Away on Laquatus's Champion that has its regenerate shield on it doesn't die. I say the Champion can't regenerate because it has its toughness less than zero. Who is right?

A: The Champion will die as a state-based effect.

420.5b A creature with toughness 0 or less is put into its owner's graveyard. Regeneration can't replace this event.


Q: I 'm kind of unsure about a Nantuko Blightcutter's threshold. When it says "Nantuko Blightcutter gets +1/+1 for each black permanent your opponents control." Does that include swamps, black creatures, black enchantments, etc?


A: The Blightcutter gets +1/+1 for each card your opponent controls that is black.

However, lands are colorless, so you wouldn't count any Swamps toward the total.

A card with no color is colorless. Lands are colorless because they have no mana cost.


Q: Could the owner of a Wild Mongrel discard (using the creature's ability) to pump him at the same time as the giant-growth? I imagine the following:

A: attack with the Mongrel.
B: Lightning Bolt the Mongrel.
A: discard to pump the Mongrel, which saves him.
B: Incinerate the Mongrel.
A: discard to pump the Mongrel again, keeping him alive for even longer.

Is this allowed? Using his ability twice? Since B passes priority back
to A, the Mongrel can pump again, right?

A: Yes. However, one pump won't save a Mongrel from a Lightning Bolt or Incinerate. Substitute a Giant Growth spell in the pump's place, and it's all good.


Q: My next question is about the classic duel: Prodigal Assassin ("Tim") vs. Royal Assassin. When do the phases end in this "battle of instant effects"? For example:

Player A has a Tim and an artifact which can untap a creature.
Player B has the Royal Assassin.

Can player A "safely" tap Tim to deal the 1 point of damage to the Royal Assassin knowing that if the Royal Assassin taps to use his special ability, player A can use the artifact to un-tap Tim, preventing the double-death. Or would both Tim and the Royal Assassin just kill each other anyway?

A: You had it right the first time. Royal Assassin will check that Tim is tapped when Royal Assassin's ability resolves. If Tim is untapped when Royal Assassin's ability resolves, Tim isn't a "target tapped creature" anymore, so the Royal Assassin's ability will be countered for lack of a legal target.


Q: Can an effect "interrupt" another ability? It has to, otherwise, Tim would just kill the Assassin before he could respond. Or does the Assassin's effect remain on the stack, and take effect regardless of Tim's later tapped-or-untapped state? (This would seem to conflict with the "a creature must be around to inflict damage" ruling ... at least in spirit.)

A: Several issues here that are slightly wrong …

First, abilities don't resolve immediately. They go on the stack, and can be responded to.

Next, The Assassin's ability will resolve once it is put on the stack (barring a Bind or similar effect), but as I pointed out before, the ability will check to see if Tim is untapped.

Finally, once damage goes on the stack in combat, the creature can leave the board, and it will still deal damage. (This was a change with Sixth Edition rules.) 


Q: Is it in anyway possible for player A to tap Tim, create the 1 damage effect and untap Tim before he gives the Royal Assassin a chance to use his ability? I don't think so, but as I don't totally understand the phases and the passing of priority, I could be totally wrong.

A: No. The controller of the Tim could play both abilities in a row, but neither of them will resolve before Player B could use the Assassin's ability.


Q: I'm so confused by this situation (especially if Player B has a giant-growth) knowing when what happens, and when special abilities resolve relative to combat damage, and...

A: As a general rule, put everything on the stack. When both players pass priority in succession, resolve the top thing on the stack. If there's nothing on the stack, go on to the next step or phase.

(The one major template to not put something on the stack would be the words "as" [i.e. "as this comes into play…" or "if" [i.e. "if this would come into play"] at the start of an ability. But for most of your questions, put it on the stack, and you'll be just fine.)


Q: I have a creature with the ability to regenerate. I enchant with some creature enchantment. Someone else kills the creature, but I regenerate it. Does the enchantment stay? My friend says that since the creature never left play, the enchantment always had a creature to enchant. I'm not so sure. 

A: Your friend is correct here. If a creature regenerates, it doesn't leave play, so the enchantment will always have something to be on.


Q: The system is complicated. I think someone should publish a board with a list the phases, and a place to record what happens in the stack. A big white board with a pre-printed grid of all the phases, and a second section for the stack. This would be tremendously helpful when "the dispute" happens. You could just map everything out, and walk through the rules with the exact state of everything carefully displayed. That would prevent a lot of confusion.

A: You've hit on the one thing that causes the most disputes at tournaments: what used to be called "failure to agree on reality." 

Most people need to be much clearer when exactly they're doing things.

I've seen people talk about using a board like that, but the one drawback would be the amount of time it would use. There is a lot of "implicit passing" of priority that happens in games. Try explicitly stating each pass of priority for a few turns, and you'll quickly see what I mean. The implicit passing has been taken to extremes, though, and that's what gets people into trouble. If you have trouble, try communicating a little more :)


Q: Can a creature use an ability while the creature is tapped? 

A: Only if the ability doesn't have "Tap" in its ability.


Q: Example 1: I have 3 pumpable creatures, and my opponent has 2 blockers. So can I wait until he assigns the blockers to pick which one to pump?

A: Yes.


Q: Example 2: Can a tapped regeneratable creature regenerate anymore this turn?

A: Yes. The tapping of using a regeneration ability is an effect of regeneration. Also, you can tap a tapped creature. You just won't notice anything.


Q: What about a creature with an enchantment? Is the enchantment tapped with the creature? (Firebreathing?)

A: No. There are very few instances where an enchantment can become tapped. Also, a tapped enchantment still functions as normal, so if an enchantment happens to be tapped, it really won't do anything.


Q: You sort of touched on this one earlier, but I'm looking for a small clarification. My opponent has a Rishadan Port. During my upkeep, after I untap my lands, but before my draw phase, he taps one of my lands. I can still use my mana, but only if I do it in this phase right? So I could not put down a creature or cast a sorcery or an enchantment... using that mana. Is that correct? (It seems broken, that's why I ask.)

A: You are correct.

Note, however, that the draw step is in the same phase as the upkeep step. So you can float mana, draw a card, and then play the card you drew (assuming the card you drew was an instant).


Q: Also, I have to give you credit for the confusion caused by using Misdirection to "counter" a counterspell. I read your comments on redirecting the target of the counterspell to be the Misdirection spell itself. I decided to use it and my friends went crazy. "But if you are forcing me to counter your Misdirection, then the Misdirection never happened! How could it have EVER changed the target of the counterspell?" I maintain that 1 counterspell can't counter both of them, and if it doesn't counter the misdirection, it would get its target changed. Both spells are valid/legal targets... hmmmm.

I just said that I read it on your site, and I showed it to them. They still don't buy it, and I would really like to see how the logic plays out. Obviously, this isn't a big deal, but they are still skeptical of this call. There is definitely a circular logic "problem", but as a Mathematics major, this is the most interesting Magic quandary I've seen yet. :-)

-Matthew Wood

A: I'll put the situation here, for those of you who need to review… this is from my 29 April column.

>>> Q: My opponent plays a spell, I respond with a Counterspell. My opponent plays Misdirection making my Counterspell target itself, would my Counterspell be countered letting his spell resolve? 

A: Your opponent made an incorrect play, because a spell can't target itself (Definition-"Target").

However, your opponent can Misdirect the counterspell - to the Misdirection! This is how that works…

-Your opponent plays Big Nasty Spell.
-You play Counterspell, targeting the Big Nasty Spell.
-Your opponent plays Misdirection, targeting the Counterspell. (Misdirection only has one target - the spell with a single target that it's going to change the target of.)
-You both pass, so Misdirection resolves. Now your opponent changes the target of Counterspell to another spell on the stack. Until Misdirection has changed the target of Counterspell, it's still on the stack. So your opponent makes Counterspell target the Misdirection. Now that Misdirection has changed the target of Counterspell, and has fully resolved, Misdirection goes to the graveyard.
-You both pass again. Counterspell attempts to resolve, but the spell it's now targeting (Misdirection) isn't on the stack any more to be countered. So Counterspell is countered on resolution.
-Now, unless you play something else (another Counterspell maybe?), the Big Nasty Spell will resolve.<<<

Note the key part there. Misdirection is still on the stack when it's resolving, and is therefore a legal target for the Counterspell. Once Misdirection has done its job, it goes to the graveyard. Then the Counterspell resolves. Its target is gone, so all of the Counterspell's targets are illegal, so Counterspell is countered on resolution. ("Fizzle" if you prefer the old term.)
File this under stupid stack tricks and write me if you need any more help with this situation. I'll answer any other specific questions for you privately.


Q: Is sacrifice an ability?

A: Sacrificing can either be a cost (to play a spell or ability) or an effect (when a spell or ability resolves). Either way, it's not an ability. Let me define sacrifice from the rulebook:

To sacrifice a permanent, its controller moves it from the in-play zone directly to its owner's graveyard. If an effect instructs a player to sacrifice a permanent that he or she doesn't control, nothing happens. Sacrificing a permanent doesn't destroy it, so regeneration or other effects that replace destruction can't affect it.

Let's go on to your example here …


Q: Let's say my opponent plays a Chainer's Edict, and I respond by using Sylvan Safekeeper's ability on itself, do I still sacrifice it?

A: Yes. Chainer's Edict doesn't target the creatures, it targets the player. As such, a creature that can't be the target of spells or abilities or with protection from black can be chosen to satisfy the resolution of Chainer's Edict (and must, if it/they are the only creature[s]).


Q: I have a card called Lu-Bu. He has Horsemanship. What is Horsemanship?


A: I'll have to let the rulebook explain here …

502.17. Horsemanship

502.17a Horsemanship is an evasion ability that appeared in the Portal Three Kingdoms™ set.

502.17b A creature with horsemanship can't be blocked by creatures without horsemanship. A creature with horsemanship can block a creature with or without horsemanship.



Q: I have an issue with an answer that you gave:

>>>Q: If I have Caustic Tar out, and my opponent has Circle of Protection: Black, can he prevent the 3 life loss with the COP?


A: No. Loss of life is not damage.<<<

The Caustic Tar is not doing the damage, the land is. Since land is colourless, then a CoP:Black would not be able to prevent the damage.

-Susan Felhaber

A: That's another reason, yes. And probably a more pertinent one than the one I gave. Still, the point remains - CoPs will not affect loss of life.


Q: >>>Q: What happens if a Compost is Vindicated? Is the card drawn?

A: No. The Compost will be in the graveyard by the time the Vindicate hits the graveyard.<<<
From what I understand from some judges I know, the Compost being destroyed by a Vindicate is a triggered effect, and therefore the person would draw the card.

A: I'll let Jeff Jordan (the MTG-L netrep) back me up here. This is from Netrep reply 628, dated July 2:

>>>> Player A plays Vindicate on Player's B Compost.
> AFAIK, player B gets to draw its card. But also AFAIK, the compost
> is placed in the graveyard before the vindicate. I've been asked why
> and I couldn't give an accurate answer but my feelings about the
> situation.

Player B does not get to draw a card. The Vindicate card (a white and black sorcery that destroys a target permanent) does not go to the graveyard until after the Compost has left play. It will not trigger.<<<


Q: Now, what about Pernicious Deeding a Compost away? Is the card drawn or not?

A: You will draw the card for the Deed going to the graveyard. This is because the Deed is sacrificed to pay the cost of its ability, and the Compost is still in play at that time.

You would also draw cards for any black cards that went to the graveyard at the same time as the Compost. This is because of rule 410.10d.


Q: Hey, I asked Wizards about the Martyrs' Tomb and Transcendence combo and they said you can't go above 20+ because on Transcendence you die instantly... I really don't get it. Can you tell me why it doesn't work? I read your article and all abut it, but I don't know why Wizards said no. 


A: Wizards said it doesn't work because the people who staff their customer service center are complete morons who don't keep up with the rules and don't care to think about the intricacies of a given situation. I doubt that most of the people who staff that center could even get a 40% on the level 1 judge's test. (A passing score to become level 1 is 70%.)

Having got that off my chest, they are correct that you would die if you go above 19 life with Transcendance out. However, you never go above 19 life with Transcendance out. You use the fact that the life gain ability ("Whenever you lose life, you gain 2 life for each 1 life you lost.") is a triggered ability, since it uses the word "whenever." (Incidentally, the lose the game ability is also a triggered ability, but you can't avoid the loss once you go above 19.) You stack a lot of "gain 4 life" triggers on the stack, and then get rid of the Transcendance before the triggers resolve. Then you go well above 20, but since Transcendance is gone, it won't make you lose the game.

404. Triggered Abilities

404.1. A triggered ability begins with the word "when," "whenever," or "at." The phrase containing one of these words is the trigger condition, which defines the trigger event. A delayed triggered ability will also contain one of these three words, although that word won't usually begin the ability.

404.2. Triggered abilities aren't played. Instead, a triggered ability automatically "triggers" each time its trigger event occurs. Once an ability has triggered, it goes on the stack the next time a player would receive priority.

410. Handling Triggered Abilities

410.2. Whenever a game event or game state matches a triggered ability's trigger event, that ability triggers. When a phase or step begins, all abilities that trigger "at the beginning of" that phase or step trigger. The ability doesn't do anything when it triggers but automatically puts a pseudospell (see rule 217.6b) on the stack as soon as a player would receive priority. The ability (and the pseudospell) is controlled by the player who controlled its source at the time it triggered. If the ability says a player "may" do something, that player makes all choices for that instruction. If the ability says this for more than one player, each player specified makes the choices for their instructions. See also rule 410.6.

410.3. If multiple abilities have triggered since the last time a player received priority, pseudospells controlled by the active player go on the stack first, in any order he or she chooses, then those controlled by the opponent go on the stack in any order that opponent chooses. Then players once again check for and resolve state-based effects until none are generated, then abilities that triggered during this process go on the stack. This process repeats until no new state-based effects are generated and no abilities trigger. Then the appropriate player gets priority.

-Bill Guerin 
DCI Level 2 Judge




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