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Pojo's Magic The Gathering
Judge's Corner

6.21.02 - Familiars & X Spells 

Q: Could you by any chance clarify whether or not a Syncopate cast with {3}{U} with a Nightscape Familiar out would be a Syncopate for 3 or 4?

-Ezekiel A. Davis

A: 409.1b … If the spell or ability has a variable mana cost (indicated by "X") or some other variable cost, the player announces the value of that variable at this time….

409.1f The player determines the total cost of the spell or ability. Usually this is just the mana cost (for spells) or activation cost (for abilities). Some cards list additional or alternative costs in their text, and some effects may increase or reduce the cost to pay. Costs may include paying mana, tapping cards, sacrificing permanents, discarding cards, and so on. The total cost is the mana or activation cost, plus all cost increases and minus all cost reductions. Once the total cost is determined, it becomes "locked in," and the player then pays all costs in any order. Partial payments are not allowed. If effects would change the total cost after this time, they have no effect. If the cost includes mana, mana abilities can be played at this time. (See rule 411, "Playing Mana Abilities.")

Nightscape Familiar reduces the play cost of blue (and red) spells by one colorless mana. Assuming you play it properly and use all of the mana, X would be set to 4 in b, and then one colorless mana would be taken away by the Familiar, making the cost to play a Syncopate with X=4 {3}{U}.


Q: My friend plays a 15 point Drain Life, targeting me. I use Reverse Damage targeting the Drain Life. What Happens?

A: Drain Life
Spend only black mana on X.
Drain Life deals X damage to target creature or player. You gain life equal to the damage dealt, but not more life than the player's life total before Drain Life dealt damage or the creature's toughness.

Reverse Damage
The next time a source of your choice would deal damage to you this turn, prevent that damage. You gain life equal to the damage prevented this way.

You will gain 15 life instead. Also, since the damage to you was prevented, your opponent will gain no life.


Q: What would happen if I had used Eye for an Eye instead?


A: Eye for an Eye
Eye for an Eye deals X damage to the controller of the source of your choice that dealt damage to you this turn, where X is the damage dealt to you by that source this turn.

First of all, it looks like you would have to wait until the Drain Life has actually damaged you before you cast Eye for an Eye. Then, when you cast Eye for an Eye, it will do 15 damage to your opponent. So it ends up with a net loss of 15 life for you, and no net gain or loss for your opponent (since your opponent gained 15 life from the Drain Life).


Q: My friend thinks that when there are two Psychatogs in play and he uses the ability that they both get +1/+1 for each card he discards. I thought so too but I have doubts now because when you discard a card from your hand for one card you can't do use the ability for another. However, on Psychatog it does just say Psychatog gets the pump, not that THAT Psychatog does. I'm confused.


A: Your doubts are right. When a card says its name on it, it is referring to only that copy of the card, not all copies of the card that may be on the board. So only one Psychatog will get +1/+1 if you discard one card to use one of the Psychatog's abilities.


Q: If my opponent has a Keldon Necropolis in play, and plays a Flametongue Kavu with no other targets, before the Flametongue targets itself, can my opponent pay 4R and sac Flametongue to Keldon Necropolis to deal two damage to his opponent (me)?

A: Not quite, however, he can do the two damage to you. Flametongue Kavu enters play, and its ability is played, targeting itself since there are no other legal targets. He responds with the Necropolis, sacrificing the Kavu to do two damage to you.


I know that if you Æther Burst a Grim Lavamancer in response to the Lavamancer's ability, the activated ability still is on the stack, independent of the creature.

Q: Someone at my card store told me this in the following situation:

If Player A activates his Grim Lavamancer ability, and Player B sacs a Mogg Fanatic in response, targeting the Lavamancer, then the Grim Lavamancer's ability doesn't resolve and the Grim Lavamancer dies. 

What's the difference? Why when you bounce it does the ability go through but when you shoot it with Mogg Fanatic the ability is halted?

-J. C. 

A: The person at the card store is incorrect. Either way, barring a Bind or similar ability, the Lavamancer will do its 2 damage.

402.6. Once activated or triggered, an ability exists independently of its source (the card on which it's printed) as a pseudospell on the stack. Destruction or removal of the source after that time won't affect the ability. Note that some abilities cause a source to do something (for example, "Prodigal Sorcerer deals 1 damage to target creature or player") rather than the ability doing anything directly. In these cases, any spell, activated ability, or triggered ability that references information about the source will check that information when the ability resolves, or will use the source's last known information if it's no longer in play.


Q: I've just started playing Magic again, and I think I've got a decent grip on the rules and the stack. However, the Odyssey card Divert is stumping me. 

A: Divert
Change the target of target spell with a single target unless that spell's controller pays {2}.


Q: When it says target spell - does that include creatures? Enchantments? 

A: Let's let the rulebook define "spell:"

A nonland card becomes a spell when it's played and remains a spell until it's countered or it resolves. Nonland cards can also be referred to as "spell cards." See rule 213, "Spell Type."

So a spell only exists on the stack.


Q: I guess I would be asking, could you Divert a Flametongue Kavu? 

A: No. The Flametongue Kavu spell has no targets. The damage it does is a comes into play _ability_, and so it can't be Diverted, since it isn't a spell.


Q: Or could you Divert a Squirrel Nest onto one of your lands, rather than your opponent's?

-Heath Walton

A: You sure can. When you cast a local enchantment spell, you have to target the thing you want to enchant. Typically, this is only a single target, so you can Divert a local enchantment onto something else.

Local Enchantment
Local enchantments are a category of enchantments. A local enchantment is labeled "Enchant [type]" and is attached to another permanent while in play. See rule 214.8, "Enchantments."

214.8d As part of playing a local-enchantment spell, the player announces the spell's target. The local enchantment comes into play attached to that target permanent. If a local enchantment is coming into play by any other means, the player putting it into play chooses a permanent for it to enchant as it comes into play. In this case, the enchantment doesn't target the permanent, but the player still must choose a permanent that the enchantment can enchant. If no legal permanent is available, the enchantment remains in the zone from which it attempted to move instead of coming into play. The same rule applies to moving a local enchantment from one permanent to another. The permanent to which the enchantment is to be moved must be able to be enchanted by it. If it isn't legal, the enchantment doesn't move.


Q: How does Shimmer really work?

A: Shimmer
As Shimmer comes into play, choose a land type.
All lands of the chosen type have phasing.


Q: It's my opponent's turn and he puts down Shimmer. He chooses Island. It's my turn, if I put an Island out, is it phased in or out? Can I use the Island?

-Erik Tom

A: You have an incorrect perception of phasing. Phasing only occurs at the start of each person's turn. For example, taking your example here, at the start of your turn, any Islands you control will go to the phased-out zone. (And any phased-out cards in your phased-out zone are put back into play on your side of the board.) So basically this means Islands will only be available for mana every other turn.

(Note that Shimmer will affect _all_ Islands, not just yours, so your opponent's Islands will phase out and in at the start of his turn, too.)


Q: Recently, I've heard of a combo involving Elephant Guide and Nomad Mythmaker. Basically, you enchant a creature with the Guide, then when it dies you put an elephant in play. You then use the Mythmaker to enchant the elephant, so when it dies, another elephant will be put in play.

Does it work? I know tokens are removed from the game instead of being discarded, but I've heard that a token goes to the graveyard, then the game "sees" that it's a token, and removes it from the game. Is that right?

-Felipe Lapenda

A: The Elephant token does go to the graveyard before it is removed from the game, so Elephant Guide will trigger.


Q: If my opponent has Shivan Reef in play and uses Boil, does the Reef get destroyed?


A: No. The Reef is not an Island, either by name or by an ability of the Reef (like the dual lands), so it won't be destroyed. Just because the Reef produces blue mana doesn't automatically make it an Island.


Q: My opponent has just passed the turn to me. The previous turn he has just attacked for 19, bringing my life total to 1. It is now my upkeep. I have a Phyrexian Arena, a Goblin Trenches and a Dega Sanctuary in play. What happens then?


A: Depends on how smart you are. :) 

You have two triggered abilities: the Arena and the Sanctuary. Depending on how you stack them, you can either live or die. Since you control both triggered abilities, you put them on the stack in any order you choose. The smart way would be to put the Arena on the stack first, then the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary will then resolve first, gaining you 4 life to 5, and then the Arena, losing 1 life to 4.


Q: I was playing a friend in last Friday's Night Magic tourney. He had a Tormod's Crypt in play and I had Forcemage Advocate, and we both had other cards out in play. The question is when I went to use the Forcemage Advocate's ability to return a card from his graveyard to his hand, he responded by sacrificing Tormod's Crypt, then saying there are no cards in his graveyard to choose from to return to his hand. Is that right?

I have read that costs are paid during the announcement of the ability and he would not have got priority until after the announcement is complete. So I could have return a card to his hand and than he could response with sacing the Crypt. 


A: First off, I have to go off on a tangent. If it is Friday Night Magic proper, with the foil cards (Fireslinger this month), then you were either running a really wacky limited format or the person running it was using an improper format. Friday Night Magic is only supposed to be one of three formats: Standard (Type 2), Booster Draft, or Sealed Deck.

Anyway, on to the answer. You are nearly correct in your description of the situation, but the act of returning cards to the hand for the Advocates' abilities happens on resolution. So once you announce the ability, you target the appropriate cards, then you receive priority. If the card in your opponent's graveyard is removed, you still have a valid target (the creature getting the +1/+1 counter), so the card won't be returned (since it's not there any more), but the creature will get the +1/+1 counter.


Q: I was playing at a local gaming store with a Chamber of Manipulation Deck. I had no creatures on the table.

My opponent attacked me with 2, 3/3 Elephant tokens. I declared that as an instant effect before his creature attack that I would gain control of it using a Chamber of Manipulation and discard a card. I then 
declared a block.

But my opponent stated that he would be allowed to take back his other declared attacker, or my newly acquired creature would be tapped. I was just wondering what was correct.


A: Your opponent is. By backing him up to before the attack, you cancelled anything that had happened up to that point. So both creatures are untapped and no one is attacking.


Q: You said that in an earlier column that if a creature is targeted by Prophetic Bolt and is then bounced somehow, that I wouldn't get to Impulse.

So my question is this why then do you gain 3 life after trying to Absorb Urza's Rage?


A: Good question. In the Prophetic Bolt example, all the targets are made illegal, so the Prophetic Bolt is countered.

However, when you try to Absorb an Urza's Rage, the target is not illegal. The Absorb tries to counter the Rage, but can't. So it goes on and gains you the 3 life, since Absorb wasn't countered. 

Which leads me to pre-empt the next question…


Q: OK then. So If I Memory Lapse my Urza's Rage, it does the damage and then goes on top of my library, right?


A: No. The "Put it on top of its owner's library" part of Memory Lapse is a replacement of putting the card in the graveyard _when it is countered_. Since Urza's Rage wasn't countered, it's not going o the graveyard as a result of the Lapse. So the Lapse won't put it on top of the library.


Q: Can I play any cards from non-Type II sets in Type II? Even the same? (e.g. 6th and 7th Wrath of God)


A: Yes. You can play any version of a card in a constructed tournament, as long as a card with the same name is legal in the format you're playing. I personally have 4 Portal Wrath of Gods I use whenever I need to use Wrath in a deck.


Q: I have three questions regarding Dawn of the Dead and Shauku, Endbringer.

A: Dawn of the Dead
At the beginning of your upkeep, you lose 1 life.
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may return target creature card from your graveyard to play. That creature gains haste until end of turn. Remove it from the game at end of turn.

Shauku, Endbringer
Creature -- Legend
Shauku, Endbringer can't attack if there's another creature in play.
At the beginning of your upkeep, you lose 3 life.
{T}: Remove target creature from the game and put a +1/+1 counter on Shauku.


Q: Now, my first question is about Dawn of the Dead alone. It says, "target creature card". Is this limited to one card, or can I pick as many cards as I wish?

A: One card each turn.


Q: My second question regards the use of Dawn of the Dead on Shauku. The text on Shauku says "At the beginning of your upkeep, you lose 3 life." If I use Dawn of the Dead to put Shauku into play from the graveyard, will I lose 1 life (from Dawn of the Dead) or 4 life (Dawn of the Dead + Shauku)?

A: Only one. The beginning of upkeep has passed, so no new "At the beginning of upkeep" triggers will happen this turn.


Q: Now on to my last question. If I use any cards ability, like Fallen Angel, to sacrifice Shauku before my turn is over, it will go back to the graveyard and thus not be removed from the game, am I right?

-Frode Aarebrot

A: Correct. Since Shauku's changed zones, Dawn of the Dead won't be able to find it any more. Even if Shauku somehow goes to the graveyard and finds his way back in play before the end of the turn, since Shauku has changed zones, Dawn of the Dead will lose track of it and it won't be removed.

217.1c A card that moves from one zone to another is treated as a new card. Effects connected with its previous location will no longer affect it. There are two exceptions to this rule: Effects that edit the characteristics of a spell on the stack will continue to apply to the permanent that spell creates, and abilities that trigger when a card moves from one zone to another (for example, "When Rancor is put into a graveyard from play") can find the card in the zone it moved to when the ability triggered.


Q: Is there any way to look at a card and tell if it is rare or not?


A: If it is a card that was released in Exodus or after, or in 6th or 7th Edition, you can. You can tell by looking at the set symbol on he card. If the symbol is gold, it's a rare. (Silver=uncommon, black=common). Pre-Exodus or 5th Edition or before, you can't tell just by looking at the card.


Q: Me and my friend were playing Magic, and I had a Phantom Nantuko out. It was a 10/12 (due to enchantments and it's tap: put a +1/+1 counter ability) and my friend enchants it with an Armadillo Cloak. I ask him why the heck he did that. He says that since he owns the enchantment, he gains the life. I argue that since his enchantment is enchanting my creature, and since it says you on Armadillo Cloak, you means me. Who's right?


A: He is. Armadillo Cloak's life gain ability isn't given to the creature, it's a part of the enchantment. So the "you" on the Armadillo Cloak refers to the controller of the Cloak, in this case, your opponent.

However, you have to be a bit careful here. He won't automatically stay alive from the life gain ability. If the Phantom Nantuko (along with other creatures in the attack) does more damage than your opponent's life total, he will die before he gains the life from the Cloak. This is because the life gain ability triggers off the damage, and is put on the stack after the damage is dealt.


Q: Can Balthor the Defiled's ability be blocked?

-Jesus DeLaTorre

A: Only by something that counters activated abilities (like Bind or Interdict), since it doesn't target anything.


Q: Confused because of the decks I've seen of Reya-animator for type 2. Can Iridescent Angel be targeted by Reya, Dawnbringer because the Angel is in the graveyard, not in play, and the ability goes off?


A: Yes. Any abilities that a creature has are only in effect when they are in the in-play zone.


Q: How do creatures interact with Meekstone and Mist of Stagnation in play? I'm assuming that I would be able to untap a creature even if it's locked by the Meekstone. How do we determine precedence? 


Creatures with power 3 or greater don't untap during their controllers' untap steps.

Mist of Stagnation
Permanents don't untap during their controllers' untap steps.
At the beginning of each player's upkeep, that player untaps a permanent for each card in his or her graveyard.

As you can see, Meekstone only affects creatures during the untap step. It doesn't look into upkeep, which is where Mist of Stagnation untaps the permanents.


Q: Suppose my opponent has a Blood Pet in play and I have some other creature in play. I play a Faceless Butcher. As the Butcher comes into play, his remove-creature ability triggers. My intention is to choose the Blood Pet as a target for the Butcher's ability, but in response to the Butcher's ability triggering, my opponent sacks the Blood Pet for mana.

My question is, when am I supposed to target the Blood Pet? When the ability triggers or when it resolves?

A: The creature is targeted by the Butcher for removal when the Butcher comes into play and the ability is put on the stack. That ability can be responded to. So in this example, you targeted the Pet, and the Pet was sacked before the Butcher's ability resolved. When the Butcher's ability resolves, its target is gone, so the Butcher's ability is countered for lack of a legal target, and nothing is removed.


If I target the Blood Pet as it triggers, it goes on the stack with Blood Pet pre-targeted, and is countered due to the target disappearing. If I pick the target as the ability resolves, then I'm forced to pick my own creature as a target. So which is right?

A: The former.


Q: As a side... we decided that in order to avoid the situation altogether, we decided to sack the Blood Pet in response to me playing the Butcher, not in response to it's ability... that way there's no argument :p. I'm just curious about the specifics!

-Bernard Ng

A: Your opponent can do it that way, and it probably was a good play for him that he did, so you had to pick your creature to remove.


Q: I have a debate going on. My opponent discarded a Fiery Temper to his Wild Mongrel. He paid the madness cost to cast the FT, then sac'ed Pitchstone Wall to put it back in his hand, sac'd it to the Mongrel once more, then paid the madness cost again, effectively double-burning me and double pumping the Mongrel. I said the Pitchstone wall couldn't affect the FT after it was cast, because it had been moved to the out of play zone and then played as a card in hand- it was not a card being discarded at that point. And if he had used the wall before casting it, it would go to his hand and not be eligible for removal to the out of play zone and subsequent casting. He said he could do one effect (madness or Pitchstone Wall), placing it on the stack and then use the other in response. After discussion, we were both unsure of how Pitchstone Wall interacts with madness. We'd like your opinion. Thanks!

-Steven Taylor

A: From the Torment FAQ:

Similarly, if the discarded card has madness, is played using its madness ability, resolves, then goes to your graveyard by the time the Wall's ability resolves, you still won't get the card back. The Wall's ability can't track the card across different zones.

So he won't get it back to pitch again.

-Bill Guerin 
DCI Level 2 Judge




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