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Pojo's Magic The Gathering
Judge's Corner

Riftstone Portal and Discards

First, a small discussion about the rule in the title that is going on on the MTG-L and DCIJUDGE-L mailing lists.

First, the rules. You have announced a spell or ability, and it comes time to pay for it before it goes on the stack. 409.1f has the following to say about the payment of a spell:

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.")

The key part under discussion is the phrase, "… the player then pays all costs in any order."

Also, here is Rule 422.1 …

422.1. If a player realizes that he or she can't legally take an action after starting to do so, the entire action is reversed and any payments already made are canceled. No abilities trigger as a result of an undone action. If the action was playing a spell, the spell card returns to the zone it came from. The player may also reverse any legal mana abilities played while making the illegal play, unless mana from them or from any triggered mana abilities they triggered was spent on another mana ability that wasn't reversed. Players may not reverse actions that moved cards to or from a library or that involved a random choice or random zone change.

Specifically note the last sentence.

The following question came up on the MTG-L mailing list on 19 August.

Q: Can you choose the order in which you pay the costs associated with a spell?

Here's the specific situation in question:

My opponent attacks with 2 creatures that would deal lethal damage.

I have 2 untapped Forests.

In response to his attack, I announce Vengeful Dreams targeting his creatures (I choose X as 2).

I discard 1 Riftstone Portal, and another card.

I tap the 2 Forests for WW (thanks to Portal) to pay for Dreams.

2 Attacking creatures are RFG.

Yea or Nay?


Jeff Jordan, the NetRep for the list, answered,

A: Under the current rules, you can pay the costs in any order, so it is possible to get white mana this way. However, you can't legally start to announce a spell for which you cannot pay. So no, you can't do this.

> Yea or Nay?

Actually, Yea, *and* nay. There are issues being looked at by the Rules Team that could change this answer.


A list member continues …

Rikkert W.: Where does it say this?

Jeff: In Rule 422.1. If you can't demonstrate that an action you are taking can be legally completed, you must reverse that illegal action.

Don't think this is a capricious ruling. Paying the mana cost of a spell is an implicit part of playing that spell, just like picking targets. If you can't satisfy the mana cost, you can't play the spell. Just like if there are no legal targets for it, you can't start to play it. And there are exceptions, covered by the Golden Rule. You can play Force of Will or Misdirection without it being evident that you have a blue card in your hand, because the card says you can.


At this point, the discussion starts to get argumentative and nitpicky, and I'll step away from it here. The point is, Jeff Jordan is a NetRep, and as such, he is allowed to make rulings like the above. I don't particularly agree with it either, but only one group of people can overrule a NetRep - the Rules Team. And the issue is being looked at by the Rules Team, so unless and until the Rules Team issues a ruling, that's how it is supposed to be played.


Then, the following related question pops up on DCIJUDGE-L. The question is by Are S., and the answer is by Rune Horvik, the DCIJUDGE-L NetRep:

Are: On the message boards recently, there has been some discussion regarding the Vengeful Dreams - Riftstone Portal rulings that have showed up. Jeff Jordan has (allegedly, I've not read his post myself) said that this does not work without having the possibility to pay WW with existing mana sources at the time the spell is announced, while Rune Horvik has said that it would work. According to the rules, it certainly seems as though it should.

Rune: I got that impression from the "you pay costs in any order"-principle described in 409.1f. The "how to pay costs"-structure is up for revision based on this problem, and we're having internal discussion on how to best handle this.

Are: Now, that discussion has spurned new discussion regarding random discards in the same vein. According to the rules, random discards can't be refunded. So, the following scenario would be possible:

-In play, a sufficient amount of untapped lands, none of which can produce green mana, and a Meteor Storm. In your hand, you have a Riftstone Portal and three other cards. You announce the Meteor Storm's ability, with the intention of completing the announcement in case the Riftstone Portal gets discarded. But, unfortunately it isn't discarded. Again, according to the rules the two discarded cards would stay in the graveyard. You now announce the ability again, happily knowing that you can pay the costs since one of the two remaining cards in your hand is the Riftstone Portal.

I would just like to know how situations like these should be resolved if they occur, and also specifically if the three other cards in your hand were cards like Glory, Genesis and Wonder, which you would obviously want to get into the graveyard.

Rune: There is no "best" answer here. By the Magic Rules, you back up when you realize that you've made an illegal action, and random discards and zone-changes are not reversed (422.1). The DCI Rules imply that you should be penalized for intentionally misrepresenting game rules and procedures. By the Magic Rules you should be able to empty your hand "for free" using the Illegal Action rule, while this is clearly not the intent of the card.

I can't make an Official Answer on this, since it's currently a work in progress (adding another to the list). My personal view is that I don't have a problem with letting a player discard the RP to enable white mana, doing it at random with less than 100% odds of succeeding (only 2 cards in hand) _is_ a problem. I'm strongly against players abusing the illegal actions rule to gain beneficial effects (Threshold, Incarnations in the Graveyard).

It's also unfortunate to tell a player who asks if it's legal that it technically is, but he'll be penalized if he doesn't hit the right card.

Jeff Jordan, the MTG-L NetRep, has made a Ruling that Vengeful Dreams-discarding-Riftstone Portal-as-part-of-the-cost doesn't work, and unless it's Officially Changed, it stands.

"We'll get back to you"

-Rune Horvik, DCIJUDGE-L NetRep

Finally, Brian W. continues:

Rune: > I got that impression from the "you pay costs in any order"-
> principle described in 409.1f. The "how to pay costs"-structure is
> up for revision based on this problem, and we're having internal
> discussion on how to best handle this.

Brian: That is the impression I got and what I have told my players. Now am I to understand that this is an illegal move? How do I explain that to my players? If anyone could tell me what the reasoning behind this ruling is, I would greatly appreciate it.

Rune: The reason is, as Are S. said, you can, using the rules, Meteor Storm, discard 2 random cards (or even just 1), and realize that you can't complete the action (not having mana), and back up. Because random costs aren't reversed, the cards stay in the graveyard, something which is very abusable with the current card sets. Doing so just to get the cards in the graveyard would probably fall under blatant Cheating, or Unsporting Conduct, but it's a harder call if he has a chance of getting the Portal into the graveyard so he can pay the Mana Cost.

The rules doesn't differentiate between random and non-random costs, and any random cost mess up the equation. There are some problems in discovering exactly _when_ you're into something illegal, and it has been ruled that you can't start announcing a spell unless you have the components of the cost visibly in play. This means that discarding a Riftstone Portal as part of something you need to pay green or white mana for (and you don't have that available) won't be possible.

As I said - there are extensive debating going on, when it's over, it'll be announced.

-Rune Horvik

One other thing came up … if a Fiery Temper (or other card with madness) was discarded to the Meteor Storm but not the Portal (so you couldn't complete the ability), and you chose to remove the Fiery Temper from the game, the Fiery Temper will stay removed from the game permanently, but the Madness will never trigger, so you won't be able to cast it. (422.1 says, "No abilities trigger as a result of an undone action." The removal of a madness card is apparently a replacement ability, and not a triggered ability. So you can remove it, but you won't be able to play it.)

Now, on to our regular programming …


Q: I have a follow-up to a Q&A I read in your column last week.

Suppose I attack with three creatures. After declaring my attackers, I cast Keep Watch, intending to draw three cards for my three attacking creatures. In response to Keep Watch, my opponent casts Second Thoughts, removing one of my attackers from the game. How many cards do I draw from Keep Watch?

If I were to answer this myself, I would presume that Second Thoughts resolves and removes one of the creatures. When Keep Watch resolves there are only 2 remaining attacking creatures, and I would therefore draw only 2 cards.

-Dan Murphy

A: You have answered it correctly.


Q: I had a Phantom Flock with 1 counter on it, Worship out, and I played Divine Sacrament (no threshold), on my opponent's next turn, he cast Shock which brought my Phantom Flock down to 1/1, he then attacked with a Skizzik and when I blocked with Phantom Flock, he insisted that my Phantom Flock was dead saying that "All +1/+1 additions from spells or abilities act as +1/+1 counters and by your Phantom Flock taking damage when it had only 1 +1/+1 counter on it, it got reduced to 0/0 which killed it and since you no longer have any creatures out, Worship is now useless and you lose." To avoid an argument, and since this was a friendly game, I agreed with him and scooped. But, I thought that by permanently adding toughness to a Phantom creature from something that didn't state "Add X +1/+1 counters" made it impossible to kill with the exception of unpreventable damage, creature removal spells, etc. Who was right?

-Ryan Siikor

A: Last time on this vein folks. If a Phantom's toughness is being boosted by an outside effect, it can't be killed by damage (barring Flaring Pain). This is because the Phantom will prevent all damage and try to remove a +1/+1 counter. If there is no counter there, the damage is still prevented, as removing a counter is part of the damage prevention effect, and not a cost. Thus, the Phantom Centaur (and you) live.


Q: Let's say I control 3 Mountains, and Ridgeline Rager and a Citadel of Pain in play. My opponent plays Wash Out, calling red. I know the Citadel and Rager would return to my hands, but I don't think the mountains would, because lands are colorless, I think the same thing would apply to things such as Scent of Cinder, Scent of Jasmine etc. Who is correct?

-Jeff Stone

A: Lands are colorless.

No more questions will be answered about this subject either.


Q: Regarding Reef Shaman: I know that rule 411 states using the ability in response to someone tapping a land will have no effect on the mana generated; but, my question is, can you activate the Reef Shaman's ability during their untap/upkeep step?

A: Yes.


Q: If you can, can they tap the land in response and play instants?


A: Yes again.


Q: When a card has an activation cost of {X}{X}, how exactly do I go about paying for it? What does that mean?


A: Playing a spell with XX in its mana cost or an ability with XX in its activation cost works much like a spell or ability with only one X. The difference here is, you have to pay double the amount you choose for X. Let me give you a couple of examples and see if they will help.

Example 1: Meteor Shower
Meteor Shower deals X+1 damage divided as you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players.

You want to play Meteor Shower, and want to be able to deal 6 damage. So, X=5. So to play Meteor Shower with X=5, you have to pay {10}{R} - 5 colorless mana for each X, and the red mana to start it.

Example 2: Gorilla Shaman
Creature -- Ape
{X}{X}{1}: Destroy target noncreature artifact with converted mana cost X.

Say you want to destroy a Grim Monolith with Gorilla Shaman. Grim Monolith has a converted mana cost of {2}. So to destroy a Grim Monolith with Gorilla Shaman, you have to pay {5}. ({2}+{2}+{1}.)


Q: My opponent has one card in hand and I have a Mesmeric Fiend and a Sadistic Hypnotist out. If I sacrifice the Fiend to my Hypnotist, will my opponent get his card back from the Fiend and then be forced to discard all his cards, or in the other order? Do I sacrifice on resolution or otherwise?


A: Sadistic Hypnotist
Creature -- Minion
Sacrifice a creature: Target player discards two cards from his or her hand. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.

Since "Sacrifice a creature" is before the colon, that is the cost to play the ability. So you have to sacrifice the Fiend when you announce the Hypnotist's ability. This means the Fiend will trigger after the ability of the Hypnotist is on the stack, and that means he will get the card back before the Hypnotist's ability resolves. So he will have to discard both cards.


Q: My friend declares that he will enter the combat phase by "I declare attack," but he didn't choose the attackers. I tell him he has to declare which creature you're attacking so I can be able to choose my blockers (I have Opposition in play so I want to block then tap). He says that I must choose which creature to tap before the creatures are declared as attackers, otherwise once his creature enters the combat (and taps), the Opposition will not tap the creature since the creature is already tapped, and the damage will go though, is he right?

A: You have to choose to tap the creature before it attacks. Once it attacks, tapping it will not cause it to be removed from combat, and the damage will go through. Generally, the only ways creatures stop attacking are if they leave play or if they regenerate.


Q: During a tournament if no judge was watching, and one of the player's friends talks to the player (as telling him what to play), what should I do?

A: Call a judge over and inform him of the fact. The judge should caution or warn both people not to do that again. If they do it again anyway, call the judge again. If the judge does not want to give them a penalty, request that the friend not be allowed to watch the match.

14. Spectator and Press Responsibilities
Spectators are expected to remain silent during matches and are not permitted to communicate with players in any way while matches are in progress. Players have the right to request that a spectator not observe their matches. All such requests must be made through a judge.


Q: If there is no judge in around this game and Player A casts a Quash on Player B's spell, can Player A request to see Player B's hand?

A: Quash
Counter target instant or sorcery spell. Search its controller's graveyard, hand, and library for all cards with the same name as that card and remove them from the game. That player then shuffles his or her library.

Yes. In fact, Player B must show Player A his hand, so that player A can search Player B's hand for cards with the same name as that spell.


Q: Can you Cunning Wish for another Fact or Fiction in Type 1, while you have one that you played already? Does that mean I can Golden Wish for my Black Lotus?

A: Assuming that the Fact or Fiction or Black Lotus is still in the current game (In play, your library, hand, graveyard, phased out zone, or anywhere else that is not removed from the game), it depends. In a tournament game, no, because you can only get cards that have been removed from the game or are in your sideboard. If you had a Fact or Fiction in your sideboard and one in your main deck, you would have an illegal deck.

If you are playing a casual game, sure, go for it.


Q: Do the Familiars reduce the mana cast of changing spell type (like Kaervek's Torch)?

A: I'm not sure exactly what you mean here. Familiars reduce the total play cost, which includes the {2} required to target the Torch while it is on the stack. So if you wanted to play a Counterspell on a Kaervek's Torch, and you had 1 Nightscape Familiar out, the Counterspell would cost you {1}{U}{U} to play.


Q: If a player uses an infinite loop (like the Worldgorger Dragon and the Animate Dead) to win by the time limit, what can the judge do?

A: If the player has no way to break the loop, the game is a draw, and you move on to the next game. If the player refuses to move on, I would take that as a refusal to play and award you the match.

25. Conceding Games or Matches
... If a player refuses to play, it is assumed that he or she concedes the match…


Q: How if a player tries to lie to opponent to make his spell work? Like since his spell is being countered, his land won't tap.

A: Either a Procedural Error - Major, or Cheating - Other, depending on his motives. Procedural Error - Major carries a penalty of Warning, and Cheating - Other carries a penalty of disqualification without prize.


Q: Can I First Strike a creature first, and then cast Moment's Peace to make my first strike creature not take any damage afterward? For example: my 2/2 first striker vs. a 3/3 creature, so first strike will do 2 damage to the creature and my 2/2 still lives?

-Bahamut O.

A: Yes, you can do that.


Q: I have a question about Biorhythm:

Each player's life total becomes the number of creatures he or she controls.

If my opponent has a Nantuko Shade out, and a Biorhythm and I have out 3 squirrel tokens, can I attack him and win?

-Seva A.

A: Biorhythm sets your opponent's life total to the number of creatures he or she has. If you are then able to do that much damage to them, they will lose the game.


Q: I recently found myself wondering about situation that...well, perplexed me (which is rather uncommon). I was thinking and came up with this scenario...
1.) I play a Laquatus's Champion, the spell goes on the stack, and resolves normally...so the "Comes into play" ability triggers and goes on the stack.
2.) In response to the "Comes into play" ability triggering I (let's say) Repulse him back to my hand.
3.) Repulse goes on the stack and resolves normally. My Laquatus's Champion comes back to my hand and the "Leaves play" ability triggers BEFORE the "Comes into play" ability resolves.

A: Doing good so far.


Q: 4.) (This is where my question is) The "Leaves play" ability now resolves "When Laquatus's Champion leaves play that player gains 6 life." Now "that player" refers to the player targeted by the "Comes into play ability" ability...so what happens? Does target player gain 6 life? Does the intended target gain 6 life? Or does it just "fizzle" (I know its an obsolete term)? This is where I am unsure.

A: "That player" = the player targeted in 1 (the comes into play ability). So the person you targeted to lose the life will gain 6 life, then lose 6 life when the comes into play ability resolves.


Q: 5.) Finally the "Comes into play" ability resolves and target player loses 6 life.
I am pretty sure all steps are legal (correct me if I am wrong), but in #4 I am unsure about what happens to the "Leaves play ability" Please help!

-Jay San

P.S. If (I assume you are) you are a DCI judge what level are you? That way, if necessary, I can pull out the big guns and say what happens according to a Level # DCI Judge.

A: I would really rather you not do that. One of the most distressing things for me to hear when I judge a tournament is, after I make a ruling, to hear, "But a level # judge told me it works differently." And, 90%+ of the time, either the judge was wrong or the person quoting the judge misunderstood what the judge was saying. Also, even if the judge was right and I was wrong, for that tournament, I am right (assuming I am the head judge). So please don't do that in a tournament.


Q: If I have a Serra Angel in play, and my opponent uses Icy Manipulator to tap it before my attack phase, can I still attack with the Angel since it says, "attacking does not cause it to tap"?


A: Once again, last time one this question. A creature must be untapped to be able to be declared as an attacker.


Q: If I Clone a Flametongue Kavu already in play, can I use the Flametongue's CIP ability as if Clone is a Flametongue Kavu?

A: Clone
Creature -- Clone
As Clone comes into play, you may choose a creature in play. If you do, Clone comes into play as a copy of that creature.

Since Clone will come into play as a copy of the Flametongue Kavu, it will come into play with the Kavu's ability, and thus, will be able to do 4 damage to a creature.


Q: If I Clone a 6/6 Wurm token in play, and then as both are still in play, Upheaval later, is the Clone returned to my hand or is it removed from game at the result if it cloning a token creature?

- J.C.

A: Even if Clone copies a token creature it itself is still a card. So both Clone and the token Wurm will return to their owners' hands, but only the token Wurm will then be removed from the game, as the Clone is a card and not a token.


Q: My friend has a Standstill out. It's my turn and during my upkeep he says, "Wait, before your draw phase, I Plagiarize you." Therefore, does his Plagiarize work, getting him four cards (three for Standstill, one for my draw phase) if I can't do anything about the Plagiarize?

A: Actually, you will draw the 3 cards from Standstill, and then Plagiarize will resolve and he will get the one for the draw step. This is how the stack will go:

-Him - Plagiarize you.
-Game - Standstill trigger on the stack
-You both pass.
-Standstill resolves. Your friend sacrifices Standstill. You, as the opponent of the person who played the spell, draw 3 cards. Plagiarize has not resolved yet, so you get to draw the cards.
-You both pass.
-Now, Plagiarize resolves. For the remainder of the turn, whenever you would draw a card, he draws that card instead.


Q: Second part, if I do Counterspell the Plagiarize, who draws the three cards?


A: It depends on when you cast the Counterspell. If you cast the Counterspell before the Standstill trigger resolves, Standstill will trigger again, and your opponent will draw the 3 cards. If you wait until the Standstill trigger resolves, you can draw the 3 cards, and then counter the Plagiarize.


Q: My opponent is attacking me with a Basking Rootwalla and a Wild Mongrel, which are both Elephant Guided, I control an Anurid Brushhopper and some other creatures but they aren't important. He attacks. I block the Mongrel with the Brushhopper and discard Glory and Prismatic Strands to remove it and then use the 'hopper to flash the Strands naming green to stop the Rootwalla. This would effectively allow me to win the game in the next 2 turns - however it was ruled that I couldn`t do it. The way I see it, the cards are discarded on announcing the ability and then the remove effect goes on the stack - surely I can then respond by using the Strands?

-Gareth M.

A: Yes, you should be able to respond to the Brushhopper's ability by announcing Prismatic Strands, and tapping the Brushhopper to pay for it.

Remember, if you think the judge who came to the table to make the ruling has made the wrong ruling, you have the right to appeal the ruling to the Head Judge. Make sure the judge who initially came to the table has finished his ruling before doing so, however.

17. Appeals to the Head Judge
If players should disagree with a judge's decision, they are free to appeal the ruling to the head judge. The head judge has the right to overrule other judges' decisions. Players may not appeal to the head judge before the judge responding to the situation renders an initial decision. The head judge's decision is final.

History Lesson: The clause about the initial judge having to rule before appealing was put in there about 3-4 years ago. Previous to that time, on the Pro Tour and at higher level events, players were abusing the appeals system by immediately asking for the head judge, saying, basically, "I don't care what you have to say. I just want a ruling from the head judge." That clause was then put into the rule to stop that practice.

See you Monday.

-Bill Guerin
DCI Level 2 Judge




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