What “attacks if able” really means.

As of the time of this writing, the full set of Magic 2015 has been spoiled, including a blast from the past: the implacable Juggernaut! This creature has the ability to “attack each turn if able.” So what does “if able” really mean? First off, if there’s an effect that says it can’t attack at all, it can’t attack — so no circumventing summoning sickness and Pacifism. The next thing to note is that if an effect like Sphere of Safety says that it can’t attack unless you pay a cost, you’re allowed to attack, but you don’t have to — even if you could pay the cost, you’re not required to; and if you don’t pay the cost, Juggernaut isn’t able to attack.

Things get a bit more complicated once you throw other creatures into the mix. Let’s say you control Loyal Pegasus, who can’t attack or block alone, and a Traveling Philosopher. If Shipwreck Siren uses its ability to force Loyal Pegasus to attack, you’re required to attack with the Philosopher as well, since sending additional creatures into combat isn’t a cost that disqualifies the phrase “if able.” On the other hand, suppose you’re drafting Conspiracy and you’ve somehow picked up two Cogwork Trackers, but one of your opponents has a Silent Arbiter. In this case, you can’t fulfill both requirements at once, so you pick one and ignore the other. If both of your Trackers are required to attack different players, you’ll get to pick which opponent you’re required to attack this turn.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Jen Wong

Posted in Combat Phase, Static Abilities | Comments Off

Notion Thief and Dredge

The dredge ability seems a lot like a trigger, but it’s not — it’s a replacement effect that modifies the event of drawing a card. Which means it’s probably not a good idea to try to use other replacement effects to stop your opponent from dredging. For example, if you control a Notion Thief, don’t expect to be drawing any cards soon. When your opponent tries to resolve an effect that would let her draw a card, such as Cephalid Coliseum, both replacement effects jump in and say “pick one!” to your opponent (the affected player). Your opponent will probably choose the dredge effect, which means there’s no longer any draw for Notion Thief to replace.

Perhaps you can stop your opponent from drawing entirely? Spirit of the Labyrinth, for example, prevents your opponent from drawing any cards at all after the first card each turn. This is great if you can somehow trick your Dredge opponent into drawing a card. However, if she replaces each of her draws with dredges, the Spirit never sees that she actually drew a card — and therefore won’t stop her from replacing her prospective card draws with further dredges. Of course, if she draws her first card normally under Spirit of the Labyrinth, then tries to dredge from a later draw, that won’t work because the second draw effect won’t be possible.

If you want to shut off dredging entirely, you’ll need an effect that says players “can’t draw cards,” like Maralen of the Mornsong or Omen Machine. On second thought… you could just play cards that exile their graveyard instead, like Tormod’s Crypt.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Jen Wong

Posted in Prevention and Replacement Effects | Tagged | Comments Off

You can’t “miss” True-Name Nemesis’s “as this enters…” ability.

Contrary to what its flavor would indicate, True-Name Nemesis doesn’t require you to actually know your opponent’s name in order to gain protection from that player. In order to “choose a player,” you just need to give some indication of the choice you’re making as the Nemesis enters the battlefield — a simple gesture toward your opponent or verbal “You” will suffice.

But what happens if you forget?

Is it just assumed you chose your opponent? No… because True-Name Nemesis doesn’t instruct you to choose an opponent, but a player. And a legal choice for a player is yourself. While you might think it makes no strategic sense outside of a few extremely corner-case scenarios, judges can’t be in the business of assuming that players always make the most strategically sensible choices.

So is the ability just missed? No again! While players who miss triggers will often not receive the benefit of the ability, True-Name Nemesis’s first ability is not a trigger, but rather a replacement effect upon entering the battlefield. Which means that not only can you not forget about it, but your opponent must call attention to it if he or she notices it at the time. If both players have legitimately forgotten, call a judge, who will ask you to make a choice right then and there. (And since we’re allowed to give strategic advice on this blog: Don’t choose yourself!)

Today’s Tournament Tip written by Jen Wong

Posted in Prevention and Replacement Effects, Static Abilities | Tagged | Comments Off

Gargoyle Sentinel can dodge Clear a Path.

Today’s lesson starts with effects checking to see if their targets are still legal before resolving. In order to stay relevant, we’ll use two cards that are in M15 – Gargoyle Sentinel and Clear a Path. Let’s begin with a story:

So here is your gargoyle. Pretty sweet gargoyle, I must say. He prefers to stay back and defend most of the time and occasionally swoops in for a Bolt’s worth of damage. Well, during your opponent’s turn he decides that gargoyle has gotta go. “It attracts pigeons and it’s an eyesore, so I’m going to send it packin’ with this Clear a Path,” he grumbles. So your opponent announces his spell, puts it on the stack, chooses its target (the awesome gargoyle you have just perched there looking cool), and pays for it with a single red mana. “Not my Gargoyle,” you exclaim. Fortunately for you, your opponent doesn’t read the rules tips blog and had no idea that once your gargoyle loses defender, it is no longer a legal target. You pay the three mana and BOOM, no more defender. This means that your opponent not only wasted a card and the mana, he also doesn’t get to destroy your super sweet gargoyle this time – And so the day was saved. Dang, what a great gargoyle that is.

Remember, even though when Clear a Path was cast the gargoyle was a legal target, it has to remain a legal target for the spell to resolve. If it does not remain a legal target, the spell is countered on resolution. Not back to your hand, not rewound – IT IS COUNTERED.

Got 3 mana sitting around? Looks like Clear a Path isn’t getting much work done today.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Daniel Clarke

Posted in Activated Abilities, Casting / playing a spell or ability, Resolving spells and abilities | Tagged , | Comments Off

Casting Ajani’s Pridemate while you have Staff of the Sun Magus – No counter for you!

I love counters on my creatures. I love them even more when they are given to my creatures and I get to gain life. That’s why so many players might get excited when they see this cool combo. There is a catch, however! Casting Pridemate while having a Staff of the Sun Magus will give you the extra life, but it won’t get the counter in response to itself hitting the battlefield. The staff’s triggered ability triggers from *casting* a spell, so it resolves before the Pridemate enters the battlefield as a creature.

Let’s break this down:

  • You cast Ajani’s Pridemate
  • The Staff triggers and the ability goes on the stack
  • The stack resolves top down (last on the stack happens first); you gain one life
  • Ajani’s Pridemate resolves without a counter

But hey! Just cause it didn’t work this time doesn’t mean it’s not going to work when you cast your next white spell! Talk about 3 for 1 – your spell, life and a counter! That’s a combo that wins games, especially in limited formats!

Today’s Rules Tip written by Daniel Clarke

Posted in Casting / playing a spell or ability, Resolving spells and abilities, Triggered Abilities | Tagged , | Comments Off

Resolute Archangel vs. Erebos

Resolute Archangel isn’t life gain… or is it?’ The wording of Resolute Archangel probably seems straightforward: It enters the battlefield, checks your life, and if it’s less than your starting life total it becomes your starting life total. It doesn’t say anything about gaining life, right? Take that, Erebos, God of the Dead! But oh no! What’s this?! It turns out any time your life total increases, that’s gaining life! Sure, the card does not mention the words “gain life,” but the action of gaining life occurs. Plainly written: If your life total increases, you have gained life. As cool as Resolute Archangel is, she is no match for a god.

Where else might this apply?

Opponent trying to land an Arbiter of Knollridge in a game of commander while you have Erebos down? Looks like they got an Arbiter of Noperidge instead, as no life totals, except maybe yours, will increase.

When playing Modern, Erebos laughs at your opponent’s Lich’s Mirror, as even when they lose due to life loss, they can’t go back up to 20. GG.

So remember! When Erebos is around, no opponent’s life can go up; only down – no matter how the additional life is worded.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Daniel Clarke

Posted in Continuous Effects, Triggered Abilities | Tagged , | Comments Off

Don’t distract players mid-match.

‘Hey whatcha doing there? Mind if I give your opponent some advice while you’re mid-match? I see all the play mistakes he’s making – thought I would help him out.’

Unfortunately, overstepping your role as a spectator or even a judge is never this obvious. Remember one thing while watching a game – phantasmal duct tape. Imaginary duct tape should be over your mouth at all times. Want to talk about the match? Too bad, zip it up and wait ’til it’s over. See a rules violation? Politely ask the players to pause the match and get a judge (unless you’re at a professional event; then keep the duct tape on while you find a judge.)

Let’s test what you’ve learned today:

Which of the following is correct?
A. You: Hey bro! Cast that Giant Growth now and get that heroic trigger on the stack!
B. You: Aw man, great play but I would have activated the Mutavault earlier.
C. You:

Offering advice during matches or even distracting the players is never a wise choice – Don’t do it.
Correct Answer – C.

Please don’t actually put duct tape on your face. Do refrain from commenting during the game, especially at competitive and higher level events.

Today’s Tournament Tip written by Daniel Clarke

Posted in Communication Policy, Tournament Rules | Comments Off

Bestow cards are not auras in your library.

Aura you hungry?” How many times have you walked to your fridge knowing what you wanted right up to the moment you opened the door, and then poof – Blank stare into ham heaven. That’s how some of you will feel when you cast Heliod’s Pilgrim or Boonweaver Giant for the first time after M15 is finally released. You’ll probably be at a tournament sifting through your deck looking for an Eldrazi Conscription when you pass by that Chromanticore you splashed for. “Wow,” you’ll think. “That’s an aura… kinda.” Sure, why not?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. A creature with bestow is not an Aura while it is in your library or even your hand. It becomes an Aura when you cast it by paying its alternate “bestow” cost and have a legal target for it. It remains an Aura until it “falls off” or no longer can legally enchant what it’s attached to. At that point, it returns to being an enchantment creature – just as it is in every other zone in the game. So next time you’re having the pilgrim and giant over for dinner, choose the Feast of the Unicorn and leave the Nighthowler pie for another day.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Daniel Clarke, L1 from Kaneohe, Hawaii

Posted in Characteristics, Type & Subtypes, Zones | Tagged , | Comments Off

Prerelease Week: Returning mechanics – “as long as you control…”

As we wrap up this week, I would like to talk a little about static abilities. These abilities are always checking to see if they are met. A common example in M15 is the “As long as you control…” cycle.

These abilities provide creatures with a boost for as long as you control a land of a certain type. As an example, Dauntless River Marshal states, “Dauntless River Marshal gets +1/+1 as long as you control an Island.” Dauntless River Marshal will always be looking to check if you control an Island, and as long as you do, he will get an additional +1/+1. Now, he does not come into play as a 2/1, then become a 3/2. While he is on the field, alongside an island, he will always be a 3/2. This means that he will come in as a 3/2, triggering effects such as Garruk’s Packleader.

Now there are some times when the trusty River Marshal is not looking to see if you have islands… When Dauntless River Marshall is not on the battlefield, his static ability is not active, meaning in the graveyard he will be a 2/1, even if you control an island. If your opponent uses a Rotfeaster Maggot to exile the Marshall, only 1 life would be gained. While this may seem odd, it is important to make sure that the game is played correctly, or you could end with an opponent with an extra point of life.

In short, make sure you are Dauntless in checking whether your static abilities are active or not, because the River Marshall surely will be.

Today’s Rules Tip written by James Arriola

Posted in Characteristics, Static Abilities | Comments Off

Prerelease Week: Returning mechanics – Indestructible

What do a Nokia phone, a diamond and a Darksteel Colossus have in common? They all are (or ‘have’) indestructible.

Indestructible is a returning keyword in M15. Indestructible makes it so that a creature can not be destroyed. This means, the creature can not be killed by damage or by any effect that says “destroy”.

There are a few ways to get rid of an indestructible creature. The first way to remove one is through an exile effect. Exiling is not destroying a creature, so it will get around indestructible. Another way to to remove an indestructible creature is through use of an effect that reduces its toughness to 0 or less. This means effects like Bile Blight or -1/-1 counters. Both of these methods are ways to assure yourself that the opponent’s creature will be vanquished, even if indestructible.

Remember that damage doesn’t reduce toughness, so dealing 2 damage to Sliver Hivelord and THEN giving it -3/-3 with Bile Blight isn’t going to do anything special. It will simply be a 2/2 creature with 2 damage marked on it, which won’t destroy it because it’s indestructible.

Remember that “indestructible” was redefined as a keyword ability last year, similar to flying or lifelink. This is a (minor) functional change because it means a creature that gains indestructible can also lose indestructible. So now, whether a creature has “Indestructible” printed on it or it gained indestructible from something like Ephemeral Shield, removing all abilities from that creature gives the same end result. For example, if you cast Turn to Frog on Sliver Hivelord, then block it with a 2/2, it will die because it loses its printed ability that makes slivers indestructible when Turn to Frog resolves (so none of the slivers will be indestructible). If your opponent casts Ephemeral Shield on a Preeminent Captain, then you cast Turn to Frog and block it with a 2/2, it will die because it loses the indestructible it gained from Ephemeral Shield when Turn to Frog resolves.

Today’s Rules Tip written by James Arriola

Posted in Abilities, Characteristics, Keywords, Static Abilities | Tagged , | Comments Off