Casting a Spell

The following video and document contains information originally provided by Aaron Stevenson.

From the Baltimore SCG open on March 23rd 2012, broadcast available here. Go to 1:05:20 for Aaron’s presentation.

What is a spell?

Card types:

  • Sorcery, Instant – do things
  • Artifact, Creature, Enchantment, Planeswalker – become things
  • Land – a land is never a spell
  • Other stuff – Archenemy Schemes, Planechase Planes, etc., not spells

Two important action words: “Cast” and “Play”.
Not an ability, though largely similar in procedure, and uses most of the same rules (Examples: Reinforce, ForecastFaerie Macabre).
Fine distinctions between abilities that let you cast a spell (Flashback, Retrace, etc.) and those that don’t (Unearth, Ninjutsu) – critical component is rules for the ability.

Copy of a card can also be cast.

Brief overview of previous rules

  • Interrupt window
  • “Successfully cast”
  • Rules of casting a spell

Illegal actions cause the entire process to be reversed.

Steps to casting a spell

A popular mnemonic to aid in remembering the order of these steps is All Crazy Teens Have Tried Magic Pills.

1. All = Announce (601.2a)
Verbal announcement
Move card (or copy) to the stack

Casting a face-down spell (not explicit in 601.1):
The card is put on the stack face-down
Legality of casting is determined by the face-down characteristics (examples: Gaddock Teeg, Crucible of Worlds)

2. Crazy = Choices (601.2b)
How to cast
Modes (emdash, “Choose one” or similar)
Splice (choose and reveal)
How to pay
Additional/alternative costs (announce intent)
Value of X (when applicable)
Hybrid/Phyrexian mana

3. Teens = Targets (601.2c)
Announce number of targets (if variable)
Must choose a legal target for every target required
Targeting restriction – phrase describing the target that appears in immediate proximity to the word “target.” (Red Elemental Blast)
Not a targeting restriction – conditional phrases (Pyroblast)
Choosing the same target multiple times depends on whether there are multiple instances of the word “target.” (Hex vs. Seeds of Strength)

4. Have = How to Divide (601.2d)
Each target must receive at least one of what’s divided.
This requirement applies only where the player divides (Arc Lightning), and not otherwise (Fireball).

5. Tried = Total Cost Determination (601.2e)
Total cost includes all costs, not just mana.
Mana – most common cost
Start with mana cost or alternative cost
Add cost increases
Subtract cost decreases
Apply cost-setting effects (Trinisphere)
Additional costs
Cost is now “locked in” and cannot later be changed.

6. Magic = Mana Abilities (601.2f)
Specific window to activate mana abilities when the player does not have priority
Window opens only where the total cost includes a mana payment
Mana abilities resolve immediately without using the stack
Note special timing restrictions on some mana abilities (Example: Lion’s Eye DiamondRhystic Cave)

7. Pills = Pay (601.2g)
Costs can be paid in any order
All costs must be paid, or the spell was illegally cast
Null cost can’t be paid (Evermind)

Opponents choosing (601.3)
If a spell calls for an opponent to make a choice (Example: Evangelize) you choose which opponent makes the choice, and he or she chooses when you would normally choose.


Example scenarios

  1. Announce Fiery Justice and put it on top of the stack.
  2. No choices to be made.
  3. Select targets. Variable number of target creatures or players. Targeting an opponent for the last clause is mandatory.
  4. Divide damage among the targets. Each target creature or player must be assigned at least 1 damage.
  5. Cost is simply the mana cost.
  6. Activate mana abilities
  7. Pay the cost.
  1. Announce Cryptic Command and put it on top of the stack.
  2. Choose modes.
  3. Select targets, if applicable. Number of targets will depend on the modes chosen.
  4. No division.
  5. Cost is simply the mana cost.
  6. Activate mana abilities.
  7. Pay the cost.
  1. Announce Shrapnel Blast and put it on top of the stack.
  2. No choices to be made.
  3. Select target.
  4. No division.
  5. Cost is the mana cost, plus an additional cost of 1 from the Sphere, plus an additional cost of sacrificing an artifact.
  6. Activate mana abilities.
  7. Pay the costs.
  1. Announce Chord of Calling and put it on top of the stack.
  2. Choose to pay convoke costs.
  3. No target to be selected.
  4. No division.
  5. Cost is the mana cost, reduced appropriately by convoke, plus the additional cost of tapping creatures.
  6. Activate mana abilities (such as sacrificing the Wild Cantor.)
  7. Pay the costs.


Exact steps are necessary to know details of what’s legal and what’s not.