How to recognize an activated ability for Havengul Lich, Necrotic Ooze or Phyrexian Revoker

A common question that seems to pop up is how to tell the difference between Activated, Triggered and Static abilities. More specifically, what abilities will Necrotic Ooze gain from dead creatures, what exactly can Phyrexian Revoker stop, and what abilities does Havengul Lich get after you use him to do some necromancy.

There’s an easy way to recognize different kinds of abilities just by reading the card itself, because the abilities are always formatted a specific way.

  • All triggered abilities begin with the word “When”, “Whenever” or “At”. They’ll then go into detail about what triggers them, and what happens. For example, “Whenever another creature enters the battlefield, you gain 1 life.” is a triggered ability. It begins with ‘whenever,’ tells you what the trigger event is, and then tells you what happens when the ability resolves. All triggered abilities (except mana abilities) use the stack and can be responded to.
  • All activated abilities are printed as [COST]:[EFFECT]. The colon is a clear indicator that you are looking at an activated ability. An activated ability will always have a colon separating all of its costs from the effect (note that some keyword abilities are activated abilities, and the colon appears in the Comprehensive Rules text rather than on the card; e.g., Equip, Unearth, Cycling). Everything before the colon is a cost you pay to activate it, and everything after it is the ability. Activated abilities (except mana abilities) also use the stack and can be responded to.
  • Every kind of ability that isn’t triggered or activated is just a static ability. These don’t use the stack and can’t be responded to.

Today’s Rules Tip written by
Trevor Nuñez, Level 1 Judge from Roswell, NM

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