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Magic: The Gathering Rules FAQ, v5.10 (part 1)
Section - 1.1: Beginner Questions

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Top Document: Magic: The Gathering Rules FAQ, v5.10 (part 1)
Previous Document: 1.0: Introduction
Next Document: 1.2: Newsgroup Stuff
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1.1.01: How do I know what's a target and what's not?

   Any spell or ability can have any number of targets.  Look through
   the text for the word target.  It can be used in several ways; look
   for where it's used in front of a noun, rather than as a noun itself
   or as a verb.  Some examples:

   Shock  {R}  Instant
/ Shock deals 2 damage to target creature or player.

   Shock has one target.  The word "target" is used in front of the
   phrase "creature or player" to indicate that the creature or player
   is the target.

   Deflection  {3}{U}  Instant
/ Change the target of target spell with a single target.

   Deflection has only one target.  The word "target" is used in front
   of the phrase "spell with a single target" to indicate that the
   spell-with-a-single-target is the target.  The first use of the word
   "target" is used as a noun, to say what to change.

   Radiate  {3}{R}{R}  Instant
/ Choose target instant or sorcery spell that targets only a single
   permanent or player.  Copy that spell for each other permanent or
   player the spell could target.  Each copy targets a different one
   of those permanents and players.

   Radiate has only one target.  The word "target" is used in front of the
   phrase "instant or sorcery spell that targets only a single permanent or
   player" to indicate that that instant or sorcery spell is the target.
   The first use of the word "target" is like an adjective, the other
   uses are as verbs.

   Each use of the word "target" to denote targets requires the right
   number of different targets.

   Hex  {4}{B}{B}  Sorcery
/ Destroy six target creatures.

   Hex targets six creatures.  It's not legal to target a creature more
   than once in this way.  It has to be six different creatures.

   If the word "target" is used again to denote targets, the same target
   can be chosen as for a previous use of the word "target" to denote

   Decimate  {2}{R}{G}  Sorcery
/ Destroy target artifact, target creature, target enchantment, and
   target land.

   Decimate has four targets.  Each has its own use of the word "target".
   If there were one permanent on the battlefield that's an artifact, a
   creature, an enchantment and a land all at once, then Decimate could
   target that one permanent four times.  It would only be destroyed
   once, though.

   When you cast an Aura from your hand, you target whatever it's
   going to enchant.  Here, the word target won't appear in the main
   part of the text; it's implied by the enchant ability:

   Holy Strength  {W}  Enchantment - Aura
/ Enchant creature
/ Enchanted creature gets +1/+2.

   The last thing the Holy Strength does when it resolves is to put
   itself onto the battlefield attached to whatever creature it was
   targeting.  Once it does so, it stops targeting the creature.  If
   something later stops spells and abilities from targeting the
   creature, this doesn't affect the Holy Strength.  The reference
   to "enchanted creature" (and the similar phrases "equipped creature"
   and "fortified land") doesn't target the creature.  Another

   Firebreathing  {R}  Enchantment - Aura
/ Enchant creature
/ {R}: Enchanted creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.

   When you cast Firebreathing, it targets the creature it's going to
   enchant.  When you activate the ability of Firebreathing, it doesn't
   target the creature it enchants.  Even if the creature enchanted by
   Firebreathing can't be the target of spells or abilities any more,
   Firebreathing's activated ability can still affect it.

   Some spells and abilities look like they ought to target, but don't
   actually target.  For example:

   Clone  {3}{U}  Creature - Shapeshifter  0/0
/ You may have Clone enter the battlefield as a copy of any creature on
   the battlefield.

   Clone can copy a creature that can't be the target of spells or
   abilities.  At the point where you choose a creature on the battlefield,
   the word target isn't used, so you choose without targeting.

   Many spells and abilities affect things without using the word target:

   Hurricane  {X}{G}  Sorcery
/ Hurricane deals X damage to each creature with flying and each player.

   Hurricane can deal damage to a creature that can't be targeted, as
   long as the creature has flying.  It can also deal damage to a player
   even if that player can't be the target of spells or abilities.

   Wrath of God  {2}{W}{W}  Sorcery
/ Destroy all creatures. They can't be regenerated.

   Wrath of God will destroy creatures even if those creatures can't
   be targeted.  It refers to all creatures; it doesn't use the word
   "target", so it doesn't target.

1.1.02: What things will stop me from targeting?

   There are two things that stop targeting.  One is simply static
   abilities that state outright that the targeting isn't allowed:

   Troll Ascetic  {1}{G}{G}  Creature - Troll Shaman  3/2
/ Troll Ascetic can't be the target of spells or abilities your opponents
/ {1}{G}: Regenerate Troll Ascetic.

   This kind of ability is common enough that its simple form has
   its own name, "shroud":

   Deadly Insect  {4}{G}  Creature - Insect  6/1
/ Shroud (This permanent can't be the target of spells or abilities.)

   The other ability that can prevent targeting is protection.

1.1.03: So what is protection?

   Protection is a static ability that's usually found on creatures
   and usually confers protection from a particular color.  Protection
   actually does four related things, all bundled up into a neat package.
   Let's take the example of a Hand of Cruelty:

   Hand of Cruelty  {B}{B}  Creature - Human Samurai  2/2
/ Protection from white
/ Bushido 1 (When this blocks or becomes blocked, it gets +1/+1 until
   end of turn.)

   The first part of protection says to prevent all damage dealt to the
   Hand of Cruelty from a white source.  So, if it blocks a white creature,
   the combat damage to the Hand of Cruelty is prevented.

   The second part is that the Hand of Cruelty can't be enchanted or
   equipped by white Auras and Equipment.  If a white Aura ends up on
   a creature with protection from white (this isn't straightforward,
   but can sometimes happen) then it goes to its owner's graveyard.

   Thirdly, white creatures can't block the Hand of Cruelty.  It blazes
   a trail right on by.

   Lastly, the Hand of Cruelty can't be the target of white spells or
   abilities from white sources.  It can be affected by untargeted white
   spells and untargeted abilities from white sources, but it can't be
   named as the target of a white spell or of an ability from a white
   source.  So, the Wrath of God from the first question will destroy
   a Hand of Cruelty.  However, something like Condemn can't target the
   Hand of Cruelty:

   Condemn  {W}  Instant
/ Put target attacking creature on the bottom of its owner's library. Its
   controller gains life equal to its toughness.

1.1.04: How do I stop someone being able to pay for an ability?

   Generally, you can't.  The timing rules prevent one player from
   interfering when another player is announcing a spell or ability, and
   this is when the costs are paid.  You won't get a chance to respond
   until after the costs are paid.  Read the text of the spell or ability
   carefully to identify the cost and the effect.

   On a spell, the cost is the mana symbols in the top right, plus any
   additional costs listed in the spell text:

   Fling  {1}{R}  Instant
/ As an additional cost to cast Fling, sacrifice a creature.
/ Fling deals damage equal to the sacrificed creature's power to target
   creature or player.

   The cost to cast Fling is to pay one point of mana of any color, one
   point of red mana, and sacrifice a creature.  The effect is the Fling
   dealing the damage.

   For an activated ability, the cost is on the left of the colon (:)
   and the effect is on the right:

   Blood Rites  {3}{R}{R}  Enchantment
/ {1}{R}, Sacrifice a creature: Blood Rites deals 2 damage to target
   creature or player.

   The ability of Blood Rites has a cost of one point of mana of any
   color, one point of red mana, and sacrifice a creature.  The effect
   is the Blood Rites dealing the damage.

   In both of these examples, the sacrifice happens when the spell or
   ability is played, and during this time no other spell or ability
   can be announced.  So, it's not possible to step in and interfere
   with the payment.  Even if the opponent has priority and tries to
   interfere with a possible Fling by casting a spell to destroy the
   creature that's intended for the sacrifice, the Fling can be cast
   in response to that spell.

1.1.05: How does stuff like 'non-black' work?

   This can be confusing at first, as color attributes can have multiple
   values.  The key here is to consider the colors independently.  So,
   asking whether a creature is non-black is the same as asking whether
   the creature is black, and then inverting the answer.  This is totally
   independent of whether the creature is white, blue, red or green.

   Here are some example comparisons that demonstrate this reasoning:

   - Doom Blade vs. Scathe Zombies

   Doom Blade  {1}{B}  Instant
/ Destroy target nonblack creature.

   Scathe Zombies  {2}{B}  Creature - Zombie  2/2

   This is simple: the Scathe Zombies are black, so not a legal target
   for the Doom Blade.

   - Doom Blade vs. Moroii

   Moroii  {2}{U}{B}  Creature - Vampire  4/4
/ Flying
/ At the beginning of your upkeep, you lose 1 life.

   The Moroii is black, as it has a {B} in its mana cost.  This means
   that it can't be nonblack, so Doom Blade can't target it.  Remember that
   the check for being black, or being nonblack, doesn't look at the {U}
   in the Moroii's cost, just the {B}.

   - Doom Blade vs. Shrieking Grotesque

   Shrieking Grotesque  {2}{W}  Creature - Gargoyle  2/1
/ Flying
/ When Shrieking Grotesque enters the battlefield, if {B} was spent
   to cast Shrieking Grotesque, target player discards a card.

   Even though Shrieking Grotesque was likely cast by spending at least
   one point of black mana, it doesn't have {B} in its cost, and therefore
   is not black.  Doom Blade can target the Shrieking Grotesque just fine.

1.1.06: What counts as a Mountain?

   There are 11 cards that count as a Mountain.  They all have the land
   type Mountain on their type lines in Oracle.  Here's the full list:

   Badlands    Land - Mountain Swamp

   Plateau    Land - Plains Mountain

   Taiga    Land - Mountain Forest

   Volcanic Island    Land - Island Mountain

   Steam Vents    Land - Island Mountain
/ As Steam Vents enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If you don't,
   Steam Vent enters the battlefield tapped instead.

   Blood Crypt    Land - Swamp Mountain
/ As Blood Crypt enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If you don't,
   Blood Crypt enters the battlefield tapped instead.

   Stomping Ground    Land - Mountain Forest
/ As Stomping Ground enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If
   you don't, Stomping Ground enters the battlefield tapped instead.

   Sacred Foundry    Land - Mountain Plains
/ As Sacred Foundry enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If
   you don't, Sacred Foundry enters the battlefield tapped instead.

   Mountain    Basic Land - Mountain

   Snow-Covered Mountain    Basic Snow Land - Mountain

   Madblind Mountain    Land - Mountain
/ Madblind Mountain enters the battlefield tapped.
/ {R}, {T}: Shuffle your library.  Activate this ability only if you
   control two or more red permanents.

   Nothing else counts as a Mountain, even if it happens to produce red

   One must be careful to distinguish between effects that specify a basic
   land and effects that specify a Mountain.  The only basic lands are named
   Forest, Island, Mountain, Plains, Swamp and their snow-covered variants.

   Rampant Growth  {1}{G}  Sorcery
/ Search your library for a basic land card and put that card into play
   tapped. Then shuffle your library.

   This can get a card called Mountain or Snow-Covered Mountain, or any of
   the other 8 basic land cards, but it can't fetch a Volcanic Island
   or a Steam Vents.  Those lands are not basic, even though they have
   basic land types on them.

   Chartooth Cougar  {5}{R}  Creature - Cat Beast  4/4
/ {R}: Chartooth Cougar gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
/ Mountaincycling {2} ({2}, Discard this card: Search your library for
   a Mountain card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle
   your library.)

   The Mountaincycling ability can get any of the Mountains listed
   together above, but it can't get an Island, a Forest, a Plains or
   a Swamp that isn't also a Mountain.  The Mountaincycling ability
   doesn't specify that the Mountain needs to also be basic, so it's not
   restricted to only basic Mountains.

1.1.07: How do I know what a card refers to when it uses a card name?

   There are two ways in which a card uses a card name.  The card
   Squadron Hawk uses both ways:

   Squadron Hawk  {1}{W}  Creature - Bird  1/1
/ Flying
/ When Squadron Hawk enters the battlefield, you may search your library
   for up to three cards named Squadron Hawk, reveal them, put them into
   your hand, then shuffle your library.

   The first usage is in "When Squadron Hawk enters the battlefield".
   When a card refers to its own name this way, it means that actual
   card itself.  It doesn't mean any other Squadron Hawks that may enter
   in the future.

   The second usage is "up to three cards named Squadron Hawk," and
   this usage is always written "a card named..." or "cards named..."
   It refers to any cards with that name.

   If ability text is granted by another permanent, that permanent
   can refer back to itself (and only itself) by using its own name:

   Saproling Burst  {4}{G}  Enchantment
/ Fading 7 (This enchantment enters the battlefield with seven fade
   counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a fade
   counter from it. If you can't, sacrifice it.)
/ Remove a fade counter from Saproling Burst: Put a green Saproling
   creature token onto the battlefield. It has "This creature's power
   and toughness are each equal to the number of fade counters on
   Saproling Burst."
/ When Saproling Burst leaves the battlefield, destroy all tokens put
   onto the battlefield with Saproling Burst. They can't be regenerated.

   The tokens made by a Saproling Burst aren't affected by a second
   Saproling Burst, for example.

   If a permanent gains ability text from elsewhere that contains a
   reference to the host permanent, the reference is updated to the
   new permanent:

   Quicksilver Elemental  {3}{U}{U}  Creature - Elemental  3/4
/ {U}: Quicksilver Elemental gains all activated abilities of target
   creature until end of turn. (If any of the abilities use that creature's
   name, use this creature's name instead.)
/ You may spend blue mana as though it were mana of any color to pay
   the activation costs of Quicksilver Elemental's abilities.

   Imagine Quicksilver Elemental gains the activated abilities of
   Shivan Dragon:

   Shivan Dragon  {4}{R}{R}  Creature - Dragon  5/5
   {R}: Shivan Dragon gets +1/+0 until end of turn.

   Then the gained ability costs {R} to activate but {U} can be spent
   as {R} to pay for it.  Note also that the Quicksilver Elemental can
   only gain activated abilities, so it won't get the Shivan Dragon's

1.1.08: Can you tap a tapped creature?  Untap one that's untapped?

   This isn't possible for the purposes of paying a cost.  A permanent has
   to actually go from the untapped status to the tapped status to pay a
   tap cost.  In an effect, however, the rules are different.  An effect
   tries its best to do as much as it can, and ignores impossible or
   contradictory instructions.  This means that an effect that instructs
   a player to untap a creature will simply be ignored if the creature
   is already untapped at that point.

   Note that the situation is very different if the targeting specification
   calls for a tapped creature:

   Royal Assassin  {1}{B}{B}  Creature - Human Assassin  1/1
/ {T}: Destroy target tapped creature.

   Read the effect carefully to distinguish which parts are the targeting
   specification, which parts are the cost and which parts are the effect.
   The targeting specification must be met when you play the spell AND
   when it resolves, and the costs must be paid in full, but the effect
   is allowed to skip impossible parts.

1.1.09: When can I sacrifice a creature?  Discard a card?

   Only when an effect or a game rule tells you to.  You can't just
   sacrifice a creature or discard a card whenever you wish.  There has
   to be something to cause you to do so.  There are some rules that make
   things go to the graveyard automatically, but they generally won't
   get invoked unless specific situations occur:

   - A creature with toughness 0 or less is put into its owner's graveyard.

   - A creature with lethal damage, but greater than 0 toughness,
   is destroyed.

   - An Aura attached to something illegal, or not attached to anything,
   is put into its owner's graveyard.

   - If two or more legendary permanents with the same name are on the
   battlefield, all are put into their owners' graveyards. This is called
   the "legend rule."

   - Similarly for two or more planeswalkers on the battlefield with the
   same planeswalker type, they all go to the graveyard.

   - If two or more permanents have the supertype world, all except the
   one that has been a permanent with the world supertype on the
   battlefield for the shortest amount of time are put into their owners'
   graveyards, regardless of name.

   - At the beginning of the cleanup step (after the end step, in the
   ending phase) if the active player has more cards in hand than his or
   her maximum hand size (normally seven) then he or she discards down
   to that maximum hand size.

1.1.10: How do I tell which end-of-turn things can carry onto the next turn?

   There are two different ways in which cards refer to the end of turn.
   One is to specify a duration that lasts "until end of turn".  These
   durations wear off in the cleanup step of the ending phase, at the same
   time that damage is removed from creatures.

   There is no way to get an "until end of turn" duration to last into
   the next turn.  If players get priority to play spells or abilities
   during cleanup (not usual, but not impossible to achieve) then the
   game automatically adds another cleanup step before the next turn,
   and any durations that were set up to last until end of turn during
   the first cleanup step will end in the second; you will also have
   to check for maximum hand size again.

   The other way in which cards refer to the end of turn is to trigger
   at the beginning of the end step.  This is literally with the phrases
   "at the beginning of the end step" or "at the beginning of the next
   end step".  The beginning of the end step only happens once a turn,
   so these triggered abilities only trigger once a turn.

   It is possible for a triggered ability to be set up to wait for the
   beginning of the end step during an end step.  The delayed triggered
   ability will wait around for the next turn's end step before it

   Players often say "at the end of your turn, I..." to indicate playing
   a spell or ability in a player's end step.

1.1.11: What's the point of turning something into a creature just for a 

   On the first turn that a creature is on the battlefield, it can't
   attack, and none of its activated abilities that have the {T} or {Q}
   symbol in their cost can be activated.  This condition is informally
   known as "summoning sickness".

   There are only two things to look for to determine whether a permanent
   suffers from summoning sickness:

   - is the permanent currently a creature?  If so, then it may suffer
   from summoning sickness and be unable to attack or have its activated
   abilities with a {T} or {Q} in the cost activated.  If not, then
   summoning sickness cannot apply.

   - was the permanent (in whatever form) continuously under its current
   controller's control since the beginning of that player's most recent
   turn?  If not, then the creature is sick and it is unable to attack
   or have its activated abilities with a {T} or {Q} in the cost activated.

   So, turning a permanent into a creature will allow the permanent to
   attack, as long as the permanent (in whatever form) was continuously
   under its controller's control since the beginning of that player's
   most recent turn.

1.1.12: What order do I do things in when I cast a spell / activate an 

   - Casting a spell means taking the spell card and putting it on the
   stack, and going through all the steps of announcing a spell or ability:

     - Some spells use the phrase "choose one - " on them.  Make this
     choice first.
     - Some spells have additional, alternative or variable costs.
     Choose which costs to pay.
     - For the choices made so far, there will be a certain number of
     targets required.  Choose those next.
     - If the spell affects different targets differently or distributes
     its effect, make those choices.
     - Determine the total cost of the spell, making sure to add costs
     first, then apply discounts afterwards.
     - If you need mana, you can now activate mana abilities to get the mana
     for the spell.
     - Now pay the cost of the spell.
     - The spell is now played.  If the player had priority when the
     spell was announced, that player gets priority back.  If you have
     leftover mana, you have to announce what's left at this point.

   Activating an ability is similar, except that you use the activation
   cost instead of the mana cost.

   - Some spells and abilities copy a spell.  The copy is put onto the
   top of the stack.  Unless otherwise specified, it reuses all of the
   choices that were made for the spell it's copying.  The copy doesn't
   go through the steps again.

   Various effects deal with playing cards from unusual places.
   In general, there are two different ways these work:

   - Static abilities or resolving spells or abilities with continuous
   effects can state that a card that isn't in a player's hand may
   be played.  These effects always specify a duration during which the
   effect applies.  They add the card to the set of cards that may be
   played using the normal system of priority, according to the normal
   timing rules.

   - Resolving spells or abilities may simply include an instruction to
   cast a card or a copy of a card.  The card or copy of a card goes
   through the steps of announcing a spell or ability, just like a spell
   that's cast when a player has priority.  The timing restrictions
   associated with casting a spell using priority do not apply in this
   situation.  The card Panoptic Mirror is a good example of this type
   of ability:

   Panoptic Mirror  {5}  Artifact
/ Imprint - {X}, {T}: You may exile an instant or sorcery card with
   converted mana cost X from your hand.
/ At the beginning of your upkeep, you may copy a card exiled with
   Panoptic Mirror.  If you do, you may cast the copy without paying
   its mana cost.

   Finally, note the difference between copying a card and then casting
   the copy, and copying a spell that's already been cast.  In the former,
   the card is in a zone other than the stack; the copy gets made in the
   same zone, then moves to the stack when it's cast, and goes through
   the process of casting a spell or ability.  In the latter, the copy
   arrives fully-formed on the stack as a duplicate of something that's
   already been cast, and doesn't go through the process of casting a
   spell again.  The former will trigger abilities that trigger when
   spells are cast, but not those that trigger when cards are played.
   The latter triggers neither.

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