Tessitori is a level 5 judge from Italy (and former Pro Player ^__^); he judged a hundred professional events, headjudged 15 Grand Prix events in Europe, the United States and Asia and has been headjudging Pro Tours and World Championships since 2009:
Tour Kyoto 2009
- Pro Tour Austin 2009
- Worlds Chiba 2010
- Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011
- Pro Tour Barcelona 2012
- World Magic Cup Indianapolis 2012
Lotus Cobra, and How We Spoke When We Were Young
2013 has started, are you ready for a new year full of wonderful Magic?
We finished 2012 with quite a long article about tournament policy,
and we will start the New Year with the “opposite” topic: rules, hard Magic
First, let’s warm up with our always present five questions of the week,
and then let’s discover the Top5 of the weird obsolete expressions and the
first Card of the Month in 2013: Lotus Cobra.
Questions of the Week
Q: If I cast an Ornithopter (which costs zero mana) and I use a Cavern of Souls to pay the additional cost due to a Sphere of Resistance or a Trinisphere, will my Ornithopter be counterable or not?
A: It will be uncounterable. The effect of Cavern of Souls applies if
the mana is used to cast the spell, whether to pay for the mana cost or for any
Q: I attack with Geist of Saint Traft, I put the Angel token on the
battlefield, and then I use Ninjutsu to return my Geist to my hand. Will I get
to keep the token?
A: No. The effect “exile it at the end of combat” is created by the
triggered ability that creates the token; this ability is not linked to the
Geist, and the token will be removed independently from what happens to the
Q: I control Martyr of Sands and Ajani's Pridemate; if I use the
Martyr’s ability and I reveal four white cards, how many +1/+1 counters will I
put on my Pridemate? One, four, twelve?
A: Just one. Ajani's Pridemate has an ability that triggers every time
you gain life; Martyr of Sands has an ability that allows you to gain life
once; the amount depends on the number of white cards you reveal, but the gain
of life is a single effect.
Q: Can I use Sundial of the Infinite to save my Ball Lightning?
A: Well… Yes… but it will die at the end of your opponent’s turn,
because his ability triggers at the beginning of each end step.
Q: I control three Phantasmal Bears, and my opponent casts Echoing Decay; will he kill all my bears?
A: No, just one. The targeted Phantasmal Bear will be sacrificed before Echoing Decay resolves; when Echoing Decay tries to resolve, it will be
countered because its target won’t be on the battlefield; the other two Phantasmal Bears were never targeted, and they will survive.
Damage on the Stack – Top 5 Obsolete Sentences
About a year ago, we
talked about a few obsolete terms; today, we will take a look at a few obsolete
expressions. Fasten your time-travelling seat belts and, especially if you have
been playing Magic for many years, enjoy our trip into the Stone Age of Magic!
5) “You may play cards as though they were in your hand”
In the beginning: In
modern times, with abilities like flashback, dredge and unearth, the idea of
playing with the graveyard (or against our opponent’s graveyard) is part of the
DNA of any player.
In the first days of Magic, the idea of getting cards back from the
graveyard and add them to our hand was quite common (for example Regrowth and Raise Dead), but it was next to impossible to actually cast cards from the
graveyard; only cards in your hand could be cast!
Very few cards allowed the rare exception and, to avoid
misunderstanding, they said we could cast the cards “as though there were in
A few questions come to mind immediately:
OK, it’s like these cards are in my hand; can I discard them to Wild Mongrel? Can I cycle them?
No and no, saying that “we can cast them as though they are in our hand”
is very different from “they are in our hand”; the cards are still in the
graveyard; when we decide to cast them they move from the graveyard to the
stack; there is no moment when they are in our hand.
So, why mention the hand at all?!?
Good question, and here is the answer:
of the Coast decided to remove that part of the sentence. How these cards work
hasn’t changed; it has become clearer.
4) “Can block as though it had Flying”
In the beginning:
similarly to several Magic cards that have been reprinted since the first
versions, Giant Spider was born with a rules text far from precise, and has
been reworded a few times.
With Sixth Edition, it got a quite official text that didn’t change
until Tenth Edition: “Giant Spider can block as though it had flying”.
A short and clear text, which shouldn’t cause misunderstandings, right?
OK, can Giant Spider block Elven Riders, which can be blocked only by
creatures with flying?
Well, the Spider hasn’t flying, so it shouldn’t be allowed to block; but
blocks like it had flying, so it should be allowed to block; well, for a long
time, Giant Spider was allowed to block Elven Riders.
Future Sight, just before Tenth Edition, a new ability (Reach) was created.
Since then, the rules say that “creatures with flying can be blocked by
creatures with flying or reach”.
Our Giant Spider doesn’t have “blocks as though it has flying” anymore,
but has “Reach” instead.
It cannot block Elven Riders.
3) “Does not deal or receive combat damage”
In the beginning: Let’s
take a look at the original text of Fog Bank.
It doesn’t deal any combat damage; OK, its power is zero, this was
It doesn’t receive any combat damage. OK, whatever is the attacking
creature it blocks, it doesn’t receive any damage and it doesn’t die; it looks
Let’s imagine now that the attacking creature has trample; can a 5/5
creature with trample deal damage to the defending player?
Answer A: Yes, it deals three damage. Even though Fog Bank doesn’t
receive any damage, we should assign to it at least damage equal to its
toughness; the remaining three can be assigned to the defending player.
Answer B: No. Fog Bank cannot receive damage, therefore any amount will
never be considered lethal; Fog Bank absorbs all damage.
Answer C: Yes, it deals five damage. Because Fog Bank cannot receive any
damage, we cannot assign any damage to it.
Damn, all these three answers might make sense!
ambiguity has been removed by modifying the Oracle text of Fog Bank; it now
says that all combat damage is prevented.
It works exactly like with creatures with protection: if Fog Bank blocks
a creature with trample, the attacking player can assign to the wall just an
amount of damage equal to its toughness, and the rest to the defending player.
The correct answer is A: three damage.
2) “When you successfully cast”
In the beginning: When Skittering Skirge was initially printed, there were Interrupts.
The topic is vast; let’s just say that, any time a spell was cast, there
was a window where we could respond with interrupts (all counterspells were
interrupts); once this window closed, there was a window where we could cast
instants and no more interrupts. At that time, responding to our opponent’s
spell with Brainstorm (an instant) and then cast a Counterspell was not doable.
The original text of Skittering Skirge speaks about a creature spell
“successfully cast”, which meant “still on the stack after the window for
interrupts closed”; if the creature spell was countered, it wasn’t
“successfully cast” and Skittering Skirge wasn’t sacrificed.
Sixth Edition, interrupts didn’t exist anymore, and the abilities like the one
from the Skittering Skirge trigger when the creature spell becomes cast; it
doesn’t matter if the creature spell resolves or is countered; the Skirge will
be sacrificed in any case.
1) “at end of turn”
In the beginning: I
believe it happened to many of us to play with a person that had just started
playing Magic, and we had to explain the following:
Him: “your turn”
Us: “at the end of your turn, I create a token with Rakdos Guildmage, I
untap and I attack with the Goblin”
Him: “But… the Goblin doesn’t die at the end of my turn?”
Us: “No, because blah blah”
Him: “OK, so if I cast Giant Growth at the end of your turn, my creature
is still bigger in my turn, right?”
Us: “No, because at the end of turn is different from until the end of
Saying that an ability triggered “at the end of turn” meant that the ability
triggered just before the real end of the turn; exactly, it triggered at the
beginning of the end step, which is a step where players receive priority.
Because we could make actions in that step, we could activate an ability
that would have created a delayed triggered ability in the following end of
This way of playing wasn’t too complicated; it just needed to be
explained, and it needed some minutes to be accepted.
M10, the “end of turn step” became the “end step”; the abilities that triggered
“at the end of turn” now trigger “at the beginning of the end step”.
The new wording, in addition to being more precise, is also much more
similar to “at the beginning of your upkeep”, which is much more known to all
the Magic players.
Card of the Month – Lotus Cobra
The Modern season has just begun and it looks like the format is very
healthy, with a lot of competitive archetypes; we have many possible deck
It’s also true that a few decks are, at the moment, slightly stronger
than the others; Jund, as it often happens, is one of the decks to beat… or to
play… or to play with an anti-Jund version of Jund:
Deathrite Shaman and Lotus Cobra, powered by fetchlands are a great mana
boost, which creates a significant advantage both in the mirror match and also
against combo decks.
From the rules point of view, Lotus Cobra’s ability is apparently
simple, but it can easily create misunderstanding; let’s see why.
Cobra’s ability is not a mana ability
“A triggered ability without a target that triggers from activating a
mana ability and could put mana into a player’s mana pool when it resolves
is a mana ability.” [CR605.1b]
Lotus Cobra’s ability triggers any time a land enters the battlefield
under our control, not when we activate an activated mana ability. As a
consequence, Lotus Cobra’s triggered ability doesn’t meet the definition of
triggered mana ability.
A similar case is with Deathrite Shaman, whose ability that produces mana
is not a mana ability because it has a target.
These are a few consequences:
- The ability uses the stack, it can be responded to, and it can be
countered by spells like Stifle.
- The color of the mana is chosen on resolution; if you declare it when
the ability is put on the stack and your opponent doesn’t respond, you won’t be
able to change it on resolution; if you declare it when the ability is put on
the stack and your opponent makes an action in response, you will have the
choice of changing it on resolution.
- Asking your opponent “What color?” is equivalent to allowing the
ability to resolve.
Cobra’s ability has to be announced
According to the current policy about missed triggers, any time one of
our triggered abilities should resolve, we have to announce it or somehow
demonstrate that we are aware of its existence, otherwise the ability has no
What does “demonstrate awareness” mean, in practice?
- We play a land and we say “Cobra gives me one mana.
- We play a land and we point at the Cobra.
- We play our third land and we immediately cast a four mana spell (that
we couldn’t cast unless the Cobra gave us the extra mana).
ability uses the stack, but playing a land doesn’t
Lotus Cobra’s ability, just like all the triggered abilities associated
to landfall, is a normal triggered ability: it triggers and is put on the
stack. The trigger event, on the contrary, is a special action that doesn’t use
the stack and nobody can respond to it.
If we ask to a judge “my opponent is playing a land, can I respond?”,
the correct answer would be “no”, because we cannot respond to the action of
playing a land, which is what we asked.
If we ask to a judge “my opponent is playing a land, can I respond to
the Cobra?”, the correct answer will be “yes”.
As always, it’s important to ask a precise and appropriate question.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and I’m looking forward to reading your
Don’t forget to submit all
your rules questions for the next installment of Ask the Judge:
You have the unique opportunity to ask Level 5
judge Riccardo Tessitori all the questions you want to!
You can ask him questions concerning rules
problems, the life of a level 5 judge, DCI policies, interesting tournament
situations and anything else you want to ask him!
See you in a few weeks!