Thursday, December 21, 2017

Multiple Choice Magic Design Question of the Day 5

5) How many of these abilities can be countered with Stifle?


Bushido 1


Dredge 3



Using a face-down creature's morph ability to turn it face-up.

[Mana]: CARDNAME gets +2/+2 until end of turn. Activate this ability only once per turn.

CARDNAME's power and toughness are each equal to the number of cards in your hand.

If a source you control would deal damage to a permanent or player, it deals double that damage to that permanent or player instead. 

CARDNAME gets +1/+1 as long as you control another black creature.

{T}: Add {C} to your mana pool.

If an opponent would draw two or more cards, instead you and that player each draw a card.

You may have CARDNAME enter the battlefield as a copy of any creature on the battlefield.

You may discard a Plains card rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.

 a) 4
 b) 5
 c) 6
 d) 7
 e) 8

Click through to see the answer and my rationale.

Flying is an evasion ability. Did you know that's an official game term? I thought it was just very common slang and design terminology. +0

Bushido and Cascade are both triggered abilities. That one is on a permanent and another on a spell is immaterial. +2

Dredge is a static ability that creates a replacement effect. +0

While you can't stop a player from paying the cost to conspire, you can counter the triggered ability doing so generates. +1

Cycling is an activated ability. That it's activated from your hand doesn't matter. +1

Although it feels like morph should be an activated ability, it's actually a special ability that doesn't use the stack. Unmorphing a creature can't be responded to. +0

The Rootwalla ability is an activated ability. +1 (Note that if it's countered, you cannot pay to activate it again the same turn, because the restriction affects activation not resolution. Thanks for correcting me on this, Jenesis!)

Maro has a characteristic-defining ability. +0

Angrath's Marauders has a static ability that creates a replacement effect. +0

Ashenmoor Cohort's conditional +1/+1 is a continuous effect. +0

The mana production ability is activated, but because it generates mana, it's also a mana ability; That means it doesn't go on the stack and can't be responded or countered. (Rule 605.3b) +0

Alms Collector has a static ability with a replacement effect. +0

The Clone ability is static. It occurs during the act of putting the creature onto the battlefield and can't be responded to. +0

Abolish's alternative cost is paid while casting the spell. It can't be responded to. +0

B/5 is the best answer. C/6 and A/4 are the next least wrong answers. I'm curious to hear which items tripped you up: My guess is the mana ability will cause the most confusion.

It's not as important for a designer to know the ins-and-outs of the rules as it is for the rules team, but it definitely informs your work and speeds the process. Anyone making the game is expected to know the rules well enough to be an official judge. Everything above is researchable either in the rules document, in the card rulings on Gatherer, or in the release notes for the related card's set.


  1. Cool. My answer was exactly Jay's, but I leaned heavily on MTG Wiki to do so. Most of the keywords helpfully say "this is a triggered ability" etc. I thought it likely I'd made at least one mistake somewhere though!

    If I hadn't looked them up, I would have got conspire wrong (it's two abilities, one static, one triggered, I should have realised only a triggered ability was the most likely to create the copy of the spell).

    The others I came closest to missing were the morph and mana ability. I remembered previous rules arguments, and thought I got them correct, that they both didn't use the stack, but I did spend some time thinking, is there any circumstance where they *would* use the stack, but I couldn't see any.

    (I do think the morph ability is overly confusing, it's like split second, but it somehow pretends it's a natural game feature that it works like that.)

    Everything else I was reasonably sure of, but there was definitely a high chance I'd have forgotten exactly what one of the keywords did, or muddle one of the replacement abilities in with a triggered ability.

  2. Notes and answer, before clicking through:

    My answer is B, 5.

    Flying NO
    Bushido 1 YES
    Cascade YES
    Dredge 3 REPLACE
    Conspire YES (comp rules)
    Cycling YES
    Turning a morph creature face-up NO (no stack)
    Rootwalla ability YES
    P/T CDA NO
    Angrath's Marauders REPLACE
    Ashenmoor Cohort NO
    {T}: Add {C} to your mana pool NO
    Alms Collector REPLACE
    Clone ability REPLACE
    Alternative cost NO

    As best I can tell from the rules, replacement abilities aren't triggered abilities, even when they contain an "if you do" like dredge does.

    I didn't realize an objective rules question could be this hard!

    1. Also, posting here because I don't have a better place for it: anyone remember the "Revolution" / "Access the Machine" / "Advance" / "Industrial Revolution" mechanics we designed for Tesla? Well, a variant is getting printed in Rivals of Ixalan, right down to the "ten or more permanents" condition.

  3. Stifle : Counter target activated or triggered ability. (Mana abilities can't be targeted.)

    Flying: Static, NO
    Bushido 1: Triggered, YES
    Cascade: Triggered, YES
    Dredge 3: Replacement effect, NO
    Conspire: Triggered, YES
    Cycling: Activated, YES
    Unmorph: Special, NO
    Gets +2/+2 until end of turn: Activated, YES
    P/T cards in hand: Characteristic-defining ability, NO (208.2a)
    Damage Doubling: Replacement effect, NO
    Gets +1/+1: Continuous effect, NO
    Add colorless: Mana ability, NO
    Draw Sharing: Replacement effect, NO
    Clone: Copy effect, NO
    Plains discard: Cost replacement, NO

    An easy way to answer this is, does this ability go on the stack? If the answer is yes, Stifle can counter it.

    So I got B - 5.

    1. "does this ability go on the stack? If the answer is yes, Stifle can counter it."

      Yeah, good way to put it. It doesn't have to be like that but AFAIK it is: everything that goes on the stack (other than a spell) is an activated or triggered ability; everything that doesn't go on the stack is naturally un-stifle-able.

    2. Well, spells.
      Disallow does get everything on the stack, though.

    3. I wish that could be templated as "counter target anything" :)

  4. I had everything right except for morph. I always assumed it worked like an activated ability. Guess I learned something today.

    1. Morph could have worked like an activated ability, but it doesn't, mostly for historical reasons. The original "face-down creature" effect was Illusionary Mask, which turns things up as a replacement effect. Also, if unmorphing was an activated ability, there would be a window where an opponent knew what the morph cost was but the creature was still face-down, which would somewhat defeat the purpose.

  5. Replacement effects tend to throw me because they're all "triggered" by something happening. I have to remind myself that it's the replacement that is being triggered and not an ability.

  6. I got Dredge and Conspire wrong so I technically got the correct answer.

  7. Re-activating Rootwalla - Nope. The "once per turn" is a restriction that takes effect as soon as the ability is activated, not an effect of resolving the ability. Incidentally, this is why Azorius Guildmage is close to an auto-win in Momir Basic.

    Without looking anything up, I got 4. Stupid Conspire.

    1. Thanks, Jenesis. I'll update the post.
      Thinking about it more, that makes sense. It's not "Resolve this ability only once per turn."