Today we are going to analyze a set of three abilities known as Suspend by taking Ancestral Vision as an example.
Ancestral Vision is a rather unusual card. It was released in the Time Spiral block and is a reference to Ancestral Recall, which is easy to notice by comparing the names, effects and art of the two cards.
Spells without a mana cost
But that’s not what Ancestral Vision is peculiar for. Ancestral Vision is a nonland card without mana cost. There are really few cards like this one in Magic. Never confuse cards without mana cost with cards with mana cost zero, such as Lion’s Eye Diamond.
A spell without a mana cost cannot be cast normally, because a cost that doesn’t exist cannot be paid.
What options are there? Get an effect that allows playing the cost in an alternative way, for example, without paying its mana cost. The third ability hidden behind the keyword Suspend also allows a player to not worry about paying the mana cost. We shall discuss Suspend shortly, for now here are a few more ways to cast a spell which doesn’t have a mana cost:
There are also other kinds of alternative costs which may be used:
Another portion of peculiarity lies with Ancestral Vision’s color. Earlier, the static ability on the card used to define it, but it is no longer there, check it out in the Oracle. Now the color of Ancestral Vision is defined by the color indicator, which unfortunately isn’t seen on the card of Time Spiral edition, but it is there in the Oracle.
We’re finally there on Suspend. First, let us familiarize ourselves with the rules:
702.61a.Suspend is a keyword that represents three abilities. The first is a static ability that functions while the card with suspend is in a player’s hand. The second and third are triggered abilities that function in the exile zone.
“Suspend N — [cost]” means “If you could begin to cast this card by putting it onto the stack from your hand, you may pay [cost] and exile it with N time counters on it. This action doesn't use the stack,” and
“At the beginning of your upkeep, if this card is suspended, remove a time counter from it,” and
“When the last time counter is removed from this card, if it’s exiled, play it without paying its mana cost if able. If you can’t, it remains exiled. If you cast a creature spell this way, it gains haste until you lose control of the spell or the permanent it becomes.”
702.61b. A card is “suspended” if it’s in the exile zone, has suspend, and has a time counter on it.
702.60c. Casting a spell as an effect of its suspend ability follows the rules for paying alternative costs in rules 601.2b and 601.2f-h.
Normally, in order to perform a special action, you only need to have priority. In case of Suspend, there is an additional limitation: “If you could begin to cast this card by putting it onto the stack from your hand”.
A careful reader will ask: “How is it that we’re able to Suspend Ancestral Vision at all, if we can’t normally cast cards with no mana cost simply from the hand without some extra techs?” The answer is quite funny:
117.6. (…) Attempting to cast a spell or activate an ability that has an unpayable cost is a legal action. However, attempting to pay an unpayable cost is an illegal action.
Formal logic chills out, doesn’t it?
Alright, so, we are supposed to be able to play the card with Suspend from the hand. All limitations due to the card type have effect. For instance, Ancestral Vision is a sorcery card. The rules do not prohibit to cast sorceries at a moment other than the main phase of its controller. The rules allow to cast sorceries in your main phase when the stack is empty (rule 307.1.) And of course, any effect instructing us to cast a spell allows us to cast it at a different time.
We shall face this question again today when we analyze Suspend’s second trigger. For now let us focus on Suspended cards. When Suspending a card, we move it to the Exile zone and put a number of time counters on it. These time counters may be added and removed in a number of ways:
While mentioning permanents, the following examples need to be brought up:
Proliferate cannot help with a Suspended card. It only affects permanents (and players), and a suspended card isn’t one.
Vampire Hexmage’s activated ability is completely useless too when interacting with suspended cards, for the same reason.
To sum up the talk about Suspend’s first ability, I would like to give you a definition of a suspended card. Because when we analyze the remaining two triggered abilities, we will only consider suspended cards. A card is suspended if it matches all of the following three conditions:
- be in Exile zone;
- have Suspend ability;
- have time counters on it.
Here are a few more interesting examples related to Suspended cards. We’ll move to the triggered abilities right after them.
Suspend’s first trigger goes off at the beginning of the suspended card’s owner’s upkeep.
When we see the magical word “if” we immediately treat this trigger as conditional. It triggers only if the condition is met. If a card has Suspend but is not Suspended (for example, if there are no time counters on it), the trigger will simply not go off. When this trigger is about to resolve the condition is checked again. Again, if it is not met, the trigger doesn’t do anything, it is simply removed from the stack. How can that happen? The most probable scenario: there are no more counters between the trigger going off and resolving.
If the first trigger of Suspend gets countered (Disallow), the time counter isn’t removed.
As the first trigger of Suspend resolves, a time counter is removed, this may in its turn trigger other abilities, usually with beneficial effects. Such cards are good to keep Suspended for a long time.
Suspend’s second trigger goes off when the last time counter is removed from a suspended card. This may happen as the first trigger resolves, or at other times, for example through applying effects that remove time counters from Suspended cards.
As this trigger resolves you are instructed to cast this card without paying its mana cost. I will remind again that the rules for casting nonland cards are allowing, not prohibiting. This means that as the Suspend’s last trigger resolves we may cast a nonland card of any type, be it a creature, a sorcery, a planeswalker etc. Which planeswalker has Suspend, you wonder? Any one! When it is given Suspend by lady Jhoira:
Unlike Cascade, the effect of Suspend’s second trigger does not provide an option to skip casting the spell. The only case when you don’t cast it is if you can’t cast it by the rules.
If Suspend’s second trigger is countered, the card isn’t cast. It remains exiled without time counters and is no longer Suspended.
Since casting a spell at the resolution of Suspend’s second trigger supposes casting it without paying its mana cost (you'd do good to follow this link and read about additional costs, weird cards and X in the cost), it helps to solve the problem of the absence of mana costs of such cards:
Just as any other alternative cost, this one doesn’t affect the spell’s mana cost and the CMC. Even though the Suspend cost of each of these cards is 1 mana, and they are played without paying mana at all, this doesn’t alter their mana costs.
This immediately shows us that:
A creature entering the battlefield through Suspend is a special cast, as it gains Haste as the last trigger resolves. Not many players know that Haste is given to the creature not till the end of current turn, but for as long as you control the spell or the permanent it becomes.
This covers all about Suspend as such. We can return to Ancestral Vision and talk about its casting and resolving.
Ancestral Vision, just as Ancestral Recall, is a targeted spell. It targets a player. This is where subtle things may occur:
You cast Ancestral Vision targeting yourself, but the cunning opponent may change the target of your Ancestral Vision, for instance through Redirect, and steal its effect.
If you control True Believer, you cannot target yourself with Ancestral Recall. However, you have to cast it as the Suspend trigger resolves. You will have to target another player.
Now on to the sad part, namely to the errors. If a player draws four cards at the spell resolution (instead of three as the effect of the card prescribes), such a violation is treated as Gameplay Error — Hidden Card Error. At Competitive REL it is punished with a Warning; the guilty player reveals his or her hand to an opponent who chooses a card to be shuffled into your library. Not only do you lose the most valuable card in your hand, but you also make the contents of the rest of your hand known to your opponent(s), so I do recommend to double-check each time you draw. A wise way to draw multiple cards in Competitive REL events is to first put the drawn cards on the table face down, count them carefully, and then move them to your hand.
In Regular REL events a judge will choose a card at random and put it on top of the player’s library. And instruct the player to not do so again. A good judge will recite the above-mentioned rules for Competitive events.
Have great events, fair judges and lots of fun!
- ⇑ I would like to remind here that in classic Magic only permanents, emblems and objects on the stack have a controller.
Translated by Witas Spasovski