How Magic Cards work
Grafdiggers Cage

Grafdiggers Cage Russian

Last Modified 29.03.2020

Today we talk about Grafdigger’s Cage and prohibiting effects.

Grafdigger’s Cage

Oracle Text:


Creature cards can’t enter the battlefield from graveyards or libraries.

Players can’t cast spells from graveyards or libraries.

We shall need three rules in order to fully cover Grafdigger’s Cage’s functionality:

101.2. When a rule or effect allows or directs something to happen, and another effect states that it can’t happen, the “can’t” effect takes precedence.

609.3. If an effect attempts to do something impossible, it does only as much as possible.

601.2e. The game checks to see if the proposed spell can legally be cast. If the proposed spell is illegal, the game returns to the moment before the casting of that spell was proposed (see rule 717, “Handling Illegal Actions").

Grafdigger’s Cage creates two prohibiting effects. The rest is simple. If an effect instructs to put a creature from a graveyard or library onto the battlefield, we ignore that part of the effect.

Cards may normally not be cast from graveyards and libraries. When such a possibility or instruction is given to us by an effect, we must ignore them.

Time to look at some pictures.

Sharuum the Hegemon
Tezzeret the Seeker

You may choose any artifact card in your graveyard as the target for Sharuum the Hegemon’s trigger, but an artifact creature card may not be put onto the battlefield due to Grafdigger’s Cage’s prohibiting effect. That means that if you choose an artifact creature, nothing happens. That part of the effect is simply ignored.

Same as with Sharuum the Hegemon, Transmute Artifact may find an artifact creature, but it may not be put onto the battlefield, so it remains in the library.

Goblin Welder

Even if you choose Grafdigger’s Cage as the first target for Goblin Welder’s ability, you may not return an artifact creature to the battlefield while resolving it, because sacrificing an artifact and moving one onto the battlefield happens simultaneously. The sacrifice will happen, but the dislocation won’t.

Haakon, Stromgald Scourge

Haakon, Stromgald Scourge may only be cast from graveyard. And since Grafdigger’s Cage prohibits casting spells from graveyards, it turns out that it may not be cast at all.

Yawgmoth’s Will

Why did they even ban Yawgmoth’s Will in Legacy? Grafdigger’s Cage will ensure that nothing other than lands may be played from the graveyard, whereas all cards that would be put into the graveyard this turn will be exiled instead.

Snapcaster Mage

Snapcaster Mage becomes an ordinary 2/1 creature with Flash, because Flashback is rendered completely useless. You may not cast spells from graveyards.

Animate Dead

Neither Exhume, nor Reanimate can do anything useful.

Ah-ha! Here is something interesting! As Animate Dead’s triggered ability resolves, it loses the ability “enchant creature card in a graveyard” and gains “enchant creature put onto the battlefield with Animate Dead”. Now it may legally enchant only the creature that was supposed to be put onto the battlefield through its trigger. But! Grafdigger’s Cage prohibits putting the creature onto the battlefield, so it remains in the graveyard. Animate Dead cannot be attached to it, and it is moved into the graveyard very soon after. Whoops.

Kitchen Finks
Grafdigger’s Cage

Persist and Undying triggers go off (as long as their conditions are met), but the creature does not return to the battlefield, because Grafdigger’s Cage’s effect prohibits that.

Loyal Cathar

Loyal Cathar cannot transform through resolving its innate ability.

Future Sight

When you control Future Sight, you play with the top hand of your library revealed, but you will only be able to play a land (which isn’t a creature!). Let me remind you that “play a card” is either “cast a spell”, or “play a land”.

Chord of Calling

Neither Chord of Calling, nor Green Sun’s Zenith, nor Dragonstorm can bring a creature from the library onto the battlefield. Those creatures will remain in the library.

Alright, I’m already considering sideboarding Grafdigger’s Cage. I just need to figure out how to get it out at instant speed.

But there are good news too. Grafdigger’s Cage does not prohibit casting spells from other zones or putting creatures onto the battlefield from other zones (stack, hand, exile, command zone):

AEther Vial

Æther Vial’s activated ability puts a creature from the hand onto the battlefield. The cage isn’t concerned.

Bloodbraid Elf

A spell cast off Cascade is cast from the exile zone, not the library.

Eternal Witness

Eternal Witness’ triggered ability returns a card to hand, so you may return a creature card, too.

Life and Limb
Wooded Foothills

Life and Limb’s effect turns all Forests on the battlefield into creatures. There is no such moment in the game when a Forest is already in play but isn’t a creature. Triggers that go off at creatures entering the battlefield will find that as their triggering event.

But when you read Grafdigger’s Cage’s text carefully, you will see the word “ card”, which, according to the rules, means a card outside the battlefield. Therefore, Forest cards that aren’t on the battlefield and aren’t creatures do not fall under Grafdigger’s Cage’s prohibiting effect.

Thus, when you find a normal Forest as Wooded Foothills’ trigger resolves, you will be able to put it onto the battlefield, and it will be a Saproling.

Tooth and Nail

At first glance it may seem that by paying the Entwine cost, you search your library for 2 cards and put them onto the battlefield. But that isn’t true.

Tooth and Nail is a modal spell. The first mode moves 2 creature cards from your library to your hand. The second mode puts 2 creature cards from your hand onto the battlefield. When you entwine, you run both these modes in that very order. Note that the creatures put onto the battlefield are not necessarily the same ones that are found in the library.

Grafdigger’s Cage’s effect does not impact resolving Tooth and Nail.

As usual, here is an interesting situation to finish with:

Primeval Titan
Dryad Arbor

Your cunning opponent controls Grafdigger’s Cage. As Primeval Titan’s ability resolves, you miss out the situation and find a Dryad Arbor. What should you do?

Solution ⇓

Shuffle the Dryad into your library and play more careful. You are not prohibited from finding it, you just can’t put it onto the battlefield, so it stays in the library.

  1.  Side, sideboard — additional cards that aren’t part of the main deck. A player has an opportunity to exchange any number of cards from the main deck with those in the sideboard after the first game in each match. Different tournaments have different limitations on the Sideboard size. A constructed tournament deck may contain up to 15 sideboard cards.

Translated by Witas Spasovski