Judge School MTG
3 facts about abilities

3 facts about abilities Russian

Last Modified 06.07.2020

There are three important things we should pay attention to with regard to all abilities.

1. What zones do the abilities have effect in

It’s an nontrivial question. Doesn’t look so? Ok, here are a few problems to solve:

So, what do the rules tell us?

113.6. Abilities of an instant or sorcery spell usually function only while that object is on the stack. Abilities of all other objects usually function only while that object is on the battlefield.


Protection functions only on the battlefield. Nothing prevents to counter the Progenitus spell.

Fabled Hero

Heroic will not triggers if you terget the card on the graveyard, in the stack or in exile zone.

Thassa, God of the Sea

Thassa’s abilities function only on the battlefield. In other zones Thassa is creature card, regardless of player’s Devotion to blue.

The exceptions are as follows:

113.6a. Characteristic-defining abilities function everywhere, even outside the game. (See rule 604.3.)

There are a whole lot of five criteria to determine this type of abilities. A static ability must match all five criteria to be considered CDA:

  1. It defines color, subtype, power and/or toughness;
  2. It is printed on the card it affects, or is granted to the token it affects by the effect that has created that token, or has been acquired by the object it affects through a copying or text-changing effect;
  3. It does not directly affect any other object’s characteristics;
  4. The object doesn’t grant it to itself;
  5. It contains no conditions for determining the characteristics from criterion 1.
Kozileks Return

Ghostfire and all cards with Devoid is colorless in any zone.


Tarmogoyf is growing in size in your binder.

Mirror Entity

Changeling has all creature types in all zones and outside of the game (the last isn’t a zone).

113.6b. An ability that states which zones it functions in functions only from those zones.

Thunderblade Charge

Thunderblade Charge’s triggered ability functions only when the card is in the graveyard.

Ancestral Vision

Suspend triggers function only in the exile zone.


Split Second functions only while the spell with split second is on the stack.

113.6c. An object’s ability that allows a player to pay an alternative cost rather than its mana cost functions in any zone in which its mana cost can be paid (which, in general, means it functions on the stack). An object’s ability that otherwise modifies what that particular object costs to cast functions on the stack.

Mizzium Mortars




113.6d. An object’s ability that restricts or modifies how that particular object can be played or cast functions in any zone from which it could be played or cast.

Ability of Madness function in the hand and in the exile zone.

113.6e. An object’s ability that restricts or modifies what zones that particular object can be played or cast from functions everywhere, even outside the game.

Haakon, Stromgald Scourge

Haakon, Stromgald Scourge may be casted only from a graveyard.

Misthollow Griffin

Misthollow Griffin may be casted from exile.

113.6f. An object’s ability that states it can’t be countered or can’t be countered by spells and abilities functions on the stack.

Emrakul the Aeons Torn has this kind of ability.

113.6g. An object’s ability that modifies how that particular object enters the battlefield functions as that object is entering the battlefield. See rule 614.12.

Phyrexian Metamorph

The permanent for coping by Phyrexian Metamorph is choosen as Metamorph enters the battlefield. There is no moment in the game then Metamorph in on the battlefield, but isn’t a copy of chosen creature.

Essence of the Wild

Read more about replacement effects that affect entering permaments on battlefield in the acticle dedicated Essence of the Wild.

113.6h. An object’s ability that states counters can’t be placed on that object functions as that object is entering the battlefield in addition to functioning while that object is on the battlefield.

Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Kitchen Finks

if you control Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Kitchen Finks entering the battlefield upon resolution of Persist will not get a -1/-1 counter.

113.6i. An object’s activated ability that has a cost that can’t be paid while the object is on the battlefield functions from any zone in which its cost can be paid.

Canyon Slough

Cycling is an activated ability tha has discard the card in its cost, so this ability functions only while the card is in player’s hand.

Pride of the Clouds

The coast of the Forecast ibcludes revealing the card, so this ability functions only in player’s hand too.

113.6j. A trigger condition that can’t trigger from the battlefield functions in all zones it can trigger from. Other trigger conditions of the same triggered ability may function in different zones.

Example: Absolver Thrull has the ability “When Absolver Thrull enters the battlefield or the creature it haunts dies, destroy target enchantment.” The first trigger condition functions from the battlefield and the second trigger condition functions from the exile zone. (See rule 702.54, “Haunt.”)

It seems, that rule was written especial for Haunt ability.

113.6k. An ability whose cost or effect specifies that it moves the object it’s on out of a particular zone functions only in that zone, unless that ability’s trigger condition, or a previous part of that ability’s cost or effect, specifies that the object is put into that zone.

Example: Reassembling Skeleton says “{1}{B}: Return Reassembling Skeleton from your graveyard to the battlefield tapped.” A player may activate this ability only if Reassembling Skeleton is in his or her graveyard.

The second ability of Tymaret the Murder King functions only in graveyard. A player may not use it for bounce Tymaret from the battlefield.

113.6m. An ability that modifies the rules for deck construction functions b

Before the game begins. Such an ability modifies not just the Comprehensive Rules, but also the Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules and any other documents that set the deck construction rules for a specific format. However, such an ability can’t affect the format legality of a card, including whether it’s banned or restricted. The current Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules can be found at WPN page.

Беспощадные Крысы

In a Legacy format tournament, using more than four copies of Relentless Rats is legal.

Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury

Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury can be your commander.

113.6n. Abilities of emblems, plane cards, vanguard cards, scheme cards, and conspiracy cards function in the command zone. See rule 113, “Emblems”; rule 901, “Planechase”; rule 902, “Vanguard”; rule 904, “Archenemy”, and rule 905 “Conspiracy Draft.”

2. Activated and triggered abilities lose any dependence on their source after being put on the stack

That source being destroyed or removed after the ability has been placed on the stack does not impact the fate of the ability — it will normally still resolve.

113.7a. Once activated or triggered, an ability exists on the stack independently of its source. Destruction or removal of the source after that time won’t affect the ability. Note that some abilities cause a source to do something (for example, “ Prodigal Pyromancer deals 1 damage to target creature or player”) rather than the ability doing anything directly. In these cases, any activated or triggered ability that references information about the source because the effect needs to be divided checks that information when the ability is put onto the stack. Otherwise, it will check that information when it resolves. In both instances, if the source is no longer in the zone it’s expected to be in at that time, its last known information is used. The source can still perform the action even though it no longer exists.

This paragraph always causes a lot of questions and misunderstanding with inexperienced players. “Wait, how’s that?”, they question. “It says here — “ Prodigal Pyromancer deals 1 damage…”, but he’s not alive any more!”. My genius lifelike explanation sounds like this: “If a submarine fires a torpedo at a carrier, the torpedo doesn’t really care whether the submarine is still operating”. :) In fact, if you’re picky, you will point out that, according to the rules, the submarine, not the torpedo, deals the damage. But in a real-life report the destruction of the carrier will be credited to the submarine too, not the torpedo. Anyway, this sort of mnemonic descriptions like the increasingly popular submarine-torpedo case should be used only when you have full understanding of what’s going on. The image is bright, no doubt, but only the dull rules are always right.

NB: No matter what happens to the source of a triggered ability, it will still be put onto the stack. This is regulated by the following rule:

704.3. Whenever a player would get priority (see rule 116, “Timing and Priority”), the game checks for any of the listed conditions for state-based actions, then performs all applicable state-based actions simultaneously as a single event. If any state-based actions are performed as a result of a check, the check is repeated; otherwise all triggered abilities that are waiting to be put on the stack are put on the stack, then the check is repeated. Once no more state-based actions have been performed as the result of a check and no triggered abilities are waiting to be put on the stack, the appropriate player gets priority. This process also occurs during the cleanup step (see rule 514), except that if no state-based actions are performed as the result of the step’s first check and no triggered abilities are waiting to be put on the stack, then no player gets priority and the step ends.

Even if a triggered ability is targeted and has no legal target, it will first go on the stack and then be removed from it. Angel of Sanctions enters the battlefield, but the opponent controls nothing except lands. In this case the trigger on the stack and then will be removed from it.

The only case when a triggered ability doesn’t appear on the stack is the situation when, upon performing SBA the player loses the game. If there is only one remaining player after that, the game ends immediately and the trigger doesn’t go onto the stack.

Grizzly Bears
Spirit Link

A player has 2 life and controls the Bear enchanted by Spirit Link. His opponent attacks with two Bears. One Bear the player blocks. As combat damage resolves the player gets 2 damage and 2 damage get both attacker and blocker. Ability of Spirit Link triggers. As SBA are checked Bears are destroyed and the player lose the game. Spirit Link’s trigger doesn’t go ti the stack.

3. An object may have several abilities:

Mirran Crusader

Keyword abilities may be listed in one line, such as Mirran Crusader’s “Double strike, protection from black and from green”.

Halt Order

Other abilities have each their own indention. Halt Order has the following text:
“Counter target artifact spell.
Draw a card”.
So it has two independent abilities.

Lightning Storm

Lightning Storm has a spell ability and an activated abilities. The last is rather unusual.


What are your Tarmogoyf’s power and toughness when it is in your library? This matters, for example, when casting Wild Pair.

Solution ⇓

Tarmogoyf has a static, characteristic-defining ability which has effect in all zones. This way, a Tarmo has equal stats in all zones. Take note that when a Tarmogoyf is in a graveyard in solitude, he accounts himself (for a creature card, of course).

Yixlid Jailer is on the battlefield. A spell puts Scarwood Treefolk from the graveyard onto the battlefield. Will it enter tapped?

Solution ⇓

Scarwood Treefolk has a static ability that changes the way it enters the battlefield. Such abilities work when the object enters the battlefield, so it doesn’t matter at all whether that object had it in the zone it came from (in this case, the graveyard), nor whether it will have it on the battlefield. By the way, this very example was later added to the Comprehensive rules :)

614.12. Some replacement effects modify how a permanent enters the battlefield. (See rules 614.1c-d.) Such effects may come from the permanent itself if they affect only that permanent (as opposed to a general subset of permanents that includes it). They may also come from other sources. To determine which replacement effects apply and how they apply, check the characteristics of the permanent as it would exist on the battlefield, taking into account replacement effects that have already modified how it enters the battlefield (see rule 616.1), continuous effects generated by the resolution of spells or abilities that changed the permanent’s characteristics on the stack (see rule 400.7a), and continuous effects from the permanent’s own static abilities, but ignoring continuous effects from any other source that would affect it.

Example: Voice of All says “As Voice of All enters the battlefield, choose a color” and “Voice of All has protection from the chosen color.” An effect creates a token that’s a copy of Voice of All. As that token is put onto the battlefield, its controller chooses a color for it.

Example: Yixlid Jailer says “cards in graveyards lose all abilities.” Scarwood Treefolk says “Scarwood Treefolk enters the battlefield tapped.” A Scarwood Treefolk that’s put onto the battlefield from a graveyard enters the battlefield tapped.

Example: Orb of Dreams is an artifact that says “Permanents enter the battlefield tapped.” It won’t affect itself, so Orb of Dreams enters the battlefield untapped.

May Animate Dead target Akroma, Angel of Wrath?

Solution ⇓

Akroma has a static ability that only functions on the battlefield. Therefore, Akroma in a graveyard is a legal target for a black spell. But things get funny afterwards. As soon as Akroma hits the battlefield, it gains Protection from black, and a black aura cannot enchant it:

303.4g. If an Aura is entering the battlefield and there is no legal object or player for it to enchant, the Aura remains in its current zone, unless that zone is the stack. In that case, the Aura is put into its owner’s graveyard instead of entering the battlefield.

303.4i. If an effect attempts to attach an Aura on the battlefield to an object or player, that object or player must be able to be enchanted by it. If the object or player can’t be, the Aura doesn’t move.

I.e. Animate Dead is on the battlefield until the nearest SBA check, upon which it goes to the graveyard, which in its turn procs its last triggered ability, which, upon resolving, forces us to sacrifice Akroma to our greatest misfortune. Extra problem: In what zone is Animate Dead in the period of time between its resolution and the attempt to attach it to Akroma?

May Corpulent Corpse be found and suspended using Grinning Totem’s ability?

Solution ⇓

You can find it, sure thing, but suspending isn’t allowed. The static ability that allows doing so functions only while Corpulent Corpse is in the hand.

A player casts Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. The opponent respoces with Mana Leak, targeting Emrakul. The player calls a judge and asks if it’s legal. What is your answer?

Solution ⇓

Everything is legal Emrakul, the Aeons Torn has Protection from color spells. It functionals only if Emrakul is on the battlefield. So the Emrakul’s spell is legal target for Mana Leak. Emrakul can’t be countered, but this fact does not affect the possibility of targeting her by counterspell. As Mana Leak resolves Emrakul is not countered.

Yixlid Jailer is on the battlefield. Tarmogoyf and Dryad Arbor are in the player’s graveyard. That are the P/T of the Tarmogoyf?

Solution ⇓

The ability Yixlid Jailer deprives Tarmogoyf the ability that defines its power and toughness, so by the rule of CR208.2a unknown values defined by the * on the card are replaced by zero. So, Tarmogoyf will be 0/1.

A player controls Bramblewood Paragon and Xenograft with choosen Warrior creature type. A Bear enters under this player’s control. Will the Bear get +1/+1 counter?

Solution ⇓

The replacement effect that modifies how creatures of a certain type enters the battlefield, will (or will not) be applied after applying of the Xenograft’s effect. The Bear enters the battlefield with additional +1/+1 counter. It’s changing in rules dated September 2017.

A player has one life and controls Bitterblossom. Trying to escape from losing, he cast Mistbind Clique. In response to her EtB-trigger the opponent casts Bombard targeting Clique. What happens next?

Solution ⇓

Bombard resolves and Mistbind-Clique goes to the graveyard. The second Champion’s ability triggers. As it resolves nothing happes since the trigger still not resolves and no permanets were exiled. The Clique’s EtB-триггер resolves (since it doen’t depend on the source) and the player may exiles the Bitterblossom.

May the ability of Nyx Weaver be activated if it’s on the graveyard?

Solution ⇓

No. All three abilities of Nyx Weaver function on the battlefield.

Translated by Witas Spasovski