Lesson 8 (Judge Classes)

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Ability word. Creatures with Battalion have a trigger written like "Battalion — Whenever ~this creature~ and at least two other creatures attack, ~effect~."

Battalion triggers immediately upon the creature and two others attacking. Removing one of the attacking creatures from combat will not stop the Battalion trigger from resolving.


Activated ability. Creatures with Bloodrush have an activated ability that can only be used from within your hand. They all have a cost which includes discarding the card, and will generally give a power and toughness bonus equal to the power and toughness of the discarded creature card with Bloodrush.

Discarding the creature card is part of the cost of activating Bloodrush, so even if the Bloodrush ability does not resolve the creature is still discarded.


Cipher is on some instants and sorceries and represents two different abilities.

The first ability allows you to exile the card with Cipher and "encode" it onto a creature you control as the spell resolves.

The second ability grants a triggered ability to the creature it is encoded on for as long as it is encoded. The triggered ability states: "Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, you may copy this card and you may cast the copy without paying its mana cost."

The card remains encoded on the creature for as long as that creature remains on the battlefield, even if it changes controllers.

A card can only be encoded if it is actually a card (So the copies can not themselves be encoded, that would be broken).

Encoding onto a creature does not target, it is a choice made as the spell resolves. The spell will never go to the graveyard, it goes straight to exile. If the spell is countered then no encoding can happen.

The copied spell created by the cipher trigger is cast so it will trigger things that look for you to cast a spell.


Detain is on some spells and abilities. When you "detain" a permanent, it means that the detained permanent can't attack or block and its activated abilities can't be activated until the next turn of the player who detained the permanent. For example, if I detain your bear on my turn, it will not be able to attack or block again until my next turn.

If you detain a land, its mana abilities can't be used as well.

Detaining a permanent multiple times in a turn is redundant.


Evolve is a triggered ability on some creatures. It means "Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, if that creature's power is greater than this creature's power and/or that creature's toughness is greater than this creature's toughness, put a +1/+1 counter on this creature."

Evolve has an "intervening if" trigger, so the "if" portion of its trigger is checked two times. Once upon triggering, and once right before resolving. If the condition is not true at either of those times, the trigger either doesn't trigger or is removed from the stack.

As an example, if you have a 0/1 with evolve and you play a card that creates two 1/1 tokens, the evolve creature will trigger twice and both triggers go on the stack. The first resolves without issue and puts a counter on the evolve creature making it a 1/2. The second trigger starts to resolve, but the if condition is checked and sees that the creature's power is no longer greater than the evolve creature's, so the ability is removed from the stack.


Extort is a triggered ability. "Extort" means "Whenever you cast a spell, you may pay White or Black Mana. If you do, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain life equal to the total life lost this way."

Extort triggers when a spell is cast. Extort will resolve before the spell itself will resolve.

You choose to pay for extort as the trigger resolves. You may only use extort once per trigger. If multiple permanents have extort or a permanent has extort multiple times, each will trigger individually for each spell cast.

Though this probably isn't on the test, in Commander, because Extort's colored mana symbols are in its reminder text, a card with Extort does not necessarily have a black/white color identity.


Fuse is an ability on split cards in Dragon's Maze. Unfortunately for me, the author of this, we should probably discuss split cards first and then discuss how Fuse modifies that.

A split card is separate spells, each with their own casting costs and characteristics, on one card. When you start to cast a split card, you choose which half of the card you are going to cast. That spell on the stack has only the characteristics of the half of the spell you cast.

While in any other zone except the stack, split cards have two sets of characteristics. As an example, look at Turn // Burn. Turn costs 2U to cast where Burn costs 1R to cast. If a spell had you search your library for a red card, Turn // Burn would report as being a red card AND a blue card, and so this fictional spell could find it. The same is true if a spell said "Search your library for a card that with a converted mana cost of 2 or less." This is because Turn // Burn reports two CMCs, both 2 AND 3. So the answer to "Does Turn // Burn have a CMC of 2 or less" is yes.

To contrast, if a spell said "Counter target red spell," and a player cast solely Turn targeting a creature, then the red counterspell would not be able to target it as the spell on the stack is solely the half that was cast (in this case, blue).

Whereas normally the options when casting a split card are to cast the left half or the right half, Fuse allows you to cast both halves. Cards with fuse in any zone except the stack behave identically to any other split cards.

When casting a spell with Fuse, if you choose to cast the spell using Fuse, the characteristics of the spell on the stack are now the combined characteristics of the two individual spells. The mana cost of Turn // Burn is 2U and 1R, so you must pay 3UR. The spell in this case is considered multicolored on the stack, even though the individual halves are monocolored. It is still one single spell on the stack. It is as if you erased the line between the two halves. When the spell resolves, you do the left half first and then the right half.

Fuse can only be used when casting the card from your hand. If cast from any other zone but you hand, Fuse can not be used.


Overload is an alternate cost on some instants and sorceries. Overload [cost] means “You may choose to pay [cost] rather than pay this spell’s mana cost” and “If you chose to pay this spell’s overload cost, change its text by replacing all instances of the word ‘target’ with the word ‘each.’”

As an alternate cost, you choose whether or not you are using Overload in the second step of casting spells.


To populate means to chose a creature token you control, and put a copy of it onto the battlefield. You may only populate one token per populate instruction, and it must be one you control.

If you have no creature tokens and are instructed to populate, nothing happens.


Scavenge is an activated ability on some creatures. Scavenge can only be activated in the graveyard.

“Scavenge [cost]” means “[Cost], Exile this card from your graveyard: Put a number of +1/+1 counters equal to this card’s power on target creature. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.”


Unleash is a keyword that represents two static abilities. “Unleash” means “You may have this permanent enter the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on it” and “This permanent can’t block as long as it has a +1/+1 counter on it.”

Having the permanent enter with a counter is a replacement effect. You do not have to decide if it will enter with a counter until the permanent actually starts to resolve. If you do choose to have it enter with a counter, there is no point that it exists on the battlefield without that counter. Specifically, if you had a 1/1 Evolve and play a 1/1 Unleash, and choose to unleash it by putting the counter on, the 1/1 evolve would trigger as it sees a 2/2 enter the battlefield.

A creature with Unleash can not block if it has a +1/+1 counter on it. It doesn't matter where the counter comes from, it does not necessarily have to come from Unleash.

Additional Resources

Return to Ravnica FAQ

Gatecrash FAQ

Dragon's Maze FAQ

JudgeCast #48 - Return to Ravnica Rules and Puns

JudgeCast #57 – Things About Stuff (Gatecrash Edition)

JudgeCast #64 – Jolly Good Dragon’s Maze FAQ Pip Pip

Magic 2014

There were no non-evergreen keyword abilities in M14. For additional information about the set's mechanics, consult the FAQ



Bestow is an ability currently only on some Enchantment Creatures in Theros block. It allows you to cast the creature as an aura instead of a creature by casting them for the alternate cost of their Bestow cost. The choice to cast a spell for its Bestow cost is made in the second step of casting a spell.

If you choose to cast the creature as an aura, it loses the creature type it previously had. It remains an aura until one of two things happen: The aura spell's target is illegal as the aura resolves, or it becomes unattached. In those two cases the Bestow creature reverts back to being a creature.

In Magic-ese, this is stated as: "Bestow [cost]" means "You may cast this card by paying [cost] rather than its mana cost." and "If you chose to pay this spell's bestow cost, it becomes an Aura enchantment and gains enchant creature. These effects last until one of two things happens: this spell has an illegal target as it resolves or the permanent this spell becomes, becomes unattached." Paying a card's bestow cost follows the rules for paying alternative costs in rules 601.2b and 601.2e–g.

As an example, if you have a 2/2 on the battlefield and a 3/3 with Bestow in hand, you may cast the 3/3 with Bestow for its Bestow cost as an aura targeting the 2/2. If the 2/2 dies before that point, the 3/3 will enter as a creature. Otherwise, the aura will enter the battlefield attached to the 2/2, like any other aura. If the 2/2 is then destroyed, the 3/3 with Bestow will revert to being a creature at that time. If you controlled the aura from the start of your turn, it will not be affected by summoning sickness as it is not entering the battlefield as a new object. It's just changing from an aura to a creature. If you attacked with that 2/2 and it is killed in combat, the 3/3 Bestow creature will not be tapped as auras do not tap when a creature taps to attack.


A player's devotion to [color] is equal to the number of mana symbols of that color among the mana costs of permanents that player controls. Devotion to [color] and [other color] is equal to the mana symbols in permanents you own that are the first color, the second color, or both colors. To put it another way, hybrid mana symbols count once.

When calculating devotion, we only look at the mana symbols in the mana cost of permanents on the battlefield. No other mana symbols on a card are relevant.


Heroic is an ability word on some creatures. Creatures with the Heroic triggered ability are all templated "Whenever you cast a spell that targets ~this creature~, ~effect~."

Heroic only triggers on the casting of a spell. Abilities targeting the creature with heroic do not trigger Heroic . If a spell targets the same creature with Heroic multiple times, it will only trigger Heroic once because only a single spell was cast.


Inspired is an ability word on some permanents. Permanents with Inspired all have a triggered ability templated as "Whenever ~this creature~ becomes untapped, ~effect~."

As Inspired triggers (normally) in the untap step, its trigger will not be put on the stack until the Upkeep when players first receive priority. If there are multiple upkeep triggers as well, the active player may put them on the stack in any order. If the permanent with Inspired untaps during some other time, the trigger will go on the stack whenever players would receive priority.

If the Inspired ability has an optional cost, you choose whether or not to pay the cost as the ability resolves.


"Monstrosity N" means "If this permanent isn't monstrous, put N +1/+1 counters on it and it becomes monstrous." Monstrous is a condition of that permanent that can be referred to by other abilities.

Once something is monstrous, Monstrosity will no longer put counters on it, even if the original counters were removed. The permanent is monstrous for as long as it remains on the battlefield.

Monstrosity has no timing restrictions so it can be activated whenever you have priority.


To "scry N" means to look at the top N cards of your library, put any number of them on the bottom of your library in any order, and put the rest on top of your library in any order.

While scrying, the cards are still on top of the library. You are just looking at them.


Tribute is a static ability that functions as the creature with tribute is entering the battlefield. "Tribute N" means "As this creature enters the battlefield, choose an opponent. That player may have this creature enter the battlefield with an additional N +1/+1 counters on it."

Objects with Tribute also have a triggered ability that will trigger if the tribute wasn't paid. This means if the chosen opponent chose not to have the permanent enter with N +1/+1 counters on it.

The choice to pay tribute is made as the permanent enters the battlefield. Players will not get to respond to this decision, the permanent will either enter with N +1/+1 counters or it will not. If the opponent chooses to pay tribute, there will never be a time when the permanent does not exist on the battlefield with the counters on it. (Basically, a 2/2 with tribute 3 will enter as a 5/5 if the tribute is paid).

Additional Resources

Theros FAQ

Born of the Gods FAQ

JudgeCast #75 – FAQ Bestowaway Special

JudgeCast #84 – Born of the Gods FAQ