Activated Abillities

Discussion in 'Rules Questions' started by Gnarl, Oct 8, 2000.

  1. Gnarl New Member


    here I'm again ;)

    This time I've more general questions regarding activated abillities:

    1. When is one allowed to activate such an abillity? I always thought you can do this at any time, like playing an instant. But if that's right why are there cards with the text "Play this ability as an instant" ?

    2. When a card reads "Sacrifice <cardname>: ..." is that also played like an activated abillity?

    concrete examples:
    May I tap a mana producing creature (Vine Trellis, Llanovar Elves,...) during the opponents turn ? If yes may I even do so if that creature was already used for blocking earlier in this turn ??

    If I play an Enchantment (in my main phase) like the seal of strenght (fire, ..), do I have to sacrifce it immediately or may I leave it in play and activate (sacrifice) it (at any time?) later in the game?? For example is it allowed to play a seal strength in my turn and wait till my opponents attacking phase to sacrifice the seal an get the +3/+3 for a blocking creature ??

  2. nodnarb24 Supreme Overlord/The Rat King

    1. Yes, you can uses ativated abilities like instants unless otherwise said so.

    2."Sacrifice <cardname>:" is an activated ability.
  3. EricBess Active Member

    Most activated abilities are played as instants. There are a few that are not. However, based on your question, I'm guessing that the cards you are referring to are from old sets.

    Under current templating, the card would be written something to the effect of "You may use this ability anytime you could play a <spelltype>".

    As already pointed out, all activated abilities are played as instants unless otherwise specified, or unless they are a mana ability.

    Vine Trellis and the Elves have mana abilities. For all practical purposes, these can be used the same as instants, but there are a few differences. The most notable is that they do not use the stack. When you tap a vine trellis, your oponent cannot respond before you get the mana in your pool, you just get it.

    Anything else tied to the mana ability will also happen at the same time. For example, tapping an Underground River for a blue or black mana will simply deal one point of damage. On the other hand, Tapping a City of Brass for blue of black mana will put an effect on the stack that will deal 1 point of damage to you when it resolves. If the difference is not clear, find the cards and read them. I think you will see what I am talking about.

    Enchantments nearly always stay in play when you cast them. Otherwise, they would be called Sorceries :) So, you could cast a Seal of Strength and it would stick around. It does absolutely nothing while it is in play. Whenever you like, you may use its activated ability. As pointed out earlier, this can be used anytime you could cast an instant. So you effectively have a Giant Growth in play that you have already paid the mana cost for. The tradeoff is that your opponent knows you have it, so it loses some surprise value.

    Anyway, from your questions, I would say that you understand better than you think you do, you just needed a little confermation. This post is a lot longer than it needs to be to give that confirmation, but hopefully, it has explained a little more than you were asking so that you will understand some of the concepts behind the rules.

    Eric Bess
    Level 2 judge
  4. EricBess Active Member

    After I posted, I realized there was one specific question that I had not answered.

    Activated abilities can be used anytime you can play an instant, no matter what the state of the game or what else the items with the activated abilities have done during that turn.

    However, there are of course a few things to keep in mind. If an activated ability requires the permanent to tap, you cannot pay that cost if the permanent is already tapped. Also, an activated ability of a creature that causes it to tap cannot be played if the creature has "summoning sickness". If the ability does not require the creature to tap, it can be played immediately (or even if it is alreay tapped). Artifacts that are not creatures do not have to worry about "summoning sickness".

    Hope this helps,

    Eric Bess
    Level 2 judge
  5. Gnarl New Member

    Thanks a lot for your answers. As you said Eric, most times I just need confirmation on some points. Thus let me add a little follow-up question...

    Let's assume the following situation:
    I have an enchantment which activates with "sacrifice..." in play (like "seal of strength" for example). My opponent wants to plays "disenchant" to destroy my enchantment.
    Now, can I still sacrifice the seal and activate the abillity???

    From my understanding both would go to the stack, then the seal would work and there's nothing left for the disenchant card...
    Is this correct or do I miss a point?

  6. terzarima New Member

    yes you are right if he plays disenchant first and then you sacrifice the seal, then the seal would work
  7. Namielus Phrexian Plaguelord

    Another little thing about your example that is important is that you have to pay the costs before you can cast a spell or use any ability. I bring this up because if the owner the enchantment (after you target it) either bounces his enchantment or sacs it himself, your seal is still in the graveyard you can't sac it to choose a new target.
  8. EricBess Active Member


    What are you talking about? I'm having trouble which example you are responding to.

    Costs vs. abilities. I wasn't going to do this, but I think it will help. When you cast a spell or activate an ability, you pay all costs when you announce. The effect does not happen until the spell resolves, but it is important to recognize what is "cost" and what is "effect".

    For example - Seal of Strength.
    Cost: G
    Effect: Put Seal of Strength into play.

    Wait, that's not the example I wanted. Activating Seal of Strength:
    Cost: Sacrifice Seal of Strength
    Effect: Target creature (targets are chosen on announcement) gets +3/+3 until end of turn.

    Cost: 1W
    Effect: Destroy target enchantment or artifact.

    In the example you gave, Gnarl, my opponent wishes to cast Disenchant, targetting my Seal of Strength. He pays the cost (1W) and choses the target (Seal of Strength). Players may not add abilities and instants to the stack.

    Quiz question: Is Seal of Strength still in play?
    Answer: Yes. It will not be destroyed until Disenchant resolves. So, you can use it's ability in response to the Disenchant.

    Say I want to Disenchant my opponent's Recurring Nightmare (a common example)
    Activating Recurring Nightmare:
    Cost: Sacrifice a creature, Return RC to hand.
    Effect: Return target creature in graveyard to play.

    My opponent activates RC and pays it's cost.
    Quiz question: Is Recurring Nightmare still in play?
    Answer: Nope. Returning it to hand is part of the cost, not the effect, so it happens on announcement, not on resolution.

    Most timing questions involving the stack can be answered just by asking this sort of question.

    Hopefully, this helps explain the mechanics and answers the question at the same time.
  9. Namielus Phrexian Plaguelord

    The thing I was trying to talk about... I was thinking that you weren't sure about the timing of different costs and there effects. Also with your RN example he couldn't respond because RN says play as a sorcery. But with recuring nightmare the cost are both sacifice the creature and return the RN to your hand. If you interdic the RN the creature still dies, and the nightmare is still in your hand.

    An example where what I was talking about is important.
    Say your oppenet has a seal of fire in play, you have a 1/1 and a seal of strenght. He plays disenchant on your seal. You could either let the seal die, or you could use it making the disenchant fissle. But either way he can respond to using the seal and kill your creature. Since your seal is 'sac'ed you can't pay the cost again to save your creature.

    I hope that clears things up.
  10. Gnarl New Member

    Well guys I don't understand your RN example, but that doesn't really matter. Fortunately the examples with the seals are quite clear :)

    But Eric, what do you mean with Players may not add abilities and instants to the stack ?

    What else will go to stack if not instants and abilities?? :confused:

  11. EricBess Active Member

    On the RN example, the point was that the active player was activating the RN and the non-active player wanted to get rid of it in response. That wasn't clear, sorry.

    The "Players may not..." is a typo and should be "Players may now..." Sorry.

    Suleiman, I now see what you were saying. If I activate the Seal of Strength, they may Shock my creature (for example), and I may not reactivate the Seal of Strength (because it is no longer in play). Thanks for the clarification.
  12. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    You CAN respond to RN. It only says play as a sorcery to be certain you CAN'T use it on your opponent's turn (and thus would be more powerful).

    Also, back to Gnarls' original post, some spells say "play as an instant" because they're usually not an Instant type, like Benalish Knight (which is a Creature type but since it says "play as an instant" you can cast it on your opponent's turn).

    (Edited thanks to EricBess' eagle eyesight :))

    [Edited by Spiderman on October 10th, 2000 at 08:05 AM]
  13. EricBess Active Member


    This thread has gotten a bit out of control with people saying things wrong or including typos.

    Yes, you can respond to RN, but by the time you do, the RN is no longer is play. But Spiderman, I think that you meant to say that it is a sorcery to be certain that you can NOT use it on your opponent's turn. :)

    I really should have thought of a better example :rolleyes:

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