Published on 04/04/2022

Casting Call, Actors Need Not Apply

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Note: This article is over two years old. Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes. Proceed with caution.

I make this all easier, right?

I've helped many a player or store keep become a judge. Guiding them through things they should know, having them help me run events, giving them needed feedback, and eventually giving them the old written judge test. Although tests are handled differently now, I still have 5 areas of the Comprehensive Rules I like to make sure those looking to become judges know.

1) Layers ( I did an article over this HERE.),
2) Triggers Vs Replacement effects,( I did an article over this HERE.),
3) The steps to casting a spell,
4) Alternative Costs Vs Additional Costs
5) Copying, Casting Copies, and Copies becoming permanents.

I figured today we would delve into the steps of casting a spell and we can save those other subjects for articles at a later date.

If you have any Magic questions burning at the back of your brain, you can send them to us. We may even use them in a future article. If you have a short question, you can send it to us via our Twitter account at @CranialTweet, and you can send us longer questions at .

There are 9 steps involved in casting a spell. Although most are unnecessary for the majority of spells, their specific order can make a huge difference in specific corner cases. The Comprehensive Rules 601.2a - 601.2i) cover this in much greater detail than I will cover here.

Step 1) Announce spell and place it on stack from current zone (usually from hand).

Step 2) Announce choices of Modes, announce which side of a split card you plan to cast, intentions of additional or alternative costs to be paid, amount intended to pay for costs of X, and intentions of what kinds of costs will be paid (what color of mana will be paid for a hybrid, if planning to pay life or mana for Phyrexian Mana).

Step 3) Choice of target(s) and how many targets if any at all.

Step 4) If dividing damage or distributing effects (such as placing counters) announce how that damage will be divided or how the effect will be distributed with a minimum of one such damage or effect to each target.

Step 5) Verify every choice and option made so far is legal, if not rewind the game to just before starting step 1.

Step 6) Determine and lock in the total cost of spell. Apply all cost increases first and then apply any cost reductions.

Step 7) During the 9 steps of casting a spell, step 7 is the only step you may activate mana abilities to create mana. (You do have the option of making mana before beginning to cast a spell and then using that mana during step 8)

Step 8) Pay any non-random costs or any costs that don't place cards from library into a public zone in any order of your choosing. Then pay any cost not yet paid in the order of your choosing.

Step 9) The spell is now considered cast. If you do not hold priority, it will immediately pass to the next person in priority order.

I'm willing to bet most magic players would be surprised it is this complex to cast a spell considering how straightforward it seems in a normal game of Magic. A few of the steps initial even seem out of place or just weird. Step 2 being before Step 3 is really important because so many "options" to a spell can change the number of targets or if the spell even has a target. Step 5 being before steps 6-8 gives you one last chance to make sure the spell is legal before taking an action that is awkward to rewind (sacrifice a creature, discard a card, paying life, etc).

Now that we have the basics down, let's answer some questions.

Q: I currently have 4 creatures in my graveyard (one being Golgari Grave-Troll). If I use Havengul Lich's ability to cast the Grave-Troll from my graveyard, how many +1/+1 counter will it have when it enters the battlefield.

A: The answer is...

A: 0
B: 1
C: 3
D: 4
E: 5

The answer is

As the first step of casting a spell it is placed on the stack, by the time Grave-Troll enters the battlefield it will do so from the stack, not the graveyard, leaving only 3 creatures in your graveyard.

Q: If my opponent controls Void Winnower, which of the following spells can I cast?

A: The answer is...

A: Rolling Thunder with equal to 3.
B: Rolling Thunder with equal to 4.
C: Aether Figment not kicked.
D: Aether Figment kicked.
E: Blustersquall not overloaded.
F: Blustersquall overloaded.

The answer is
A, E, and F

The amount chosen for in the mana cost of a spell does change its mana value, so Rolling Thunder with an X of 3 can be cast (mana value of 5) where an X of 4 can't be cast (mana value of 6).

Additional costs like Kicker, and alternative costs like Overload do not change the mana value of a spell, so using one or not doesn't change if the spell they are apart of can be cast. Kicked or not, Aether Figment can't be cast into a Void Winnower. Overloaded or not, Blustersquall can be cast into a Void Winnower.

Q: The only nonland permanent on the battlefield is my opponent's Invisible Stalker. Which of the following spells can I cast?

A: The answer is...

A: Cyclonic Rift not overloaded.
B: Cyclonic Rift overloaded.
C: Only Far
D: Only Away
E: Far // Away fused.

The answer is
B & D

Cyclonic Rift can only be cast in this situation if it is overloaded. Usually Cyclonic Rift requires a target, but announcing to overload it during step 2, makes it become a spell that requires no target.

Far requires a targetable creature to be cast.

If Away is cast and is not fused, it can be cast in this situation. Even though the other half of the split card does require a targetable creature, that side of the card is completely ignored if during step 2 you choose not to fuse the spell.

Far and Away fused requires a targetable creature and a targetable player to be cast. In this situation there is only a targetable player so it can't be cast if fused.

Q: My opponent controls Bear Cub, Fugitive Wizard, and Phantasmal Bear. Which of the following combination of creatures could end up in the graveyard by casting only one Arc Lightning?

A: The answer is...

A: Bear Cub & Fugitive Wizard
B: Bear Cub & Phantasmal Bear
C: Fugitive Wizard & Phantasmal Bear
D: Bear Cub, Fugitive Wizard, & Phantasmal Bear

The answer is
A, B, or C

When choosing the number of targets in step 3, you could choose 1, 2, or 3 targets, but when you get to step 4 you must distribute at least 1 damage to each of those targets. If any of those targets die before Arc Lightning resolves, any damage that was distributed to that creature is wasted and can't be redistributed to one of the creatures still present.

In answer A, distribute 2 damage to Bear Cub and 1 damage to Wizard, and don't target the Phantasmal Bear at all.

In answer B, distribute 2 damage to Bear Cub and 1 damage to Phantasmal Bear and don't target the Wizard at all. The Phantasmal Bear will be sacrificed to its own trigger.

In answer C, distribute 1 or 2 damage to Fugitive Wizard, and the remaining damage to Phantasmal Bear and don't target the Bear Cub at all. The Phantasmal Bear will be sacrificed to its own trigger.

There is no way to end up dealing 2 damage to Bear Cub, 1 damage Fugitive Wizard, and just targeting the Phantasmal Bear with only one copy of Arc Lightning.

I'll freeze the rate you cast hot spells.

Q: My opponent controls Chill and Sanctum Prelate and has chosen the number 3 for it, which of the following spells can I cast?

A: The answer is...

A: Animating Faerie
B: Bring to Life
C: Lightning Bolt
D: Open Fire

The answer is
A & C
Bring to Life can't be cast as its mana value is 3.
Although Animating Faerie has mana value 3, its a creature and Sanctum Prelate only stops noncreatures, so it can be cast.

Chill makes red spells cost more to cast, but does not change their mana value. Open Fire can't be cast because its mana value is still 3 even if it costs five mana to cast it. Lightning Bolt is fine to cast because its mana value is 1, even though it costs three to cast.

Q: I currently control three artifacts, one being Black Lotus. The only sources I control that can make mana are an untapped Mountain and the lotus, can I cast Thought Monitor?

A: The answer is...

A: Yes.
B: No.

The answer is

In step 6, you lock in the total cost of Thought Monitor as 4 mana (reduced by 3 for having 3 artifacts). In step 7, you can sacrifice the Lotus for and tap the Mountain for . During step 8 you can use this 4 mana to cast Thought Monitor because the cost of 4 is still locked in from step 6.

Q: Can I cast Root-Kin Ally by both convoking three untapped Wild Cantors and sacrificing them for mana?

A: The answer is...

A: Yes.
B: No.

The answer is

In step 7, mana abilities have to be activated. Then in step 8 costs are paid. You end up needing to sacrifice the Cantors in step 7, and since they are no longer on the battlefield during step 8 they can't be used to convoke.

Q: Which of the following are legal options?

A: The answer is...

A: When casting Sonic Burst discard a random card then pay .
B: When casting Sonic Burst pay then discard at random.
C: When casting Altar of Bone sacrifice a creature then pay .
D: When casting Altar of Bone pay then sacrifice a creature.

The answer is
B, C, & D

When paying costs in step 8, you must pay all nonrandom costs before paying any random costs. If there is more than one nonrandom cost you can pay those in any order such as with Altar of Bone.

Because Sonic Burst has an additional cost of discarding a card at random, you must pay its cost in the order found in answer B.

Q: After which step do abilities trigger from a spell being cast?

A: The answer is...

A: Step 1
B: Step 4
C: Step 5
D: Step 6
E: Step 9

The answer is
Please read Step 9) above .

I'm thirsty for Forests and Swamps.

Q: If I cast Cankerous Thirst and I pay for the part of its mana cost and pay for the part of its mana cost, which of the following are true?

A: The answer is...

A: If you copy the spell with Twincast, the copy can't shrink or grow any creatures.
B: The spell can shrink a creature.
C: The spell can grow a creature.
D: The spell always needs a target for the grow and a target for the shrink.
E: The spell can target the same creature for both the grow and the shrink.

The answer is
A, B, C, D, & E.

If you pay and to cast this spell, it doesn't matter which is paying for generic mana and which is paying for hybrid mana, you have the option to grow or shrink with this spell.

If you copy this spell with Twincast, the copy will have been cast with no mana, therefore it will neither shrink no grow any creatures.

This spell always needs a target for shrink and a target for grow, even if no green or black mana was used to cast it. These targets may be the same creature.

Well that is all the learning I have available for today.

Until next time,

- Justin Hovdenes AKA Hovey
Level 2 Magic Judge
Rapid City, SD


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